Created by potrace 1.12, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2015

Shaping change



'Conflict Invites Resolution', 2016, 6x12m mural. Portraiture, R. Power; Concept Design, W. Wilding. Utilizing Augmented Reality Technology, this first artefact from Shaping Change 1 explores how our categories of understanding can internalize, manifest and perpetuate injustice. For more information, see Appendix 1. 


Shaping Change 

Incorporating conceptual design artefacts that embody the dialogue between university and industry, Shaping Change contributes basic research to design (OECD, 2015). Grounded in speculative philosophy, it contains words and products that reflect and inform one another as each iteration of the research spirals through time (Biggs, 2002).  Exploring how designers organise the material of perception into productive categories that transform existing situations into preferred ones, it incorporates empirical and rational elements into dialectical design theory (Friedman, 2003). This involves questioning metaphysical assumptions that underlie our understanding of natural and artificial worlds, studying interpretive frameworks that determine our lives, and recognising discursive understanding can impede the release of relational understanding (Bowie, 2010). Shaping Change accordingly enlists philosophical insight, scientific inquiry and artistic intuition into a holistic view of design that claims the interaction of experimental moves and narrative frames shape human experience (Wellmon, 2008). Thereby aligning concepts in Schön's reflective practice of design with concepts in Schelling's reflective philosophy of art, it equates design reasoning with dialectical reasoning, while designing, producing and installing ideas that make a priori insight observable and measurable, or ideal-real. 

Shaping Change's first initiative, Shaping Change 1, included three interacting artefacts that explored migrant history, gender equality and concept design (Sood, 2016). It partnered with The Centre for Design Innovation, The City of Yarra Council, The Besen Family Foundation, The Australian Cultural Fund, The Australian Graphic Design Association and multiple businesses including David Atkins Enterprises, which delivers the White Night Festival for the Victorian Government. A dialogical product of William Wilding’s research-based practice and Rebeccah Power’s practice-based research, Shaping Change 1 echoed design theory which asserts unstable or fluid concepts support the development of complex projects or programs (Redstrom, 2017). Emphasising the transformative power of story-telling through research undertaken at the Victorian Police Museum (Australian Cultural Fund, 2016), it incorporated philosophy, portraiture, poetry, communication design, digital media design, product design engineering and augmented reality technology. New understanding embodied in 2D, 3D and 4D forms of design, Shaping Change 1 asserts reflective activity enables humans to liberate themselves from necessity (Wilding, 2010).


Invitation to Project Launch by Centre for Design Innovation and City of Yarra Council. Communication Design, E.Wilding. Shaping Change 1 engaged with Government, Philanthropy, Industry, and Swinburne University's faculties of Health, Arts and Design and Science, Engineering and Technology. For more information, see Appendix 5. 


Shaping Change through Design Theory

Shaping Change investigates the background of interpretive frameworks that bridge perception and conception to form the institutions and technologies that determine our lives (Polanyi, 1969; Feenberg, 2002). This involves inquiring into connections among phenomena while asking why and how design contributes to structures, events and courses of action (Sutton and Straw, 1995). Drawing on speculative naturalism, an interdisciplinary theory active in design (Lindgaard, and Wesselius, 2017), it synthesizes speculative philosophy, the philosophy of science and the history of ideas with design history, design methodology and strategic design. Grounded in a post-Kantian view of concepts, it studies how designers transform intuition, imagination, reason and will into design products, systems and services that arrived at through prototyping (Gare, 2011; Krippendorf, 1989). It thereby makes the interplay of inquiry and theorizing, experience and reflection visible through dialogue, dialogue between design researchers, who mostly articulate knowledge in theory, and practitioners, who mostly embody it in artefacts (Friedman, 2000; Galle, 2008).

