Portrait of the Scholar as Blogger

By Anamaria Dutceac Segesten October 14, 2010 11:00 pm EDT

I return to one of my favorite subjects, blogging in the academia, but this time with a focus not on the students, as in my previous post, but on the scholar herself. I believe that blogging may be a useful tool for those of us involved in the process of creating (and communicating) new knowledge.

How so? Because of the nature of blogging itself.

Blogging = Reading + Writing + Linking + Commenting

This concentrated definition (which I borrowed from Kosmopolito) summarizes very well the way blogs work. And this fits very well with the way scholars work as well, doesn’t it? We read or see or listen to other people’s work, be it in the news or at the movies or in academic journals. We react to these inputs usually by making a note (at least a mental one, to self) and then connect through references to others’ writing, which we implicitly comment on (think of the mandatory literature overviews of every book or article). Blogging functions not so differently from the way an academic article does. So if the two are so close, why bother?

Blogging has some unique qualities. I will enumerate them briefly:

  1. Blogs allow for timely reaction to events. They are a comment on things almost as they happen.
  2. Blogs are more creative as they have no “submission guidelines” to follow.
  3. Blogs allow for easy and fast cross-referencing and checking of sources through linking.
  4. Through links, bloggers can create and develop networks of writers with similar interests.
  5. Quick feedback is possible through the “comment” function.
  6. Comments foster open dialogue and the direct interaction between the author and readers.
  7. Communication beyond the narrow circle of academia is possible on the Internet.

Taking into account these great opportunities available for the 21st century academic, I wonder how many of us actually use them? Well, at least some. In her recently published PhD dissertation at Lund University, Sara Kjellberg discusses the functions of the academic blog. Included in her research were interviews with scholars from two fields of knowledge: physics and history. For both hard and soft sciences, she concludes that blogging is a useful way to communicate research results and to engage in conversations with other people who share one’s interest.

Among the blogs written by scholars, there are a couple that I very much enjoy reading. My choices reflect my areas of interest, and are included here just as proof of the existence of scholar bloggers and examples of how one can go about doing it in practice. As I am comfortable with several languages, they may appear somewhat strange to you at first, but not after you have tried Google Translate! In Swedish I like to check out Peter Englund’s blog. Englund is the Secretary of the Swedish Academy of Sciences that awards every year the Nobel Prize, and a respected historian and writer in his own right. In Romanian I read the blog of Vladimir Tismaneanu, professor at the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. In English I often check the posts by Timothy Garton Ash on the “Comment is Free” section of the British daily The Guardian. Garton Ash is professor of history at University of Oxford, also active at Stanford University and as a consultant for various European bodies. Also in English, another blogger with spot-on writing (and a great dose of humor) is Sean Hanley, lecturer at University College, London.

Perhaps you realized that throughout this post I was avoiding the inevitable question: do I blog? Hmmm, I guess you know the answer. Not YET, but I will. Just give me some time to finish grading those exams, giving these lectures, going to the 3rd meeting of the day…

Some resources for those who might want to get going with their blog immediately:
Blogging: A short introduction for academics by Kosmopolito
I am a blogging researcher: Motivations for blogging in a scholarly context – Sara Kjellberg
On how to use hyperlinks (and the implications thereof) – Julien Frisch
A directory of academic blogs by discipline – The Academic Blog Portal

Anamaria writes from Lund, Sweden. She is one of the founding members of the editorial collective at University of Venus.

PG04 Mark Ingham [Tuesday 31 May 2011] Research Proposal Tutorials

Tuesday PG04 Mark Ingham
31May 2011 Research Proposal Tutorials
10.30 Vicky Fox C D
10.45 Clarence Chen CD
11.15 Yun-Wook Choi CD
11.30 Yuki Kijima Mov I
11.45 Jasmine Samiei CD
12.00 Kevin Igoe CD
12.30 Tanachot Sapruangnam CD
12.45 Sang Gun Kim MovI
13.00 Hyein Lee Fash
13.15 Wallace Henning CD
13.45 Elyse Gehring ED
14.00 Yeon Sook Lee Fash
14.15 Simon Dartois ED
14.30 Sara Liu C D
15.00 Cunpu Gong C D
15.15 Munseok Choi CD
16.00 Foteini MFA

Research Proposal

Dear Postgraduate Student

Next Tuesday [17th May] we start the Research Proposal element of the PG04 unit and we will be in the MA space at 10am and finish at 1pm.

