RSD3 Keynotes

Keynotes and Plenary Speakers


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Ranulph Glanville:  Knowing and Designing


Design is, in many ways, an unfortunate word. Even its English origins are ambiguous, and it is used in many different ways from meaning “evil intent” to “transcendental novelty”. Other languages have no equivalent, and their words are often more helpful than design.

Thus, there is a difference in the  activity that designers and design engineers refer to. I believe this difference originates in the nature of the educational institutions and the educations each were provided, beginning in the C19. I shall argue this point, relating engineering with recording the world as is and the use of scientific problem solving formulations; while designing relates to a wish to change the world through an act I describe as cybernetically circular, a conversation, after Pask. The path followed is one of aimless wandering, which comes to make sense after arrival. This is equivalent to saying the solution specifies the problem.

Each of these activities generates, and requires for its operation, a different sort of knowledge. Engineers use knowledge of what is, whereas designers use knowledge for change. One of the problems that faces design today is that the vast majority of knowledge generated by research is of the form knowledge of, whereas, design needs knowledge for (change). One assesses, the other assists.

The type of outcome, the ways in which they can be judges, the implicit criteria and the ethics involved are very different for engineering and design, and I will explore these a little. The criteria appropriate to design are those appropriate to second order cybernetics.



Ranulph Keynote













Video of Keynote




Daniela Sangiorgi:  Bringing Complexity into Service Design Research


Increase in complexity in service innovation has motivated the introduction of meta-level frameworks in Service Research introducing descriptions of service systems or service eco-systems, calling for interdisciplinary efforts to work toward innovation. In parallel Service Design has been naturally evolving in terms of complexity of its intervention moving from designing individual service interactions and interfaces, to support organisational change, to imagine novel service models, configurations and platforms. This fundamental shift of focus has been accompanied by an increase of complexity in terms of level and kind of participation in the co-design and co-creation of the suggested solutions that decreases considerably the level of expected and desired control on the output, while it emphasises instead the importance of emergence, ownership and adoption. With this evolution in mind, in this presentation I would like to discuss the current need for system practices and thinking in service design, with a specific attention to why questioning the boundaries and nature of systems is becoming a fundamental design issue in itself.

















 John Thackara:  Life’s Work: The Kinds Of Growth We Need


Over the ages we’ve invested huge resources to keep the man-made world, and nature, separate – but those priorities are beginning to change. In hundreds of thousands of  projects, people are reconnecting with living systems to meet practical needs in precarious times. The result, as their actions accumulate, is a cultural as well as physical transformation: A new and global ‘leave things better’ politics that affirms our codependency with the biosphere. This new politics takes practical form in the creation of foodsheds and fibersheds at the scale of the bioregion, and the concept of Buen Vivir or “good living” manifests a political concept of citizenship that includes all life, not just human life.


















Michael Hensel





















Harold Nelson:  Self-organizing a strange attractor


Systems are complex, designing is complex. Systemic designing is even more complex. Complexity is not a negative condition. In fact it is a necessary thing if the full richness and potential of anything is to be realized. Giving order and form to systemic design is analogue to self-organizing a strange attractor[1]. Forcing form onto the complex milieu of systemic designing doesn’t work. Forms that work in other contexts—e.g. art, science, and the humanities—are ill fitted when pulled over systemic designing. A more tailored form will take shape through a process of self-organization—a type of dialogue that gives order and form to complex things.

In this Keynote I will talk about a few of the habits of thought that hinder the initiation and flow of this self-organizing dialogue and will propose some new habits that would support it. I will give examples from the keynotes, conversations and presentation from the Symposium that are supportive of self-organizing[2] behavior.

[1] An attractor is a set of properties toward which a system tends to evolve, regardless of the initial conditions of the system.

[2]Self-organization is a process where some form of global order or coordination arises out of the local interactions between diverse components of an inchoate system.
Self-organizing a strange attractor (PDF)



















Hugh Dubberly: A Systems Literacy Manifesto


Our technology is not a random accident, nor is its development self-directed. Instead, we create it, and we choose to use it. We are responsible for the world we live in. Yet today, we are less prepared than ever before to exercise our responsibility. Few people have the language to deal conceptually with our biggest opportunities for innovation—and our biggest problems—which are increasingly systemic in their nature.
Few people are systems thinkers. Fewer still are systems makers. Few have the tools and skills needed to understand existing systems as wholes, to diagnose malfunctions, and to imagine improvements. Even at the world’s most famous technology companies, managers, engineers, and other designers are rarely able to sketch systems views of their products, much less the ecologies in which they compete or cooperate. That means most of their work takes place within an “oral culture”, with little assurance of shared mental models. It is as if they were trying to develop a government without writing down any laws. These people are not stupid. On the contrary, they are very smart—but not very “systems literate”.
A first step to systems literacy is agreeing on a language of systems. A century of research into systems has found recurring patterns—and proposed language and models to describe those patterns. This research constitutes a body of knowledge (all-be-it one that is still growing). We can codify it in a “canon”—a set of readings which introduce the language and models of systems. And we can teach it.
That’s a necessary first step, but not sufficient. Language is not literacy. Systems literacy is more than reading and writing about systems. It is writing systems. Systems literacy is being able represent a system’s structure (based on interrogating an existing system or imagining a new system and abstracting appropriately). Systems literacy is diagramming or mapping systems. (System structures are more easily described and understood as images than as words.) Here too, we can rely on substantial prior work to provide exemplars—a small set of “primitives”, patterns that repeat in many systems. These patterns can be taught, much as one might teach figures of speech, rhetorical devices, or the five-paragraph essay—by asking students to apply them in their own work. It is by this sort of systems writing, that systems literacy will develop.
What’s more: By representing systems, language can be tied to structure. Through diagramming or mapping, systems language can take on real meaning; we can share our mental models, our diagnoses, and our plans. We can increase understanding; more quickly come to agreement; and more efficiently coordinate action. We can begin to live in systems and make them our own. We can take responsibility for our world.