The first “Brainy Week” took place on the first week of december 2014 with four fantastic guests:
Warren Sack, UC Santa Cruz, software studies
Mathias Bejean, IAE Créteil, Management Sciences
Julien Bobrof, Orsay University, Physics
Gilles Bailly, Telecom ParisTech, Human Computer Interaction

And Tiphaine, from the Codesign Lab of Telecom ParisTech, Design who presented her last developments on Misbehaving.

On the 3rd of December, we had the pleasure of welcoming Warren Sack, from UC Santa Cruz, for a presentation of his work on Storytelling and Software studies. We mainly discussed one of his articles, A Storytelling Machine: From Propp to Software Studies (which has also been translated to French). Warren Sack raised a few questions on the relationships between softwares, narratives, translations and the way they relate to our modern episteme (as defined by Foucault in The order of Things).

  1. What does “understanding” mean, in a digital era?
  2. Are we living in an episteme where knowledges and discourses, inscribed in databases, are in conflict with stories?
  3. What does it mean to “translate” into a programming language?
  4. Is programming a modern approach of “understanding”?

In short, how do digital tools and their design interact or define our knowledges and their agency? If Warren Sack works on the software/code level, philosopher such as Kittler interrogated the software/hardware inter-relationships-and design studies the interface level as well.
We discussed the relationship of code and literature, through the example of Micro-Tale Spin, Warren Sack had been working on. He underlined the importance of understanding the technical layer, to avoid generalisation and naturalisation of concepts-such as database. A SQL database has nothing to do with a XML or NoSQL one. Their structures and procedures are inherently different. Experimentations such as Oulipo and Alamo and the field of electronic literature in general has explored some of these aspects.

Mathias Béjean was there to discuss his work and lecture of Goodman

Part of Goodman’s theory is to establish a new understanding of the way knowledge is built. His “worldmaking” theory is a way to explain how the different disciplines rely not on a pre-existing “real” world on which assuring an hypothesis is conform to reality, but by establishing and specifying relations between constituent (that are well established concepts by means of a process of symbolisation pre-organisation and pre-understanding) in a rigorous manner. As a result, different “world-version” co-exist, each of them being real, non substituent and necessarily derivative (a world-version being always built on and with part of other world-versions).

These concepts are useful for social sciences in many ways (even though Béjean remind us that Goodman didn’t specifically address social issues). Because we aren’t supposedly building knowledge on a world but with common principles, it suggests that there are always links to be made between fields of study (reclaiming artistic processes legitimacy among sciences, as yet another form of understanding).

But the use of Goodman’s works remains a little tricky because of the lack of direct undertaking of social issues, on the way to make common versions of world. As a result, we have to figure out ourselves how to interpret and manage different activities under Goodman’s light by making sense of these activities for one another. Béjean shows how he managed to organise the workspace and design activities of a garden designer by relying on Goodman’s principles. He for instance illustrates how these principles were used to understand  conflictual issues between the manager’s and designer’s worlds and elaborate a common understanding.

Goodman helps our comprehension but fall short before an actual description of his work’s application. In that matter, I failed to take consequences of Goodman’s principles presented by M. Béjean on design research. Design research being an ongoing project to build a discipline out of actual diverse design activities, it seemed like a perfect match to apply Goodman’s theories to bring union amongst these activities, defining their relation, not necessarily around common methodology or object of study but around a common language of symbols and referents. But without a proper definition of the way to build this relation, this task seems difficult. Moreover, the deliberate absence of a common “real” world (and subsequently of all direct objects of reference) essential to these principles makes difficult to conceptualise the critique design needs to establish to legitimate its scientific value.

illustrations goodman béjan-01

As stated by Béjean, the dialogue and conversation allowed by Goodman’s work might not be enough for collective creativity.


illustrations goodman béjan-02


To go beyond Goodman might require to find a way to analyse and generate a relational and evocative space. This is part of M. Béjean’s research program, which he is presently carrying out with mathematician A. C. Ehresmann (cf. “D-MES project”).


Tiphaine Kazi-Tani presented the state of her work on Misbehaving, preparing for the ARD 2014.

On the 5th of December, Julien Bobroff presented his research on the various modalities of interactions between science and design. Beyond the role of design in popularization, he questions how design is yet another way to symbolize knowledge. He presented a selection of his lab collaborative productions. He is part of the DESCITECH research program.

Gilles Bailly from the HCI department of Telecom, thoroughly answered the following question: What is a researcher in HCI? Through a variety of examples, he detailed the different aspects of his work, the ways HCI relates to design and the various modalities of evaluation. You may also check his slides!

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