Literature Review: Our Role as Disclosers

I have sectioned my literature Review into seven sections; OntologyCoordination or Style, Our Role as Disclosers, Commitment, Breakdown, Disclosing New Technologies, Designing Disclosure .Have a look at my problem statement here.


This realisation of ourselves as disclosers is one of great importance, because we can disclose very important structures of our existence; of what it truly means to be human – but what does this realisation mean actually?

To understand our role as disclosers is to acknowledge that the basic structure of our existence is to disclose new worlds – that is to bring about new practices, concepts and ways of being. Through this disclosive process we also find fundamental structures of meaning in existence such as purpose, identity and will. This is to say that in finding ourselves in our situatedness, in our being-there we also find what the world is calling us to do, and how it is asking us to take action. To be authentic then is to engage in this dialogue with ourselves, our history and the world in which we are embedded; and to then act purposefully. This purposeful action can only be found with the central realisation as our role as disclosers.

The problem is that we take the world around us to be given, objective and inert; a world in which our intervention amounts to merely submitting to the common-sense structures of reality. This is because we do not see that everything around has been brought about through disclosure; everything is a result of the creative action of people just like us. This misapprehension comes about from one specific thing – that our practices for dealing with the world are founded in an objective and rational paradigm, whose focus is on allowing us to cope within an objective world. As Spinosa et al (1997) articulate:

“Our practices are designed for dealing with things, not for dealing with practices for dealing with things and especially not for dealing with the coordination of practices for dealing with things.” (Spinosa, Flores, & Dreyfus, 1997)

We do not normally sense that we are disclosers because we are interested in the things we disclose and not in the disclosing (Flores, Spinosa, & Dreyfus, 1998). If we shift our focus rather on the process of disclosure itself, we may possibly find a far more richer and purposeful existence and with this the capacity to disclose worlds which are relevant, plausible and contextually viable.

The point here is a somewhat subtle one – it is not that we are not disclosers (for that is undeniable), but rather it is that we are not aware of the ontological structures in which we disclose. Ontological designing then is a design process, which is aimed at unearthing the basic ontological structures of a context; and in this deconstruction finding the basic processes for the emergence of a new ontological structure.

Heidegger claims that a hallmark of Western disclosure has been one of dominance – that is to say that our disposition to the world around us is one of exploitation. This is the belief that we are configurations of power, that our focus has been on an expression where we seek to dominate being, rather than to understand it. This in turn, blocks off human sensitivity to the way life and situations are changing all the time; that we become unaware of our role as disclosers of being and instead supplant this role to one of dominance.

The attempt has always been to put our humanness in the center– not Being itself and thereby trying to gain a kind of conceptual control over Being. This falsely portrays us as subject to human creations where we think of Being as something, which we have control over. Heidegger (Heidegger, 1932) sees all form of philosophical thought as human-centred and anthropocentric, which he claims is where we have gone wrong. Therefore in Heidegger’s later works he proposes that the role of the discloser is to allow Being to disclose itself in itself rather than to attempt to impose our will upon it.

Heidegger ( 1996) claims that most of us live, according to the They, rather than according to our own authentic phenomena of existence. The They refers to the way we identify ourselves with what others or the public culture thinks about us (what ever they think) or simply put, what concepts we compare ourselves to. This also relates to objects of desire, which we want or are after (such as money and material things). Heidegger calls this the das Man self, which we may understand as an set of names, categories and labels, for example, “ I am a student”, or “I am wealthy” etc. The problem is that this conception of our self is inauthentic, in that it is not based on our historicity, our being-there.  To find our authenticity then is exactly the opposite, to find ourselves (our being) in time (our history) – what Heidegger calls Dasein or the essential structure of existence.

In this way ontological designing begins with the question of being – not only who I am (our authenticity); but also what is asking to become. This last point is founded on an acknowledgement of the nature of Being as becoming  – what we may call the second question of being: what is becoming? It is these two aspects of being ontological that are at the heart of the realisation of our role as disclosers.

With this we find purpose and meaning, in that we disclose what action we must take. This commitment is the necessary condition for disclosing new worlds and new ways of being (Spinosa et al., 2007); further this commitment can only be fostered through a invention within identity.

