Double Consciousness: Back to the future with John Chris Jones
NextD Journal | ReRethinking Design. Conversation 26. One of 30 action research conversations that informed the creation of NextD Geographies and the NextD Complexity Ladder. GK VanPatter in conversation with John Chris Jones. Double Consciousness: Back to the future with John Chris Jones. Originally published by NextDesign Leadership Institute in 2006.
NextD Journal RERETHINKING DESIGN 26 Double Consciousness: Back to the Future with John Chris Jones John Chris Jones Author: Design Methods, Softopia Digital Diary GK VanPatter Co-Founder, NextDesign Leadership Institute Co-Founder, Humantific Making Sense of Cross-Disciplinary Innovation NextDesign Leadership Institute DEFUZZ THE FUTURE! www.nextd.org Follow NextD Journal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nextd Copyright © 2006 NextDesign Leadership Institute. All Rights Reserved. NextD Journal may be quoted freely with proper reference credit. If you wish to repost, reproduce or retransmit any of this text for commercial use please send a copyright permission request to firstname.lastname@example.org NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness 1 GK VanPatter: Welcome, John Chris. I am delighted that we have been able to connect and get started on this. Where is your stomping ground these days? John Chris Jones: Thank you for inviting me to take part in your Conversations. I am pleased to do so. Nowadays I live and write on my website (or public writing place), and on Hampstead Heath and other outdoor places where most of it is written. (http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk) I like this new freedom to write one’s thoughts in public and out-of-doors, now open to anyone who can read and write on a handheld computer, free of the economic pressure that limits printed writing to what can sell enough copies to pay for the process of manufacturing them. On the Internet the writer does the typography, the reader manufactures the copy, and thus public writing is decentralized and freed from central control. Perhaps this is a model that other industrial processes will eventually follow? 2 GK VanPatter: Excuse my ignorance, but is Hampstead Heath outside of London? John Chris Jones: It’s within London, I call it a “city forest” as much of it is wild and it is nearer to the center than to the outer edge of the city. The conjunction of city and forest, artifice and nature, is perhaps the theme of what I am writing. 3 GK VanPatter: For our readers around the world who might not be familiar with your publishing platform, how do you describe its focus and purpose? John Chris Jones: My public writing place is the website, softopia, which includes an extensive “digital diary” and other things. I write the diary out-of-doors, usually on the Heath. The “other things” are too various to describe in a sentence or a paragraph. See “bird’s eye view,” http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/birdseyeview.html “daffodil” is a monthly newsletter in which I list new additions to softopia and discuss them. http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/daffodils.html As to focus and purpose, these are things I seem to avoid. I like to write whatever comes to mind. You might say that my purpose is to pay attention to “everything” or to widen the range of things thought to be relevant to “the design of life as it is” or “as it could be.” But my immediate purpose is to enjoy the process of writing! Page 2 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness 4 GK VanPatter: Yesterday I was working at home while watching a wonderful program about da Vinci (“Leonardo’s Dream Machines” on PBS). Regardless of how many times I see Leonardo’s story, it always amazes me that he was engaged in such intense and wide ranging observation of his surroundings while inventing and designing so much that was future forward. He is most often thought of in inventive terms, but certainly he was one of the most amazing designers to ever visit the planet. I had a little chuckle when they showed a reenactment where Leonardo was dissecting cadavers in his studio as part of his observation and study of human anatomy and “nature”. What an amazing mind. During his lifetime most humans around him likely had no idea what he was doing or why. Today we know a lot about Leonardo, but evidently only a small fraction of his output materials survive. Imagine all of the great things he designed that have been lost. You strike me as the kind of person who has always cast a wide net in your thinking, studies, work and writing. Who inspired you when you were young and who inspires you to do what you do now? John Chris Jones: I remember being inspired by several books: Le Pou de Ciel (The Flying Flea) by Henri Mignet, The Autobiography of Frank Lloyd Wright, Technics and Civilization by Lewis Mumford, The Modular by Le Corbusier, The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin, Education Through Art by Herbert Read and Designing for People by Henry Dreyfuss. Much later I was influenced by John Cage and by now I have read and collected many of his books, along with those of Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, Marcel Proust, and Ezra Pound. All of these, and particularly Henry David Thoreau, inspire me to attempt what I did, or do now. But I suspect it is difficult to know what really influences one. Leonardo da Vinci does not inspire me as much as do the works of Marcel Duchamp and others who question humanism. Perhaps I was most influenced by Edwin Schlossberg who is younger than I am and whose ideas and work can be seen at http://www.esidesign.com. I was also much influenced by my father, a religious and poetically-minded teacher of physics. He taught me to appreciate the invisible technologies of electricity and aerodynamics. I like very much to deal with intangible things. My father rather forced me into science, but I never learned mathematics properly and always got higher marks in literature. My mother influenced me through her liveliness, humor, good taste and skepticism about academics. There is a description at http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/chronology.html of childhood projects to build a hut (which leaked), an air raid shelter (which was not needed), a canoe (which sank immediately), and a shadow cinema (without film) between the ages of about 10 and 15. Page 3 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness Later at secondary school, I co-edited a form magazine and organized a most unmusical band with junk shop instruments. I think that these childhood projects inspired me more than books did. Websites I like can be seen at: http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/websites_i_like.html. They are mostly by web artists and web writers. 5 GK VanPatter: Thoreau is one of my favorite inspirations as well. Years ago as an undergraduate student I studied his life and work as it relates to design theory and the work of Buckminster Fuller in particular. As you probably know there are many connections between Thoreau and Fuller. Among other things, Fuller seems to have been inspired by Thoreau and the nineteenth century New England Transcendentalists. As you well know, inside Transcendentalism the notions of inclusion, world citizenship, environmentalism, simplicity, resistance to industrialization, fighting against injustice and the quest for a higher truth all make an appearance. Sara Margaret Fuller, a member of the Transcendentalists was Fuller’s great-aunt. Like any great designer, Fuller seems to have picked up fragments from many sources – historical and contemporary – while weaving his own approach to life and to design. As a young student of design I was for a long time very interested in the underlying structure of Thoreau’s writing. Let’s call it the architecture or design. I was delighted to find that he thought about the architecture of his output in addition to the thinking expressed within. That was an early “aha” that I still carry around with me today. Poetically, metaphorically, rhythmically there are so many great nuggets that can be seen reflected in Fuller’s work, particularly in Walden. This is one of my favorite Thoreau quotes: “Our voyaging is only great circle sailing.” What is it about Thoreau that you find relevant to your work today? John Chris Jones: What comes to mind is his precedent of writing out-of-doors, or in his hut in the woods. I think he remarks somewhere about the different range of thoughts that arrive on his pages when he is reacting to the complex surroundings of a forest (as opposed to writing in a room separated by walls from the outdoors). I am reminded now of what Rabindranath Tagore wrote: “The civilization of ancient Greece was nurtured within city walls . . .These walls leave their mark deep in the minds of men. . . .We divide nation and nation, knowledge and knowledge, man and nature . . . .In India it was in the forests that our civilization had its birth . . .It was surrounded by the vast life of nature . . . To realize this great harmony between man’s spirit and the spirit of the world was the endeavor of the forest-dwelling sages of ancient India.” Page 4 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness (From pages 3-4 of Rabindranath Tagore’s book of essays, Sadhana, Macmillan & Co, London, 1913) I am glad to be living at a time when it is possible via a handheld computer to write outof-doors in a digitized form that can be immediately made visible to anyone in any place, thus breaking through the obstacles of both indoor writing and print publishing. If Thoreau had lived now, he need not have kept unsold copies of his books in his attic. He could have published his vast journal himself, day by day, in the act of writing it. Once it’s digitized, it’s public! 