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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Embodying metaphors in systems
by van Middendorp, Sergej, Ph.D., Fielding Graduate University, 2016, 261; 10251093
Abstract (Summary)

This study explores the role of metaphor in the system design process. It examines the ways in which the metaphors that designers use in design conversations become embodied in the systems that they are creating. It assumes that by making designers aware of their use of metaphor, they can better cope with the complex and dynamic nature of the challenges presented in design in a broadly ecological sense. The study focuses on inviting designers to address the question, “How do our joint improvisations with metaphors become embodied in the systems that we are creating?”

To create a frame for this collaborative exploration, literatures in system design, metaphor, metaphor in system design, and organizational improvisation are brought in. Design conversations, including reflections on those conversations, from a three-year action research project in which three system designers, including the author of this study, created a new method and a new system with awareness to the role of metaphor in the system design process, are analyzed. The findings show how persistent improvisations with several metaphors in the design process result in those metaphors becoming embodied in the system. Guided by an interpretive analysis of the data and the findings, a review of the literature in Schön’s (1983) reflection-in-action, Schön’s (1963/2011) displacement of concepts, Johnson’s (2007) meaning of the body, and Turbayne’s (1971) metaphor to myth transformation follows. Based on the insights emerging from this review, a model for reflexive reflections-in-interaction with meta-metaphors is created to support system designers in becoming more aware of their use of metaphor.

The model is tested with three episodes from the action research data. The results of that test suggest that the use of the model could have increased the awareness of the designers in this case study for metaphor as metaphor. It is assumed that this would have increased their capacity to consciously generate the system in a way better fit for its purpose. The study comes full circle by offering three ways to further develop theory, research, and practice to support system designers in consciously embodying metaphors in systems.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Steier, Frederick
Commitee: Andriessen, Daniel G., Barrett, Frank J., Maxwell, Daniel S., Shapiro, Jeremy J.
School: Fielding Graduate University
Department: The School of Human and Organization Development
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 78/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Design, Philosophy, Communication
Keywords: Embodied realism, Organizational improvisation, Social construction, System design
Publication Number: 10251093
ISBN: 978-1-369-44551-0
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