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Acts of representation with systems thinking (OCADU 2017/03)

For the “Understanding Systems & Systemic Design” course in the program for the Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University, the lecture slides were the same for both the full-time cohort on March 8 and part-time cohort on March 9, while the oral presentation varied.  The target, in about 90 minutes, was to cover at least 4 of 5 sections, from:

  • 1. Architecting ↔ designing
  • 2. Service systems ← production systems
  • 3. Affordances ↔ pattern language
  • 4. Ecological anthropology ← teleology
  • 5. Inquiring systems ↔ methods

The students were alerted that some of the arrows in the section headings were double-headed, and some were single-headed — with specific meanings.  For each day, the classroom audio was recorded.  That digital audio has now been synchronized with slides that had previously been posted on the Coevolving Commons.

This session was #8 of 15 lectures for the OCADU SFI students.  They had already done some basic reading on systems approaches.  Since they were working towards a Major Research Project (a lighter weight form of a thesis) for their Master of Design degree, my overall agenda for this lecture was to have them reflect on acts of representation.   Systems have already been represented to them in a variety of forms:  textually, orally and visually.  For their Major Research Projects, they would be creating detailed representations, as ways of having their audience appreciate the in-depth study of the world and issues selected for the term.

For the “Understanding Systems & Systemic Design” course in the program for the Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University, the lecture slides were the same for both the full-time cohort on March 8 and part-time cohort on March 9, while the oral presentation varied.  The target, in about 90 minutes, was to cover at least 4 of 5 sections, from:

  • 1. Architecting ↔ designing
  • 2. Service systems ← production systems
  • 3. Affordances ↔ pattern language
  • 4. Ecological anthropology ← teleology
  • 5. Inquiring systems ↔ methods

The students were alerted that some of the arrows in the section headings were double-headed, and some were single-headed — with specific meanings.  For each day, the classroom audio was recorded.  That digital audio has now been synchronized with slides that had previously been posted on the Coevolving Commons.

This session was #8 of 15 lectures for the OCADU SFI students.  They had already done some basic reading on systems approaches.  Since they were working towards a Major Research Project (a lighter weight form of a thesis) for their Master of Design degree, my overall agenda for this lecture was to have them reflect on acts of representation.   Systems have already been represented to them in a variety of forms:  textually, orally and visually.  For their Major Research Projects, they would be creating detailed representations, as ways of having their audience appreciate the in-depth study of the world and issues selected for the term.

Is that affordance essential? (HSSE)

For the 1st International Conference on Human Side of Service Innovation, I had been asked  by Kelly Lyons to contribute an article for a session on Frameworks for Service Systems.  I had worked on the article in fall 2011, but leading a 6-day conference in San Jose immediately before the start of the HSSE meeting in San Francisco made completion improbable.  Having prepared an abstract and outline for “Is That Affordance Essential? Pathology in service systems and redesigns for sustainability”, I couldn’t squeeze in an article by the winter publication deadline. I was, however, prepared to share a presentation on research-in-progress.  I expect that I’ll be able to finish this research paper over the next year, (and hope that I’ll get a longer time slot to present than the 15 minutes allotted at HSSE).

The original abstract for my presentation reads:

A service systems may exhibit pathologies, i.e. an abnormal, unhealthy, maladjusted or inefficient state that is maintained in a living system for a significant period. Correcting a pathology may require a history-making change where significant capital investment is needed.

As a way of reframing the definition of a service system, interactions between parties are expressed as an interaction where a provider offers affordances and clients may have varying levels of ability. The needs and expectations of high-ability clients can be contrasted to those of low-ability clients. Portraying affordances as essential or discretionary may enable segmentation of client target groups into coproducing or full-service arrangements.

Some example service systems, in municipal services, pension plans and open source communities are described to illustrate considerations of pathologies towards potential pursuits of sustainability.

Alternative approaches to correct the pathologies are related to theories of ecological complexity, in panarchies and supply-side sustainability. Directions for further development are outlined.

The slides are available on the Coevolving Commons.  The 15 minutes gave enough time to describe some motivating cases, and then work my way down a list of definitions supplemented by pointers to originating sources.

As the presentation was ending, time was allowed for one question.  Jim Spohrer asked about the definition of affordances (with abilities) that I used.  My initial response wasn’t sufficient, so he probed some more.  A moment later, I figured out that Don Norman — who is renowned for the idea of affordances in The Design of Everyday Things — was sitting beside Jim.  We didn’t get a chance to complete that conversation, as the next speaker came on.  Not recognizing Norman in the audience probably saved me from being intimidated and more self-conscious during the presentation.

While I had researched Norman’s view on affordances previously, the citation that is in the working paper is not in the 15-minute presentation.  In an essay on “Affordances and Design” on Norman’s web site, he revises the label of “affordances” in his book to “perceived affordances”.

For the 1st International Conference on Human Side of Service Innovation, I had been asked  by Kelly Lyons to contribute an article for a session on Frameworks for Service Systems.  I had worked on the article in fall 2011, but leading a 6-day conference in San Jose immediately before the start of the HSSE meeting in San Francisco made completion improbable.  Having prepared an abstract and outline for “Is That Affordance Essential? Pathology in service systems and redesigns for sustainability”, I couldn’t squeeze in an article by the winter publication deadline. I was, however, prepared to share a presentation on research-in-progress.  I expect that I’ll be able to finish this research paper over the next year, (and hope that I’ll get a longer time slot to present than the 15 minutes allotted at HSSE).

The original abstract for my presentation reads:

A service systems may exhibit pathologies, i.e. an abnormal, unhealthy, maladjusted or inefficient state that is maintained in a living system for a significant period. Correcting a pathology may require a history-making change where significant capital investment is needed.

As a way of reframing the definition of a service system, interactions between parties are expressed as an interaction where a provider offers affordances and clients may have varying levels of ability. The needs and expectations of high-ability clients can be contrasted to those of low-ability clients. Portraying affordances as essential or discretionary may enable segmentation of client target groups into coproducing or full-service arrangements.

Some example service systems, in municipal services, pension plans and open source communities are described to illustrate considerations of pathologies towards potential pursuits of sustainability.

Alternative approaches to correct the pathologies are related to theories of ecological complexity, in panarchies and supply-side sustainability. Directions for further development are outlined.

The slides are available on the Coevolving Commons.  The 15 minutes gave enough time to describe some motivating cases, and then work my way down a list of definitions supplemented by pointers to originating sources.

As the presentation was ending, time was allowed for one question.  Jim Spohrer asked about the definition of affordances (with abilities) that I used.  My initial response wasn’t sufficient, so he probed some more.  A moment later, I figured out that Don Norman — who is renowned for the idea of affordances in The Design of Everyday Things — was sitting beside Jim.  We didn’t get a chance to complete that conversation, as the next speaker came on.  Not recognizing Norman in the audience probably saved me from being intimidated and more self-conscious during the presentation.

While I had researched Norman’s view on affordances previously, the citation that is in the working paper is not in the 15-minute presentation.  In an essay on “Affordances and Design” on Norman’s web site, he revises the label of “affordances” in his book to “perceived affordances”.

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