6 GK VanPatter: I wonder about this myself sometimes. As I look at the blogsphere writing I wonder what it is that we are really looking at. From the method perspective I wonder if we are looking at apples and apples or something more equivalent to seeds and apples. The blogsphere contains terabytes and terabytes of writing, but what kind of writing is it? Having studied the underlying structural design of Walden, I can see that we are not looking at rough, directly-out-of-the-brain notes, but rather a finely crafted piece, layered, interconnected and whole. Walden took nine years to create, seven of which occurred after the actual woodland experience. It is difficult for the brain to produce such works without extensive reflection, crafting, reworking and refinements. Very little in the blogsphere takes on this form. Most of it strikes me as early-stage expression, the equivalent of rough sketches. The value of immediacy has superseded the value of the kind of crafting that we see in works such as Walden. Had Henry David produced Walden on a blog, it would look quite different, I’m sure. Without doubt, technology-enabled immediacy is having a huge impact on the type of writing that we are seeing in the public realm. I’m not sure where that leads to, but it seems clear that volume from the blogsphere is already changing our 21st century notions of what writing is and needs to be today. Before we move on, let me ask you one more question about writing in the woods. One can look at that as an interest in getting outside of walls and closer to nature and/or as an act of stepping away from an industrialized world. When Thoreau stepped away to Walden Pond for two years, he was a young man attempting to get his thoughts together. From a communications perspective, he stepped away from the mass communications of his era and from day-to-day communication with most other humans. He later emerged from the woods and did a lot more writing. Many years later and inspired by the Thoreau model, a young Bucky Fuller stepped away and tried not to speak to anyone but his wife for two years. He eventually emerged and began the career of invention that made him famous. You are at a very different point in your life and already famous. Help me understand Page 5 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness how this fits with where you are in your life. Is stepping away a methodology that you have always used in your life? Was it part of your earlier life? John Chris Jones: Yes, I’ve always written “notes to myself” and now the Internet has made it possible to write these among the things to which they refer. When I do this on a handheld computer (knowing that it will be accessible to people anywhere), offstage notes become the final text. It’s as if formal design methods and intuitive designing had become a single process. You can see an early example of writing out-of-doors in a 1984 piece called “a duck flying” (http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/duckflying.html). I wrote it both as carefully and as quickly as anything I’ve ever written on paper just after a duck flew past me. Later, I edited it slightly for publication while trying to make evident the immediacy of seeing-and-thinking-and-writing as one action. It is not only about the flight of a duck, it is also about the design of aircraft and the organization of industrial life! Re-reading it now, I realize that only at the high speed of the nervous system and intuition (and not at the slow speed of rational analysis and composition) is it possible to “integrate (in a flash of insight.” So that may be a reason why I am drawn to writing outdoors among the things written of in apparent haste. Only under such conditions is it possible for intuitions (well-informed by the surroundings as well as by previous rational thought and study) to connect with and to re-integrate or to extend “the whole” as we call it. As I edit this, I am aware that the words are not quite flowing in that favored way this morning. So that may be why I can’t fully explain why I write the way I do, but I greatly enjoy it. Tom Mitchell said recently that the digital diary brings together into one action things that I’ve previously attempted to do separately (and perhaps failed?). I notice that Walden, though well-crafted and organized, is perhaps less lively and less informed by detailed perceptions than is Thoreau’s journal, which seems to me more spontaneous as well as more accurate! I doubt if most people who write blogging diaries are attempting to integrate their thoughts and perceptions. To me, they seem to be writing of personal experiences and feelings. I, however, am writing of external things and with a purpose: the forest, the city that surrounds it, the books I’m reading, and life itself as it happens among insects, leaves, animals, people, organizations, and in literature. No wonder I can’t explain it. It’s just too much for rational thought! As I try (and perhaps fail) to reply to your question, I remember a description of “the leap of insight” on page 47 of Design Methods; http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/design_methods_editions.html, but its too long to quote here. Page 6 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness 7 GK VanPatter: Understood. I greatly appreciate you sharing that with us. I can see part of what I was looking for there. The other part is deeper, even earlier, more difficult to reach and perhaps too personal, but I might as well take this opportunity to ask anyway. Do you know Alice Miller’s work? Among other things, she writes about the manifestation of subconscious experiences into the conscious world, how the events of childhood often impact creativity later in life. For many years, I have been interested in how childhood experiences come to impact designers: their outlooks, aptitudes, and methodologies. I am curious about what is underneath the activities of stepping away and writing notes. You obviously have great interest in it and have very high aptitude for it. The act of stepping away to somewhere else and/or splitting off is something that children often learn to do when faced with prolonged challenging conditions in one form or another. For some kids, this is part of their coping strategy. Some later integrate this methodology into their lives, sometimes into their profession. Design is one of those professions that is conducive to such activity. As you well know, in many instances design methodology encompasses some aspect of stepping away (from conventionality). This is a difficult question. Looking back, long before the Internet and your journal to your own childhood, do you see anything there, anything that you experienced personally as a child that might connect to stepping away? From your perspective, what are the roots of this activity in your own life? John Chris Jones: I don’t remember being mistreated as a child, rather the reverse. I think I was lucky! I don’t see design methods as a stepping away. To become aware of one’s methods is not to retreat from, but to look beyond an existing situation; to widen, not narrow one’s perceptions and actions so that the situation can be improved. Without something of this kind, only small improvements are possible. When you ask me to think of aspects of my childhood that may have led me to write notes (about design methods or anything else) I think it was that I liked writing and speaking in public and did not like being told what to do. I always felt I was on the side of the angels – perhaps the fallen ones who disobey god! What you call “stepping away” is to me the error of all of us as instruments or victims of an incapable society, governed by hierarchy, mechanization and other such blindnesses, a divided culture that forces us to act more narrowly and less imaginatively than we are capable of doing. Instead of blaming early upbringing, I tend to blame the narrowness of industrial