Literature Review: Coordination or Style

I have sectioned my literature Review into seven sections; Ontology, Coordination or Style, Our Role as Disclosers, Commitment, Breakdown, Disclosing New Technologies, Designing Disclosure 

Coordination or style

Our way of being, or style is the basic understanding of human activity and experience. Style acts as the grounding from which practices are maintained and also the platform from which new practices are developed (Flores, Spinosa, & Dreyfus, 1998) Our way of being, deals with its surroundings through learning and perceiving patterns of interlocking meaning, then applying this to the activity at hand – for example, walking, thinking, driving, or conversation. We often do not notice ourselves as agents, as people, or as any thing in these activities. Once we become habituated to a style, it becomes invisible to us (Flores, Spinosa, & Dreyfus, 1998).  From a Heideggerrian perspective is called throwness, which means that our basic engagement in the world is not of reflection – that we are not rational and reflective which engaged in the world. Rather reflection occurs in breakdown of this throwness, which is an encounter with the uncertainty of experience. In this breakdown we must make sense, reflect and create concepts that allow us to cope or adapt.

What needs to be done, said or thought of straightaway draws an appropriate response form us. We respond to a situation that appears in terms of the actions we need take. It is only at the unexpected moment when something does not go according to expectation that we begin to experience disharmony (breakdown) that we begin to call upon different ways of being, or different patterns to figure out how to deal with the unexpected.

A suitable example here would be how we interact with our mobile phones today – we can engage in a discussion on an instant messaging platform, where we are deeply immersed in the conversation and are not focused on typing in every single letter, it just flows naturally – we do not have to reflect on it, because we have performed and learned how to interact with our mobiles and so has become habituated. Spinosa et al.,(1997) have followed up by saying,

“ We see things as odd artefacts until we become familiar with their use, and then we become virtually incapable of seeing them as strange (Flores, Spinosa, & Dreyfus, 1998)”.

Through observing a style of organizing “or the coordination of actions”, we can articulate a disclosive space. This disclosure allows us to articulate the underlying coordination or sense making processes, which affect the system in three ways:

“1) by coordinating actions, 2) by determining how things and people matter and 3) by being what is transferred from situation to situation. These three functions of style determine the way anything shows up and makes sense for us.” (Spinosa et al., 2007)

Through being present to this disharmony or breakdown, we can get a sense of how this system is dynamic and changing – that is to say that we can begin to understand how it is attempting to evolve. To elaborate here, two things “show up” in this breakdown. Firstly the breakdown discloses coordination, it unearths the roots of sense so to speak which instantiates the system itself. Secondly it points out the areas in which the system is failing, and shows these as the exact places in which change or development must occur. These two points are the basic points of departure for ontological design because it shows a breakdown in the hermeneutic machinery and also gives and indication of the development trajectory of the system.

The next question is to figure out how to facilitate the emergence of a new style – this requires the ability to work with the above two points as the actual foundation for design. This skill for dealing with a disharmony or discordance is more complex than the skill for noticing and holding on to it. Spinosa et al. (2007) suggest that there are three ways one can do this, namely articulation, reconfiguration and cross-appropriation.

We distinguish two aspects of a disclosive space: it’s organization and it’s coordination. In order for things and selves to show up as meaningful (as opposed to just effective) this organized activity needs further organization called coordination (Flores, Spinosa, & Dreyfus, 1998).

In the articulation of change, the style crystalizes the core identity and becomes more recognizable in its pure form, for what it actually is. Reconfiguration is a more substantial way in which a style can change. In this case some marginal aspect of practices coordinated by a style becomes dominant. Cross-appropriation takes place when one disclosive space takes over from another disclosive space, a practice that it could not generate on its own but what it finds useful.

(This still needs work and I need to expand on this section on Articulation, Reconfiguration and Cross-appropriation. Plus add examples – e.g. feminist movement)

Articulation, reconfiguration and cross-appropriation are three different ways in which, disclosive skills can work to bring about meaningful historical change, of a disclosive space. All of these types of change are historical because people sense them as continuous with the past (Flores, Spinosa, & Dreyfus, 1998). These three ways in which disclosing may be historical – or may produce changes in coordination of practices – leads us to the investigation into being sensitive to the disclosing that one is carrying on in one’s life, which we call disclosing, that one is a discloser (Flores, Spinosa, & Dreyfus, 1998).


