Scientific Principles Applied to Design-Type Research

Scientific Principles Applied to Design-Type Research

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0131-4.ch008
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If design-type research shares deep roots with the traditional scientific research, then the principles advanced by the philosophers of science should be applicable to it as well. The purpose of this chapter is to show how these principles could be interpreted through the lens of design-type research. Induction in DTR implies extracting features of the implemented particular solutions with subsequent generalization. Deduction means inferring meta-requirements and, subsequently, features of meta-systems based on kernel theories. Ockham’s razor as a criterion favors simpler designs. Popper’s falsifiability criterion means that design of meta-artifacts should be informative. Lacatos’s protective belt translates into separating the immutable core of a design theory from the part that is potentially modifiable. Kuhn’s paradigms in design establish a given core design statement for a particular kind of meta-artifact, which drives focused research in that area. Feyerabend’s anarchy encourages alternative design visions. The aesthetics criterion plays an important part in recognizing forms in meta-artifacts.
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Learning From Traditional Science

The previous chapters advanced various arguments in support of the claim that there is no essential difference between traditional scientific research and that of the design-type. Science aims at discovering hidden mechanisms behind the multitude of world phenomena to simplify our understanding of the reality and enable prediction of unfolding events. We have argued that design can also be seen as a kind of discovery, whereby predictive statements are made about future evolution of the needs of humankind and the emergence of the corresponding forms in response to this evolution.

Professional designers engage in the procreative type of work devising new types of products, processes, tools, techniques, and the like in their attempts to tackle new specific requirements in their respective fields. The new artifacts exhibiting elements of various pertinent forms appear in the course of technological evolution, and some of them prove to be valuable for the given problem contexts. Many fail to fulfill the requirements, either because of the inappropriateness of the solution, or the failure to correctly describe the requirements (including the case of their sheer non-existence). Yet some others appear to serve the purpose for a limited time until a better solution is prompted, most likely by the advances in the technological (inner) environment.

In the course of design it is only natural to rely on the elements of the existing familiar objects and incorporate them as part of the new designed environments to promote ease of learning and use by the target artifact users. The use of metaphors, therefore, has been one of the crucial techniques in the designer’s arsenal. The desktop metaphor, for example had proven to be tremendously successful in promoting computer usage by non-technical professionals. So was the employment of shopping cart by the online retailers as it eased the transition to the electronic ways of shopping. On the other hand, not all metaphors are necessarily useful. Virtual beings that create the illusion of a personality and battle the machine nature of computers agreeably catch one’s imagination. However, use of the synthetic characters in various application contexts is not readily justified. A meta-study of the value of providing synthetic animated characters did not reveal any evidence of their usefulness other than in gaming applications (Dehn & Mulken, 2000). The clip character introduced in Microsoft Office was of the dubious value to the users. Perhaps, in this case there was no need for an “artificial” metaphor.

There are also examples of requirements that are valid, but the solutions offered are relatively short-lived and are soon superseded by the newer solutions, typically incorporating the elements of newer technological advances. The floppy disks have enjoyed the popularity for about two decades or so as they have been an adequate solution for the truly existing requirement. Zip disks, introduced in 1994 were seen as a new promising technology, but had a much shorter life as an innovation. CD and DVD technologies proved to be superior in providing much larger storage capacities. In the domain of databases the early suggestions of data organization included hierarchical and network models. These, again had a valid requirement to address: the need to properly store large amounts of data and facilitate their effective and efficient access and manipulation. However, the emergence of the relational model had proved to address this requirement much better, and thus is the most popular format employed in modern systems. Even the more “advanced” object-oriented database model does not seem to be replacing the relational schema, while the vendors of the latter incorporate some object-oriented features in their products without having to make significant changes to the relational core.

In the search process, thus, the artifacts appear as the representatives of the new species in the course of technological struggle for survival, and many of them perish because of sheer inadequacy, or because they are replaced by better fit rivals. Then, why not let this evolution flow in its natural turbulent course? Why bother about design-type research and predictions about “meta-requirements” and “meta-artifacts”? What is the value of the design-type science?

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