society and the pressure to specialize and to refuse responsibility for the situation as a whole. Page 7 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness 8 GK VanPatter: There are lots of young designers reading your Design Methods book today who might not really understand the original context in which you conceived and wrote the book. First published in 1970, what was the original intention of Design Methods? Was there something going on or not going on at that time in the design community, engineering community, Design Methods community or in the world in general that gave rise to you creating Design Methods? John Chris Jones: To answer this question I think of myself not only as someone at a drawing board or a computer screen or as an academic, but as one of the billions who is living in a natural world that is being changed by technology (through the actions of designers, among others). I am thinking of myself as a “consumer” or as a “user” of the products of design and also as one who is suffering from its often damaging and unintended side-effects – while benefiting from its extensions of life. For instance, the geographic freedom of owning a car has many negative side effects: traffic congestion, road accidents, air pollution, noise, and the like. None of these problems can be solved visually or mechanically on a drawing board. They call for more wide-ranging processes that are not blind to the conditions that they create. This shift of attention from product to process was characteristic of the twentieth century. It was evident in the arts, the sciences, and in practical affairs. For instance, method acting, serial music, work study, stream-of-consciousness novel writing, the science of science, group dynamics, war gaming. Design methods was the form this took in the world of design. 9 GK VanPatter: Looking across the 35+ years in which Design Methods has been in use in multiple languages, what from your perspective is the biggest misconception about Design Methods? John Chris Jones: I can think of several misconceptions that may have stopped people using the new methods effectively. The first is to retain the narrow product-thinking roles that the new methods are meant to widen. One can’t use wide-ranging methods in practice unless job descriptions are changed. For instance, chief designers have to cease making all the main decisions themselves (while delegating only sub-problems to the others). They now have to use formal methods that enable everyone concerned (clients, sponsors, designers, experts, users, protesters, and all others who may The role of the chief designer changes from shaping the design to shaping and managing the design process. Everyone else’s role will change accordingly. Page 8 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness Another great misconception is to separate reason from intuition instead of integrating these two ways of thought. If reason dominates, imagination vanishes or rebels. Creative thinking cannot be boxed in but if intuition is badly informed, it is misleading or useless. I think it follows from these two observations that the right way to combine rational with imaginative thought is to put intuition first and then to use reason and experiment to support it and to test it. The other way round is hopeless. Another misconception is to think that wide-ranging problems can be solved by teams of experts uninformed in each other’s skills and knowledge. The gaps between specialists are not likely to be crossed by discussions between experts, but they can be crossed by single minds, each of whom has practical experience of two or more disciplines. Multidisciplinary teams need interdisciplinary education and experience. Learning how to mix disciplines is an indescribable process that can occur within the immense flexibility of an informed brain and nervous system – not in the narrower and far less flexible process of discussion in existing language, or in the jargon of specialists who may not understand each other. You could say that design methods are formal languages and procedures that can enable us all to collaborate both creatively and scientifically in the transformation of nature, of which we are a part. A first step towards this is to widen our perceptions, our processes, and our roles. To transform our professions and ourselves. Not easy. 10 GK VanPatter: It strikes me that Design Methods is not always understood to be a compilation piece. I believe the sense-making aspect of your work on Design Methods is likely not widely known. I understand that it took you a couple of years to translate various contributors’ abstract academic language into understandable form. Since our UnderstandingLab is in the sense-making business, I have great appreciation for that part of your efforts. :-) Our ULab team does a lot of work on idea and process models with multiple authors so I know how complicated that can get. Beyond that I am interested in the state of the process visualizations before you came along. Can you tell us a little about this aspect of Design Methods? How many process contributors in total contributed to Design Methods, and what state were their ideas on process in when you became involved? Did you have to sit and listen to them talk about methods and then do your visual sense-making? Or did they already have some form of process visualizations? John Chris Jones: Yes, Design Methods is certainly a compilation of methods proposed and described by others. I began the book as a description of my own perceptions of designing, but that didn’t flow well so I decided to write a catalogue of the best methods I could find. Once I’d made this difficult change, the writing flowed and everything fell into place. (“Going back to square one” is perhaps my favorite design method!) The process of doing this was first to collect and read the proceedings of the early conferences on design methods and theories, as well as books and papers on such subjects as brainstorming, synectics, creative psychology, creative engineering, systems Page 9 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness engineering, value analysis, decision theory, sociological research methods, ergonomics and market research. (The many sources are listed on pages 398-402 of my book.) My self-imposed task (which the librarian in me enjoyed!) was, as you say, to “make sense of” a collection of quite diverse writing much of which was too abstract or academic for practical use. I tried my best to reduce all this to plain English with both concrete and abstract words and with real or invented examples. I also tried to combine intuitive with rational thinking, and to bring several levels of abstraction and concreteness into each description. The prevailing ideas about design processes were often too visual and too vague to be useful: flow diagrams, tabulations, circles, Venn diagrams, and occasionally spirals. Thoughts about designing are, I think, better expressed in words than in diagrams, numbers, or mathematical formulae. I didn’t speak to the writers of this material. I just read it and tried to make it more useful. But when each section of part 2 was completed, I sent it to the authors whose work I was reviewing and awaited comments. Usually they suggested only small changes and didn’t question my interpretations. A few, though, tried to reinstate their lengthy abstract descriptions that I had tried to simplify. Out of a large number of possible methods, I chose only 35 (according to the criteria on page 89). The main criterion was “likely to yield better results than designers and planners can achieve using only traditional methods plus common sense” when “faced with unfamiliar problems requiring some degree of innovation.” 