Literature Review: Ontology

I have sectioned my literature Review into seven sections; Ontology, Coordination or Style, Our Role as Disclosers, Commitment, Breakdown, Disclosing New Technologies, Designing Disclosure 


Ontology refers to the meaning of being or existence itself. To describe ontology clearly, we will use an Heideggerian lens to grasp its fundamental concept. Heidegger, is interested in what it means for entities to exist, he is interested in modes of being, or existence.
In Being and Time  ( 1996) Martin Heidegger talks about what it means to exist, in a sense he looks at existence as an activity – our mode of being, or mode of existence. He believes that human existence is open to, vulnerable to and defined in relation to the world surrounding it.

Heidegger says that being-in-the-world, means the world is a part of our beings existential structure, it is the projection of possibilities based upon a history of experience. In this way we always understand things through experience, at this level, things, which are revealed to us, are believed to be true. What we understand is based on what we already know, and what we already know comes from being able to understand (Winograd & Flores, 1987).

Spinosa, Flores and Dreyfus (1997) in their book Disclosing New Worlds describe all pragmatic activity as being organized by a style. Style is our name for the way all the practices ultimately fit together, (Spinosa et al.,1997)claim that a style is not an aspect of things, people, or activity but, rather, constitutes them as what they are.

Accompanying the concept of style is, Heidegger’s notion of a worldhood, which is an interdependent and interrelated set of meanings, that is complete. He calls this a worldhood because we constantly project it as we move through our experience of the world. Disclosing a worldhood, by definition means having an experience of a certain way of being. With this experience of a world, I bring with me, the capacity to experience it, which means it gets revealed to me. That is that “any individual, in understanding his/her world is continually involved in activities of interpretation. That interpretation is based on prejudice or pre-understanding (Winograd & Flores, 1987).”

A world for Heidegger, has three characteristics; Inclusively non-related pieces of equipment, which are used to perform a specific task. These tasks achieve certain purposes, which enables those performing them  to have identities. These identities are the meaning or point of engaging in these activities (Flores, Spinosa, & Dreyfus, 1998).

For this reason, Heidegger argues that the separation of the subject and the object denies the more fundamental unity of being-in-the-world (Dasein). From the distinction that I (the subject) am perceiving something else (the object), means I have stepped back from the pre-eminence of experience and understanding itself, which operates without reflection. In other words, “The interpreted and the interpreter, do no exist independently, existence is interpretation and interpretation is existence (Winograd & Flores, 1987).”

This view of the world as interpretation (from a distinctly Heideggerrian perspective) is called Hermeneutic Phenomenology. This is an appropriate ontological stance for our investigation because it is interested in ontological design. This means we are specifically engaged in designing bridges between multiple and varied ontological stances in a synthetic and integrative manner. The task of the ontological designer then is to disclose worlds, which are based on shared sense making or shared hermeneutic foundations.

To explore this further we operate within the world based on a basic hermeneutic process or sense making. This ‘way’ of making sense of things and experience is what determines the way we act within that world – we can call this the style in which we act in the world. Therefore in ontological designing we are interested in unearthing the sense generating machinery between differing ontological stances; and through that difference disclose new possibilities for being.

Google’s new design ethos

Google has released the most amazing style guide ever. What makes it so great is that they have created a guide that crosses through multiple channels and prepares for future channels or worlds in which it will spread it’s service into. I find this particularly interesting because it aligns with precognition of experiences and setting a design style for that precognition.

Google is about to take over your life and you won’t even notice. With their new design outlook which extends beyond the digital screen and restructures the user interface elements to create a more tangible system which is an accumulation of their digital services. This perception reveals a more subtle, more seamless, more invisibly visible, Google. As Golden Krishna says good design, is invisible

Material Design is a way for Google to unify what it is–not just as a collection of similarly designed services for various screens–but as a real secondary world in which everything you see is a snippet of something tangible. 

Our windows to that world may not always be the same–sometimes it might be circles on our wrists, other times it might be rectangles in our hands–but Material Design promises that we’ll always have access to the same, inherently logical bits information regardless of what we’re interacting with. And as content merges more and more between these screens, the feeling will be as natural as gravity.

