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I understand that this is last minute. But if you can, please quickly revisit the Eldridge article (Understanding Art). Or at least bring your printout of this article with you.

Here are a few juicy quotes that will help steer our discussion today (thank you, Jeff).

“We become able ourselves in light of new readings to see particular works both more comprehensively and with more awareness of the multiple significances of details” (Eldridge, 2003, p. 148).

“…elucidatory-critical understanding of the arts is, in Dewey’s formulation, both analytic or parts-discriminating and synthetic or overall-organization-discerning. Elucidatory-critical attention moves back and forth between attention to discrete elements and the location of elements in an overall arrangement. (Eldridge, 2003, p. 143)

“To understand art critically is to explore it imaginatively, guided by a range of relevant comparisons and conceptions of rational action and focused on how a work presents its subject matter as a focus for thought and emotion. When we thus explore works imaginatively, we can understand them anew, more deeply, and yet in coherent elaboration of our prior understandings, as the complex results of overdetermined human action that they are.” (Eldridge, 2003, p. 149)

See you all soon!


Monaco reading (Pg 160)

Using the above concepts, what can we say about ‘an interaction’?

Joshua Bell!
Born in good ol’ Bloomington, Indiana.
This grammy winning violinist is a world renown artist.

In 2007, The Washington Post arranged a little social experiment – “an experiment in context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?”

Here is the gist of it – Bell appeared incognito at the L’Enfant Plaza Metros station and played 6 classical pieces for 43 minutes on a Monday morning at 7:30 am. 1,097 people passed by. 7 people stopped for about a minute to listen to him. 27 people gave him some change which amounted to a grand total of $32.17.

Here is the full article .

If we skim past the usual we’re-too-busy-to-watch-the-sunrise drone, the article makes some very interesting points that I believe are VERY relevant to what we have been talking in the class. Here are a few excerpts. (The article, IMO, is scholarly for a post!)

It’s an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?”

“Before he began, Bell hadn’t known what to expect. What he does know is that, for some reason, he was nervous.
“It wasn’t exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies,” he says. “I was stressing a little.”
Bell has played, literally, before crowned heads of Europe. Why the anxiety at the Washington Metro?
“When you play for ticket-holders,” Bell explains, “you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I’m already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don’t like me? What if they resent my presence . . .”
He was, in short, art without a frame.

The last line in particular struck a chord with me – art without a frame . It is easier to simply brush this off by simply naming the passer-by’s as uncouth or preach about the values of slowing down or adopt a defensive stance about the fact that it was 7:30 am on a Monday morning. I think there lies a much more valuable observation for us to make, specifically in the context of this class.

Is there ever a right frame for art? Can art ever be without a frame? Is art in itself a frame?

Thoughts/comments welcome!

Dexter is one of my favorite shows and I believe there are a few Dexter junkies in our class too. I wanted to talk about the title sequence of this show from a semiotic perspective. I was wondering if we could do a small experiment.

  • For those of you who have NEVER watched this show before or does not know anything about what the show is, I request you to just watch the title sequence without reading anything about it. Please post what you think about the title sequence and what you guess the show may be about!
  • For those of you who know what the show is about – I think the title sequence is nothing short of brilliance. It conveys so perfectly what the show is about. It was done by Digital Kitchen and won an Emmy for “Outstanding Main Title Design.” My take is that Design Kitchen use a heavily semiotic approach to convey the spirit of the show. They do the same thing with the title sequence of TrueBlood as well.

While we are in the topic of Dexter, I came across this limited edition T-shirt released by ShowTime which costs a whopping $475. Apart from the obvious word play, I really liked the way ShowTime used the street art aesthetic for the graphic style. Needless to point out the t-shirt was released early January this year when Obama’s campaign was in full swing. Talk about being immersed in culture! I think that the use of street art as a visual style communicates the feeling of “one among the people” – a message relevant for both the personalities. What do you guys think?

Full disclosure: IDolce & Gabbana and I am going to be unabashedly biased towards anything that has a D&G tag on it.

