vendredi 30 mai 2014

Design Research.

Atelier Bow-Wow, Miyashita Park, Tokyo, Excerpt, 2011.

Atelier Bow-Wow, Nora House, Sendai, Japan, 2006.

Atelier Bow-Wow, Kawanishi Camping Cottage B, 1999.

In the Battle of the Books, which is an English characterization of the long struggle between old and new learning in our culture, design was clearly part of the old learning. It was “paleoteric" - the term that was used to name the old learning. The new sciences, which promised to put all human understanding and activity on a firmer footing, were the new learning. They were “neoteric”, since they addressed new problems in understanding the world and tended to shape the organization of learning around such problems. The new learning was theoretical and oriented towards subject matters, marked off from each other by principles and causes that were, in a sense, in the nature of Being. (...)

What I want to suggest for this conference is that the discovery of design in the twentieth century is more than as mall incremental addition to the tradition of theoretical learning upon which our universities have been based since the Renaissance. True, design and its various branches have entered the universities under this guise, and their practical significance for economic development and the well-being of citizens may help to account for this development in tolerance among those who are committed to the old structure of universities and the old models of research. After all, universities had already found ways to accommodate within their missions the study of Law, Theology and Divinity, and Medicine. However, the discovery of design is more than this.It is a sign, I believe, of a new battle of the books in our time: a new round in the struggle between the old and the new learning in human culture. 

There reason for this new battle is evident. While we do not deny the value and the ongoing benefit of theoretical investigations of subject matters in the sciences and arts, we also recognize that the powerful development of this learning has left us in a deeply troubling situation. We possess great knowledge, but the knowledge is fragmented into so great an array of specializations that we cannot find connections and integrations that serve human beings either in their desire to know and understand the world or in their ability to act knowledgeably and responsibly in practical life.While many problems remain to be solved in the fields that currently characterize the old learning - and we must continue to seek better understanding through research in these areas - there are also new problems that are not well addressed by the old structure of learning and the old models of research. 

It is a great irony that what was once the new learning is now the old learning, and what was the old learning is now the new learning. For I believe that is what has happened to design; it has become the new learning of our time, opening a pathway to the neoteric disciplines that we need if we are to connect and integrate knowledge from many specializations into productive results for individual and social life.To besure, those who practice, study, and investigate design in the contemporary world are themselves divided along paleoteric and neoteric lines. Some see no need for design research, and some see in the problems of design the need for research that is modeled on the natural sciences or the behavioral and social sciences as we have known them in the past and perhaps as they are adjusting to the present.But others see in the problems of design the need for new kinds of research for which there may not be entirely useful models in the past - the possibility of a new kind of knowledge, design knowledge, for which we have no immediate precedents. We face an ongoing debate within our own communityabout the role of tradition and innovation in design thinking. 

Without developing this theme further at the moment, I want to suggest that our discussions of design research hold open the possibility of a core insight regarding a new kind of university that is information today and that will emerge more clearly in the next century.The old, venerable universities will remain withus because they contribute valuable knowledge that must be disseminated through well-educated individuals. But there may be a new kind of university that will also have value. It will be a university that prizes theory but does not disdain practice and does not ignore the distinct problems of, and the need for substantive knowledge about, making or production. Making products - and by “product” I mean a range of phenomena that is very broad, including information, artifacts, activities, services, and policies, as well as systems and environments - is the connective activity that integrates knowledge from many fields for impact on how we live our lives. This new kind of university - and there may be only a few of them in the future - will discover a dynamic balance among theory, practice and production, a balance that we do not now find in the vision of most universities today.

R. Buchanan, “Design Research and the New Learning,” Des. Issues, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 3–23, Oct. 2001.

vendredi 23 mai 2014

Framing & Overflowing.

J. Levy, Pourquoi l'Espace?, 2014.

Framing is an operation used to define agents (an individual person or a group of persons) who are clearly distinct and dissociated from one another. It also allows for the definition of objects, goods and merchandise which are perfectly identifiable and can be separated not only from other goods, but also from the actors involved, for example in their conception, production, circulation and use. It is owing to this framing that the market can exist and that distinct agents and distinct goods can be brought into play. Without this framing the states of the world cannot be described and listed, and consequently, the effects of the different conceivable actions cannot be anticipated. 

