Design research as a variety of second-order cybernetic practice


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Sweeting, Ben (2017) Design research as a variety of second-order cybernetic practice In: Riegler, A., Müller, K.H. and Umpleby, S.A., eds. New horizons for second-order cybernetics. Series on knots and everything . World scientific, Singapore, pp. 227-238. ISBN 9789813226258

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In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in cybernetics amongst designers. This has been prompted in part by the increased availability and affordability of technologies with which to augment the environments we design, and those we design in, which has fuelled interest in ideas regarding interactivity. While this technological focus is an important aspect of what cybernetics offers design, the relations between the two fields run much deeper. These connections have been explored explicitly in the work of Ranulph Glanville (1999, 2006a, 2006b, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c, 2009a, 2010, 2011a, 2014b) whose work I use as a point of departure in this paper. Drawing on Pask’s (1976) Conversation Theory and the common characterisation of design in terms of conversation (such as by Schön 1991), Glanville (2007c, 2009c) has suggested a close analogy between cybernetics and design, understanding both as “essentially constructivist” activities (Glanville 2006a: 63; 2013). The parallels Glanville draws are significant enough for him to claim that “cybernetics is the theory of design and design is the action of cybernetics” (Glanville 2007c: 1178). While part of Glanville’s motivation in developing the connection between cybernetics and design has been the insight that the former might bring to the latter, it is an important aspect of his position that the converse is also the case: that design can set an example to cybernetics in terms of practice and so inform it, not just vice versa. Thus the relationship between cybernetics and design is to be understood as one of mutual overlap and support and, as such, one which avoids the difficulties that can follow from the application to design of theories external to it (a problem which seems to recur in architecture in particular) and the more general shortcomings that can follow from our tendency to see the relation of theory and practice as predominantly the application of the former to the latter (Glanville 2004a, 2014a, 2015; see also Sweeting 2015c).

Item Type: Chapter in book
Uncontrolled Keywords: Science; Design Research; Second-order cybernetics; Second-order science; Practice; Ranulph Glanville
Subjects: W000 Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design
V000 Historical and Philosophical studies > V500 Philosophy > V511 Epistemology
H000 Engineering > H600 Electrical and Electronic Engineering > H672 Cybernetics
V000 Historical and Philosophical studies > V500 Philosophy > V550 Philosophy of science
DOI (a stable link to the resource): 10.1142/9789813226265_0035
Depositing User: Converis
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2018 13:14
Last Modified: 06 Apr 2018 13:27

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