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Some Problems with the Concept of 'Function'

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Abstract: Concepts of function are central to design research but statements about a device’s functions can be interpreted in different ways. This raises problems for researchers trying to clarify the foundations of design theory and for those developing design support-tools that can represent and reason about function. By showing how functions relate systems to their sub-systems and super-systems, this talk aims to illustrate some limitations of existing function terminology and some problems with existing function statements.

About the speaker: Nathan Crilly is a University Lecturer at the Engineering Department of the University of Cambridge. His research interests are in the areas of design, creativity and communication. In particular, he employs an interdisciplinary approach to investigating the conceptual foundations of design practice and user experience. Nathan holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, a PhD in Product Aesthetics and has professional design experience in the aerospace and software industries.

This talk is part of the Engineering Design Centre series.

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