(Journal Artifact) Characteristics and interferences of experiments in science, in the arts, and in design research

Dagmar Steffen


This article has been selected for a special issue of the online journal Artifact.

Commonly the term “experiment” is in the first place associated with science, systematic methods and strict principles for the sake of knowledge creation. Nonetheless, the term is widely used across the boundaries of science. The arts attribute artworks likewise as experimental – a usage that is often claimed to be metaphorical, since experiments in the arts (including design) lack the essential attributes that define a scientific experiment.
Currently, research in the fields of science studies and literary science has revised these established conceptions as well as the primacy of the scientific experiment. The philosophical approach of New Experimentalism relativizes the deductive conception of hypothesis-testing experiments and argues for a broader view. Studies in literary science and cross-disciplinary comparison between the arts reveal an age-long experimental tradition and also common characteristics of experimental work in these fields. Design researchers should be aware of these developments in order to position, theorize and argue for design experiments accordingly.

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