This is natural outlook of interaction design is very inspiring. There are web concepts such as future friendly and mobile web, and Google have shown immense adaptability.

In other words, any point of friction in your day to day life is an opportunity for Google. It’s not any one preconceived thing, but a wide, opportunist infrastructure that can constantly conform to your life.

Google wants to be as amorphous as its wonder paper.

Research Problem

This research is situated within the field of design and specifically the design of technology embedded within human activity systems. The aim is to explore the role of technology within societies, with specific emphasis on how these technologies affect human systems to evolve, grow and create solidarity. To do this, I will explore the fundamental ontological claims unacknowledged in traditional design methodologies and whether these assumptions still serve this role for technology today.

The major area of concern in the design of technological systems is that they are embedded within a complex world, of multiple ontological narratives. This means that there are multiple ways of approaching the world, multiple ways of knowing and being. It is the role of technology to bridge these multiple narratives, in a synthetic and integrative manner; such that new worlds, new ontologies are born which act as common ground, in the creation of solidarity and shares praxis.

Although it is proposed here that this is the highest form of technological design, for the most part, technologies do not fulfill this purpose.

In using the word “technology” people are generally concerned with artifacts – with things they design, build, and use. But in our interpretation, technology is not the design of physical things. It is the design of practices and possibilities to be realized through artifacts. Computer technology involves machines, but that is not what is ultimately significant. It encompasses the design of new practices (including those of word processing, electronic communication, printing, accounting, and the like), and beyond that it opens the possibility for new realms of practice. (Flores & Winograd, 1988)

In reading this it has shifted my view from merely looking at designing artifacts of interaction, to rather designing possibilities (new worlds) and practices (ontologies) for human beings.

Technology is built within a paradigm of instrumental rationality, which means it takes an objective view of reality and most importantly places design as that process which manipulates resources to achieve its goals. The effect of such an instrumental technocracy leaves us separated from our role as disclosers of new worlds of being.

All the drifts one is witnessing today in design can be attributed to one or all of these three central pillars: the already mentioned “effect of product engineering and marketing on design,” i.e. the determinism of instrumental reason and central role of the economic factor as the almost exclusive evaluation criterion: an extremely narrow philosophical anthropology which leads one to consider the user as a mere customer or, at best, as a human being framed by ergonomics and cognitive psychology; an outdated implicit epistemology of century; an overemphasis upon material shapes and qualities; a code of ethics originating in culture of business contracts and agreements; a cosmology restricted to the marketplace; a sense of history conditioned by the concept of material progress; and a sense of time limited to the cycles of fashion and technological innovations or obsolescence. All these aspects have contributed to the current state of design. (Findelli, 2001)

Design is meant to serve as a lens to imagine possibilities, to be the bridge between precognition and experience or a way in which we disclose new experiences. Similar to Flores and Winograd, Findelli points out that our focus in design sprouts from the wrong basis, which in turn creates unwanted outcomes and harmful reflections of one self, society and systems.

We are in a time of massive institutional failure, collectively creating results that nobody wants. Climate change, AIDS, hunger, poverty, violence. The Destruction of communities, and nature – the foundations of our social, economic, ecological and spiritual well being. (Scharmer, 2011)

What is needed is a thinking discipline focusing on synthesis and integration, one in which new concepts may be disclosed. (Martin, Moldoveanu, 2008)

It is a new way of experiencing and imagining that we need to address to prevent thinking in the same loop of destruction. A change in perspective is needed to break free from the loop of observation of subject and creation f what the subject has asked for, because these methods are not creating solutions but are repeating the same issues.

This research approach is distinctly Heidegerrian, in that it attempts to deconstruct the underlying ontological assumptions within technology design. In so doing it attempts to reveal a more fundamental mode of design thinking; one found on what Heidegger called unconcealment. We will use Heidegger’s landmark paper, The Question Concerning Technology (1953) as the basic theoretical foundations of research. I aim to build on these concepts referencing two further works; Understanding Computers and Cognition (1987) and disclosing New Worlds (1997). These two texts build on the concepts of ontological design.

