Designing Design Research 2: additional material.
Dr Ranulph Glanville
Draft Paper: Re-Searching Design Research - Why Not Research Design ?
When Design Research began, which I shall take to be early in the 1960s, the eventual success of science was virtually unquestioned and even unquestionable. Already, in the notorious 1956 Oxford Conference, architectural education in the UK (and areas still controlled by the UK) had accepted that architecture was a second class subject: ie not properly scientific. Science (or, in actuality, its manufacturing arm, technology) was seen to be so successful that everything should be scientific. The philosopher’s stone, at last! Architects (ie, a significant subdivision of designers) were determined to become scientific. The syllabus was changed and the new subject of design science was invented. Even that 'artist' of architecture schools, the Architectural Association School in London, succumbed to the trend and gave over a third of undergraduate time to design science. Also in London, Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his Labour Government were proclaiming the 'White Heat of the Technological Revolution.' So it was no wonder that design was seen not to be an approach a discipline, even in its own right. It was seen as flawed science. These flaws could be fixed by the proper application of scientific methods It did not matter that science as done as is now commonly understood was nothing like science as described in both scientific publications and in the philosophy of science, and that these descriptions were inappropriate even within science itself. It did not matter that the philosophers were at this very moment beginning to debunk these understandings. Design should become scientific, research (scientific research) should be done and the results would speak for themselves. The problems of design could be solved, given the application of proper scientific methods. Efforts were made to do this, and some had effect (for instance, the development of early CAD packages constructed around hospital design had a certain success: because hospitals may, under certain circumstances, be properly considered as highly defined machines, although nowadays there is a backlash against the view of hospital as machine, and consequently patient as object - a car in a garage: see Blair 1995).
Against this background, design was seen as deficient: effectively, a defective science.
Research was what was needed. Proper scientific research (research was almost all presented as scientific, in those days) would yield up the secrets of the designer and allow us unsentimentally to find the right answer to our (design) problems. Research was at the heart of Science. Research was Scientific—and thus it was Science. In shameful contrast, Design was not Scientific. Design should be Scientific. Design therefore needed Research, to make it Scientific. Which is what it should be. Of course, since Research should be Scientific, Design Research should be Scientific. And then Design, itself, would be Scientific.
Research was seen as being Science, and what gave Science its precedence, as is still indicated in the continuing growth in evidence-based studies. Yet Science is not what it presents itself as, not by a long chalk. In this paper, I look at research of this sort, both in experiment and in theory, and as done compared with as reported, and in turn compare this to what is central to the act of design, as I now understand it, in order to throw light on the relationship that could hold between research and design, restoring the balance so that design may be accorded what I consider its proper position. Finally, I consider whether there is an area of knowledge which has already achieved, within its own competence, what design should look to achieve for itself. (The reader, anxious to know at the outset how I use the word design may want to look at the second section in the second part of this paper, 'What is Design', about two thirds of the way through the paper.
So the purpose of this paper is to construct an argument that gives design back its rightful place in research: that is, shows research to be a (restricted) design act, rather than design being a subset of research. It is inappropriate (except in the case of certain arguments about self-reference) to require the set of a subset to act as the sub subset to that subset!
There is, naturally, a personal element to this paper. I lived in this intellectual environment and believed its simplifications. My architecture (student) sketch books are full of Venn diagrams and what I would now call directed graphs, in place of sketches of sensitive corners of proposed buildings. Were it not that I had second chances to study, through teaching and through higher degrees, perhaps I would still think this way.
Part 1: The World of Research.
What is the purpose of research? What do we set out to achieve when we do it?
Research is an undertaking by which we aim to increase our knowledge (of the world).? In general, the word research will be used henceforth in its verbal form: as with design, which is also both verb and noun in the English language, generally the noun will be differentiated by a compounding addition, such as "the research outcome," "a design undertaking," etc.
