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PHD-DESIGN  July 2018

PHD-DESIGN July 2018

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Subject:

Re: On Human-centered design

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:

Mon, 23 Jul 2018 11:25:50 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (42 lines)

Dear Nigel,

My apologies. I didn’t at all intend to tell you to “shut up.” You are one of the people in our field whom I most respect. Your post seemed to me to raise several issues, and I was addressing the issues. It was my intention to write carefully, rather than to be rude. I wrote at length to be careful, not to jump down your throat. I used careful language, so I hope it did not seem loud or forcible — obviously, you took it so. Under any circumstances, I didn’t write rapidly. It took me a couple hours to write, polish, edit, and revise the post.

Even after two decades, it is difficult to find an appropriate tone on this list. You saw your comments on Francois Nsenga’s decision to post about Don Norman’s article as moderate. I feel that your comments took a moderate tone, but I disagreed with the substance. Unlike me, many people took your response to Francois and your comments on Don’s article as harsh. Using the phrase “Emperor’s New Clothes” didn’t bother me that much — a debate is a debate. Many people saw this as harsh.

While I did not, I did feel that a reply should be permissible. I stated why I thought the article worth discussing here — I disagreed with you, respectfully. I didn’t use any phrase as sharp as some of the comments in your post. Now I understand that you found my reply harsh and bullying. Given my respect for you, I feel quite bad — I’m apologizing in public to make clear to everyone that I did not tell you to “shut up.” You’re one of the people I like to hear from, and one whom I always read.   

I’m not sure what to make of all this. Yesterday, Don noted that he has been thinking about leaving the list. He mentioned that several subscribers to the PhD-Design list wrote to him privately to raise the possibility of leaving. I was one of them. And I was one of the people whom he persuaded to stay.

The problem that has been on my mind is the difficulty of engaging in a debate. Even when one says nothing personal, simply to debate or disagree is often taken as a personal attack. I made no personal criticism about you. I debated and partially disagreed with the ideas that you put forward. In response, you label me a bully — “the bully responds very rapidly, loudly, forcibly and at length, but essentially just saying ‘Shut up!’.” I spent two hours working carefully on four points. This was not a request that you shut up.  

When Don posted on “The vagaries of the PhD Design List,” I considered responding to discuss the reasons I had thought about leaving. After Ricardo Martins and Juergen Faust wrote thoughtful replies, I decided against responding. Perhaps I should.

Over the years, I have invested serious effort and time in writing careful replies. As Ricardo mentioned, replies that would seem like a conversation if we were sitting together may be taken as an attack when seen in plain words on the screen.

No matter how carefully I write, I don’t seem to be able to get around that. While I have received courteous and friendly off-list notes from people who appreciate the care I give in writing to the list, I have also received sharp rebukes and harsh comments. Some are off-list, and some rebukes appear on the I am chagrined that a distinguished scholar and valued friend labels me a bully for writing what I took for a relatively minor disagreement on ideas. 

I may yet respond in the thread on “The vagaries of the PhD Design List.” I have moved back across the line from those who have been persuaded to stay to those who consider relinquishing my subscription.

For now, I apologize for any unintended rudeness. I do not want you to shut up. I’d rather that you speak and write more often than you do.

Warm wishes,

Ken

—snip—

Dear Ken,

I now understand better why many people are apparently intimidated or nervous about posting contributions to this list. They are concerned about the bullying response they may get, like the response you gave to my moderate comments about what might be appropriate topics on the list. You will not see it as bullying, but to me, and I suspect others, it is an example of what is called "jumping down someone's throat" - i.e. someone tries to say something and the bully responds very rapidly, loudly, forcibly and at length, but essentially just saying "Shut up!". It happens often on this list.

I don't really care about how many minds you may be in about my comments, but here's a brief response to your first mindful question "What's wrong with Don Norman's article?". There was nothing 'wrong' with it - it was a well crafted (with the considerable help of the magazine editor, it now appears) piece of opinion journalism. But that's all it was: subjective and simplistic, with no new insights for the fields it superficially addressed. It did not merit the attention of this list, and the lengthy, again mostly subjective commentaries that ensued. That was the point of my comment. 

—snip—


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