Dilemmas and Conflicts in Systemic Design: Towards a theoretical framework for individual-system dialectic

Format: Papers, RSD10, Topic: Methods & Methodology

Deger Ozkaramanli

The productive potential of conflicts, dilemmas, and tensions have attracted scholarly attention, which is also implied by the conference theme: Playing with Tensions. This paper proposes that interconnections in a complex system can be examined using dialectic thinking (i.e. thesis-antithesis-synthesis), which can be facilitated through the micro-meso-macro system architecture. Borrowing insights from a project on bike-security systems, individual dilemmas at the micro-level, inter-stakeholder conflicts at the meso level, and conceptual conflicts at the macro-level are examined. Although conflicts are traceable at each level, their structure changes from experiential conflicts (i.e. dilemmas) to interpersonal and conceptual conflicts, respectively. In systemic design, dilemmas help maintain the richness and nuance of individuals’ lived experiences when shifting the focus from individuals to systems. In addition, inter-stakeholder conflicts help address conflicting values and perspectives among stakeholders through revealing their interconnections; and conceptual conflicts help expose the moral and political dimensions of design decisions. Finally, dialectic thinking helps ‘probe’ the system to reveal the reciprocal and emergent relationships among the interconnected elements of a system. Future research is needed to further deepen the theoretical grounding of this framework and to reveal its implications for systemic design practices.

Keywords: conflict, dilemma-driven design, systemic design, dialectics, micro-meso-macro

Citation Data

Author(s): Deger Ozkaramanli
Title: Dilemmas and Conflicts in Systemic Design: Towards a theoretical framework for individual-system dialectic
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 3 September 2021
Last update:
Publisher Identification:

Copyright Information

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


Open Access article published under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

Suggested citation format (APA)

Author(s). (20##). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD##. Article ##.

Publishing with RSD

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design are published online and include the contributions for each format.

Papers and presentations are entered into a single-blind peer-review process, meaning reviewers see the authors’ names but not vice versa. Reviewers consider the quality of the proposed contribution and whether it addresses topics of interest or raises relevant issues in systemic design. The review process provides feedback and possible suggestions for modifications.

The Organising Committee reviews and assesses workshops and systems maps & exhibits with input from reviewers and the Programme Committee.

Editor: Cheryl May
Peter Jones
Ben Sweeting

The Scholars Spiral

In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholars spiral—a cyclic non-hierarchical approach to advance scholarship—and in 2023, launched Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal. Together, the RSD symposia and Contexts support the vital emergence of supportive opportunities for scholars and practitioners to publish work in the interdisciplinary field of systemic design.

The Systemic Design Association's membership ethos is to co-create the socialization and support for all members to contribute their work, find feedback and collaboration where needed, and pursue their pathways toward research and practice outcomes that naturally build a vital design field for the future.


Verified by MonsterInsights