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PHD-DESIGN  November 2018

PHD-DESIGN November 2018

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Subject:

Re: mapping analytical methods for design research

From:

Ken Friedman <[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:

Sat, 3 Nov 2018 13:00:32 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Dear Terry, Heidi, Joao,

While I am reluctant to enter the current thread, I want to put forward a couple ideas.

(1) A massive design portfolio

First, I was astonished at the massive list of things you’ve been working with … "design of outdoor equipment and extreme weather clothing and tents, computerised design optimisation programs in engineering, wordprocessor design, new design theories, new methods of design research, firefighting equipment, scientific laboratory equipment, design of wind and solar power generation, advanced vehicle transmissions, engine design, reproduction antique furniture, graphic design and typesetting, design of alternative technology equipment for 3rd world, AI and robotics systems, predictive software for national daily energy production, Victorian building restoration, local and wide area network design, hypertext learning systems,  structural engineering, design of design systems, improved Permaculture design systems, book publishing, research project design, new forms of mathematical and computerised modelling, community policing policy, youth policy design, design and build of eco-houses, alternative parallel social, business and financial systems, new systems theories  for transitioning power in hypercomplex systems, new high fashion design, research into  historical artists, research into craft methods, methods of addressing wicked problems,   environmental design for crime prevention, education programs design, design of improved PhD supervisory systems, new forms of cyber-security, new government policies,, business processes... along with many small scale design projects.”

Surely this deserves publication or a portfolio. You claim to have a system for thinking and working productively across a wide range of kinds and classes of artifact, product, system, service, and process. If this is the case, it would be helpful for you to demonstrate that your processes and idea work. A portfolio with comments and a demonstration of your methods will allow the rest of us to understand what you’ve done, how you’ve done it, and what kinds of approaches make it possible for you to do so much design and so much theorizing across so many fields and sectors. I’ve been able to find a few of your journal articles — primarily theoretical — and a few conference papers, but nothing that suggests this kind of range or this level of expertise.

Please do show us.

(2) Four Modes of Design Research

With respect your your web page — Four Modes of Design Research — I must disagree. Your page appears at the link you provide:

https://www.love.com.au/index.php/23-4-modes-dr

The first three modes seem to me slightly jumbled. They are not entirely wrong, but you don’t explain things very well. I’d expect greater detail and clarity for what amounts to a discussion involving philosophy of science and research training.

People who want to examine these issues carefully would do well to read the careful and detailed articles at The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Web Center for Social Research Methods

https://plato.stanford.edu

https://www.iep.utm.edu

http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/  

There are also excellent books on models of research for design, including Gjoko Muratovski’s excellent Research for Designers:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Research-Designers-Guide-Methods-Practice-ebook/dp/B018E7FISY

https://www.amazon.com/Research-Designers-Gjoko-Muratovski/dp/1446275140

Full disclosure: I wrote the introduction to this book. You can read my assessment of the issues and the book on my Academia page or on Gjoko’s

https://www.academia.edu/19075187/Research_for_Designers_A_Guide_to_Methods_and_Practice_Book_Preview_

https://www.academia.edu/19075187/Research_for_Designers_A_Guide_to_Methods_and_Practice_Book_Preview_

One reason I like Gjoko’s book so much is that he does a serious job of surveying a large, complex range of issues without oversimplification — and with respect for the details that so often make a difference. 

All of these sources require more than four short paragraphs … the ambiguous and slightly careless writing mean that it would take ten times as much text to explain what is problematic about the description of the four modes.

Let me take one set of issue from one sentence that jumps out at me for the number of major mistakes in two short sentences. You write: 

"Research based on a single research question. This is a classic research approach common within the Humanities and has been over-reified. The idea has spread relatively uncritically from Humanities for several historical reasons.”

Research based on a single research question is common across all of the sciences, but relatively uncommon in the humanities. Most of the research in the natural sciences and much of the research in the social sciences involves relatively small, careful questions that a researcher can answer clearly and without ambiguity. This is also the case in a great deal of research for mathematics and logic. 