The most important designing is ontological. It constitutes as intervention in the background of our heritage, growing out of our already existent ways of being in the world, and deeply affecting the kinds of beings that we are. In creating new artifacts, equipment, buildings and organizational structures, it attempts to specify in advance how and where breakdowns will show up in our everyday practices and in the tools we use, opening up new spaces in which we can work and play. Ontologically oriented design is therefore necessarily both reflective and political, looking backwards to the tradition that has us but also forwards to as-yet-uncreated transformations of our lives together. Through the emergence of new tools, we come to a changing awareness of human nature and human action, which in turn leads to a new technological development. The designing process is part of this ‘dance’ in which our structure of possibilities is generated. (Flores, Winograd, P 163, Understanding Computers and Cognition)

Ontological design implies different ways of understanding how we, as modern subjects ‘are’ and how we be who or what we are in the modern world. Simply put, we design our world, while our world acts back on us and designs us. (Willis, 2006)The tradition of ontological design emphasizes the role of the intervener or discloser as one who reveals new ontologies. Therefore the experience of the designer is of critical importance. This is because the fundamental methodology of ontological inquiry is phenomenology. The fundamental methodology of design is to understand the phenomena of the experience itself and to use this to synthesize new ways of being.

For this reason my research will engage into a phenomenological inquiry into design around three practical projects, which involve the design of techno-social systems. The goal of this research is to shed light into the experience of ontological design, in the hopes of contributing in part to a new context of technology design.

There are two major, practical dimensions I would like to explore here: My work as a Usability Architect for the Western Cape government, where the focus is on e-Government for citizens and working with Ownpower consulting on the investigation of a Learning management system (LMS) and a Skills intelligence platform (SIP).

My exploration lies in two roles; the role of the designer in the creation of technologically orientated human activity systems and the role of technology in creating new worlds or ontologies for citizens.

Learning log – 18 April

Nosakhere and I were chatting about dealing with the Western Cape government, and I feel that it would be a great place to start here. We were sharing our frustrations of dealing with the government. The problem was the large amount of miscommunication that was constantly arising. There are so many levels of meta-communication on a subject that they’re constantly being lost in translation and in turn misrepresented which results in the wrong outcome. This describes the urgency of infusing a different action in the public sphere. How do we allow for innovation to take place in an institute that is so used to the tendency of being run from the top down.

Otto Scharmer states that we live in a time of massive institutional failure, collectively creating results that nobody wants. Similarly, Albert Einstein famously noted that problems cannot be resolved by the same level of consciousness that created them. Basically, the way in which we pay attention to a situation, from an individual perspective and a collective perspective determines the way in which the system will arise and emerge. This time calls for a new consciousness and a new collective leadership capacity to meet challenges in a more conscious, intentional and strategic way. The development of such capacity will allow us to create a future of greater possibility.

I would like to continue from my last blog post where I concluded by saying: With Flores talks about technology reflecting identity and Winograd speaking of designing worlds that provide a uniform and comprehendible structure, which can support human activity in all its complexity and beauty; it is important to use the correct tools and methods to safely nurture the creation of computer and technological systems. In my research I would love to find the right methods and techniques in which we can create systems that can facilitate social self-growth, stability and equality.

This past week, I have been looking at papers by Fernando Flores, Otto Schamer and John Maeda. Firstly I would like to continue from last blog by elaborating on the last paragraph. Flores speaks of the Language-action perspective, it is formed from two main principles. The first is linguistic communication, which forms the basis for understanding what occurs in information systems. Flores goes on to say that ultimately, all information is communication, and it is not an abstract system of bits and bytes but rather a means by which people interact. The second principle states that language is action. Through linguistic acts people effect change in the world.

By applying a language-action framework on information technology, it emphasizes the action dimension over a more traditional dimension of information content. Flores observes that this perspective reveals the underlying structure that drives and gives meaning to the activities of people using an information system. It allows for the possibility of encouraging participants in a way that enables them to act more effectively when effective coordination is a necessity.

Douglas Hofstadder (2007) observed in his book, I am a strange loop, that in the end, we are self-perceiving, self-creating, locked-in mirages. We are miracles of self-reference. Hofstadder, uses the metaphor that our brains are in fact hard drives which are continually mirroring the patterns of our external world which we use to establish our known reality, like a feedback loop. Hence the name of the book, I am a strange loop. He goes on to say that the more self referentially aligned one is, the more self aware one becomes.

