I begin my exploration of ecological design by examining the nature of the individuals engaged in the design process. There are two principal concerns. First, design is a human activity that seeks to alter the human environment. Therefore, an understanding of human behavior in a problem-solving context is essential. In particular, we are interested in the extent the which the proposed solutions are rational (i.e., derivable through the use of clearly stated principles and formalisms) and accurate (i.e., descriptive of solutions that, when available, produce the desired results). Although there may be social and political biases that affect the decisions, the principal focus of this chapter is individual problem solving. How good are people at solving problems? How rational are they, and are there limits to rational analysis? Design depends on the interpretations of those who describe what is needed and those who create the desired products. It is essential that we know where we can be certain and where uncertainty is unavoidable. The second reason for studying human decision making complements the first; it has to do with the form of the final decision. Recall that the software process begins with an informal recognition of a need (in-theworld) and ends with the formal expression of a response to that need (in-the-computer). One of the products of science (and rational argument) is models of the world (i.e., instruments) that can be expressed in-the-computer. Progress is made as more instruments become available. Although the criterion of relevance may result in the disuse of some of the available instruments, clearly an increase in the number of potentially relevant instruments offers the possibility of improving productivity and/or enlarging the technology’s scope (i.e., the class of problems for which the models may be relevant). Therefore, we have a second set of questions to be answered. To what extent are there rational problem-solving mechanisms that can be modeled in the computer, and how may they be modeled? Are some decisions contextually determined, thereby requiring information never available in-the-computer? what are the limits in expressing design knowledge? This chapter đdoes not provide answers to these questions; I doubt that any consensus answers can be formulated.
Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.