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  • Design Space for Space Design: Humanly {S:pace} Constructs Across Perceptual Boundaries

Balint, Tibor, 2016, Thesis, Design Space for Space Design: Humanly {S:pace} Constructs Across Perceptual Boundaries PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

In this PhD research by thesis, the author documents his journey that explores modes of operations beyond those predominantly applied at NASA. Specifically, he is looking at designerly and artistic modes of operation, with a research goal to show demonstrable value to enhance NASA’s capability to innovate. This exploration is built on cybernetic perspectives and goal-seeking focused on human centered design within NASA’s space exploration paradigm.
The author uses a performative approach through real world examples to highlight and substantiate the benefits of novel perspectives, conversations, and boundary objects, which shows their demonstrable value to NASA.
The significance of the research findings is discussed in relations to the state of practice, which is derived from interviews with practitioners across NASA’s organizational hierarchy, combined with personal experiences, and independent research on the topics. The two primary application examples examine strategic level organizational conversations in support of strategic decision-making, and a human centered approach to space habitats that utilizes conversations and boundary objects aimed towards higher-level needs of the astronauts. Secondary examples, as added material, explore designing the design environments through human centered conversations with stakeholders, storytelling, multi-nodal and multimodal conversations, designerly modes of operation in engineering-focused environments, and explore the potential benefits of a design education program to change the organizational culture on the long term. These examples are grounded and substantiated using specifically created boundary objects, which are used as communication tools across multiple disciplines.
This research is timely, because expanding humanity into space is an ongoing and inevitable step in our quest to explore our world. Yet space exploration is costly, and the awaiting environment challenges us, the human explorers, with extreme cold, heat, vacuum and radiation—among other conditions—unlike anything encountered on Earth. As a consequence, today’s space exploration, both robotic- and human-exploration driven, is dominated by objects and artifacts which are mostly conceived, designed and built through technological and engineering approaches, to support basic physiological, psychological, and safety needs. NASA’s activities, products, and processes are controlled by rigid procedural requirements, and are highly dependent on government funding. Since the Apollo era, the annual budget decreased by nine fold and remained virtually flat. Resource constraints, funding uncertainty, and changes in the organizational culture gradually led to innovation barriers, and formed a temporally and spatially coupled cyclical wicked problem for NASA. Yet, the aging workforce, still remembering the golden age of space exploration, is hoping and planning for large “fire and smoke” type missions, which puts NASA on an unsustainable path, while perpetuated by technology and management focus to overcome obstacles. Finding new directions may require a second-order cybernetic transformational change, starting with a changed paradigm, which in turn will impact the Agency’s mission and culture, and influence the core processes. In this research the author makes a case to broaden NASA’s worldview today, which is dominated by science, engineering, technology, project and resource management considerations. This can be achieved through novel perspectives gained from cybernetics, and other modes of operation through human centered design and art.
While the proposed performative approach is applied to NASA, it is not bounded by it. These perspectives and modes of operation can be applied to any other field, discipline or hierarchical structure within scientific, technological, and social developments. Cybernetic mapping of any environment can provide insights to the connections and the potential
for interactions between the various actors within. Understanding the complexities, non-linearity, and competing and often misaligned influences is important to set goals for the system and navigate towards preferable outcomes. Controlling and regulating the variety of these dynamic and responsive systems, in line with the set out goals and objectives, also require considerations and guidance, where cybernetic mapping, conversations and novel shared languages between the actors (in the form of commonly agreed understanding of the meaning), and human center design may play a role. When people are involved in these circular interactions and conversations, human centeredness can lead to transformative psychological impact on a personal level, and strategic advantages at an organizational level.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies
School or Centre: School of Design
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2016 12:57
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2016 12:57
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/2202

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