The next session will be on Tuesday 24th May from 2pm-5pm and then all day 10am – 5pm on Tuesday 31 May

You will:

B1. Devise a Research Strategy that enables the concept development processes appropriate to the realisation of a creative solution to their lead question or area of enquiry.

B2. Systematically evaluate and implement a range of research methodologies and integrate those that are appropriate into their practice.

Be assessed on your

‘… ability to present evidence of the coherence and rigour of their research strategy and an understanding of its positioning at MA level.’
‘…Research Strategy evidencing the concept development processes, synthesising theory and practice, that are appropriate to the realisation of a creative solution to their lead question or area of enquiry.’

‘… ability to systematically evaluate, implement and interrogate a range of research methodologies appropriate to their practice.’

‘…independent, in-depth study of strategies for innovation taken from professional and academic sources, and their ability to relate their findings to their own practice-based work;

Write a Research Proposal (1350-1650 words and visualisation):  outlining project and schedule for the Final Major MA project.

Any questions just ask and see you next Tuesday.


What is Design Thinking Anyway?

Roger Martin at: http://observatory.designobserver.com/entry.html?entry=11097


The Design of Business

Design thinking, as a concept, has been slowly evolving and coalescing over the past decade. One popular definition is that design thinking means thinking as a designer would, which is about as circular as a definition can be. More concretely, Tim Brown of IDEO has written that design thinking is “a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.” [1] A person or organization instilled with that discipline is constantly seeking a fruitful balance between reliability and validity, between art and science, between intuition and analytics, and between exploration and exploitation. The design-thinking organization applies the designer’s most crucial tool to the problems of business. That tool is abductive reasoning.

Don’t feel bad if you’re not familiar with the term. Formal logic isn’t systematically taught in our North American educational system, except to students of philosophy or the history of science. The vast majority of students are exposed to formal logic only by inference and then only to the two dominant forms of logic — deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning. Those two modes, grounded in the scientific tradition, allow the speaker to declare at the end of the reasoning process that a statement is true or false.

Deductive logic — the logic of what must be — reasons from the general to the specific. If the general rule is that all crows are black, and I see a brown bird, I can declare deductively that this bird is not a crow.
Inductive logic — the logic of what is operative — reasons from the specific to the general. If I study sales per square foot across a thousand stores and find a pattern that suggests stores in small towns generate significantly higher sales per square foot than stores in cities, I can inductively declare that small towns are my more valuable market.

Deduction and induction are reasoning tools of immense power. As knowledge has advanced, our civilization has accumulated more deductive rules from which to reason. In field after field, we stand on the shoulders of the giants who have come before us. And advances in statistical methods have furnished us with ever more powerful tools for reasoning inductively. Thirty years ago, few in a boardroom would have dared to cite the R2 of regression analysis, but now the statistical tools behind this form of induction are relatively common in business settings. So it is no wonder that deduction and induction hold privileged places in the classroom and, inevitably, the boardroom as the preeminent tools for making an argument and proving a case.

Yet a reasoning toolbox that holds only deduction and induction is incomplete. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, American philosophers such as William James and John Dewey began to explore the limits of formal declarative logic — that is, inductive and deductive reasoning. They were less interested in how one declares a statement true or false than in the process by which we come to know and understand. To them, the acquisition of knowledge was not an abstract, purely conceptual exercise, but one involving interaction with and inquiry into the world around them. Understanding did not entail progress toward an absolute truth but rather an evolving interaction with a context or environment.

