Domain Implementation, Influence, and Inclusion

Jalyn Marks

Within design, domains can be implemented within each other, and can also influence each other. “Implementation means that something from one domain is used to create or build something in the other. Influence means that something in one domain affects the behavior of something in the other” (Denning and Martell 15, underlines added). It is my understanding that the implementation of a domain within another is mostly causal and intentional; the influence of a domain upon another seems to have more space to be unintentional. I think this is important to consider because I am thinking about what exactly do people have control over when designing. Therefore, to begin answering my own question, I think it makes more sense to focus on domain implementation before considering influence.

When a computing person or designer is working within a domain, they will implement their past experiences into their problem solving and execution. The designer can be selective in their process–some elements from one domain could be applicable while others are not. Other elements of other domains might also be implemented without the designer being as aware of their influence. On purpose or not, domains, defined as “the communities in which computing people and their customers gather” (Denning and Martell 14), beg the question: who is included within those communities. Then, we can ask: who is not included? Who is not counted as a “customer”? Or, who is not buying (into) a specific domain?

Backing up a bit, domains aren’t just created out of the blue, they emerge “piece by piece from its individual parts” (Arthur 71). Arther argues throughout The Nature of Technology that technology and systems evolve. This is relevant because designers work within the communities and cultural constructions of their times. If we’re thinking about domains, designs, and how they change, we must also consider where their ideas are coming from. What is the domain implementation and influence grounded upon?

“The starting point in systems thinking is to understand technologies and societies not as groupings of isolated, independent parts, but as a complex system of relationships (inter-relations, interdependencies) among and between components that form a continuous structure, not aggregations of random parts” (Irvine 1). Relationships make up communities (and, by extension, domains, technologies, and systems), but as Irvine wrote, these relationships can be complex. Designers might say that complexity can be unavoidable, and therefore no other domain can be implemented for a specific, complex project. “When complexity is unavoidable, when it mirrors the complexity of the world or of the tasks that are being done, then it is excusable, understandable, and learnable” (Norman 10). I think when this happens, the relationships and communities within the domains should be further examined. For example, one might say that people with disabilities, especially cognitive, behavioral, and communication-based, form complex relationships within society, and therefore it is excusable to not design for those outliers. However, I think considering a specific group of people, like people with disabilities, to be complex is a reflection of societal values–rather, the lack of value placed on understanding and including people with disabilities. Historically, communities have not included or counted people with disabilities (or other groups), and therefore implementing or being influenced by existing domains will prove challenging to include this group.

“Good design can provide a desirable, pleasurable sense of empowerment” (Norman 10). Exclusive design, then, which might sound elite and attractive to some, disempowers groups who cannot work within the design commonly implemented by a particular domain. I think all domains–all “communities in which computing people and their customers gather”–is responsible to consider who is being excluded from their community. This will not only benefit outside groups, but will help technology progress. “A change in domain is the main way in which technology progresses” (Arthur 74). I think that focussed efforts around the implementation and influence of domains on each other to broaden their communities will help technology progress for the betterment of everyone.

Works Cited

Arthur, W. Brian. The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves. Free Press, 2019.

Denning, Peter J., and Craig H. Martell. Great Principles of Computing. Cambridge, The MIT Press, 2015.

Irvine, Martin. “Introduction to Design Thinking: Systems and Architectures.” Unpublished: 2019.

Norman, Donald A. Living with Complexity. Cambridge, The MIT Press, 2011.