Friday, September 21, 2007

Exploring Sustainability Concepts through Models and Metaphors: Revealing Structure and Meaning in Wicked Design Problems

We started the presentation session by discussing the work of Anita Roddick and remembering her as a passionate human being who took her life and work to levels that show us what an individual can do if we were to set our minds to achieve something with feeling and commitment. Dame Anita Roddick passed away on the 10 September 2007 and has left behind a legacy that can inspire many generations of creative contributors who want to make a difference with their lives.

We also shared the paper by Prof Bruce Archer that was published in the NID Designfolio in 1985 titled “Analysing the Design Activity” where he has offered an “Information Flow Model of the Design Activity” as well as a reflection on the role of the external model in bringing an inter-modal dialogue between the Propositional and the Appositional modes of thought that are a hallmark of design thinking and action. Students are advised to look at the concepts of brainstorming, affinity diagrams, metaphors, models and structure and semiotics as applied to the process of exploration, articulation and understanding of complex design situations.

This batch of 64 students made an inspired performance over the last two days of intense brainstorming and explorations dealing with the concept of sustainability as it would apply to the assigned areas of Learning, Food, Health, Play and Mobility. All groups were composed of students from all the participating disciplines who have been distributed evenly by the selection process adopted for this assignment. Five coordinators were selected from the group of volunteers and they in turn selected one student each from each participating discipline so that all groups have the a diverse set of participants and in a uniform manner across all groups.

The Learning Group made their presentation this evening and tomorrow we have the other four groups scheduled. However we have the models on the walls at NID and there is a great deal of discussion and debate that this assignment has generated amongst design students and it is in line with our intentions as teachers of this course. Shown below are the groups with their models and metaphors and the learning and understanding shown by the students

The Learning Group

The Food Group

The Health Group

The Play Group

The Mobility Group

The presentation of the Learning Group was very stimulating and their model which is still tentative and on the black board showed a deep understanding of the issues of learning as associated with the concepts of sustainability. The metaphor was however very rich and flexible since the sailing ship on an ocean voyage has been used to support a rich set of insights that the group had discovered and prioritized as part of their search for meaning and structure in a difficult and complex space. Learning is an intangible concept and the group has done particularly well in articulating the various dimensions of the problems and opportunities and they were also candid about the areas of ignoranvce which would be researched in the next phase of their exploration while they conduct meetings woith experts in the field.

The sailing metaphor and the Learning group's brainstorming sheet are shown below.

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