Research, as an activity, is usually understood to produce knowledge that is social (shared by a community), extendable and testable. A characteristic of this undertaking, as pointed out by GA Swanson in his Presidential address to the International Society for Systems Science (Swanson 1997), is that we take our knowledge, extend and test it until it "breaks" and then rebuild it anew so that we extend what we know. The circularity and failure (leading to a "rebirth") is central to the research undertaking.
What research produces-the outcome-should be stable for it to be useful in making knowledge. By this I mean that the outcome should be repeatable (usually by different people at different locations and on different occasions) and that it is unambigous.
But it should also be coherent: that is, the outcome should fit in with (or, occasionally, cause a reconsideration of) what is already known. Research is concerned not only with individual chunks of knowledge, but also with assemblies of these chunks into larger scale structures. It is important that the chunks stick together within the large scale structures: together with other chunks and also within these structures. This implies that coherence is deeply connected with consistency: the chunks must be consistent with eachother and with the structure. A major way of determining that our knowledge is consistent and repeatable (ie complete) is its use to predict outcomes. When it does this successfully, we re-inforce our positive valuation of it. This leads to a science of conjectures. The fact that we are willing to test these conjectures leads to a science of refutations. As Karl Popper has pointed out (1969).
In fact, scientific research is not usually carried out in accordance with Popper's dictum, which is impossibly ambitious for mere humans. Kuhn (DDDD) argued from more historical observations about how scientific knowledge builds up and collapses, being modified to support accepted theories until such theories become so top-heavy in riders that they cannot survive (currently this seems to be happening to Chomsky's Transformational Generative Grammar). Lakatos (1969) has also pointed to the socialisation of scientific knoweldge, and the development of protective belts around accepted theories.
Science is not the ideal Popper invites us to believe. Popper's view is an admirable idealisation: we may aim for it but we are not likely to attain it. This difference between science as portrayed and science as done is an important one.
Research is carried out in two main arenas. The first is through experiment, the second in theory. In this paper, I am concerned to remind us of the actuality of what happens when we do experiments and theory, in contrast to 'official presentation.' Of course, all this must happen against the background understanding that just because something has always happened does not mean it always will. But we assume that the likelihood of it continuing to happen increases, the more it has already happened.?
Experiment knowledge of the world we find ourselves in.? We do this by the use of a proceedure of radical simplification.
In the (idealised) scientific experiment we divide systems into variables. One of the variables is the centre of our interest. We fix the other variables (oblige them to remain unchanged), while changing some factor that we believe is influential in the behaviour of the system under consideration as realised in the free variable. We change this factor, observe the change in the behaviour of the system, and attribute it to the response of the variable to the change in the factor. We organise the 'in and outputs' to the system so that there appears to be a simple relationship, and we determine that this relationship is caused by the variable?
In complex systems where we cannot simply fix variables, and/or where repeatibility is unattainable, we have devised various methods (such as statistics) for 'faking' these conditions.
I imagine the reader will probably be familiar with the above picture. There is little of novelty in it. What is left out of it is, of course, the experimenter. What does the experimenter do?
The answer to this is rather straightforward and direct. It is based on simple experience: of doing experiments, and of language use and what that implies for action.
In the first instance, it is the experimenter who chooses to do the experiment and sets it up, including determining the variables. It is the experimenter who observes, and determines what the outcomes are. It is the experimenter who carries out the actions (or allows them to be carried out, which amounts to the same thing).
It is the experimenter who carries out some action until the system begins to perform as required (for instance, moves the light source/screen/lens to get an in-focus image). And it is the experimenter who determines when enough has been done so that no more repeats are needed (who breaks the circle).
The experimenter designs the experiment. If the experiment doesn't work (well) the experimenter redesigns it. The experimenter forms the outcome and assembles different observations into a coherent whole (relates them together). The experimenter may then tie the outcome into theory and modify the theory accordingly. And, reacting to changes in knowledge resulting from the experiments the experimenter may rerun the experiment, perhaps with modified aims. The experimenter also decides to rerun the experiment with a new arrangement in the variables, or in a different place etc, to check its repeatibility, ie its stability. This may include prediction, which always calls for a rerun. And so on.
