The solution that works
In The Reflective Practitioner (1991), Schön describes an iterative process of question-forming and solution-finding. One of the judgements that the practitioner makes is whether a solution ‘works’. This concept is not fully unpacked by Schön, but a sceptical reading might lead to the conclusion that the concept relies on a researcher-dependent value and function analysis which would reinforce the worst charges of subjectivism. This would be a weak reading of the concept. This paper proposes a strong reading of this common art and design concept: ‘the solution that works’ It results from the observation that there is a necessary and reciprocal relationship between the research question, the method, the solution, the audience, and the context in which they are located. This relationship is also highlighted in so-called Mode 2 (cf. Gibbons, M. et al (eds.), The New Production of Knowledge, 1994) but is here considered particularly in relation to art and design. The paper proposes that the practical procedure of solution and audience finding must occur in reverse order. The issue of what constitutes a solution to a problem depends on the perception of the nature of that question by the audience. Indeed, not all questions would be regarded as meaningful or legitimate by them, and so the identification of this actual or hypothesised audience is the primary consideration in the design of a research project. From this, the paper argues, the meaningful question and the range of possible meaningful responses can be determined. Finally the method that connects the question to the range of responses or solutions can be determined. Only once this network of relationships has been established can the project be designed and the iterative ‘reflective practice’ described by Schön be operated so that a contribution to the peer group is made by a consequential outcome.