Systems Theory & Design

 

Back to RSD2 >>>>>

session1_1

 Photo: Sara Svennevik

 

Track moderator: Peter Jones

1. Wolfgang JonasThe strengths / limits of Systems Thinking denote the strengths / limits of Practice-Based Design Research

2. David Ing Design Flaws and Service System Breakdowns: Learning from Systems Thinking

3. Deaunne Denmark, Donald Harker, and Andrew McCollough –   Interliminal Design: Mitigating Cognitive Bias-Induced Design Distortion

4. Julio Cesar Rivera Pedroza, José Rafael González and Bernabé Hernandis Ortuño – Analysis of contexts and conceptual variables for a sustainable approach into systemic model

5. Alex RyanA Theory of Systemic Design

6. Gabriel Schaffzin and Zachary Kaiser – Designing systems for praxis and critical engagement in design education: the speculative design method and the revelation of theory

 


 

1. Wolfgang Jonas
The strengths / limits of Systems Thinking denote the strengths / limits of Practice-Based Design Research

Abstract      Working Paper

 1 Overview Design research is a wide field. In this proposal we take Practice-Based Design Research (PBDR) in its various forms and terminologies in the focus of interest. We consider design as a process of „generating the unknown from the known“ or of „organizing the transition from knowns to unknowns“ (Hatchuel), aiming at exploration and innovation. Design conceives lifeworld situations in future contexts. It is thereby confronted with the fundamental problems of control (non-reducible 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.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. The differentiation between Design and PBDR is fuzzy, the transition is continuously. We argue for a strong coupling of PBDR and Systems Thinking.
2 RTD and CFU as epistemological frameworks.The model or theoretical framework of „Research Through Design“ (RTD) is taken as one possible realiazation of PBDR. The cybernetic concepts of 1st and 2nd order observation are helpful for the distinction between classical detached inquiry and situated inquiry. Furthermore, the RTD model can be interpreted in a systemic perspective. It comprises three core systemic dimensions: (1) the wider context of a design situation or the relevant environment, (2) the design / inquiring system, which may be a designer / scientist, a group, a company, a community, etc. and (3) the driving force, which is determined by the value base and motivation of the inquiry. The „cube of future uncertainty“ (CFU) is a methodically generalized designerly framework for scenario approaches. The CFU is defined by the three above mentioned systemic dimensions of RTD and thus establishes the systems-based connection between RTD and scenario-building.
3 The limits and blind spots of PBDR.Two fundamental characteristics of PBDR have already been mentioned: the problem of control (systemic complexity) and the problem of prediction (evolution, future uncertainty). These aspects can be expanded in various ways: Rittel´s paradoxes of rationality. Rationality means the attempt / claim to predict the consequences of intended actions. But: (1) One cannot start to be rational, since one should have always started one step earlier. (2) One cannot stop to be rational because one should draw the consequence of every consequence. (3) The uncertainty of factors grows, the further we look into the future of a causal chain. Finally (4) the causal model of the phenomena to be designed would have to include itself as central part. Krippendorff still sharpens the argument and describes design research as an “oxymoron”, a contradiction in itself, since it is impossible to do research about something that does not yet exist. Further blind spots comprise: (1) Unconsciously defined and intransparent value systems, mainly based on today´s zeitgeisty beliefs, and the mixing of facts and values. (2) Implicit driving forces based on the optimistic or pessimistic views of an assumed future from the subjective perspective and motivation of the observer. (3) Starting from biased, selective pasts, which means that trajectories of the past are continued without reflection. The pasts outside the observer‘s perspective are neither integrated in his presence nor his future image. (4) Pseudo-objective scenario-techniques, which convey the illusion of an ideal, value-free observer. Scenarios are normative in any case. Observers are unaware of their involvement or they are consciously concealing their role.
4 Conclusions and perspectives. All these seeming deficits should be turned into the strengths of a new paradigm of inquiry, which comprises (1) systems thinking and the positive acceptance of multi-perspectivity. Mikulecky proposes to develop “distinctly different ways of interacting with systems … in the sense that when we make successful models, the formal systems needed to describe each distinct aspect are NOT derivable from each other.” (2) The conscious adoption of generative, designerly approaches like scenario thinking as „playgrounds“ for explorations. (3) The explicit integration of facts and values into our systems of inquiry. Ulrich´s Critical Systems Heuristics can be regarded as an approach towards transparency of this kind. The further development of this pro-active position means that Design might be the new model for Science, as has been suggested by Glanville, who describes Science as a specific sub-category of Design. The concept of Mode-2 science with its emphasis on socially robust instead of true knowledge might be a strong theoretical support, as well as the emerging framework of transdisciplinarity. Radical transdisciplinarity explicitly addresses all the indecent issues of designerly inquiry as described above and takes them as the basis for a new kind of science.

