Keyword - Auspicious

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  • The Latin word auspicium, referred to someone who looks at birds.
  • This was practiced in order to discern omens from the way that birds flew.

Why is it useful?

  • Today it carries the sense of something propicious, favourable, well-disposed, or kind.
  • Where our rather scientific, rational train of thinking tends to separate the random from the causal, this word unifies them.
  • Designers may like to reflect on the role of 'luck' in the successful management of complex situations.

Is design thinking auspicious?

  • Design thinking works differently from managerial, bureaucratic or legislative methods.
  • Bureaucracy leans heavily on rules and regulations (see Aristotle's logic of categories).
  • This formalistic approach tends to justify itself via internal logic, rather than external outcomes.
  • See Greg Craven's analysis of truth-based assumptions in climate change discourse
  • Design is more outcome-centred and pragmatic than 'truth-oriented' and critical.
  • It changes the world by creating, and improving the affordances of things.
  • Thinking via affordances can produce a more consensual, outcome-oriented type of reasoning.

Altruistic approaches to design

  • Adam Smith's Invisible Hand theory exemplifies an outcome-oriented mode of reasoning.
  • However, it seeks to enhance the global by focusing (selfishly) on the local.
  • This makes it inauspicious because it lacks symbiotic, or altruistic qualities.
  • An altruistic mode of design would therefore seem more auspicious.
  • Altruism is often depicted as being diametrically opposite to (individual) selfishness.
  • But it could, alternatively, be seen as a way to protect the (collective) self.
  • At the social level, altruism is usually characterised as an ethical/political issue.
  • At the ecological level it makes our humanistic, anthropocentric tendencies seem parochial.

Further reading

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