Antinomies in Systemic Design: Dilemmas, paradoxical tensions, and Werner Ulrich


Desmond Wong and Shan Shan Tan

This short paper explores the relevance of Ulrich’s (2021) boundary critique to the practice of systemic design (SD) today. The concept of ‘critique’ (disclosure) lies at the heart of dilemmas and paradoxical tensions intrinsic to SD foundations and is complementary to maps (correspondence) and design (coherence) as ways of knowing and acting in the world. In turn, boundary critique provides a unique account of unfolding paradoxical tensions and dilemmas: Its historical, conceptual, and pragmatic fit with SD’s context and concepts could also help create, modify, and extend its learning competencies and knowledge routines. On the flip side, a systematic approach may incidentally preclude the nuanced, boundary-crossing understandings that characterize SD. We suggest that scholar-practitioners consider theory synthesis approaches to embrace the diversity of perspectives and methods.

Keywords: boundary critique, design thinking, reflexive practice, systems thinking, wicked problems


RSD proceedings are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.


Author(s) (20XX). Article title. In Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSDX) 20XX Symposium. City, Country, Month X-X, 20XX.

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