 


 

2. David Ing
Design Flaws and Service System Breakdowns: Learning from Systems Thinking

Abstract    Working Paper

Designers have recently been rediscovering the body of knowledge in systems thinking. Much of the tradition in systems thinking was developed through the 1960s to 1980s. In the 21st century, a new science of service systems has emerged as the industrial society has seen the rise of Internet technologies and globalization. Concurrently, the development of knowledge within the systems thinking community has deepened with the systems sciences building upon the work of the luminaries recognized in our heritage.The value of systems thinking to designers largely comes from reframing the way a situation is perceived, framed or portrayed. This value may increase in the face of challenges in the redesign of large scale service systems such as healthcare, education, cities and other complexes of social and infrastructural elements. As a secondary or critical lens, systems thinking may aid designers by surfacing flaws either in services that are currently judged as dysfunctional, and/or in new service features that are to be added or transformed.Flaws in the design of service systems may be informed by recurring conditions familiar to systems thinkers. Breakdowns in the service system might have been foreseeable at the inception of the design, or have emerged as the environment has changed over time. As a entry point into discussion, seven conditions are characterized as a starter set in the engagement between systems thinkers and designers. These conditions are based on the research by leading systems thinkers who are probably unfamiliar to designers.
1. Activity package mismatch: Theory of the offering (Normann and Ramirez)
2. Coordination fumble: Language action perspective (Winograd and Flores)
3. Change target discord: Reactivism, inactivism, preactivism, interactivism (Ackoff)
4. Resource scaling collapse: Supply side sustainability (Allen, Hoekstra, Tainter)
5. Environmental context shift: Causal texture theory (Emery and Trist)
6. Pacing layers trap: Coevolution and learning (Brand, Bateson)
7. Regeneration failure: Panarchy (Holling and Gunderson)
These seven conditions are presented as neither rigourously defined not exhaustive. We should look forward for opportunities where the design community and systems thinking community may mutually engage to jointly enrich our bodies of knowledge and practices.Designers have recently been rediscovering the body of knowledge in systems thinking. Much of the tradition in systems thinking was developed through the 1960s to 1980s. In the 21st century, a new science of service systems has emerged as the industrial society has seen the rise of Internet technologies and globalization. Concurrently, the development of knowledge within the systems thinking community has deepened with the systems sciences building upon the work of the luminaries recognized in our heritage.

 


 

3. Deaunne Denmark, Donald Harker, and Andrew McCollough
Interliminal Design: Mitigating Cognitive Bias-Induced Design Distortion

Abstract      Working Paper

 The presence of cognitive biases and heuristics induces design distortions, unintended mismatches between desired and actual design outcomes. Interliminal Design is an intentional, adaptive and imaginative design process that mitigates design distortions. The process involves intentional and agile maneuvering between various personal cognitive and structural systems, thereby overcoming negative impacts of cognitive biases and heuristics.Cognitive heuristics are mental shortcuts adapted to enable rapid interpretation of the complex environment in which we evolved and live. These heuristics are inherent in human cognition and resist modification. When applied outside the appropriate context, these heuristics often give rise to systematic errors in human reasoning. Cognitive biases are the result of the context-inappropriate application of cognitive heuristics. Unfortunately, cognitive bias in design thinking often goes unnoticed and unaddressed, resulting in all degrees of design distortion that often affect multiple dimensions of an issue.Design distortions induced by cognitive biases are most apparent in failures to address complex, wicked and super wicked problems. These problems are characterized by incomplete, changing, intricately interdependent, yet contradictory, requirements. They frequently have short timelines, no central authority, and are caused by the same entities charged with solving them using existing irrational policies. We propose a design methodology, emerging at the Collaborative Design program at Pacific Northwest College of Art, to specifically mitigate the contributing factor of irrationality to design. The authors developed and taught an MFA course called Design Thinking and Cognitive Biases to explore the influence of cognitive biases on design and formulate techniques to raise awareness and reduce design distortion induced by cognitive biases.
Interliminal Design recognizes design thinking as an ecosystem comprised of evolving individuals in conscious and subconscious relationships with each other where learning, emergence and adaptation are frequent and nonlinear. Individuals in collaborative design groups working on various dimensions of the design process must effortfully mitigate biases on a personal level. In addition, group-level biases must also be addressed. Counter-intuitively, individuals in groups do not “average out” their biases; instead, biases common across individuals, as well as group dynamics, can result in the strengthening of design biases that further distort the design process and outcomes. Thus, the collaborative group as a whole must also work to mitigate bias.