I had read this a while back, and at the beginning of the MPhil course I had a great conversation with Ayanda, from Ownpower, where we spoke about language, communication and how we articulate ourselves. Luckily I wrote it down, because it is now clearing up a lot of concepts swirling around in my head.

I as telling Ayanda, that I was afraid of doing the Mphil course because I really battle to articulate myself, and often I freeze when I need to say something that means a lot to me. Ayanda profoundly said:

“We don’t actually understand each other, language is just a false construct. We think the other person understands us, but we are actually just infusing ourselves into the conversation and the person listening is listening by infusing themselves into the conversation, so that they can make sense if it. It is impossible.

The way I understood it was that we are basically talking to each other, by listening out for what experience I have experienced, so that I can understand on an experiential level what the other person is saying.

I feel like this conversation has linked what Hofstadder speaks of in I am a strange loop with what Otto Scharmer speaks of when he talks about the four different types of listening.

Schamer (2007) states that most leaders are unable to recognize, let alone change, the structural habits of attention used in their organizations. In Scharmer’s research he observes that this requires particular types of listening, he observes four different types of listening.

Listening 1 : Downloading – Where one listens by reconfirming their habitual judgements, one listens for what they already confirms they know.

Listening 2: Factual -This is listening by paying attention to facts. One is able to switch off their inner voice of judgement and listen for what differs from what one already knows. Factual listening is when one allows the information to talk to you and you pay careful attention.

Listening 3: Empathetic – This is a deeper level of listening, when one is engaged in real dialogue and is paying careful attention, one becomes aware of a profound shift in the place from which one’s listening originates. In other words, when we say, I know how you feel, you feel what someone is saying, without particularly knowing how to define it. Scharmer says this is where we are able to open our hearts, only an open heart gives us the empathetic capacity to connect directly with another person from within.

Listening 4: Generative – This type of listening moves beyond the current field and connects us to an even deeper realm of emergence. This is where one listens from the emerging field of future possibility. Where one listens with an open heart in empathetic listening, with generative listening, one listens with an open will – which allows for a capacity to connect with the highest future possibility that can emerge. When one operates from generative listening, one realizes after the conversation, they are no longer the same person they were at the beginning of the conversation. There is a subtle but profound change, which has connected you to a deeper source of knowing.

I believe that visual design has the ability to hold ones attention the same way in which the last two types of listening, which Scharmer speaks about here. In this realm, one is able to be moved and to experience a profound change which can allow one to experience a deeper source of knowing.

Flores identifies this as the knowledge level, where we are able to go beyond the verbal level. Using Diagrammatic thinking defined by Charles S Pierce (1906), where he states thatthe use of a diagram enables us to create a new way of relating to the unknown, of unfolding the dynamics of orientation in the world. It is this realm, which I hope to work in to create a process or system, which mirrors human potentiality from a pure state of being.

There are two practical avenues in which I hope to achieve this in, one being related to my work I am doing  for the e-Citizen, e-Government department at the Western Cape Government and the other being a GAP year programme titled Expanding Horizons run by the Bertha Centre for Social innovation and Entrepreneurship, contracted by the Western Cape Government.

I have recently asked Nosakhere if I could be apart of the work he is doing for the Western Cape government with regards to the GAP year programme – Expanding Horizons. The purpose of the programme be to provide high performing high school and varsity students with opportunities to aid in the educational improvement of public schools through tutoring, developing social innovative initiatives, and facilitating acquisition of leadership skills and networks to expand their horizons. My role would be to design the process, so that it can be universally understood, with visual representations. This is to provide a space where people can be motivated to dream, where they are not lost in constructs of language which can restrict thought. The aim is to create a process which gives students the ability to freely strive to be the best that they can be. If this sounds ridiculously optimistic, then I am very glad, because there is an incredible necessity for optimism in South Africa right now. Similarly, I would like to do the same for the Western Cape government in the e-Citizen, e-Government sector where they are currently focusing on diminishing the digital divide across the province.

