Created by potrace 1.12, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2015

Shaping change



'Conflict Invites Resolution', 2016, 6x12m mural. Portraiture, R. Power; Concept Design, W. Wilding. Utilizing Augmented Reality Technology, this first artefact from Shaping Change 1 explores how concepts and categories can internalize, manifest and perpetuate injustice. For more information, see Appendix 1. 


Shaping Change 

Facilitating dialogue between disciplines and institutions, Shaping Change draws basic research from the humanities and sciences into the field of design. Grounded in the history of ideas, the philosophy of science and the philosophy of design, it explores how design professionals can challenge prevailing concepts to turn existing situations into preferred ones (Simon, 1996). Comprising words and artefacts, it incorporates rational theory and empirical approaches into a process philosophical view of the design process (Biggs, 2002). This involves questioning assumptions that underlie human understanding of natural and artificial worlds, challenging interpretive frameworks that determine the lives of human and non-human beings, and recognising that discursive understanding can obscure relational understanding (Bowie, 2010). It results in design theory anchored in dialectics, design research grounded in biosemiotics, and design methods based in framing and narrating. Aligning Schelling's reflective philosophy of nature with Schön's reflective practice of design, it equates dialectical reasoning with design reasoning, while designing, producing and installing concepts that make a priori insight observable and measurable, or ideal-real. 

Shaping Change's first initiative, Shaping Change 1, included three interacting artefacts that explored migrant history, gender equality and concept design (Sood, 2016). It partnered with The Centre for Design Innovation, The City of Yarra Council, The Besen Family Foundation, The Australian Cultural Fund, The Australian Graphic Design Association and multiple businesses including David Atkins Enterprises, which delivers the White Night Festival for the Victorian Government. A dialogical product of William Wilding’s research-based practice and Rebeccah Power’s practice-based research, Shaping Change 1 echoed design theory which asserts unstable or fluid concepts support the development of complex projects or programs (Redstrom, 2017). Emphasising the transformative power of story-telling through research undertaken at the Victorian Police Museum (Australian Cultural Fund, 2016), it incorporated philosophy, portraiture, poetry, communication design, digital media design, product design engineering and augmented reality technology. New understanding embodied in 2D, 3D and 4D forms of design, Shaping Change 1 asserts reflective activity enables humans to liberate themselves from necessity (Wilding, 2010).


Invitation to Project Launch by Centre for Design Innovation and City of Yarra Council. Communication Design, E.Wilding. Shaping Change 1 engaged with Government, Philanthropy, Industry, and Swinburne University's faculties of Health, Arts and Design and Science, Engineering and Technology. For more information, see Appendix 5. 


Shaping Change through Design Theory

Shaping Change contributes Schellingian, dialectical design theory to the field of design. It asserts human beings not only interact with the world, but also actively construct their place in the world. Challenging the onto-epistemological assumptions underlying technocratic determinism, it investigates the background of interpretive frameworks that bridge and structure perception and conception. It thereby engages with institutions, technologies and cultures that largely determine human and non-human lives (Polanyi, 1969; Feenberg, 2002). This involves inquiring into relations among phenomena. It also involves asking how design contributes to structures, events and courses of action that enforce and perhaps shift human understanding of the world, and human understanding of the place of humans in the world (Sutton and Straw, 1995; Maxwell, 2012). Drawing on speculative naturalism, an interdisciplinary theory active in the sciences humanities and design (Lindgaard & Wesselius, 2017), it synthesizes research in the history of ideas, the philosophy of science and organisational theory with design history, design methodology and strategic design. To achieve this, it aligns process philosophy with coevolutionary design. This means adopting and seeing the design process through the lens of a holistic, ecological metaphor. In so doing, it asks how design professionals turn intuition, imagination, reason and will into design products, systems and services through the iterative processes of prototyping (Gare, 2011; Krippendorf, 1989). It thereby makes the interplay rationalism and empiricism visible in the dialogue between design researchers, who mostly articulate knowledge in design theory, and design practitioners, who mostly embody it in design artefacts (Friedman, 2000; Galle, 2008).