11 GK VanPatter: Ah, now for the first time I think I really understand what Design Methods is. You were in the sense-making business without perhaps thinking about it quite that way. The sense-making that you describe is what we do everyday at UnderstandingLab, although the outcome is not always simplification and we probably use conceptual visualization more. My friend Richard (Saul Wurman) used to tell us that the understanding business is not about dumbing down and simplifying, but rather clarifying. In the end, something can be just as complicated, but more clear. We still use that logic today, although we see a lot of over-complification (especially in academic settings) that could benefit greatly from some simplification. :-) Let me switch gears slightly here. In the introduction to the first edition of Design Methods it states that, “Most of the methods described here were invented or borrowed from other disciplines during the past decade or two by individuals working in isolation from each other in different design professions or in interdisciplinary occupations such as operational research, ergonomics and work study.” Two decades earlier would have placed that inventive work in the 1940s or 1950s. In this statement were you referring to others involved in the early Design Methods movement or to others outside of that movement? Whose work were you referring to? Page 10 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness John Chris Jones: The first person who comes to mind is the late Professor John Arnold of M.I.T. and of Stanford University. In the 1950s (and perhaps the 1940s) he experimented with teaching the psychology of creative processes in a very comprehensive way to students of engineering at M.I.T. Had he not died so soon he might have played a big part in what followed. A piece written in memory of him: http://histsoc.stanford.edu/pdfmem/ArnoldJ.pdf. The second paragraph of that piece is an inspiring description of what was (and I think still is) needed in design. The subsequent review of his life and his many skills shows clearly the practical nature of effective “generalism.” Many of the people who contributed to design methods could, I think, be described as practical generalists! Next I remember the various other people who taught or advised advertisers, engineering designers, and other professionals about creativity. For instance, Alex F. Osborne in his book about brainstorming, Applied Imagination (1963); William J. J. Gordon in his book Synectics: The Development of Creative Capacity (1961); F. Zwicky, author of The Morphological Method of Analysis and Construction (1948); and Edward Matchett in his book Creative Action: the Making of Meaning in a Complex World (1975), and in his inspiring work with engineering designers in the 1960s and perhaps before that. Much of the work described in these books happened between the mid-40s and the mid-60s and was, I believe, remarkably successful in practice (at least while the originator of the method was in the room!). I don’t think this work on creative methods (cranky as some of them may appear) has been fully recognized in the subsequent growth of academic research into designing. There were others (whose names I don’t recall at this moment) who were writing technical papers about experiments in “creative engineering.” I think there was a conference with this title in the US in the early 60s. There are others in different fields from creative psychology whose work is also evident in Design Methods. Looking through the book now I remember particularly Gordon Pask’s development of what came to be called “second order cybernetics,” which was very relevant to the idea of “designer as a self-organizing system.” Also, Stafford Beer’s books on management cybernetics (e.g., Decision and Control, 1966). I did not acknowledge Gordon Pask’s influence on the drawing of a designer with a model of himself-and-his-problem inside his head (page 55). I am glad to do so here. And now, as I scan the names in the bibliography, I see so many who played a part, directly or indirectly, in what came to be called design methods. If this were a book, not an interview, I would take many pages to fully answer your question. The above names are the ones I remember most readily, but a comprehensive review would include many more. One way to hint at the number (and some of the names) involved is to refer you to my “collective cv” (http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/collective_cv.html) which includes the names of about 150 people without whom my activities could not have happened. Here is a part of the collective cv that is most relevant to your question: Page 11 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness Design Methods (1970/1980/1992) was commissioned by Michael Coombs of John Wiley and Sons (after McGraw Hill and several British publishers had rejected it). It was based on two articles in Design magazine, commissioned by John Blake in response to a series of articles by Bruce Archer*. Paul Reilly then suggested that it be expanded into a book. It was, I think, much improved when I abandoned a version based only on my own work and decided to review the work of others, including among many George Sturt, Christopher Alexander*, Bruce Archer*, Peter Booker*, Peter Levin, Stafford Beer, Donald Cardwell, John K Page, Geoffrey Broadbent*, Ted Matchett*, Sydney Gregory*, R D Watts*, Henry Sanoff*, William Gordon, Jack Howe*, John Madge, Alain Wisner, Tom Singleton, Alphonse Chapanis, Donald Broadbent, Hywel Murrell, Otto Edholm, Ettienne Grandjean, Feichin O’Doherty, John Luckman, F Zwicky, Ken Norris* and Tito Sasaki*. That paragraph ends with a memory of Stafford Beer’s influence on the book: “The most integrative part (chapter 5) was added at the suggestion of Stafford Beer to whom the publisher sent the finished text for final review. I’d written the book “from the bottom up” and Stafford obliged me to add a bird’s-eye-view. It was nearly too much for me, but I notice now that it is the part to which people most often refer. Me too.” Looking back at your question I realize that I was thinking, while writing the book, of many people outside the design professions, as well as those (such as myself) who were trying to expand designing from within it. I have added an asterisk* to those in the above list who were working from within design. Many of those outside design were physiologists and psychologists working in ergonomics. But you could say that they were all working from inside the expanding design process that is needed. Here are some additional names that I’d like to add to the above list: Michael Farr, Peter Slann*, Denis Thornley*, Anthony Froshaug*, Joseph Esherick*, Tomas Maldonado*, Charles Eames*, Geoffrey Broadbent*, Janet Daly (the only woman!), Brian Lewis, D L Marples*, R W Mann*, J. B. Reswick*, L D Miles, A D Hall*, William Gosling*, Brian Shackel, and Warren Brodey. To describe what they did would take many pages and careful words, for they were attempting new things that are difficult to describe in familiar language. There is more detail about this in “early days of the future”: http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/early_days1.0.html Interesting footnote: I’ve just found the following about Michael Ventris, the architect who deciphered the early Greek text known as “Linear B”: After the war he returned to the Architectural Association [in London] where he had a lot of exposure to group working and brainstorming techniques, which had a lot of influence on his methodology for solving Linear B. . . (Quoted From http://www.xyroth-enterprises.co.uk/p0000035.htm) Page 12 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness 12 GK VanPatter: I see a lot we could talk about, John Chris. I want to ask you about the “generalist” orientation, but let’s stay with “early days of the future” for a few minutes. Of particular interest to me was your reference to Alex F. Osborne and William J. J. Gordon. There are a couple of tricky things here and I am grappling with how exactly to ask you this. It has to do with the notion of parallel universes. On this side of the Atlantic, Alex Osborne, Sidney Parnes and William Gordon are generally considered to be foundational thought leaders in the Creative Problem Solving Methods movement. It is a knowledge community that has its roots in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and is still thriving today. As you well know, there was a lot of interest in creativity research in the 1950s. One of the original purposes behind the movement was to bring tools to bear that would help humans working in American business organizations unlock their creativity. Closely interconnected was and is still today the notion that everyone is creative. Of course, it is no secret that the work of Osborne, Parnes and Gordon came to have great impact on many knowledge communities outside of their own. The creative problem solving methods community has, since inception, been considered to be a different universe then that of design. I am guessing that you must have been grappling with some of these issues when you were working on your Design Methods book. As one looks back at the publication history of the Creative Problem Solving Methods movement along side that of the Design Methods movement, it is not difficult to imagine cross-pollination between the two universes. Here is a slice of a quickly assembled, abbreviated combined universe time line that might help us with some of our sense-making: 1926: The Art of Thought by Graham Walls 1948: The Morphological Method of Analysis and Construction by F. Zwicky 1953: Anticipatory Design Science, POV by Buckminster Fuller 1959: Creativity and its Cultivation by Harold Anderson 1961: Synectics by William J. J. Gordon 1962: Conference on Design Methods, Design Research Society, London 1963: Applied Imagination by Alex F. Osborne 1963-64: Systematic Method for Designers by Bruce Archer (Design magazine) 1964: Notes on the Synthesis of Form by Christopher