The strengths / limits of Systems Thinking denote the strengths / limits of Practice-Based Design Research

Wolfgang Jonas
2014 FORMakademisk  
working paper for RSD2, AHO Oslo http://www.systemic-design.net/) "There is no purer myth than the notion of a science which has been purged of all myth." Michel Serres Overview If we focus on Practice-Based Design Research (PBDR) in its various forms and terminologies one can consider Design Research as a process of "generating the unknown from the known" or of "organizing the transition from knowns to unknowns" (Hatchuel). It is thereby confronted with the fundamental problems of control
more » ... ems of control (non-reducible complexity), of prediction (notknowing of evolutionary emerging futures) and of incompatible domains of knowing. The problems show up in causal gaps between bodily, psychic and communicative systems and between the phases of evolutionary development. PBDR explores the possibilities of bridging these gaps in the medium of design projects and thereby creates new knowledge. This is necessarily done with scientific support, but in a situated, "designerly" mode, which means that the designer is part of the design / inquiring system. This is the epistemological characteristic. We argue for a strong coupling of PBDR and advanced Systems Thinking to face the problems mentioned above. Latour introduces the "paradoxical constitutional guarantees of modernity: 1. Even when we construct nature, it is as if we did not. 2. Even when we do not construct society, it is as if we did. 3. Nature and society must remain absolutely separate ; the work of purification must therefore remain separate from the mediation work." RSD2 Relating Systems Thinking and Design 2013 Working paper. www.systemic-design.net 2 Design hasat least implicitly -always known this, or rather: has never built on these guarantees of modernity. The design of Design Research can build on this knowing. Practice-Based Design Research (PBDR) as focus of interest Design conceives complex life-world situations in future contexts. We consider design as a process of "generating the unknown from the known" or of "organizing the transition from knowns to unknowns" (Hatchuel). Design Research is aiming at exploration and innovation. It may be labelled a "Science of Uncertainty" (Dilnot 1998). Therefore, beside descriptive Analysis, the normative and practice-oriented phases of Projection and Synthesis are essential elements of Design Research processes Chow and Jonas 2008). Bruce Archer adheres to this idea and states (1995: 11): "It is when research activity is carried out through the medium of practitioner activity that the case becomes interesting." That means PBDR in its various forms and terminologies lies in the focus of interest. We all know the controversies regarding the scientific validity of PBDR (Friedman 2003). The standard reaction consists in the adaptation to established scientific standards from other disciplines such us the Social Sciences. This ignores, for example, the exciting and promising developments in Science and Technology Studies, which indicate a convergence of "scientific" and "designerly" processes of inquiry. The strategy of escaping to the "high ground" may provide short-term relief, but impedes the longer-term learning processes and the appreciation of designerly modes of inquiry. And, hopefully, a new role for design. Fundamental problems and causal gaps Design and design research are confronted with the fundamental problems of control (nonreducible complexity), of prediction (not-knowing of evolutionary emerging futures) and of incompatible domains of knowing. The problems show up in causal gaps between bodily, psychic and communicative systems and between the phases of evolutionary development (Luhmann 1997). Schön (1983: 42) puts it pragmatically:
doi:10.7577/formakademisk.789 fatcat:7zfh4rsf25gi3d66emvbs5i3ua