I guess that you are then talking about the definition of the word 'definition', aren't you?
You'd like to get everyone to agree with the way you understand that word, but many (as you say) use it differently. Sounds a lot like the earlier discussion about the word 'design' to me.
Maybe this is a recursive problem.
Should it be solved by accepting that people will never fully and completely agree on definitions, or fighting to the bloody end, I tend to vote for the former.
However, I do like your working characterization of a 'working characterization' as well very much :) and propose that instead of the 'fight to bloody end' we can continue these illuminating and respectful debates/discussions that clarify the reasons why these differences exist, and thus deepen our mutual understandings. Agora at its best!
On Feb 28, 2013, at 11:44 PM, Tim Smithers wrote:
> Dear Would be Definers of Design,
> A meta post.
> I am fussy about the use of words, I know, but it is worth
> being so, I think, for doing good research.
> So, definition is a word I like to use carefully; very
> carefully, because it's an important word in the knowledge and
> understanding business, in doing research.
> I like to use the word definition to mean a clear, concise,
> and complete statement of the necessary and sufficient of the
> thing being defined. It's a formal use, I know, but I think
> it's important to use it this way, and only this way, because
> if we start to use the word definition for other kinds of
> statements, then we lose it as a word for this formal and
> needed kind of statement, and we don't have any other. In
> doing research, we should take care not to lose or erode the
> words we need, to work on, think about, talk about, discuss,
> communicate our research, especially important words, like
> Everything that has been called a definition here, in the
> recent PhD-Design posts about designing and designs, from all
> the people who have posted, are not definitions; not in the
> way I want to use this word. They are what I prefer to call
> characterisations, or, better, working characterisations.
> Working characterisations are our current best attempts at
> capturing the important, needed, supposedly sufficient
> aspects, properties, qualities, dimensions, etc, of the thing
> or things we are working on; the things we want to better
> If definitions are what I want the word to mean, then
> different definitions of the same thing must compete. So, we
> get into fights. It cannot be otherwise. With working
> characterisations, on the other hand, we can each have our
> own, and perfectly properly so. Indeed it is often productive
> for there to be different people with their own different
> working characterisations working on the same thing. They and
> others can compare, contrast, build from, adapt, modify, start
> out different from, these different working characterisations.
> And I think this is a much better, more useful way of
> discussing and arguing about things. And, I think this is
> what we really have in design research, and can see we have
> from the recent posts here, as well as many others posts over
> the many years now of PhD-Design list.
> Definitions must be abandoned or fought for to the death.
> It's often bloody. Working characterisations can be changed,
> corrected, improved, and nobody minds, or shouldn't. This is
> what should happen to them. Some of them, one day, may become
> so well worked out, stable, widely accepted and agreed upon to
> take on the status of definition, even if they turn out to be
> So, definitions are things that can sometimes be arrive at,
> after plenty of good research. But not necessarily. We don't
> have to arrive at definitions to do good research. We do,
> however, need good working characterisations, living ones,
> ones that have productive roles in our on-going research
> efforts. We should not start out attempting to set down
> definitions. That's the way to start fights. It's not the
> way do good research.
> In my humble opinion.
> Best regards,
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