Thank you guys so much for your insights!
See you in class tomorrow.
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Thank you guys so much for your insights!
See you in class tomorrow.
I am a film editor and a motion designer. I am coming into this program from a background that is self-serving in the sense that I create for the sake of creating work that gives me pleasure and other people pleasure but does not do anything to directly change or help our society. I have a premonition that much of the work I will be creating after DT will be commercial-driven or created only for aesthetic fulfillment. This dissatisfies me a great deal because I want to be able to give more to society than just a pretty picture. I think that my graduate school education will be valuable for me because I want to learn how to shift my strengths as a designer to serve humanitarian needs in environments such as open-source or education (etc). At the end of the day, I want to be helping our descendants more than creating work that serves a short-lived purpose.
After listening to Clive’s lecture every Thursday, one of the things I question is ‘how is this material relevant to my life?’I have yet to discover the concrete answer but I am still trying to understand how I can apply what I am learning in the lecture to my own work and everyday life. I find Clive’s lecture to be very theoretical; he talks about design in a formal sense and analyzes it as a scholar would analyze it. This is quite different from the way I think about design. The only class I have ever taken which is comparable to this lecture is a film theory class. When I studied filmmaking in college, I had to take a history and theory class where we watched, studied, and discussed films and their relevance to society and analyzed their motifs and symbols. We analyzed the films we watched by relating them to our own experiences and ways of thinking. This learning process was enjoyable and maybe helpful in some ways. However, I find Clive’s lecture to be very different from this teaching style. Clive discusses design in a clinical, deconstructive way that is difficult for me to relate to. I do not believe that many of contemporary designers actively think about this sort of theoretical deconstruction. I think that looking at design through this scope is interesting but it is also frustrating for those who don’t understand the esoteric nature of the language that is being employed to analyze the study of design in this way.
Sometimes, in lecture, we talk about common inventions and architectural feats but they are defined in poetic terms which is nice to think about but it is not relevant to my understanding of design evolution. I want to learn more about how these inventions came to being and how they physically changed our lives.
When I create work, I tend to not follow a dogma. I do not think about design theory and I certainly do not create with the intention of defining my work in relation to a theoretic, symbolic framework. I create work because I am propagated by an idea, trend, zeitgeist, or randomness not because I am thinking in clinical terms about what the design practice means.
With that said, the most important message that I am retaining from the lecture is that we have the power, historical knowledge, and the imagination to shape the way the world functions (or maybe we will not have any control?) but overall we need to use our design sensibilities to solve age-old problems in a way that does not generate more problems. The computer is now much simpler than the human mind but in 2020 the computer will achieve human level intelligence. In Age of Spiritual Machines, Ray Kurzweil discusses how our technology will change the nature of mortality in ways that we cannot foresee. The acceleration to the artificial is inherent. Computers will be able to understand human language and be able to read it and come up with ideas just like we do. Not only will computers be able to read the world’s literature, they will be able to venture into the physical world and acquire more data. In fact, one day, it might be hard to tell the difference between humans and computers. Some of the advantages of human intelligence are our abilities to experience feeling, come up with ideas, and believe in certain values. I fear the day when we cannot distinguish between humans and computers and I think that this is when design ethics will be more relevant.
Basic science builds the foundation of design and technology. As a matter of fact design is a science it self like Simon states in his “The Sciences of The Artificial”. The science of the artificial would cease growing without advances and knowledge derived from basic science.
In the Origin of Species Darwin defines Natural Selection as “ preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations “1. As well as nature, this theory applies to design. Simon states that we cannot divorce nature from artifact as it manifests it self by obeying the laws of nature. Grasping concepts behind this strong connection will allow us designers meet our societies expectations from design at large.
