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PHD-DESIGN  March 2013

PHD-DESIGN March 2013

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Subject:

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

From:

"Derek B. Miller" <[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:

Fri, 15 Mar 2013 12:25:48 +0100

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Nicola,

Thanks so much for that follow-on note about your intentions. This was not, in any way, meant to discourage conversation. It was meant to help direct our shared conversation through an appeal for clarity and focus around — what I understand to be — a primary intention of the list members.

If we can share some questions in common — and the more specific the better, often — then we can make progress as a community of scholars. 

Thanks again for your openness and dedication to this.

Best wishes,

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




On Mar 15, 2013, at 12:05 PM, Nicola Smith <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Dear Derek and Matt
> 
> Derek you have made many very valuable points, and revealed the error of my haste in writing - perhaps I should have flagged that i was merely writing in support of a previous post and to express my interest in discussing the role of drawing as a valuable tool in research.  Also you are correct, I did not mean "drawing as research".  I clearly should have known better than to write in haste, even if it was not intended to - "make claims about the world, and interrogate them for their validity, based on established (or new!) means of achieving this in a responsible manner".  I will go back to lurking, but I greatly appreciate the considered contributions of members such as yourself.
> 
> Regards,
> Nicola
> 
> 
> 
> On 15/03/2013, at 5:53 PM, Dexter, Matt wrote:
> 
>> Hello Derek,
>> 
>> Thank you for this reply. As a long time lurker, and first time poster, this was a very well articulated post. Also, one that cuts to the core of my own insecurities about my own PhD- now two thirds done.
>> 
>> This is the value of the list, as I see it- I might not feel comfortable wading in on some topics, but to hear different opinions expressed across a range of topics is very, very useful.
>> 
>> Please continue to post (all)- maybe one day I'll wade in.
>> 
>> Thank you all for your contributions.
>> 
>> Matt Dexter
>> 
>> PhD candidate in Design
>> Art & Design Research Centre
>> Sheffield Hallam University, UK
>> 
>> Research funded by the NIHR CLAHRC SY
>> 
>> On 15 Mar 2013, at 09:35, "Miller | The Policy Lab" <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
>> 
>> Dear Nicola and list members.
>> 
>> (This is a long post. For those interested in the future of the list and its possible value, I think is worth reading. For casual readers, possibly not.)
>> 
>> After some serious consideration — and I remain uncertain about my decision — I've decided it is time to post something and try and help the List regain (or claim) some increased conceptual clarity about its own purpose and offer what I think is a needed anchor for discussions. I choose this metaphor advisedly because an anchor does not lock one into place, but does limit drift …
>> 
>> I read your post below twice. I see three things happening:
>> 
>> 1. Earlier (prior to this post), I heard the claim being made that "drawing is research."
>> 2. I then see below that there is a very different claim being made, that of the potential power of "drawing as a research tool."
>> 3. But when I read your actual argument, I see that you are explicitly talking about the use of visuals (drawings broadly defined) as communication tools to arrive at, or share, understandings of complicated (or complex) phenomena that could be as good or better than (or a support to) the written word as a communicate medium.
>> 
>> These three arguments are not the same. I will share my thoughts on each below, but I have a much bigger point to make just below:
>> 
>> I believe the first is wrong. Drawing is a learning tool. You can learn from it. But that is not a systematic investigative process to create valid claims that can be falsified by others. It may well lead to some: i.e. drawing in a mirror creates different results from not drawing in a mirror. That lends itself to a patterned observation, which may lead to a question (a cognitive question, a practice question, a gender question, a developmental psychology question, …) , which one would review in the literature to find whether that question has received a good answer (i.e. that's the whole point of "the literature"), and if the answer is flawed or incomplete, it may result in a research question, a research design to answer that question, and a method that will result in a set of activities — which may involve drawing, or just about anything else for that matter — to create a data set that will be interrogated, upon which a set of interpretations will come, upon which claims will be made and then presented back to the community of scholars for rejection, correction, or acceptance. That's research. The personal learning achieved through drawing (such as how to draw better) is not research.
>> 
>> I believe the second should be treated in an agnostic manner, because there isn't a clear enough case being made to falsify it one way or another. Asking others to draw to create a data set is certainly a research tool. I did that with elementary school children in trying to understand local security threats in northern Ghana.  The issue is why we believe "drawing" will result in material that can be productive in answering a question. So to address this, one needs to be specific about the relationship of drawing to the research design, and the design to the question. FIDELITY is key.
>> 
>> And I believe the third is obviously true, and clearly many fields — from physics, to architecture, to geology, to human geography, to public heath and epidemiology (to list some that are not obviously connected) —regularly and unapologetically use visual material to communicate claims. So does economics. One can't run a regression without showing it. Or astronomy?  But even then, visual material needs to be interpreted. The research on cross-cultural communication is rock solid here: Interpretation is situated in discursive systems. So to think that any visual will be universally understandable is an error. It is simply not true.