These are circular actions the experimenter carries out, and, as a result of their ciruclarity novelty may seem to emerge, leading to another rerun under changed circumstances. It does not matter that there is a body of knowledge and expertise that the experimenter pays obeisance to: regardless, it is still the experimenter who chooses to do all this. Nor is to say this to judge it as either good or bad. It is merely to say it.
There are circularities in doing the experiment and in setting it up. There are circularities in valuing what is found and in integrating it. There are circularities of repetition (of the rerun) which have several causes. The whole process is deeply embedded in circularity, and in the greatest of all scientific circularities: the active involvement of the experimenter (observer).
AccountIn the act of representation, to say two things (a word and its meaning, a description of an experience and the experience itself, the $$$$ referans and the referent) are the same is simultaneously to insist they are different. No matter how similar they may be, unless they retain a difference they cannot stand for eachother. When two things are the same, they are only one. The essence of the act of representation is that it involves two. The difference between the two components in representation is crucial (Glanville 1980b is d). Thus, it follows that the account of an experiment is not the experiment itself.
But the traditional way of writing about (scientific experimental) research is highly formalised and stylised-about as formalised as the painting of a Russian Icon! Taught to all school children in my youth, this depiction was intended to emphasise certain epistemological positions and claims.
Thus, in the experiments, observations were made. There was no agent, nobody who did the observing (or anything else). Somehow the experiment just came into being (no one thought of it, let alone messed around until it worked-that is, produced a result of the type desired (who desired it?)), and the results themselves just appeared (without anyone having to adjust anything in the experiment to gain the information that was being looked for, such as moving the elements in an optical experiment until there was a sharp focus, and only then taking measurements; or even having to notice what was going on). It was all automatic, a mechanism of great beauty and complexity, but nevertheless a mechanism which was true and both beyond human and not needing intervention. (See Peter Medawar's charming and witty discussion, "Is the Scientific Paper a Fraud?" 1963.)
The intention was to present the undertaking in a manner which supported the view of the scientific endeavour as bringing forth truths existing unsullied by human intervention in the great reality out there, awaiting our discovery and unravelling. And while it may be relatively easy, nowadays, to gain the admission that this position is untenable, it is much harder to pursue the consequences to a logical conclusion, and to take onboard the view (a constructivist one) that seems to emerge. In science, we have too long for been drilled otherwise.
What was involved in this manner of accounting was a post-rationalisation: the explanation after the event that made tidy, from that viewpoint, what was perhaps a rather different experience.?
In this, older view, of course, there was a power, a "right". There was, indeed, the uncovering of that power, that right. There were solutions to problems, because everything fitted together as a mechanism. Indeed, not only did everything fit together, it was fitted together already in nature. And so the universe proceeded. Define the problem, carry out the proper proceedures, and the resulting output from the scientific machine must be right. It certainly had power: it worked. Well, to be strictly honest, it pretty well worked within the assumptions of the framework it was supposed to demonstrate. One could, therefore, assume that research would lead to the right answer. And one did, at least until Popper (1969) came along. While it is interesting to discuss why we no longer support this view (assuming it ever had any validity), this is not the place.? What matters in this context is that we have come to realise that the picture being put forward in this form of account is neither accurate nor credible-about either how we do our research, or the type of response and output we can reasonably expect and believe in. It seems, just, that the generally promulgated view held of how we give an account of our research through scientific experiment is inaccurate.Furthermore, linguistic analysis indicates that, over the last 30 years, the aims of the scientific communication and the use of language that indicates this have changed. Thus, publications are no longer concerned with the truth; they communicate the author's wish to join or remain in a group of fellow workers (Hunston 1993; Hyland 1997, Glanville, Forey and Sengupta, forthcoming). Apparently, this finding holds for physicists as much as for social scientists. And the first person has found expression again: papers are written by I's. Designers, of course, know they are not dealing with "the truth" except in some possible metaphysical way such as truth to materials (the Architectural Association has the motto: "Design in Beauty, Build in Truth"): and they know there is no design without them, the designers.
