The Idea of Metadesignau_o

A Colloquium for Helping some Authors to Collaborate on a Possible Book

Afternoon session - DAY ONE - 28th June 2007
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2.00 - How Can Metadesigners Invoke the Law of Increasing Returns?

by Richard Douthwaite (external link)

  • Richard has been described as one of the world's leading eco-journalists (see his online publication The Ecology of Money (external link))
  • His work with micro-economics has led him work with small communities in designing currencies that bring more independence and cohesion.
  • Orthodox economics seems to contain a central paradox. On the one hand it is predicated on the Law of Decreasing Returns.
  • This is equivalent to the logic of mining, in which a finite resource becomes less and less profitable as its source is eventually exhausted.
  • On the other hand, we tend to believe in what Douthwaite has called the growth illusion (external link).
  • This myth is endemic within the rhetoric of capitalism. These models are misleading because they overlook the ecological dimension.
  • On the positive side, some economists (e.g. Romer (external link), (1987) have reminded us that resources such as ideas - or happiness (c.f. Layard (external link)) are virtually inexhaustible.
  • As such they offer alternatives to the pursuit of GDP, and to the damaging confusion surrounding 'sustainability'.
  • At the ecological level, this will mean designing systems that would enable millions of people to sequester carbon (charcoal) in their arable (terra preta) soils (external link).
  • This should set up a virtuous circle in which the incorporation of the charcoal gives bigger crops, which in turn enables more carbon to be sequestered.

2.40 - Service Design and Systemic thinking

Click on the screen to run an edited movie (or see transcript)

See the whole video here (external link)

by Rachel Cooper (external link) and Daniela Sangiorgi

  • For a successful form of metadesign to emerge it will be necessary to manage the design process itself.
  • Metadesign can learn from well-established practices types of design that are 'generic'.
  • In large practical design projects - e.g. city planning that leads directly to construction work - some of the theoretical work has already been done.
  • Indeed, the ability to manage these kinds of process are critical to any such venture's success.
  • Some aspects have obviously been well understood for thousands of years.
  • Professor Cooper has adopted conventional stages in the life of a project:
  • Pre-Project
  • Pre-Construction
  • Construction
  • Post-Construction
  • Post-Project
  • In the field of architecture and urban planning there is an accepted meta-level role for the 'Master Planner'.
  • This appears to be predicated on the model of designing, or planning for relatively static entities, such as buildings or discrete products.
  • However, metadesign would need to function at a more organic level, where any categorical and predictive actions may prove to be problematic.
  • It is likely that 'master planning' would need to be revised.
  • This is because we need more self-reflexive, co-creative task, in which teams must regulate themselves in a purposeful and responsible manner.
  • Professor Cooper has identified distinct roles for what we currently know as the 'designer'.

3.20 - How can Metadesign Become more Eco-mimetic?

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See the whole video here (external link)

by Ken Fairclough

  • Ken is an expert who is accustomed to elucidating 'strange' ideas to large organisations.
  • This ability will be a key factor in the success of the metadesign project.
  • Although he did not work as a conventional designer he is sometimes described as a 'design epistemologist'.
  • As a founder member of EcoZen? he has created a variety of methods and inventions that are inspired by what he calls "Nature's design Studio'.
  • Where professional designers traditionally work with discrete products Dr. Fairclough can make highly complex systems operate more effectively.
  • Explaining his methods in a standard way is difficult because they suggest non-linear scenarios that do not comply with clock-time, or rigid hierarchies.
  • Where Western thought emphasizes individuality this makes little sense in nature, where the 'self' is only of value when identified in the context of the whole.
  • Dr. Fairclough's work has taken him beyond the 'bio-mimetic' and towards the 'eco-mimetic'.
  • For example, he can raise the effectiveness of an organisation by ensuring that each employee enhances the potential of his, or her immediate colleagues.
  • By raising the expectations of the ultimate potential of organisations, society itself may become more effective.
  • At present this is a difficult criterion for most commercial enterprises to grasp, because of the way that economics is commonly perceived.
  • This is an important aspect of metadesign.

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