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Subject:

Having a degree in Bicycle Design

From:

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Date:

Wed, 18 Oct 2000 16:26:40 +0200

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Chris, Nigel and and all,

Chris wrote: I don't wish to be absolutist, and Nigel was definitely not
being so in saying
that "it helps", but I have observed some worrying situations where a
practitioner's insight would have been more than helpful.

He continues to relate bad experiences with people not understanding what
they are researching due to lack of insight in the world of practitioners.

First of all, I think you are right. There are definite advantages of
having personal experience with what you research, but it can blind you. I
believe Carl Marx talked about the collective unconciousness (you don't see
the nature of your own society because you are an integral part of it, and
you take it for granted. Unfortunately he thought he had THE ONLY TRUE
INTERPRETATION OF THE IDEAL SOCIETY, and enough people believed him).
Psychologists talk about the individual unconciousness (ID and Superego,
etc.) that can be made concious with stimuli from others - so that you may
learn more about yourself and your hang-ups and deal with them. Management
consultants, business leaders and students of business processes worry
about house-blindness. These are all arguments for the danger of only
designers researching design(ers). But note, having others get involved
does induce new imperfections that you pointed out.

Theory for the sake of theory can also be dangerous, and yes, a surprising
number of reviewers are more concerned with methodology than with
substance, discovery or perspective. However, I think you missed the point
of my previous e-mail. Being an isolated expert in anything can give you
superior depth knowledge, but promote a tunnel vision that makes your
knowledge of no use what-so-ever for others. Then you do not develop
skills, but bad habits. Designers, I believe, survive on producing
something of value for others.

A popular definition of an expert: "A person who knows more and more about
less and less." Is that also what we want our doctoral students to become?

I want to stress the social/cultural context of design. I believe that the
ability to understand and have empathy with others is a core (canon!)
knowledge in design. Without this ability the designer may have all the
artistic and technical ability in the world, and have no idea whether it
satisfies the needs of anybody except the needs of the creator. Maybe it is
a wanted lifestyle to be 100% inner-driven and starving. Some true artists
(and researchers) I meet actually believe that society owes them something
because they in their own minds are great artists (researchers). I am the
vice chairman of the board directors of the City Theatre in Oslo - and some
of the performing artists and theatre designers (we have about 20 different
design professions in the theatre) think it is a moral right to receive
governmental subsidies to the amount specified by them to develop whatever
pet project they have. Their demands increase with the emptiness in the
dress circles out of economic necessity. Even theatre director have
promoted the idea that the more of a deficit the theatre produces through
non-appeal to the public, the more the government owes them. Strangely, the
city politicians do not agree, and they have the power.

To avoid too many of your mentioned experiences of one-dimensional
researcher who produce nonsense using the most advanced methods, I offer a
relevant proverb: "Don't shoot sparrows with can(n)ons if you intend to get
yourself a meal." I still think that the cooperative interdisciplinary
approach that I suggested has merit. If you notice, through NAMM we
purposely make practitioners and researchers from several disciplines and
experience background meet and learn to work together, just to avoid
producing the scientific methods fanatics who are all technique and simply
not in touch with their study subjects and the wider knowledge-producing
community. Still, the objective is to turn out high-class researchers,
including doctoral candidates. I see no conflict what-so-ever between the
aims and the methods of that program. In fact I believe this
bridge-building to be far superior to the Ivory Tower one-sided knowledge
approach of learning scientific research. The multi-bridging approach is
much encouraged by the Norwegian Research Council, and is an important
factor for who gets and who do not get research funding. This applies to
all fields of Norwegian government supported research.

It might not come as a great surprise to you that I am a 99% pragmatist
concerning methodology philosophy and choice. Any method that may take you
closer to your learning goal may be applied, scientific or not. And please
don't hesitate to combine methods. All I ask of my students is that they
learn the various methods, and can choose and apply intelligently and
defensibly their methods given the audience they are going to present the
results to and the nature of what they are investigating.

Much of what I relate here are my personal reflections and choices. It does
not mean that I have no respect for or cannot value others who have made
different choices. I seek them out and do work with them all the time. I am
actually very endeared to methods freaks like one-dimensional expert
number-crunchers when I need their spesific in-depth knowledge and talents,
and I do eat lunch with them without hesitation. On the other hand I do not
ask them to study the art of leading and managing artists and designers
preparing a theatre production. Somehow I do not see the great potential
yet in the number-crunching approach to that kind of investigations, but
maybe I just have a temporal blind spot or an unwarranted prejudice. I am
open for alternate supported views.

Brynjulf

Brynjulf Tellefsen
Associate Professor
Department of Knowledge Management
Norwegian School of Management
P. O. Box 4676 Sofienberg
N-0506 Oslo, NORWAY

Phone direct:  +47-22985142
Via exchange:  +47-22985000
Faximile: +47-22985111
Private phone/fax: +47-22149697
e-mail: [log in to unmask]



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