Travis Wall

(Sometimes Graphic) Designer. Working on a PhD: Design Thinking +/= Heterogeneous Engineering. General flâneur. Chronic knowledge gatherer.

Location: Sydney, Australia

As engaging and thought provoking as Bruno Latour's texts are, his ideas and thinking can sometimes be more digestible delivered by natural means of audio and visual communication. I've collected some of Latour's more interesting talks into a single place, which sometimes require a little bit more digging to find than a single search on YouTube. Many of these videos take angle at things from his later "modes of existence" work, but the general principles of the actor-network theory that Latour is known for is (arguably) present in everything. A similar compilation is available at Anthem group (The Actor-Network Theory – Heidegger Meeting), although it has not been updated with talks after 2012.

The word design is thrown around a lot: we have people called graphic designers, industrial designers, fashion designers, interior designers, interaction designers to name a few… and these are just job titles using the word… to go along with all the people who generate designs, such as mechanical engineers, civil engineers, computer engineers, architects, urban planners, policy makers, and so on. It could be very reasonably argued that just about everyone designs as part of what they do, professionally or otherwise. What does this mean for the word design? What does design actually mean? Does it even have any useful meaning anymore? This is an on-going project collecting attempts people have made at pinning down this design word into something meaningful.

What if we thought of the 'wickedness' of problems in terms of temperature instead? The 'wicked problems' concept was first created by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber in the early 1970s through their study of the structure of governmental policy and planning problems, finding them as structurally different to problems found in sciences. Wicked problems were argued to be more unstable, complex and subjective than a typical science problem (a tame problem), and therefore require a method of dealing with them different than typical scientific enquiry. Richard Buchanan then successfully imported the idea into conversation around creating material objects, arguing that the built environment and technological culture has become so embedded in human existence that the kinds of problems people creating material objects deal with have the same structure as wicked problems. Things may not be this simple though - using Michel Callon’s concept of integrated socio-technical structures and economic analysis to the tame/wicked model suggests categorising problems might be better considered on a spectrum - cold to hot. Building this new direction on top of Rittel and Webber's original concept handles the messy reality of problems, and provides a helpful jumping off point for further exploration and development.