Questions on DDDr Reformulation

Authors: Edite Rosa, Joaquim Almeida

Category: Group position statement

Affiliation: Universidade Lusófona do Porto and Universidade de Coimbra

The LJUBLJANA event addresses the topic REFORMULATION in the following main questions.

REFORMULATION aims to identify the boundaries of DDr's relevance: when is the approach specific enough to be engaging and generic enough to be applicable?

Regarding Ljubljana´s first question of the REFORMULATION topic, how to identify the boundaries of DDr’s relevance, it may be useful to ask if we are concerned about DDr (Design Driven research) or also DDDr (Design Driven Doctoral research) or even DDDR (Design Driven Doctoral Research). Meaning this, to unveil the difference or non-existence between them. The response may lie in the next Ljubljana posed question of how we can define a DDr approach as specific enough to be engaging and generic enough to be applicable. This probably means considering the “specific” character of the design discipline and at the same time the “generic” character of the universal knowledge objectives of a PhD research. For this, we can recall to Linda Candy and Bruce Archer definitions of Practiced based research and The Nature of Design Doctoral Research.

Linda Candy characterises two types of practice related research: practice-based and practice-led. Our interest points to practice-based research is established on its similarity to our Design Driven Doctoral research. For Linda practice-based is taken where the creative artefact is the basis of the contribution to knowledge. She states, “Practice-based Research is an original investigation undertaken in order to gain new knowledge partly by means of practice and the outcomes of that practice. In a doctoral thesis, claims of originality and contribution to knowledge may be demonstrated through creative outcomes in the form of designs, music, digital media, performances and exhibitions. Whilst the significance and context of the claims are described in words, a full understanding can only be obtained with direct reference to the outcomes.” 1

Thus, we infer that it is important to know that a doctoral thesis based on Design Driven research seeks to establish new paradigms. As design in the professional domain is a concrete answer to a specific problem, its investigation task is located in the sphere of empirical experience, unrepeatable and isolated and therefore diffuse, fragmented and singular, it will hardly be, by itself, considered a design research in the academic environment. Indeed, the research of a PhD in design, being specific, in the search to establish new design paradigms, will have to be “specifically” relevant, rigorous and original with a “generic” scope, necessary for the construction of a collective and universal knowledge.

On the other hand, Bruce Archer defines research in its most general sense, common to the Science tradition, the Humanities tradition and Practitioner Action tradition, as systematic enquiry whose goal is communicable knowledge. Archers themes concerning the research through practitioner action is of main interest. He distinguished between three types of research. Research about practice (where the processes of practice are observed); research for the purposes of practice; and research through practice (practice serves a research purpose from the design tools) this last one clearly linked to the nature of our DDDresearch. However he claims the importance of research nature by itself. “Clearly, no matter whether a piece of research is about practice, or is conducted for the purposes of practitioner activity, or is conducted through practitioner activity, its status is determined by the conventions and standards of the class of research to which its procedures belong. Its reliability is determined by its methodology.” 2

Archer also argues that practitioner activity can count as research only if it simultaneously meets the research criteria, if it is knowledge directed, systematically conducted and unambiguously expressed. Its data and methods must be transparent and its knowledge outcomes transferable and transmissible. However, like all Action Research, for Archer, research through practitioner action is as most likely non-objective and almost certainly situation-specific.

Another interesting point of view of Archer's debate on research relates, in particular, to the academic field and its degrees. He reminds us that ultimately, for academic recognition purposes, a practitioner's activity can rarely recognize itself as a research activity, as he justifies “One has to ask: Was the activity directed towards the acquisition of knowledge? (…) not all research, however sound, qualifies the researcher for the award of an academic degree. There are many other kinds of reward for successful pieces of research: fees, patents, profit sharing, publication, fame. Those who share in, or promote, these rewards are all much more concerned with the outcome of the research than with the research methodology.(…) A research degree on the other hand, is primarily an acknowledgment of the competence of the person who conducted the research. For this reason, an examiner of a submission for a research degree is concerned much more with the soundness of the methodology than with the usefulness of the findings. Even a negative or empty result from research might still be rewarded with an academic degree if the methodology had been impeccable. This is because the identification of an empty field, or the refutation of a hypothesis, can nevertheless be a significant contribution to knowledge, and can demonstrate a satisfactory standard of research competence. (…) Degree-worthiness is not quite the same as result-worthiness.” 2

From the discourse of the aforementioned authors, we can assume that the defined hypotheses and problem-raised, fed by the “products” obtained by the design practice activity, support the theoretical reflection of a DDDr results. DDDr as an action-research process, a dialectical spiral between action and reflection that combines complementary theory and practice for the same purpose. Action - research that seeks to transform the experience from a particular design practice to give rise to general knowledge, applicable to an indeterminate number of concrete objects. The ultimate goal is the establishment of a universal condition based on the raised hypothesis, even if in an abductive hypothesis, reached through an inductive logic based on systematic knowledge.

