Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Specification of an Object

"Mais Dégas, on n'écrit pas des poèmes avec des idées, on écrit des poèmes avec les mots."

I'm going to work through each element of Ralph and Wand's (2009) definition of design over the next two weeks, trying to show that article writing involves a component of "design".

One thing to keep in mind is that I'm here talking about the work of planning the article, not actually writing it. The reason for this will become clear as we look at the first element of Rand and Wand's definition: design is "a specification of an object". It is not, that is, the construction or assembly or production of that object. There is a difference between designing a coffee pot and mass-producing it. In designing it, you are only specifying its properties.

But it is important to keep in mind that you are specifying the properties of an essentially physical object; you are not imagining some ideal "intellectual" thing-in-the-mind or spectral entity. An article is, ultimately, an arrangement of words across 20 or 30 pages of an issue of a journal. You are deciding how those words will be arranged. To do this, you will, have to group those words into sections and paragraphs. You will have to decide (at least roughly) how many words the whole paper will arrange. Then how many there will be in each section.

When specifying an object, be specific. What will each section say and how much of the paper will be devoted to saying it? Consider making a list of the core concepts you'll be using in each part of the paper along with a short statement of the section's overall purpose.

Like a designer, you are imagining an object without yet having to construct even a model of it. You might make some sketches on a piece of paper of course.

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