>> 
>> You make the case in your first paragraph that you want the institution to accept text-supported drawings, rather than drawing-supported text (to paraphrase). That seems, as mentioned, entirely reasonable. Whether it will be institutionally accepted will depend.  But then you end you post by saying that "drawing as design research" is what you want to support. And yet, that is not the argument you made. It remains as undefended a claim as when you set out. It is not that you are wrong, it is that the fidelity between claim and argument has broken down.
>> 
>> And this brings me to my bigger point and how all this pertains to the list (because I don't actually care about the drawing debate):  The problem is that those working to earn a Ph.D. are also not given the support needed to make claims and  then investigate or defend them.
>> 
>> This is a highly, highly, highly trained skill. It is something taught by senior people with that skill, and people with Ph.Ds are supposed to HAVE that skill. And yet I think design Ph.Ds are not receiving the support they need so they can give the support needed.
>> 
>> I want this List to provide some measure of support.
>> 
>> So now let's turn to one of the core functions of a Ph.D. and what it is people are meant to learn: How to make claims and investigate them for their validity.
>> 
>> This — as Ken has rightly explained before — is what makes "our Academy" a direct lineal descendant of Aristotle's Academy. It didn't "survive" from 400 BC until now. It was reborn during the "renaissance" and the modern Ph.D. is an institutional enactment of key conceptual moves in the learning process that are meant to qualify someone to be a primary investigator in the creation of new knowledge. It is a skill. It can be learned. If you have chosen to pursue a Ph.D., then it my belief that you have committed yourself to learning precisely this. If you want to redefine the purpose of the Academy, you can do that after you have demonstrated core competence in what you think is insufficient.
>> 
>> Design is a new-comer to the Academy. I'm still not sure it belongs. Just as being a novelist is not the same as to be a scholar of literature, I don't think being a designer is the same as studying design as a practice.
>> 
>> You are too young as a field to claim exceptionalism because the field has hardly mastered the essentials of making claims about the world and defending them, including the claim about exceptionalism itself.
>> 
>> Look at the core curricula as I have (albeit not systematically, which I admit). I have been reading for three years on this list about how more-or-less everyone uses interviews to learn something about "user centered design" or "human centered design" or "design thinking" or "service design" or any number of other approaches (these are not disciplines). Perfectly understandable and surely a productive technique. But it is also one that is fraught with potential error.
>> 
>> With that risk, how many designers — in an MA or Ph.D. programme — have actually taken a single course on Research Design, Qualitative analysis, interviewing, making interpretive claims from qualitative data, or have really focused on ensuring that a design is reposed upon the findings of the research?
>> 
>> Very, very few if any, and seldom with rigor and requirements commensurate with the Academy's standards in more established disciplines such as communication studies, anthropology, or political science — three I know well.
>> 
>> 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 — but rather how to make claims about the world, and interrogate them for their validity, based on established (or new!) means of achieving this in a responsible manner.
>> 
>> Why? Because design will not earn a place in the academy if it doesn't earn one, and I for one will not defend it. Because bad social science kills people. And people with Ph.D.s have assumed positions of authority, and if that power is not well -earned through discipline, then it can cause terrible harm.
>> 
>> I would like to see this list survive and help support better Ph.D.s.
>> 
>> Derek Miller
>> _________________
>> Dr. Derek B. Miller
>> Director
>> 
>> The Policy Labฎ
>> 321 Columbus Ave.
>> Seventh Floor of the Electric Carriage House
>> Boston, MA 02116
>> United States of America
>> 
>> Phone
>> +1 617 440 4409
>> Twitter
>> @Policylabtweets
>> Web
>> www.thepolicylab.org<http://www.thepolicylab.org>
>> 
>> This e-mail includes proprietary and confidential information belonging to The Policy Lab, Ltd. All rights reserved.
>> 
>> On Mar 15, 2013, at 1:09 AM, Nicola Smith <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
>> 
>> Dear Eduardo
>> 
>> I firmly believe in the power of drawing as a research tool and I suspect many on this list have been trained to communicate both through text and drawing.  I have needed to think through text-heavy theoretical concepts and methodological challenges by developing diagrams and sketches.  If I have could submitted my thesis as a series of diagrams - over 500 so far - supported by text rather than the other way round I probably would, especially as there is a move to shorter thesis submissions - some are down to 60k words.  As it is I am struggling to get the powers that be to let me use a format that is anything but A4 portrait for my design PhD, it may be hard to develop a richer design discourse that is as as much communicated by drawings as text, yet as you point out we would not build a house, railway station or even a new city using text based instructions alone.  And not I am not talking here about a creative work and exegesis, I very specifically responding to your last point about design research containing our own design language.
>> 
>> This does touch on another issue, that of terminology which seems to be one of the most contested issue in many forums.  In Ken's coffee shop analogy, those ordering a 'flat white' may well have their own clear expectations of what they asked for and what is going to arrive, but the style of output is subject to barrista training, cafe policy, shape of cup, temperature and grade of milk.  I appreciate the 'reading' of drawings and diagrams can be just as subjective as the interpretation of words or phrases, and in both cases the grey area can be a source of challenge, but it is also what fuels discussion and deeper thought.
>> 
