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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Cybernetics and service-craft: language for behavior-focused design
Hugh Dubberly and Paul Pangaro
Keywords Cybernetics, Design, Politics, Service
Purpose–This paper aims to describe relationships between cybernetics and design, especially service design, which is a component of service-craft; to frame cybernetics as a language for design, especially behavior-focused design.
Design/methodology/approach–The material in this paper was developed for a course on cybernetics and design. Work began by framing material on cybernetics in terms of models. As the course progressed, the relevance of the models to design became clearer. A first focus was on applying the models to describe human-computer interaction; later another focus emerged, viewing cybernetic processes as analogs for design processes. These observations led to a review of the history of design methods and design rationale.
Findings–The paper argues that design practice has moved from hand-craft to service-craft and that service-craft exemplifies a growing focus on systems within design practice. It also proposes cybernetics as a source for practical frameworks that enable understanding of dynamic systems, including specific interactions, larger systems of service, and the activity of design itself. It also shows that development of first- and second-generation design methods parallels development of first- and second-generation cybernetics. Finally, it argues that design is essentially political, frames design as conversation, and proposes cybernetics as a language for design and a foundation of a broad design education.
Research limitations/implications–The paper suggests opportunities for more research on the historical relationship between cybernetics and design methods, design research on modeling user goals.
Practical implications–The paper offers tools for understanding and managing the complicated communities of systems that designers increasingly face.
Originality/value–Suggests models useful for practicing designers and proposes changes to design education.