What economists say when they study externalities is precisely that this work of cleansing, of disconnection, in short, of framing, is never over and that in reality it is impossible to take it to a conclusion. There are always relations which defy framing. It is for these relations which remain outside the frame that economists reserve the term externalities. The latter denotes everything which the agents do not take into account and which enables them to conclude their calculations. But one needs to go further than that. When after having identified some of these externalities, the agents, in keeping with the predictions of Coase’s famous theorem, decide to reframe them – in other words to internalize the externalities – other externalities appear. Callon, in his contribution, suggests the term ‘overflowing’ to denote this impossibility of total framing. Any frame is necessarily subject to overflowing. It is by framing its property rights by means of a public patent that a pharmaceutical firm produces externalities and creates overflowing. It is by purifying the products that it markets that a chemical firm creates the by-products which escape its control. 

The impossibility of eliminating all overflowing has, in reality, a profound reason discussed by Callon in his chapter. To ensure that a contract is not broken, to delimit the actions that can be undertaken within the framework of this contract, the agents concerned have to mobilize a whole range of elements, called, to use Leigh Star’s expression, boundary-objects (Star and Griesemer, 1989). These objects allow the framing and stabilization of actions, while simultaneously providing an opening on to other worlds, thus constituting leakage points where overflowing can occur. (…) 

The framing/overflowing duo suggests a move towards economic anthropology and more specifically towards the entangled objects of Thomas and the career of objects of Appadurai (Appadurai, 1986). The latter shows that the status of goods can change, that they can be commoditized, decommoditized and recommoditized, etc.: one is not born a commodity, one becomes it. (…) 

This notion of entanglement is very useful, for it is both theoretical and practical. It enables us to think and describe the process of ‘marketization’, which like a process of framing or disentanglement, implies investments and precise actions to cut certain ties and to internalize others. The advantage is that this analysis applies to anything and enables one to escape the risk of essentialism. To entangle and to disentangle are two opposite movements which explain how we move away from or closer to the market regime. No calculation is possible without this framing which allows one to provide a clear list of entities, states of the world, possible actions and expected outcome of these actions.

M. Callon, “Introduction,” in The Laws of the Markets, M. Callon, Ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998, pp.17–19.

vendredi 16 mai 2014

Guidelines & Plotlines.

Marc A. Reynolds, Minor Third Series: Harmonics, 2011.

The line of Culture

In algebra, a line is defined by the equation of any two terms, each of which is the product of a constant and the first power of a variable. It might be expressed by the formula ax + by = 0, where a and b are constants, and x and y variables. Plotting the possible values of the two variables by means of Cartesian co-ordinates, the result is a line that is perfectly straight. Other, more complex algebraic functions yield figures of the kind mathematicians call curves. For example, the equation y2 = 4ax generates a parabola. Equations of this kind are called non-linear, even though the curves they specify are composed of lines. It seems as though the quality of straightness has become somehow fundamental to the recognition of lines as lines, not just in the specialized field of mathematics but much more widely. Yet there is no reason, intrinsic to the line itself, why it should be straight. We have already encountered plenty of instances where it is not. Thus our question becomes a historical one: how and why did the line become straight? 

In Western societies, straight lines are ubiquitous. We see them everywhere, even when they do not really exist. Indeed the straight line has emerged as a virtual icon of modernity, an index of the triumph of rational, purposeful design over the vicissitudes of the natural world. The relentlessly dichotomizing dialectic of modern thought has, at one time or another, associated straightness with mind as against matter, with rational thought as against sensory perception, with intellect as against intuition, with science as against traditional knowledge, with male as against female, with civilization as against primitiveness, and – on the most general level – with culture as against nature. It is not difficult to find examples of every one of these associations. 