While dialogue informs dialogic design (Manzini, 2016), it also gives rise to dialectic and rhetoric, which influence the concepts and categories that shape our understanding of experience on the one hand, and integrate new ways of knowing, doing and making through practice on the other hand (Aristotle, 1926; Shannon and Bannerjee, 2017; Sloane and Perelman, 1979). Giving rise to technology in words, images and objects, dialectic and rhetoric interact to create meaningful connections while organizing diverse fields of thought (Buchanan, 2001). Indeed, dialectic resolves conflict in old understanding to create new understanding as it unites with rhetoric to create, structure and convey intentions. For speculative naturalists such as Dewey (1884), dialectic also orders the anarchic perceptions we receive from the external or real world and the orderly conceptions we construct to structure it in the internal world. This suggests a deeper understanding of dialectic in design might help design researchers assess whether design practitioners can influence concepts and categories as they move between inner and outer worlds while prototyping (Thomasson, 2004). This would contribute to the view of Dorst (1997; 2006), who asserts Schön's more pragmatic, hermeneutical theory occupies the inter-subjective middle-ground between Alexander's more internal, subjective or phenomenological theory and Simon's more external, objective or positivistic theory. That said, it is unclear how deeply Dorst examines Schön, Alexander and Simon in the light of the post-kantian and neo-kantian philosophical traditions. that have characterised philosophy since Kant tried to resolve the opposition between empirical and rational forms of research. as the Enlightenment Era turned into the Age of Reflection. But while Dorst (2015; 2003) suggests empirical techniques such as protocol analyses and rational approaches such as dialectical synthesis can augment one another in research, design researchers are yet to fully explore how much a priori, philosophical insight can reveal about if and how the ideas or concepts emerging from a designer's mind in artefacts correlate with the worlds they are intended to populate (Galle, 2008). This implies design could profit from a deeper engagement with Kantian thought and the increased dialogue between post-Kantian thinkers like Alexander and neo-Kantian thinkers like Simon (Friedman, 2011). Examining the metaphysical basis of constructivism in design (Kinsella, 2006), then, Shaping Change compares the substance metaphysics underlying neo-Kantian thought and the process metaphysics underlying post-Kantian thought. Amplifying the concept of reflection central to Schön's design theory and Schelling's philosophical theory, it asks if turning existing situations into preferred ones, or old categories into new ones, means transforming possibility into experience through speculative research grounded in a dialectical approach (Gare, 2011; Simon 2011).


'Universal Principle', 2016, 3.9x1.3x0.66m sculpture. Product Design Engineering, J. Malin; Concept Design, W. Wilding; Video, M. Bainbridge. Addressing the tension between rationalism and empiricism, this second artefact of Shaping Change 1 explores how conscious and unconscious forces interact. For more information, see Appendix 2. 


Shaping Change through Design Research

'The Critique of Judgement' marked a major shift in Kant's thought. Therein he tried to resolve the conflicts that Jacobi, Rheinhold, Schultz and Maimon had identified in his critical philosophy (Henrich, 2008). This involved radically reconceiving the universe so that the organic world and the living forms that constituted it became the point in which pure and practical reason and mechanical and moral laws played out. Attempting to explain how free moral choices can emerge from necessary physical laws, Kant's insights into the teleological power of aesthetic judgement enabled him towards asserting organisms - both human and non-human - can realise desire and will through an engagement with a universal dynamic operating throughout the human and natural worlds, self-limitation. While Kant passed away before he was able to complete this major transition from the mechanical to the organic worldview, his third critique in particular provided the impetus for the speculative natural work of Goethe, Fichte and Schelling that followed. Indeed, recognising conscious and unconscious drives in nature, Schelling fused Goethe's morphogenetic insights into the biological realm with Fichte's phenomenological insights into the imaginative realm to reconceptualise being as productive creativity that emerged through nature in products such as human beings. No longer conceiving of transcendent forms emerging into this world from another world as Plato and Kant formerly had, Schelling anticipated Nietzsche's concept of the will to power and Heidegger's revision of the Greek term physus to explain life emerged or bloomed from within. This, in turn, reflects Alexander's model of design, which provides a holistic, emergent view of physics in contrast to the reductive, mechanical view of physics that Simon's model of design invokes. Opposing Simon (thesis) and Alexander (anti-thesis), Shaping Change utilizes Heraclitus's theory of the unity in opposites to reveal that Schön (synthesis) incorporates an element of both into a speculative natural theory of design that moves iteratively between practice or industry on the one hand and research or university on the other hand. It moreover asks how strongly Schön draws on Goethe's morphological method of science, which asserts understanding emerges through time as it spirals between rational insights that initially frame the empirical experiments that subsequently provide the material to narrate theory from one hypothesis to the next hypothesis. In this way, mirroring Peirce, a dialectical approach to understanding the design process appears to involve abductive, inductive and deductive forms of reasoning at once.   

Grounded in the Schellingian research tradition, Shaping Change unites phenomenology and process philosophy into a dialectical view of design which recognises mind is an emergent quality of the world that affects how humans experience reality (Gare, 2016). It incorporates a relational approach to knowledge creation that addresses the disconnection between the inner or subjective realm associated with the humanities and the outer or objective realm associated with the sciences (Cross, 1982). Contending historical narrative shapes mathematical modelling and therefore human reality (Unger and Smolin, 2015), Shaping Change designs, produces and manages projects that reflect theory in practice. It thereby raises understanding around problems, helps develop solutions to those problems, and participates in the transformation of behaviour through the construction of public policy (City of Yarra, 2017). In the process, it asks if design is a practical extension of the humanities in the same way technology and politics are practical extensions of the natural and social sciences (Epstein, 2012). 


