Wednesday, June 21, 2017
This is the abstract for a chapter in a soon to be published Springer Major Reference Work:
Systems Thinking and Change Volume (2017)
This chapter is an overview of why systemic design is important, what it looks like and how novices can be prepared to become practitioners of systemic designing. The chapter provides only an overview of systemic designing, introducing ideas that will be developed in much greater depth outside the space limitations of this chapter in a forthcoming book. However, it is important to first become acquainted with the ideas and their interrelationships, which is the purpose of the chapter.
The world is understood to be more complex and dynamic than previously thought. Design is understood to be a deeper mystery than previously assumed. Design creates reality and humans have engaged in design from the beginning of history but little is known of its true nature or full potential. Familiar approaches to design and design education no longer match the real-world necessities and expectations of modern societies. Everything is connected and it is difficult, or it seems often impossible, to determine what course of action is prudent when designing within complexity. Systemic design is an emergent approach to creating desired change that takes a broader stance and deeper approach to designing than is the norm nowadays. Creating educational experiences that prepare systemic designers for professional practice requires systemic design approaches. This chapter is an introduction to some of those approaches.
Monday, May 22, 2017
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
There is a commonly expressed fear among scientists and other rational agents that design is too nihilistic and relativistic. Design is dismissed as merely expressions of intuition, fashion or ‘whatever’ and not objective, rational inquiry. This has raised many barriers between scientific thinkers and design practitioners. It has confused design educators and students alike. However, systemics provides dimensions of critical reasoning to designing that many assume or fear are missing.
In systemic designing, systems and design are not only interrelated, they are inseparable. Systemic design is a compound whole and not merely two interrelated strategies of inquiry. It is an integration of knowledge and skill that enables prudent action—wise action—to transpire. It is a manifestation of the integration of theory and action—wisdom. This is the original definition of sophia—in philosophy (philo (love) + sophia (wisdom))—as the wise hand. It is a holistic synthesis of cultures of inquiry that is designed to see or create ultimate particulars while acknowledging generalities and universalities. Systemic designers pay attention to environments, contexts and the provenance of any design activity while paying full attention to the particulars and people of the moment. Systemic designing is a compound, not an aggregated assembly of approaches. Systemic designing strives to be rational, beautiful, just and good while remaining practical.
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Design is service —not manipulating, nudging, coercing, persuading…
The interrelationship that binds, animates, and defines a design capable
system is service. Service is a contractual relationship where purpose and
intention is blended with instrumental skill, judgement and agency (Nelson and
Stolterman 2000). Service is a word that has many meanings in different
contexts. It has a sense of ennoblement at the same time that it has negative
connotations for the reasons given by James Hillman (Hillman 1995):
Service offends deep strata of human dignity. We may
all want service, but who wants to give it? For service still
means menial service (not banking, brokering, telephoning,
teaching, installing, diagnosing or writing). The first trouble
lies in the word, which invites in it cousins—serf, servile,
servant, servitude, servility, all descendants from the
common Latin ancestor, servus, slave. Service, as it is
defined in our culture, is hardly empowering, or
empowering only to those persons who can command
service and the system for which we slave.
Kinds of Power
In education one studies the liberal arts, not the servile arts, a
representative and enduring cleaving of mind from body and spirit from
matter. It is representative as well of the aversion and fear of submissive
relationships of control, in contrast to control over one's own self interests.
Service is perceived as putting one’s self in an inferior role at the beck and
call of demands issuing from above or below depending on your station
These service relationships are without much appeal to anyone except
martyrs or those who willingly enjoy sacrificing their own self-interest for
the benefit of others. However, service can be seen in a more positive and
more appealing light, as there are other systemic, service relationships that
do not require self-sacrifice or martyrdom.
Service can be defined as a self-referential, systemic relationship as in
self-serving. In the search for truth (scientific, artistic or religious) one serves
ones own purposes i.e. artists express their own feelings and emotions while
scientists follow their own curiosity and passion and believers search for a
true god(s) and metaphysical invariance.
From a design perspective, service is defined as other-serving. Design
service is the quality of empathy, embodied in design communication, which
is mutual rather than unilateral. Service, from a design perspective, is very
different from the kind of empathic relationship employed in helping or
fixing as explained by Rachel Remen ((Remen 1996)):
Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on
inequality; it is not a relationship between equals…. Service
is a relationship between equals…. Helping incurs debt.
When you help someone they owe you one. But serving, like
healing is mutual. There is no debt.
Rachel Naomi Remen
In the Service of Life
Noetic Science Review
Design service is defined by the contractual (formal or informal)
relationships of mutual and diverse benefit. In a relationship where there is
an exchange of value of equivalencies there is no inequity, inferiority,
domination, obligation, or unilateral control. Design, as service, is dependent
on the presence of an authentically empathic system of relationships.