Thus we suppose that protean matter, being the physical stuff it is, has a texture revealed to close inspection as a mass of almost chaotically tangled threads. We saw in Chapter 2 that the word ‘tissue’ – applied to the materials of living things – carries a similar connotation. This is the stuff we feel with our senses. But we imagine that, in the formation of interior mental representations of the material world, the shapes of things are projected onto the surface of the mind – much as in perspective drawing they are projected onto the picture plane – along straight lines modelled on rectilinear rays of light. And if the lines along which light travels are straight, then so are the ways of enlightenment. The man of reason, wrote Le Corbusier, the supreme architect of rectilinearity in modern urban design, ‘walks in a straight line because he has a goal and knows where he is going, he has made up his mind to reach some particular place and goes straight to it’ (Le Corbusier 1924: 274). As he walks, so he thinks, proceeding without hesitation or deviation from point to point. What Ong calls the ‘sparsely linear’ logic of the modern analytic intellect has often been compared in this vein with the more circuitous, mytho-poetic intuitions attributed to people in ‘traditional’ societies, and above all to those without writing of any kind (Ong 1982: 40). Through this comparison, ‘thinking straight’ comes to be regarded as characteristic of literate science as against oral tradition. Moreover, since the straight line can be specified by numerical values, it becomes an index of quantitative rather than qualitative knowledge. ‘Its function’, as Billeter notes, ‘is to separate, to define, to order, to measure, to express number and proportion’ (Billeter 1990: 47). (...) 

Guidelines and plotlines 

In earlier chapters, following de Certeau, I have shown how the modern maker or author envisions himself as though he were confronting a blank surface, like an empty page or a wasteland, upon which he intends to impose an assembly of his own design. The straight line is implicated in this vision in two quite distinct ways: first, in the constitution of the surface itself; secondly, in the construction of the assembly to be laid upon it. For the first,imagine a rigid line that is progressively displaced along its entire length, in a direction orthogonal to it. As it moves, it sweeps or rolls out the surface of a plane (Klee 1961: 112–13). For the second, imagine that the plane is marked with points, and that these points are joined up to form a diagram. This, in a nutshell, is the relation between our two manifestations of the straight line. One is intrinsic to the plane, as its constitutive element; the other is extrinsic, in that its erasure would still leave the plane intact. In what follows, and for reasons that will become evident as we proceed, I shall call lines of the first kind guidelines, and those of the second plotlines. A few familiar examples will help to clarify the distinction. 

In the assembly line of modern manufacture, the surface upon which the assembly takes shape is literally rolled out in the movement of the conveyor belt. On the surface of this belt, components are joined together in the construction, piece by piece, of the final product. Here, the unrolling line of the belt is a guideline; the joints of the construction are plotlines. However, the first assembly line, as Ong has pointed out, ‘was not one that produced stoves or shoes or weaponry, but one which produced the printed book’ (Ong 1982: 118). In printing it is the job of the compositor to assemble the blocks of type on a composing stick before placing them in the galley. The line of assembled type is a plotline, but the straight, raised edges of the composing stick and the galley, against which the type rests, are guidelines. Of course, on the printed page, neither guidelines nor plotlines are visible as such. On the modern musical score, however, we can see both. Here the five parallel lines of the ruled stave are guidelines that establish a space, arrayed on the dimensions of pitch and tempo, on which the values of individual notes can be plotted. The ligatures connecting successive notes into phrases are then plotlines. ‘Musical notation’, as Kandinsky observed, ‘is nothing other than different combinations of points and lines’; however it should be added that the lines, respectively, forming the stave and joining the notes are of an entirely different character and significance (Kandinsky 1982: 618–19). 

Next, imagine a modern scientific graph. The lines of the graph, drawn with a ruler, connect points, each of which has been plotted by means of co-ordinates on the surface of the page. To facilitate this, the page itself is ruled with fine lines in two parallel sets, running respectively horizontally and vertically. These are guidelines that effectively establish the page as a two-dimensional space. And the lines connecting the points of the graph are plotlines. When graphs are reproduced in published texts, the original guidelines usually vanish, such that the plotlines figure against a plain white back- ground. It is as though they had been swallowed up by the very surface they have brought into being. All that remain are the straight lines marking the axes of co-ordinates. Yet they are still followed implicitly when we ‘read’ the graph, running our eyes or fingers either up or across to reach each point. It is rather the same with a cartographic map. Here the ruled lines of latitude and longitude are guidelines that enable the navigator to plot a course from one location to another. 