Concept design and production at Swinburne's Design Workshop. Shaping Change transforms ideas into reality through the processes of modelling and prototyping. Drawing on the life sciences and constructive humanities, it asserts concepts comprise imagination, intuition, rationality and will. For more information, please see Appendix 4.


Shaping Change through Design Practice

Shaping Change explores the concept of creative rationality in the context of the opposition between creativity and rationality in design (Gare, 1996; Engelholm, 2017). Focusing on ‘the productive ability’ that signalled the transition from the enlightenment age to the romantic era (Kant, 1914; Schelling, 2004; Richards, 2006), in Shaping Change 1 William Wilding and Rebeccah Power reflected the research underlying Shaping Change in the experimental practice of Studio Romantic, an interdisciplinary network of industry professionals who work at the intersection of knowing and being.

This involved embodying three philosophical concepts in three design artefacts: 'Conflict Invites Resolution', 'Universal Principle' and 'The Reckoning at the Southern Cross Hotel'. Together, the works comprise a complex, interdependent whole that exceeds the sum of its parts and denies reduction to any one of its parts. Thereby giving abstract targets of research concrete outcomes through practice, Shaping Change 1 was subsequently presented at two public exhibitions - the first to 80 guests in the City of Yarra at ‘Just Because You Can’t See It Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t There’ (2016), and the second in the City of Melbourne to 70,000 visitors at the ‘White Night Festival’ (2017).  


'The Reckoning at the Southern Cross Hotel', 2016, 4min video. Digital media design, C. Cersosimo; Story, R. Power and W. Wilding; Concept design, W. Wilding. Exploring self-production, this third artefact of Shaping Change 1 examines how self-reflection enables humans to transcend control. For more information, see Appendix 3.


Shaping Change through Design Methodology

While Shaping Change recognises dialectic is less an objective method of the positive sciences and more an inter-subjective approach of the human sciences (Gadamer, 2004), it claims dialectical activity nevertheless facilitates design innovation. Occupying the contentious middle ground between speculation and perception, rationality and empiricism, idealism and realism (Stiegerwald, 2002), it holds designers undertake experiments to generate narratives that reform our understanding and experience of reality (Schön, 1984; Bruner, 1991; Wellmon, 2010). Indeed, it asserts the internal, intellectual intuition of philosophy and the external, aesthetic intuition of art unite in the production of design artefacts (Bowie, 2000). Echoing Dewey's insights into art and experience (2005), it suggests designers, like artists, move between subjective and objective poles as they model and prototype ideas. However, while this iterative activity enables them to at least in principle release the potential inhering in natural and artificial worlds (Whitehead, 1978; Peirce, 1931), the type of philosophy presently permeating design inhibits them from recognising how to do it (Schön, 1983; Alexander, 2002). So while Shaping Change argues a designer's understanding of problems and solutions coevolves as designers step in and out of the design process from within the world of situated experience (Dorst, 1997; 2003), it also holds metaphysical assumptions in design block the field from recognising the significance of such terms as abductive reasoning and framing (Gare, 2016; Rylander, 2012).

There is, however, a dialectic of design that rises out of dialogic design (Shannan and Bannerjee, 2017; Manzini, 2016). Shaping Change 1 tapped into while designing, producing and managing the installation of concepts. Incorporating co-design into a transdisciplinary approach to community engagement, Shaping Change 1 disclosed similarities and differences between the more objective, symbolic processing theory of design (Simon, 1996), the more subjective, situated cognition theory of design (Schön, 1983), and the more inter-subjective, socio-technical view on design (Norman and Stappers, 2015). Revealing relations between diverse stakeholders determine the success of at least some socio-technical projects, it showed how a process-relational approach to design may indeed be a new form of technology originating in the arts (Buchanan, 1992). Noting that science emerged out of the humanities, and that it compares imaginary or experimentally designed theories with real processes to produce the future (Epstein, 2012),  Shaping Change 1 united the changing, interacting patterns of multiple actors into a single vision that drew subject and object, designer and client, researcher and audience, into a cohesive whole (Axelrod, 1997). Amplifying the reflexivity  that characterises consciousness while actuating the metaphoric cognition that governs perception (Henrich, 2008; Lackoff and Johnson, 1980), it drew the dialogue between the constructive humanities and biological sciences into an outcome that claimed humans can overcome difficulties if they recognise what they don't want to recognise (Kaufmann and Gare, 2015; Fry, 2012). Thereby unearthing opportunities for low-tech, middle-tech and high-tech innovation (Drucker, 1985; Bennis, 1989; Buchanan, 2015), Shaping Change 1 helps transition from experimental discovery to applied impact (Seeman, 2018).