Alexander 1966: Osborne-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Model by Osborne & Parnes 1966: Decision and Control by Stafford Beer 1965: The Art and Science of Creativity by George Kneller 1967 The Use of Lateral Thinking by Edward DeBono 1968: The Five-Day Course in Thinking by Edward DeBono 1968: The Powers of Ten by Charles Eames 1969: The Mechanism of the Mind by Edward DeBono 1969: The Structure of the Design Process by Bruce Archer 1969: “What is Design?,” exhibition by Charles Eames & Others 1969: The Sciences of the Artificial by Herbert A. Simon 1970: Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step by Edward DeBono 1970: Design Methods by John Chris Jones Page 13 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness 1972: Design Q&A, film by Charles Eames 1975: Creative Action by Edward Matchett 1980: Design Methods/13 Years After by Geoffrey Broadbent From your perspective, was the early Design Methods movement built on the foundation of the Creative Problem Solving Methods movement? Or was it running in parallel to it, overlapping it, or something else? John Chris Jones: I think that some of the people who wrote about design methods knew of the literature on creative problem solving, but the two movements were, as you suggest, quite separate. A reason for this might be that the ones who put rationality first drove away intuition, and that the ones who put intuition first drove away rationality. Your list includes both kinds of thinking, but not much bridging of the gulf between them. I believe that the right way to proceed is to combine imagination with reason, but the culture we inherit seems to keep them separate. The real difficulty, in design or in any creative activity, is how to integrate these ways of thought. The cross-pollination you suggest may sometimes happen within individuals who have experience of two or more professions, but it is difficult to maintain collectively. It would be sensible in whatever may follow your time line (or chronology) to seek collective as well as individual ways of acting both creatively and scientifically. I think that requires a change in the culture, and that is why I’ve been attempting utopian fictions as preludes to culture change. We have to let go of our specialized roles before we can share minds. 13 GK VanPatter: “Cross-pollination,” “bridging of the gulf between rationality and intuition,” “integrating ways of thought,” “sharing minds,” “seeking collective as well as individual ways” – these conceptual and operational challenges are very similar to those being addressed in the realm of inclusive cross-disciplinary innovation construction today. Before we get to that, let me ask you about what happened to the Design Methods movement from your perspective. Was it ahead of its time? Did it run out of steam? Did it lack the tools to become operational? Did it morph into something that you became unhappy with? I understand that you eventually moved in another direction and later reconnected to it. Is that correct? John Chris Jones: As I see it, new design methods came into existence to improve the products of designing, which seemed (and still seem) to be creating problems that cannot be solved by existing methods (such problems as traffic congestion, consumerism, global poverty, waste disposal, climate change, etc., etc.) As an academic movement, Design Methods lost sight of this objective, but as a wide-ranging process it has continued wherever people are trying to put right what seems to be wrong with technology and the industrial way of life. Yes, this notion of changing the process so as to improve the result is common not only to the people who have invented new design methods, but to those others (mainly artists) from John Ruskin and William Morris to Joseph Beuys and John Cage, who Page 14 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness have tried to understand and to improve industrial life by more extensive methods: from the revival of crafts and the increase of work satisfaction, to the treating of life as social sculpture and the composing of music and poetry (and of everything!) by chance, in place of egotism. I like to think of all this as continuous evolution of the new in the face of the (often hostile) old. I pause at this point to read a writing called “the feasibility of the new” in which the notion of conflict or help between generations is explored a little. See http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/digital_diary_03.11.04.html. Was the design methods movement ahead of its time? No, I don’t think it was. I saw it, and still see it, as a timely response to whatever is wrong with technology by people who like it and who want to improve it. You could say that it is a part of technology itself (our collective materialist ghost) attempting to evolve and to improve itself from inhuman beginnings in the coal and iron phase, and now in the more humane and flexible and intelligent phase of computers and networks (though these have new terrors of their own). Ridiculous or fanatical as they may have seemed, the originators of design methods may be the new‚ speaking to what already is, and asking for imaginative support and sensible action in order to ensure that the future is better, not worse, than the life we live now. As an act of collective imagination. Why not? Did the design methods movement run out of steam? No. But I think its steam, its social power, as yet slight, has been directed to the teaching of design and to research into existing design processes, and not much to the improvement of designing or of its results. This movement is thriving under the name “design research‚” but I think it is in danger of putting rationality before intuition and of putting the new in the service of what exists, and has now become the obstacle to change. Did the movement lack the tools to become operational? I would say that the methods themselves are tools which could be used to improve or to direct industrial living and the movement itself, but I don’t think that this has yet happened. In attempting to answer your questions, I tried to use my book Design Methods for guidance. I was led by the table for choosing design methods on page 80 to attempt a solo version of William Gordon’s Synectics on page 278. I asked the question: Why haven’t design methods succeeded in resolving global problems? That is what I now think they should be used for. My brief attempt at Synectics led to the idea of increasing the flexibility of people, roles, and organizations. And this led me back to my favorite solution of somehow replacing hierarchy by something else. Call it interarchy if you like – a centerless and non-compulsive way of collaborating. (Apologies to the excellent software of that name that I use whenever I add anything to my website!) Did design methods morph into something you became unhappy with? Page 15 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness Yes and no. I deplored the move (soon after the 1962 Conference on Design Methods) towards treating designing as if it were a science, putting rationality before intuition, and largely forgetting that the purpose of design methods was to change design practice and to improve life. My unhappiness was first expressed in the tape recorded lecture, “How my ideas about designing have changed over the years” (1974), which is reprinted in my book, Designing Designing. Much of this book is relevant to your questions. A few copies may be available from time to time via abebooks.com or abebooks.co.uk.But despite this, I feel that the new methods themselves remain valid and useful, though not yet used comprehensively because organizations resist that. I understand that you eventually moved in another direction and later reconnected to it. Is that correct? Yes, I suppose it is correct, though another interpretation is that I have continued to widen the aims of design methods while the movement has turned itself into a thriving new academic discipline. (For instance, see the Design Research Society’s discussion list, PHD DESIGN, at http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/archives/phd-design.html.) I wrote Design Methods from 1965 to 1970 as a goodbye present to design‚ but if you look at my website softopia and at my other books, you will see both factual and fictional attempts at widening the aims and the scope of design research and connecting it to the time arts and to everyone via chance processes and concepts like “creative democracy.” http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/creative_democracy.html For instance: A short version of Design Methods with practical advice for their use by everyone: http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/designmethodsforeveryone.html A theory of designing: http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/theory_of_designing.html The symposium