Transdisciplinary Design


Posted on November 4, 2013 | posted by:

Now, I know what you are thinking and it is likely you are rolling your eyes at this crazy fanatic Sabbath observer as you read this, but hear me out. Yes, I am a Sabbath observer, but my religious observance of the Sabbath has shaped the way that I design and my thought process in doing so. Through this program, I have started to see that TransDesign and the Sabbath actually have a surprisingly large amount in common. I will explain to you how and why this is, and I promise not to attempt to convert you in the process.

There are two main components that I have noticed thus far, though I am sure I will come across many more through my experiences. The first is because of the lack of technology and online profiles that I experience for 25 hours every week, and therefore forced collaboration that takes place. The second is that I feel the Sabbath plays a role in the way that I view and work through wicked problems.

From sundown on Friday evening until sundown on Saturday night, all of my work stops. I do not turn any electricity on or off. My iPhone, iPad, iPod, MacBook and Wii are turned off. My pens, pencils, markers and paint lay still in their respective boxes. My hybrid takes a break from charging its batteries. My Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Blog all rest in their cyber spaces. For those 25 hours every week, I am just me. Alone in this world and unable to be connected to the people who I am not immediately close to. When I do something funny or see something interesting, if I want to know what other people think, I need to actually talk about it. If they like it, they have to actually show their faces and tell me that thats the case – there is no “like” button on the Sabbath. As a teenager, this idea was a massive nuisance, however this forced direct interaction with people at least one day a week is something that I have come to value and appreciate.

Because I live in a community where many other people observe the Sabbath at the same time and in a similar way to me, I end up spending a significant amount of time with those people every Saturday. These people are my friends and family, and my friends and family’s friends and family. Each person comes from a different background and different perspective, however we all get together every week. Not only is it a great time to play board games and read magazines, it’s also a great for discussing the different things that we are working on and learning during our busy weeks. I meet all kinds of new people each time and talk about all kinds of different things. Often new ideas and projects come about just from the conversations and hang out time that takes place on Saturdays. This collaboration is oddly similar to the groups that we work in in our classes — discussing all kinds of ideas and new ways to make things better using all kinds of strengths and skills from all kinds of people.

The second thought I had about the Sabbath and its relation to TransD lies in the way that it correlates to wicked problems. When God created the world, according to Jewish tradition, He created it in six days and on the seventh day, He rested. The concept of God needing to rest is mind-boggling in and of itself, however when I read and discussed the nature of “wicked problems”, I saw the meaning of this “resting” in a different capacity.

One of the attributes of a wicked problem is that it has no end. Because of the fact that “the process of solving the problem is identical with the process of understanding its nature,” and that this said cycle never has a real end, the person who is working on this problem “can always try to do better.” It seems to me that the entire creation of the world is a wicked problem  — we are always looking to recreate different aspects of it and always working on new resolutions. There is always more that can be done and no matter what “solution” is found, it can always be made better. The Sabbath is a chance to take a break and step back from that work for a short period of time.

Once I take that step back, I find that I am able to better see what I am working on from farther away, and therefore am able to have insight on a larger scale. I often think of completely new ideas or realize completely new issues that I had not seen or noticed before. After sundown on Saturday night each week, I am able to pick up my pencil again, refreshed and ready to start the next cycle of my design work and projects — often filled with new ideas and newly added members to the team. What I once thought was strictly a religious and spiritual practice for me has turned out to be something that correlates and adds to my design work in a profound way.