"....publications are no longer concerned with the truth; they communicate the author's wish to join or remain in a group of fellow workers.
And, in all of this, we altogether fail to mention the actual processes of writing/reporting.
TheoryTheory is what turns the (collections of) observations we build into a science. It does not make these collections science, but it is necessary, for them to be a science, even if it is not sufficient. This paper is not, however, concerned with what makes (or should make) science. In the context of this paper, theory, in research, has the following two roles.
The first is to combine, co-ordinate and simplify the findings of experiments.
The second is to examine the concepts used in order to clarify and hence develop them further, reflecting the extended understandings back on the theory of the first type and into experiment for verification, by suggesting experiments that might be carried out. Thus, the relationship between theory and experiment is, essentially circular. They might be thought of as partners in a conversation, albeit a very slow conversation carried out over a very long time. And the role of theory is to simplify.
Theory from ExperimentThe first role of theory, Theory from Experiment, is involved with pattern finding. Humans look for patterns. Piaget (1955) teaches us that the child develops a view of the world as he/she becomes able to distinguish objects: that is, to attribute between separate perceptions on separate occasions some constancy (which he calls "object constancy").? Pattern finding, the making of one concept from many distinct perceptions, is an intensely human activity. Theories are just patterns that are given widespread credence and accepeted without (much) challenge as accounting for a major part of our experience (most of the time).
As such, Theories are not provable: in Popper's characterisation, they remain temporarily valid until they are disproved. They fall into the category covered by Occam's Razor. Occam's Razor is no more provable than "randomness" (see Chaitin (1975), Glanville (1977,1981) Occam's adventures, DDDD N of F), Ashby (1964) and Bremmermann (DDDD)). To assert something is random is to assert that no pattern has been found. Yet. There is no absolute truth in simplicity: there is, rather, convenience, coherence and consistency.? However, although the notion that something is simpler than another is not provable, it has a strong intuitive appeal and seems to us to hold.
Why do we want to simplify?
To make the continuum of our experience (of our being) handleable within limited (finite) resources (see Ashby 1964 Glanville 1994. 1997a V in D, value of Unman). If we did not simplify by, in the first instance, constantly making constant objects constant, we would never be able to recognise such objects and we would not even "cognise" (let alone re-cognise) "perceptions" as of "objects". The world we lived in would have no object, and we would not be able to concieve even of our own I's, let alone speak of them. We would live in the continuum, the void: about which we cannot talk, for to talk is to distinguish and to make objects. Nirvana. In a word, blank.
Part 2 (NOTE footnotes omission, refs not yet done):
And, in the second case, we would not be able to generalise, to find similarities in behaviour and to learn from repetition so that we could venture the belief (without logical basis and is frequently disproved by our experience) that because some observed behaviour of some observed object had always held (in our experience, more or less), it always will hold (see footnotes 4 and 6)!
Our belief in the value of such simplification is so great that, when we find discrepancies (when the simplification goes wrong and the consequent prediction turns out not to hold) we will find ways of explaining this fact away as an error/discrepancy, rather than take it as a contradiction, a demonstration that simplification necessarily omits something. By this conceptual device we can hold on to our theories.
Thus, theory formalises the significance and necessity of pattern. And pattern gives us objects and recognisable behaviours, thus allowing us to predict and to risk living by our predictions.? Prediction is a way of extending the range of our observations and the patterns we have found (or constructed). If we live by the assertion that there is a pattern that X happens, and because X has always happened it will always happen, we extend the range of application of that pattern (from being a historical account, a post rationalisation, to being a prediction and to taking control and posession of the future in a way that leads us towards certain courses of action). Thus, the discovery that trains running on a particular track go to a particular station, and the exploration that shows this is always so, leads us to believe they always will go there. We can build our lives accordingly. We take the route and use it to form our actions: we use the station the line goes to as an assumption and a jumping off point. Our knowledge of place is formed by the no longer thought about assumption that that is where we will go to. When there is a failure on the line we get upset and confused, losing control and finding our prediction wrong-and we make excuses! We claim it was an exceptional condition that broke the mechanical-the causal-chain.