The purpose or perhaps the relevance of the DDDresearch lies above all when taken as a supportive action-research process, inexhaustible in the particular universe in which it expresses itself (infinite design approaches, methods and techniques). Its structure aims at its applicability, universality and scientific reach as a resource of disseminating knowledge and contribution to the renewal of the architecture/design field.

How can we qualify the different levels of observations and reflections on the research to evaluate the quality of DDr? How can we improve our understanding of the processes of ongoing DDr?

The answer to how to qualifying the different levels of observations and reflections taken upon the research and presentations to evaluate their quality of DDr , as well as how can we improve our understanding of the processes of ongoing DDr, may rely on the monitoring process developed so far in our CA2RE+ community. We are keeping a written recording of the overall outcomes since the first CA2RE+ event whether in the form of platform database, reviewer’s critics, external reporters and intellectual outputs. The intellectual outputs , proceedings, books and others, have recorded the main observations and reflection on and about the events. Understanding Design Driven Doctoral research as a work process in construction.

In a very brief way what has raised from the events from observation to reflection, through recording reactions and emerging thoughts, at specified review points, is the common recognition of several possibilities inside all the consortium PhD presenters’ works of a main set of three types of DDDr. These are mostly settled upon three key aspects, the design approach, the design method or design techniques all relevant to the design field.

The design approach is focus on a design problem statement that gives rise to the question or issue of the thesis research and its significance for the design field.

The design method is focus upon solving the problem through a design process method (state of art literature, case study analyse, experimental, analytic, etc.).

The design techniques settles upon the design media and representational techniques mainly used in the research by the PhD candidate. (As for example: analytical/descriptive or speculative dimension, visual/drawing techniques, etc.)

Although, all the former written records have transcripts, descriptions and their arguments exposed what may be missing in the collection records to evaluate, more sharply, the quality of the DDDr process is, on the one hand, highlighting from the overall elements some specific ones, carefully chosen, and its DDDr results and explaining why. Eventually these most representative ones could have an ongoing process from the beginning to the end of the CA2RE+ project.On the other hand to gather from all the CA2RE+ events the fundamental common results, something probably only reachable at the end of the CA2RE+ project time period. Now may be the right time for us to be able to program some of these key common outcomes into an effort schedule into this redesign process. Perhaps it’s the right moment to clear what we all, the consortium community, may consider as DDDr outcomes, or main results. Meaning what we consider as key contribution(s) to knowledge, that advance design understanding or design practice internationally and that add value to this field and general competence.

Jeremy Till gives a help in this direction affirming “A New Model For Architectural Research3 where he defends that Architectural knowledge and practice to be integrative has to across epistemological boundaries.” (…)A dynamic system thus emerges from this tripartite model, but it will only operate if academia and practice collaborate in order that the loop is continually fed with both data and analysis.(…) But this open will happen once we have cleared the three myths out of the way, and accept that architecture can, and should, be a research discipline in its own right, which both accords to the accepted criteria of research, but at the same time applies them in a manner appropriate to the issues at hand. There is some urgency in this, because as long as architecture fiddles around at the margins of the research debate, it will be confined to the margins of the development of knowledge.

What do they reformulate, why, how and when? The CA2RE/CA2RE+ Ljubljana discussion will engage in these type of questions.

Regarding to Ljubljana last question actions what do actions described during the last CA2RE/CA2RE+ event in Hamburg. Reformulate, why, how and when?

These questions, key reading for the modus operandi of a DDDresearch, remind us the investigative process of Roman Law “Who, what, where, by what means, why, how, when” come up as short question marks. They allow us to inquire about subject, object, place, environment, reason, method and time. They present themselves as conditioning factors of a fact, action, artefact or issue on which there is still a lack of knowledge. To better understand it, these conditions have and still must be invoked, one by one and one in relation to the other, in their components, but also the processes that supported them and gave them meaning and relevance to achieve outcomes, or main results. Possible questions and relationships that may help on our common DDDr journey of pursuing indefinite knowledge.

  1. Candy, Linda (2007), Creativity & Cognition Studios http://www.creativityandcognit... University of Technology, Sydney.
  2. Archer, Bruce (1995), “The nature of research”, Co-design, interdisciplinary journal of design, January 1995.
  3. Till, Jeremy (2007), “what is Architectural Research? Architecture Research: three Miths and one Model@, Building Material vol. 17, Dublin.