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A Systems Literacy Manifesto

In 1968, West Churchman wrote, “…there is a good deal of turmoil about the manner in which our society is run. …the citizen has begun to suspect that the people who make major decisions that affect our lives don’t know what they are doing.”[1] Churchman was writing at a time of growing concern about war, civil rights, and the environment. Almost fifty years later, these concerns remain, and we have more reason than ever “to suspect that the people who make major decisions that affect our lives don’t know what they are doing.” Examples abound.

When we live in such a complex, interconnected, messy world, how can we expect to know what we are doing? On retrospective, how can we be sure that we are not digging our own graves in some way, as we did since the Industrial Revolution and so many other times? How can we expect to understand the consequences of our actions beyond our local scope, if we do not understand complex, entangled, chaotic systems?

With those questions in mind, Dubberly proposes that we should be educated to deal with systems, to communicate about them, to think of the bigger picture. As usual for the Dubberly Design Office, a great read.