Adonis Diaries

“Did I choose to be a social designer?” And “Did the will and opportunity collide?”

Posted on: January 25, 2014

“Did I choose to be a social designer?” And “Did the will and opportunity collide?”
My niece Joanna Choukeir Hojeily posted on FB:
“Did I choose to be a social designer, did it just happen, or did the will and opportunity collide?
I will be reflecting on how I got to doing what I do now; a practice and industry that didn’t exist 10 years ago when I first started out as a designer. Creating Futures Symposium this coming Tuesday at the ICA in London.
Did I choose to be a social designer, did it just happen, or did the will and opportunity collide?  I will be reflecting on how I got to doing what I do now; a practice and industry that didn't exist 10 years ago when I first started out as a designer. Creating Futures Symposium this coming Tuesday at the ICA in London.
I replied:
“Your field existed since 1942 when designers tried to minimize the frequent pilot accidents in the air war with Germany. It was called industrial psychology, then industrial engineering, ergonomics, Human Factors in Engineering
The advent of fast computing, personal computing and fast graphics facilities shifted the trend to social graphic engineering or design…
It is the varied opportunities in developed countries that upgraded your passion for “social graphic design” projects: Giving priority to the health, safety and ease of use of products and services…”
I have posted about 50 articles on that topic in the category “Human Factors in Engineering”
I have in a previous article, in a short sentence that may have gone unnoticed, mentioned that the main objective of Human Factors in Engineering is designing interfaces between complex systems and targeted end users.
Modern days are an accumulation of very complex systems that societies can no longer live without and have to suffer their consequences in health, safety, comfort, risks or fatal accidents. 
Modern days rely on communications systems, on health care, on educational, on information, on transportation, on energy, on financial, on tourism, on diplomatic, and even on political systems.
Usually, there are purposes for establishing any system and the money generated could only be the consequences of satisfying human specific demands that a developed standard of living requires, or are encouraged through advertisements, or are initiated by new laws to regulating a society.
This modern world, more than in any previous centuries, is plagued with complex systems that are automated in many portions with no human understanding of how a system functions or can be repaired or be redesigned except a few rare professional experts.
These vast and very costly systems are created, assembled, maintained and run by different specialized personnel who have no serious interconnections among one another.
Every section of any system requires an interface with another section so that the end user can communicate with another section without any obligation to know or understand the details of the other section.
These interfaces have to be designed to be used with minimal skills, knowledge or special training.
Consumers require easy to use objects, safe objects, error free and accident free objects.
Consumers need to access these complex systems quickly, cheaply, without the requirement for extensive training or intermediate personnel to doing business or making the objects function according to their idiosyncrasies.
The Human Factors engineering discipline should be the application of the body of knowledge, information and facts about human abilities, limitations, (physical, mental and psychological) and characteristics to the design of tools, machines, systems, tasks, jobs, and environments for safe, comfortable and effective human use.
The Human Factors engineering discipline is expected to direct its research toward practical design purposes and offer data that can be readily applied by engineers from different discipline”.
Here is a brief story of how I went about finishing my PhD dissertation.
My adviser had a business in forensic of accidents in workplace, safety consultancy and was focused on the lack of safety signs and pictorials since it was the rage of suing in consumer liability cases.
He proposed that I work on safety signs for my proposal and I didn’t feel hot about it: I sensed this topic was at best good enough for a Master’s thesis. The effects of safety signs were very short term, unless the system includes safety behaviors as an important part in the proper functioning of the corporation.
I recall that I worked for a year on a PhD proposal related to graphics of safety signs and pictorials. There were no personal computers and no graphic facilities. I toiled by hand.
My idea was to gather the used and adopted safety pictorials in many fields and try a taxonomy of elemental parts that designers could assemble in their jobs.  This proposal was killed by the team of advisers within half an hour of the session.
I tried another proposal related to cognitive engineering and it was not accepted. I was hooked to the cognitive field but my adviser would have none to do with cognition for my dissertation: he was not interested in such a field and it was not in his line of business.
To be fair, Dr. Purswell was more than patient with me and let me write two proposals related to cognition that both were turned down within a year.
I spent two years on idiosyncratic topics that my main advisor was not comfortable with, and I had no support system to guide me.
Two years earlier, my advisor told me: “Get on with my idea of a proposal. Get you degree and move on. At your age I had already three children...”
Two years earlier, one of my classmate obeyed the same advisor to the word and finished his dissertation (no experiment was conducted) and was accepted at a university as assistant professor, while I was toiling uselessly.
Finally, Dr. Purswell had to deliver an ultimatum or he would have no choice but to suspend my scholarships.
I was ordered to stop all part-time jobs. I obeyed and within a semester I wrote the proposal, designed the experiment, finished setting up the fictitious chemical lab and carried out several intelligence testing protocols just to divert the true objective from the over 120 “subjects”.
The subjects were mostly first year Psychology students because they are required to submit to experiments for credit-hours. That semester was hectic but a lot of fun.
The next semester was the worst of all semesters because I had to input thousands of data and read hundreds of pages of computer statistical results and the gruesome task of writing up my dissertation.
I had Dr. Schlegel in my advisory team and he forced me to use a specialized word processing program, simply because the print was professional and versatile. The problem was that no one could interpret the error in the program and fix it when I got stuck except him. I occasionally had to wait a couple of weeks to meet with him in order to untangle stupid word processing glitches.
By the time I submitted the final written copy I was totally depressed and I had erased from my mind any academic prospect.
To make matters worse, the US was experiencing a depressed market and universities had put a moratorium on hiring professors.
What a foreign PhD graduate with the wrong nationality and in a bad job market is to do to survive?
I asked for what I deserve. My temperament predicted this outcome.
I don’t complain in real life, but the blog is supposed to write about the oddities in life.

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