Denmark

Sketchnote: Patricia Kambitsch

 


 

4. Julio Cesar Rivera, José Rafael González and Bernabé Hernandis
Analysis of contexts and conceptual variables for a sustainable approach into systemic model

Abstract      Working Paper

  The global environmental crisis which is much talk in recent times is the result, among other factors, process instinctive and thoughtless development of societies on the environment. This crisis is occurring due to several factors, which on one hand, are evident in the depletion of energy sources, increasing contamination and desertification of soils and water, deterioration of ozone layer, the greenhouse effect , climate change and decrease in biodiversity and the growth of worldwide population and on the other hand in the growth of poverty and inequality. Is for this reason that the role of the designer in developing a sustainable society is not simply to create “sustainable products,” but rather to envision products, processes, and services that encourage widespread sustainable behavior. In the past 45 years, sustainable design activities have made this waste and inefficiency marginally less wasteful and inefficient. But we must not conform with this view of sustainability, the issue here is to look for options, alternatives and / or ways that allow us to achieve a sustainable society at all levels and regardless of scale, be it local or global.For the development of a product, system or sustainable process is important to identify a model, tool or methodology that enables and facilitates the setting sustainability criteria in the same one. Due to the fact that many design products methodologies are somewhat mechanical and lead to those who use them to follow a set of steps and tables that can hinder, the field of action or creative thinking of the designers. This research seeks to accomplish the sustainability development without detach ourselves of “work´s designer”. For our analysis we have based on the Model of Concurrent Design of Hernandis, B. (2003) . The model is composed mainly of a Exterior system and reference system (system under study or product system) . Exterior System is composed of all that surrounds us and that in turn serves to pose a design problem, this is the starting point for external data that affect the problem. The exterior System is composed of all that surrounds us and that in turn serves to pose a design problem; this is the starting point for external data that affect the problem. Namely, in this system are considered environmental aspects such as ergonomics, aesthetics, manufacturing, economy, functionality, distribution and all other aspects that provide considerations and constraints that influence on the design problem.
 The reference system is mainly composed of three basic subsystems (in this case formal functional and ergonomic). These subsystems are at the same level and without predominance of one on other one (they are isosistemas) in order to facilitating a more detailed analysis of system under study. At the same time these subsystems are composed of other subsystems, components, variables, aims and elements –these last will be the maximum degree of disaggregation proposed-.The analysis in this study focuses on the characteristics and external system components of the model, since it is considered here there are the suprasistemas that can define the variables that allow the configuration of a product, system or process and there is in this one phase of the conceptual design in which the criteria must be applied to generate a sustainable response to the raised problem.. All of this taking into account the components of basic subsystem (form, function and ergonomics) but focused towards sustainability. Is assumed that in the methodology, already are considered sustainability criteria, but with emphasis on the strategic development of the conceptual phase, where the tools are analyzed both systemic tools and sustainability concepts which facilitate the taking of better decisions according to the proposed objectives. In a previous research , the authors suggest a way to facilitate the analysis of the exterior system through the focus of all the components toward principali three subsystems: Trend Analysis, User’s Profile Analysis and References Analysis. It is believed that through these analyzes can be identified, in addition to the input variables related to material context from a design problem, others associated with a immaterial context in which it are considered psychological and psychosocial factors often ignored in configuration and are also relevant at the time of generating a sustainable design solution.
 