of Utopia‚ a designer’s version of the symposium of Plato: http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/symposium.html A book of design plays and other non-realist performances: http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/notes_and_plays.html The latest part of softopia is a writing (not yet online) called “xdm,”: http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/digital_diary/xdm.html or expanding design methods. Under the influence of your questions this is turning into a fiction about a second earth called “j-921.” J-921 is identical to our earth except that it is shorn of specialized roles and hierarchical organizations. It is able via expanded design methods to resolve the global problems attributable to technology. Here are some “notes to myself” in which ideas were evolving as I wrote: Page 16 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness 17 April 2006 I realize that my attempted answers to the interview are turning into a vast fantasy of design methods so expanded as to enable everyone to think and act unboundedly and thus to at last solve the global problems created by misused (i.e., narrowed) technology and by reduced people (or specialists).Having reached this point (of take-off), I am now able to continue the consequent fiction. (It began as “the electric book” in the 1980s). For the moment I shall just assume that “xdm” is being written by Utopia, Numeroso and Unesco and the other characters referred to in “after Godzilla” as they react to the interview and to the global situation. See http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/after_godzilla.html. The attempt of these characters to take over Design Methods from the academics, and to widen it so as to recreate the second earth known as j-921, but shorn of organizations and laws and even money and existing software and data, but equipped with the imaginary software described or promised in the early part of softopia and in The Internet and Everyone, is, is, is an invisible but mighty explosion. [Not sure about “mighty,” but all this is changing as I write.] See http://www.softopia.demon.co.uk/2.2/internet_and_everyone.html Thanks for stimulating this long-sleeping fiction . . . perhaps into life? 14 GK VanPatter: When you express concern about some in the original Design Methods movement “putting rationality before intuition”. What exactly do you mean? Help us better understand what your concern is. John Chris Jones: This evening I’m sitting in a meadow surrounded by trees, having an intuition that this is a better place than indoors in which to think about abstract notions such as these. The difficulty of using rationality in design is that it can produce a false certainty which drives imagination away. This can be avoided if rationality is not used to disprove new ideas but to support them, to widen one’s initial perceptions and to see the problem in a new light. I call this “standing on the box of rationality” to see further – instead of being trapped within it in a closed “frame of reference” that is supposed to include everything, but doesn’t. From here I can see into the center of London. To the southeast are the skyscrapers at Canary Wharf, and to the south is the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, visible through a gap in the trees. . . The function of rational methods of designing is to enable people to become sufficiently informed, but not over-informed, to jump intuitively to a wider and more promising perception of both...problem and solution (as a single entity) . . . “…the imaginative jump from present facts to future possibilities. . .” J. K. Page, (1960) from the opening quotation of Design Methods Page 17 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness . . . a lost-looking man has just asked me the way to Highgate, which is about half an hour’s walk to the north-east on the other side of this city forest. . . .I suggested that he walk towards some tall trees on the horizon and keep asking the way. . . Combining rationality and intuition in this way is to explore the interdependence of problems and solutions. . . . and a man in a purple shirt has just walked past, pulled along by an exceptionally white dog. . . My aim in combining rationality with intuition is to find the right levels of abstraction and concreteness (Charles and Ray Eames, Powers of Ten website, 1977) with which to describe the reality that exists and the new reality that is to be brought into existence (perhaps more poetically than rationally): “The skill in writing is to provide a context in which other people can think. . . . Poetry is not simply the singing of a song. It is the realization that we constantly need to reinvent verbal discourse with changed format and changes in content. A poem is a content that seeks to include aspects that are not in the rational or conscious parts of experience.” Edwin Schlossberg, in About Bateson, edited by John Brockman, E. P. Dutton New York, 1977, pages 157, 163. My intuition tells me that all these things seen out-of-doors will help me to answer your question, but my rationality (or common sense) suggests that they are irrelevant! If you intend to innovate, you need to create both certainty about what is to be improved and uncertainty (or widened ideas) about what could replace it, as you turn… “..the problem as given” into “the problem as understood.” William J.J. Gordon, Synectics (1961) But already it is getting dark and I will have to continue indoors. . . At this point I’d like to quote William Blake in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1788): “. . .reason, or the ratio of all we have already known, is not the same as that it shall be when we know more.” On my way back I walk over a bridge made of discarded railway sleepers [I believe they are called “ties” in the USA]. I could see holes for the bolts which fasten the sleepers to the rails. . . (Back indoors) I decide to write six thoughts about intuition and rationality in the six spaces between the seven paragraphs I wrote on the Heath. I will write these indoor thoughts without looking at what I wrote out-of-doors. I am hoping that the accidental conjunctions of indoor and outdoor writing will become an interesting and perhaps poetic reaction to your question. In any case, there will be an opportunity for others to think some connective thoughts beyond the range of my own! Page 18 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness 15 GK VanPatter: Understood. Thank you for throwing the conceptual kitchen sink in here, John Chris! :-) In your playful response I recognize the techniques and the values of the Synectics approach. I appreciate you stretching the protocols. It is often difficult to get to where we need to go in this compressed and linear format. We do the best we can with the constraints of this forum. While it would likely be better to meet on that Heath of yours and have a face-to-face conversation (with white boards) that would take away from the enjoyment and the challenge of constructing this long-distance correspondence. We can forgive/embrace the imperfections. I am aware that many nuances have escaped us here. Our conversation time is growing short now. In August I hope to be spending a few weeks on an island off the coast of Spain. In parallel we are working on the Rev 2 reinvention of NextD Journal. At the completion of Issue TEN I will be taking a break from this writing. We have a mountain of complexity on the table here. It might be best if we picked one of the many issues in the mix and leave the remainder for another day. To build on your notion of creating space for others to add on to, there is one construct in particular in the mix that our readers might find useful. The bluebird carries the sky on his back. Henry David Thoreau In William Gordon’s original 1961 text, Synectics: The Development of Creative Capacity, the use of Dada-like irrelevancies, accidental conjunctions, play, metaphoric thinking and the quest to “operationalize intuition” are described in more detail then we have space for here: “In Synectics theory, play with apparent irrelevancies is used extensively to generate energy for problem solving and to evoke new viewpoints with respect to problems. . . . Synectics believes play can be disciplined and directed at will. . . Play in adults as in children is not merely a vacation. It is not merely a lighthearted waste of time, but another order of constructive effort constituting in itself a serious, form-making endeavor. How can we define intuition operationally? This is the task that Synectics sets itself and for which it attempts to construct mechanisms. . . .Synectics theory holds that there is excitement and a feeling of pleasure accompanying the selection of and signaling a valid intuition, and that people can be taught to watch for this feeling of excitement within them. Creative persons have learned to do this subconsciously and Synectics has shown that it can be consciously noted and learned.” William J.J. Gordon, Synectics: The Development of Creative Capacity, 1961 The term “Synectics” stems from the Greek word “synectikos” which means “bringing forth together” or “bringing different things together”. Synectic thinking is often described Page 19 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness as a process of constructing links that unite seemingly disconnected elements. Most often the goal of Synectic-like exercises in 1961 and now is to break rational connections. It is no secret that the terrain of Synectics is a Conceptualizer’s heaven. Of course, inside Synectics can be found this terrific little ordering architecture that we often still use in our practice today: 1. Making the strange familiar (We call this Sense-Making.) 