Methodology of Transdisciplinarity, by B. Nicolescu or ‘We have work to do till the end of time’

NICOLESCU

Trandisciplinarity is both unified and diverse.

  • Theoretical: general definition of transdisciplinarity and a well-defined methodology (a methodology corresponds to a great number of methods) (Piaget, Morin)/
  • Phenomenological: it implies building models that connect the theoretical principles with the already observed experimental data in order to predict further results. (Gibbons, Nowotny)
  • Experimental: it implies performing experiments following a well-defined procedure

There are degrees of disciplinarity which can more or less completely take into account the three methodological postulates of modern science.

Three axioms of methodology of transdisciplinarity:

  • ontological_there are different levels of Reality of the Object and the Subject (…) reality is both pragmatic and ontological (…) one has to distinguish the words “Real” and “Reality.” Real designates that which is, while Reality is connected to resistance in our human experience (…) no level of Reality constitutes a privileged place from which one is able to understand all the other levels of Reality (…) Every level is characterized by its incompleteness (…) a finite topological distance could contain an infinite number of levels of Reality. We have work to do till the end of time (…) The Gödelian structure of levels of Reality implies the impossibility of a self-enclosed, complete theory. Knowledge is forever open (…) The zone of non-resistance corresponds to the sacred (…) The unity of levels of Reality and its complementary zone of non-resistance constitutes what we call the transdisciplinary Object, Nicolescu asserts that the different levels of Reality of the Object are accessible to our knowledge thanks to the different levels of Reality of the Subject (…) Our ternary partition (Subject, Object, Hidden Third) is, of course, different from the binary partition (Subject vs. Object) of classical realism.
  • logical_the passage from one reality to another is ensured by the logic of the included middle (…) one necessarily discovers contradictions in the theory describing the respective level: one has to assert A and non-A at the same time (…) in the history of science a theory leads to contradictions and one has to invent a new theory solving these contradictions (…) one has to abandon the third axiom of the classical logic [there exists no third term T which i at the same time a and non-A] , imposing the exclusion of the third, the included middle T.
  • complexity_the structure of the totality of levels of Reality or perception is a complex structure, every level is what it is because all the levels exist at the same time (…) It is useful to distinguish between the horizontal complexity, which refers to a single level of reality and vertical complexity, which refers to several levels of Reality. It is also important to note that transversal complexity is different from the vertical, transdisciplinary complexity. Transversal complexity refers to crossing different levels of organization at a single level of Reality (…) complexity is a modern form of the very ancient principle of universal interdependence (…) The principle of universal interdependence entails the maximum possible simplicity that the human mind could imagine, the simplicity of the interaction of all levels of reality. This simplicity cannot be captured by mathematical language, but only by symbolic language. The mathematical language addresses exclusively to the analytical mind, while symbolic language addresses to the totality of the human being, with its thoughts, feelings and body (…)

 

References

Nicolescu, B., 2010. METHODOLOGY OF TRANSDISCIPLINARITY – LEVELS OF REALITY, LOGIC OF THE INCLUDED MIDDLE AND COMPLEXITY. In Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering & Science Vol: 1, No:1, (December, 2010), pp.19-38

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Clinical-Applied-Basic Research

DESIGN RESEARCH FRANKEL-RACINE

Clinical_FOR DESIGN RESEARCH: focuses on design problems that are specific and individual cases requiring information for that unique situation/ primarily prescriptive research methods for specific and feasible design solutions (Downton)/ Notably, research for design is the category of research that most practitioners and many academics associate with the term “Design Research”/ Many of the methods briefly mentioned in this section could generate findings that are relevant beyond the scope of one clinical situation, but often they are inadequately developed in practice.