 


 

5. Alex Ryan
A Theory of Systemic Design

 Abstract    Working Paper

Over the last two decades, concepts from complexity theory, systems thinking, design, strategy, and philosophy have been synthesized within the Israeli Defense Force, the Australian Army, and the U.S. Army and Joint Force to produce a theory and practice of systemic design. Although this conceptual evolution has taken place within a military context, the theory developed has general applicability to the challenges of designing at scale in complex environments. The purpose of this paper is to present the pure theory of systemic design as developed by Western militaries, but abstracted away from its military context, in order to facilitate applications to societal, governmental, and business design challenges. By making the theory accessible to civilian designers, it is hoped that they may benefit from the cross-pollination of ideas that have evolved in the highly competitive crucible of contemporary conflict.In part one, I provide a framework for systemic design consisting of three levels: methods, methodology, and, mindset. The uses and abuses of methods are discussed first. Next, the logic for a systemic design inquiry is outlined and developed as a flexible methodology for developing deeper understanding and constructing novel interventions. Then, the mindset of the systemic designer is characterized as a set of values and habits. Any systemic design inquiry proceeds at all three levels simultaneously, with the levels mutually reinforcing and reciprocally influencing one another.
In part two, I construct a model of systemic design as a learning system. This model shows how a cycle of iterative systemic design inquiry can function as an open system able to adapt to a changing environment. The learning system is comprised of six elements: inquiry, facilitating, framing, formulating, generating, and reflecting. All of these elements must be present and must work together to generate systemic improvement in a problematic situation.In part three, I discuss meta-concerns for systemic design. They include the rationale for systemic design, design of the design team, mediation of cognitive tensions, knowing when to depart from the systemic design methodology, and criteria for selecting and constructing methods that are both systemic and designerly.


Ryan

Sketchnote: Patricia Kambitsch

 


 

6. Gabriel Schaffzin and Zachary Kaiser
Designing systems for praxis and critical engagement in design education: the speculative design method and the revelation of theory

Abstract     Working Paper

To design systems that encourage learners to think systematically and consider the systems that exert power over their lives and the lives of others is to imbue them with the ability to free themselves from those powers. This paper seeks to present the perspectives of design educators working on implementing critical systemic thinking, hopefully inspiring awareness through practice and discourse in the domain of speculative and experimental design.
 “Whenever we need a revolution,” writes Neil Postman as he paraphrases Lawrence Cremin in Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, “we get a new curriculum.” The design of learning experiences, whether for high school history classes, undergraduate design classes, or online learning communities, is the design of systems. The practice of designing learning technologies is also a practice of system design.Within the design of every system is embedded a particular ideology. Whether few or many, designers, writers, administrators, policy-makers, and other individuals and groups of people establish the systems that shape our lives. Acting on the authorship of these systems are personal and cultural forces that shape how the systems are designed and understood.Possibly the most important ideology that we can embed within the design of contemporary learning systems is that of critical discourse through praxis: a tangible criticality. The creation of this tangible criticality can be thought of as a visualization of a system: a way to see and understand the systems that influence our thinking. We facilitate the creation of artifacts and experiences that function as a part of larger systems. These artifacts include products, websites, maps, books, prototypes, and proposals for technologies or experiences that may not yet be able to exist, all the while co-opting the language of the mainstream—one that is, today, based on the same values as the forces of the technologies upon which they act: objectivity, fact, proof, benefit, and other seemingly “neutral” concepts.
To be certain, this language does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it is propagated through the channels and media with which producers sell their wares—product packaging, marketing materials, sales pitches, advertisements, and, most importantly, the programming of the product itself (be it analog or digital). At the helm of these channels sits the designer, trained to question critically the situation in order to design a final product or campaign that best addresses the needs of those seeking her expertise. As well intentioned or conscientious as our designer may be, however, as Robin Greeley offers, there is no escaping “that intricate web of social structures and practices within which the designer’s conscious—and unconscious—decisions are made as to which set of forms will carry what significations.”
 Further in the closing chapter of his work, Postman notes that, “to chart the ascent of man, we must join art and science.” The cross-pollination of systems thinking and design praxis to elucidate the forces acting on students’ worlds builds this bridge. By designing systems that encourage praxis and a critical engagement with the world, we prompt learners to reconsider the implications of the systems at work on them, those that facilitate and create the relationships driving our everyday experiences. These designed systems for praxis and critical inquiry blur the line between technological and experiential. We design curricula based on the speculative design method as a way to prompt learners to consider the trajectory on which our current society travels and to imagine and plot a point in the future through both design and writing. We also design learning technologies, some of which only become partially realized in the world, as a way to inform classroom pedagogy.

 

Gabi.Zach

Sketchnote: Patricia Kambitsch

 

 

Back to RSD2 >>>>>