Simon talks about the Theory of Natural Selection while he defines functionality and the relationship between inner environment and outer environment. Inner environment, the artifact, changes according to outer environment. For instance, as human beings we do not necessarily need our wisdom teeth to chew (pre-digest) food because, over the centuries we started using utensils. This example of human evolution directly applies to design. The artificial is designed to adapt the environment for usability purposes. For instance, first computers were in the size of buildings but now we have laptops and smart phones.
Although, the artificial evolves by natural selection, natural selection adjusts to the effects of the artificial as well. We can observe this in the wisdom teeth and utensils example. Human beings are becoming able to design more sophisticated products by natural selection but this leads them to go through changes that these more sophisticated products cause. In evolution this phenomenon is referred to as “co-evolutionary arms race”. As designers we should be aware of this phenomenon.
Technology depends on basic science a great deal. For example, we are now able to design products such as the i-Phone thanks to advances in basic science. Understanding basic science and its trajectory will help us designers plan our own trajectory in the design world considering the co-evolutionary arms race.
Basic science and design are two disciplines that go hand in hand. Making the important connections between two is crucial for designers of our century to unfold the science of the artificial. The more we know the better we design, the better we design the more we know.
To me, the most important purpose served by Design for this Century, and its readings and lectures, is to provide an underlying conceptual context that stretches across all of our classes.
In our recitations, we’ve devoted a lot of discussion to the issue of relevance, with the possibility being raised that the function of Design for the Century is to somehow provide relevance to the rest of our course load. However, I think that, even when taken individually, my classes already have plenty of relevance in and of themselves. CC Lab helps us develop practical technical design skills, Collaborative Printmaking has us working with a community environmental organization, Exquisite Rube forces us to question our assumptions about “good” design and work with new tools and technologies outside of our comfort zones, and so forth. All of these classes have a purpose which transcends simply fulfilling the requirements of a syllabus, and all of them have a firm connection to the outside world beyond Parsons.
On their on, though, the classes can seem isolated from one another. Their individual relevances often seem to be rapidly speeding apart in opposite directions, all developing separate ideas, with separate complications and ramifications. What Design for this Century does, then, is alleviate this by exploring concepts that are relevant to all of our classes. The connections it makes serve to draw these disparate classes back together.
This brings us to another topic that frequently comes up at recitation—the relationship between the specialized and the generalized. While some courses are certainly more specialized than others– CC Lab, which is almost exclusively about practical programming techniques, is a good deal more specialized than a class like Exquisite Rube, in which a wide variety of materials, techniques, and ideas are synthesized—I feel like they all fit more on the specialist side of the spectrum than the generalist one. Design for this Century, though, tends to work in much broader terms. Ideas like the distinction (or lack thereof) between the artificial and the natural, the way that the artificial and the technological has come to define the world we live in, or questions of the sustainability of our technological society are general enough that they’re readily applicable to practically any form of design. As discussed in class, one must have expertise and fluency in some sort of specialization in order to have the background necessary to become an effective generalist, but at the same time the generalist, with their ability to move between different spheres and disciplines, often gain perspective or insights which can be lost in the tunnel vision of pure specialization. One way of thinking about Design for this Century is that it provides the intellectual and conceptual framework to move between the specializations being honed in our other courses as an effective generalist can.
Of course, I think that Design for this Century is relevant to my life beyond its ability to be relevant to a variety of disparate classes. Indeed, I feel like it has relevance even beyond design. The shift from inhabiting a world defined by nature to one defined by technology (most starkly exemplified by the appalling effects of artificial global warming, but apparent in a thousand other subtle ways) is of the utmost importance to everyone who happens to be a human being living in the 21st century. For a sufficiently wide-ranging definition of design (oil platforms are designed, atom bombs are designed, carbon-belching SUVs are designed, coffee cups and prepared meals and streets and lights are designed), almost every aspect of our lives is shaped by it.
As students in a design program, we are forced to face our identity as imminent “designers”. Some of us may already identify as artists, or designers, or any other label that falls in the category of “creative person”; most of us will call ourselves a “master in fine arts” (whatever that may mean!) in less than two fast years. This identification is a challenge: can we call ourselves creative and also call ourselves useful to society? What is the value of art today, and what is the guilt of art?
