Publication 4723

Jonas W. (2007) Research through DESIGN through research: A cybernetic model of designing design foundations. Kybernetes 36(9/10): 1362–1380. Fulltext at
Purpose– The paper seeks to make a substantial contribution to the still controversial question ofdesign foundations. Design/methodology/approach– A generic hypercyclic design process model is derived frombasic notions of evolution and learning in different domains of knowing (and turns out to be not verydifferent from existing ones) The second-order cybernetics and evolutionary thinking providetheoretical support. Findings– The paper presents a model of designerly knowledge production, which has the potentialto serve as a genuine design research paradigm. It does not abandon the scientific or the hermeneuticor the arts & crafts paradigm but concludes that they have to be embedded into a design paradigm.“Design paradigm” means that “objects” are not essential, but are created in communication andlanguage. Research limitations/implications– Foundations cannot be found in the axiomatic statements ofthe formal sciences, nor in the empirical approaches of the natural sciences, nor in the hermeneutictechniques of the humanities. Designing explores and creates the new; it deals with the fit of artefactsand their human, social and natural contexts. Therefore foundations for design (if they exist at all)have to be based on the generative character of designing, which can be seen as the very activity whichmade and still makes primates into humans. Practical implications– The hypercyclic model provides a cybernetic foundation (or rathersubstantiation) for design, which – at the same time – serves as a framework for design and designresearch practice. As long as the dynamic model is in action, i.e. stabilized in communication, itprovides foundations; once it stops, they dissolve. The fluid circular phenomena of discourse andcommunication provide the only “eternal” essence of design. Originality/value– “Design objects” as well as “theory objects” are transient materializations oreigenvalues in these circular processes. Designing objects and designing theories are equivalent.“Problems” and “solutions” as well as “foundations” are objects of this kind. This contributes to aconceptual integration of the acting and reflecting disciplines.


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