And, similarly, we make the simplifications that form the base of our science (as well as our personal knowledge (science-as in Kelly's Personal Scientist 1955)). We determine that all objects fall to earth unless constrained and we make a generalisation. We examine the generalisation and extract a simple principle. We use the principle to cover other areas of observation: that objects whirling around on strings do not fall to earth as long as they whirl fast enough. And then we extend this expanded understanding to the planets, as if whirling on invisible strings. And there we move into the realm of Theory from Theory.
Theory from Theory (from Experiment)The second role of theory we consider is the examination of concepts used in order to clarify and hence develop these concepts further, reflecting the extended understandings back on the theory of the first type (see previous section), and into experiment (by suggesting experiments that might be carried out).
While science came to conceive of itself as essentially empirical, there accounts, mathematics (or, perhaps, logic-Russell and Whitehead DDDD) is the queen of the sciences. Theoretical sciences abound today. For instance, the area of particle physics inhabits a universe of theoretical discourse and is essentially theory driven.? Sometimes these areas return to experiment, but not always. Science depends not only on collecting and organising evidence (and simplifying it to form patterns), but also on examining the consequences of that evidence and its simplification (its patterns) through the use of logic to examine, for instance, the nature of both this particular pattern and patterns in general.? In this area we build theories about and from theory.
So, in building theory from (and of) theory, we use the same devices as we use to build theory: we simplify or find patterns. We treat the relations and patterns we have found, as well as the objects we have found that they are held to pertain to, also as objects. In using the devices of theory on theory, we are acting self-referentially: and self-reference is, of necessity, circular. We make theory about theory, we find the pattern of pattern.
We use these devices to extend and refine our understandings, and we use them because they are the devices by and through which we have formed these understandings. These understandings are made, not given (we construct them). We look for consequences and for contradictions of these understandings, to understand them. And, when we find them (present in a manner we are no longer willing to ignore or accept), we act to find alternatives, either by modifying what we held or by throwing it out and starting again afresh-just as we do with the initial simplifications from which we develop our theories and with those theories themselves.
This is clearly a circular process. And it is a process of design, of continuous modification and unification, of the inclusion of more and more bits in a coherent whole, of occasional re-starts, of extension and of revolution, of the increase in range and the act of simplifying (so that, in general, much appears under the heading of little). And then, sometimes, we take our (re-)new(ed) understanding and suggest how experiment will allow us to demonstrate or deny the simplification we have made in an interaction by which both we and the personal reality we make for ourselves find our own confirmation, extension and modification (and find our own renewal).
Note how all of this requires an agent. We do it. It does not happen by itself. We do not even uncover: we make and we test, and where necessary, we modify. We are always present, as active agents. It is circular because that is the way we do it.
Criticism etc and Theory: it is theory of theory. This paper is written as Th of Th.
Part II: the World of Design
"(scientific) research is a form of design - a specifically restricted form."It is my contention that what I have been describing in Part I is design, and is design at many levels. And, therefore, that (scientific) research is a form of design-a specifically restricted form, it is true, but a form nevertheless. If this is the case, it is inappropriate to ask design to be 'scientific:' for scientific research is a subset of design, and you may not require that the set is a subset of the subset-except in the special and technical instance of self-referential systems which are highly contentious and raise very complex issues that I do not believe are relevant to this discussion.
The fact that (scientific) research is a branch of design is hidden, rather than generally recognised, leads to a degree of strangeness! It is indeed odd that an area that has for so long claimed its purpose to be the uncovering of truth seems to be, itself, so very dishonest about what it does and how it does it.
In order to make the point that (scientific) research is design as forcefully as I can, I shall first explain what I mean by the term design, and then remind the reader how the qualities of that characterisation are found in the description of (scientific) research indicated above.?