There have been something like 50,000,000 research articles published since 1665, and even more conference papers have been presented. A huge proportion of these involve a single research question that can yield what the researcher or researchers believe is a clear answer. Much of the reductionist program in the sciences involves reducing problems to clear component questions that provide basic answers that allow researchers to slowly build an understanding of the world.

At the same time, much of the work in the humanities involves rich networks of linked problems that do not yield a clear answer. History is one of the typical subjects within the humanities. Consider historians who work at the intersection of history and economics. Here is a short list of historians whose work cannot be described as “research based on a single research question” — Eric Beinhocker, Alfred Chandler, David Halberstam, Harold Innis, Fritz Machlup, Joel Mokyr, Sylvia Nasar, Nobel Laureate Douglass North, Arnold Pacey, Karl Polanyi, and David Warsh. In the larger field of general history, most of the serious historians known to me address historical questions in the complex context within which they arise — Gordon Wood, Sven Beckert, Catharina Blomberg, Daniel Boorstin, Jonathan Sumption, Barbara Tuchman, Shashi Tharoor, William Manchester. 

The other humanities are much the same. It is difficult to describe a broad topic as a “single research question.” Look at philosophers such as Martha Nussbaum, Soren Kierkegaard, Albert Camus, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, not to mention people who write a kind of philosophy by writing about philosophers, authors such as Sue Prideaux and Sarah Bakewell.

Once you move over into literature or some areas of theology, the idea of a “single research question” is unsustainable. In the classics, it is impossible. Milman Parry? Sarah Bond? Sarah Nooter? Bernard Knox? Joan Breton Connelly? The questions they ask can often be reduced to a single sentence or two of description, but answering these questions requires understanding and linking history, empirical data from archeology and linguistics, literary studies, and more.

And let’s not get started on what you don’t know about the mathematical approaches now common in the digital humanities or data-centric humanities.

To claim that “research based on a single research question ... is a classic research approach common within the humanities” demonstrates a profound ignorance of research in the humanities. You can say anything at all about fields where you apparently do little reading — one expects more on a research list.

The notion that anything “has been over-reified” suggests you do not know what reification is. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, reify is a transitive verb that means “to make (something abstract) more concrete or real; to regard or treat (an idea, concept, etc.) as if having material existence.” Something is reified or it is not. To write that “a classic research approach ... has been over-reified” is meaningless.

Danielle Wilde launched a fascinating thread. Most of the people who have contributed to the thread have done some serious thinking, providing useful facts and original ideas. Your notes have been problematic — generally referring back to something on your web site that you posted long ago, apparently without thinking your ideas through.

It would take too much writing to explain why these four modes don’t work. It took over 800 words to unpack the problems in a two-sentence passage of 21 words. At that rate, it would take nearly 20,000 words to analyze the 500 words on the “Four Modes” page.

There are a few ideas in the hodgepodge that seem reasonable, but sorting them out from problematic concepts and factual mistakes doesn’t seem like a useful way to spend a couple of days.

Might I suggest that it would be more profitable for you to respond directly to people like Heidi Overhill who ask you direct and reasonable questions? If you don’t have the time or patience to answer Heidi directly, why bother? One expects greater thought on a research list.     

Your brief comment on the humanities shows little thought and no awareness of the wide range of research approaches at use in the humanities. As for the rest, I’ll avoid the other 19,000 words.

Yours,

Ken

Ken Friedman, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | 设计 She Ji. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/she-ji-the-journal-of-design-economics-and-innovation/

Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| Email [log in to unmask] | Academia http://swinburne.academia.edu/KenFriedman | D&I http://tjdi.tongji.edu.cn 

--

Ken Friedman, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | 设计 She Ji. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/she-ji-the-journal-of-design-economics-and-innovation/

Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| Email [log in to unmask] | Academia http://swinburne.academia.edu/KenFriedman | D&I http://tjdi.tongji.edu.cn 


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