Aligned with my view, for critical theory “greater democracy and nondomination are its goals” (Bohman, 2015). Victor Margolin called for a Critical Design Theory in 1989, this is part of that discourse.
In the study of ideas, it is necessary to remember that insistence on hard-headed clarity issues from sentimental feeling, as if it were a mist, cloaking the perplexities of fact. Insistence on clarity at all costs is based on sheer superstition as to the mode in which human intelligence functions.
(A. N. Whitehead from Adventures in Ideas, cited by McLuhan & Fiore 2001)
While transdisciplinarity forms the basis for practices integrating fields of knowledge, it fails to achieve unmediated experiences.
Critical theory is the closest we come to allowing for individual experience, yet it is up to individuals to take initiative. Critical theory deals primarily with social discourse and politics, and notably among the major works design is completely left out. However the arguments, conflicts and agenda of the work connect closely with this work as if it had been written for my purposes.
Within the works, it is argued that power exists for citizens. In addition the belief is that power resides in citizens imposing, allowing, and legislating power. Without citizens agreement, there is no way a power system can survive.
The issue with this is that implicit power is still capable of man-handling people, and taking away their agency. Common acceptance of practices and the belief that institutions aren’t permeable stops initiative occurring.
This notion of individual initiative is exemplified in Michael Betancourt’s open manifesto “The __________ Manifesto”. Betancourt’s purpose was to create an interactive work online when he created the manifesto. In it, as in the title, there were spaces left for individuals to fill in their own points of view relating to each section, and Betancourt’s writing was given the strength of other manifestos written prior to it (100 Artists’ Manifestos 2011, p.417). Rather than creating a manifesto that uses everyone’s information, or distributing the manifesto an individual writes, I think this is an activity it is important to undertake individually, and to then use individually. Until individuals take such initiative we are left with modernist ideals within society and academia which limit people by solidifying predetermined constraints.
I offer an example of another approach worth mentioning that defies what I am talking about specifically, but is worth discussing as an unrealistic model of human accomplishment. Buckminster Fuller worked in various areas, not generally, but acquiring expertise in all of them. Incorporating architecture, engineering and industrial design cohesively, he managed to attain for himself a level of mastery that has not managed to be translated into the education or practice of designers. His antiquated notion of comprehensive science of design is one avenue of exploration that may lead to more holistic systems in future (Design Discourse, p.4).
A greater discussion on how to be your best self is beyond the scope of this, but I recommend looking into Peter Diamandis, the working strategy of Foucault, or the works of Tony Robbins and Steven Pressfield.
Victor Margolin in Design Discourse set up a premise in 1989 that has come closer to reality, “The next step is to begin mapping the field of design itself according to a broadened definition, and to start organizing existing research into related areas.” (p. 6) This notion was what he started in the text by collecting works from design thinkers of the past and (his) present. I am asking however whether or not this was a good idea. Perhaps it makes more sense to have no set discipline of design, and keep the definition loose. Perhaps the works of critical theory mentioned earlier were right to leave design out, keeping the practice in the background of life and unacknowledged as a social influence. Rather, all design then remains a reflexive proposition to any given task with no constraints attached.