complex system

In my opinion, every design, as a process or design situation, is a complex system. I say so not only because that there is no single correct/wrong answer,  but also, again, function follows forms. Function is not the result, but the function!–What you could or might get from what you do during the design process was decided how you do it, although it is not guaranteed that you would get it. To say this maybe is too confused. For example, I realized that what kind of questions I asked during the interview process is super-important. What the questions is, and at what time in the sequence I ask a specific question, what kind of manner or tone I use  when I ask questions, all of these matters for an interview, and maybe directly related with what kind of data I could get in both quality and quantity, and nobody cares how much hours I prepare the questions. Nobody knows how could we get a useful and meaningful data for a design project by doing interview, no theory could teach me. At this point, I could only remember one thing: practice makes perfect. Because as a human being, I am a self-reflect machine and could learn from the practice, even unconsciously!However, “genetic mutation” always happens, and I am sure it exists in the design process as well as HCI. It could be a totally refresh air for specific situation, or an evil design. Inter-disciplines is very popular and people believe that by introducing people from different background into the design team would benefit to our work. Anyway, how could we control these kind of situations?


  1. zhuofengli

    Mingxian I agree with you that many dynamical things are going on in a design process. However, I am not sure the design process can be taken as a complex system. To me, it sounds more like a part of the whole HCID system. (I would be more willing to take the HCID world as a complex system)

  2. mingxian

    Yeah, I agree that HCID is a complex system.

    I guess my main point is that complex system could be really small system. It isn’t matter with its scales.:)

  3. jeffreybardzell

    I agree that HCI as a field is a complex system. It has many agents (all of us, for example), and it dynamically interacts with the world around it, constantly transforming itself (the first, second, and third waves of HCI can be seen as criticalities). The agents work closely together but lack a sense of the whole. So, all of us in our class are close and talk a lot, but there are HCI researchers at University of Washington or at Intel with whom we rarely interact. But we go to conferences, and then all of a sudden, under that special circumstance, we interact for a time with other people, and that shifts our relationships: If I start a project with Researcher X at Intel, maybe as a result I’ll work less with someone here in Bloomington.

    You asked, “Anyway, how could we control these kind of situations?”

    One of the points of a complex system is that no one can control it. Control implies a set of laws, a passivity, and a stability, so that it can be externally manipulated. Complex systems don’t work like that. But though we can’t *control* them, we can still *influence* them. The difference is that influence can only happen through participation (as opposed to supervision). We can’t control the spread of a virus, but we can participate in its ability to influence by innoculating people, using quarantines, and so on. We can’t control an economy, but the government can influence it through policy, raising and lowering interest rates, and so on. We can’t control HCI as a discipline, but we can influence it getting our particular take on it out there into the public discourse, through high quality papers, innovative projects, and so on. In all cases, control is replaced with participation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s