2. Making the familiar strange (We call this Strange-Making.) Synectics starts to look even more interesting when we note that in the 1961 Synectics text our friend, Henry David, makes several appearances, being pointed out as a model of what author William J. J. Gordon referred to as a metaphoric attitude of mind. “Thoreau cultivated a metaphoric habit of mind and sought to dramatize that mode of seeing as the primary mode of perception, the primary mode of what he called being “awake” as against being “blind” or “asleep”. Consequently he made a consistent autobiographical attempt to record and clarify his own processes of perception, and in his writings the process is more important than the end product. He taught himself to be metaphorical, and Synectics theory is based on the capacity of people to learn this metaphoric attitude of mind.” I can see a lot of parallels here to your own approach to writing and creativity, John Chris. Henry David was a master observer, dot-connector and metaphorical expressionist. He displayed all of the attributes of what we call a Generator/Conceptualizer (connects dots, sees patterns, identifies problems). It is unlikely, however, that Henry David knew much about formal problem finding and problem solving design methods as they exist today. Correct me if I am wrong, but John Chris Jones seems to straddle these two worlds. 1. The subject of ordering logics (making the strange familiar). 2. Personal preferences towards creativity, that of operationalizing metaphoric expression (making the familiar strange). In your Softopia writing and in this conversation these two worlds (this double consciousness) can be seen overlapping. I believe this is part of what makes your work complicated and to some probably perplexing. While the 1970 Design Methods attempted to make the strange familiar, your current Softopia writings seem to weight more towards making the familiar strange. It gets complicated because within Design Methods (a Sense-Making book) you described several techniques for making the familiar strange, including Synectics. Truths and roses have thorns about them. Henry David Thoreau. In 1854, Thoreau wrote: “In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and the future, which is precisely the present moment; to tow that line.” Page 20 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness “You will pardon some obscurities, for there are more secrets in my trade than in most men’s, and yet not voluntarily kept, but inseparable from its very nature. . . It is a ridiculous demand which England and America make, that you shall speak so that they can understand you. Neither men nor toadstools grow so.” This is the language of Strange-Making, not Sense-Making. In answering a question about Design Methods, in 1974 you wrote (in Designing Designing): “I was seeking to relate all the Design Methods to each other, and to experience. I found a great split had developed between intuition and rationality, reason. There were black box methods like Synectics which worked well, but nobody knew why and glass box methods, like decision theory, which were logically clear, but which didn’t work.” This is the language of Sense-Making, not Strange-Making. Help us understand why after completing Design Methods you restructured your emphasis and oriented yourself more towards strange making? Was this something that you did for personal preference reasons? Or was this a reflection of a need that you saw outside of yourself? I am particularly interested in this question as in our practice we see the continuing rise in the need for Sense-Making as complexity in the 21st century grows. Although Strange-Making might have been the preferred focus for Thoreau in the nineteenth century and within William J. J. Gordon’s Synectics in 1961, we believe that today Sense-Making and Strange-Making now coexist as equal partners in innovation and design. (This is an entire topic unto itself and the focus of my own research.) I’m curious to know if you think otherwise? John Chris Jones: For a long time I was unable to reply to this question, but now I can attempt it! It seems, GK, that you are still puzzled (as others are) by my “turn” from “useful” activity (like writing Design Methods) to “purposeless” or “inexplicable” activity (like writing design plays composed by chance process). I prefer to “do it” rather than to explain, but the field for realizing my thoughts about design does not yet exist. We need to be willing and able to change our culture and ourselves in the process of widening our design methods to include more of life. I doubt if I can fully explain this change (from making familiar to making strange), but perhaps I can tell you how it began and why I see it as both necessary and enjoyable. Lastly, I would like to mention something I am attempting at the moment. pause After 25 years in the electrical industry, in design/ergonomics consulting and in academia, I realized that although lesser parts of my ideas were accepted (either as industrial products or as university courses), the greater parts – the ones that motivated me most – were rejected. So then, against the advice of others, I resigned from working within the Page 21 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness system and started a second life more as an individual than as the leader of a group. That was in 1974 when I was 47. I’d come to the conclusion that the expanded version of design (as I envisage it) cannot be realized in the inflexible organizations that exist. So I left industry and universities for “the arts” in their most modern and experimental versions. By that time I’d realized that we are educated to design in terms of space, but not in time. However, the widened kind of designing that attracts me (the designing of how products are used and of the kind of life to which they could lead) exists as much in time as in space. So to prepare myself for this, I tried to learn something of the time arts: poetry, music, film, theatre, etc. Soon I found myself responding to lecture requests with what I called design plays (composed automatically by chance processes). The first of these plays (which you will find in Designing Designing, pages 243-253) is called “Is designing a response to the whole of life?” In it, Graham Stevens (the designer or inventor of inflatable architecture) describes his work among the voices of Walt Whitman, C. G. Jung, Immanual Kant and EDRA (the Environmental Design Research Association) who speak words selected randomly from their publications. When this was performed at an EDRA conference, Graham spoke his own part and the other voices were members of the audience. In these plays (and other such writings) I hoped to create an atmosphere that was very different from that of product design or of the traditional lecture – a glimpse of a different culture in which a greatly widened kind of designing (based on using, not producing) would be welcomed, and in which the nature of both designing and industrial living would be greatly changed for the better. Some idea of the kind of changed designing I have in mind is I think evident in what I am calling “creative democracy”. If you click on that phrase you will find fragments of this work in progress. It is a half-picture of a total changing of life as we live it, no longer obeying the ancient rules of hierarchy and specialization – enemies of modern life as I see it. pause Looking back now at those times, I think the formative idea, evident even from my early life, is “user-centeredness” or “reversal of the reversal” refers to the undoing of the industrial mistake of putting things before people. For instance, in “the car of the future,” designed in 1946. (The Internet and Everyone, 210-211, London, 2000.) To design that car I tried to experience (or at least to imagine) most of the user activities connected with it and then reshaped the car to allow each user action to be as “perfect” as possible. No compromises. The engineering was to be shaped to fit the people, not