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Metadesigning for Children

(An overview of a project in progress)
See a list of all meetings and notes
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Why?

  1. We had no specific plan but started by discussing a long-term research project on ‘metadesign’.
  2. It occurred to us that some people are alienated by jargon - or by theory that sounds difficult or pretentious.
  3. Future citizens will need to think more holistically.
  4. What challenges us is the scale of our responsibility (from the micro-local to the macro).
    • We have inadvertently created the vast Anthropocene (an increasingly unstable and hostile environment for us)
    • But we are only monkeys who design tools. Our brains are evolved to think locally.
  5. We asked ourselves whether children would have the same difficulties (biases?) in understanding the challenge.

Children

  1. Would children understand our Metadesign publications?
  2. If not - what would we need to do to make metadesign itself accessible and useable?
  3. We decided not to make arbitrary decisions about the age group until we had conducted some experiments.
  4. Do child respond better by working to plans or by subverting the strictness of planning?
  5. Marx asked whether we are architects or bees….I think that metadesign makes us more like bees….(would children understand this idea?). Buckminster Fuller’s idea of ‘Continuous Man’ help us to see ourselves more like bees than architects?

Research

  1. Follow puzzling statements with clarifying questions

e.g. “what is it for?
e.g. "why is it necessary?
e.g. "who will benefit?”
Follow incomplete, unsatisfactory or still baffling answers with a call for exemplification:
e.g. "please give us an example”

