Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What is a design theory?

I am working with one of our PhD students, Jordan Beck, on the question of what is design theory. It is such an exciting question. Jordan is collecting 'things' (ideas, frameworks, etc.) that could potentially be seen as a design theory. It is now a long list. But, the challenge is, which ones are truly a design theory and not just a theory that has been appropriated or 'used' in a design context. And are there different kinds of design theory, maybe at different levels or with different focus or purpose? In our meeting today we came up with ideas that already has changed my thinking about what could be a design theory. I realized that I have to rethink to what extent some of the ideas I have myself worked with and written about is a 'theory' or not. I hope that we soon can present some of the ideas we are working with.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Philosophy of design and "critical flexibility"

In my advanced seminar on Philosophy and Theory of Design I ask all participants to bring a text that they think relate to the course and our discussions. Today my colleague Elizabeth Boling presented an article "Between eclecticism and orthodoxy in instructional design" by Stephen Yanchar and Bruce Gabbitas. It is an excellent article! The authors make the case that design (an particularly instructional design) is dominated by two broad approaches, theoretical orthodoxy and eclectic practice.

The authors make the case that both these approaches rest on something more fundamental, something they label a conceptual design sense.

They write:
"To the extent that conceptual design sense influences the way theoretical principles are used, it might be said to operate as a cryptotheory—that is, as a kind of hidden framework that, to some significant degree, guides important aspects of the design process."


"...we contend, that eclecticism leads surreptitiously to the same problem that attends theoretical orthodoxy, namely, operating under a single (albeit implicit) perspective
and, ipso facto, lacking genuine openness to itself and alternatives in the design process."

I read this paper as a great argument for philosophy of design. It resonates with other scholars who advocate for a reflective stance and for attempts to explicate and externalize what are fundamental assumptions, values, beliefs, and ideas about design. Great article!!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tools for thinking

I have lately been interested in the question of what constitute the philosophical method. Of course, the first question is if there is anything like that at all. Is philosophy done in some methodological way? How much is it cleaver thinking, or detailed reading of existing work? Can anyone learn to think as a philosopher or do you have to be formally trained? Anyway, as part of my interest I am as usual getting some books.

At the moment I am reading these books.

Chris Daly "An introduction to Philosophical Methods"

Peter Sloterdijk "The art of philosophy"

Baggini, J. & Fosl, P. "The philosopher's toolkit. A compendium of philosophical concepts and methods"

Daniel Dennett "Intuition pumps and other tools for thinking"

I have looked through these book and am reading some parts more detailed. Overall I find it most interesting to see how these books have been structured and developed. Some have the appearance of a textbooks or handbook, for instance, Baggini & Fosl but also Dennett.

Some take on philosophical thinking as a way of critiquing existing thinking and philosophy, for instance Sloterdijk.

At the moment I would recommend them all. Especially taken together they create an interesting overview and give anyone interested in knowing what philosophical thinking and method is all about a good starting point.

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