Pierre Lévy, Sander van der Zwan
A program/experiment dialectic is a tactic to negotiate the tension between thing and theory, between the particular and the universal, between abstract images of the actual and concrete images of the potential. Firstly, it operates using programs. A characteristic of programs is that they seem to blend what we otherwise might consider questions and answers. Instead of presenting a question to be answered, they present propositions or proposals that need to be substantiated. These programs are interpreted through (design) experiments. In the way we set up the experiment, we present a certain perspective on the program. Using the metaphor of a design space opened up by the program, we might say that we use the experiment to explore this space, positioning us somewhere to be able to say “this is what the design space looks like over here”. Much like how the way we phrase and rephrase a question as we develop an understanding of what an answer could be like, and thus make questions and answers evolve together, this approach builds on the idea that certain insights depend on a process of change driven by an interaction between program and experiment.
The approach bridges the gap between theories and designs and vice versa. It allows you to work on / with abstract matters through concrete designs.
Redström, J. (2017). Making design theory. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.