Shaping Change, Scot's Church, Melbourne, White Night Festival, 2017. Video, M.Bainbridge; Exhibition design, C.Cersosimo and W.Wilding. Concept Design, W.Wilding; Examining the nature of synthesis in the context of parts and wholes, Shaping Change amplifies pressing social issues. 


Changing Shape

Shaping Change demonstrates the philosophy of design is a practical art that contributes to a deeper understanding of the productive nature of design (Galle, 2002; 2008). While Shaping Change 1 is a collaborative product of many people working in industry and university, Shaping Change began to emerge through the Victorian Government's Design Victoria Strategy. Initially developed through the guidance of Business Victoria then further developed in partnership with Craft Victoria, it originally aimed to understand the transformation of Victoria's manufacturing sector through design. Now drawing Government, Philanthropy and Business together through Swinburne University's Centre for Design Innovation, Shaping Change contributes to efforts within a strategic design to produce a universal theory of design or design thinking that facilitates the release of productivity across cultures across time (Argyris, 1991; Senge, 1991).



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1. Conflict Invites Resolution (2016) explores the post-Kantian approach to dialectics - thesis-antithesis-synthesis - initially identified by Fichte and subsequently developed by Schelling. Showing two perspectives on the same woman, it explores how old metaphysical concepts and categories enter into our lives to shape our experience. Echoing the shared view of Schön and Alexander that the field of design replicates destructive values, it wonders how the reductive, mechanical worldview underlying Kantian and neo-Kantian thought detaches human beings from reality. Mirroring the shared view of Dewey and Buchanan that the universe is a holistic, living organism, it implies warmth, care and courage can overcome coldness, envy and fear. Emphasising time and volition, designing and producing Conflict Invites Resolution enabled the researchers to reflect on how adding the categories of reflection and volition helps designers shape or change the concept of, for example, quality. 

2. Universal Principle (2016) embodies the universal concept that Schelling developed to transcend the metaphysical gulf that Kant's critical philosophy imposed on philosophy. Embodying Schelling's synthesis of Plato, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Goethe and Fichte, it produces positive and negative forms that evoke conscious and unconscious states of mind, which Schelling claims correspond to human beings and nature. A kinetic sculpture, its rotations magnify feeling while suspending thought, while also aligning the tacit and articulate dimensions of being as described in philosophy by Schelling (1832) and in design by Dorst (1997).      

3. The Reckoning at the Southern Cross Hotel (2016) incorporated Conflict Invites Resolution and Universal Principle. Examining the difference between Aristotle's theory of art, which Buchanan (1992) calls the first science of design, and Schelling's theory of art, which Bowie (2000) asserts shows in form what can't be said in words, it contained a triadic structure comprised of three acts with three scenes each. Thereby investigating complexity and emergence in (production) design prctice, it demonstrated how reflecting on the past enables humans to create the future. An analogue of ecological conditions, it speculates how lifeforms consider the tendencies around them in order to create the conditions they require to realise themselves in the future. Asserting humans thereby produce liberty out of necessity, it showed freedom or concepts emerge at the limits of what we sense but aren't ready to see or accept. In this way, it reflects Schelling's developments of Kant's critical philosophy, which examined how humans can live in a world determined by mechanical laws, and still have free choice.


These three artefacts interacted to become a whole, which is more than the sum of its parts and cannot be reduced to any one of its parts. In this way it reflects Schelling's nature philosophy and Goethe's morphological science. Producing these works through design assisted the researchers to not only understand how various forms of design contribute to the realisation of ideas or concepts, it also demonstrated how Schelling's nature philosophy provides an underlying theory that various forms of design can draw on, especially when mocking ideas up. Indeed, each iteration of each artefact reflected back on crucial themes in the interdisciplinary project in ways that reflected and projected the aims of the stakeholers involved.

A fourth NTRO (A short documentary) is currently being produced to turn these three artefacts into three NTRO's.  

William Wilding

William Wilding's research explores the transformative nature of creativity. He draws philosophy, art and design into collaborative...

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Rebeccah Power

Rebeccah Power is an active researcher whose practice intersects art and education. She incorporates institutional, archival research into work that...

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City of Yarra Council

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Australian Cultural Fund

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Australian Graphic Design Association

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Besen Family Foundation

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