Prototyping as a resource to investigate future states of the system

Juan de La Rosa and Karolina Kohler

Design model
Prototypes
Prototyping
Design research
Future design
Not-yet-existing
Displacement

Design disciplines naturally search to solve ill-defined or wicked problems (Rittel & Webber, 1973). Current design process and practices show that design objects are usually part of a network of different actors (Latour, 1990) that interact between each other. Therefore, even when analyzing simple cases, designers will seek to increase uncertainty to reveal the complexity of the system that contains the case of study. This process of scope and observation of macro and micro scale details can be identified as a problem of scale and resolution of complex systems (Arenas, et al, 2008), and can help us defined the nature of design problems as systemic by nature.

Even though the lenses provided by the General Systems Theory (Bertalanffy & Rapoport, 1956), have been profoundly helpful for designers to recognize and map complexity of the current systems where the problems are situated, the futuristic nature of design that seeks for the definition of the not-yet-existing requires the production of new models that can help us map and investigate future states of the systems once the designed artefacts have been incorporated to them.
This paper discusses the opportunity to use prototypes as argumentative and conversational objects (Galey & Ruecker, 2010) that are designed, not to validate a pre-established idea, but as probing instruments that uses the distance between them and the users (Simondon, 1958; Latour, 1990; Akrich, 1992) and the new affordances defined by the users to reveal possible complex future interactions that may be established and the possible transformations of the socio-technical system.
With the analysis of two case studies that recognized the ability of objects to create a better understanding of the possible futures that are created by their interaction and produce a map of the structure of those possible futures (Voros, 2003). Later, we use the Analysis & Synthesis reframe model (Alexander, 1964) and the Divergence & Convergence model (Banathy, 1996) to produce a new initial procedural model that presents an iterative deployment of displaced prototypes on the periphery of the object of study, that could be used to produce a map of the structure of the plausible and preferable states of the system. References (abstract) Akrich, M. (1992) The de-scription of technical objects. In BIJKER, W. E., & LAW, J. (eds.) Shaping technology/building society: Studies in sociotechnical change. MIT press.

Alexander, C. (1964) Notes on the Synthesis of Form. Harvard University Press.
Arenas, A., Fernandez, A., & Gomez, S. (2008). Analysis of the structure of complex networks at different resolution levels. New Journal of Physics, 10(5), 053039.
Banathy, B. A. (1996). Information‐based design of social systems. Behavioral Science, 41(2).
Von Bertalanffy, L., & Rapoport, A. (1956). General systems. Yearbook of the society for the Advancement of General System Theory, 1, 1-10.
Galey, A., & Ruecker, S. (2010) How a prototype argues. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 25(4).
Latour, B. (1990) Technology is society made durable. The Sociological Review, 38(S1).
Simondon, G. (1958). Du mode d’existence des objets techniques: thèse complémentaire pour le doctorat ès lettres présentée à la Faculté des Lettres de l’Université de Paris (Doctoral dissertation).
Rittel, H. W., & Webber, M. M. (1973). 2.3 planning problems are wicked. Polity, 4, 155-169.
Voros, J. (2003). A generic foresight process framework. foresight, 5(3), 10-21.

Presentation & paper

Posted: Oct-2017

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