Roggema’s three-staged method


Roggema merges the understandings of Jonas, Millburn & Brown, Hauberg, Basballe & Halskov and Lima et al. to produce a series of diagrams indicative of the research by design process:

  • According to Jonas there is a fundamental distinction between analysis(the way things are)/ projection (how things could be)/ synthesis (how things will be)
  • According to Millburn & Brown there are five models that explain distinct approaches of incorporating research into design: artistic, intuitive, adaptive, analytical and systematic. They all have a pre-design phase that resembles the analytical  one mentioned earlier.
  • According to Lima et al. research by design should demonstrate a question to be addressed. Projection then becomes the phase when adequate answers are sought using non-textual artifacts. The final stage synthesis brings forward the outcomes of the research, but also a knowledge transfer with a wider impact
  • According to Hauberg, first stage focuses on perceptions and investigation; second phase to program/proposals and rationalization and the third phase to communication.
  • According to Basballe and Halskov there is a coupling in the first stage that unites research and design interests/ in the second there is an interweaving as they influence each other/ decoupling appears during the production phase and final evaluation

More available here



Roggema, R., 2017. Research by design: Proposition for a Methodological Approach. In Urban Sci Vol. 1, no. 2; doi:10.3390/urbansci1010002

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Design with a capital D


RCA Report on the nature of design with a capital D

  • central concern is “the conception and realization of new things”
  • it encompasses the appreciation of “material culture” and the application of “the arts of planning, inventing, making and doing.”
  • at its core is the ‘language’ of ‘modelling’; it is possible to develop students’ aptitudes in this ‘language’, equivalent to aptitudes in the ‘language’ of the sciences – numeracy – and the ‘language’ of humanities – literacy
  • design has its own distinct ‘things to know, ways of knowing them, and ways of finding out about them’

Education in any of these ‘cultures’ entails the following three aspects:

  • the transmission of knowledge about a phenomenon of study
  • a training in the appropriate methods of enquiry
  • an initiation into the belief systems and values of the ‘culture’

If we contrast the sciences, the humanities, and design under each aspect, we may become clearer of what we mean by design, and what is particular to it.
the phenomenon of study in each culture is:

  • in the sciences: the natural world
  • in the humanities: human experience
  • in design: the man-made world

the appropriate methods in each culture are:

  • in the sciences: controlled experiment, classification, analysis
  • in the humanities: analogy, metaphor, criticism, evaluation
  • in design: modelling, pattern-formation, synthesis

the values of each culture are:

  • in the sciences: objectivity, rationality, neutrality, and a concern for ‘truth’
  • in the humanities: subjectivity, imagination, commitment, and a concern for ‘justice’
  • in design: practicality, ingenuity, empathy, and a concern for ‘appropriateness’

Perhaps it would be better to regard the ‘third culture’ as technology, rather than design (…) Technology involves a synthesis of knowledge and skills from both the sciences and the humanities, in the pursuit of practical tasks.



Cross, N., 1982. Designerly ways of knowling. In Design Studies, Vol. 3, no. 4 pp. 221-227

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The vacant plot/ The third area in education


What Science and the Humanities leave out.
Science: concerned with the attainment of understanding based upon observation, measurement, the formulation of theory and the testing of theory by further observation or experiment/The scientist is concerned with theory/ generalized knowledge, may study any phenomenon she chooses  and the kind of understanding she may achieve will be limited by the observations she can make.

Humanities: it is distinct from science (unanimous) it is concerned with human values, and the expression of the spirit of man. They exclude the making and doing aspects of the fine, performing and useful arts/ Scholars in Humanities: they study the history and philosophy of science, but do not contribute to its content.

The third area in education could legitimately claim technology and the fine, performing and useful arts, although not their scientific knowledge base (if any) of their history, philosophy and criticism (if any), without trending on anyone else’s grass/ the third area is the collected body of practical knowledge based upon sensibility, invention, validation and implementation/ In Design, the repository of knowledge is not only the material culture and the contents of the museums but also the executive skills of the doer and maker.”