As everyone knows I have recently started contract work at the Western Cape government as a Usability architect, the reason I have been hired is because they have started to understand the benefit of user-centered design, when building systems for the public to interact with. The Western Cape government have recently launched a programme called Cape Access, where they have set up e-Centres, with the focus on enabling citizens to have easy access to information and communication technologies (ICT), which will diminish the digital divide. These centres allow us access to citizens who we can benefit by allowing them to define the systems that are built for them. Similarly, I would like to do ethnographical research, where we are able to gain insight into where the Western Cape Government can create e-Services; and what these e-Services may consist of. Here, I aim to portray the represented data as honestly and naturally as possible; to communicate successfully to the public sector, what the needs of the many are.

I am still battling with the clarity of articulation here, that will be my aim for the next week, using Toulman’s method and further reading to help crystalize this research topic.

John Maeda

Image taken from Fast company

Lately, my research has been focusing on the people, the artists, the humans behind the many subjects, which have been moving my mind cogs. I have recently been looking at a lot of John Maeda,president of the Rhode Island School of Design. I was hooked when I read a write up on him on the great discontent site, where he said many great things that resonated with me, one of them being:

The world kept changing and people kept saying to me, “Don’t worry about money. You’re a creative person; you shouldn’t have to worry about that.” That worried me. I wasn’t sure what they were saying to me, so I went back to school to earn my MBA in order to understand money and not be afraid of it.

I felt Maeda was expressing something that had really determined my previously traveled path. My Steiner education, had rooted my artistic outlook on life. Waldorf schools are known as ‘arty’ schools and it always bothered me that people often looked at art as being a disability when it comes to creating a career for yourself. However, Waldorf had taught me early in life that everything was an artistic task. I was very lucky to have been taught to infuse craftsmanship, artistry and self-mastery into every task I had done. I have recently recognized, similarities in Paulo Frere’s Pedagogy of the Opressed, as well as Nosakhere Griffin-EL’s research on the colours of dreaming.

Unfortunately,  after leaving Waldorf, I had quickly been convinced by the worlds anti-dreamers that, I had to pursue something I wasn’t interested in to make something of myself, in other words – you can’t be a creative and make money, similar to what Maeda, states above. Much like Maeda, I applied to study a BCom in accounting, because I believed it would make me “successful” at this game society had set up. Luckily, I came to my senses early in this journey and left the degree after a year of boredom.  After chatting to Nosakhere, about his work on dreaming, I am gratefully re-establishing this outlook and I find myself closely relating his research on dreaming, with what I was taught at Waldorf.

I like to say that creative people are confident in only one thing: their own doubt. I think there’s a huge lack of self-confidence in a creative person because, by nature, the definition of a creative person is someone who is trying to make something new. They know, if they are professional creatives, that the likelihood of doing that—making something new and significant—is hugely unlikely, so they build within that city of doubt. From doubt, they get to iterate and work extremely hard, hoping to find something new; it’s all about hope. I’ve never met anyone who is good at what they do creatively and is super-confident.

I can honestly, say that doubt has played a large role at destroying most of my potential work. I am still working at the iterative process, where I let go of my self-judging self, or not give in to it – it has always managed to drop in and believe that it is saving the day. I have recently been dealing with this issue with my work with Ownpower; luckily, my need to prove my brother wrong has saved me from giving up and I am discovering how helpful iteration is in this context.

Besides these points that John Maeda talks about, where Maeda really holds my attention; is his clear communication around art being a conduit toward human needs and perception and how it relates to leadership.

Art is about asking questions, which is a good way of looking at how to solve a problem. I like to apply how artists think to look at how to improve design, technology…and now leadership.

Maeda, has infused hope in me, he recognises a strong connection between art and management, two areas that many regard as even less linked than the recent coming together of design and management. At least in “design thinking” and ethnography, there’s a more practical, commercial context than in painting or performance. Maeda states that the leaders comfortable position has eroded a bit, before leaders needed to have the ability to function in a hieracy; but now, we need leaders who also understand that heterarchies are emerging – therefore, to understand both, you have to be creative, Maeda argues that, the way artists think can be more valuable than traditional management approaches.

Maeda (2012) predicts that future art-school grads may not make art or objects, but instead make or remake organizations. However, to comprehend the artistic process as a management strategy they may need an art education, not because art is a mysterious endeavor but because notions of “creativity” at work have typically been misinterpreted into cartoonish, childish directions. Maeda states that creativity needs to be relearned for maximum effectiveness as part of a business’ innovation culture.