Underlying this design theory is dialogue. It gives rise to what Plato called dialectic, or knowledge, in addition to the dialectical method of reasoning associated with Post-Kantian thought (Nikulin, 2010). In addition to design theory, dialogue gives rise to dialectic and rhetoric (Aristotle, 1926; Manzini, 2016). Along with logic, dialectic and rhetoric form the trivium, which helps shape human understanding, along with mathematics (Sloane & Perelman, 1979; Unger and Smolin, 2015). Design professionals draw on dialectic and rhetoric to create meaningful connections with words, images and objects (Buchanan, 2001). Dialectic enables design researchers to resolve conflict in old understanding to create new understanding; it unites with rhetoric to structure and convey new understanding through design practice. However, while design theorists have drawn on Aristotelian and Hegelian dialectics to explain the design process (Shannon & Bannerjee, 2017), they have not rigorously drawn on Platonic and Schellingian dialectics. Design, therefore, lacks a coherent dialectical theory that can explain how the most capable designers move between inner and outer worlds (Thomasson, 2004). That said, Dorst (1997; 2006) drew on Gadamer's dialectic to provide the basis for 'coevolutionary design'—though he did not examine design in the context of the tension between Post-Kantian and Neo-Kantian interpretations of the dialectical relationship between being and beings, a tension that preoccupied hermeneutical-phenomenologists such as Gadamer. Indeed, while Dorst claimed designers move between rational and empirical states in the world when designing (2015; 2003), he did not explicitly consider the design process in an ontological light—whether positivistic, phenomenological or hermeneutic (Galle, 2008). Shaping Change undertakes this task. It opposes Simon's positivistic design theory and Alexander's phenomenological design theory to extend Schon's hermeneutic design theory into a process philosophical design theory. In so doing, it shifts the dominant metaphor in design from machine to organism, while claiming that 'turning existing situations into preferred ones' means creating new concepts out of old ones (Gare, 2011).


'Universal Principle', 2016, 3.9x1.3x0.66m sculpture. Product Design Engineering, J. Malin; Concept Design, W. Wilding; Video, M. Bainbridge. Addressing the tension between rationalism and empiricism, this second artefact of Shaping Change 1 explores how conscious and unconscious forces interact. For more information, see Appendix 2. 


Shaping Change through Design Research

Shaping Change draws basic research from the humanities and sciences into design. It thereby facilitates dialogue between research and practice in interdisciplinary projects including academy, industry and government. This involves seeing design as a dynamic field of enquiry that diverse researchers and practitioners often converge in to question assumptions, challenge concepts and organise change. To support such shifts in understanding, it adopts a process philosophical basis rather than a substance philosophical basis. It, therefore, views the world more in terms of dynamic change than constant stability. It correspondingly aligns more with Continental philosophy, which brings analysis, synopsis and synthesis to the creation of knowledge, as opposed to Anglo philosophy, which mostly applies analysis and synopsis to the examination of arguments (Broad, 1924). More significantly, Shaping Change recognises mind in human and non-human beings. This is because it sees the world in the wilful, interacting terms of living organisms instead of the robotic, causational terms of lifeless mechanisms. While it recognises multiple levels of sentient activity in the world, it rejects the creationist worldview underlying Cartesian philosophy and Newtonian science, in addition to the physiological materialism underpinning much bio-psychology and Neo-Darwinian thought (Bowler, 1992). As a result, it aligns more with holistic research programs in theoretical biology than reductive research programs in theoretical physics (Gare, 2019). Conceiving of the world in this ecological way, it explores how socio-technological parts of design systems interact at multiple, intelligible levels to become interdependent wholes, which are more than the sum of their parts, and cannot be reduced to any one of their parts. In the process, it reflects theory in practice, raises understanding around problems, and participates in the development of public policy (City of Yarra, 2017).   

Underlying this basic design research is speculative naturalism. It draws on process thinkers in philosophy such as Schelling, who was the pre-eminent speculative naturalist, and design such as Schon, who drew deeply on another speculative naturalist, John Dewey (Gare, 2016; Schon, 1954). Both Schelling and Schon were influenced by Kant (Gare, 2011: Kinsella, 2007). Indeed, while it is impossible to understand contemporary philosophy without understanding the influence of Kant, i is important to acknowledge that Kant's philosophy changed radically towards the end of his life. Indeed, his third critique, 'The Critique of Judgement', marked a major shift from his first two critiques, 'The Critique of Pure Reason' and 'The Critique of Practical Reason' (Henrich, 2008). In it, he responded to claims that the transcendental deductions at the core of his transcendental idealism could not derive knowledge from experience as he had claimed—his categorical imperative could not overcome Hume's observation that human beings cannot derive is from ought. Kant consequently rethought the entire metaphysical, or onto-epistemological basis of his natural philosophy. This led him to a dynamic theory of matter, which presented organisms as interfaces between ideal and real worlds. But while he thereby moved away from the mechanical worldview that characterised the enlightenment age toward the organic worldview that characterised the romantic era, his new thinking was still unable to explain how free moral choices could exist beside necessary physical laws. His third critique therefore neither fully removed the creationist nor mechanical worldviews that infused his first two critiques—transcendent entities still appeared in this world from outside this world in Kant's thought. Schelling would complete this shift. Accepting Kant's assertion that one can only know what one has in some way experienced, he explored the teleological capacity of human and non-human beings to realise their will, construct their environment, and thereby emerge out of being over time. This involved fusing Goethe's outer or morphogenetic insights into being with Fichte's inner or phenomenological insights into human beings. He thereby reconceived of being as productive creativity and human beings as aesthetic expressions of being. Subsequent speculative naturalists such as Peirce developed Schelling's main insight, namely that being has a triadic or dialectical way of expressing itself from within the ground of this world—it works from the inside out. Shaping Change joins research in this field, research undertaken in biosemiotics or biohermeneutics. Focusing on the philosophy of Peirce, which underlies both the philosophy of biosemiotics and the philosophy of design, it asks how designers tap into this creativity when they proceed through abductive, inductive and deductive phases of reasoning when prototyping solutions to problems in the world.  


