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PHD-DESIGN  August 2012

PHD-DESIGN August 2012

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Subject:

Re: Activity Theory and ANT and computers are capable of design?

From:

Ranjan MP <[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:

Wed, 15 Aug 2012 23:04:33 +0530

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (315 lines)

Dear Susan

You have brought an important aspect for discussion on the list and I agree
with you that the work of Latour and that of Fry are deeply interesting if
we are to understand the various dimensions of design. Latour in my view
exhibits a profound understanding of design and I was hugely impressed by
his paper "A Cautius Prometheus?" to the Design History congress in 2008
and I have since been following his writings and I discover more insights
of great value as it draws me deeper..
<http://www.design-for-india.blogspot.in/search/label/Bruno%20Latour>

Design is complex and we need to look at it from many angles and
perspectives as I have mentioned earlier and there can be many positions,
all of which could be true and valuable. There is not one correct answer.
Wicked indeed.

With warm regards

M P Ranjan
from my iMac at home on the nID campus
16 August 2012 at 11.00 pm IST

-------------------------------------------------------------
*Prof M P Ranjan*
*Design Thinker and author of blog -
www.Designforindia.com<http://design-for-india.blogspot.com/>
*
E8 Faculty Housing
National Institute of Design
Paldi
Ahmedabad 380 007 India

Tel: (res) 91 79 26610054
email: ranjanmp@g <[log in to unmask]>mail.com

<[log in to unmask]>web site: http://homepage.mac.com/ranjanmp
<http://homepage.mac.com/ranjanmp>web domain: http://www.ranjanmp.in
<http://www.ranjanmp.in/>blog: <http://www.design-for-india.blogspot.com>
education blog: <http://www.design-concepts-and-concerns.blogspot.com>
education blog: http://www.visible-information-india.blogspot.com
<http://www.visible-information-india.blogspot.com/>
------------------------------------------------------------