James, Dewey, and their circle became known as the American pragmatist philosophers, so called because they argued that one could gain understanding only through one’s own experiences. Among these early pragmatists, perhaps the greatest of them and certainly the most intriguing was Charles Sanders Peirce. Peirce (rhymes with “terse”) was fascinated by the origins of new ideas and came to believe that they did not emerge from the conventional forms of declarative logic. In fact, he argued that no new idea could be proved deductively or inductively using past data. Moreover, if new ideas were not the product of the two accepted forms of logic, he reasoned, there must be a third fundamental logical mode. New ideas came into being, Peirce posited, by way of “logical leaps of the mind.” New ideas arose when a thinker observed data (or even a single data point) that didn’t fit with the existing model or models. The thinker sought to make sense of the observation by making what Peirce called an “inference to the best explanation.” The true first step of reasoning, he concluded, was not observation but wondering. Peirce named his form of reasoning abductive logic. It is not declarative reasoning; its goal is not to declare a conclusion to be true or false. It is modal reasoning; its goal is to posit what could possibly be true. (For further information, see “Why You’ve Never Heard of Charles Sanders Peirce.”)

Whether they realize it or not, designers live in Peirce’s world of abduction; they actively look for new data points, challenge accepted explanations, and infer possible new worlds. By doing so, they scare the hell out of a lot of businesspeople. For a middle manager forced to deal with flighty, exuberant “creative types,” who seem to regard prevailing wisdom as a mere trifle and deadlines as an inconvenience, the admonition to “be like a designer” is tantamount to saying “be less productive, less efficient, more subversive, and more flaky” — not an attractive proposition. And it is a fair critique that abduction can lead to poor results; unproved inferences might lead to success in time, but then again, they might not.

Some abductive thinkers fail to heed Brown’s requirement that the design must be matched to what is technologically feasible, launching products that do not yet have supporting technology. Consider the software designers who inferred from the growth of the Internet that consumers would want to do all their shopping online, from pet supplies to toys to groceries. Online security and back-end infrastructure had not yet caught up to their ideas, dooming them to failure.

Other abductive thinkers fail to address Brown’s second requirement: that the innovation must make business sense. Looking back on the dot-com crash, Michael Dell, founder of Dell, argues that little has changed. “Still today in our industry, if you go to a trade show, you walk around and you will find a lot of technology for which there is no problem that exists,” he says. “It’s like, ‘Hey, look at this, we’ve got a great solution and there is no problem to solve here.’ ” [2] Think of the Apple Newton, the world’s first portable data assistant. Launched in 1993, it utterly flopped. According RIM’s Lazaridis, it was a failure of abduction. “It had no future,” he argues. “What problem did it solve? What value did it create? It was a research project. What could you do with it that you couldn’t do with a laptop? Nothing. And everything you could do with it, you could do better with a laptop.” Apple Computer (as it was known then) wasn’t wrong when it inferred that customers would value a small, portable, digital assistant, but it didn’t ultimately deliver a solution that matched the insight.

So the prescription is not to embrace abduction to the exclusion of deduction and induction, nor is it to bet the farm on loose abductive inferences. Rather, it is to strive for balance. Proponents of design thinking in business recognize that abduction is almost entirely marginalized in the modern corporation and take it upon themselves to make their companies hospitable to it. They choose to embrace a form of logic that doesn’t generate proof and operates in the realm of what might be — a realm beyond the reach of data from the past.

That’s a risk many leaders won’t take. Making Peirce’s logical leaps is not consistent or reliable; nor does it faithfully adhere to predetermined budgets. But the far greater risk is to maintain an environment hostile to abductive reasoning, the proverbial lifeblood of design thinkers and the design of business. Without the logic of what might be, a corporation can only refine its current heuristic or algorithm, leaving it at the mercy of competitors that look upstream to find a more powerful route out of the mystery or a clever new way to drive the prevailing heuristic to algorithm. Embracing abduction as the coequal of deduction and induction is in the interest of every corporation that wants to prosper from design thinking, and every person who wants to be a design thinker.
“What is Design Thinking” is an excerpt from Roger Martin’s new book The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business Press, 2009).
1 Tim Brown, “Design Thinking. ” Harvard Business Review, June 2008. p. 86.

2 Michael Dell, in conversation with the author as part of the Rotman School of Management’s Integrative Thinking Experts Speaker Series, September 21, 2004.