Concept design and production at Swinburne's Design Workshop. Shaping Change transforms ideas into reality through the processes of modelling and prototyping. Drawing on the life sciences and constructive humanities, it asserts concepts comprise imagination, intuition, rationality and will. For more information, please see Appendix 4.


Shaping Change through Design Practice

Shaping Change explores the concept of creative rationality in the context of the opposition between creativity and rationality that polarises the field of design (Gare, 1996; Engelholm, 2017). Focusing on ‘the productive ability’ that signalled the transition from the enlightenment age to the romantic era (Kant, 1914; Schelling, 2004; Richards, 2006), in Shaping Change 1 William Wilding and Rebeccah Power reflected the research underlying Shaping Change in the experimental practice of Studio Romantic, an interdisciplinary network of industry professionals who work at the intersection of knowing and being.

This involved embodying three philosophical concepts in three design artefacts: 'Conflict Invites Resolution', 'Universal Principle' and 'The Reckoning at the Southern Cross Hotel'. Together, the works comprise a complex, interdependent whole that exceeds the sum of its parts and denies reduction to any one of its parts. Thereby giving abstract targets of research concrete outcomes through practice, Shaping Change 1 was subsequently presented at two public exhibitions - the first to 80 guests in the City of Yarra at ‘Just Because You Can’t See It Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t There’ (2016), and the second in the City of Melbourne to 70,000 visitors at the ‘White Night Festival’ (2017).  


'The Reckoning at the Southern Cross Hotel', 2016, 4min video. Digital media design, C. Cersosimo; Story, R. Power and W. Wilding; Concept design, W. Wilding. Exploring self-production, this third artefact of Shaping Change 1 examines how self-reflection enables humans to transcend control. For more information, see Appendix 3.


Shaping Change through Design Methods

While Shaping Change recognises dialectic is less an objective method of the positive sciences and more an inter-subjective approach of the human sciences (Gadamer, 2004), it claims dialectical activity nevertheless facilitates design innovation. Occupying the contentious middle ground between speculation and perception, rationality and empiricism, idealism and realism (Stiegerwald, 2002), it holds designers undertake experiments to generate narratives that reform our understanding and experience of reality (Schön, 1984; Bruner, 1991; Wellmon, 2010). Indeed, it asserts the internal, intellectual intuition of philosophy and the external, aesthetic intuition of art unite in the production of design artefacts (Bowie, 2000). Echoing Dewey's insights into art and experience (2005), it suggests designers, like artists, move between subjective and objective poles as they model and prototype ideas. However, while this iterative activity enables them to at least in principle release the potential inhering in natural and artificial worlds (Whitehead, 1978; Peirce, 1931), the type of philosophy presently permeating design inhibits them from recognising how to do it (Schön, 1983; Alexander, 2002). So, while Shaping Change argues a designer's understanding of problems and solutions coevolves as designers step in and out of the design process from within the world of situated experience (Dorst, 1997; 2003), it also holds metaphysical assumptions in design block the field from recognising the significance  of such terms as abductive reasoning and framing (Gare, 2016; Rylander, 2012).

Design understanding, or design dialectic, does, however, rise out of a dialogical approach to designing, especially in collaborative groups (Manzini, 2016). Shaping Change 1 tapped into this form of understanding while designing, producing and managing the installation of experimental concepts. Incorporating co-design into a transdisciplinary approach to community engagement, Shaping Change 1 disclosed similarities and differences between the more objective, symbolic processing theory of design (Simon, 1996), the more subjective, situated cognition theory of design (Schön, 1983), and the more inter-subjective, socio-technical view on design (Norman and Stappers, 2015). Revealing relations between diverse stakeholders determine the success of at least some socio-technical projects, it showed how a process-relational approach to design may indeed be a new form of technology originating in the arts (Buchanan, 1992). Noting that science emerged out of the humanities, and that it compares imaginary or experimentally designed theories with real processes to produce the future (Epstein, 2012),  Shaping Change 1 united the changing, interacting patterns of multiple actors into a single vision that drew subject and object, designer and client, researcher and audience, into a cohesive whole (Axelrod, 1997). Amplifying the reflexivity that characterises consciousness while actuating the metaphoric cognition that governs perception (Henrich, 2008; Lackoff and Johnson, 1980), it drew the dialogue between the constructive humanities and biological sciences into an outcome that claimed humans can overcome difficulties if they recognise what they often don't want to recognise (Kaufmann and Gare, 2015; Fry, 2012). Thereby unearthing opportunities for low-tech, middle-tech and high-tech innovation (Drucker, 1985; Bennis, 1989; Buchanan, 2015), Shaping Change 1 helps transition from experimental discovery to applied impact (Seeman, 2018).


