“embracing wicked problems: the turn to design in composition studies”

Noting that the post-process — turns to critical cultural studies — failed to supply a theory of agency, Marback notes that the “centrifugal forces of critique in composition studies are giving way to centripetal interest in design, reinvigorating practical interest in agency” (398). Interest in design reinvigorates the field’s commitment to attending to student production and the issue of agency that comes along with student production.

CLAIM: while borrowing the vocabulary of design studies, composition has failed to take up design thinking. Marback argues that a design paradigm, design thinking, and an understand of design as a wicked problem offers a way to trace agency in dynamic situations constituted by multiple parties and their shifting interests

Marback images composition entering a “flexible design paradigm” where Kostelnick’s article reinvigorates process and poses the idea of design task as a “wicked problem” — one without a clear solution and one that is never finally solvable.  In other words, it is a writing situation constituted by a central problem, contingent problems, and multiple competing interests. It is an ambiguous situation.

Note: a “wicked” design paradigm doesn’t “reduce the unique challenges indicative of any single design task… nor does it mystify the creative ability of any designer/composer.”

Strength of a design paradigm: confronts the wickedness of our responses to each other and the objects we have designed, recasting design as more than procedural but also a problem of responsiveness and dilemma”

Further and as more than a term for identifying and articulating the distinctive features of verbal and visual communication (read: the logic of modes) — there is an attention to the interrelations among different modes. It works, because it’s a neutral term (for critique: see Prins).

design problems are wicked b/c situations change, interests change, but the composer is nevertheless responsible for the responsibility of others — making it both a technical problem (how to) and a rhetorical problem (why/for whom)

design is rhetoric: rhetoric — the study of the most wicked of all problems: making repsonsible use of the persuasive power inherent in all artifacts — design studies is the study of rhetoric

power of the term: “pivots on erasing the distinction between word and thing, form and content, signifier and signified”

In short, it’s multimodal.

Marback takes issue with the way composition studies deploys the design concept: often deployed as just part of a process of invention and creation that includes nonlinguistic and extralinguistic elements; leaves out the part of designed objects as stimuli that make us human by shaping our human experiences

Critiques Diana George’s emphasis on one particular mode instead of the complete text and textuality — limits design to mean one part of a text, leaving out the complete artifact

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