T. Ingold, Lines: a brief history. London; New York: Routledge, 2007, pp.152-153 & 155-156.

vendredi 9 mai 2014

Technical Steps.

Professor Bourbaki, IMG_0291, 2013.

Local practices form the place of origin of novelty and new technical knowledge. New technologies emerge as small technical steps in response to local problems, and only later give rise to new technical trajectories. Thus, both new artefacts and knowledge emerge through localised work. But local technical knowledge does not simply flow to other locations, as if it were a discrete entity. Before knowledge can circulate, it has to be made sufficiently context-free. (…) To create generic knowledge that can circulate, dedicated socio-cognitive work is needed to bring about a process of aggregation. “Aggregation” is the process of transforming local knowledge into robust knowledge, which is sufficiently general, abstracted and packaged, so that it is no longer tied to specific contexts. (…) 

Typical aggregation activities include standardisation, model building, writing of handbooks, formulation of best practices. Also codification, a term used by economists to describe the transformation of tacit into codified knowledge, is part of aggregation. (…) 

Codification means recording in a “codebook” and involves model building, language creation and message writing. While codification highlights the “coding” aspect of dynamics, aggregation also emphasises the “de-localisation” aspect. Aggregation refers to a broader socio-cognitive process of which codification is an aspect. 

Aggregation entails the production of a collective good: abstract knowledge that can be used by others. Because of free-rider problems, participation in aggregation processes is not self-evident. Why would you contribute to the build-up of a collective knowledge reservoir and share experiences with others, especially when they are competitors? Without proper arrangements or incentive structures, such collective goods will not be produced optimally, because they can be used by others who have not contributed to its production (Deuten, 2003). An important arrangement is the creation of intermediary actors, for example, professional societies, industry associations, standardisation organisations. Such intermediary actors may be created when actors perceive themselves as part of an emerging community with collective interests. In that case, perceived benefits of producing a collective good may outweigh perceived disadvantages. 

Intermediary actors may perform aggregation activities, because they have special responsibilities and roles. Standardisation organisations, for instance, are responsible for creating and maintaining a collective reservoir of (standardised) technical knowledge (Schmidt and Werle, 1998). Professional societies and industry associations also stimulate and facilitate the production and circulation of technical knowledge. They may create technical standards, articulate problem agendas, and exchange experiences and findings to further the interests of the (emergent) field as a whole. Also firms that travel between local practices may aggregate knowledge. Engineering firms or sector research institutes, for instance, are hired by other firms to perform certain jobs. They can compare experiences in different locations, reflect on differences and draw general conclusions. They can use this aggregated knowledge for other jobs in different locations. Initially, they may aggregate their experiences for intra-organisational purposes only. But they may also be willing to share (parts of) their knowledge reservoirs to enhance their reputation and visibility in relevant forums. 

Aggregation activities by intermediary actors do not revolve around finding technological solutions for local, specific problems, but rather around the creation, maintenance and distribution of generic, abstracted knowledge that can be used throughout a technological field (Rip, 1997; Deuten, 2003). So there is a division of cognitive labour: practical technical work in local practices, and dedicated aggregation activities to transform local experiences into global knowledge. Intermediary actors work at this global level. Intermediary actors are not always present from the start. They are often created as part of the emergence of a new technical community. Also the creation of an infrastructure for circulation and aggregation processes is important. Such an infrastructure consists of forums that enable (and induce) the gathering and interaction of actors, the exchange of experiences and the organisation of collective action. Examples of such forums are conferences, seminars, workshops, technical journals, proceedings, and so on. The creation of these forums tends to be part of community formation processes.

F. Geels and J. J. Deuten, “Local and global dynamics in technological development: a socio-cognitive perspective on knowledge flows and lessons from reinforced concrete,” Sci. Public Policy, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 265–275, May 2006.

vendredi 2 mai 2014

Innovation Regime.

Professor Bourbaki, IMG_0510, 2013.

