Foundations Through Action and Reaction

She stepped into this room, the door to which bore a sign saying ‘foundations’. She had no idea what would be awaiting her inside. After a few steps it was as if she had reached the centre of the room. To her bewilderment, the room had no windows, and yet it was illuminated by gleaming light. It burnt in her eyes, forcing her to screw them up. Blinking, she tried to find her bearings. But however hard she looked, she could not make out the source of the light. It was as if the walls themselves were shining. In addition, the room seemed to have no lines of demarcation separating walls from floor and ceiling. How weird it was, this room, which she had entered without specific preconceptions. And it would reveal nothing but gleaming light. Upon turning and to her great relief, she spotted a black door handle. This time she wanted to be sure of what to expect. This time her preconception was fulfilled.

There are foundations. They depend on the community of active observers operating within a network. In this case, the network is the discipline of DESIGN, in the widest sense.

It is the observers themselves, within a community of observers, who coin and create these foundations. One could also put it this way: what constitutes the foundation of the foundations is the personality of each individual participant, based on his or her ideas and thoughts, and above all, the will to participate in this network.

A network with its mediating nature cannot function without being observed. A network which is not perceived is irrelevant (for the community of observers).

The perceived is processed by the observer and subsequently introduced into the network through a reaction determined by the observer. The participating observer functions as a connecting link within the network; he or she works out new references and thereby keeps the system alive and drives it forward.

The network DESIGN, in its function with a whole number of participating observers is contingent upon the observers operating and their conceptions of the network in which they participate. Each participant functions as a synapse with a special auxiliary element, i.e. an own faculty of perception and interpretation, which also permits the observer to participate in networks other than design, and to introduce the information there obtained into the design network.

The participants of the design network come together motivated by a common concern. There are repertoires of specific ways to formulate questions, but also of specific answers, which they can fall back on (since the network has been around for some time).

The network has a content what is divided up among the participating observers.

The content of the network is contingent upon the ideas and actions of the individual observers. The network is to be understood as a platform, where the ideas of the individual observer are able to emerge. The form in which these ideas and thoughts are present must not be limited to the theoretical, such as in speeches, essays and books, but also have to include the practical shaping of ideas, such as pictures, products and architecture.

The platform therefore consists of two levels: the theoretical and the practical level, which are joined together. What links them is the observer operating within the network, who allows the perceived to gain the status of communicative importance, which is processed within the observer and then reintroduced into the network via the established links to the network (i.e. the other observers) in the form of theoretical output or as a practical realisation, allowing them to manifest themselves.

Words, pictures and objects speak to us. Dealing with them necessitates ‘observation’ or rather ‘reading’. Without ‘reading’ there can be no message and no mediation. In the event of ‘reading’, a systemic blending occurs in the consciousness of the ‘reader’. The information of the ‘something’ comes into interaction with the personal sensory order of the reflecting ‘observer’.

The meaning and its formal correlation are conceived on the basis of the observer. The expansion of the network into the mind of the reader enables its expansion and concretion, and constitutes the preliminary for the functioning of the network.

The form which the appearances occurring in the network take, call for supplementing. The individual observers’ desire for expansion is due to them participating in other networks outside of design. The individual shaping of each observer causes individual and therefore highly differentiated perceptions and conceptions of the network.

On the one hand, the network is incomplete in the eyes of each observer. The individual’s interpretation is needed in order to establish the nexuses. On the other hand, through the expansion within the imagination of the observer, the rudimentary attains a totality. The individual participants benefit from this totality, since it permits access to information specific to the network, which can supplement and compliment that of the individual, as required.

We can now say that there are two forms of foundations within the network. The primary foundations make possible the existence and survival of the network, i.e. they secure the proper functioning. The secondary foundations move within the network on the level of content.

A network without foundations is a dead network. Here the relevance of a network is decisive. If nobody cared about the significance of design, people would still design, but there would be no discipline called ‘design’, perhaps not even the word ‘design’. As soon as an attempt is made to draw up rules, as soon as an exchange on the how and why of design takes place, the network DESIGN exists. And here it is not about the temporary validity of established rules, but about the very existence of a community, which cares about it and which exchanges ideas amongst its members.

Such foundations require a community of the operating observers. There are foundations, i.e. rules, of a ‘how’ within the network, which are often not actually phrased. These unwritten foundations serve to maintain the network. Amongst others, the following foundations can be made out:

— There is a network called design and a community of individuals sharing this interest, and participating in the network.

— Through the participating community, the network DESIGN experiences an expansion, from which the individual members / observers benefit.

— Each participant is asked to bring his conceptions, thoughts and expressions on and about the network DESIGN into the network , and to there expose them to reactions.

— The network functions as a pool of network-specific references which may be taken up on and expanded.

— Each comment on the network enriches it.

— The network’s participants unanimously recognise the necessity of the network.

— All participants have access to the network.

— The network is open to changes and new participants.

— Each participant recognises the necessity of the other participants in the network.

— Function, use, significance and sense, possibility and necessity are assigned to the network DESIGN by its participants.

The consensus, under which the observers participate in the network, constitutes the foundations of content. These are based on the assumption of a pool of references, which has been tailored and filled with specific respect to the problems, questions and solutions of the network DESIGN. Here too, specific foundations crystallise:

— The network DESIGN deals with problems specific to design and moves within these problems and solutions. It follows that all interjections from other domains have to be reprocessed and modified network-specifically in order to be integrated into the network DESIGN.

— The network design utilises a language specific to the network, which has developed in the course of the network’s existence and is experiencing increasing development.

— The network DESIGN has a past, and over time, thus an acquired status quo. This offers the possibility of comparison.

— The basis of discussion (the introduction of contributions into the DESIGN network) is the pool of the network, i.e. the information disposed of by the participants on the platform of the network.

— There is a consensus in the ideas of the individual participants of the network DESIGN, through which communication is enabled within the network.

(Recognition of basic knowledge as foundations.)

— There is relevant information within the network which is recognised as valid by all participants and not queried.

— The history of the network DESIGN with its acquired stock of information is considered a binding pool, which all network participants can refer to.

There are facts in design. There is the history of becoming. And there is always something which remains. There is essence. Why else would there be efforts to participate in this network and to develop it further? A conglomerate of simply dynamic but senseless references would not allow us to argue in this matter at all, for it would be dissatisfactory experience to put a question mark after each sentence or to add an ‘or’. The first principle foundation of our actions is perhaps the belief in sense and insight.

There is of course no final way of thinking. There is no such thing as the truth. There is no absolute form, neither in the shape of an absolute chair, nor in that of the perfect coffee machine. There are only attempts at finding such solutions. There is dynamic. There is process. The latter incessantly challenge the participants of the DESIGN network. There is always the possibility of expansion, via the ideas and consciousness of the participating observers. This challenge does not cause the network to come to a standstill. That does not mean however, that there aren’t relatively static elements within the process. There is the foundation of the network itself and also its contents, which refer to the participants. The foundations should never have their swan song. The foundation is the starting point, it is where I start from. In fact, my destination can also be another starting point. If it were not possible to fall back on all the knowledge which has been conveyed to me by the network over time, it would not really have made sense to write this essay.

She knew, that she had betrayed herself. Surely she could rely on her memory. She read this word, and immediately her mind had started to imagine what it could mean. No, she was not the first human being. She could not simply switch off her imagination whenever she wanted. She was networked. She was a part of the whole. And she would never be able to cut herself off. She believes in herself and the rest.

© Daniel Scheidgen, first published on the basic paradox research project