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Wicked Problem

Perception of a problem is very subjective. A problem is never objective, means it does not have any objective reality. The perception of a problem accounts on the receptor who interpret it in his own way or create it based on their own socio-cultural upbringing. A wicked problem is much more complicated to interpret than a non-wicked problem, where a non-wicked problem has a direct or indirect solution but a wicked one has no clear formulated pathway, so visibly there is no ready answer for this problem.

Here, first, I shall state a wicked problem first. Then I shall inspect thoroughly it’s a wicked problem or non-wicked problem. Then, I will discuss about the perception of the problem. It’s denotative way or connotative way of perceiving it. Later on, I will explore the effected causes and the final causes of the problem.

If I describe this problem, in context of KNOT of Lebbeaus Wood, in spatial context, for urban context of Dhaka, there are opportunity of development in infrastructure. The design and development of those area highly depends on the Government who has established several offices that busy themselves in predicting the future by applying the rules of the past and their products are ’future scenarios’ in which past is the mirror for the development of the future; more cars, wider highways, more flyovers, more shopping malls etc. These “future scenarios” are meaningless in a changing world. So this so-called development is never-ending and the scenario is also never-changing. Now the social knot is very including with the spatial knot. In between this, another organization came and took matter to the hand, the city corporation of Dhaka. They decided to give the construction of ‘future scenarios’ to the proper personnel which is IAB,

and through national competition, under appropriate judges, the selections are made for every development project. And when then construction period will start, too many busy government organizations, with too many laws, have to be involved for the realization of the winning design, and they are separately reluctant to do so. Hence, every project is stuck in papers only. The power distribution can be taken as one cause of to happen. Now, underlying social knot, there lies philosophical knot. So, why is there no coordination? May be every organization doesn’t believe in same winning design. Or maybe, some of them don’t believe in that development in the first place.  For that, they are reluctant to cooperate.  Or, just maybe, they want to show the power-play. From here, some questions arise and also some contradictions.  And to explain it more clearly, I will pick a project, ‘Two-sides of a major artery road needs to be developed’

"The world as we perceive it is our invent”

So, there are some problems with the particular artery road, for that it needs to be developed. First, who dictated that there are problems, only IAB or City Corporation who gave the development project to IAB? Or is it a project as a sake of development? Do all the organization who have to involve for realization of the project accept that for the solution of some ongoing problems, there needs a development of the area? Lastly, the people who are using the road. Are they also sharing the same notion? For the sake of discussion, let’s say, there are some ongoing problems, and there is need of development.

Now, every entity who are involved in the project, whether, they are users or designers, every other perceives the problems differently. For there are more than one perception of a problem, there are more than one solution. What may be the problem for one, for other it’s not. In fact, “we do not see that we do not see! Thus we may not see that we do not see the needs and desires of the people we wish to serve, and happily address ourselves to what we think are their needs and desires.” So, again- ‘What is the problem?’

Denotation and Connotation

If we pick one problem which everyone supposedly agrees with, ‘the pedestrian way is very narrow’.  The direct interpretation of the problem is everyone will objectively give the solution to make it wider which is denotative way. Now, this sentence is declarative statement with stating the problem. This connotative problem can be interpreted in different solution. May be pedestrian needs more space to walk. May be other needs a bike lane separately? May be government bureau wants a parking space in every block with the pedestrian way. The perception of the problem in different entity is different. So, a problem in urban context is not definitely denotative but largely connotative one. As Heinz Von Foerster said, ‘Architecture is an S-language’. But any kind of design, from product design to urban design is an S-language, within the frame, design is connotative.

Efficient cause and final cause

If I look in alternate way, and try to explain the problem, Aristotle who distinguished two kinds of cause, one the “efficient cause,” the other the “final cause,” which provide us with two distinct explanatory frameworks for this problem, the distinction being that the efficient cause precedes its effect while the final cause succeeds its effect. When development of the two sides of the road, building bigger pedestrian way, constructing bike lane, parking area, tree plantation areas, the construction works are the (efficient) cause for  the development. However, the cause for developing the artery street is everyone’s (who are involved in any way) regards that ‘the street needs to be developed’ (final cause). Perhaps, with this distinction, Of course, the final cause needs to be agreed upon where then efficient causes will be followed. If we can perceive of the future (the development of the road), we know how to act now (construction). In other words, the future will be as we wish and perceive it to be. But if the future scenarios are not similar but different or maybe there are those who let their thinking be governed by the principle that demands that only the rules observed in the past shall apply to the future. “For those the concept of “change” is inconceivable, for change is the process that obliterates the rules of the past.”

The wickedness

Where lies the wickedness of the problem? Or is there any actual problem. Objectively speaking, the development is needed, but it’s too vague and too much interpretation can be done. The wickedness is lying under the layer of the agreed upon future scenarios which will serve as the final cause where only the ground is there.  

