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Systemic Design and its Discontents: Designing for emergence and accountability

Format: Papers, RSD7, Topic: Methods & Methodology

Greg Van Alstyne, Carl Skelton, and Sylvia Nan Cheng

Systemic design holds promise to address grand challenges such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Toward these ends, we argue that the systemic design mindset needs better awareness and norms for accountability. We recommend greater use of knowledge from psychology to bring insight about motivations and cognitive biases. We call on systemic designers to integrate principles of ethical practice, as new technological affordances, which amplify risk, increasingly impact social and economic life. To highlight wanted and unwanted emergent effects in complex techno-social systems, we introduce a schema with three layers of activity: regulating, building, and using. To illustrate the risks and benefits of designing in a data-intensive world, we unpack exemplary cases from history and contemporary society. We highlight emerging initiatives where systemic design thinkers introduce ethical accountability to a system by cross-pollinating and collaborating between the three layers of activity with respect to these complex systems.

Keywords: design, ethics, psychology, responsibility, systems

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Citation Data

Author(s): Greg Van Alstyne, Carl Skelton, and Sylvia Nan Cheng
Year:
Title: Systemic Design and its Discontents: Designing for emergence and accountability
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
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URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/
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First published: 2 October 2018
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