Harold Nelson leads the collection with an invited essay, Contexts’ first article, that helps place the footers and foundation into the field that has grown from design for complex scale and generations of systems thinking from the fertile ground of the centre of the 1960s consciousness revolution, the University of California at Berkeley.
Contexts—The Journal of Systemic Design
Contra-Innovation: Expanding the innovation imperative in the context of futuring, defuturing and fictioning
Dulmini Perera and Tony Fry present a powerful approach to enable systemic critique of innovation propositions and their potential outcomes. The paper takes the form of presenting three “historico-fictions” from the US, China, and Cuba to distinguish these value frames within selected histories of dominant systems. Perera and Fry suggest a “second order design fiction” to bring forth pluralistic expansions of meaning and enable participants in design conversations to recognize many possible positions that might challenge acceleration, defuturing, or sustainment.
Systemic Spatial Design: Enhancing the potential of spatial design disciplines to navigate adaptive cycles in cities
Elena Porqueddu presents a spatial-architectural theory based on complexity theory and complex adaptation. She advances a systemic approach to mixed-discipline spatial design in urban planning, which she calls “systemic spatial design,” and introduces the “multi-scale atlas.” The paper presents a new approach to spatial design—the designer can intervene in the context, but the approach is adaptive and self-organizational, with no claim to control.
Finding (a theory of) Leverage for Systemic Change: A systemic design research agenda
Ryan Murphy extends a body of work with an analysis of the function of intervention points that we understand as leverage and argues that the (theory of) leverage is crucial to understanding systems’ complexity, “Finding leverage means finding advantage: identifying the phenomena in a system with the greatest potential to multiply or compound a changemaker’s efforts to achieve the impact they want.”
The Power and Place Collaborative: Participatory strategies for scaling
Danielle Lake, David J. Marshall, Rozana Carducci, and Tracey Thurnes present an action case study of a social lab and interrogate the issues of scaling effective change in social design. This article is valuable for practical instruction on how to achieve diverse forms of scale via more participatory systemic design practices and offers a conceptualization of scaling as a meshy, stretchy place of emergence.
Engaged Design Scholarship in Contexts
Editor in Chief Peter Jones and Deputy Editor Silvia Barbero provide an overview of Volume 1, which includes histories and futures, and ranges from new theory to real-world cases. They also provide a brief on the emergence of systemic design as an interdiscipline to Contexts, which they view as reflective of “the common ground of complexity that many design scholars share as a common grand challenge.”