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Metadesign (or meta-design) is an emerging conceptual framework aimed at defining and creating social, economic and technical infrastructures in which new forms of collaborative "design can take place. It consists of a series of practical design-related tools for achieving this.
As a methodology, its aim is to nurture emergence of the previously unthinkable as possibilities or prospects through the "collaboration of designers within "interdisciplinarity 'metadesign' teams. Inspired by the way living systems work, this new field aims to help improve the way we feed, clothe, shelter, assemble, communicate and live together.
Metadesign has been initially put forward as an "industrial design approach to "complexity theory and "information systems by Dutch designer Andries Van Onck in 1963, while at "Ulm School of Design (later at "Politecnico di Milano and Rome and Florence "ISIA). Since then, several different design, creative and research approaches have used the name "Metadesign", ranging from "Humberto Maturana and "Francisco Varela's biological approach, to "Gerhard Fischer's and Elisa Giaccardi's  techno-social approach, and "Paul Virilio's techno-policital approach.
Later on, a very active group was present at "Politecnico di Milano, and several different universities and graduate programs began applying Metadesign in design teaching around the world generally based at Van Onck's approach, further developed at Politecnico di Milano. Nevertheless, there's a very active, but widely dispersed, group that base their activities at Maturana and Varela's approach.
More recently, some efforts have been made to systematize Metadesign as a structured creative process, such as (1) Fischer's and Giaccardi's and (2) Caio Vassão's academic works, among several others, based on a much wider reference frame, ranging from "post-structuralist philosophy, "Neil Postman's media ecology, "Christopher Alexander's pattern languages and "deep ecology.
This variety of approaches is justified by the myriad interpretations that can be derived from the "etymological structure of the term.
The Greek word '"meta' originally meant 'beside' or 'after' but is now also used to imply the possibility of change or transformation, including self-transformation. Metadesign can therefore allude to a possible design practice that (re)designs itself (see Maturana and Varela's term "autopoiesis). The idea of Metadesign acknowledges that future uses and problems cannot be completely anticipated at design time. "Aristotle's influential theory of "design defined it by saying that the 'cause' of design was its final state. This "teleological perspective is similar to the orthodox idea of an economic payback at the point of sale, rather than successive stages when the product could be seen to achieve high levels of perceived value, throughout the whole "design cycle. Some supporters of metadesign hope that it will extend the traditional notion of "system design beyond the original development of a system by allowing users to become co-designers.
By harnessing creative teamwork within a suitable "co-design framework, some metadesigners have sought to catalyse changes at a behavioural level. However, as "Einstein said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them". This points to a need for appropriate innovation at all levels, including the metaphorical language that serves to sustain a given paradigm. In practical terms this adds considerable complexity to the task of managing actions and outcomes. What may be so neatly described as 'new knowledge', in practical terms, exists as an interpersonal and somatic web of "tacit knowledge that needs to be interpreted and applied by many collaborators. This tends to reduce the semantic certainty of roles, actions and descriptors within a given team, making it necessary to rename particular shared experiences that seem inappropriately defined. In other instances it may be necessary to invent new words to describe perceived gaps in what can be discussed within a prevailing vernacular. "Humberto Maturana's work on "distributed language and the field of "biosemiotics is germane to this task.["citation needed] Some researchers have used "bisociation in order to create an auspicious synergy of benign synergies. In aspiring to this outcome, metadesign teams will cultivate auspicious 'diversities-of-diversities'. It suggests that metadesign would offer a manifold ethical space. In this respect, related approaches include what "Arthur Koestler (1967) called "holarchy, or what "John Dewey and "John Chris Jones have called 'creative democracy'.
Regarding a wide range of applications and contexts, Vassão has argued that Metadesign can be understood as a set of four "conceptual tools", utilizing "Gilles Deleuze's understanding of the term "tool":
Vassão has argued that, in all different approaches to metadesign, the presence of these conceptual tools can be verified.
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