Monday, September 27, 2010

Book comment: Paul Virilio "The Original Accident"

I have for many years liked the ideas of Paul Virilio. He is a fascinating and highly challenging thinker. Unfortunately his writings are quite complex and sometimes erratic. I am at the moment trying to read his "The Original Accident" published in English in 2007. I am intentionally writing "trying to read" since it does take work and effort without any promise of success in increased understanding.

Virilio is highly self centered and seems quite uninterested in others ideas and theories. Anyway, the basic idea in his writings is that "speed" is a dangerous power in our society. This is such a simple and powerful idea. Based on the idea of speed he also argues that every technology carries its own inherent accident or even distaster. He writes that the accident is "an invention in the sense of uncovering what was hidden, just waiting to happen". The airplane has the crash built in, the nuclear power plant has a Chernobyl accident built in, etc. The accident is "integral" to the technology itself. He argues that in our society we (especially researchers and engineers) o not put enough energy into uncovering the integral disasters in technology. He blames "the poor progress of 'scientific' knowledge" (p. 7).

He also addresses information technology. He is a brilliant thinker while at the same time obscure. For instance, this is how he explains what globalization leads to when supported by new technology. "If interactivity is to information what radioactivity is toe energy -- a contamination and disintegrating capability -- then the integral accident in time causes conflicts in the socius and its intelligibility to accumulate, making the whole world opaque little by little." (p. 53). Well, there you go, interpret that!

Anyway, still, Virilio is fascinating and has ideas that are intriguing and well worth the struggle....

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Design theory and rationality

In my class on design theory we read some of the more influential design thinkers for the last decades. Tonight I read an article that I will talk about tomorrow. I did use this paper last year too, but did not read it carefully. Tonight I did--and what a great paper. The author is Armand Hatchuel and the article is "Towards Design Theory and Expandable Rationality: The Unfinished Program of Herbert Simon" ( Journal of Management and Governance Volume 5, Numbers 3-4, 260-273, DOI: 10.1023/A:1014044305704).

Hatchuel analyzes the work of Simon especially his notion of "bounded rationality". Hatchuel discusses the problematic issues with Simon's approach and makes a wonderful argument where he shows that Simon is  "stuck" in a problem solving paradigm where "design" is seen as a special case of problem solving, while in fact it is the opposite. Hatchuel develops this arguement in an elegant way and presents his own notion of "expandable rationality" which opens up for a nice definition of design as an approach with its own rationality. Looking forward to class tomorrow when we get a chance to discuss this paper. Anyone who is interested in what makes design unique in relation to problem-solving should read this paper.

Featured Post

Why Design Thinking is Not Enough

If you go to Youtube and look for "design thinking" you will find a large number of videos with TED talks and other talks all expl...