What is DesignThere have been, of course, many answer to the question of what design is-nearly as many as there are authors on the subject and occasions of its use. The characterisation that is used in this paper concentrates on design as a means of exercising our creativity.?
Design is a word that is used in many ways and which has, in English, the form of both noun and verb (see the section on Research, above). Let me remind the reader that, in this paper, design is taken to be a verb (the outcome of the "design act" may be a "design object" is the way I express the noun version) indicating an action. Central to the act of design is a circularity which is where, in my view, creativity enters (Glanville 1980a,1995)It is the creative part of design that interests me and which I take to be central. Other aspects, such as the solving of a stated problem (usually understood to be crucial in design) are not, in my view, central to the study of the design act, no matter how important: problem solving has its own studies and domain and I am happy to leave work on that to those interested in the field.?
Thus, I do not deny that designing may involve problem solving (for instance) or that this may be even vitally important: but what I am interested in is the circular act of designing which is the major place I believe the creativity central to design enters.
I characterise design as a conversation, usually held via a medium such a paper and pencil, with an other (either an "actual" other or oneself acting as an other) as the conversational partner.For my purposes in this paper, I characterise design (in the manner of Pask 1969) as a conversation, usually held via a medium such a paper and pencil, with an other (either an "actual" other or oneself acting as an other) as the conversational partner. A conversation is a circular form of communication, with understandings being exchanged between the conversational partners yet with variation (even misunderstanding) inherent in the role of both the medium and of the other. Thus, the word conversation is used in a manner that is recognisable and everyday. I retain this colloquial understanding, although Pask eventually developed notions of the conversation into a highly refined technical theory of sophistication and some difficulty (Pask 1975, 1976).Glanville 1993,1998)
The conversational form of the design act will be familiar from the level of the doodle on the back from the envelope upwards. My conviction is of the value of the doodle on the back of the envelope as an instance of the act of creation which fires the doodler's enthusiasm, personal research and commitment.
"creativity ....is such a distinguishing feature of design..."
While it may be argued that creativity may also be found elsewhere, this process is certainly one in which novelty (whether global or only to the person involved in designing at the moment of their involvement) which is such a distinguishing feature of design, and which is so typical of creativity, can be found.
Design and ResearchAs described here, the activity of carrying out (scientific) research (whether as experiment or theory building) is a design activity. We design experiments, but we also act as designers in how we act within the experiments we design. We design the objects we find through experiment (as we design the experience) by a process of finding commonalities (simplification) and we design how we put them together in patterns (explanatory principles, theories). We look at these patterns, and make further patterns from them-the theories of our theories. Thus, in doing science, we learn.
The manner in which we do this is circular, even (in Pask's sense) conversational: we do and we do again, until there is a self-re-inforcing stability, or there is misfit. We try and test, until we arrive at something that satisfies our desires-for stability, for recognisability, for repeatability, etc-and thus we arrive at our understandings. We test and then we test again, we repeat with refinement and we extend, and when, driving them to extremes, we find our patterns no longer hold, we rejig them or we start again from scratch (or from nearer scratch than we had been). We adumbrate the special within the more general. And we come to resting points, where we say (as we do in design) "this fits well enough, I am getting no further at the moment". And all the time it is we who do it: we are active. The role of the observer as a participant, in making the knowledge, in abstracting it to theory, in theorising about theory; and in making the way by which we obtain this knowledge and acting within this way to actually obtain, it is central, essential, unavoidable, inevitable and completely desirable.Without the active participation of this actor, there would be nothing that we would know. At every step, in every action, the observer/participant is actively designing. There is nothing passive, automatic or without person, here.
No matter how regrettable or distasteful this may appear to the traditional scientist and others drilled in the convention (the distortion, even the lie) of presentation by which (to use the terms of science) science puts forward its discoveries and the claims it makes for them, these understandings are the consequence of this examination of how we do science and what we do with what we learn from doing it.
(Scientific) Research is a branch of design, in which the designer is central, and through which we construct the world of (and according to) the scientific knowledge, we design.
