Design for Living Complexities: Open course begins mid July

This course explores critical thinking about design in a range of areas of life and its complexities. It starts July 18 and continues for 6 weeks. The recorded presentations and subsequent discussion are taking place on google+. See http://bit.ly/designcct for other options for participation (incl. for-credit graduate course) and links to more details about the course. An overview of the course is below.

Design is about intentionality in construction, which involves a range of materials, a sequence of steps, and principles that inform the choice of material and the steps. Design always involves putting people as well as materials into place, which may happen by working with the known properties of the people and materials, trying out new arrangements, or working around their constraints (at least temporarily).

Critical thinking involves understanding ideas and practices better when we examine them in relation to alternatives. In a sense, critical thinking is in design from the start, because design cannot proceed without the idea that there are alternatives to the current way of doing things. This course exposes and explores alternative designs through history (showing that things have by no means always been the way they are now), “archeology of the present” (shedding light on what we might have taken for granted or left as someone else’s responsibility/specialty), comparison (looking at the ways things are arranged in different organizations and cultures), and ill-defined problems (in cases of real-world “living complexity” that invite a range of responses).

Each course session takes up an issue about design, introduced in a presentation, followed by work on a case related to that issue and, at the start of the next session, reports on participants’ design sketches to address the case. With each design sketch, participants add to or revise a growing set of principles for critical thinking in design. The design sketches and principles will, with participants’ permission, be made accessible to a wider online audience and serve as part of an evolving online text for subsequent years.

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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