indiscipline of design

Chapter Summaries and Contents

Chapter 1 – Design as Meaning and Form Making: an Introduction

Chapter 1 presents the scope and ambition of the research: to produce a model of design that accounts for the practices of designers, artists, and researchers in engineering. The goal is to reveal what connects these practices while respecting their respective contributions to the challenge of invention. The main question is what does it take to produce an original work of science, art, or design? According to the author, the answer lies in the humanities, in particular the use of semiotics and media studies that help to understand and produce the autonomous poetic space of design.
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Chapter 2 – From Interactive Design to Reflective Design

The Second Chapter offers to switch from the interactive to the reflective design paradigm. The book posits that interactive design relies on a model that focuses on activities and does not question the values and aesthetics of the artifact and therefore restricts the expansion into new norms, or new aesthetics. On the contrary, reflective design is about methods that generate new questions not only about functionalities, but also that explore new formats. Here media are considered as design tools and materials that contribute to “denaturalize” activities and forms and lay new foundations for a design project.
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Chapter 3 – Creative Figures of Users

In the Third Chapter, the reader will follow the trail of the “user”. Many disciplines claim to best represent her: ergonomics and engineering research focus on the system made of humans and machines, aesthetics concentrates on the sensitive experience, media studies focus on audiences and spectators. Rather than trying to catch the reality of the user, the chapter shows that the design process relies on several “figures” of the user. These figures are poetic productions and “indirect representations” of user models that support the expansion of the design project beyond a mere replication of standard uses.
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Chapter 4 – The Poetics of Invention

The Fourth Chapter exposes the difference between the rhetoric of science analyzed by the sociology of sciences and technologies and the poetic of science better apprehended thanks to the humanities. Research is just as much about naming things and telling stories as elaborating theories and testing them. Engineering researchers are also poets who work on words, acronyms, expressions, to give an identity to their production and who use their narrative skills to project the invention in complex stories that weave the present and the future together.  The chapter studies the expansive properties of these poetic practices.
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Chapter 5 – Design as Composition of Tensions

In Chapter Five, design is considered as a practice of composition of tensions. By laying out materials, ideas, forms, models of communication and activities, designers organize their practice not so much as a sequence of events but more as a field to compose within. Rather than using the metaphor of the project, the author uses the metaphor of the matrix to show how the design project brings together materials in unexpected ways without necessarily following a defined plan. Elaborating on Peirce’s theory of abduction, the composition is seen as a projective abductive practice.
Gentes_chap5_Indiscipline_design_Composition of Tensions

Chapter 6 – Design as Debate: the Thing beyond the Object

The Sixth Chapter introduces political philosophy – in particular Habermas’s theory of communication – and critical design. From the point of view of design, the question is how stakeholders organize a debate around their production and how it sustains the generativity of the design project. In this respect, designers not only produce objects, but produce “things” whose identities are in question, hence the need for expansive debates that contribute to the invention. Chapter Six examines three examples that shape the way artists, designers and researchers challenge their own perception and that of their users and audiences.
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Chapter 7 – Conclusion: the Indiscipline of Design

