Perhaps it’s the Monday morning coffee talking, but I don’t understand why this topic – the illusion of self – keeps making an appearance on a list concerned with design research and research education. The current posts headed “Re: Illusion of self and the transformation of design research” are even more peculiar. They are neither about the illusion of self nor about the transformation of design research.
You state that neuroscience shows the self to be an illusion as the central theme or side issue in several hundred notes to the list over the past few years. While exact positions differ on the science, many of us accept some version of this premise.
From this premise, however, you draw a conclusion with which few agree. You repeatedly state that this fact requires us to rewrite design theory and reform design practice. You never say how.
In his New Scientist article, Jan Westerhoff concludes that self may be an illusion that human beings require if we are to act in the world. Westerhoff (2013: 37) writes, “…we may have no choice but to endorse these mistaken beliefs. Our whole way of living relies on the notion that we are unchanging, coherent and autonomous individuals. The self is not only a useful illusion, it may also be a necessary one.”
If this is the case, there is no need to rewrite design theory or rethink design practice. While empirical research may some day show that neuroscientific findings on the self require us to rewrite design theory, it won’t be any time soon. No one on this list is doing research of that kind – not even you.
Saying that the self is an illusion tells us nothing about the relevance of that fact to design theory or practice. Even if the statement is true, it does not lead to the conclusion that we must rewrite design theory and reform design practice. Without an explanation, this statement is irrelevant to the topics of this list: design research and research training.
On this list, we’re free to post what we wish. All topics are permissible: the Higgs boson, the price of housing in Marseilles, and the papal conclave are as permissible as repeated references to the illusion of the self. Once someone raises a topic several hundred times, though, it is fair to ask what bearing it has on design theory, design practice, design research, or research training.
Whatever the self may be at a deeper level of scientific analysis, nothing suggests that we can do without it. If human beings must perceive and act through the illusion of a self, the question must be why this requires us to rewrite design theory and rethink design practice.
On several occasions, you’ve stated that this list is your major venue of scientific and scholarly publication. You have made a scientific statement to the list: 1) the self is an illusion, 2) THEREFORE we must rewrite design theory, and 3) we must practice design in a manner coherent with this new design theory.
If this list is now your major venue of scientific publication, I’d like to see a scientific argument for this claim. What direction should design theory take? How should design practice change?
A reasoned argument from documented evidence will allow the rest of us to draw responsible conclusions of our own. Without this, repeated posts simply add up to a statement of your beliefs.
Once again, I’m asking for a reply. The “illusion of self” thread is causing the list to move further and further from design research and research training to topics that may relate somehow to the illusion of the self. Thecurrent drift seems to be early childhood education and the effect of literacy. If the “illusion of self” thread is to push us this far afield, I’d like to know just why the “illusion of self” is important to design theory or design practice.
Could you please explain why this is relevant?
If the sense of self is an illusion, why does this require rewriting design theory? What direction should such a theory take? Why does this require rethinking what designers do and how they do it? How should design practice change?
Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | University Distinguished Professor | Swinburne University of Technology | Melbourne, Australia | [log in to unmask] | Mobile +61 404 830 462 | Home Page http://www.swinburne.edu.au/design/people/Professor-Ken-Friedman-ID22.html Academia Page http://swinburne.academia.edu/KenFriedman About Me Page http://about.me/ken_friedman
Guest Professor | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China
Westerhoff, Jan. 2013. <http://www.newscientist.com/search?rbauthors=Jan+Westerhoff> “The self: The one and only you.” New Scientist. Vol. 217, Issue 2905, pp. 34-37. 23 February 2013.
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