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PHD-DESIGN  September 2018

PHD-DESIGN September 2018

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Subject:

Re: Fall Essay on Design Thinking

From:

Keith Russell <[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, 17 Sep 2018 02:27:38 +0000

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Dear Johann, 
 
Many thanks for your eloquent response to my challenge and provocation. 
I have quoted two excerpts below and supplied the whole context of your original post to make it easier for others that might wish to follow our discussions. 
 
Basho is an interesting fellow to bring into this topic. 
Did he design the haiku using elements of the Chinese Tanka form? Or, in following the Zen Buddhism game of challenge/response, did he announce a structure of consciousness with his third, leaping line? 
 
Most poets would resist the term “design” when talking about what they do, except, perhaps, in terms of a new formal structure, such as a sonnet, or Basho’s haiku. When writing or composing, they might be seen as employing language objects and logics to mediate new meaning clusters/arrangements/objects called poems. They might also, in the terms of T S Elliot, be seen as determining correlatives for subjective affects such that objective affects are concretized for audiences/readers. This process is totally practical for a poet as he/she/they mumble and bumble towards resolution. 
 
When Cross talks about the “underlying axiom” of the design discipline being the presumption that there are “forms of knowledge peculiar to the awareness and ability of a designer” he is correct. Yes, designers often allow themselves the delusion of axioms that what they do is peculiar if not downright magical. I think many designers need to get out more, associate with poets and heart surgeons and plumbers and seamstresses, and acquire humility. 
 
Sure, in Anne-Marie Willis’ terms “through design activity, we create our “selves‟ or our identities through a phenomenology of “design knowing‟ but only in poetry are these identities revealed as resolved moments of consciousness rather than as aesthetic glimpse of possibility. Whatever I am, as an identity, the moment in which I am the saxophone is a moment of kenotic/poetic identity, it is not a moment in which I become a saxophone or a chair or a Van Gogh or Heideggerian boot. 
 
Design is a subset of poetry, I assert again. 
 
Cheers 
 
keith 
 
 
 
 
 
 
From: Johann van der Merwe <[log in to unmask]> 
Date: Thursday, 13 September 2018 at 5:57 pm 
To: Keith Russell <[log in to unmask]> 
Subject: Re: Fall Essay on Design Thinking 
 
This process of immersion in the fields of indefiniteness, the nothingness of basho, is above all a search for identity by both the individual and the discipline 
 
4] “The underlying axiom of this discipline is that there are forms of knowledge peculiar to the awareness and ability of a designer ... so we must concentrate on the „designerly‟ ways of knowing, thinking and acting “ (Cross, 2000:46). 
 
Keith 
Design Thinking, as I see it, is not a subset of poetry, or art, or literature ... etc. All these things, these modes of thought, are subsets of Design Thinking, that is, rather Design Thinking ... deconstruct the Design part without erasing it competely, and you are left with the thought: what is thinking? (Heidegger's "What is called thinking?). 
And, what exactly is this thing called "design"? Can you design poetry / art / literature / your way of life? Only if we think of "design" in almost the same way we think of "thinking" ... Design and Thinking are ways you can use to work at your life / the interconnectedness of self and world (that world that can potentially reveal (unconceal) all of poetry & art & a life worth living). 
 
I have never thought of Design Thinking as something inherently "designy" ... here are two snippets from my thesis: 
 
(p.12) Design is as social an activity as is language. Both are instances of the communicative ability we can rightly claim as a human necessity for being and becoming. Paraphrasing Steiner, we can say that the need for a human being (of human becoming) to find appropriate means of articulation and shaped expression will continue to press on language which, under that pressure, becomes either literature, art, or more concretely, becomes design. However, design[1] is much more than just the end product of a linear thought process that satisfies materialistic needs and wants, and is instead a process dealing with ‘wicked problems’[2] and conceptual integration[3]. Therefore this work will forego any attempt at dealing directly with the ‘concrete end products’ of the design process, and focus, instead, on design theory / thinking, and a design-like identity-creation process that has been variously called a designerly way of knowing4, knowledge of the third kind5, and ontological designing6. These approaches to design thinking begins with some form of design theory, but, and following the new design trend of focusing on process instead of product, instead of placing theory at the service of the manufacturing process leading into the product itself, it regards enhanced human thought patterns as far more important, thus placing this type of theory at the service of human capability, first and foremost. This particular approach to ontologically inclined design theory, I will argue, is also the best approach to a renewal in design teaching and learning, since it focuses on the identity-creation capacity of the student more than on designed products: the end result of a design education should be a critical and symbolic analyst capable of dealing with the complexities of designing interactive spaces populated by both humans, as users and critics, and the non-human actors (cf. Latour, below) we call designed objects. 
 
(p.295) Gramma/topology will always be a work in progress, because it is not a theory of knowledge but simply the ground to the student’s figure, and in the process of dealing with our contemporary and complex world of changing problem spaces it is hoped that a gestalt switch can take place between what the design student knows at any one point in time and what it can become possible to know the next, instead of the learning process being a mere stacking up of one fact after another in rote learning. Students have to learn how to learn, and they have to construct their own realities from those various models of and for reality that they are surrounded by and offered, especially the ones conveniently offered by the many electronic mediators that they deal with on a daily basis. Gramma/topology is such that it should become as the ice canoe (discussed below) that returns to that from which it came, taking the canoeist with it, to be re-assembled each time the combined cybernetic form returns. This process of immersion in the fields of indefiniteness, the nothingness of basho, is above all a search for identity by both the individual and the discipline. What follows are a few last ways of looking at this process (there are, of course, others), and I believe that using a theory of knowing somewhat like gramma/topology, as a kind of intrinsic hindsight (i.e., reflection), will allow us to assimilate to ourselves what there is to uncover in any ‘text’ in the world of either ideas or experience. 
 
1] Although I write from within a background of Industrial Design, the term design, unless specified otherwise, is used to refer to design as a generic activity, of both thought and action. 
2] “Wicked problems are ill-defined, ambiguous and ... there is often little consensus about what the problem is, let alone how to resolve it. Furthermore, wicked problems won‟t keep still: they are sets of complex, interacting issues evolving in a dynamic social context” (Ritchey, 2005, after Horst Rittel). 
3] Mark Turner (1996:57). The way we make sense of our world and come to understand our relationships with others and with objects, is through creating literary and parabolic meaning. Meaning, in turn, does not reside in an object or a concept, but “is alive and active, dynamic and distributed, constructed for local purposes of knowing and acting”. 
4] “The underlying axiom of this discipline is that there are forms of knowledge peculiar to the awareness and ability of a designer ... so we must concentrate on the „designerly‟ ways of knowing, thinking and acting “ (Cross, 2000:46). 
5] John Shotter (1994). Knowledge of the third kind: a „practical‟ way of knowing that can „call out‟ , not simply responses and reactions, but also a “stance toward our own construction of our own abilities”. 
6] Anne-Marie Willis (2004) (1999). Ontological designing: a radical departure from traditional design understanding, implicitly focusing on how, through design activity, we create our „selves‟ or our identities through a phenomenology of „design knowing‟. It has to be said, though, that the use of the term ontology in this research follows the original philosophical meaning, and in particular that of Heidegger (1962:49): ontology deals with the nature of existence as becoming, and “the task of ontology is to explain Being itself”. A distinction has to be made between this use of the term and the use to which it seems to be put by Information Systems designers, i.e. “as a specification of a conceptualiztion” for software programming (Pulkkinen, 2003). 
Regards 
Johann 
 
-- 
Dr. Johann van der Merwe 
Constant Design Researcher 
 
 
 
 
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