>> Drawing as design research has my vote, so perhaps moving forward how do we ensure rigour, authenticity and reliability?
>> 
>> Nicola
>> 
>> http://curtin.academia.edu/NicolaDawnSmith
>> ________________________________________
>> From: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design [[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>] on behalf of Deborah Szapiro [[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>]
>> Sent: 14 March 2013 06:17
>> To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
>> Subject: Drawing as research
>> 
>> An argument for drawing as research - in case you ever need one:
>> 
>> On 14/03/2013, at 2:28 AM, Eduardo Corte-Real wrote:
>> 
>> Dear Ken, Martin and  Lubomir
>> Since this is a long post I'll put in some titles.
>> 1. Monarchists or Republicans?
>> First let me point out that Ken started by writing that "writing research requires words". It is very hard to contradict that writing requires words, they seem to be the very fabric of writing. It reminds me of monarchist friend of mine that wanted me to sign a petition against the first article of the Portuguese Constitution where it reads "the form of government in Portugal is Republican". I pointed out to this friend that the title of the document was "Constitution of the Portuguese Republic" so it would be only normal to have such first article only to remind the distracted ones about what they were reading.
>> Another thing is to follow Martin's interrogations and try to understand the role of images in research and more specifically in Design research and how they can or should be 'instead' of words in research "writing".
>> 
>> 2. A Ruskin Darwin?
>> I always thought that Charles Darwin must have been an excellent draughtsman. That he had watercolours and pencils in his Victorian luggage in HMS Beagle. That he would get out in the Galapagos armed with a sketch pad to fix the unimaginable variations in the form of Nature's creations. And returning to the oaky interior of his office in England, looking at the differences in the curves of beeks that he, himself had drawn, had the consequent epiphany of generating the most creative theory in natural history. But no, the method, far more Saxon, was to simply kill the beasts collect them and preserve them and bring them back to Britain to be stuffed or placed in flasks according to their nature.
>> You can imagine my dismay. A Ruskin Darwin would make very much my case for drawing as an intellectual tool in research. What a pity... However, there is something in common in drawing and killing: you stop the bloody thing and you take your time to look at it. You observe! So, the Origin of Species by the means of natural selection and its uncanny subtitle "/or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life" /is a long argument based mostly on form or morphology. My wife bought David Quammen's Illustrated edition of the "Origin"and almost every paragraph can hold an illustration to substantiate Darwin's arguments. I dare to say that the "Origin" is a visual argument (written) with a written conclusion which is (as we all know) that variation (observable) is due to natural selection.
>> So what all this has to do with design, or design research?
>> 
>> 3. Dunlap and the Pope.
>> A few years before the publication of "The Origin", in 1834, William Dunlap published his "History of the rise and progress of the arts of design in the United States", a book made according to Vasari's Vite model, a book of biographies of engravers, painters, sculptors and architects. In its introduction, Dunlap writes that Design denotes in its strict sense merely "drawing". In the same decade the National Academy of Design was founded in New York and the Government School of Design was created in London. These are the first institutions to bare the name and are dedicated to teach, I would say, "how to make technical images of things to come", a special kind of drawings made to find its destiny in art or artefacts. Their concern was Beauty, visual beauty, able to be attained in the perseverance of graphic investigations to be confirmed by others: producers, manufacturers, buyers. With the Bauhaus(es), Truth become the thing to attain. Also through graphic but mostly plastic processes, objects truthful to their materials and use should be achieved. I think that this is the strongest paradigm in design education and, by logic extension to its higher level, to design research. If you design Assad from Syria you should design him looking like Peter Lorre in his most terrifying roles whereas the guy that designed Pope Benedict XVI looking like Yoda did a terrific job.
>> 
>> 4. Modernists and Cannibals
>> When something called research entered in Design Education people forgot that research had been always conducted in Design Education by other means than scientific research. Some people assumed that if there should be requirements to produce Academic Research, that requirements should be the ones of scientific research forgetting (or not knowing) that there was an Academy of Design (Disegno) since 1563 and several others followed since then that had their own ways of research. The Modernist (rightfull) critique of Academic Education tried to erase and trivialize the enormous amount of knowledge production in the Academy of Arts.
>> I was trained as an architect and trained to use drawing and other technical images as legitimacy for something to build. This was a research process that yes can follow Ken's nine points road map for research reports mostly through images (under our Portuguese architectural methodoxy, mostly through drawings) but also no, simply because Ken is not in charge. Because no one is in charge. Or better said, the field of design research is being constructed.
>> One thing that should be our major concern would be that at some point design research would loose the design part of it.
>> Design research should be built on the foundations of knowledge production existent in a rich tradition of design higher education and not being cannibalised by other kinds of research. This tradition was built on technical images. This is our challenge.
>> 
>> By the way, since Benedict XVI was mentioned, is there anyone interested in starting the field of Resign research?
>> 
>> Best regards,
>> Eduardo
>> 
>> 
>> --
>> Eduardo C๔rte-Real
>> Prof. Doctor
>> IADE, Lisboa
>> 
>> 
>> 
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