Paul arrived and asked ‘what is metadesign?’ So we asked Hyaesook to answer him. She said Metadesign = Greek word ‘beyond’ design…a framework for design. Who is going to design the designer?
Dan: design students think that Human Centred design / cradle-to-cradle is the BEST design….so BEYOND takes into account all the levels and factors possible….when we/designers rationalise needs etc. we lose sight of important issues….so we need a bigger picture that includes ‘the beyond’
Phoebus explains it as ‘the Sun is Beyond the Earth’
Dan asked for a substitute word for 'beyond' - Phoebus said ‘outside of’
JW - In the Metadesign Book book, Paul Taylor mentions
Buckminster Fuller: we should always start designing by thinking about the Universe and zooming in
John Chris Jones: we should start by by thinking about the local/human/living situation and zooming out.
Dan Griner noted that these imply different levels of responsibility
A. John Chris Jones reminds us of our local responsibilities first (we are monkeys who design tools)
B. Fuller identifies our responsibilities for the big scale long view
JW - Big and Small at the same time
Hyaesook said that designers exemplify one side of human behaviour. She said metadesign is like a mythology [in structuralism it would start with a binary opposition)
Dan - games are mapping yourself ….<?>
Dan - What is the most difficult concept in your chapter?
Hyaess - the importance of having a holistic viewpoint….in design you would expect to have a clear target / audience / so narrow down the conditions…but needing a holistic level that re-connects things is less comfortable. Language is important in encouraging a better connection between people and things. Re-naming a wasp with a boy’s name reduced a child’s fear.
JW - unlike metadesigners, designers are given ready-made problems [usually) so find it hard to face such huge challenges without specific expectations for resolution.
Dan - in consultancy, companies often saw a specific problem and had a sense of the likely solution. But the first task is to face the ‘fuzzy front end’ of the situation.
JW - do we need to define ‘design’ before metadesign [beyond design) makes sense [e.g. to children)? So one interpretation is that designers can reinvent a method based on reinventing tools from their repertoire of design tools.
Dan - I always say to students that design is deliberate…
JW - but if metadesign addresses ‘wicked problems’ the vista becomes too complex for it to work like ‘design’ [i.e. deliberate). So ‘problem solving’ may need to give way to ‘opportunity-finding’.
Hyaess - design journals are so ‘controlled’
JW - Marx asked whether we are architects or bees….I think that metadesign makes us more like bees….(would children understand this idea?). Buckminster Fuller’s idea of ‘Continuous Man’ help us to see ourselves more like bees than architects?
SUGGESTIONS FOR NEXT TIME
Follow puzzling statements with clarifying questions
e.g. “what is it for?
e.g. "why is it necessary?
e.g. "who will benefit?”
Follow incomplete, unsatisfactory or still baffling answers with a call for exemplification:
e.g. "please give us an example”
Hyaesook mentioned Nora Bateson without having read what John had just (serendipitously) circulated - i.e. a link to Nora Bateson’s paper on her neologism aphanipoiesis (i.e. the incalculable and unnameable nature of biosemiosis).
John suggested that kids might be able to understand this idea (with a different name and presented differently).
Hyaesook reported that Phoebus was proud to have contributed to the last meeting.
Following her lead we cited several children's books that might be models for our endeavour:
‘A is for Activist - a book for children’ by Innosanto Nagara
'TETRASCROLL - 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' by Buckminster Fuller
‘No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference’ by Greta Thunberg
‘We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in pictures’ children’s book
‘Here We Are’ by Oliver Jeffers - children’s book
‘Das Blut ('Blood') by Cornelia Matthias et al. In the book's graphic layout - pictures (for toddlers) are on the right page and texts (for older kids) are on the left page.
Ideally, should our children’s book be:
A ‘how to?’ book?
A story with an allegorical concept?
A game?
Allegories - empathy to understand
e.g. we might consider telling stories from viewpoint of a nearly-extinct animal
Indigenous (secret) stories (Aboriginal Australian tale of the snake)
Dan set up a Miro platform for exchanging notes, links and ideas
Agreed that meetings should normally take place on Mondays around 3pm or 4.00pm
Next meeting: Monday 8th November
MINUTES for Zoom meeting number 3
8th November 2021 - Hyaesook Yang, Dan Griner and John Wood 
We discussed the difference between demiurgic (meta)design & selfless/co-creative approaches.
Discussion
We considered a series of interviews with children. 
POSSIBLES:
Mercury (Dan's son - age 1)
Lois (John's granddaughter - age 9)
Phoebus (Hyaesook's son - age 7
Eric (John's grandson - age 7)
Ada (Hannah's daughter - age 4)
POSSIBLE QUESTIONS
What would your favourite future look like?
How could we make the future look like this?
Do you have any other suggestions for making the world a better place?
Do you have a question for us?
MINUTES for Zoom meeting number 4
22nd November 2021 - Dan Griner and John Wood
We discussed the likely age range of the children we might address and concluded that this is a critical question.
We discussed whether it would be desirable/possible to envisage a particular house style before we decide on the age range - concluding that it might be useful to keep an open mind at this stage.
This led to further discussion (after the last session) about a theme to work with - but felt that the children might lead this question (especially as children' ideas are usually hard to predict)
We reminded ourselves that we had previously agreed to interview children using the following four questions:
What would your favourite future look like?
How could we make the future look like this?
Do you have any other suggestions for making the world a better place?
Do you have a question for us?
We agreed to meet in 2 weeks on 7th December - having gathered some children's answers to the above questions.
DISCUSSION
We had previously agreed to interview children using the following four questions:
What would your favourite future look like?
How could we make the future look like this?
Do you have any other suggestions for making the world a better place?
Do you have a question for us?
We had agreed to meet in 2 weeks on 7th December - having gathered some children's answers to the above questions.
John remembered that the Victorians believed that children should be given their own (protected) play worlds.
Dan cited Friedrich Froebel's child-oriented approach to behaviour and children. He encouraged kids to make 'gifts' made from paper.
Cornelia Parker seems to have been less protective - she introduced kindergarten (5 or 6 years old) children to the newspaper of the day and asked them to produce a commentary/response to it.
Over the last 70 years or so, children (in UK) have become much more protected from danger.
Should we ask children to create the agenda?
Hyaesook outlined a 'dream exchange' workshop in which participants swap their visions.
Dan asked how long the workshops ran for Hyaesook said usually between 5 and 15 minutes)
Dan noted that we should not put 'children' in one category...each is a unique person who has experienced the world differently.
We asked ourselves what our starting point was. Dan suggested that children think more 'naturally' (e.g. free from prejudices and financial constraints) so John asked whether we would, therefore, learn (as much) from children as they might learn from us.
Dan reminded us that we should encourage the next generation to run things better....
John wondered whether children believe in the received notion of human rights (e.g. without responsibilities).
He was reminded that, although animals can't discuss ethics, they have a keen sense of justice. If this also implies that children share the deep idea of fairness, could we take this as a foundational fact/truth?
For Next Time
MORE INTERVIEWS - maybe also categorise kids (town/country/girls/boys/younger/older)
USE DAN'S BOOKS - maybe use them to locate gaps in the children's books?
Hyesook had interviewed Phoebus and he focused on technological issues (just as Lois had done).
This raised the idea that maybe kids understand design as doing things rather than not doing things.
Hyaesook mentioned Papanek's book The Future isn't what it used to be and noted that families seldom discuss real (long-term / big) futures. Discussions of the future tend to be holidays etc.
John wondered whether this also connects to the popular assumption that design solves problems. If so, maybe a primary shift might be towards the delivery of opportunity, not solutions. Are technological solutions a basis for creating opportunities?
Is metadesign a potential way to leapfrog the immediate/narrow debates?
(we discussed the battleground of trucker versus green vehicle - see above example of 'rolling coal' to express disapproval of hybrid vehicles).
Dan asked how a child in the truck might answer these questions.
John's suggested new question: "How could we re-design adults to be better citizens?"
One problem/habit adults have is to avoid answering difficult questions - but children seem not to have this tendency.
Adults also are able to deflect difficult issues (see the film 'Don't Look Up').
We had previously agreed to interview children using the following four questions:
What would your favourite future look like?
How could we make the future look like this?
Do you have any other suggestions for making the world a better place?
Do you have a question for us?
Hyaesook did the interview very informally but plans to be more formal next time (also with 2 other children)
John will also do more interviews.
We had agreed to meet in 2 weeks on 7th December - having gathered some children's answers to the above questions.
For Next Time
MORE INTERVIEWS - maybe also categorise kids (town/country/girls/boys/younger/older)
USE DAN'S BOOKS - maybe use them to locate gaps in the children's books?
DISCUSSION 
John discussed his interview with Lois (9 yrs old). Could we leapfrog beyond the problem (to imagining a solution) rather than finding the conventional habit of critique/opposition...? Towards the end of the interview, Lois expressed her opposition to the unfair imprisonment of animals or the exploitation of children.
Dan interviewed 4 people
Ari: (7 yr old mixed race American)
Flying cars and houses, living up in the air.
We need engineers who can build these things and we all have to move into new places.
More food for everyone and no hunger.
How do my answers help you?
Ignazi (12 year ) :
No more fear of climate change
Stop pollution and switch the renewable energy sources.
Everyone could be more empathetic and kind to one another.
What's the book about?
3 yr old - old Korean summarised in translation interview
John - is fear a key issue? My age group carried a perpetual fear of global nuclear war during our childhoods. Dan - in USA kids undergo regular active firearm drills in schools because of the threat of home-based terrorists.
Self-reflexivity and self-consciousness as part of the metadesign process. 2nd Order Cybernetics is required for pride or shame.
Hyaesook Yang sent her interview with a 9 yr old boy.
She also sent her interview with Phoebus
For Next Time
Mirror phase
What is the age of cynical reason?
What is NOT metadesign?
examples...
I choose to act green...book
Is metadesign thinking outside one's own position?
Could a kids
MORE INTERVIEWS - maybe also categorise kids (town/country/girls/boys/younger/older)
USE DAN'S BOOKS - maybe use them to locate gaps in the children's books?
Observation 1
John mentioned that he is currently writing a funding bid that could be considered as a paradigm change project (see the funding bid notes ). It will invite kids to think about paradigms without using the term. The team will work with a choreographer and kids to co-invent a dance or mime that reminds stationary car drivers not to idle their engines.
Response 1
Dan suggested adding a chant, rhyme or song. This could make it more memorable and communicate on more levels at once: 
Turn it off, turn it off 
I don't want to cough 
Clean-up Clean-up 
Everybody everywhere 
He referred to a website doing a similar thing . 
“If we want cleaner air, we all have to do our share,” said Johnson. “Idle Eddy says always to ‘turn the key and we’ll be idle free.” 
Hyaesook asked whether the same challenge (changing a paradigm) be get to create a new metaphor?
Observation 2
Hyaesook showed us a series of children's books and had noticed how a great many have been quite solipsistic or self-centred in the sense that they seem to have been written/designed for reading by and for a single child. She wondered whether we could create a book intended for more than one reader. Meeting had to close at this point - but here is John's subsequent response:
Response 2
This is a fantastic observation that made me think about the (Western) solipsism of Descartes and Otto's notion of the transition from lonesome action to collective action. (see the metadesign team's interpretation ). (e.g. from autopoiesis to sympoiesis ). It generates a possible explosion of ontologies / grammars and children's book themes.


