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PHD-DESIGN  July 2018

PHD-DESIGN July 2018

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Subject:

Re: Frontiers of design research: human-centered vs. ecologically entangled, vs. (something else?)

From:

Ali Ilhan <[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:

Tue, 24 Jul 2018 10:41:49 +0300

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Dear Klaus,

Thanks a lot for your nice note. I think you may have misunderstood the
Maintainers, they are not a bunch of ultra-conservative crazies who want to
go back to an idyllic past.  Here is the first paragraphs from their
webpage:

"Many groups and individuals today celebrate “innovation.” The notion is
influential not only in engineering and business, but also in the social
sciences, arts, and humanities. For example, “innovation” has become a
staple of analysis in popular histories – such as Walter Isaacson
<https://twitter.com/WalterIsaacson>’s recent book, The Innovators: How a
Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
<http://www.amazon.com/Innovators-Hackers-Geniuses-Created-Revolution/dp/1476708703/>
.

The Maintainers is a global, interdisciplinary research network that takes
a different approach, one whose conceptual starting point was a playful
proposal for a counter-volume to Isaacson’s that could be titled The
Maintainers: How a Group of Bureaucrats, Standards Engineers, and
Introverts Made Technologies That Kind of Work Most of the Time
<http://themaintainers.org/#>. Network members come from a variety of
fields, including academic historians and social scientists, as well as
artists, activists, engineers, and business leaders.  All share an interest
in the concepts of maintenance, infrastructure, repair, and the myriad
forms of labor and expertise that sustain our human-built world."

Today the public infrastructure in the US (and many other places) is
crumbling. How to maintain it in the age of ever-increasing fund cutting
and tax-allergy is a big wicked design problem. Smart phones become
semi-obsolote in a couple years, you *cannot* even change the screen (well
you can, but if you ever tried to change one or took it to the store you
know what I mean) if you break it, and once you are done with it sending it
to "recycling" to a nameless third world country toxic mountain is not a
solution. These are the kinds of design problems that most  (if not all)
design education and designers ignore, because everybody is simply too busy
designing the next flashy gadget, app or post-industrial service system.
Even if we want to tackle these issues as designers (engineers of course
included) we are woefully under-equipped (both theoretically and
practically) to even scratch the surface. Maintainers  are not interested
in maintaining all variables, as you pointed, out that would be pretty
absurd.

I highly suggest this paper:
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56a8e2fca12f446482d67a7a/t/5a0dc2cc24a694de8ecb0077/1510851277228/Making+Maintainers+Preprint.pdf

You wrote: "But trying to understand how a development happened is no
recipe of how technological development continues. If it were predictable,
we wouldn’t need designers but robots that calculate the next step." I
disagree with this point, at least partially. Sometimes you are correct,
but more often than not new technological systems are built on the
fragments of the past, and because of many reasons we keep making the same
mistakes over and over.

About predictability: Diane Vaughan has a fascinating book about Challenger
disaster:

http://pressblog.uchicago.edu/2010/01/28/the-challenger-disaster-24-years-later.html

For those of you that do not know, Challenger exploded because of a faulty
o-ring, that became brittle with cold and "leaked" fuel.One of the obvious
 fixes is to design a new and better O-ring. But  Diane goes beyond that,
and shows that almost everybody new about this problem way before the
launch to various degrees, but because of a plethora of sociollogical
issues, chief of which was NASA's organizational culture at the time, they
still went ahead with the launch. It was completely foreseeable and
preventable, but still they could not do it (and nobody wants a
multi-million shuttle explode with significant loss of human life).

Whether it be robots or designers, knowing the past in an informed matter
is almost always useful, but when I give my students a 15 page reading they
start rolling their eyes and want to go back to "drawing/designing". I can
tell that I am not very well liked, "the design professor who assigns
-long- readings". Of course this is not the only variable that goes into
designing, but you seemed to suggest that STS or any similar standpoint had
no place in design research. Did I misunderstand your point?

Yours,

Ali



On 24 July 2018 at 07:16, [log in to unmask] <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> > On 24 Jul 2018, at 1:17 pm, Krippendorff, Klaus <
> [log in to unmask]> wrote:
> >
> > One thing that all ecological studies have taught us that one can never
> go back. Aren’t your maintainers getting it?
>
> I think I disagree, Klaus. Among the many steps we can take into the
> future, is to try and stay where we are now. In many aspects of life, we do
> just that. I say ’try and stay’ because we are often unable to do so for
> reasons over which we have no control. But it’s a legitimate position to
> take in many areas of human life and in the environment. Deciding not to do
> something and to articulate the many reasons and facts that might support
> that is something that we should be prepared to do as designers.
>
> Prima facia, that seems a reasonable view. Am I wrong? Have I
> misunderstood?
>
> David
> --
>
>
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