Incomplete by design and designing for incompleteness

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Incomplete by design and designing for incompleteness
Authors: Raghu Garud, Sanjay Jain, Philipp Tuertscher [edit item]
Citation: Organization Studies 29 (3): 351-371. 2008 March.
Publication type: Journal article
Peer-reviewed: Yes
Database(s):
DOI: 10.1177/0170840607088018.
Google Scholar cites: Citations
Link(s): Paper link
Added by Wikilit team: Yes
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Incomplete by design and designing for incompleteness is a publication by Raghu Garud, Sanjay Jain, Philipp Tuertscher.


[edit] Abstract

The traditional scientific approach to design extols the virtues of completeness. However, in environments characterized by continual change, there are challenges in adopting such an approach. We examine Linux and Wikipedia as two exemplary cases to explore the nature of design in such a protean world. Our observations highlight a pragmatic approach to design in which incompleteness is harnessed in a generative manner. This suggests a change in the meaning of the word 'design' itself - from one that separates the process of design from its outcome, to one that considers design as both the medium and outcome of action.

[edit] Research questions

"We begin by providing a brief overview of the scientific approach to design and then highlight the challenges that one confronts in applying this within contemporary environments characterized by continual change. To empirically locate our observations, we examine two exemplary designs that appear to be always in-the-making – the Linux operating system and the Wikipedia online encyclopedia."

Research details

Topics: Epistemology, Wikipedia as a system [edit item]
Domains: Information systems [edit item]
Theory type: Analysis [edit item]
Wikipedia coverage: Case [edit item]
Theories: "Our aim is not to reach a state of theoretical saturation [27; 28]. Rather, much like the phenomena that we are studying, our aim is to offer a set of observations that will hopefully generate “theoretical tension” and form the basis for ongoing debate and understanding of this phenomenon." [edit item]
Research design: Case study [edit item]
Data source: N/A [edit item]
Collected data time dimension: N/A [edit item]
Unit of analysis: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia data extraction: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia page type: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia language: Not specified [edit item]

[edit] Conclusion

"We have explored the Linux and Wikipedia cases to sketch out the elements of a pragmatic approach to design. In continually changing environments, adopting a design approach that attempts to fix boundaries, goals and purposes is potentially counterproductive. Whereas, such an approach may produce a system that is optimal at a point in time, given continual change, the system is likely to rapidly become obsolete over time. Under these conditions, a pragmatic approach – one that views design as continually evolving and essentially incomplete -- may be more appropriate. Within such an approach, boundaries between designers and users become blurred, heterogeneous user preferences emerge in use, tasks remain partially partitioned and the goals of the design emerge through interaction. Indeed, such an approach harnesses the benefits of incompleteness in comparison to the scientific approach that views incompleteness as a threat. Eventually, a pragmatic approach involves the fusing together of two meanings of design – that is, as both process and as outcome. Any outcome is but an intermediate step in an ongoing journey, representing both the completion of a process as well as its beginning. Whereas the scientific approach emphasizes the need to crystallize designs, the pragmatic approach highlights the value of retaining fluidity. The essence of this approach is well captured by Hedberg, et al. [69: 43] who noted, “Designs can themselves be conceived as processes – as generators of dynamic sequences of solutions, in which attempted solutions induce new solutions and attempted designs trigger new designs.”"

[edit] Comments

""In continually changing environments, … a pragmatic approach – one that views design as continually evolving and essentially incomplete -- may be more appropriate [than a design approach] that attempts to fix boundaries, goals and purposes . " p. 152-153"


Further notes[edit]