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The Specificity of Design Research: How Practice-Based Design Knowledge Can Enter the Great Archive of Science

  • Paolo VolontéEmail author
  • Lucia Rampino
  • Sara Colombo
Chapter
Part of the Design Research Foundations book series (DERF)

Abstract

In this chapter, we call into question the nature of academic design research. A reconstruction of the debate over the role of academic research in the field of design shows that its origins created the bias of attempting to model design research on the historically contingent form of scientific research rather than on its deeper reason. Indeed, design academics often imitate what scientific disciplines do when they do research (i.e. applying codified methods), yet the discussion about why such disciplines behave that way is still limited. According to science studies the answer to this why lies in scientists’ habit of making the results of their research public, thus building what we refer to as the Great Archive of Science (GAS). By analyzing the dynamics of the GAS, we show that the rules, methods, and models typical of the research environment have as their main purpose to make the reliability of researchers’ knowledge claims as durable as possible. Regarding design research in general, and research through design more specifically, we thus argue that what turns designers’ work into academic research is not just the application of scientific methods but primarily the participation in the grand game of the GAS, whose dynamics enables a circumscribed corpus of knowledge to be held reliable by a community.

Keywords

Design research Research epistemology Scientific method Design knowledge 

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of DesignPolitecnico di MilanoMilanoItaly
  2. 2.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridge, MAUSA

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