Design for Living Complexities

  • A Collaborative Exploration (CE) that explores how to bring critical thinking into the heart of design education.
  • In brief, CEs are an extension of Problem- or Project-Based Learning and related approaches to education in which participants address a scenario or case in which the problems are not well defined, shaping their own directions of inquiry and developing their skills as investigators and prospective teachers (in the broadest sense of the word). (For more background, read the prospectus.)
  • If you want to participate, read more. (Eventually you'll get to the link to the form for applying.)
  • If you want to know what a CE requires of you, review the expectations and mechanics.
    • on hangout for 1 hour each Thursday at 4pm July 11, 18, 25 & August 1. The URL for the first hangout will be provided only to those who apply, which entails making a commitment to attend that 1st session and at least 2 of the other 3 hangouts.
  • If you are wondering how to define a meaningful and useful line of inquiry on the topic above, let us present a scenario for the CE and hope this stimulates you to apply to participate. We will then let CE participants judge for themselves whether their inquiries are relevant.

The Critical & Creative Thinking graduate program has always been about reflective practice and not purely about thinking. However, because the practice emphasis has rarely dealt explicity with the materiality of the world, the Program decided to develop a course on design. In order to give the course a distinctive character, moreover one not tied to a specific field (e.g., graphics, architecture, furniture,..), the provisional idea was to connect design with critical thinking. While not exactly a crowdsourcing of the course, this CE seeks to inform the thinking of the course designers. CE participants are invited to draw on what is already happening in design education so as to develop units that a) interest them personally and b) bring critical thinking into the heart of design education. Ways to flesh out and refine the initial description created by the Program for the course are also welcome:
  • Design is about intentionality in construction, which involves a range of materials, a sequence of steps, and principles that inform the choice of material and the steps. Design always involves putting people as well as materials into place, which may happen by working with the known properties of the people and materials, trying out new arrangements, or working around their constraints (at least temporarily).
  • Critical thinking involves understanding ideas and practices better when we examine them in relation to alternatives. This course exposes and explores alternative designs through history (showing that things have by no means always been the way they are now), "archeology of the present" (shedding light on what we might have taken for granted or left as someone else's responsibility/specialty), comparison (looking at the ways things are arranged in different organizations and cultures), and ill-defined problems (in cases of real-world "living complexity" that invite a range of responses).

Intended outcomes of this inquiry are of two kinds:
  • a) tangible: a written document consisting of contributions to a set of principles for critical thinking in design; and
  • b) experiential: being impressed at how much can be learned with a small commitment of time using the CE structure to motivate and connect participants.

CE: expectations and mechanics

Whatever thread of inquiry participants pursue in any specific Collaborative Exploration (CE), your posts and contribution to live sessions should aim to stimulate and guide the learning of other participants, and build towards the final tangible product described in the scenario. The complementary, "experiential" goal is to be impressed at how much can be learned with a small commitment of time using the CE structure to motivate and connect participants.

The CE will take place over 22 days and consists of four sessions spaced one week apart, in which a small group interacts in real time live via google hangout for 60 minutes.* The day and time is arranged to fit the schedules of applicants, but often 9-10am, 4-5, 5-6 or 6-7pm to maximize the coverage of international time zones. Participants spend time between sessions on self-directed inquiry on the case, sharing of inquiries-in-progress, and reflecting on the process (which typically involves shifts in participants' definition of what they want to find out and how). Prospective participants are asked not to sign up if they cannot guarantee live participation in most of the sessions and an equivalent amount of time between sessions spent on the case. (Sessions will be available as a private unlisted youtube for participants who have to miss once.) A public google+ community, open beyond the small group, allows interested people to view and respond to any posts posted by the small group, which may, in turn, draw on them in their private discussions. The structure of each live CE session is predefined, but the CE builds in room for participants to take stock so as to inform future proposals for improvements in these structures.

To register to participate: complete

  • * The URL for the hangout supplied via a private google+ community. Everyone who has registered will get an invitation to join that community. Hangout participation requires a headset, a google+ or gmail account, installation of the audio and video plugins, and a reliable internet connection (preferably not wifi). It also requires being ready to start by the set time and muting your mic when not talking.