Polyscopy in a nutshell


The above metaphorical image, the bus with candle headlights, renders the motivation for polyscopy in a nutshell. The bus represents our technologically advanced and fast-moving civilisation. The candle headlights represent the way information is created and used, which we have indiscriminately inherited from the past.

As a practical message, this image suggests that the ways of creating and sharing information we have inherited will not fulfil the purposes we now urgently need to take care of, notably providing orientation and direction. By designing instead of inheriting what we do with information, suggests this image, we can now make the difference between a hazardous ride into the future, and using our technology to take us to places or conditions where we may justifiably wish to be.

In an academic or fundamental sense, the bus metaphor is pointing to an epistemological stance where information is no longer considered an objective image of reality, but a system within a system, whose purpose is to fulfil certain specific roles. The design epistemology is a trapdoor to a new paradigm in knowledge work at large (see Through the Mirror and Design epistemology). Under this epistemology, the creative acts to reconfigure what we do with information become basic research – as “the discovery of natural laws” have been in the traditional sciences.

The bus metaphor further points to the necessity of what we are calling systemic innovation, where we apply our creative capabilities, and our technology, to fulfil the purposes that must be served, rather than to reproduce the habitual practices and ways of working. The bus points to the need to  turn our basic institutions or socio-technical “candles” into “lightbulbs”, and to the opportunity to invent and create on this larger, systemic scale.

Polycopy Ideogram bulb 2016

The “i” in the above metaphorical image, composed of a circle on top of a square, renders the information that polyscopy undertakes to create in a nutshell. The purpose of this information  is to provide direction-setting high-level insights (represented by the circle), based on a multiplicity of lower-level insights (represented by the square), which illuminate an issue or phenomenon from multiple sides.

Polyscopy is a complete prototype. It consists of about forty smaller prototypes, which cover the space from epistemology and methods to social organisation and institutionalisation.

Polyscopy itself has been created by combining the insights about the meaning and purpose of information that have been reached during the past century (see the introduction to my book manuscript “Informing Must Be Designed“; you may skip the prolog and the acknowledgements; note that this manuscript was written in 2009 when I was still using information design instead of polyscopy as the name for the paradigm.)


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