Creativity and guilt are interwoven themes for me: growing up in a rural forest, raised by a family of dairy farmers, useful skills were talents like chopping firewood and harvesting vegetables; pastimes like drawing, paper-sculpting, and reading were selfishly wasteful. The conflict between the natural and the artificial discussed in Design for this Century is parallel in my memories to my exploration of technology and art when I moved away to university. In this class, and in my choices as a creative explorer, the question is constant: what is the role of the artificial? What is the balance between craft (the natural) and technology (the artificial)?
This balance is the tenuous area where I am sometimes comfortable calling myself a designer or an artist. Looking to my past, I see the emotion invoked by the furniture that my dad and I carved, routed, and sanded to perfection when I was younger; in the present, my crafting tends toward the quick functionality of the laser cutter. The balance between these extremes (which, of course, are not at all extreme in the scope of post-humanism and technological advancement) is in the tolerance of evolution, seeing the artificial as something crafted by man. In a way, our mind is now the supposed artificial, and our body is still primarily the natural. Accepting that the mind has the potential for artifice (or elasticity, as the MoMA would say) enables all potential analog and digital systems to fall into a connective web of tools for creating, without discrimination of what is emotional or correct.
In his book “In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World”, John Thackara describes the titular “design bubble” as a world in which ethics and environmental responsibility inform design decisions and use design to produce valuable and responsible creations. This is of course an important decision: if artists and designers are in fact going to be useful in society, it will likely be in part due to the use of design in preventing environment and technology from meeting in catastrophe. In order to maintain the critical balance between natural and artificial, however, designers must not only consider value as it applies to preservation of resources, but also as preservation of emotional tangibles.
This is my personal challenge: should I figuratively return to my past and use the tools and systems that still feel emotional and useful to me, or can I be tolerant enough of the mental and emotional evolution of man to understand new technologies as somehow valuable and emotional, to choose freely from that web of tools for creating? Can I integrate these things, and design efficiently and responsible, without leaving behind my natural self or feeling guilty? The balance of emotional, natural, and artificial will be responsible for both the creation of value and the reduction of guilt in our identification as designers for this century.
Man initially seems like a very complex creature that created artifacts to mold his
environment in his likeness. He created tools to further express himself and expand on
the limitations of his own physical make-up and that of his surroundings. Meant to be
complex objects of self-simplification and allowing the creator to live an uncomplicated
life, artifice provided personal and collaborative growth, creating common experiences
that enabled the whole to lose their individually layered identities and allow for a
commonality amongst men, simplifying and generalizing in the process.
We placed part of our soul into the objects we created, breathing life into an inanimate
object and allowing a new identity to develop. By creating, we sought to understand
ourselves through the tools of our own creation. We saw the potential on the horizon
and created a bridge to get there. Somewhere in the process of constructing that link, we
lost our own identity, our individuality, and were redefined by the objects we created in a
more a complex way than we could have imagined.
A trouble-free life was envisioned through artifice. But the initially complex man was
really a simple man who sought to maintain progress with the aid of a few simple tools.
If man is defined by his artifacts, how was he defined before their existence? Design for
this Century beckons the question: have we lost ourselves and risked losing our planet to
the tools of our own creation?
Those tools brought about understanding and discovery, creating more tools that
expanded on those initial inquiries. The thirst for knowledge eventually disconnected
us from our humanity, taking us away from the plain life we sought to reinforce through
artifice. In the wake of this thirst, a series of latent results not only made us aware
through artifice but were created out of them as well. We turned our back on nature and
looked toward artifice.
The current trend of designing artifacts to reflect nature is quite remarkable. Was
the impression of nature not what first inspired man to shape these items? Was there
always a flaw in the ecosystem, or did it manifest through our own quest for knowledge?