the reverse. And the job descriptions of all the human activities in the production, maintenance, etc. were also to be made entirely flexible and malleable to “human needs” and to the safety and comfort of “the human operators” (as we so oddly call ourselves when doing industrial work). Page 22 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness The wheels were reduced in diameter so as to give more leg room in all seats. The engine, which was at the rear, could be removed as a unit with the back wheels and raised so that the mechanic could reach all nuts and bolts, etc. very easily in the most comfortable working space (which is directly in front of one’s chest) – instead of having to work lying underneath the car or reaching upward in a maintenance pit. And while the detachable power unit was in repair, a spare one was to be attached to the car to keep it in service. “Reversing the reversal” refers firstly to the subjection of people to fit machines and the industrial system, and secondly to the undoing of the mistaken priority of “putting things before people”. To my mind this “undoing” of what is wrong with technology and industrial living is the essence of good design and the right aim in all things postindustrial. It is not so much an imaginative change as a moral one. But, of course, these are suppositions, not proven facts, but a reversal of values. pause I hope that this small example is enough to show how very different life could be if we re-arranged and transformed our technologies so as not to contradict or distort the animal flexibility, or the spiritual presence, that is in each of us.' The stance or mental attitude that can enable one to design in this way is that of “putting oneself at the receiving end,” observing or experiencing or imagining what it is like to be the user, the operator, the builder, even the designer of the products in question. And then, in an action that is both rational and imaginative, as well as ethical, to attempt to redesign the whole situation in collaboration with everyone concerned. The obvious difficulty of this (and its apparent hubris, or even madness) is what I think has to be overcome if we are to solve the global problems that now beset us and seem so threatening. These problems I think can be overcome if what is good about designing is made available to everyone (with the help of universally available software). But even with the Internet, that is a big “if.” What I am attempting (in works that some may find strange or bewildering) is to explore this idea beyond the range of what is possible within industrial or academic organizations as they exist at present. But I’d rather not continue in this abstract language. I’d prefer to attempt a fictional world in which such things can be imagined more concretely. The latest of these fictions is “the electric book, version 2” which appeared on my website yesterday afternoon! It is a beginning of something envisaged in my reply to question 13: The redesign of our culture. last pause Before sending off this last reply, I’ve re-read the whole correspondence and I am pleased to say that it seems better than I thought at the time of writing! There is a distance between us which I think allows others to see through what we wrote as we brought our differing experiences together. Page 23 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness I hope this will enable some of the people who read NextD Journal to combine in their work something of the two traditions of which we wrote – essentially those of creative problem-solving and of radical ergonomics. In this way what was begun by Henry David Thoreau, Buckminster Fuller, William Gordon, John Cage (and others not so well known) continues, and perhaps for the first time these influences have been brought together - in this conversation that I am glad you initiated. Many thanks. For me it was quite an effort! End. Note to Readers: Many of our NextD Journal conversations take a long time to construct. Everyone is busy and we do this as a part-time effort, a contribution to the community. As the conversations develop, additional connections are often made that for one reason or another never make it into the conversation. Below are two connections/observations that I made along the way while constructing Double Consciousness with John Chris Jones. 1. Last week I was heading uptown on the subway in Manhattan. There were no trees to observe on the horizon but as I stood with the straphangers I could not help but notice two drawings on the side panels of the subway car coincidently positioned adjacent to each other but obviously created independently. One was an informational diagram explaining the sequencing of subway stops. It was not a literal drawing but rather an abstraction designed to enable ease of understanding regarding journey orientation, in other words where the subway had been, where we were now and where it was going. The other was a beautiful illustration of the island of Manhattan reimagined in metaphoric terms as a woman’s out-stretched arm and hand. The subway numbers were sprinkled across her arm. The Brooklyn Bridge was her bracelet and the various architectural buildings were the jeweled rings on her fingers. Both visual depictions were beautiful and useful. There in plain sight, were the two worlds, appearing side by side and serving different purposes. Sense-Making (Making the Strange Familiar) I am faced with monumental complexity. Help me find (navigate) my way. Strange-Making (Making the Familiar Strange) I am stuck in rigid conformity. Help me break (transcend) my mental chains. 2. Last month I found myself in Chicago’s OHare airport attempting to “catch a flight” home. The line to go through security must have been a quarter mile long! Completely nuts! Inside, the hourly flights to New York were all backed up because one was “canceled”. Get ready for an eight hour adventure trying to get back home. Best to catch a few Coronas! Since I spent so much time at OHare that day I could not help but notice the two worlds juxtaposed once again. Page 24 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness There in the vast physical environment of the terminal I saw giant hanging banners from the new metaphorical United Airlines campaign, “Its time to fly” positioned among the various forms of terminal navigation. http://www.united.com/page/genericpage/1,,51526,00.html “Its time to fly” is a wonderfully poetic campaign that inspires one to think about air travel in different ways. Unfortunately the artful depictions are remarkably unlike the actual experience of flying with United or any other modern commercial airline today. Now in the 21st century this is metaphoric manipulation at its most commercial. Henry David would be none too pleased I’m sure. In this case, the contrast between the metaphoric depictions and reality is so great that it is almost offensive. It makes United look either completely out of touch with its customers or highly manipulative. Some designers today are geared up to address this kind of challenge: How might we (United Airlines) throw a poetic veil over our customer experience? Other designers are geared up to address this kind of challenge: How might we (United Airlines) fix our actual customer experience? Or even this one: How might we (United Airlines) create a strategic path from the not so great present to a better future? After spending 5 hours walking from one gate to the next, waiting for United Airlines to sort out flight problems the contrast really hits home. In the complexity of real life experience today the power of metaphoric manipulation is wearing thin. Complexity navigation trumps metaphor when the goal is to find a way home. More Notes to Readers: For more on the rise of NeoTranscendentalism see: Chris Lucas’s Neo-Transcendentalist Philosophy http://www.calresco.org/lucas/transcen.htm John Thackara’s In the Bubble http://www.thackara.com/inthebubble/toc.html Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth http://www.climatecrisis.net For more on Transcendentalism's intellectual ancestors see: Ernest W. Seckinger’s Thoughts on Transcendentalism http://www.zebra.net/~ernie.seckinger/Transcendentalism.htm Page 25 of 26 NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 26 Double Consciousness Immanuel Kant http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kant Johann Wolfgang von Goethe http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goethe Ralph Waldo Emerson http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerson%2C_Ralph_Waldo Henry David Thoreau http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoreau NextD Journal RERETHINKING DESIGN NextDesign Leadership Institute DEFUZZ THE FUTURE! www.nextd.org Questions: Please direct all questions to email@example.com Follow NextD Journal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nextd Page 26 of 26