If we broadly divide the three larger entity, one is user, one is designer and one is administration, they have to be agreed upon one future scenarios. And this one future scenarios is consisted on several future scenarios. To achieve the final cause, all the future scenarios need to be analysis and acted upon. And behind the every sub-scenarios, there lies a problem which can be perceived in thousands ways.  

Though we can receive the same information (reception) about the problem, we need a common perception, then we can devise a similar conception and after that we can depict a future scenario which we can agreed upon. So, where is the standpoint of every phase of building up future scenarios among multiple entities? That is the wickedness.

 and through national competition, under appropriate judges, the selections are made for every development project. And when then construction period will start, too many busy government organizations, with too many laws, have to be involved for the realization of the winning design, and they are separately reluctant to do so. Hence, every project is stuck in papers only. The power distribution can be taken as one cause of to happen. Now, underlying social knot, there lies philosophical knot. So, why is there no coordination? May be every organization doesn’t believe in same winning design. Or maybe, some of them don’t believe in that development in the first place.  For that, they are reluctant to cooperate.  Or, just maybe, they want to show the power-play. From here, some questions arise and also some contradictions.  And to explain it more clearly, I will pick a project, ‘Two-sides of a major artery road needs to be developed’

"The world as we perceive it is our invent”

So, there are some problems with the particular artery road, for that it needs to be developed. First, who dictated that there are problems, only IAB or City Corporation who gave the development project to IAB? Or is it a project as a sake of development? Do all the organization who have to involve for realization of the project accept that for the solution of some ongoing problems, there needs a development of the area? Lastly, the people who are using the road. Are they also sharing the same notion? For the sake of discussion, let’s say, there are some ongoing problems, and there is need of development.

Now, every entity who are involved in the project, whether, they are users or designers, every other perceives the problems differently. For there are more than one perception of a problem, there are more than one solution. What may be the problem for one, for other it’s not. In fact, “we do not see that we do not see! Thus we may not see that we do not see the needs and desires of the people we wish to serve, and happily address ourselves to what we think are their needs and desires.” So, again- ‘What is the problem?’

Denotation and Connotation

If we pick one problem which everyone supposedly agrees with, ‘the pedestrian way is very narrow’.  The direct interpretation of the problem is everyone will objectively give the solution to make it wider which is denotative way. Now, this sentence is declarative statement with stating the problem. This connotative problem can be interpreted in different solution. May be pedestrian needs more space to walk. May be other needs a bike lane separately? May be government bureau wants a parking space in every block with the pedestrian way. The perception of the problem in different entity is different. So, a problem in urban context is not definitely denotative but largely connotative one. As Heinz Von Foerster said, ‘Architecture is an S-language’. But any kind of design, from product design to urban design is an S-language, within the frame, design is connotative.

Efficient cause and final cause

If I look in alternate way, and try to explain the problem, Aristotle who distinguished two kinds of cause, one the “efficient cause,” the other the “final cause,” which provide us with two distinct explanatory frameworks for this problem, the distinction being that the efficient cause precedes its effect while the final cause succeeds its effect. When development of the two sides of the road, building bigger pedestrian way, constructing bike lane, parking area, tree plantation areas, the construction works are the (efficient) cause for  the development. However, the cause for developing the artery street is everyone’s (who are involved in any way) regards that ‘the street needs to be developed’ (final cause). Perhaps, with this distinction, Of course, the final cause needs to be agreed upon where then efficient causes will be followed. If we can perceive of the future (the development of the road), we know how to act now (construction). In other words, the future will be as we wish and perceive it to be. But if the future scenarios are not similar but different or maybe there are those who let their thinking be governed by the principle that demands that only the rules observed in the past shall apply to the future. “For those the concept of “change” is inconceivable, for change is the process that obliterates the rules of the past.”

The wickedness

Where lies the wickedness of the problem? Or is there any actual problem. Objectively speaking, the development is needed, but it’s too vague and too much interpretation can be done. The wickedness is lying under the layer of the agreed upon future scenarios which will serve as the final cause where only the ground is there.  

If we broadly divide the three larger entity, one is user, one is designer and one is administration, they have to be agreed upon one future scenarios. And this one future scenarios is consisted on several future scenarios. To achieve the final cause, all the future scenarios need to be analysis and acted upon. And behind the every sub-scenarios, there lies a problem which can be perceived in thousands ways.  Though we can receive the same information (reception) about the problem, we need a common perception, then we can devise a similar conception and after that we can depict a future scenario which we can agreed upon. So, where is the standpoint of every phase of building up future scenarios among multiple entities? That is the wickedness.

“Architecture is a political act, by nature. It has to do with the relationships between people and how they decide to change their conditions of living.”

                                             — LEBBEUS WOODS, "Without Walls: An Interview with Lebbeus Woods", BLDG Blog, 2007

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