Summative Assessment display and Schedule

Summative Assessment display and Schedule

14th – 18th February

Monday 14th February

10.00 – 4.00

Staff will be available to assist with display

Tuesday 15th February

Staff will be available to assist with setup 10.00 – 4.00

Wednesday 16th February

Display on view for staff to assess10.00 – 5.00

External examiner visit with staff 1.00 – 3.00

Student reps present to meet external examiner 2.00 – 3.00

Tea for all students 3.00 – 4.00

External examiner leaves 4.00

Thursday 17th February

Display on view for staff to assess10.00 – 5.00

Friday 18th February

Display on view for staff to assess10.00 – 2.00

Dismantle show 2.00 – 4.00


Remember, your display should consist of your Manifesto Poster, and your work for the third (negotiated) project for PG102.

Your work across ALL of the projects for PG102 should also be submitted as a a digital portfolio of work via Moodle for summative assessment.


Critically Argued Research Document

In the programme specification it says that a student should: Document and manage a complex, extended project as well as reflect on the critical and creative processes involved, and the professional context. This seems to be a good starting point for a discussion for how the researched document should function.

The Critically Argued Research Document that will be a part of the Final Major Project needs to do a number of things and all should be made clear in either or both the practice and the contextualising document.

1. The Contextualisation of the Practice [Literature Review]

2. Relate Practice with theory through Research. [Research Strategy]

3. Articulate the relationships between research and practice. [Learning Log/Critical Analysis]

4. Argue the case for the artefact, product or system in a professional context.[Analysis of Project]

5. Document the evolution of the project from the outset. [Learning Log]

6. Evaluation of the final presentation of the practical project. [Written Analysis]

The form this ‘document’ takes and its position in relation to the ‘practice’ element should be negotiable. It could be a web-site, a film, a traditionally written text etc, but no matter what form it takes it has to implement of all of the above elements. If the students have a clear understanding of what their overall project must achieve then there could be an opening up of the relationships between practice, theory and research.


Design Criticism and the Creative Process

January 11, 2011 by Cassie McDaniel @ http://m.alistapart.com/articles/design-criticism-creative-process/ Published in: Graphic Design, Creativity At a project’s start, the possibilities are endless. That clean slate is both lovely and terrifying. As designers, we begin by filling space with temporary messes and … Continue reading


‘Manifestoes’resemble contracts that the undersigned make with themselves and with society. As with all contracts, manifestoes imply certain rules laws and restrictions. But they soon become independent from their authors. At this point, a masochistic realtionship begins between the author and the text itself, for the manifesto-contract has been drafted by the very person who will suffer from the restrictions of its clauses. No doubt such carefully devised laws will be violated. This self-transgression of self-made laws adds a particularly perverse dimension to manifestoes. In addition, like love letters, they provide an erotic distance between fantasy and actual realisation. In many respects, this aspect of manifestoes has much in common with the nature of architectural work. It plays on the tension between ideas and real spaces, between abstract concepts and the sensuality of an implied spatial experience. (B. Tschumi, preface of Architectural Manifestoes, London, 1979).

PG Debate is now on Tuesday 14 December 10-12.30

The date for the debate has been change to Tuesday 14 December 10-12.30

PG Debate Groups PDF


On Tuesday 14 December you will become a debating society. You will be split into teams and asked to argue for or against and series of propositions. There will be 6 teams, 2 on each side of the debate. Each team will be given one of three propositions at random and will then have to debate against the team who has drawn the counter argument. You will have to research your proposition so that you can ‘win’ the debate by your ‘force’ of argument.

Each team will have 10 minutes to put their case, each member having to contribute in some way to this presentation. There will then be a 10 minute session where the rest of the MA group will be able to question the team about their proposition. After this it will be the turn of the team opposing the first proposition and the same format will apply. The session will then continue until all 3 propositions have been debated. We will then vote on each proposition in turn to see which teams debated their points most convincingly.

The three propositions will be:

1. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

2. “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”

3. “That form ever follows function. This is the law.”

Multi-disciplinary design education in the UK

Ravensbourne relocated to a purpose-built £70million design and digital media centre on Greenwich Peninsula in October 2010. The building and its technologies have been designed to encourage multi-disciplinary working and collaboration between courses, sectors, education and business. All spaces are open and flexible with product design, graphic design, architecture, innovation, animation, engineering, fashion, immersive technologies and other disciplines being taught side by side. Postgraduate research students and businesses share the same spaces and facilities with the aim that this will enable them to develop new innovations, bring new ideas to market and test new concepts and prototypes.

Full Report @: MDNetwork_FinalReport