Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy New Year!

I came across an interesting article by C. West Churchman that was published the year I arrived at Berkeley to begin my graduate studies. It is interesting to review the article and rediscover the ideas that were so captivating for me on arrival at UC. It must have been hard for someone like him to work with students like myself who were so new to this kind of conversation and so naive to the consequences of taking his scholarship seriously. I experienced this first hand while doing my field work for my Ph.D. at the Lawrence Berkley Lab. He was the Principle Investigator on the Dept. of Energy's grant that was funding the research for my dissertation. His Systems Design approach (as discussed in the article mentioned above) led him to be removed from the grant and I was cautioned, if I wanted to continue my career in research, to not follow his lead. Of course if I had been a little more savvy I would have realized this was the issue (i.e. the power of 'science' re public good) that should have been the focus of my dissertation rather than the case study of geothermal development in Northern California that I carried out.

His ideas introduced in this article are still timely and fresh in many ways as are all those developed in his other writings. His ideas are still nascent in most formal academic settings which is unfortunate. Although there are many academics and professionals who have found his ideas to be exciting and provocative there are few of us who have found ways to innovate them into the world in the way that Apple brought the technologic ideas of PARC into the consumer world of 'must have' products.

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