Universal Access in the Information Society

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 253-268

First online:

Consilience for universal design: the emergence of a third culture

  • Darren DalcherAffiliated withNational Centre for Project Management, School of Computing Science, Middlesex University Email author 

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Consilience offers a powerful mechanism for borrowing from other disciplines, thereby extending the scope of what can be known. This paper looks at the foundations of the activity of design as a means of providing IT systems that cater for diverse needs. Developing systems that are expected to satisfy needs continuously (i.e., systems that are expected to evolve) calls for a dynamic activity of design that is responsive to changes in the environment. The contrast with the scientific assumption of ordered development invokes a new classification, supported by insights from other disciplines that place the range of approaches in context. Design is neither orderly nor linear; it implies a continuous and active search to resolve trade-offs and satisfy changing constraints. The paper concludes by making a case for design as an alternative culture that borrows from, and supports, both the scientific and the literary cultures. Acceptance of the role of practice as an interface alongside the more traditional cultures enables researchers and practitioners to access and adopt a larger variety of methods and general approaches underpinning an even larger corpus of insights. Consilience can occur at different levels and offer a variety of benefits. Balancing scientific enquiry with artistic flair and creativity through careful sensemaking that supports sharing across cultures provides the greatest benefit from learning to look across rather than blindly focusing inwards.


Consilience Design Design characteristics Design culture