Monday, October 5, 2009

Week 7 - Oct 7 Thought Questions

This week we are approaching the conclusion of our exploration into different ways of "unpacking" design (process, social process, philosophy, way of knowing, etc.). We started this way so that when we explore cognitive perspectives we have a language for describing different kinds of thinking, knowing, and learning.

The Rowland paper is a synthesis and application of Nelson & Stolterman's book "The Design Way" to articulate an epistemology (theory of knowledge) of design. How does he characterize a theory of design knowledge? How might this be broadly applicable (other design fields such as architecture, mechanical design, construction engineering, etc.)?

The other reading is a revisit of Dorst from the third week of class. In some ways we started here to open the space and we are ending here to map out the space of design knowledge. What would go on your "map"? How might some of these ideas be connected (think of a mind map)? Which of these ideas are central to your philosophy of design?

7 comments:

Kevin said...

Rowland, like Dorst, completed a nice synthesis study; after reading Rowland I was surprised that Dorst did not cite his work. The paper clearly lays out the skills a designer needs in order to be among the ‘knowing’, but, like last week, I was still left asking the question, now what? Is there a certain quality essential to ‘knowing’ that is often overlooked in our education system? How can we teach/inspire the growth of these qualities (e.g., creativity)?

Furthermore, the paper seemed to wander off in a direction opposite from what I was expecting. From the abstract, I thought the paper would focus more on evaluating the effectiveness of knowledge management strategies. Instead, the paper seemed to focus more on the qualities a designer needs in order to obtain and apply learned knowledge. Would the same qualities (or as he calls them, ‘Designerly Core Competencies’) apply to groups/organizations as well? Does an organization need to be creative, mindful, positive, tolerant, etc. in order to stay in the ‘knowing’ or does it just need to have strong intellectual property contracts, databases set up with neural networks, a hierarchy of personnel trained in other person’s duties, and make wise hiring decisions? For the whole to truly be greater than the sum of the parts (in terms of having adequate knowledge to complete successful designs), I would think a strong knowledge management system that builds on the contributions of multiple designers endowed with such core qualities is the key. A single designer’s experience cannot compete with the experience of an entire organization. I think a study that leads to a recommendation of which knowledge management system to implement may supply more practical information on building group or shared knowledge.

tforin said...

I liked how Rowland packaged knowledge as either being information, constructed meaning, and a capacity for effective action. All three have a place in design and I'm finding that these definitions can also be attached with some very specific design disciplines.

The first item, I see as being related to researchers. Namely researchers take in knowledge and manipulate it to create new knowledge. The manipulation is where the design comes in. The researcher has to understand what kinds of information can be linked and how this information has to be linked. The researcher has to design some way to link all facets of knowledge to synthesize new knowledge.

The second kind of knowledge I see as being linked to the more artistic designers. Constructed meaning is a reaction to the design. It can be shared or individualized. Architects and other artists are prime examples of this. The new knowledge that they create is linked to the reactions of those who are impacted by design. A piece of art can help raise awareness of any given subject and that awareness leads to other people coming up with new knowledge of that subject. Take Frank Llyod Wright who linked the the surroundings to Falling Water. That raises the awareness of how the enivronment can be linked to a house and it allows other people to come up with a new understanding of what the environment can provide.

The third item regarding capacity is the most interesting one to me. I'm not quite sure if that is the most comprehensive level of design knowledge, but it links design to intentions and purposes. I think this is the concept that engineers buy in to the most. The problem I have with it is the concept of effective action. Who gets to define what that is? Does anyone have an opinion on that? Effective action can be so many things to me: aesthetics, stability, structural strength, sustainability, durability, not-falling-on-my-head-abiliity.

Kat said...

I will definitely agree with Kevin on what the Rowland abstract prepared me for. The abstract in addition to the "Design as way of knowing" title made me think of knowledge systems design ect ect. But then then more i read the more "philosophical" it tended to get. Various knowledge and Learning definitions (that i do not necessarily agree with) were competing or complementing each other. The paper mostly focused on describing what it is and how it is viewed through the "group as an entity" prism (I guess theory is what epistemology is mostly about). At the end the connection to design started to be more clear and easier for me to imagine as relevant to many different "engineering types", but the very end I would say was completely disappointing to me, since it took me through a very weird path of new "dancing" metaphors ect ect, just to end up with the same skills we have been facing all this time.

The Dorst paper was pretty rigid to me since the beginning, so after all these discussions it just functioned as a revisit, and as a "framework" to kind of control my thought. Trying to make a comparison with my first draft about what would be on my "map" I would say that the social interaction of the designers was not there, but still i can not decide if and mostly HOW I would put it in my map.

Bethany Fralick said...

In response to Tiago's question about 'effective action' I too am left to wonder who gets to deem something effective. I am trying to view the definition from a Rowland lens. I think effective action to him just means change. Knowledge can be described as a capacity for change. If something you discover or are told leads you to question previous understandings or perceptions, then this something is knowledge because it enabled personal change. Maybe I am more confusing?

Laura said...

This kind of strays from your original prompt (of how Rowland's concepts might be broadly applicable), but as I was reading Rowland I found it interesting, and sort of difficult, to try to apply his concepts to other fields. Mostly, when he said that the "generative dance of knowledge and knowing may thus be seen as design." I definitely agree that any sort of design could be seen as the "generative dance" - it requires applying current knowledge and obtaining new knowledge, and all of this is done within certain contexts, constraints, and for a certain purpose. I don't necessarily agree that the "generative dance" is always design though - there must be some cases when knowledge and the pursuit of knowledge aren't necessarily for the purpose of design. I feel like I learn new things all the time simply because I want to learn them - but maybe there must be some sort of ultimate goal that makes my pursuit of knowledge a design process? I'm not sure where to draw the line.

michihcim said...

The previous weeks we examined different ways of exploring design. That is, looking at design as the process, reflective practice, and social process. To me, those are the frameworks that help us in understanding the central phenomena: “how people design and what involves in design”. Building on all those things design are, Rowland applied them to what “knowing and knowledge” is. It is a new way of looking at knowing and knowledge to me and one that I can relate to. We read in the History and Philosophy class that “to design is to be human”. At that time, I understand it in terms of human’s innate ability to design artifacts. Yet this reading made me realize it is in everyday situations that we employ design thinking in terms of exercising what we know and adapting to the context.

AD said...

I have more questions than comments regarding this week's literature. I feel like a lot of what we have read thus far describes design as something rather abstract, but the Rowland paper looks at it from a more concrete perspective and that is causing me to challenge some of his statements.
1. In referencing (Cook and Brown 1999), what is "group tacit" knowledge? And why can "group explicit" knowledge not be transfered into individual concepts? Once as story is told to a group, each person may take away something different and hold onto that knowledge and make it their own.
2. Rowland defines design as creating something with practical utility. Before taking this class I would have agreed, but now, I think there are exceptions.
Finally, this is not so much of a question, but a challenge for the next generation of engineers in solving "wicked" problems. We are entering an age where we have problems which do not have clearly defined constraints and we have yet to determine their long-term impacts (I'm thinking specifically of climate change)... how do you go about designing a solution to a problem when you don't know what the problem is?