Conclusion: Research and DesignThere are, of course, differences between design and (scientific) research: otherwise they would be indistinguishable and there would only be one (Glanville 1980b). But it is not these differences, to which so much attention has been paid, that have been my concern in this paper.
My intention has been to show that (scientific) research, both as it is practised and as it must be practised, is properly considered a branch of design: that it is (scientific) research that is the subset of design, not the other way round: Design is NOT the subset of (scientific) research.
That is the reason for the potted history, or Prologue, at the start of this paper: for we who are interested in researching into design are still inclined, in these days when scientists are coming to realise more and more clearly that they are involved and are, themselves, designers, to insist that we should carry out research into design according to this old and unsustainable view of (scientific) research: a view which removes from both the subject and from how we consider and present it exactly that which makes it central, important and valuable, and exactly that which characterises it.
We, in design research, need to redress the balance, to indicate the
primacy and centrality of design both as an object of study and as a way of
carrying out that study; and to insist on the impropriety of demanding that
design performs according to criteria of (scientific) research when design
is the area which encapsulates and embodies this research. It is
(scientific) research that should be judged by design criteria, not the
other way round. The subset cannot be the superset to the set and more than
the basement of the building can be its attic, except in very special areas
of self-reference. We need to learn to believe in our activity, and to live
this view, no longer apologising, but refusing, instead, to play down the
significance of what we do, no longer kowtowing to old and falsely raised
positions and understandings.
We should not let the misrepresentations of (scientific) research be forced on us as an insensitive straightjacket. But this does not mean we should not learn from (scientific) research. Of course, we should take what it can offer us, including the lesson of this paper. There are qualities essential (and all too often forgotten) in design which are remembered and taken as primary in (scientific) research, such as rigour, honesty, clarification and testing, and the benefits of argument over assertion. In particular, at this time when those involved in design research are again asking questions about how it can benefit from other disciplines, we should look only for the disciplines that studies circularity and the included observer (the observer-participant) for the insights it may be able to afford us into the operation and consequences of those processes in how we can research and what that research might mean to us. That is, disciplines that are, at their base, in sympathy with design. Otherwise we forsake our primacy and dance to the wrong tune played by the wrong fiddler, who doesn't even really believe in the tune any more but is happy, nevertheless, to call the tune when we ask him to because to do so retains his primacy. For, design is the form.
Design's Secret Partner in Research.As it happens, there is one subject that is concerned with the philosophical, psychological and mechanical examination of just these issues: cybernetics.
Over the last 30 years, and visible largely through application in other areas, it has (in the form of "second order cybernetics" or the "cybernetics of cybernetics", the "new cybernetics") explored the nature of circular systems and those actions in which the observer (in the most general sense) is a participant. Thus, cybernetics has elucidated conversation, creativity and the invention of the new; multiple viewpoints and their implications for their objects of attention; self-generation and "the emergence" of stability; post rationalisation, representation and experience; constructivism; and distinction drawing and the theory of boundaries.
In this, cybernetics has been explicitly concerned with the qualities that invest research and which are of designerly quality. Thus, this manifestation of cybernetics is not to be confused with that for which such large and absurd claims were made at much the same time that the early and determinist ("scientific") approaches in design research were being put forward as the powerful way forward for design. It is a much gentler and more introspective subject, although its approach can be clearly derived from the more traditional one (Glanville D1987, HvF1974 ? of cybs).
But given this similarity of concern and of formation, it is no surprise that, over these last 30 years, cybernetics has learnt much from design, nor that many of those most intimately involved in the development of this new cybernetics have come from or been intimately involved in design.? It is, in my biassed opinion, time that desing redressed the balance and examined its Secret Partner in Research, the subject that, learning much from design, has clarified our understandings of the designerly qualities. I hope to undertake this in a general manner in a later paper, but, for the meanwhile, the reader is referred to Glanville 1997a..
The above is a draft of an article made available to DDR2 for the purpose of assisting discussion only.
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