On 15 August 2012 19:57, Susan Stewart <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Dear Terry, Ken, MP and other list-dwellers,
>
> I seem to have touched a nerve!
>
> My suggestion was that a blurring of the distinction between agency and
> intention is not helpful in discussing ANT.
>
> Agency and intention can be discussed separately. Wind and water are
> agents of erosion. As agents, they effect change.
>
> The kind of agency that Latour is interested in, however, is not that of a
> single actor (like wind or water or a person), but that of clusters of
> actors that, together, give sufficient weight to a particular direction (or
> disposition) to make that direction (or disposition) influential in some
> way. Some of the actors that contribute to the establishment of a
> disposition or direction may be human, but many will be non-human. These
> latter will include the material and the immaterial, the animate and the
> inanimate, the designed and the un-designed. To the extent that humans are
> influential within a particular actor-network, intentions may play a role;
> however a focus on intentions may lead us to discount the other actors that
> are at play. It was for this reason I suggested that a blurring of the
> distinction between agency and intention might not be helpful in discussing
> Latour's work. This is not to suggest that it is not important that we be
> well intentioned in what we do.
>
> Questions of ethics are important, and Latour's work is provocative in the
> way it reconfigures such questions.
>
> Latour is often playful in tone, but the possibilities that he opens up
> for reading the world in ways other than those that we have become used to,
> are more than refreshing; they suggest completely new ways of thinking
> about the relations between humans, technologies and nature. These
> conversations are never closed. Every stimulating thinker provokes
> discussions that move beyond his or her initial positions.
>
> It was not my intention to be either explaining or defending Latour (or,
> for that matter, Fry - who I have a great respect for) to the list. There
> are others whom I am sure are better placed to do that. Nor was it my
> intention to conflate Latour and Fry - I hope that was clear in my initial
> post. They are different voices within a complex terrain of post-humanist
> thought.
>
> I hope there are some of you, who like me, find this territory to be of
> interest in relation to design.
>
> Cheers, Susan
>
>
> Susan Stewart B.Arch, PhD
> Senior Lecturer in Design
> School of Design, Faculty of DAB
> University of Technology Sydney
> Susan Stewart B.Arch, PhD
> Senior Lecturer in Design
> School of Design, Faculty of DAB
> University of Technology Sydney
>
> ________________________________________
> From: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related
> research in Design [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Ranjan MP [
> [log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 8:07 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Activity Theory and ANT and computers are capable of design?
>
> Dear Ken
>
> Your arguments are sound and well grounded in reason and scholarship.
>
> Designer, Design and the Designed objects or offerings as in services and
> rules etc and the concept of "Agency" will all need to be seen in the
> context of another concept that has been proposed by George Soros and that
> is "Reflexivity" (as applied to financial and economic areas) and I tend to
> think that this is perhaps what makes design such a powerful "political"
> force after all. Here "Agency" would be from sociology, philosophy and
> ethics – as we can see from the wiki definitions below
> Sociology <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(sociology)>
> Philosophy <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(philosophy)>
> Moral <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_agency>
> and
> Reflexivity a la Soros - from financial and economic fields
> <
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Soros#Reflexivity.2C_financial_markets.2C_and_economic_theory
> >
>
> It is other humans in the prevailing context who act on the design and the
> designed thing and make it valuable or a disaster – beyond the imagination
> and the intention of the designer – value bumps far beyond the intrinsic
> value of the material and its various configurations – unpredictable but
> real. Suddenly, there is a huge value bump that could soar far above
> expectations as in a fashion movement or trend or in the runaway success of
> a bestseller product, at least for the time being. Design is a human
> activity that begins with intentions and the results of design are shaped
> and acted upon by the prevailing context and new and unintended but perhaps
> hoped for results may or may not ensue. Scarcity, inflation, and value all
> follow from these relations.
>
> Now, what about computers? What about automated trading algorithms that can
> make or break a market without any reference to the fundamentals of the
> underlying asset? It is all getting very complicated at a very high speed
> and we will need to look closely at some of these designed situations and
> services to fathom the consequences of our designed offerings. Can we make
> the mission of creating responsible designer in education something that
> would include the processing and anticipation of these outcomes as part of
> the design process? Perhaps this is why I called my course at NID "Design
> Concepts and Concerns" - It is not just about design thinking – but also
> about being sensitive to all forms of outcomes including climate change and
> human conflicts that could ensue as a consequence of our expert actions. I
> called it the Avalanche Effect, but not may takers for this concept it
> seems. see this post on my blog Design for India for more about this.
> <
>
> http://www.design-for-india.blogspot.in/2012/07/evolution-of-dcc-course-at-nid.html
> >
>
> With warm regards
>
> M P Ranjan
> from my iMac at home on the NID campus
> 15 August 2012 at 3.35 pm IST
>
> -------------------------------------------------------------
> *Prof M P Ranjan*
> *Design Thinker and author of blog -
> www.Designforindia.com<http://design-for-india.blogspot.com/>
> *
> E8 Faculty Housing
> National Institute of Design
> Paldi
> Ahmedabad 380 007 India
>
> Tel: (res) 91 79 26610054
> email: ranjanmp@g <[log in to unmask]>mail.com
>
> <[log in to unmask]>web site: http://homepage.mac.com/ranjanmp
> <http://homepage.mac.com/ranjanmp>web domain: http://www.ranjanmp.in
> <http://www.ranjanmp.in/>blog: <http://www.design-for-india.blogspot.com>
> education blog: <http://www.design-concepts-and-concerns.blogspot.com>
> education blog: http://www.visible-information-india.blogspot.com
> <http://www.visible-information-india.blogspot.com/>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
>
> On 15 August 2012 13:22, Ken Friedman <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> > Dear Susan,
> >
> > The noun “agency” has within it a kind of ambiguity that is not always
> > clear. It is one thing to speak of “agency” as the positive capacity of
> > ethical responsibility in making decisions. It is another to speak of
> > “agency” in the sense that agency is the embodied but not purposive
> ability
> > to act in carrying out decisions.
> >
> > While machines may well have agency in the second sense, they do not have
> > agency in the first sense.
> >
> > In the second sense, Tony Fry is right to suggest that “that designed
> > things have an agency in excess of the agency we intend them to have.” If
> > that is what he means by agency, then it is possible to speak of “the
> > agency of non-human (and, specifically, designed) things.”
> >
> > If, however, he means that designed things have ethical responsibility,
> > I’d disagree. I understand the argument, but it seems to me incorrect.
> >
> > There are several ways to describe the problem. While “designed things
> > have an agency in excess of the agency we intend them to have,” we can
> also
> > describe this as the unintended consequences of the designers who design
> > those designed things. The designers remain responsible.
> >
> > To go beyond this, suggesting that designed things are themselves
> > responsible seems to me an argument that does not bear discussion outside
> > the frame of a thought experiment.
> >
> > If we can ascribe agency to designed things in the sense of ethical
> > responsibility, then one could argue that the gas chambers and the
> > railroads had as much responsibility for the Holocaust as the Nazis did.
> >
> > It is precisely this kind of argument around ANT that troubles me. I’m
> > prepared to accept ANT arguments for how things work in systems. I’m
> > troubled by the strong sense of the argument. To say that “post-humanist
> > approaches to thinking about agency challenge the assumption that human
> > agency is independent of non-human agencies.”
> >
> > Human beings may get things wrong and often do. Only ethically
> responsible
> > agents can take responsibility for improvements. Since designed things
> > carry on as they are designed to do, they cannot take responsibility for
> > improvements. The essence of design remains acting to create a preferred
> > future state by solving problems, meeting needs, improving situations, or
> > creating something new or useful.
> >
> > Yours,
> >
> > Ken
> >
> > Professor Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | University Distinguished
> > Professor | Dean, Faculty of Design |Swinburne University of Technology |
> > Melbourne, Australia | [log in to unmask]<mailto:
> > [log in to unmask]> | Ph: +61 3 9214 6078 | Faculty
> > www.swinburne.edu.au/design<http://www.swinburne.edu.au/design>
> >
> > --
> >
> > Susan Stewart wrote:
> >
> > —snip—
> >
> > Perhaps the difference between agency and intention is being blurred in
> > what has been said about the insights that ANT can bring to thinking
> about
> > design.
> >
> > Post-humanist approaches to thinking about agency challenge the
> assumption
> > that human agency is independent of non-human agencies. The approach to
> > understanding action and change that is forwardedwithin ANT is one that
> > treats human and non-human actors as symmetrical (ieequally significant).
> > Non-human actors not only have agency, but also act on us. Our intentions
> > (among other things) are shaped by the agency of non-humans.
> >
> > Tony Fry’s conception of ‘ontological design’ similarly recognises the
> > agency of non-human (and, specifically, designed) things. He emphasises
> > that designed things have an agency in excess of the agency we intend
> them
> > to have. The unforseen ways in which the designed things that we bring
> into
> > the world re-shape that world, need to be recognised as being at least as
> > significant (probably more significant) than the foreseen and intended
> ways
> > in which they re-shape the world.
> >
> > Fry and Latour belong to slightly different intellectual traditions, but
> > both are heirs to the critique of the Cartesian distinction between
> subject
> > and object. This critique, which is central to Heidegger’s work,
> underpins
> > the diverse conversations of continental philosophy during the second
> half
> > of the 20th century.
> >
> > Personally, I find these insights to be of enormous importance in
> relation
> > to thinking about design.
> >
> > —snip—
> >
>
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