Old Rope: Laing’s knots and Bateson’s double binds in systemic design

Format: Papers, RSD7, Topic: Methods & Methodology

Dan Lockton

Imaginaries Lab, School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University

Abstract Knots, a 1970 book by the Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing, is based around a collection of patterns of human thinking, metacognition, and theory of mind, drawn from real experience with patients but turned into abstracted examples. The approach has the potential to be adapted into a range of formats that enable systemic design phenomena such as recursion, reflexivity, theory of mind, and second-order effects in systems to be explored, as a way of thinking about systems for design students and adding to their conceptual vocabulary, but potentially also as a method for doing research with people. This paper illustrates example ‘new knots’ around topics including sharing data, social media, clickbait, and ‘smart’ homes.

Citation Data

Author(s): Dan Lockton, Lisa Brawley, Manuela Aguirre Ulloa, Matt Prindible, Laura Forlano, Karianne Rygh, John Fass, Katie Herzog, and Bettina Nissen
Title: Old Rope: Laing’s knots and Bateson’s double binds in systemic design
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
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First published: 2 October 2018
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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.

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