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PHD-DESIGN  May 2014

PHD-DESIGN May 2014

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Subject:

On Evidence for Design

From:

Francois Nsenga <[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:

Mon, 19 May 2014 12:32:45 -0400

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text/plain

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Dear Prof. Ranjan and all

Your close your latest post with the following paragraph:

"Design is an early stage activity of all human innovation and it deals
with the creation of the future in all levels from micro to macro scales.
This calls for judgement which is based on a leap of faith and not on prior
evidence and cannot be tested unless it is first manifested in the form of
models, prototypes as well as use ready policies and artefacts of our
culture. At this stage there is NO evidence, however, the designer and his
stakeholders have a great responsibility to respond with ethical, empathic,
and sensitive responses at all stages. Once the designs are manifested in
some tangible form it can be subjected to multivarient tests and that is
rightly so, but not before the tangibilising of the offering. Paradoxical
but a reality, unfortunately."

​This is true, but can't we conceive the term "evidence" as a term meaning
two distinct realities? First, the evidence that something really exists
(positive reality??), with testable attributes proving the perceived
existence. And if the thing does not exist yet, you are right, of course in
this first connotation no testing is possible, and no evidence whatsoever
can be provided; except, perhaps, only that of non existence.
The second mode of conceptualizing testing and providing evidence that I
wish to submit here is, if allowed to convey it this way, the evidence 'by
default'. Because there may be a perceived and tested (negative reality???)
of something or some attributes lacking, therefore there is evidence for a
needed tangible 'offering', still to be designed. The proposed offering
must thus be meant to mitigate or totally fill in the identified lacking,
both lacking and design proposal proven with respectively convincing
-acceptable - evidence.
Obviously, in this other conception of the term "evidence by default", no
'satisficing' (H. A. Simon's term) design can be derived only from vague
personal insights. These, at best, may eventually yield merely "ethical,
empathic, and sensitive responses". And at worst, as is generally the case,
we are surrounded with deleterious artifacts, or with so many half-baked,
often unsuitable and in several aspects inefficient artifacts.
It seems to me that, what ought to be the prior phase of research of
'evidence by default', is often missing in most design process,
practitioners being rather in haste to expose and justify the existence of
their 'creations', that may eventually be tested a posteriori as you
suggest. But the proposed offering, more or less genuinely and
intentionally/intuitively meant to mitigate or totally fill in the vaguely
known and not sufficiently established and recognized lacking, is thus
often unsubstantiated, or very little substantiated with proven and
convincing - acceptable - evidence.
David, please correct me if I am wrong, or else confirm my understanding
that this latter connotation of 'evidence by default' is what you start
with in your undertakings at Communication Research Institute, proving with
"useful evidence" that actual communication instruments are faulty; or that
the 'good' ones are yet non-existent.
​A similar approach in industrial design, grounded on 'evidence by
default', was also thoroughly elaborated, proven and proposed by a team of
Design researchers in France, whom I had the opportunity to work with as an
intern some 40 years ago. Too bad it has never been picked up, explored
further, and applied!

​Best wishes to all!

Francois
Heading back to Kigali, Rwanda​


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