Chapter Seven concludes this book by reflecting on the “in-discipline” of design. Designers claim that their practices are transversal, multidisciplinary, and holistic. However, design is not a Leonardesque fantasy of mastering all the known disciplines, but rather the dynamic activity that launches concepts, facts, methods, between disciplines so that they can come up with new concepts and artifacts, or situations. Through design/practice, disciplines under-determine each other, leaving space for a radical unknown to emerge. The process of under-determination is considered here as the foundation of design epistemology.
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1 Design as Meaning and Form Making: An Introduction 1
1.1 Book General Viewpoint and Goal 1
1.1.1 Examples and Context 2
1.1.2 People 3
1.1.3 Hybrid Methods 4
1.1.4 Structure 5
1.2 Definitions of Design: The Challenge of New Beginnings 5
1.3 Epistemology of Design: Building the Future 7
1.3.1 Abduction and Formal Practice 7
1.3.2 Introducing Humanities to Design: Following Foucault and Peirce 8
1.4 The Humanities and the Designed Object 10
1.4.1 The Extension of the Media Sphere 11
1.4.2 Design and Media Studies 13
1.5 The Humanities as Active Methods for Design 13
1.6 The Humanities as Part of the Epistemology of Design 14
1.7 In the Field: Research Through Design 14
1.7.1 Research Through a Collection of Breaching Experiments 15
1.7.2 Reflective Research Practice: The Two “Moments” of Research Through Design 16
1.8 Book Overview 17
References 21
2 From Interactive Design to Reflective Design 23
2.1 When Objects “Talk Back”: Design as a Strategy in Critical Aesthetics 23
2.1.1 “The Reflective Practitioners” 24
2.1.2 Outline of the Chapter 25
2.2 Sound “Mirror”: A Theory of the Mirroring Effect 26
2.2.1 Interactive Systems and Pleasure 27
2.2.2 Pleasure to Learn 28
2.3 The Concept of Interactivity: Tricks of a Concept 30
2.4 Resisting Interactivity 34
2.4.1 Two Use Cases: “Just Married” and “With Determination” 34
2.4.2 Defining Reflective in Design 38
2.4.3 Comparison Between Interactive/Reflective Metaphors 39
2.4.4 Reflective Technologies as a Metaphor for the Design Process 40
2.5 Designing for Reflection: Two Use Cases in Distributed Networks 42
2.5.1 Quick Overview of the Projects 42
2.5.2 The Bug That Saved Us 46
2.6 Reflective Objects for Reflective Design: A Delicate Balance of Signs 48
2.6.1 Reflectivity as Method 48
2.6.2 Reflectivity as Style 49
2.7 Conclusion: Reflective Design with Reflective Artifacts 52
References 53
3 Creative Figures of Users 57
3.1 Introduction 57
3.1.1 Who Cares About the User? First Steps of a Survey 58
3.1.2 Politics of Prudence: “Know Thy Man” 60
3.1.3 Aesthetics: Answers Are Not Found in Numbers 62
3.2 Pluridisciplinarity in Research Frameworks: The Allegory of the User 66
3.2.1 Disembodied Technologies: The Rise of the Ellipse 66
3.2.2 Re-embodied Technologies: The Allegory of the User 69
3.2.3 First Conclusion: Frameworks for the Allegory of the User 70
3.3 Who Is the User? How to Organize Different Viewpoints on the Subject 71
3.3.1 PLUG: The Multifaceted User 72
3.3.2 From the Non-descript User to a Complex Visitor 74
3.3.3 The Users Challenge the Users 77
3.3.4 The Role of the “Figure of the User” in the Invention 77
3.4 Three Multidisciplinary Figures of the “User”: Multi-tasker, Aesthete, Reflective Practitioner 79
3.4.1 The User as a Figure of Multi-tasker and the Designer as the Efficient Inventor 79
3.4.2 The User as the Figure of the Aesthete and the Designer as a Virtuoso of Norms 81
3.4.3 The User as an Interpreter, and the Designer as a Messenger 82
3.5 Is the User a “Figure of Speech”? 84
References 86
4 The Poetics of Invention 89
4.1 Questions and Methods 89
4.2 Poetic Versus Rhetoric 91
4.2.1 From the Rhetoric of Science… 92
4.2.2 … To the Poetics of Science 93
4.3 Speaking of Which… Word Invention 96
4.3.1 Scientific Puns: Play on Words and Definitions 97
4.3.2 Naming Projects: Acrobatic Acronyms 101
4.3.3 Scientific Logos: A Question of Identity 104
4.3.4 Literary and Visual Productions Supporting Engineering 107
4.4 Use Case and Story Boards: The Researcher as a Story Teller 109
4.4.1 Engineering “Use Cases” as Fairy Tales? 110
4.4.2 The designer’s Storyboards as Theater Sets? 117
