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Title: Discursive designing theory : towards a theory of designing design
Author: Faust, Juergen
ISNI:       0000 0004 5355 8737
Awarding Body: University of Plymouth
Current Institution: University of Plymouth
Date of Award: 2015
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Motivated by the immature theoretical framework of design, this thesis employs transdisciplinary discourse to provide a contemporary and forward-looking model of design and design theory, as well as the linkages between the two, along with the necessary methodology. The discourse involves research into the current understanding of design, its principles, its practice and conceptual framework. The methodology developed and employed in this thesis can be outlined in five steps: 0. Design briefing 1. Developing a conceptual model based on the writings of Michel Foucault and Helmut Krippendorff. 2. Presenting the model in a written form. 3. Using accounts of conferences as tools for Designing Design and building monuments. 4. Interrogating the theory through an expert system. 5. Summarising and evaluating the findings. Design Briefing The present study delves into design, and into the design of theory. In Chapter A.1.6, a summary of Chapter A.0−A.1.5 is given, highlighting the underlying discourse. As shown, the theory behind this work is based on a hypothesis, which cannot be proved experimentally, or deduced from experimental data, at least at the time of its construction. Therefore, it needs to be understood that the case studies (A.3.2−A.3.5) in this thesis are not intended to serve as experiments that were conducted in order to prove the theory; rather, these case studies are design cases—products and artefacts—and should be viewed as discourse frameworks that can be adopted to design design. As described in Chapter 3.1, these are elements of monuments—in reference to Raichman (1988)—that have resulted from the discursive strategies and were designed within a community of designers, allowing the design understanding to be shaped. Methodologically, the theory is created through an indication of differences. These differences were elaborated on in the literature review, and can be explained using either logic-based or hermeneutical metaphors. As the latter approach is more flexible, it might be more applicable to the design environment. The generated knowledge can be located in three areas—design knowledge, epistemology, methodology (the process to get there), and phenomenology (the composition of the artefacts). While the main focus of this thesis has been on theory design, it was also important to delineate how to get there, as well as analyse the questionable differences between theory and practice, since they are ideal types that mark the extreme ends of a continuum (Jonsen and Toulmin 1988, p.36). The work presented in this thesis was conducted in a circular manner, like a design process, in order to encapsulate the instance. Therefore, essential topics reappear, allowing them to be reframed and newly contextualised. Chapter 0.0 to 0.7 reperesent the introductory part of this work. Thus, the content presented could be referred to as ‘the briefing’—as a parallel to a design case—to provide the background. It shows the motivation, a first hypothesis, some methodological considerations, and the research design and decisions. The aim is to provide insight into the phenomenon of interest and discuss some preconceptions. Thus, these introductory chapters provide orientation through locating some statements of the provided (design) discourse. Developing a conceptual model based on the writings of Michel Foucault and Helmut Krippendorff. As a follow up, Section A consists of several key components, and encompasses the research methodology specificity, its theoretical underpinning, and its connection to design, a reframing and contextualisation. This section also provides the means to overcome the discrepancy between researching and designing. Therefore, in Chapter A1−A1.6, a more substantial discourse of design is provided, along with the theory and the essential knowledge. Here, we can see the method in operation, as a patching of discursive statements—akin to an additive process of designing. Clearly, the attempt made here belongs to the constructivist epistemology, as the idea of design is a mental construct. Nonetheless, the aim is to provide a broad perspective of what can be presently observed in the design field. The employed methodology strategically aims to overcome the divide between designing and researching—between acting and reflecting—in order to provide a conceptual model. Still, it also makes the designing practice a conscious process, whereby theory is designed through discourse. Such discourse is revealed within the discovery of textual statements based on an extensive literature review, as well as through the discovery of textual statements from organised interactive conferences. The theory developed here is, in fact, a theory derived from theory, and is shaped through finding patterns and the simplification of the overall structure they form. In A.2, the concept of discourse and its designing quality is revealed. It shows how discourse, as the guiding method, is ‘excavated’ from the writings of Michel Foucault and Helmut Krippendorff. Methodologically, Michel Foucault’s ‘Archeology of Knowledge’ was analysed against and parallel to Helmut Krippendorff’s ‘Semantic Turn’, as these sources are complementary to each other. The goal of this process is a comparison of statements, yielding reasoning towards discourse and design discourse. In sum, this analysis helped reveal that it is a matter of design how the discourse is provided. The outcome of the aforementioned comparison is very interesting and satisfying. The findings revealed a difference in discourse, because engineering and design discourses are informed by rhetoric of design, rhetoric of deliberation, in opposite to humanistic discourse, which consumes textual objects (Perelman 1999). The discursive designing process within these chapters reveals some important elements, such as the conceptual frame of politics, referred to in Foucault’s discourse explorations. According to the author, power is a generating force in shaping discourse (Faucault 1980, p.119). In contrast, Krippendorff (1995b) sees power as emanating from language, which can be overcome through avoiding the construction of certain language. In the research presented, the designing practice that took place during the conferences, as well as the aforementioned notions, play a role, as was shown in Chapter 3. Power, as it was experienced, is unavoidable. Yet, rather than seeing it as a problem, it should be viewed as a generating force. A second more substantial question arises around the notion of discontinuity (A.2.3), which is essential in Foucault’s concept. According to Krippendorff, knowledge is not partitioned; it rather provides continuity through the various disciplines. As this research shows, this view should not be seen as an opposite to Foucault’s concept of discontinuity, because statements can refer to the same object, but coming from a discontinuous field, from various disciplines. In other words, as design discourse can be viewed as a discourse hosted by various disciplines, it is discontinuous! With respect to Foucault’s concern of grasping of statements, the main goal of this thesis is to provide support for this perspective. As the author noted, the grasping of the statements needs to follow the exact specificity of their occurrence (Foucault 1972). The prudence and success of dissociating statements from their original context to place them in a new context is questionable, since no discontinuity can be ignored (Foucault 1972). Often, rather than paraphrasing the text so that it reflects one’s own understanding of it, the result is a mere citation of the original texts and con-texts. The awareness of discontinuity does not allow for this thesis to be presented according to the positivistic paradigm.
Supervisor: Phillips, Mike Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Design Theory, Design Discourse, Designing Theory, Comprehensive Design Theory, Discourse Matters, Design Thinking