Artificers, satisficers and optimisers: Echoes of Simon and ‘ways of being’ in Design and Technology Education
Keywords:Satisficing, Design History, D&T curriculum, The artificial, Climate emergency
Herbert Simon created the neologism ‘satisficing’ in order to address a particular issue he found regarding problem solving in organisations. His work also included such concepts as ‘bounded rationality’ and has influenced many areas of human endeavour including, at times, the theorising of problem-solving in Design and Technology (D&T) education.
The paper gives an overview of Herbert Simon’s work and neologism, drawing on his landmark text The Sciences of the Artificial (Simon, 1969/1996). Context is offered with comparisons between the (positivistic) problem-solving of the technical-rational 1960s zeitgeist and subsequent human-centred design practices and genres.
Imagining three ‘ways of being’ in the field of D&T, the paper explores how the roles of artificer, satisficer and optimiser can play out for pupils, teachers and D&T’s problematic (sic) curriculum. Whilst echoes of Simon’s work can still be found in D&T education, and the three roles can contribute to the design repertoire of pupils and teachers alike, it is argued that any application of them should be understood for their limitations as ‘problem-solving’ cannot equate designing – in theory or in practice.
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