Design Research: A revolution-waiting-to-happen

Elsevier Science Ltd.
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Design Studies, 2008, 29 (1), pp. 4 - 11
Issue Date:
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Thomas Kuhn described scientific progress as a process of leaps and bounds. Long periods of `normal science, in which a research community works within a well-established and fruitful paradigm, end when there is a build-up of anomalies: phenomena that cannot be explained within the conventional wisdom. Then the research community enters into a state of `revolution, in which a new paradigm emerges that is superior in explaining these anomalies. In this paper, I will argue that the design research community, which has flourished so much in the last 40 years, shows signs of being in a period now that is prior to such a `revolution. Such periods are characterised by a mounting number of anomalies, and by the response from those working within the `normal science paradigm to ignore them, belittle them, or push them away as irrelevant because they do not fit in `the way we see things. Their normal way of working is under threat, and this makes them acutely uncomfortable. The concepts that are under fire in this revolution-waiting-to-happen are the core concepts of our field. I think we should reconsider the very nature of the object of our studies (what do we consider to be `design?), the character of the tools and methods we aim to create, and the way we create them.
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