Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Week 4 - Sept 17 - Design as a social process

Thank you Aidsa - for the fabulous snacks!

This week we will use what is called a "jigsaw technique" to delve into the readings. Since the topic this week is "design as a social process" it seemed fitting to use an approach that focuses on "social learning". For this jigsaw, one group will read the Bucciarelli chapteres (Celia, CJ, James, Roy); the other group will read the Stumpf and Brereton articles (Junqiu, Aidsa, George). This roughly works out to be a similar reading load. When you come to class, each group will first discuss their reading - and then change groups where they will educate others on the main points in the readings.

To help you "educate your peers" on the readings - here are some guiding questions:
(1) How does each talk about design as a social process (similarly, how does each study design as a social process)?
(2) What new insights do these authors bring to the question "what is it that designers know and how do they know it?"

The readings for this week are:
  • Bucciarelli, L. L. (1996). Designing engineers. Cambridge: MIT Press. Chapter 1-2, 6. Chapters 1-2 provide an overview of his approach while Chapter 6 is a case study. Chapter 2 is provided as an "fyi".
  • Brereton, M. F., Cannon, D. M., Mabogunje, A., & Leifer, L. J. (1996). Collaboration in design teams: How social interaction shapes the product. In H. C. N. Cross, K. Dorst (Ed.), Analysing design activity . Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Stumpf, S.C. & McDonnel, J.T. (2001). Talking about team framing: Using argumentation to analyse and support experimental learning in early design. Design Studies, 23 (1), pp. 5-23.


Aidsa said...

Among all of the readings from this week, there is one thing that is common with respect to the social aspect of design. There will always be controversy among participants in the design process. In Bucciarelli’s paper we saw how unclear performance specifications led to a “disaster meeting”. At the same time, the author argued that if there were clear specifications, there would have been discussions with respect to their implications, meaning, and relative importance. Each participant had a different background and their effort will be into accomplishing whatever relates more to their objective according to their expertise or role in the company.

Similarly in the Stumpf’s paper the authors explained two different approaches towards reflection: reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action. As it was explained reflection-in-action involves framing and naming the problem setting which is very subjective to the designer’s perspective which can cause conflict among participants in the design project. Because of this reflection, specifically reflection-on-action, can help to designer to reflect on the situation and to generate a “communicative interaction” among them.

Also in the paper by Brereton, the authors mentioned the need of “team negotiation”, i.e. each designer makes “bids” to have what they think is important to be discussed by the team. This will lead into discussions and reflections to come to consensus about the final product. From my analysis of all three papers, I can see how these differences lead to discussions and reflection that is the cause of iterations in the design process. In other words, having different perspectives about the design can lead to discussions about the project which promotes iterations and improves the design. This is not as easy as it sounds but it could be of benefit to the process if done properly.


§adieLovingtonNibblesworth said...

To be honest, I read all of the readings and I find the Stumpf to be the most intricate of the three. I think this stems from Stumpf and McDonnell's interesting treatment of "on" and "in" throughout the first, five pages of the document. I think the most important part of the Stumpf paper is contained in the refining of the definition of "reflection IN action" on page six. Since each designer is unique, so too must be his/her apprehension of the design process.
It is in that spirit that Stumpf, like many other readings in design, begins a more in-depth separation between the externalized parts of design and the internalized parts of design endemic to *one* designer.
Whereas Stumpf focuses quite a bit in the formative part of his paper on the internal/external argument, (and getting into "framing" quite a bit,) Brereton's research tools seem to be designed to focus more on changes-of-ideas and the manipulation or guiding of thoughts.
One discovery at the core of Brereton's paper that strikes at the question of "what is it that designers know and how do they know it?" is in the way the students manipulate themselves into and out of concepts to stay "on track." Brereton notices in the paper that one of the students who is known for brainstorming, manages to use his powers of persuasion at times to keep the group focused. This details that in a system of low-experience or low-knowledge about design, that students are perfectly able to recognize when they are on the right track, and use a variety of social methods to stay the course to come up with a viable design and bolster the design process itself.
It should be stated that in the midst of Stumpf's highly-intellectual discussion of learning, she clearly states that experiential learning is inseparable from transformative experiences (p3), and while she recognizes that there are many styles, she categorizes those in the study by dominant style (something Brereton is not comfortable with doing). Finally, Stumpf's research showed a more negative view of persuasion in the group studied, whereas Brereton's group responded well to active and passive manipulation; thus contributing to both authors' conclusions on group design.

CJ said...

Chapter 1 of Bucciarelli’s book provides an overview of his perspective of design and the design process. He found that many of the people he observed in the design process were concerned primarily with “how things ‘perform’ or ‘behave.’” Bucciarelli states that because so many different people are working on the design, and they come from different backgrounds, their ideas of the social process of designing are “influenced by their understanding of the way the things they are designing work.” He also explains that the way in which we interact with things (objects) may be influenced by our understanding of how they work or function. From these statements, he presents his hypothesis: “the [design] process is not autonomous, that there is more to It that the dressing up a scientific principle;” in other words, “Designing is a social process.”

Chapter 6 describes several case studies of groups that Bucciarelli observed and studied in a manner somewhat similar to what anthropologists do while studying various cultures. He studies design by immersing himself in what he considers something like the habitat of designers, in their actual environment (subculture) rather than in someplace like a lab setting. He uses these cases to show that while each designer “knows” many things about the design (or the design problem), not all designers know the same things. With this difference in what each of the designers know come many challenges; challenges to communicate to others what one knows and understands about the design, and challenges in combining the knowledge of everyone to define the problem, requirements, specifications, etc. Bucciarelli explains this in the statement “‘Shared vision’ is the key phrase: The design is the shared vision, and the shared vision is the design – a (temporary) synthesis of the different participants’ work within object worlds.”

Each of the designers must decide at some point how to agree on what the important aspects are of the design and work forward from there. He again describes this observation in the Module Voltage case. Engineers of different backgrounds value different voltage values for a given design project, and each tries to express his views to the group to try to rationalize the best compromise to meet the needs of the customer. Bucciarelli shows through his examples that there are many criteria that must be considered when thinking about what designers know, and how what they know influences their interactions with each other and the decisions of the group.

celia said...

To supplement what CJ said: Bucciarelli compares “savant” and “utilitarian” and concludes that: scientific law, marketplace need are both ingredients of the design process. He encourages us to see the design process from a broader perspective, from all its dimensions.He also considers the activity of designing as a subculture. The designers share sth in common, but the whole design process is dynamic. It is a “subculture” because “we commute with others, and our success at it depends upon all the doings of those with others.”
One argument Bucciarelli made from the case study is that “the disaster meeting” is actually not a disaster. The process of designing is a process of achieving consensus among participants with different interests in the design. Though the meeting “failed”, participants went off with a better understanding of the problems, shared to some degree.