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April 25, 2008

new philosophy...

and of course it is easy to get lost in this stuff

Roy Bhasker
and his Realist theory of science...
this is interesting because it is a humanist philosophy that sits between the modernist positivist project and post-modernities relativism...the way he puts forward the reality of the existence of structures which are independent of our own experience while at the same time not having to rely on experimental logic to fundamentally prove them.. he talks about the 'tendencies of systems' in this way his philosophy has a lot to offer a humanist design project.

Gunnar Olsson
and his new 'Critique of Cartographic Reason'... which connects to

John Carroll
The Wreck of Western Culture

this connection to the fundamental structures and valuing systems has implications from design education through to 'ethics of social space' questions...

but in a slightly less dramatic tone.

April 16, 2008

writers on the dialectic

so then from Glanville and Law, I have moved on to

Karl Popper
and the way he describes 'conjectures and refutations' as a theory for how scientific knowledge is generated... and I recently read, ummm, Nigel Cross I think it was talking about how C and R could be seen as how design is developed...

now I'm not sure about this but it is worth looking into Popper, his name keeps cropping up, and looking into his theories and how they might apply to design because he did apply them himself far more widely than just into science...

Popper also said 'we must remember to learn from our mistakes' and this strikes home to me... from early experience and from the 'failures' paper I presented at Izmir...

I also need to have another look at

Terry Rosenberg

and his work on knowledge and what it is possible to know or not know....


Richard Saul Wurman

and his Information Anxiety book and writings is important too.. in as much to say how much information we have and what we have, and how we access it, and who owns it, is importnat...

and then there's

Jacques Lacan

and his work which built on top of Freuds, and talks about systems to analyses Self and Other etc...

April 15, 2008

what do I want to know?

my PhD research in 10 minutes

I think I need to go away for a week somewhere and work on this

what do I want to know?

I want to know what communication designers do
I want to know what happens in the act of communication design, what role the active parties take and what they do


because I believe that communication designers don't know what they do


because of the work I did in my Masters.

This work showed that I often wasn't aware of what I was doing when I did the work I did.

also when I read (currently) writing by designers about what they do it seems to always be about particular aspects of design that do exist but are only part of what cd's do.

This writing I keep reading seems to say that design is about a refinement of things, that it is about how to make a good thing or how to make a better thing

when I could say that CD seems to me to about, on one level:

- making cool things
- making things that are legible
- making things that fit their target audiences style (and help define that style)
- making things that communicate the correct ideological/philosophical/social pitch
- making things look 'correct' (so that the recipe book looks like a recipe book, the death metal album doesn't)
- making things that are comprehendible
- making things that are noticed and noticeable
- making things that surprise and delight, so give their viewers/readers/users a valuable experience
- making things that please the commissioning agent

but about on another level:

- defining cultures
- expressing cultures
- expressing that which cannot be expressed verbally or through other means
- generating material form for nascent cultural tendencies/movements, and in such a way to discover what those tendencies/movements are
- creating a means of expression for a part of society
- engaging in societies conversation
- expressing ideologies
- finding personal 'truths'
- finding Identity
- focusing Identity
- exploring Identity and roles within a community
- allowing voices to emerge
- accessing knowledge we have about ourselves that we don't know we have
- showing us who we are

there is something here about 'material therapy'; sometimes CD can act to open the window a little bit, to reveal a little more of the iceberg beneath, to open up a little truth, or to provoke a little self-knowledge..

and it is leading through to the subject/other discussion and that paper I found about gameplay and how kids work and what they use their toys for.....

case-study: the website for megara; this allowed that company to communicate with itself, using me as a sounding board (punch-bag)
case-study: Gold and Silversmithing ad, they don't know what they are, and then together we do know what they are... so we are finding their character... and as the designer I am part of that
case-study: War is over - I find out what I feel through design...

April 14, 2008

another wobbly dart...

I want to describe an alternative view of what we, as designers, do.

I want to describe a transformative activity, a focused activity, which occurs when designers work with other parties to achieve outcomes. I think that this might be a different way to describe this activity... which may then lead to a different way to value the activity of design, and teach the activity of design.

Here goes...

When designer and "others" get together to work on a project something happens. I have described this previously as 'a conversation'. In saying that I am trying to say that the outcome of the design activity is a 'made conversation' or a 'conversation materialised'. What I mean by this is that the parties present in the design activity and active in the intention of the activity, the motivation of the activity and all the different experiences and personalities present and active in the activity are in some way 'speaking'. And as the transformative action of the designing activity unrolls they are 'speaking' out the new form. 'Speaking' that which was not already in existence. 'Bringing into being'... and in that 'bringing into being' they materialise that which was not said before, and they articulate 'that which cannot be said through spoken language' in this way design allows access to 'knowledge' 'knowledge' that we don't know we know. 'knowledge' that is ineffable and cannot be articulated in other ways... design allows an articulation of this knowledge, through its connection with 'externalising of the internal', it brings into being a group reflexive device which we can all gaze into and say 'so that is what we are'.

art does this through the activity of the one and is, in this way, somewhat of a monologue, though it too is ineffable (this, as you might have gathered, is my new word)....

design is with the other...

what this research is about...

