Design as a social process: a complex systems perspective

Alexiou, Katerina and Zamenopoulos, Theodore (2008). Design as a social process: a complex systems perspective. Futures, 40(6) pp. 586–595.



Design is increasingly perceived as a social process, but despite a wide exposition of the concepts of cooperation or collaboration, a coherent account of the important dimensions of design as a social multi-agent process is still missing. It is argued that a generic, abstract concept is required to be able to capture the social distributed character of design, without making a-priori assumptions about the kinds of interdependencies that exist among agents (in terms of goals, knowledge or roles), or about their dispositions towards cooperation or conflict. The paper suggests that the most appropriate concept for this purpose is the concept of coordination. A model of coordination as a distributed learning control is thus presented as a vehicle for focussing on the important dimensions and qualities of coordination. Motivated by this discussion, the paper subsequently delves further into the issue of sociality by considering the question of the micro–macro link extensively discussed in sociology. In particular, the paper shows how coordination can offer a resolution of the question in the context of design, and discusses the effects of such an approach for our understanding of the relationship between complexity and design.

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