Publication 5178

Fischer T. (2017) A cybernetic perspective on determinability and design research. Kybernetes 46(9): 1588–1596. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/5178
Purpose: The scientific criterion of determinability (predictability) can be framed in realist or in constructivist terms. This can pose a challenge to design researchers who operate between scientific research (which favors a realist view of determinism/indeterminism) and design practice (which favors a constructivist view of determinability/indeterminability). This paper aims to develop a framework to navigate this challenge. Design/methodology/approach – A critical approach to “scientific” design research is developed by examining the notion of (in)determinism, with particular attention to the observer-based projection of systemic boundaries, and the constructivist understanding of how such boundaries are constituted. This is illustrated using automata theory. A decision-making framework is then developed based on a diagram known as the epistemological triangle. Findings: The navigation between determinism as a property of the observed, and determinability as a property of the observer follows the navigation between realist and constructivist perspectives, and thus has a bearing on the navigation of the kinds of design research distinguished by Frayling, and their implied primary evaluation criteria. Research limitations/implications – The presented argument advocates a constructivist view, which, however, is not meant to imply a rejection of, but rather, an additional degree of freedom extending the realist view. Originality/value – This discussion contributes to the establishment of observational determinability as observer-dependent. The proposed framework connects the navigation between deterministic observables and determining observers to the navigation between the design criteria form, meaning and utility. This may be of value within and beyond design research.

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