Posted in Discussion Questions

“Our Unstable Artistry” Cushman’s Problem Setting: February 1st

Jeremy Cushman discusses in this article his reaction to Donald Schön’s definition of problem setting, the use of vignette, and not supplying us with tools to help us execute problem setting ourselves.  What I mean by the last part, is that problem setting has no “distinct moves or tools we employ” (329).  It is not a list of things that must be done to get from point A to point B.

Schön states that “professional practice is characterized by indeterminate situations..”(328), which to me is like being given a math equation and asked to solve it without all the information needed to actually come to an answer.  It seems impossible and something that the teacher should just give us full credit for and cross out, but then maybe you start to inquire a bit more, start sketching out equations and shapes and you start seeing information that was not explicitly given but implied.  By the end, you have gathered all the information needed to solve what seemed like an incomplete problem.  Problem setting, in a sense, is our ability to act according to constant changes in a situation.  

Problem setting is creating a problem from nothing so that you have a problem to solve.  It seems contradictory.  How does one solve a problem, if the problem you are solving is not there because it needs to be created?  Cushman  answers this question through his vignette of the DMD firm with Marcie and Charles.

Marcie and Charles are presented a job that has specific requirements that must be present but the job itself is so ambiguous that Marcie and Charles cannot immediately attempt to solve the problem.  Largely because there is no problem to solve, just a vague RFP, that they use to come up with “entry points”.  They use these entry points as the problems that need to be solved or in their case, to “create a document that they can present to the prospective client that captures what kind of story this Web site will best tell…” (337).

Questions to ponder (in silence or aloud)

  1. In Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist, chapter five discusses side projects and hobbies.  Kleon says ” Stuff that’s just play.  That’s actually the good stuff” (65).  How does Kleon’s thought on side projects relate to problem setting?
  2. How is problem setting similar to Jenny Edbauer’s reference of city as a verb  (11)?
  3. What are different examples of problem setting in your specific field? How would you go about identifying the problem?
  4. How does your definition of rhetoric reflect in problem setting?
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