Design Science

Principles of the design science

The science of design deals with synthesis. It is both the world of engineering, and the world of social construction of reality as for example in education, policymaking, organization and management. Analytical science is concerned with analysis and decomposition of natural objects. Engineering and technology pay attention to artifacts. Their claims about material artifacts are universal and therefore context independent. Design deals with objects that are established by our practices. The design sciences emphasize the building metaphor of assembling parts, the systematic arrangements of elements, which become part of a whole. From the design science perspective, I will pay attention to organized complexity, especially to complex adaptive systems and their emergence from numerous double interacts between individuals, shaping dynamic collective networks that easily go beyond our comprehension.
Key views: reflexive actors in social systems, faces of knowledge, and the interplay between design-in-the-large and design-in-the-small.

Design-in-the-Large (DIL) & Design-in-the-Small (DIS)

Simon (1969) has broadened the notion of design by pointing out that everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones. This endeavor is what I call design-in-the-large (DIL). Simon argued that the intellectual activity that produces material artifacts is no fundamentally different from the one that prescribes remedies for the sick patient or the one that devises a new sales plan for a company or a social welfare policy for a state. He mentioned:

“Design, so construed, is the core of all professional training; it is the principal mark that distinguishes the professions from the sciences. Schools of engineering, as well as schools of architecture, business, education, law, and medicine, are all centrally concerned with the process of design” (Simon 1969, p. 56).

Based on these views, I will make a distinction between designing artifacts-as-such, their usability, and their potential impact on changing existing situations into preferred ones. Although the related intellectual activities may be similar, processes of learning and knowledge construction while engaging in the two activities are different. Therefore, I will distinguish between two levels of design: design-in-the-small (DIS), referring to game design as such, and design-in-the-large (DIL), referring to changing existing situations into preferred ones: games-as-interventions in change processes. Both levels of design are closely interconnected for the following reasons.

Gaming professionals use theoretical models, and speculative conjectures about the social world, couched in terms of those models. They also have views about how gaming works and what you can do with it; how games can be designed, modified, adapted. Typically, games do not behave as expected. The world resists. Game designers and facilitators have to accommodate themselves to that resistance. They can do it by correcting the major theory under investigation, they can revise beliefs about how the game works, they can modify the game itself, and they can use the game as an intervention to enhance organizational change and learning. The end result is a robust fit between all these elements.

This view on design implies that designers have a sense of direction, a goal, or preference state, a notion how things ought to be – and knowledge and means to help attaining that preferred state. In other words, they not only have knowledge about the goals to achieve, they have in addition knowledge about the road to beat. That understanding of the term design is closely related to the term control. Such an understanding would lead to the notion of design as an applied science and to forms of social engineering. This view is not correct, as it is too limited a view. Purpose of DIL is to broaden the scope of design beyond the limited instrumentality of artifacts, and the underlying narrowly technical rationality. It addresses processes of change and social innovation, constructed on the basis of lessons learned from experimenting with games (complex adaptive systems). The principle of indeterminacy questions the common notion of control, especially when dealing with complex social system with emerging properties. Wenger has depicted design as a – systematic, planned, and reflexive colonization of time and space in the service of an undertaking – (Wenger, 1998). This interpretation includes the design of artifacts as input to innovation.

Key words: actors; artifacts; complexity science; design-in-the-large; design-in-the-small; emergence; networks; organization; organized complexity; social system; structural conditioning.

For more details, see chapters 4 and 5 of the book:
The Magic Circle: Principles of Gaming & Simulation