More Possible Keywords
Abductive thinking
Affordances
Agent
Alienation
Allopoiesis
Answer-seeking question
making up questions
Apoptosis
Attribution
Auspicious
Auspicious reasoning
Autopoiesis
sympoiesis
apoptosis)
Bisociation
Bottom-up
Business buzzwords
Cellular logic
Catalysis
Climate Change Denial
Comprehensiveness
Consciousness
Organisational Consciousness)
Contagious optimism
Co-sustainment
Creative Democracy
Creative Ensemble
Creative Quartet
Creative Ensemble
Creativity
Debate
Design
Designing miracles
Eco-mimetics
Emulsifier
Entrainment
Entredonneur
Envisioning
Feedback
Finding your element
Fractal
Holarchy
Intrinsic
an attribute (Noun)
Intrinsic abundance
Invention paradigm
Jeong
Keystone synergies
Lýsingarháttur nútíðar __
The Lever
Levers for Change
Languaging
Lemkinism
Manifold abundance
Metabolism
Metadesign
Metapurpose
Negative Feedback
New Knowing
ontology
radical optimism
contagious optimism
Organisational Consciousness
Consciousness
Outcome-seeking question
question
Paradigm
Paradigm change
Positive Feedback
feedback
Pragmatics
Pre-purpose
Pushing and Doing
Question-framing
Radical optimism
Relational design
Relational mathematics
Relevate (verb
Risk
Second Order systems
Self-interest
Semiosis
Serendipity
Shubh-Labh (Literally, 'auspicious profit') Indian term that moderates trading
Simple synergies
Strategy
Structural coupling
richly inclusive mapping
Super-wicked problems
Sustainability
Sympoiesis
Synergy
Synergy-of-synergies
Systems Thinking
Team consciousness
Theory-practice 'opposition'
Tetrahedron
Top-down
Trim-tab
Ubuntu
Wicked problems
Wu wei

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