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PHD-DESIGN  March 2013

PHD-DESIGN March 2013

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Subject:

SV: The potential value of this list: Using "drawing as research" as an illustration

From:

Birger Sevaldson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 17 Mar 2013 19:25:00 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Dear Derek
There is obviously a complete communication brake down so I wont argue much any more and spend time on nonsense. I appologise to the list, this should not have played out here this way and that far. I take my share of the responsibility for being quite provoking (or provoked) my self.

Only this to correct some factual errors:
You write:
"Your so-called methods (as I have witnessed them first hand…) get WRONG ANSWERS to questions.
Which isn't even the problem. That it didn't matter … that was the problem.
That I was "arrogant" in both demanding correct answers and demonstrating ways of getting at them … that was the problem."

In our studio you are referring to your demand for answers was never ever regarded by me nor my students as inappropriate nor arrogant.
Maybe i was critical that your methods would really always produce correct answers. A world of social sciences with no mistakes? But this was not really a problem in the studio. Your contributions were largely valuable and useful. Despite the cultural differences and your limited understanding of design I enjoyed the collaboration and i won't forget the final review where you expressed how impressed you were by the students work.

Also: I have never thought that designers can do work in various fields by them selves. I thought i had made this clear at many points. This was the reason for inviting you into the studio in the first place. I think I have a fairly good idea about my limitations and that's why I team up with people as you do.

Farewell

Birger Sevaldson (PhD, MNIL)
Professor at Institute of Design
Oslo School of Architecture and Design
Norway
www.birger-sevaldson.no
www.systemsorienteddesign.net
www.ocean-designresearch.net
________________________________________
Fra: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design [[log in to unmask]] p&#229; vegne av Derek B. Miller [[log in to unmask]]
Sendt: 17. mars 2013 18:21
Til: [log in to unmask]
Emne: Re: The potential value of this list: Using "drawing as research" as an illustration

Yeah, Birger, I'm really still out. And what you quoted is still exactly how I feel.

I remain entirely unconvinced by your arguments because they seem to rest on:

1. You went to a design school and I didn't
2. You like your arguments and not mine.
3. I make you angry.

None of this answers anything I wrote, so I will consider my arguments standing.

Cultural sensitivity? This isn't a game. There are right and wrong answers to questions we pose. Sometimes there are several right answers, but that depends on the question. Your so-called methods (as I have witnessed them first hand…) get WRONG ANSWERS to questions.

Which isn't even the problem. That it didn't matter … that was the problem.

That I was "arrogant" in both demanding correct answers and demonstrating ways of getting at them … that was the problem.

Arrogance? Are you kidding me? I'm watching designers casually muck-around in organizational analysis; complex systems; other cultural systems; with ethical implications for what they introduce into the world, all the time demonstrating a staggering disregard for what it means to get things right so they can THEN craft/design/create solutions (partial or complete …) to those challenges. Which is why I wrote a paper on design ethics.

http://www.academia.edu/1694425/Concerning_Design_Ethics_for_International_Peace_and_Security

I'm watching this list ‚ because I try hiring designers, and I watch people conduct "design research" and then not know how to mobilize the findings into the actual design process in systematic, and falsifiable manners.

Of course there are truths! The UN is either organized and run in X manner or not. It's staff engage in Y practices or they don't. We could go on like this all day. Screw up that analysis, and the design solution proposed is nothing more than an artifact used to stimulate conversation. It cannot possibly turn anything into anything else (ala Simon), because to do that requires a deep and valid understanding of what you are trying to transform.

I dragged my ass to northern Somalia (for crying out loud) just to spend days with UN staffers to learn how they engage in (yes) programme design so our team — The Policy Lab, UNIDIR and live|work — could carefully (not just creatively) provide new design solutions for key problem areas (which ones don't matter for this conversation). This is our major project right this minute at the Lab.

While the cooperation with the designers has been helpful, they (as serious people) fully appreciate that there was no way on God's green earth that they could have done this project themselves. But even that took some time for them to learn because they needed to see the essence of what service design could not achieve. Now, since live|work is a top-notch firm, and I'm delighted to be working with them (and surely will in the future too), they have show a real seriousness and yes, humility, to learning about what they cannot do (alone) as designers. The limits of a design education become very very clear from a research perspective once you start getting into fine-grained analysis and a serious attention to the validity of claims.

It is you, Birger, who has demonstrated a profound arrogance is not recognizing or respecting your limits. I have, which is why I partner and team up with people like live|work, or why I asked Ken to become a Fellow at the Lab (he did, website to be updated).

