Inquiry and the social : an empirical study of the construction of knowledge in architectural designing
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This thesis is a study of inquiry. Drawing upon the work of American pragmatist John Dewey, this work seeks to contribute to our understanding of the construction of knowledge within the social system of communities of inquiry. The process of inquiry that is traced in this work is one effected in the course of architectural designing. An ethnographically informed study of an architectural masterplan project is used to illustrate Dewey’s ideas and how they are played out in design practice. This thesis is understood to correspond with the growing interest of the students of organisational learning and knowledge management in knowledge creation and the underlying social processes. It is further seen as a response to the claim that the key processes of knowledge creation remain largely an enigma. Agreement has been established with Dewey that knowledge is not just an end in itself but a form of action, a medium of change and social transformation. The formation of knowledge, however, within the operation of inquiry is not a matter that “naturally” runs its course. The process of inquiry as studied both in theory and practice has shown just how much its results, which by definition constitute knowledge, are shaped by the institution and control of a problem. A problem is a social construct and the product of the purposeful selection and arrangement of pieces of information. Inquiry is therefore considered a process of controlled knowledge formation. That which counts as knowledge in the realm of social phenomena has been shown to be a matter not so much of agreement between actions and their consequences but agreement in terms of intellectual acceptance. What “satisfies” as a solution (such as the final masterplan) has therefore been shown to be not necessarily a question of its logical status.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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