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What Would a Science of Systemic Design Look Like?

Format: Papers, RSD12, RSD12-Bogotá: Design research, Topic: Methods & Methodology

Ryan J. A. Murphy

Challenging and augmenting systemic design with philosophies, tools, and methods from information systems design science

Systemic design has its roots in design science. However, systemic designers rarely use or adapt design science frameworks and methodologies (with some exceptions). In this presentation, I propose a new subfield of systemic design —systemic design science —that provides philosophies and processes for the scientific evaluation of systemic design concepts and artefacts while bringing ideas from design science (especially from the field of information systems) into systemic design theory and practice. To inspire this subfield, I first provide a brief background of design science in systemic design. I specifically draw on information systems (IS) design science, which has grown into a significant discipline used to develop theory, apply theory in the design and development of artefacts, guide the research process, and analyse research outcomes. I then show how systemic design can benefit from an IS design science approach in the development of both theory and artefacts. IS design science follows a rich tradition of developing design theories and principles from kernel theories, sometimes across disciplines. IS design scientists have been working for decades to understand the process of translating theoretical knowledge into practical design principles and, further, into artefacts, instantiating those principles in real-world applications. (This is the “design” of design science.) IS design scientists also work in reverse. They study the use of designed artefacts for insights into design principles and to abstract lessons into generalised theory. (This is the “science” of design science.)

Similarly, systemic designers translate stakeholder engagement and theory into models of systemic problems (the “systemic”), which are then used to design social innovations and strategies for change (the “design”). These systems models, strategies, and innovations are all analogous to the artefacts of IS design science. Emphasising and interrogating these material outputs could invigorate the feedback cycle from knowledge translation to abstraction and back again —hence, a new entanglement of “systemic design science.” I demonstrate the value of this potential subdiscipline by introducing some interesting methodologies and frameworks from IS design science, particularly information systems design theories, and discussing how they may be used by systemic designers to design, share, and assess systemic design artefacts.

KEYWORDS: design science, design theories, systemic design artefacts, systemic design science, information systems

RSD TOPIC(S): Methods & Methodology

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Citation Data

Author(s): Ryan Murphy
Year: 2023
Title: What Would a Science of Systemic Design Look Like?
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/theories-and-artefacts-in-systemic-design
Host: Georgetown University
Location: Washington DC, USA
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 30 September 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404
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