Genius? Idiot? I'm TRAINED, Birger. And yes, my research training is better than yours. It has nothing to do with natural talent. I'm TRAINED. And I worked hard to become so. You TRAINED as a designer. And low and behold, you are one. So who, really, is over-stepping here?

My posts here — my interest here — do not go towards a thousand potential and legtimate topic areas for design. Design history, theory, philosophy,  fashion, etc. They go towards generating valid knowledge and employing that knowledge through design processes, to arrive at grounded solutions otherwise unachievable.

I'm here to nurture and find talent because my field desperately needs it. I'm hear to listen to solutions (or even provocations) that are unfamiliar and possibly interesting. But not to listen to or tolerate nonsense.

I'm not going to get into fruitless conversations about the essence of "research". Ken (and to some extent Don Norman — whom I also spoke with about all this some time back, and found we shared perfectly complimentary views, if not identical ones)  has been making very similar arguments to mine. Which is why we're professionally associated now. So when he get's back from fishing, he might well take this up.

But I'm not going to. I simply don't have a dog in this fight. But I can tell you right now that I leave (temporarily? who knows) with a a very, very skeptical view of the "Design Ph.D" and will not assume that people with such a degree have research skills. I won't assume they don't either … to be fair … but I can't assume they have the rudimentary social science background necessary to engage in social research.

_________________
Derek B. Miller
Boston and Oslo
Int'l phone: +1 617 440 4409
email: [log in to unmask]




On Mar 17, 2013, at 4:53 PM, Birger Sevaldson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Dear Derek
> Thanks a lot for your good advice. It comes through like the words of a wise man who knows the TRUTH spoken to a novice.
> I have 25 years of experience from (very part-time) design practice, I have 22 years of experience as a design educator and 18 years as design researcher.
> You have three years of reading in the field of design research. Maybe I’m an idiot and you a genius, but so far I don’t think so. (Though i absolutely do not think im a genius)
> I have been wondering how to address this and I am sorry it has to become related to the case at hand and slightly personal. I tried to avoid this in my post following your long post. It was not directed towards you, because this is a general problem. I have fought such battles before but then against different people from other fields, prescribing a totally different TRUTH and prescription to enlightenment than yours. Same attitude but different religion. I admit though that my answer was triggered by your post. Once again I’m baffled about the arrogance you expose towards the field and the list:
>
> “On this list, I would like to see students and scholars discussing — not philosophical banter, made-up words, ways of "linking" any two random things stumbled upon in the course of daily life, or why some approach is better than another before anyone has even explained what their question is”
>
> This implies a false generalization of the list and the field. It is disrespectful and provoking.
> Theres so much to say about each and every point of your long posts but this has to wait for now. As you i have limited time for this.
> Design and design research is an inclusive and interdisciplinary place. It integrates many professions, sciences and research approaches willingly. Many design researchers with a different background than design are well integrated in the field. But most often they have spent a couple of years on this process of integration, working closely with designers, educators and design researchers with different backgrounds. They also are humble about their limitations and conscious about their expertise. I think we all agree design is a wonderful rich field with many perspectives and approaches and it’s a lifelong learning experience. Uncertainty, constant developing of ideas and renegotiating positions are everyday activities in a dynamically evolving arena.
> Maybe it’s about a lack of cultural sensibility. When entering a field unknown to you, you need to open your senses to understand what’s going on and why.
> This is my advice to you to successfully become a positive voice in this field.
> All the best
> Birger
>
>
> Birger Sevaldson (PhD, MNIL)
> Professor at Institute of Design
> Oslo School of Architecture and Design
> Norway
> www.birger-sevaldson.no
> www.systemsorienteddesign.net
> www.ocean-designresearch.net
>
>
> ________________________________________
> Fra: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design [[log in to unmask]] p&#229; vegne av Derek B. Miller [[log in to unmask]]
> Sendt: 16. mars 2013 17:05
> Til: [log in to unmask]
> Emne: Re: The potential value of this list: Using "drawing as research" as an illustration
>
> I'm afraid I'm out of this conversation now. Birger, you and I will never come close to agreeing. I'm not haggling over the definition of research. It's apparently what everyone but designers do. Or, if you prefer, you have your own special ways.
>
> Good to know. And please make sure others know what to expect when they open the wrapping.
>
> If, and until then. I just can't be doing this anymore.
>
> Derek.
>
>
>
> Derek B. Miller
> Boston and Oslo
> Int'l phone: +1 617 440 4409
> email: [log in to unmask]
>
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