By the end of Archer’s three decades at the Royal College of Art (RCA), London, the discipline that he devised, design research, had become a major force in both theory and practice (…) His Systematic Method For Designers involved six basic stages: programming, data collection, analysis, synthesis, development and communication (…) i n the mid-1960s, the idea that design should be based on a shared set of procedures and concepts was radically new and very controversial. Archer detected widespread confusions about what design was, and what its processes entailed: as he put it later, in December 1976, with his usual directness: “I believe that the very reason why our society is in a state of economic and cultural stress is because it has for too long regarded the kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing of the ‘doing and making’ culture as being of rather marginal concern. You cannot ignore the nurturing of the material culture and still expect to enjoy its fruits. That is why I invented design research as a back-up to design practice.”



Archer, B., 1979. Design as a discipline. In Design Studies, Vol. 1, no. 1, July 1979

L. Bruce Archer ‘Guardian’ obituary

L. Bruce Archer ‘The Independent’ obituary, written by my dear friend Sebastian McMillan. Sebastian, a student of Archer is also curator of the Wikipedia page baring his name ‘L. Bruce Archer’, available here

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From Mode 2 to Mode 3 Knowledge


On one hand there is the educational task of preparing students for a complex world. On the other, there is the educational task of coming to a position where one can prosper in a situation of multiple interpretations where incomplete judgements or decisions must be made either because of a. the press of time, b. insufficient evidence, c. outcomes are unpredictable/ all above forms are not mutually exclusive and there is no security available

Mode 2 Knowledge responds to task no 1, thus, problem-solving in situ/creative knowing in situ. In the end one has to rely on one’s capacity for seeing a way forward in a particular setting. This form of knowledge is necessarily creative because of its particularity. However, the character of the complex world must always elude our attempts to understand it and the central idea of Mode 2 Knowledge that with sufficient creativity and imagination a solution can be designed is problematic.

Mode 3 Knowledge beckons that knowing the world is a matter of producing epistemological gaps. Knowing produces further uncertainty. In supercomplexity, the world is not just unknowable but also indescribable. So, the educational task is not an epistemological task but an ontological one; it is the task of enabling individuals to prosper amid supercomplexity.



Barnett, R., 2004. Learning for an unknown future. In Higher Education Research and Development, Vol. 23, No. 3, August 2004.

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  • Dewsbury: the process of putting together a mix of relations
  • Phillips: agencement/ arrangement,fixing, fitting
  • Wise 1: process of arranging and organizing and claims for identity, character and territoty
  • Ballantyne: new identities are generated through connections
  • De Landa 1: assemblage as a whole cannot be reduced to the aggregate properties of its parts since it is characterized by connections and capacities rather than the properties of the parts
  • Anderson & McFarlane 1: it includes heterogeneous human/non human, organic/inorganic, and technical/natural elements
  • De Landa 2: it is an alliance of heterogeneous elements
  • Wise 2: they are dynamically made and unmade in terms of the two axes of territorialisation (stabilization)/ deterritorialisation (destabilization) and language (express)/technology (material)
  • Dovey 1: assemblages are at once express and material
  • Farias 1: assemblages focus both on actual/material and possible/emergent
  • Deleuze & Guattari: they are fundamentally territorial
  • De Landa 3: territorialization is both spatial and non-spatial
  • Dovey 2: territory is a stabilized assemblage
  • Angelo: it addresses the inseparability of sociality and spatiality and the ways in which their relations and liaisons are established in the city and urban life
  • Anderson & McFarlane 2: it is an a priori reduction of sociality/spatiality to any fixed forms/set of forms of processes or relations
  • De Landa 4: assemblage theory offers a ‘bottom-up” ontology that works with analytical techniques rather than logical reasoning (…) the theory opposes the reduction of the entities to the essences asa deficiency of the social realism
  • De Landa 5: they are continuously in the process of emerging and becoming
  • Deleuze’s becoming-in-the-world as opposed to Heidegger’s being-in-the-world
  • Farias 2: assemblage thinking tends to develop empirical knowledge rather than theoretical analysis and critique / it is about inquiry and explorative engagement

