you get my full support for the 'Epistemology of Design Knowledge
and Theory'! But we should not limit it to issues internal to design
research, let's aim higher - to the field of research in general.
If design research wants to be recognized as a discipline among other
it has to prove its worth, be unique in a way that is accepted by
others. There are various ways to that, and related issues have been
and are constantly discussed also within this forum. But one of the
most powerful arguments has been left almost unused, exactly as Terry
The ideal textbook mainstream researcher has the position of an
external observer, he or she collects data without disturbing the
research subject, and neutrally manipulates it and interprets the
findings. This is of course a facade, a caricature; it has been
contested in the fringes already decades, and in practice it is
heavily violated in every laboratory worth of their salt: are
high-energy physicists really "observers" when they torture matter in
CERN? But the facade still stands, and there lies the foundation for
both quantitative and qualitative research epistemology.
Design research epistemology starts from a completely different
position: if there is something fundamental in design everybody
agrees, it is that design changes the world. Hence design research by
necessity has to cope with purposeful changing of the world as means
to provide new information, as an epistemological device. This is a
significant difference, and definely enough to build an unique
epistemological position on. It is not a novel invention - John Dewey
made the point forcefully in his 1929 Quest for Certainty lectures -
but its implications for research are still to be worked out.
The epistemological position of design research is in fact a healthy
one: changing the world is one of the strongest, and, in the end of
the day, maybe the only way to make the world reveal connections,
mechanisms, forces that lie below the "observable surface" of
reality. At least that was what our colleagues in high-energy physics
found out eighty years or so ago when they stopped pure observing and
started to build their first accelerators.
University of Oulu, Department of Information Processing Sciences
Linnanmaa, P.O. Box 3000, FIN-90014 UNIVERSITY OF OULU, Finland
tel. +358-8-553 1904, fax +358-8-553 1890
e-mail [log in to unmask]
>Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2010 10:34:44 +0800
>From: Terence Love <[log in to unmask]>
>Subject: A new field of design research (was: Re: Limits of
>prediction (was Re: Are visual approaches to design outdated?))
>Thank you for great questions.
> When I started to answer them, I realised I've been explaining things from
>the perspective of a new field of design research, the 'Epistemology of
>Design Knowledge and Theory'. This field of Design Research is not actually
>that new. It is more that it has been hidden or ignored. It is found only
>in a very small number of sub-fields of Design.
>This 'new' field of Design research focuses on the 'Epistemology of Design
>Knowledge and Theory' and its application in design practice, design
>theory-making and design research. My previous posts since the 90s have
>pointed to this approach but I hadn't realised till now it is a missing
>field generally in Design Research, Design Practice and Design Education.
>The focus of 'Epistemology of Design Knowledge and Theory' is to look at
>the epistemological characteristics of knowledge and theory relating to
>design and by making theory using these epistemological characteristics,
>improve design practice, theory and research.