Markets as Techno-economic Networks of Interactive/Strategic (Economizing) Agents. The new innovation regime outlined earlier is attended by a change in the forms of organization of economic activity. This change consists of two contradictory trends: the creation of collectives in which distributed actions are deployed, and the strengthening of individual agencies considered to be sources of the action.

First, the new innovation regime accentuates the collective dimension of the innovation process. Demands for singularization, assemblage, socialization, reactivity and adaptation imply the participation of countless groups of diversified and heterogeneous actors. The most noteworthy are researchers who work in public or semi-public laboratories, consumers or users – actors as individuals or as organized groups – all the professionals of commercialization of products, subcontracting firms or allies, government authorities that regulate, and civil society.

The notion of an innovation network aptly describes this form of market organization. It is a question of saying, not that any market can be analysed as a network, as in the new economic sociology, but rather that markets are explicitly organized in the form of networks which allow the coordination of a large number of heterogeneous actors who define one another through the circulation of intermediaries. To denote this type of organization I have proposed the term techno-economic networks (Callon, 1992). I will therefore refer to it as “Markets as TEN” (or, interchangeably, markets as networks of innovation).

Markets as TEN have often been described: plunging into the academic world, linking up firms to one another, mobilizing a host of professions that commercialize innovations, relying on government administrations or public agencies and, finally, enrolling consumers or customers to whom these innovations are proposed and who readily become attached to them (DeBresson and Amesse, 1991; Powell et al., 1996). These networks are dynamic; they can be reconfigured, depending on what alliances are mobilized, what innovations are designed and which customers are to be captured. When consumers hesitate between two cars, two fruit juices or two package holidays proposed by tour operators, they see only the offer being made to them. But that offer is simply the extremity of a deep, extensive and diversified network that has been mobilized for that particular offer, which differs from others. If they turn the page of the catalogue or prefer Nissan to Toyota, they are trading off one network against another. The collective process of designing innovations, organizing production and soliciting customers increasingly involves competition between networks with evolving configurations.

The second characteristic of the innovation regime which eventually prevails and favours forms of collective (interactive) organizations, is the fact that this regime also, simultaneously and in a contradictory way, favours the appearance and dissemination of new forms of economic agency that accentuate the influence of individualism in economic life.

To describe this evolution of economic agencies, it is convenient to distinguish, in a very sketchy provisional way, between successive versions of economizing agents – or, if one prefers, of Homo economicus: the first version, or version 1.0, corresponds to the Taylorist world of production and consumption already mentioned; the second, version 2.0, to an interactive world in which the network and the project become dominant. The Taylorist version of economizing agents is well known. It denotes individual agents whose behavioural norms are set by others (heteronomy), in a world where strict discipline is imposed, and actions and interactions are planned. This model applies equally to the world of production and to that of consumption. With the interactive model, clearly described by Andrew Barry, Homo economicus opens up and becomes autonomous (Barry, 2001). Whether he is a producer or a consumer, he is prompted to develop projects, to take initiatives, to interact with his environment in order to reorient his actions, and to play strategic games. Finally, he is accountable for what he does. Both cases concern the same anthropological model focused on an individual who calculates his interests and optimizes his behaviours and choices. But from one model to the next the competencies have changed; some would say they have been enhanced. Homo economicus 2.0 is caught up in a logic of constant innovation; he is summoned to innovate. Boltanski and Chiapello (2006) have suggested that the notion of a project was at the heart of this new economic configuration: it links the collective dimension of innovation (the project group) to its individual dimension (Homo economicus 2.0). This growing importance of the interactive diagram applies as much to consumption (Von Hippel, 2004) as it does to production. Techno-economic networks are networks of interactive autonomous innovative agencies.

This new form of market organization is leading to more and more overflowings and to a stronger framing process. This tendency is accentuated by changes in the content of the technosciences, which we will examine for each of the sources of matters of concern. 

M. Callon, “An Essay on the Growing Contribution of Economic Markets to the Proliferation of the Social,” Theory Cult. Soc., vol. 24, no. 7–8, pp. 139–163, Dec. 2007.