Trapped in Complexity: Worlds and the methods they make

Format: Papers, RSD11, RSD11: Methods and the worlds they make, Topic: Methods & Methodology

Håkan Edeholt

The Oslo School of Architecture and Design

After several years of working with industrial design as a tool for exploring the types of radical systemic change that climate change arguably needs, it now seems timely to discuss the systemic approach. Much at odds with current discourse, this article promotes disciplinarity per se and questions the systems oriented design (SOD) assumption, which seems to take for granted that there is an inescapable intimate relation between development and complexity. It is done by revisiting four seminal scholars within system thinking and cybernetics, which arguably were significant for giving rise to the current praxeology of SOD and its continued development. The article makes three brief explorations, covering (i) the ecologic worldview, having nature as a guiding metaphor versus the mechanical having a machine as a guiding metaphor, (ii) the expected turning point for radical climate action and why it has not turned up yet and (iii) the ecology of disciplines and its knowledge production, and how the modes of disciplinary cooperation tend to be, more or less, easy to control. These discussions intend to explore the tensions between the worldviews that direct our understanding and action. The article shows how the worldview makes the methods as much, if not more, than the other way around. Finally, the paper tries to establish a creative dialogue with the SOD community by both questioning its current main focus on the current system’s complexity and, at the same time, suggesting how the SOD praxeology could be potentially much more beneficial if its view instead were directed towards ways to transcend the current system.

Keywords: SOD, radical system change, global warming, calcified worldview, system thinking, industrial design and design agency

RSD: Methods & Methodology

Sketchnote by Patricia Kambitch | Playthink

Citation Data

Author(s): Håkan Edeholt
Year: 2022
Title: Trapped in Complexity: Worlds and the methods they make
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 187
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 20 September 2022
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404

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.

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

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