I added a string of items, keywords, to the header for this blog in the hope that they would start to define to others, and myself, where my research was heading.

Note that this blog is as much, if not more, for me than for the other. I am aware that it will be important down the line to publish my research and having the blog as an outlet for that work will become more important too. For now, however it is more a reflective tool. I still keep notebooks which anything can go into, this blog is, believe it or not, a refinement of the material which goes into those notebooks.

With this doctoral research I want to investigate an idea which came out of my Masters research. That idea is that..

as communication designers, we don't know what we do.

Now this is a very provocative, loose and easily attacked statement, but I want to hold it for a while... because I cannot actually articulate what my research is about and I can only, at this moment, make statements which sort-of 'chuck darts' at that idea... after a bit of dart throwing a picture begins to emerge. So, once again, be warned, this blog is very much 'research in progress' it is a working tool to hold some of these ideas up to the light and see what happens... in that way this blog, and this research, is design (see Glanville for design as research)

so the idea is

if we view the transformative activity of communication design as a social practice, and we view it as an activity in which all parties are focused on some manifold aspect/view/issue/ambition/desire, then the act that transpires is not 'known'. That act is not described in the current theoretical design canon. (Well it is hardly described, it is not a dominant 'model' for practice, it is a slippery sometimes assumed, sometimes disregarded, often ignored model for practice. However, for me, it seems like one of the most important, and it seems that it has important abilities to allow the development of a more socially sustainable form of communication design practice.) That act that occurs, the event of design, can be seen as a creative act from an insightful individual... I would like to take some alternative theories which might, if applied to this act, describe it as a transformative process whereby knowledge we don't know we already have is revealed through the transformative and enabling activity of engaging with a technology (writing, talking, making) which through it agency allows us to disarm our rational 'I know' selves and welcome in the unsaid, unborn, unmade other into the known world.

Now I hope this doesn't sound like summoning, but I know that it does. So; alchemy, witchcraft, magic, access to power, tapping into the unconscious, archetypal knowledge, implicity knowledge, the rift between natural human and artificial human, the cyborg... all these aspects are there, and, as such, it is a direct contradiction to the 'design as science' methodology a lot of communication deisgners long for.

more writers, thinkers, makers


Gordon Pask,
and his work on cybernetics... since it seems to connect strongly to design and design process... it doesn't oversimplify and it is not overly interested in problem-solving but more interested in 'what design does other than problem-solve'

and of course
Ranulph Glanville
is a cybernetician... and he writes about design in a way that seems to connect to my ontological foundations...

not that I'm particularly looking for someone to connect to, so someone like Cross would be good to look at too...
Nigel Cross
or even
Per Mollerup

perhaps even
Herbert Simon...

also, I got some feedback on the New Views 2 submission... it was OK, actually it was good feedback and I wanted to ring up the anonymous reviewer and thank them for their input...

they pointed me to

E T Gendlin

and his work on Phenomenology and 'thinking at the edge (TAE)' since it deals with the investigation of previously ineffable things... he's developed his 'focusing' technique that promises to make the inexpressible, expressible...

the reviewer also pointed me at


who talk about metaphors and their connection to how we (unconsciously) use them to speak and constuct our thoughts, etc... this work might be useful to help explain the possibility of a altered description of design...

and then I think of someone else, someone very important who I have missed out up to now...

John Thackara

Peter Downton

Theodor Adorno

Michel Foucault

Ivan Illich

Nicolas Bourriard

April 08, 2008

more writers 2

and I've also been thinking about

Cameron Tonkinwise
Lisa Grocott
Michael Biggs

more writers...

also on the list for consideration is

Walter Benjamin
The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility

for it is in the power to access reproduction that the intensified power of the communication designer lies. It takes them, as authors, beyond the power of the everyday. Reproduction also divorces comm designers from an inate ability to intuit the impact of their own work, the power of reproduction is explosive, uncontrollable and yet not flagged as 'dangerous'.

Pardon this analogy but it helps me... when one is snorkeling then it is OK to dive, it is OK to do whatever you want, you lungs tell you when you are running out of air and in danger, they give one direct signals 'I need more air'... contrast this to Scuba, a technologically enabled activity, where there are no 'natural' warning signals... we don't 'know' when we are underwater too long, or too deep, or when we are coming up too fast.. the body doesn't report this as pain or in any way. We have to be rationally aware of these issues and carry with us devices which remind us of these dangers... thus with communication design and reproduction, suddenly we extend ourselves, through media, out 1000 fold, or 100,000 fold... our impact can be immense yet our sense of 'danger' is still that of the snorkeler.

and also his
Arcades Project
....which was one of the books I looked into during my masters. I wanted to go into it more and this was one of the things which made me first start to think about continuing study into doctoral level...