assemblage and the city

  • Farias: the city as multiplicity rather than a whole
  • McFarlane: assemblage refers to ways in which urbanism is produced not as a “resultant formation” but as an ongoing process of construction (…) it refers to city as a verb in making urbanism through historical and potential relations
  • Dovey: assemblages are the main products of the “flows of desire”

assemblage and critical urbanism 

  • McFarlane: assemblage as a concept, orientation, and imaginary/ as a relational composition process that contributes to the labour and socio-materiality of the city/ as an orientation to the potentiality of actors and sites in relation to history, required labour, and the capacity of urban process/ it offers some orientations to “critical urbanism” in terms of focusing on potentiality, agency of materials and composition of the “social imaginary”
  • Tonkiss: assemblage thinking is likely to generate a “template urbanism,” rather than a critical one
  • Brenner, Madden & Wachsmuth: they adopt the theory in relation to the political economy


  • One of the critical contributions of assemblage thinking for understanding the complexity of the city problems is to encourage multiscalar thinking
  • the diagram can be understood as an “abstract machine” in Deleuzian concept of assemblage thinking. In this way, diagrammatic thinking can be used as a means to abstractly illustrate the complexities of an urban assemblage as both a product and process
  • mapping can be considered as an abstraction that has the capacity to unravel what De Landa (2005) calls “real virtuality”, which is a kind of “reality” that has not
    been “actualised” yet
  • diagrams, maps, and types have the capacity to produce a kind of “spatial knowledge” that can be effectively used as a basis to draw on the ways in which the city works in relation to spatiality and sociality. It also assists with specifying the space of possible solutions for the existing city problems and embodied capacities for transformational change
  • assemblage theory reads place as a multiplicity that is in the process of “becoming” in relation to social-spatial and material-express alignments



Kamalipour, H., Peimani, N., 2015. Assemblage Thinking and the City: Implications for Urban Studies. In Current Urban Studies, 2015, Vol.3, pp. 402-408,

Image: Topographie du sol, mars 1957 Assemblage d’empreintes. Signée «J. Dubuffet» et datée «57» en bas à gauche. Titrée, signée «J. Dubuffet» et datée «mars 57» au dos. 60 x 105 cm, Available here

Education Related Research


The three themes that address this connection are:

  • research as complex learning: In educational research, the goals are to understand and influence significant social practices that are inherently complicated, dynamic, and changeable (…) The generalizability of educational research is obviously challenged by differences among people and contexts, but time and space also matter.
  • research valid for applied outcomes:  To meet the considerable challenges of practical applications, educational research must meet high standards of scientific inquiry (…) Our first point under this theme is the importance of establishing a conceptual framework as a foundation (…) A second point about quality centers on methodological adequacy (…) A third point that has emerged from our experiences centers around generalizability methods  to extend the concept of test reliability
  • research on the application of research to practice: The third theme centers around the possibilities and problems of applying “what we know,” realizing that knowledge is always imperfect. Given the research base of the highest quality, engineering is required to fit the results to new and different settings. Primary among the challenges to this task in education is the disconnect between the worlds of research and practice.



Calfee, R. C., Miller, R.G., Norman, K., Wilson K., Trainin, G., 2006. Learning to Do Educational Research. In Translating Theory and Research Into Educational Practice: Developments in Content Domains, Large-Scale Reform, and Intellectual Capacity, edited by Mark A. Constas and Robert J. Sternberg, Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 77-104

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Complexity Theory II (M. Woermann)

complexity theory toc

Restricted Complexity

It is generally recognized that complex systems are comprised of multiple, inter-related processes. In terms of restricted complexity, the goal of scientific practices is to study these processes, in order to uncover the rules or laws of complexity (…) complexity becomes the umbrella term for the ideas of chaos, fractals, disorder, and uncertainty. Despite the difficulty of the subject matter, it is believed that, with enough time and effort, we will be able to construct a unified theory of complexity – also referred to as the ‘Theory of Complexity’ (TOC) or the ‘Theory of Everything’ (TOE) (…) Seth Lloyd, a professor in mechanical engineering at MIT, has compiled a list of 31 different ways in which one can define complexity!

