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The Other Side of Design: Tension manifolds and collective action

Format: Papers, RSD10, Topic: Methods & Methodology

Goran Matic and Ana Matic

Systemic issues feature dynamic complexity that challenges cognitive, contextual, spatial, and temporal perceptions within ‘social messes’ (Ackoff, 1974) and ‘super-wicked problem’ (Levin et al., 2012) environments. Systemic designers thus find themselves working with tensions endemic to paradoxes, breaks in scale, value (or goal) conflicts and heterogeneous contexts. These differences may yield opportunities for design exploration when considered as spaces of praxis. Tensions within such spaces often make collaboration and collective action challenging – yet can also be considered as a type of design medium. This paper proposes the concept of ‘tension manifolds’ – and explores the potential for enabling design within systemic issues, with the goal of reframing tensions as a type of design affordance that enables collaboration and collective action in multi-stakeholder environments.

Keywords: design, field theory, collaboration, collective action, tension manifolds

Citation Data

Author(s): Goran Matic and Ana Matic
Title: The Other Side of Design: Tension manifolds and collective action
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 3 September 2021
Last update:
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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 ##.

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

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In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholar's 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.

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