Shaping Change, Scot's Church, Melbourne, White Night Festival, 2017. Video, M.Bainbridge; Exhibition design, C.Cersosimo and W.Wilding. Concept Design, W.Wilding; Examining the nature of synthesis in the context of parts and wholes, Shaping Change amplifies pressing social issues. 


Changing Shape 

Shaping Change demonstrates the philosophy of design is a practical art that contributes to a deeper understanding of the field of design (Galle, 2002; 2008). While Shaping Change 1 is a collaborative product of many researchers and practitioners in industry and university, Shaping Change began to emerge through the Victorian Government's Design Victoria Strategy. Initially developed through the guidance of Business Victoria then subsequently developed in partnership with Craft Victoria, it originally aimed to understand the transformation of Victoria's manufacturing sector through design. Now uniting Government, Philanthropy and Business with Swinburne University's Centre for Design Innovation, Shaping Change contributes to efforts within strategic design to produce a generalizable theory of design or design thinking that can release creativity in ways that support the well-being of the world (Argyris, 1991; Senge, 1991).



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1. Conflict Invites Resolution (2016) explores the post-Kantian approach to dialectics - thesis-antithesis-synthesis - initially identified by Fichte and subsequently developed by Schelling. Showing two perspectives on the same woman, it explores how old metaphysical concepts and categories enter into our lives to shape our experience. Echoing the shared view of Schön and Alexander that the field of design replicates destructive values, it wonders how the reductive, mechanical worldview underlying Kantian and neo-Kantian thought detaches human beings from reality. Mirroring the shared view of Dewey and Buchanan that the universe is a holistic, living organism, it implies warmth, care and courage can overcome coldness, envy and fear. Emphasising time and volition, designing and producing Conflict Invites Resolution enabled the researchers to reflect on how adding the categories of reflection and volition helps designers shape or change the concept of, for example, quality. 

2. Universal Principle (2016) embodies the universal concept that Schelling developed to transcend the metaphysical gulf that Kant's critical philosophy imposed on philosophy. Embodying Schelling's synthesis of Plato, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Goethe and Fichte, it produces positive and negative forms that evoke conscious and unconscious states of mind, which Schelling claims correspond to human beings and nature. A kinetic sculpture, its rotations magnify feeling while suspending thought, while also aligning the tacit and articulate dimensions of being as described in philosophy by Schelling (1832) and in design by Dorst (1997).      

3. The Reckoning at the Southern Cross Hotel (2016) incorporated Conflict Invites Resolution and Universal Principle. Examining the difference between Aristotle's theory of art, which Buchanan (1992) calls the first science of design, and Schelling's theory of art, which Bowie (2000) asserts shows in form what can't be said in words, it contained a triadic structure comprised of three acts with three scenes each. Thereby investigating complexity and emergence in (production) design practice, it demonstrated how reflecting on the past enables humans to create the future. An analogue of ecological conditions, it speculates how lifeforms consider the tendencies around them in order to create the conditions they require to realise themselves in the future. Asserting humans thereby produce liberty out of necessity, it showed freedom or concepts emerge at the limits of what we sense but aren't ready to see or accept. In this way, it reflects Schelling's developments of Kant's critical philosophy, which examined how humans can live in a world determined by mechanical laws, and still have free choice.


These three artefacts interacted to become an interdependent whole, which is more than the sum of its parts and cannot be reduced to any one of its parts. In this way, it reflects Schelling's nature philosophy and Goethe's morphological science. Producing these works through design assisted the researchers to not only understand how various forms of design contribute to the realisation of ideas or concepts, it also demonstrated how Schelling's nature philosophy provides an underlying theory that various forms of design can draw on—especially when mocking ideas up. Indeed, each iteration of each artefact reflected back on crucial themes in the interdisciplinary project in ways that reflected and projected the aims of the stakeholders involved.

A fourth NTRO (A short documentary) is currently being produced to turn these three artefacts into three NTRO's.  

Rebeccah Power

Rebeccah Power is an active researcher whose practice intersects art and education. She incorporates institutional, archival research into work that...

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