Design and Determination: the role of information technology in redressing regional inequities in the development process

Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot.

Part II
Determination and Design: frames and paradigms


The second part of this book provides a detailed analysis of the technical design and development process. It takes as its starting point the increased significance of intellectual capital leveraged by information and communication technology in a globalising world economy. Access to both knowledge and material resources determines the policy and design choices available to decision makers beyond the core triad of the global economy described in Chapter 2.

To understand how global flows of information are undermining the distinction between manufacturing and service activities and the distinction between products and services new forms of locational and functional differentiation across a globalised network of invention, innovation and implementation must be examined.

In Part II design is defined as an activity which unifies product, process and organisation across geographical and cultural boundaries, as an aid to understanding the process of technological shaping within the globalising economy. The value of a design perspective is explained in relation to the literature on the social shaping of technology (Mackenzie and Wajcman, 1995).

Part II is concerned with the dynamics of "big design" - the complex and tightly coupled high technology innovations that have allowed the emergence of a global society. The military determination of the development paths of advanced technologies in the crucial Second World War and Cold War periods is evident in the examples used here.
The "small design" of the disintermediated local initiatives aimed at entering the global production system can be mapped on to a generic model of the design process presented here. This model identifies the distinctive intellectual and physical resource requirements of the invention and initial innovation stages of the project and product life cycle and the very different requirements of the mature manufacturing phases of the cycle.

Design as an activity links the service and manufacturing activities of the production chain. Rather than the replacement of manufacturing by service activity, we are witnessing the enhancement of the value of manufactured goods by their incorporation into services. As the distinction between products and services blurs we must examine new forms of locational and functional differentiation across a globalised network of invention, innovation and implementation. Design, defined as an activity which unifies product, process and organisation across geographical and cultural boundaries, can play a critical role in placing the strategies presently pursued in both manufacturing and services in a global context.

However, a nexus of conflicting and competing interests determines the outcome of complex design and development processes'

Chapter 6: Finding a lever to move the world: the design paradigm and its value

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Chapter 6 introduces a design paradigm as an aid to understanding this process of technological shaping within the globalising economy. This builds on the shift in manufacturing from established core to emerging periphery which was presented in Chapter 2. This shift reflects the success of the newly industrialising countries at the convergent stage of the design model presented here. It involves efficient production utilising mature technologies. However, the very different cognitive requirements of each design stage are a measure of the challenges facing countries like Malaysia and Taiwan, both of which have developed policies intended to take them from the essentially convergent tasks of global production to transformative and divergent activities.

The difficulties encountered by the East Asian economies in the nineteen-nineties highlighted the stresses inherent in the emerging global system. The tight coupling of the system propagates the diverse problems of these individual nation states across the globe. This chapter examines the emergence of strategies and alliances across regional and organisational boundaries with a model derived from design management.

Arguments around incremental versus systemic innovation in design, the literature on innovation, and implementation, and on the necessity of innovative milieux are introduced.

Watch factory, Longgang, ChinaWesternization in China?

Chapter 7: Time-Frames and Design Decision-making

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Chapter 7 develops one aspect of incremental development: time-frames. Conflict between time-frames at different levels within a decision space may conflict with or frustrate the intentions of designers. The chapter looks at three cases of technology driven development strategies spanning several decades and the impact of conflicting time-frames. of the decision making on design and management processes.

"Time-frames" consist of a distinctive orientation to past, present and future, embedded in practice time-frames are embedded in practices, and incorporate assumptions about past and future conditions. This Chapter explores their value in the analysis of the outcome of programmes of technical and organsational development.

Characteristic time-frames can be identified in relation to the design, development and deployment of technologies, the construction of systems, financial and governmental processes and resultant regulations. Thus they may be entirely socially constructed as with government terms or fiscal periods, they may be largely imposed by a specific technology throughout the cycles of its constituent processes or development periods, or they may be derived from seasonal or natural cycles as with agricultural and related activities.

Time-frames thus offer a linkage between macro-economic, sectoral and case-study material. In the context of design and project management the result can be a premature decision based on an immature understanding of a problem, or supporting technology and ultimately, a design or systems failure. At the intra-organisational level these effects are likely to be perceived simply as part of a generalised environmental uncertainty. For a design to be robust it must incorporate some understanding of such externalities.

Parliamentary time-framedemonstration, Parliament Square

Chapter 8: Finding a Place to Stand: a “metatechnical” framework

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Chapter 8 describes an overall metatechnical framework to encompass the perplexing range of influences on individual design projects. It presents a framework of analysis which allows socio-technical concerns to link national and wider cultural and institutional contexts with the decision-making levels of the individual firm, or network of firms, and with the technical dynamics of the techno-economic paradigm.

Often designers appear to make or acquiesce to decisions which frustrate their own professional objectives. From a systems perspective, such results may be seen as suboptimization resulting from a conflict between the evaluative criteria appropriate to institutional and task environments. To be successful the design activity must address both. The alternative is to allow the conflict between technocratic consciousness originating at a technical level and overconformity attributable to the institutional level to give rise to pathological outcomes. The development of the space shuttle - the NASA Space Transportation System (STS) - is one illustration of this argument, and a metatechnical framework is advocated as necessary to the successful linking of task and institutional orientations.

The implications are that the technical environment of design decision-makers must be appropriately linked to the institutional environment in which their organisations as a whole must operate

PLA  poster, ShenzhenPudong development plan 1998

Chapter 9: Culture, Design and Design Cultures: achieving transferability and sustainability in development processes
Perry Morrison with Stephen Little

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Chapter 9 explores a means of linking from the technical level to the wider cultural environment. The notion of "design cultures" provides an explanation of distinctive outcomes from processes addressing essentially the same technology in different social and cultural settings.

Established practices and expectations within organisations contain a cultural component. This imparts its own dynamic to the diffusion and adoption of socio-technical systems across cultural settings. The key technologies underpinning the present mode of global development have been modified by cultural orientations and preferences which are in turn incorporated into popular accounts of difference in organisational practices. Such accounts themselves may carry a significant emotional charge reflecting anxieties played out at a national level, especially in North American accounts of North East Asian developments prior to the downturn of the nineteen-nineties in that region.

The design process itself can be seen to reflect its cultural setting. However, reference to culture should not become a means of avoiding further explanation of difference. National associations of style and capability are both a form of stereotyping and a source of value, for example in the marketing of German or Italian automobiles with their respective associations of engineering reliability and design flair. They also reflect distinctive outcomes based on differing priorities among designers in different settings. Culture must therefore be disaggregated into a constellation of tradition, ethnicity, organisational and institutional frameworks.

Ironically, the military technology which dominated much innovation transferred to the "third world" during the Cold War period offers clear examples of differences between artefacts which reflect institutionally varied frameworks of invention and innovation. The performance driven extremes of military technologies reveal characteristics that are less clearly exposed in more mundane and robust technologies and this chapter plots changes in the distinctive design cultures of the Cold War protagonists.

MiG 15 jet fighterComet airlinerTSR-2 bomber - computer bay


This page is maintained by
Stephen Little
Trafford, Greater Manchester, UK

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