Co-Designing social systems by designing technical artifacts

In Pieter E. Vermaas, Peter Kroes, Andrew Light & Steven A. Moore (eds.), Philosophy and Design: From Engineering to Architecture. Springer (2008)
Technical artifacts are embedded in social systems and, to some extent, even shape them. This chapter inquires, then, whether designing artifacts may be regarded as a contribution to social design. I explicate a concept of general design that conceives design as the type fixation of a complex entity. This allows for an analysis of different contributions to the design of social systems without favoring the intended effects of artifacts on a system over those effects that actually show up. First, the clear-cut case of socio-technical systems is considered. Here, functions of artifacts can be planned fairly precise. In societies, in contrast, the actual functions of an artifact can hardly be predicted, which is due to strong self-organizing processes. Nevertheless artifact design can be shown to contribute to the design of the system also in this case.
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