Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Assignment two: Disclosing the Self – Modelling the Discovery through Reflection and Introspection

Image: Slide from the EAD06 Show about the DCC assignment on “Disclosing the Self”

In the lecture and discussion held at NID Gandhinagar yesterday with the batch of thirty students in the DCC course we examined the nature of design as well as the attributes and characteristics of the designer. Design is an activity that takes place in a field of thinking and believing persons where a variety of belief systems and levels of understanding may prevail and this by itself would call for a great deal of sensitivity in the management of the intentions as well as the directions of the proposed outcomes. Technology is but one of the many considerations that the design teams would need to cope with and it may not be the most challenging aspect of the design task on hand. Social and cultural factors may play a significant role in shaping the intentions as well as determine what can be indeed offered as a solution to the perceived problems in the given context. Temporal factors too would have their own impact and one solution that was found valid at a certain moment may become invalid or even objectionable when the context would change with time and location. This makes the task of design truly complex and it has therefore been called “wicked problems” when the complexities are almost unmanageable using the usually accepted tools of logic, science and management.

Image: DCC Whiteboard from Gandhinagar, August 2007

In such a situation the designer too would need to know what the self is bringing to the situation, since all of us have our own system of beliefs as well as our abilities and knowledge levels which would in turn determine our ability to understand or empathise with the particular situation that is to be improved or changed. It is here that this assignment of exploring the self with an intention to discover and disclose comes into focus. The student is asked to reflect and introspect about themselves and attempt to try and plumb their memory and the boundaries of their consciousness about themselves in order to discover their true interests as well as the sources of their learning and belief systems in a whole range of areas that may matter in the process of design. Knowing ones strengths and weaknesses as well as interests may help in setting the learning agenda as well as help set priorities for what one would like to learn through reading and self study. It can also help motivate one to make the investments needed to change oneself in the area of skills, knowledge and most importantly in the area of the attitudes that one brings to the activity of design. It is here that the assignment may make sense in helping one reveal to oneself many aspects of our being and from this we may choose to disclose only a part of our experiences and beliefs but the journey would be useful in any case for the individual and their peers in the class.

Design is a reflexive activity since it is carried out in a thinking and acting field of persons who can and will react and this calls for a heightened level of sensitivity in the designer if we are to achieve a degree of satisfaction and closure. Charles Eames when asked a question about the nature of the boundaries of the design task he asked for the boundaries of the design problem. In a diagram that he submitted for an exhibit in Paris in 1969 he modeled the roles of the designer, the client and the society in a very insightful manner and stated that one could achieve real satisfaction only when the task fell within the overlapping zone of the interests of all partners. This amazing diagram or model of the “What is Design” can be seen here along with more about Eames at the Library of Congress archive.

My slide presentation and paper titled “Creating the Unknowable” which described this course at the EAD06 conference in Bremen 2005 can be downloaded from my website here. Link: Full paper 50 kb pdf file Link: Slide Show 4.1 MB pdf file

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