In the business world, many people believe creativity is all about filling office spaces with red bean bag chairs, squishy balls, and colorful markers—kid stuff. People have the odd belief that creativity is a shortcut. That it’s easy. Creativity is an arduous process, one that forces you to be open and think imaginatively. That’s what many businesses want to do. And that’s what artists do.

Maeda’s 2012 TED talk, focused on clarifying the relationship between leadership and art, where he describes his pathway and how he has come to make these connections. Maeda goes on to say, “Tech makes possibilities, design makes solutions, art makes questions, leadership makes actions,” summing up the relationship between these disciplines. Similarly,  Andy Warhol’s famous quote:

Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art… good business is the best art.

also draws on this connection. When business is regarded as an artistic endeavor, it has the same potential as an art piece to challenge and impact every aspect of our lives. It has the ability to win and hold the public’s interest, just as any art form does, a business must be practically, well executed, as well as imaginative and engaging at the same time.

I’ll conclude with a quote from John Maeda :

We seem to forget that innovation doesn’t just come from equations or new kinds of chemicals, it comes from a human place. Innovation in the sciences is always linked in some way, either directly or indirectly, to a human experience.

Creating Causal loop diagrams

Being extremely overwhelmed with trying to find a place to live this week, I haven’t been able to get any thing else done. It had been a week of doing pointless tasks and achieving very little. So, on Thursday, before our lectures on Friday I had a minor freak out. We had a MPhil reading club meet up and I started to realise I had missed out on a lot of work this week, which I needed to do. I had Hillary, Gloria and Lucienne, force me to get some quiet me-time so that I could get my head cleared and focused. Luckily, my brother had just asked me if everything was alright and if I needed help with anything. I said Yes, I need your help! I started blurting out everything I needed to get done; Casual loop diagrams, business models, research topic, literature review and I need to fit it in with work – how do I do this ?

So we sat down and started to work through the mess in my head and we came up with some really wonderful clarity. God bless siblings!

I told him that I was having trouble figuring out what I was going to research, which in turn was effecting my casual loop or not effecting it, however you want to look at it. First, we had to figure out what my research topic was going to be. I told him that I’d like to focus on how to create the right e-services for the Western Cape Government. I had been approached my Ownpower and Nosakhere to help them with similar systems they were trying to create for government. So, broadly my focus would be on, Human-centered design for the public sphere.

In my job at the Western Cape Government, in the e-citizen department, we’re trying to figure out which e-services are needed in the Western Cape. The Western Cape have just launched a whole bunch of centres across the Western Cape which focus on diminishing the digital divide, these centres are referred to as Cape Access centres. The next step from WCG, is to capture data from all these users and find out what services are needed to support the users. With Ownpower, I have been included in figuring out what how to create the best user-centeric systems with regards to their skills intelligence platform, I have been included in their Learning management ethnographical research as well. Nosakhere as asked if I could work as an ethnographical researcher on the GAP year project for Western cape government.

I couldn’t articulate the connection of these interconnected elements but I knew it existed, so I started drawing them out large pieces of paper – because large pieces of paper help with everything! Mehul showed me this diagram from the Rotman school, describing design thinking. He said that’s what you need to do…

Design thinking

Public services provide reliable services because the cycle works and is run from the top down – there is no room for new innovation to happen. Which means that there is a reinforcing loop which just continues without and new fresh ideas. He used the metaphor of electricity; since there is no room for innovation with electricity, because it is a valid and reliable running system – no one would be able to innovate on it. Therefore, solar powered energy would not have been considered. This way, doesn’t create services which are necessarily plausible or valid, this is mainly because they are not in touch with society. They are not servicing the needs of the many.

So, the issue is, how do we allow for innovation to be apart of the public services sphere. How do we facilitate the emergence of bottom up decisions ? How do we create a co-colloborative approach to the public services ?

To flesh out the causal loop, it would be best to model up the Public services sphere first, he helped me with this one, as I found it quite difficult to figure out:

Public sphere business model


Then we had to create a business model which showed value of co-creation:

IDEO business model


Using integrative thinking and looking at both business models we started to figure out how to get started on the causal loop.

Causal loop1


This is a balanced system.

Balanced system



diagrammatic thinking through Toulman.

diagrammatic thinking through Toulman.


diagrammatic thinking exercise

diagrammatic thinking exercise