Applied_THROUGH DESIGN RESEARCH: focuses on investigating general classes of design problems or products. The common trait of applied research is the [systematic] attempt to gather from many individual cases a hypothesis or several hypotheses that may explain how a class of products takes place/ The most important aspect of research through design is that it seeks to provide an explanation or theory within a broader context/ Buchanan calls it Dialectic Science or Productive Science and includes the study of form and function in relation to human activity, as well as the study of materials/ it is derived from and valuable for practice; it is growing rapidly; both practitioners and researchers are contributing significantly to the literature and on-line discussions; the discussion is extensive, addressing hundreds of approaches; and much of the subject matter has been derived from the social sciences, business, and marketing/ In her evolving map of design research methods, Sanders represents the range of attitudes towards human-oriented design, from the expert mindset and the participatory mindset, in both research-led and design-led inquiries/

Basic_ABOUT DESIGN RESEARCH: research about or into design as the work that is “carried out under the heading of other disciplines/ searching for “an explanation in the experience of designers and those who use products”/ designers may also raise questions that are not characteristic of other disciplines because often the answers are translated into form, colour, and the objects that surround us. This affords practitioners, students, and educators with the challenge to produce discipline specific knowledge that may be communicated by drawings, sketches, models, and other visual representations embodying non-verbal codes or messages as well

 

References

Frankel, L., Racine, M., 2010. The Complex Field of Research: for Design, through Design, and about Design.  Paper presented at the International Conference of the Design Research Society, Montréal, July 2010.

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Knowledge and Design, 1972

Bill_Hillier_P2-602x451

Design proceeds by conjecture-analysis than by analysis-synthesis (…) if research is to make an impact on design it must influence designers at the pre-structuring and conjectural stages (…) regardless the quality of research work itself, the history of attempts to link research to improvements in environmental action is largely one of confusion and failure (…) there is a widespread feeling that an ‘applicability gap’ has developed between research and design (…) far from being removed from the field of science, the cognitive schemes by which we interpret the world and pre-structure our observations are increasingly seen to be the essential subject matter of science (…) we cannot escape from the fact that designers must, and do, pre-structure their problems in order to solve them (…) Popper: science could be contained within a hypothetico-deductive scheme/ Kuhn: science as a puzzle solving activity until the next paradigm switch/ Lakatos: science as conflicting sets of inter-related theories (…) the object of science is cognition (…) remaking cognition (…) SO FARthe role of scientific work is to provide factual information that can be assimilated into design; second that a rationalised design process, able to assimilate such information, would characteristically and necessarily proceed by decomposing a problem into its elements, adding an information content to each element drawn as far as possible from scientific work, and “synthesizing” a solution by means of a set of logical or procedural rules (…) design as we know it can be seen as the socially differentiated transformation of the reflexive cognition of the maker in terms of the latent possibilities of his tools, materials and object types. Its object is not the building, but at one remove, sets of instructions for the building (…) NOW: we can imagine a man and an object he will create as though separated by a space which is filled, on the one hand, with tools and raw materials which we can call his ‘instrumental set’, (or perhaps technological means) and on the other, a productive sequence or process by which an object may be realized (…) we would argue that design is essentially a matter of pre-structuring problems either by a knowledge of solution types or by a knowledge of the latencies of the instrumental set in relation to solution types, and that is why the process of design is resistant to the inductive-empiricist rationality so common in the field. A complete account of the designer’s operations during design, would still not tell us where the solution came from (…)  the polarization between rational and intuitive design should be reformulated as a polarity between reflexive design and non-reflexive design (…) four main types of elements: instrumental sets, solution types, codes and information (…) at this point of time a building is a climate modifier, a behavior modifier, a cultural modifier ad a resource modifier

 

References

Hillier, B., Musgrove, J., O’ Sullivan, P., 1972. Knowledge and Design. In William Mitchell (ed.), Environmental design: Research and Practice, edra3/ar8 conference, UCLA, January 1972

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Roggema’s three-staged method

ROGGEMA

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

 

References

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

DESIGN

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.

 

References

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

A-Third-Pillar-of-Knowledge_chart

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.”

 

References

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

COMPLEXITY 3

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.

 

References

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

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