Mapping and sensing Dewey’s Situations as design and social science methods

Nold, Christian (2023). Mapping and sensing Dewey’s Situations as design and social science methods. In: Nordes 2023: This Space Intentionally Left Blank, 12-14 Jun 2023, Linköping University, Norrköping, Sweden..



This exploratory paper proposes the use of pragmatist philosophy as a methodological bridge between design and the social sciences. It develops John Dewey’s ecological notion of the ‘situation’ into two design methods for mapping and sensing situations. The first method, called ‘mapping situations’ is based on Adele Clarke's concept of ‘situational mapping’ and aims to pinpoint actor relations, concealed power dynamics, and areas for intervention. The second method, ‘sensing situations’ helps to develop a deeper understanding of a situation through embodied experience. The combination of these cognitive and affective methods offers a holistic approach to deal with complexity and ambiguity. The potential of these methods is to use Dewey’s situation as a shared unit of analysis that allows designers and social scientists to work together and address problems in new and innovative ways that go beyond the limits of their respective fields.

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