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PHD-DESIGN  2003

PHD-DESIGN 2003

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Subject:

Re: truths, dreams and beautiful lies

From:

Erik Stolterman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Erik Stolterman <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 1 Dec 2003 19:29:14 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Reply

Reply

Dear list and Rosan

First a very short presentation. My name is Erik Stolterman, I am a 
professor in Informatics, Sweden. I have been doing research on design 
since early 80's. Even though my focus is on information systems 
design, I am deeply involved in the formulation of design as its own 
tradition and philosophy.

I just want to make some short comments based on what Rosan Chow wrote.

> "my view is that reflection and articulation of design is or can be 
> quite independent of the practice of design. it is very much like the 
> relation between literary criticism and production of literature; art 
> history and arts; science and technology. my interest is in bridging 
> this gap."

There is a difference, both in the activities as well as in the 
evaluation, between practicing design and reflecting upon design. These 
two activities have different purpose and extremly different outcomes 
with relating measures of success. I find Rosan's remark about 
'bridging the gap' a fully valid goal, having said that, I think it is 
also important to understand and appreciate the differences, and in 
keeping the gap.

In a proposal such as the UCI new design school there is of course a 
choice made when it comes to this 'gap'. There is a chosen 'balance' , 
or relation, between the two. My personal belief is that most designers 
benefit from a trained skill to reflect and articulate. This is at 
least 'true' when it comes to a whole field of design, maybe not always 
on the level of the individual designer. Design fields that have spent 
some time and energy on collaborative 'reflection and articulation' 
seems to mature. A language is created and 'invisible' and 'mystical' 
aspects of practice can be shared, inspected and critized.

Rosan also related to what Terry wrote:

> "I hold Terry's work in high regards.á I think, what Terry's view on 
> the evaluation on the articulation of designing is a supermodel, if 
> one is to take a scientific point of view with the goal of seeking 
> truth. Here the key words for evaluation are explanation, prediction, 
> and inclusiveness.
> but are these the same evaluation criteria for articulations of 
> design(ing), IF these articulations are to be instructive to the 
> practice of design."
>

Even if I advocate reflection and articulation there is a danger if 
this is automatically translated into a measuring system valid for 
scientific studies, and especially if we think that these values are 
not only valid for the 'research process studying design', but also for 
the design process itself. There might for instance be a possibly valid 
scientific result somewhere showing that it is scientifically true that 
design practice can not be fully explained. I find this kind of 
scientific results for the guidance of practice limited in scope and 
value. But, this does not mean that design research cannot be extremly 
valuable to practice. Social science and humanties have always adopted 
a different approach where research is about the interpretation, 
examination, criticism of human practice. It is a kind of pratice that 
always has to be re-interpreted. There are new generations, new ideas, 
new technology, and most important new dreams and wishes of a different 
world.

So, a design school today need to take on the challenge of helping 
students to become designers, with all necessary skills (in relation to 
the chosen field), and with a strong will and skill to constantly 
reflect and articulate the hidden habits and patterns of thought that 
shapes practice. The skill to reflect and articulate has to be 
'trained' and developed, otherwise the students will be in the hands of 
stronger 'forces', such as habits, markets.

The only way to bridge the gap is by keeping the tension alive, as 
something that should not be 'solved' but cared for in an intentional 
way.

Erik Stolterman

--------------------
Professor Erik Stolterman, Ph.D.
Department of Informatics
Umeň University
S-901 87 Umeň
Sweden

Phone: +46 (0)90-7865531
Email: [log in to unmask]
Homepage: http://www.informatik.umu.se/~erik
Advanced Design Institute: http://www.advanceddesign.org

My new book! http://www.advanceddesign.org/book.html

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