Your email stirred me in as far that I want to
reassure you. Your reading should be specific to the
problem identified if you want to do a research PhD. That
includes subject matter specific data and research
methodologies. If however you want to do a professional
doctorate then indeed a more universal list of set text
will be crucial.
The contrast between the two types of doctorates is not
always recognized in different countries which use
different traditions to define doctoral standards. Basically
professional doctorates were invented in the 13the century,
based on scholarly tradition and civic needs. The research
doctorates date from the 19th century and were invented in
the north German and Swiss university tradition. Your own
supervisors may be able to explain these polarities
of position further.
Just help you to identify my position in the argument on
PhD work: I am a graphic designer but have been a Dean of
Faculty of Art, Media and Design for a decade. I did my PhD
fifteen years ago. I am a full research professor at UWE in
Bristol and hold also several visiting professorships in
Asian Universities. My research group is a leading
recipient in funded research grants for the creative
professions in the UK, and I have completed several
successful research degrees supervisions. I wish you the
best with your work.
Paul van der Lem
On Fri, 08 Sep 2000 01:02:05 -0700 "Paul M. Gutherson"
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Hello all,
> The discussion on a ‘canon’ or core texts for design PhD students is an
> interesting one. As a current PhD student I thought I would throw my
> hat into the ring. I have to say that I am, depending on my mood, in
> turn uneasy about the idea or extremely excited by the idea. After the
> original message from Dick I sat waiting with tremendous anticipation
> for people’s suggestions but I was also filled with trepidation - what
> if I haven’t read these texts (or even worse never heard of them) does
> this make my research less valuable? will I not be accepted into the
> community? am I some kind of fraud - an interloper into the world of
> As you may gather I like the idea that there could be a small set of
> texts that provide a starting point from which students can set out on
> their journey but I am at the same time disturbed by the possibility
> that this would lead to a narrow conception of design, of suitable
> areas for research, of acceptable methods for research, and of
> acceptable ‘types’ of people who are allowed to conduct this research.
> Please let me explain further. I am currently in the process of
> preparing a paper for a conference on interdisciplinary research. My
> basic argument is that as design (as a practice) is interdisciplinary
> design research ( or the ‘discipline’ - ‘the study of’ as Terry
> helpfully defines it - of design) is also interdisciplinary.
> I am using brief case studies from 4 PhD students in the design area to
> support this idea. In terms of the subject matter that these students
> have had to develop an expertise in only one student identified
> specific areas of design specialism, two mentioned design in a generic
> sense and the other did not mention design at all. I do not want to
> make too much of this, as I said the case studies were not particularly
> ‘in depth’, however it started me thinking.
> I began to consider a number of things. I have an understanding of
> design as being a core human activity that impinges on most aspects of
> human life. If this is so then ‘design’ can be studied from the
> perspective of these aspects of human life, not just from the
> perspective of design. In other words I see design research as context
> specific. It is perfectly legitimate to investigate design as an
> educator, an ergonomist, an economist, a sociologist or whatever.
> What I am saying is this. Is it really necessary for a PhD student (as
> opposed to an undergraduate) to read certain texts on design - sure
> they need to have some appreciation of what design is and where it has
> come from but would you have allowed them to start a PhD if you thought
> they did not already have some understanding in this area? - AND - if
> they do not read those books do they still deserve a PhD in Design?
> Surely in a PhD it is the 'philosophy' that is tested not the 'design'.
> The real moments of discovery will come from what the student brings
> from outside of design - that is their understandings of other subject
> areas (and life) that they apply to the study of design. I look at
> myself and my background, I think about a number of contributors to
> this discussion and I wonder is it their understanding of design that
> informs their critiques and analyses of design or is it their knowledge
> and understanding, their critical application of things ‘outside’ of
> I guess if I try and sum all this up what I am really saying is - I
> believe in pluralism and diversity, inclusivity, serendipitous
> discovery and cross fertilisation. So by all means come up with a list
> of texts ( a handful or an intricate web) but beware the idea that
> alongside a list comes an expectation that they should all be read by
> every PhD student (besides that would mean that all the supervisors
> would have to go and read them too!).
> Cheers, Paul
> P.M. Gutherson
> [log in to unmask]
> Tel: 01782 294669
> Advanced Research Institute / \ | | )
> School of Art & Design ____ \ __ /
> Staffordshire University / \ | \ |
> Stoke on Trent, ST4 2XN, UK _/ _\ _| _\ _|
> tel +44(0)1782 294602 fax +44(0)1782 294873 [log in to unmask]
Email: [log in to unmask]
"University of the West of England"