Integration and Autonomy of Epistemic Culture and Cognition Styles in Practice-driven Architectural Research

Author: Marjan Hočevar, University of Ljubljana

Category: Keynote

The entire CA2RE enterprise well reflects the dilemmas and possible directions of transformation of (academic) research caused by major societal changes. Within growing social complexity, there is a corresponding diversity in research styles that are difficult to bring into the classical framework of scientific umbrella. In its specificity, CA2RE addresses broader issues of knowledge production and utilization, which includes inter alia, contemporary discourses about permeating science with art (Leavy, 2020), peculiarities of epistemic cultures and cognitions (Sandoval and Bråten, 2016), use of technologies, and hybrid research practices (Clark et al, 2017). Buzzwords such as “responsible” and “immersive”, or implementation of transdisciplinary, participatory and citizen science research practices are just some vividly discussed but still not well thought out cases in point. In this context, reserves against the universal cannons of research practices and achievements are justified and being gradually replaced by concepts such as “situated knowledge” (Hunter, 2009, Dohn et al, 2020) and “distributed cognition” (MacLeod, 2018; Hutchins, 2020). The call for the CA2RE community to reformulate and re-evaluate the question of what belongs to design / artistic practice-driven architectural research in order to achieve internal disciplinary and external social relevance (validation) is a specific case-in-point. From a sociological perspective, such a call for “reformulation” is a question of (self) reflexivity, which includes the question of (self) positionality in the face of complexity of the social, linked to the production of knowledge through a research style. Reflexivity is an internal dialogue that leads to action for transformative practices (Whitaker and Atkinson, 2019; Lumsden, 2019). One of the focuses on the reformulation platform may relate to the question of how to achieve a meaningful integration of different epistemic cultures and cognitive styles without compromising their individual autonomies (or even idiosyncrasies). Specifically, how to acknowledge the contingencies of the social through design / artistic practice-driven research (Kimbell, 2011)? I am arguing that in questioning the relevance of design practice-driven research, it is about how to best reflect (and partially incorporate) other epistemic cultures and cognitive styles in order to confidently maintain autonomy in developing one’s own. The starting point is a general conceptual premise on the legitimacy of social dynamics, which also applies to relations between epistemic cultures. Namely, between integration and autonomy there is a dynamic conflict which is zero sum at any point in time and positive sum in the longer run. In my exposition, I will tentatively illustrate three ideal-type cognitive styles that would require some effort in architectural design research to achieve their meaningful degree of epistemic integration without compromising the autonomy and distinctiveness of design practice-driven research. These three cognitive styles are: 1) visually artistic, 2) rationally engineering, and 3) culturally analytical. The reflection of all three can be part of the contemplated “reformulation”.


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