Can the reason we lost our independence be the thing that helps us rediscover it? And do
artifacts contain and enable a way for us to be human again?
Hi all. Guess I’ll be the first to post my response paper. I’m looking forward to seeing what you all think a out it and how you think it could be improved.
No amount of editing seems to fixe the weird paragraph breaks. When I indent them or place a space between each paragraph, it just reverts after I hit update. No idea what’s going on there. Sorry about that; I know it makes it harder to read.
My background is in game design and computer programming. At first glance, this may not (aside from an involvement in technology) to have much to do with Victoria Vesna’s lecture on the bridge between science and art; however, upon closer inspection of both fields and how I should approach them much of what she said during her talk was crucial.
Computer Science is a relatively recent field. Especially when judged against the centuries of study that most other areas of science have under their belt, computing is very young. Starting as a branch of mathematics in most universities, computers have long been relegated in both public opinion and university education to the fairly unglamorous and certainly non-artistic tasks of calculation. No surprise as it’s hard to argue against computers being good at computation! This is a dangerous mindset to fall into, though, as computers have opened the door to a wide range of never before accessible opportunities for art across mediums. The existence of Code For Art at this school (along with the dozens of highly artistic classes offered that will primarily consist of their students siting in front of a monitor) seems to do a good job of proving this point.
Of course the technical cannot be forgotten, as many people tend to do once computers become second nature to them. As much as the Adobe Suite may be useful, it is not the upper limit of computing; people can and do get their hands dirty creating their own tools. The most amazing advancements in raw computation and art seem to come from a creative use of the computer as a machine. Vesna’s lecture really drove home the importance of becoming familiar with the technology that is rapidly shaping our lives and pushing that technology in new and creative directions. Her anecdote that the students who were best at art were also best at computational problem solving makes a lot more sense when you think of both these pursuits as creative exercises.
Computer Science is my background in a broad sense, but specifically, game design is my passion and what brought me to Parsons in the first place. I think it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the current state of (most) games and assume that gaming is innately digital. But this ignores thousands upon thousands of years of games existing as an important cultural force in a purely analog mode. Of course, the reason people are so quick to think that way is because of how useful modern technology has been to the field, allowing it to push forward in so many new directions.
At the end of the day, though, what has long since been a completely analog design field is learning to come to terms with a sudden technological surrounding. Games as an art needs to learn how to interact with technology. This requires moving beyond simply determining how I can do what I want with existing technologies, but learning how I can utilize technology in new ways to create games that could not have been imagined thirty or forty years ago.
A large part of this, I believe, is distilling what worked so well about games (both specifically and generally) for the past few millennia and determining ways this can be translated and assisted by new technology. In many ways, the process seems to me like Vesna’s piece featuring the monks creating a tapestry in the middle of a nano technology lab. We are taking an ancient tradition and not trying to eradicate it with technology, but seeing what information can be gleaned from it and how we can use it moving forward. And just as the monks (presumably) learned and gained something of an appreciation for the lab, while the lab engineers did the same from the monk, hopefully analog and digital game design can enter a dialog, each becoming better as a result.
On a more abstract note, but one that impressed me a lot about her presentation and her art in general, was the impact that both the art and the technology has. While this may seem either obvious (or meaningless) at first, what I mean is that all of her projects seemed to impress the viewer on two levels: The artistic statement along with the execution of that statement, and the state of the art technology used to convey it. Whichever one draws the viewer in initially, the other is just as likely to leave a lasting impact. To me, this suggests a mastery of her medium. By really understanding the tools she’s working with (even if this means spending hours upon hours just to get some microscopic particles to spell out “nano”) she has enabled herself to use them to full effect. Of course, this is coupled with an innate artistic sense, but combining the two leaves a viewer with an unforgettable experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed her lecture, and it made me pleased with my decision to come to Parsons. The use of technology in creative fields is no longer an option. Art can be created through using technology, but when art and technology are both considered, and used in tandem, the results seem far more stunning.