by William Wilding
'Research ... comprises creative work undertaken on a systemic basis in order to increase the stock of human knowledge ... Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundation of phenomena and observable facts ... (OECD, 2016).'
Shaping change in design theory
Basic theories generate worldviews that shape how humans engage in the world. Usually incorporating general principles anchored in mathematics, basic theories also contain philosophical values that influence the interpretation of 'observable facts' at physical and social levels (Naugle, 2002). While the philosophy underlying the basic physical theory that generated the mechanical worldview has led to rapid advances in technology (O'Brian, 2013), it has also generated basic social theory that has led to systemic injustice (De Beauvoir, 1949). The significance of basic theories however emerges through historical reflection, and humanity's understanding of how its theories impacts on its relations remains unclear (Gare, 2016). Researching how dialectical method reveals the significance of complexity to design, 'Shaping change' creates an artistic field through which it examines the impact of the mechanical worldview on humanity's capacity to adapt to change. Utilizing narratological inquiry to frame a mixed-method investigation, it presents theoretical work undertaken to increase knowledge of the changing place of women and migrants in the world. Dramatizing the choices of three Australians caught in 'The Panic of 1893', while testing if different technological platforms affect humanity's comprehension of these underlying themes, 'Shaping change' argues civilization emerges at the limits of recognition.
Shaping Change, Scot's Church, Collins St, Melbourne, White Night Festival, 2017
According to The Oxford Dictionary theories comprise suppositions and ideas intended to explain things. They enable us to make sense of perception through the formation of worldviews (Kant, 1914; Heidegger, 1988). These in turn create, transform, intervene or maintain the realities we experience (Krippendorf, 1994). Humans dwell in theories: they form the background of interpretive frameworks; they bridge perception and comprehension of phenomena (Polanyi, 1969); and they produce the institutions and technologies that shape our lives (Feenberg, 2002). Indeed, scientists are now creating the future in the act of comparing imaginary or experimentally designed theories with real processes. Recognising that consciousness effects our experience of phenomena, they are increasingly drawing on the constructive side of the humanities to create human experience, as the humanities are fore mostly concerned with reflexivity (Epstein, 2012). Together, the sciences and humanities are now converging in an emerging field of design that recognises humans are: 1. enmeshed in the world (Latour, 2008); and, 2., able to recast their trajectory through an engagement with the mechanical arts (Fry, 2012). However, the theory underlying this field has not fully incorporated new understanding of emergence and complexity issuing from the dialogue between the biological sciences and the constructive humanities (Kaufmann and Gare, 2015). To that end, 'Shaping change' utilizes insights into the nature of recognition (Schelling, 2004; Mead, 1934) to examine how conflicts at the peripheries of consciousness can reveal changes in individuals and societies. It thereby seeks to disclose opportunities for high-tech, middle-tech, low-tech and no-tech innovation (Drucker, 1985; Bennis, 1989; Buchanan, 2015).
Comprising a large mural, a short video, and interactive technology connecting the two, 'Shaping change' illustrates how injustice erupts into conflict during periods of great change. Drawing on the archives of the Victorian Police Museum, it partners with the Swinburne's Centre for Design Innovation and Faculty of Science Technology and Engineering to investigate how control dissolves in desire as people disrupt the often badly-designed moulds societies cast them in. Exploring the effects of global recession and mass migration while challenging the concept of 'the good woman’, it dramatizes how civilization overcomes limits imposed by unjust theory. Grounded in complex process thinking, it unites fine art, practical philosophy and strategic design. Serving the City of Yarra’s resolutions to end violence against women and support diversity amongst cultures, 'Shaping change' identifies historical parallels in the present as it demonstrates freedom rises out of necessity (Schelling, 1985).
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Shaping change in design practice
Original document sourced from the Victorian Police Museum.
Alice Green (Born 1868, USA) discovers freedom.
John Auburn (Born 1870, on route to Australia) recognizes limits.
Cecelia Anderson (Born 1842, Denmark) loses control.
Rendering of 7x14m mural installed in Collingwood, Melbourne, June 2016.
Concepts in images and copy by Power and Wilding.
Images by Rebeccah Power. Copy by William Wilding.