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PHD-DESIGN  2000

PHD-DESIGN 2000

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Subject:

Re: Design Knowledge ...

From:

Tim Smithers <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Tim Smithers <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 28 Sep 2000 11:31:56 +0200

Content-Type:

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Dear Rosan,

... And what exactly was it (or is it) that
Bruce Archer refers to when he "called it design
with the big 'D'"?  I am very much with Dick and
Terry on this. I think we do need to make
distinctions, and to do so with care.

When you say:

  "In my mind I was imagining a particular type
  of knowledge that is not scientific (nor
  speculative like Philosophy) and I just
  convinently [sic] called it 'design knowledge'"

it does seem to me that you are after something
like my third possibility: that designing results
in a particular kind (type) of knowing. This kind
of knowing is not just knowing about designing,
or knowing about designs.  The process of
designing things results in, I think, a particular
way of knowing about things more generally, and
(sometimes) about the same things that we might
also know about scientifically.

But after this I get worried by what you say.
The idea that scientific knowledge has as its aim

  "...to explain, predict and hopefully control"

seems to me to fall into the trap that Terry
identifies for the case of "design".  To suggest
that scientific knowledge, or any kind of knowledge,
as an aim is to invest it with a kind of property,
and, it seems to me, a kind of agency.

Knowledge (of any kind) has no aim or aims, nor does
it have any specific purpose, though it can be
used in relation with specific aims or purposes by
those who poses the knowledge.  Just because certain
kinds of knowledge can only be properly used in
certain ways, to explain and to predict, for example,
does not endow that knowledge with particular aims
or agency properties.

Using the term "scientific knowledge" as you do,
to try to distinguish what you want to mean by
the term "design knowledge" is not easy, for the
same reasons that Terry presents for why the
term "design" is difficult to use.  All his
ways of using the word "design" can be found in the
use of the word "scientific" too.

All this on top of the fact that the word "knowledge"
needs to be carefully characterised and used, makes
terms like "design knowledge" and "scientific knowledge"
hard to use.  I don't mean they are useless, but first
I do think, like Dick and Terry, we first must sort
out the distinctions we are really wanting to try  make
with these terms, and how we want to use them.

To end, and to make things even more complicated, I'll
point out an important difference between the way
scientific knowledge (the knowledge generated/gained
by doing science) and design knowledge (the knowledge
generated/gained by designing) are embedded in our
(academic) society.

In doing science, emphasis is placed upon making the
knowledge generated or gained explicit and public.
This is so that people can tell if the knowledge you
have generated/gained by your (scientific) research
endeavours constitutes an original (and worthwhile)
contribution to the knowledge of the field (or fields)
in which you work---and thus warrants publication or
the award of a PhD, for example.

In designing there is no emphasis on making the
knowledge generated/gained  explicit or public.
Typically, after some designing, some of the
knowledge will be explicit and public, and some
of it not.  But no one will worry too much about
any of this, rather they will worry about the
outcome of the designing.  It is thus much harder
to talk of original contributions of knowledge as
a result of doing some designing, and, as a
consequence, much hard to claim that the award of
a PhD is warranted for doing some designing.

This difference holds not just for scientific
knowledge, bye the way, but for all other
kinds of knowledge resulting from scholarly
(knowledge generating/acquiring) endeavours,
such as historical research, literary research,
musical research, to name just a few examples.

Now, of course, we could change the way we
practice designing, or at least some of the
designing we do, to make it much more like these
other scholarly activities, and I believe we
would need to this before we can properly talk
of awarding a  PhD by doing designing. Though in
principle possible, this change is not at all an
easy one do institute in practice, I think. This
does not mean, however, that we should not try to
do so, or that it would not be a good thing. I
believe it would be a good thing to do.  It would
be a very good way of helping us to better
understand what designing is, for a start.

Best regards,

Tim

_________________________________________________

 Tim Smithers                                          Investigador
Principal
  CEIT
  (Centro de Estudios e Investigación  Técnicas de Gipuzkoa)
                        Departamento de Electrónica y Comunicación

 Paseo de Manuel Lardizábal, 15       Tel: [+34] 943 21 28 00
 Apartado 1.555                                 Fax: [+34] 943 21 30 76
 20018 Donostia / San Sebastián     Email: [log in to unmask]
 Gipuzkoa, España                                    [log in to unmask]
            http://www1.ceit.es/asignaturas/robots/tsHome.html
_________________________________________________







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