General Complexity

If we accept the fact that things are inherently complex, then it means that we cannot know phenomena in their full complexity. In other words, complex phenomena are irreducible. Acknowledging complexity therefore has a profound impact not only on the status of scientific practices, but also on the status of our knowledge claims as such. More specifically, because our knowledge of complex phenomena is limited, our practices should be informed by, and subject to, a self-critical rationality (…) Acknowledging the irreducible nature of complexity also influences our understanding of the general features of complexity

Features of Complex Systems:

  • Complex Systems are constituted by richly interconnected components
  • The component parts of complex systems have a double identity premised on both a diversity and a unity principle
  • Upward and Downward causation give rise to complex structures: the competitive and cooperative interactions between component parts on a local level give rise to self-organisation which is defined as ‘a process whereby a system can develop a complex structure from fairly unstructured beginnings’
  • Complex Systems exhibit self-organizing and emergent behavior: Self-organisation is a necessary condition for emergence, which is defined as ‘the idea that there are properties at a certain level of organization which cannot be predicted from the properties found at lower levels but not sufficient!
  • Complex Systems are Open Systems: the intelligibility of open systems can only be understood in terms of their relation with the environment (…) there is an energy, material, or information transfer into or out of a given system’s boundary (…)   the environment cannot be appropriated by the system, so the boundary between a system and its environment should be treated both as a real, physical category, and a mental category or ideal model



Woermann, M., 2011. What is complexity theory? Features and Implications. Systems Engineering Newsletter, 30, 1-8, available here

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Complexity Theory


All the properties that follow:

  • A system is complex when it is composed of many parts that interconnect in intricate ways
  • A system presents dynamic complexity when cause and effect are subtle, over time.
  • A system is complex when it is composed of a group of related units (subsystems), for which the degree and nature of the relationships is imperfectly known. The overall emergent behavior is difficult to predict, even when subsystem behavior is readily predictable. Small changes in inputs or parameters may produce large changes in behavior
  • A complex system has a set of different elements so connected or related as to perform a unique function not performable by the elements alone
  • Scientific complexity relates to the behavior of macroscopic collections of units endowed with the potential to evolve in time
  • Complexity theory and chaos theory both attempt to reconcile the unpredictability of non-linear dynamic systems with a sense of underlying order and structure

make up for this definition I like sooo much:

Complexity is the property of a real world system that is manifest in the inability of any one formalism being adequate to capture all its properties.



Ferreira, P., 2001. Tracing Complexity Theory. Full presentation available here

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Kuhn’s concept of ‘incommensurability’


The term originally appeared in Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” book in 1962. He had been struggling with the word since the ’40s:

According to Kuhn, he discovered incommensurability as a graduate student in the mid to late 1940s while struggling with what appeared to be nonsensical passages in Aristotelian physics(…) He could not believe that someone as extraordinary as Aristotle could have written them. Eventually patterns in the disconcerting passages began to emerge, and then all at once, the text made sense to him: a Gestalt switch that resulted when he changed the meanings of some of the central terms. He saw this process of meaning changing as a method of historical recovery. He realized that in his earlier encounters, he had been projecting contemporary meanings back into his historical sources (Whiggish history), and that he would need to peel them away in order to remove the distortion and understand the Aristotelian system in its own right (hermeneutic history) (…) Kuhn realized that these sorts of conceptual differences indicated breaks between different modes of thought, and he suspected that such breaks must be significant both for the nature of knowledge, and for the sense in which the development of knowledge can be said to make progress.

Kuhn was influenced by the bacteriologist Ludwik Fleck who used the term to describe the differences between ‘medical thinking’ and ‘scientific thinking’ and Gestalt psychology, especially as developed by Wolfgang Köhler.

