Designing our Future

IFSR Newsletter 1994 Vol. 13 no. 2 (33) July

Prof. Bela H. Banathy
lnternational Systems I nstitute
25781Morse Drive
Garmel, Ca.93923, USA

We shouldn’t leave it to the experts, says Bela H. Banathy, president of the IFSR

We have a choice!
We can continue to be design illiterates. We can go on accepting design decisions made by the experts, living in ugly and crowded blockhouses, driving dangerous, polluting cars, using shoddy goods, working in unsafe factories, destroying nature in order to build even more freeways and suffering from outdated educational designs. Or we can opt for the alternative of bringing about a change in society by acquiring literacy in design and assuming responsibility for planning the future. After all it is the users, the people in the system, who are the real experts.

What do we mean by design culture?
In the course of societal evolution three different cultures have emerged: the humanities, the sciences and design. The humanities are concerned with the portrayal of human experience, science involves the study and description of our surroundings, and design means the conscious creation of new things and systems – the implementation of change. Of course there is a lively interaction between these three domains; design, for example, makes use of the knowledge and insights gained in both the sciences and the humanities. I would like to suggest that these three cultures jointly constitute the wholeness of human intellectual and creative experience.

Competence in design
General education is nowadays almost exclusively focussed on attaining literacy in the sciences and the humanities. There is hardly any awareness of the need for literacy and competence in design. The challenge is therefore to create and develop resources, arrangements and programs for providing children, adolescents and the general public with designing skills. A mere awareness, a mere readiness for change, can after all only be the first step. Learning how to design is a prerequisite for bringing about a permanent, positive societal transformation.

Literature
Banathy, B H.: “Building a Design Culture”, in Trappl R. (ed.): “Cybernetics and Systems’94”, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, New Jersey, London, Hong Kong, 1994.
Banathy, B H.: “The Prime Imperative – Building a Design Culture”, Educational Technology, June 1 992.

(From a talk given at the EMCSR ’94, condensed and edited by Stephen Sokoloff).

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