October 20, 2010 § Leave a comment
Much inspired by Julia and Ellen Lupton’s manifesto which proclaims: Design is everywhere! Here is my desk. Which also fits in with their statement: design is a mess. Time to go home I think.
October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment
Today I have read Ulla-Maaria Engeström’s Draft Craft Manifesto, which attempts to identify some of the driving reasons behind the popular contemporary craft movement, the article Qualitative Methods: from Boring to Brilliant where Christopher Ireland chronicles the development of qualitative research methods in product design and have begun to read Donald A. Norman’s Emotional Design: why we love (or hate) everyday things which presents some fascinating information about emotions and how they affect our response to objects. So, as a result of mentally mashing these topics together in my coffee addled brain, I have come up with some half-baked questions: What is the emotional response to a handmade object? What are the aesthetic clues to something being handmade? Do people respond well to the appearance of ‘homemade’ or with a level of distrust? Do we believe handmade objects to be less efficient than mass-produced? Is the lack of market testing and factor at all when buying something handmade? If you buy a soft toy from a craft fair, is market research, testing or focus groups factors that cross your mind? Does the joy of a unique object outweigh the fact that it is not specifically developed and streamlined for you specifically?
October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment
I am now reading the chapter of Design your Life entitled The Art of Procrastination, and yes, it does include blogging as procrastination. hmm. Very post modern. Anyway, the author discusses lists, what we do with our notes, thoughts, “occasional bolts of joy or genius”. She discusses the many ways people capture this data in the moment. About a week before I finished my Masters thesis, I wrote about a thousand words in my cellphone. All in the dead of the night, half unconcious. I would routinely wake up in the wee hours strongly believing I had found some amazing insight or perfectly worded phrase that would tie my argument together and transform my research. These moments of genius were always total crap, mostly just strings of buzz words and absurd connections, it wasn’t even funny, just indicative of the lame dreams I was having at the time (history of the term ‘melancholy’. woop). Ideas you have at three in the morning are not good ideas.
October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment
I just started reading Ellen and Julia Lupton’s Design your life: the pleasures and perils of everyday life. I am already a big fan of Ellen Lupton, and this book is great because its a funny and easy to absorb collection of anecdotes from everyday life. In the first anecdote entitled Moving the furniture, Ellen Lupton comments that those of us who never rearrange their furniture stop seeing our environment. She points out that we simply get used to walking into awkwardly placed objects and steer clear of uncomfortable chairs and broken drawers. Isn’t that just so true? (I hate it when you can’t walk around one side of the bed and are forced to scramble over someone to get out) I am currently in the process of moving, and what I notice the most is the crap that I have held on to. All the stuff that builds up and makes it harder to walk around the room. So many times I have put something down, intending it to be a temporary resting place and never moved it again. Case in point, a big plastic container, the type meant for storing tools or something in the garage or workshop. I used mine for transporting my work to craft fairs. For some reason I don’t recall I put it in my bedroom and over a year later it is still there! It was of course a temporary measure, but then I put some books on it, and clothes on those books, and the contents of a Christmas stocking on those clothes. After a while it becomes cemented there, all the layers of objects would need to be relocated, which may require throwing out other things to make room for them. Why do we forget that we can change our environment? Why did I choose to keep all the boxes my bottles of perfume came in? Maybe everyone should write letters to themselves in 5 years explaining the desperate need to keep all the empty cotton reels (doll house furniture according to my mother) and really old makeup. As Lupton says, “moving the furniture has become a way of pulling happiness and sociability-in place of frustration and boredom- out of ordinary situations, simply by shaking them up a bit.”
(Still no car, they suspect the inhibitor is at fault, I always thought it had a lack of inhibitions…)
October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment
Today we finally took our car to the dealership to (hopefully) be fixed. This particular vehicle suffers from the most irritating fault; serious unreliability. It has an amazing tendency to chug along fine, then just die. you turn the key and…. nothing. Not even a half-hearted cough. This makes driving in rush hour traffic a pretty daring feat. As all humans have a tendency to do, we have conceived of several tactics that we are convinced help re-start the car. At first it was opening and slamming the bonnet as hard as possible, then it was jiggling random wires. We progressed to using a severed mallet head to tap (or bash) the starter motor, and finally and most amusing of all, shaking the steering wheel as violently as possible. This is somehow the most effective. This week, car related stress has reached new heights and I cannot help but think about it in terms of all the reading I’ve been doing about technology and objects. I know that being furious with ones vehicle is hardly revolutionary, but it seems to be a human/object relationship right of passage that everyone experiences. The realisation that you are stuck, away from home with a tonne of metal that you can’t afford to get towed is grave indeed. The point I always come back to is that technology doesn’t owe us anything. The car, which we take care of and spend time with everyday, doesn’t feel indebted and therefore want to get us safely home before refusing to start. We can come up with all the affectionate nicknames we want (Marco, and the last one was Fifi) but we’ll still end up stranded in the supermarket parking lot, missing dinner reservations. Yet another personal example of the cognitive load and opportunity cost we shoulder to engage with gizmos (I’m sure that a 1997 hatchback counts as a gizmo, it has a computer in it after all).
October 5, 2010 § Leave a comment
Still reading Shaping Things and have been trying to get my head around cognitive loads and opportunity costs. Cognitive load is the brainpower we expend when engaging in, or with the objects of technoculture. Opportunity cost is the sacrifice of another part or activity in life we make to be a part of this culture. I have a theory: I read for leisure less than I used to. Before the arrival of my laptop and Nintendo Dsi I used to always read before bed, now I watch something online or play games. I still read but it takes me a lot longer to get through a book than it used to. Opportunity cost! And, instead of engaging in the act of reading, which I have spent practically my whole life doing, I am dabbling (paddling) in sea of technology, most of which I only understand at interface value (I am recent stylus user). Cognitive load. I have also heard that staring at screens right before going to bed can thwart your ability to sleep. straying from the point a little, but I’m fairly sold on the idea of sleeping in a Faraday mosquito net – http://www.lessemf.com/personal.html whether or not it actually does anything beneficial, it couldn’t hurt right?
October 1, 2010 § Leave a comment
In the book Shaping Things, I really like Bruce Sterling’s class definitions for objects, or things. Artifacts, machines, products, gizmos and spimes cover all our ‘things’ and our relationships with these things. According to Sterling, artifacts are objects made and used by hand, activated by the user and created outside any understanding of the principles of mechanics. Those who use these artifacts are hunters and farmers. Gizmos customisable, programmable objects with a short life expectancy that often serve as interfaces to networks and services. Gizmo folk are end-users. Since I spend a lot of time thinking about the DIY approach to our little friends of the electronic persuasion, I am wondering which of these two categories DIY or home modified electronic objects fit into? Something that is gizmotic (gizmo-esque?) in nature, but constructed in artifact territory. Is this a relatively new category that bridges the two? A gizmifact. Anyway, it is always helpful to have more definitions for things other than stuff and junk… I will now toss around these terms with slightly more awareness.
I also like Sterling’s concept of ‘the line of no return’ where society cannot return to the previous technological age, ie: Sterling cannot make a living without his laptop, therefore has crossed this line! This made me think about knitting. I learned the basics of knitting from my mother as a child. However everything beyond that I have learned entirely off the internet. It was automatic, it didn’t occur to me once to go buy a book about knitting, why would I when I can watch videos that show me (in slow motion and repeatedly) how to knit an entire scarf? Wouldn’t it be kind of silly to learn how to knit from diagrams in a book when such in-depth visual references are so readily available? We have slipped the stitch of no return.