Solving tomorrow's design challenges requires new tools for large world decision-making

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nad
Author: Ferguson, Scott (1); Drobac, Kye (1); Bryden, Kenneth M. (2)
Series: ICED
Institution: 1: North Carolina State University; 2: Iowa State University
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 3195-3204
DOI number:


Engineering design research has largely focused on normative models of decision analysis based on small world causal frames where uncertainty can be resolved as probabilities or probability distributions. However, today we need to design solutions for our built environment that are sustainable, just, and able to adapt. Because of the scale and complexity of our world, designs that address sustainability, justice, and adaptability are dominated by unresolvable uncertainty. This requires large world frames and new engineering design frameworks and tools that provide a much broader and nuanced understanding of the impact of our engineering decisions. In this paper we propose that these tools will need to link quantitative and qualitative data and engineering judgment using narrative decision-making processes. To support this, we provide two examples where engineering decision-making is based in part on narrative processes. We then identify five research areas that require additional research to support large-world frames including (1) how can we create microcosms that enable transition between large- and small-world frames and (2) how engineers develop conviction to act using the narratives they create.

Keywords: Sustainability, Decision making, Uncertainty, Narrative, Large world frames

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