Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel Armstrong
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Design means different things to different disciplines, groups of people, across time and within the cultural frameworks where is it discussed. So, its importance and definition therefore also changes depending on whom exactly you’re talking to – and when. Perhaps, within a modern context we might think of design as the selection of an ideal form, or strategy that addresses a particular challenge. Maybe we consider it to be located within the making of an object, or the execution of a particular skill set in the choice of materials, shapes and media. But while design embraces all of these things - it is not limited by them. Indeed, if our notion of design is constrained by a particular practice of making, or set of expectations then we are missing out on the scope of its potency. Western civilization has started to understand reality through a different lens. Rather than being made up as a series of hierarchically ordered, discrete objects, which characterizes the modern worldview, we now view life as being complex, networked and in a state of permanent flux. This perspective may be thought of as an ecological era, which has been shaped by a range of overlapping developments in many disciplines including, philosophy, science, technology and cultural theory – particularly over the last century. However, our participation in this cultural paradigm shift is entirely independent of its symptoms such as, whether we believe in climate change, practice good green citizenship, or recycle our waste. Nor is our interest in ecology merely an academic attitude. It has become an everyday reality with the advent of the Internet, which has sprung us from previous limits imposed by – geography, identity, culture and materiality. Now, we can simultaneously and coherently explore new ways of being and living through interconnection, complexity and process - and we are looking at an age of design and engineering with living materials.
Author(s): Armstrong R
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Journal of Undergraduate Research Students
Print publication date: 01/03/2016
Acceptance date: 14/01/2016
Notes: This is an interesting development in that a fundamentally design-led approach has been published as the key essay in an engineering journal in Puerto Rico for students.