Ye Wang, Yijia Xin, Bill Li, and Jacky Shen
Shanghai South Railway Station, an ‘integrated transport hub’, is no longer what its designers once envisaged. While the complex system of signs & things still supports people’s actions, the actions have changed. Spontaneous gatherings of skateboards, square dancing, soliciting business, and even permanent settlement. In our observations of this complex system, we all realised that the diversity of actions caused by the support of things is making the system’s design difficult. This interesting situation drew our attention to signs, things and behaviours, the multiple symbols of a complex system, the impact of spontaneous and changing actions, and particular implications of the nature of the community. We saw new perspectives and possibilities for systemic design., We conducted a large analytical sample of the event and the groups involved, interviewed several secondary stakeholders, and used ethnographic in-depth and repeated interviews with three key informants over a three-week period, along with related cross-sectional research.
We found that, in this case, the focus of system design has shifted from a functional to the impact of symbolic meaning on complex systems. The analysis of the characteristics and strengths of the community symbols generated by the transport hub itself suggested a ‘participatory’ hypothesis. The use of service design methods to transform the design outcomes in specific design contexts, as well as to reshape the relationship between the design scenario and the new community, thus changing and balancing the contradictions between the new symbols of the system and the pre-determined symbols. We are excited to see similar facets in other areas; it’s very likely a future research direction. The purpose of this paper is to revisit and explore the issues, goals and principles of systemic design through this research, calling attention to the new perspectives on a complex system.
Keywords: complex system, systemic design, participatory, community, symbolic, spontaneous, innovation