Kuhn’s original holistic characterization of incommensurability has been distinguished into two separate theses:

  • taxonomic involves conceptual change (…) no over-lap principle that precludes cross-classification of objects into different kinds within a theory’s taxonomy/ no two kind terms may overlap in their referents unless they are related as species to genus, in contrast to
  • methodological, which involves the epistemic values used to evaluate theories (…) it is the idea that there are no shared, objective standards of scientific theory appraisal, so that there are no external or neutral standards that univocally determine the comparative evaluation of competing theories



The Incommensurability of Scientific Theories, In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, first published Wed Feb 25, 2009; substantive revision Tue Mar 5, 2013, available here

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Systems theory & Autopoiesis/ Society & Complexity


Systems Theory or Systems Science: A system is an entity with interrelated and interdependent parts; it is defined by its boundaries and it is more than the sum of its parts (subsystem)/ n a complex system (having more than one sub-system.) a change in one part of the system will affect the operation and output of other parts and the operation and output of the system as a whole, systems theory attempts to find predictable patterns of behavior of these systems, and generalizes them to systems as a whole. The stability, growth or decline of a system will depend upon how well that system is able to adjust or be adjusted by its operating environment

Niklas Luhmann-Social Systems Theory: distinction between system and environment (inside/outside)/ it is the communications between people not people themselves, they are outside the system/ our thoughts make no difference to society unless they are communicated/ systems communicate about their environments, not with them/ the environment is what the system cannot control/ systems relate to the environment as information and as a resource/ society-encounters-organizations: the three types of social systems.

Autopoiesis: literally means self-creation/ a system capable of reproducing and maintaining itself; it is autopoietic if the whole produces the parts from which it is made/

Society:  is an autopoietic system whose elements are communicative events reproducing other communicative events/ this communication has content and relationship levels: what is communicated and how/ all communication is both communication and communication about communication/ communication is imaginary/ communication takes place when an observer infers that one possible behaviour has been selected to express one possible message or idea/ the meaning of the message is always inferred by the observer.

Complexity: a system becomes complex when it is impossible to relate every element to every other element in every conceivable way at the same time/ when we can observe it in non equivalent ways/ when we can discern many distinct subsystems/ complexity is a property of observing 

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Jane Gilbert’s, ‘Catching the Knowledge Wave’


Knowledge society: the social, economic and political changes that are taking place as countries move from the industrial to the post-industrial age

  • based on developing and exploiting new forms of knowledge
  • shows increase in the creative, technology or service based industries
  • linked with developments in information and communications technologies while people’s understanding of time, space and place are changing
  • new forms of info, new ways of presenting info and new forms of money emerge
  • more complex forms of personal identity
  • in economic terms new work order based on fast capitalism and new forms of production and new management systems. this changes the meaning of knowledge, innovation and learning. knowledge is now innovation, innovation is quality and quality control is knowledge management. knowledge, in the Knowledge Society, has a different meaning from the one it has in educational contexts.

Castells: knowledge is not a thing; it is energy; it is defined by its effectiveness in action and the results it achieves; it’s what causes things to happen; it is sth produced collaboratively by teams of people; it is constantly changing. [The Network Society]

Lyotard: he too advocated for knowledge as energy or ability to do things (performativity); used in an as-and-when-needed basis; many reasons, many truths, many knowledges are possible and desirable; traditional disciplinary boundaries will dissolve; new conceptions of learning will develop; people will develop and understanding of an organized stock of public and professional knowledge to pursue performativity, to apply it to new situations. [The Postmodern Condition]


  • process, not a thing
  • does things
  • happens in teams
  • can’t be divided into disciplines
  • develops in an as-and-when-needed basis
  • develops to be replaced, not stored


  • involves generating new knowledge, not storing
  • is a group activity
  • happens is real-world
  • should be just-in-time not just-in-case
  • needs to be a la carte

Minds are not containers, but resources that can be connected to other resources for the purpose of generating new knowledge

To summarize then, developing a Knowledge Society education system involves approaches that can:
Develop new knowledge – through real research, not teacher-initiated projects. Knowledge Age schools need to be producers – not consumers – of knowledge;
Develop multi-modal literacy (understanding and using non-print modes of making meaning – images, sounds, gestures/body language and so on);
Foreground the relationships, connections and interactions between different knowledge systems and different modes of representation;
Emphasize difference and diversity, not sameness and/or one-size-fits-all approaches;
Foreground process not product;
Help learners build a sense of themselves as active knowledge- builders – as having a unique niche, role and/or point of difference/contribution to make.



Jane Gilbert, 2010. Catching the Knowledge Wave. In Education Canada Vol 47 (3),  ISSN 0013-1253

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