Posted in Discussion Questions

Our Unstable Artistry

The overarching theme of Our Unstable Artistry: Donald Schon’s Counterprofessional Practice of Problem Setting, written by Jeremy Cushman, is that of problem setting. I want to start off by clarifying that problem setting is not equal to problem solving, this was a mistake I initially made as I began the reading.

The author begins by evaluating the notion of problem setting as defined by Donald Schon, who studied professionals and their workplace practices. The article basically questions how problem setting can be approached as rhetorical and reflective by technical communicators. Also recall that Cushman discusses a digital marketing and design firm as it implements problem setting.

Expanding on the topic of problem setting, Cushman discusses the concepts of reflection, endorsed vs embedded, instability, and invention in relation to problem setting. In trying to understand problem setting, I want you to think about a time in which you were around a child that wasn’t happy. What did you do? What was the first step? I’m betting you started off by determining the problem. Is the child hungry? Is it tired? What is the problem that this child is facing? Once you set the problem, you are then able to work on making the child happy by feeding it food or putting it to sleep or whatever is necessary.

So, my many questions to you…

  1. Cushman claims that a problem is invented in order to create temporary stability, but I want to challenge that. When is the problem born? Does it exist prior to you recognizing its existence, or is the invention of a problem the point in which you identify that this problem is existent?
  2. Is it possible to do something without problem setting, or is this an action that must occur no matter what? If there are instances in which problem setting is not necessary, how are those instances not requiring problem setting distinguished as separate from those instances that do require problem setting?
  3. How does problem setting exist in the real world? Let’s take this from a political perspective, so how does the United States government proceed with its day to day tasks, specifically relating to problem solving.
  4. Cushman brought up the question as to whether or not problem solving is embedded or endorsed, so what do you think?
  5. When exactly and in what ways does problem setting become a contributor to the rhetorical situation?



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