Unfixed Rules and Regulations

Like hardly any other research discipline and field of knowledge, the comparatively young field of experimental research in design reveals the tendency - perhaps also the need - to find (and maybe also create) new narratives. New narratives especially in science, but also the arts, and obviously in the design disciplines that are positioned somewhere in between. +
The design disciplines are increasingly required (for various reasons) to engage in scientific research. But according to what criteria? The concept of research in design still often appears vague. And the question arises as to which concepts of knowledge production we can generate in the design disciplines - and more importantly: which epistemic practices we can develop and apply from within design. +
And from that perspective, a new, different, special, hybrid form of knowledge is possibly emerging here, which is based in particular on the way how we actually interact with the artificial world, (the designed world). And possibly we are dealing here with a dialogical structure of knowledge: The design (e.g. of a physical thing, a virtual space, etc.) is one thing. Its perception and adaptation by an audience (the so called “user” for instance) is another thing. And something happens in between. +
This results in different fields of operation in which Experimental Research in Design can be constructively, provocatively, discursively and productively conceived and further developed as a research tool. Because that is precisely what design-based, practice-based, experimental research is: A way to gain knowledge that comes from the design (process). +
Especially when it comes to the question of “Experimental” in (not only design) research, the great Michael Erlhoff always reminded us to understand it as an experience-based emancipation from any beliefs, from the “misconception of assuming that we live in a harmonious world [governed by mathematical rules]”. He taught us to be aware of the necessity to take risks, of interventions and of somersaults in order to gain something like insights into what is happening and why it is happening (Erlhoff 2018, 8). +
NERD 2021 New Experimental Research in Design Conference, hosted by BIRD Board of International Research in Design and Zentrum für Designforschung / HAW Hamburg.
In their broad topical range, our NERD speakers will possibly bring us closer to what Erlhoff has constantly proclaimed further on: “The advanced quality of experimentation is based on the fact that experimentation always changes situations, correlations, and conditions. Experimentation never takes anything as a given fact, rather anything is open to change. That is: experimentation is both confusing and normal. Experimentation does not accept that rules and regulations are fixed. And experimentation is able to see mistakes and misunderstandings as potential qualities for innovation and for developing new perspectives.“ (ibid.) +
This is where the most significant difference between "pure" design practice and design-based research becomes clear. Where design is critically put into question and compared or also brought together with existing theories, and not least defended or also transformed in a (trans-) disciplinary discourse. +
Each of the papers presented and discussed together at NERD illustrate that perfectly: Design only becomes research when there is a dialogue between making and thinking, when knowledge is gained and also communicated in a plausible, comprehensible way. +

Based on the opening speech (Tom Bieling) at NERD 2021 – New Experimental Research in Design – Online Conference, Zentrum für Designforschung / HAW Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, 3 June 2021. +

Literature +
Erlhoff, Michael (2018): On Design, Research and Pudding. In: Michael Erlhoff & Wolfgang Jonas (Eds.): NERD – New Experimental Research in Design. Positions and Perspectives. BIRD Board of International Research in Design. Basel: Birkhäuser. +