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Personal profile

Research interests

Ben's work is situated in the fields of cybernetics, systemic design, and architectural theory, focusing on radical modes of transdisciplinary thinking and how these may become enacted in practical and everyday contexts. As well as written work, Ben pursues research questions through reflexive teaching practices and in the development of architectural ideas through drawing.

Supervisory Interests

Ben is interested in supporting doctoral research that addresses how design disciplines work within and for complex systemic contexts, especially those that raise challenging questions regarding ethics, place, technology, and/or the status of professional and scientific knowledge. Ben has experience with creative, theoretical, and historical research and has examined doctoral research internationally.

Scholarly biography

Ben is joint Course Leader for MRes Architectural Research (2020-present) and teaches research practices across postgraduate courses in architecture and design, also contributing to design studio and architectural humanities modules at undergraduate level. Ben has previously served as Learning and Teaching Co-Lead in the School of Architecture, Technology, and Engineering (2021-2022), Deputy Head of School (Learning and Teaching) for the School of Architecture and Design (2020), Course Leader for BA(Hons) Architecture (2014-2019), and year coordinator for the second (2011-2016) and third years (2014-2017) of that course. Ben also contributes to the European Systemic Design Lab in partnership with the Department of Product Design at Oslo Met (2022-present).

Ben studied architecture at the University of Cambridge (MA) and the Bartlett, UCL (DipArch, MArch, PhD). Ben has taught at Brighton since 2007, first as a visiting lecturer (2007-2008) before being appointed to a lectureship (2009-present). Ben has also taught at University of Greenwich (2010-2012), Kingston University (2008), Central St. Martins (2010-2011) and London South Bank University (2008-2009) and held a research assistant position at UCL (2006-2007).

Ben completed their PhD by architectural design in 2014, supervised by Neil Spiller and Ranulph Glanville at the Bartlett, UCL, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. This research explored epistemological and ethical questions in relation to architecture through ideas from second order cybernetics and radical constructivism and a distinctive approach to drawing. Following this, Ben was appointed as Mellon Researcher at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal (2014-2016), as part of a collaborative research project. In this work, which was presented at the 2016 Lisbon Architecture Triennale, Ben conducted archival research on Cedric Price and his collaboration with cybernetician Gordon Pask on the influential Fun Palace project.

Ben is active in editorial work, peer review, and contributions to scholarly societies. Ben was awarded the Heinz von Foerster Award by the American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) in 2014 and subsequently became a member of the ASC Executive Committee (2018-present).

Approach to teaching

Drawing on ideas from cybernetics and radical constructivism, Ben’s approach to teaching and learning is based on understanding learning, designing, and researching in terms of each other. In teaching undergraduate design studio, Ben uses the conversational format of teaching as a model of the conversational design processes that are being taught and learnt. Students develop insights through experience which can then be consolidated in retrospect, with the role of the tutor becoming one of managing this process through the introduction of supportive insights and new challenges. By periodically shifting to a meta-conversation (a conversation about the conversation), the implicit connections between form and content can be made explicit. As students progress, many of the conversations that are initially played out verbally between them and their tutors become internalised in students' practices. 

Ben has since further developed this approach in the context of introducing research methods to designers at postgraduate level. Rather than encountering research as something other to design, new theoretical insights are grounded in experiences from the familiar contexts of design projects and everyday experience. Through a process of critiquing the research elements of what they already do, students develop an understanding of research from the inside, re-articulating the design expertise they are already developing at postgraduate level as expertise in research.

External positions

Research Assistant, University College London

20062007

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  • Cybernetic transdisciplinarity as pedagogy

    Sweeting, B. & Sutherland, S., 26 Jun 2022, (Accepted/In press) Journal of the International Society for the Systems Sciences. 11 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review

    Open Access
    File
  • Editorial: Rethinking design for a complex world: The systems track

    Landa-Avila, C., Bosch Gómez, S., Celik, S., Vink, J. & Sweeting, B., 12 Jun 2022, DRS2022: Bilbao 25 June - 3 July Bilbao Spain. Lockton, D., Lloyd, P. & Lenzi, S. (eds.). Design Research Society, 5 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBN

    Open Access
  • Listening

    Sweeting, B., 7 Jun 2022, The architecture of ideas: The life and work of Ranulph Glanville, cybernetician. Seaman, B. (ed.). Imprint Academic, p. 208-211

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter

  • Possibilities for a critical cybernetics

    Scholte, T. & Sweeting, B., 5 Aug 2022, In: Systems Research and Behavioral Science. 39, 5, p. 986-989 4 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • Undeciding the decidable

    Sweeting, B., 24 Feb 2022, 65th Annual Proceedings for the International Society of the Systems Sciences. ( Journal of the International Society for the Systems Sciences; vol. 65, no. 1 (2021)).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review

    Open Access
    File