4.4.3 Narrative Cultures 121
4.5 A New Genre: “Expansive Literature”, Suspension of Disbelief and Future Building 122
4.5.1 Fictions of Science as Reflection on the Present Times 123
4.5.2 How to Produce Good Narratives? 124
4.5.3 Beginning of a Typology 126
4.5.4 Staging “Change” 130
4.6 Conclusion: Design as Projection, Condensation and Expansion 131
References 132
5 Design as Composition of Tensions 135
5.1 How to Organize a Design Crisis? 135
5.2 “Contrasting Semiotic Analysis”: The Semiotic Organization of a Confrontation 137
5.2.1 First Case: The e-Learning Platform VUE 139
5.2.2 “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Learner” 140
5.2.3 “Empathy” and Togetherness in Other Media 143
5.2.4 The Result: VUE as a Digital Control Room to Fight Loneliness 144
5.2.5 Definition of the “Contrasting Semiotic Analysis” 145
5.3 Using Several Tools as a Confrontational Technique 147
5.3.1 A Lesson from Art: Designing a Three-Stage Show 147
5.3.2 From Writing a Text to Exploring Writing Tools 149
5.3.3 Mixing Software: The Organization of the Confrontation 152
5.3.4 Designing a Field of Tensions to Fight the Apparatuses 156
5.4 Conclusion: “Two to Start” 158
5.4.1 Going from a Metaphysics of Design to a Pragmatic of Design 159
5.4.2 The Art of Composing 161
5.4.3 From Inductive/ Deductive Methods to Projective Abductive Methods in Design 162
5.4.4 “Projective Abduction” 164
5.4.5 “The Earth Is Blue Like an Orange”. The Claim to Paradox and Coherence 167
5.4.6 Open Conclusion: Design as an Apparatus of Tensions 169
References 171
6 Design as Debate: The Thing Beyond the Object 175
6.1 Design as Debate: First Definition 175
6.2 Nicolas Frespech: “Tell Me Your Secrets”. A Story of Censorship in Art 177
6.2.1 Public Art and Private Contributions: Aesthetics of the Internet 178
6.2.2 Offering a Space for Debate 179
6.2.3 Lessons from Nicolas Frespech’s “Tell Me Your Secrets” 181
6.3 Debate in Research: Designing the Demonstrator. 183
6.3.1 The Epistemological Complexity of the Demonstrator 184
6.3.2 A Feeling of Closure 186
6.3.3 Nothing Is Forever: A Very Special Design, “Infra Design” 188
6.3.4 A “Transparent” Design of “Open Objects” 190
6.3.5 The Demonstrator in Action: Tests and Interpretation 191
6.3.6 Lessons from Demonstrators: An Aesthetic of Bugs and a Crisis Communication 193
6.4 Critical Design: Designers Questioning Their Contribution 197
6.4.1 Design Exploration as a Step Beyond Sociology of Technologies 197
6.4.2 Tobie Kerridge – The Biojewelry Project 199
6.4.3 Designing for a Design Space “Out of Place” 202
6.5 Conclusion: The “Thing” Reopening the “Object” 203
6.5.1 Critical Strategies and the Incomplete Thing 204
6.5.2 “Critical Technical Practice”: For a General Theory of Scientific Change 205
6.5.3 Ethical and Political Stakes: Who Can Debate? 208
6.5.4 From Objects to Things: The New Design Rationale. 209
References 211
7 Conclusion: The Indiscipline of Design 213
7.1 Introduction: Far Too Many Disciplines or Not Enough? 213
7.2 Addition of Disciplines: The “Leonardesque Aspiration” 214
7.2.1 What Comes First? Object or Activity? 215
7.2.2 Hybridization of Concepts 216
7.3 « Under-Determination » as the Design Episteme 218
7.3.1 “Under-Determination” of Disciplines and “Integrative Thing” 219
7.3.2 Pluri-Disciplinarity as the Foundation: Challenging the Subordination of Disciplines 223
7.3.3 The Aesthetics of the Demonstrator 224
7.4 Under-Determination in Action: Discovering the Generative Properties of the Integrative Thing 225
7.4.1 Computer Sciences’ Under-Determination of Game Design Theories 225
7.4.2 Museology and Human Sciences’ Under-Determination of Computer Sciences 226
7.4.3 Human-Machine Interfaces’ Under-Determination of Information and Communication Sciences 227
7.4.4 The Demonstrator as an Integrative Thing Between the Disciplines 228
7.5 The Forgotten Discipline: The Humanities 229
7.5.1 Science as a Generative Space of Fiction and Experience 229
7.5.2 Lessons Learned Along the Way 232
7.6 Conclusion: Contriving Observation and Analysis of the In-Discipline of Design 237
7.6.1 The Methodological Benefit of the Integrative Thing 237
7.6.2 The In-Discipline of Design 238
7.6.3 Pluri-Disciplinarity in Practice 243
7.6.4 Last Word on In-Discipline: The Grace of the Heterogeneous 244
References 245