Here are a few facts:

  • For those of you who have not heard about Dolce & Gabbana, it is one of the biggest (and one of the best IMO) luxury fashion houses of the world and is based in Milan.
  • Sony Ericsson has collaborated with D&G and released a limited edition of their phone called Jalou. The name of the phone is derived from a french word jaloux which means jealousy!
  • The D&G edition is plated with 24 carat gold and is faded-rose in color. There are other colors but they are do not carry the D&G tag on them.
  • The retail price of the phone is $800 and the price of the D&G edition is undisclosed. D&G is known for it’s notriously high pricing especially since it’s a luxury brand.

Since we have been reading some fashion texts and trying to apply that to interaction design, I thought this was a particularly interesting artifact to talk about. We have talked so much about a phone like the iPhone where owning the latest tehcnology is fashion. So I was wondering how does it work when it comes to something like the Jalou. Clearly it cannot be discarded as “advertising” and “branding”. It gets even more interesting when you compare the advertisements of the same phone – one made by Sony Ericsson and the other by D&G.


Dolce & Gabbana

Sony Ericsson

If we were to create a cheat sheet for Interaction culture, what would it look like? (all the fancy terms, with a two line simple explanation and a bull’s eye example). I propose that all of us do this as a class.

Currently struggling to understand these three terms – structuralist view, hermeneutic view, phenomenological view! What’s the difference? How do they fit with each other? Please provide comments or feel free to add your own terms (with or without explanations). Let’s cheat!

Here is a video from one of my favorite movies – Ratatouille. For those of you who have not watched it yet (please do), Remy (the protoganist) makes ratatouille (a vegetable stew). Anton Ego is this big shot food critic who is a hard ass, extremely critical, hard to please and is very skeptical about the stew. The below scene is when he tastes it and is completely floored by the taste since it reminds him of his mother making him this dish during his childhood.

Now let’s try to put on different goggles and see this video again.

Structuralist goggles – The stew was good because it had tomatoes, carrots, beans, etc, cut and cooked perfectly. What is the ingredient? How do we identify it?

Non-phenomenological hermeneutic goggles – The stew is usually prepared during summer. This is because most of the standard ingredients grow during summer. No lifeworld involved.

Phenomenological hermeneutic goggles – The stew is considered as a poor man’s dish since most of the standard ingredients are not expensive.

Non-hermeneutic phenomenological goggles – Anton Ego’s experience is the perfect example for this. Tasting this stew transports him back to his memories.

Am I right? Please correct me if I am wrong.

As I was not fully quenched by Kickasola, I read the user comments on IMDB, a few other critics and blog posts. Here are a few things that I found interesting.

Roger Ebert:
Roger Ebert is no Kickasola but I found a few things interesting in his critique of the movie. It starts with the sentence “Here is a film about a feeling.” Then he talks about Kieślowski’s style as below.

“He is drawn to coincidence and synchronicity. He is little interested in focusing on a character hurling from point A in the first act to Point C in the third. He is fascinated by Point B, and the unseen threads linking it to past and present. His films can be mystical experiences. He trusts us to follow him, to sense his purpose, to leave the theater having shared his openness to a moment. The last thing you want to do after a Kieślowski film is “unravel” the plot. It can’t be done.”

Slavoj Žižek:
For the few of us who cannot sleep unless we unravel the message, I found that this small snippet almost paraphrases it. It’s an excerpt from an essay titled “The Forced Choice of Freedom” written by Žižek.

“The perception of our reality as one of the possible, often even not the most probable, outcomes of an open situation, this notion that other possible outcomes are not simply canceled out but continue to haunt our reality as a specter of what might have happened, conferring on our reality the status of extreme fragility and contingency, implicitly clashes with the predominant linear narrative forms of our literature and cinema.”

Joseph G. Kickasola
I am pretty sure this guy was stalking Kieślowski. I am absolutely stunned by both by the quantity and quality of nuanced observations and interpretations he provides us. He situates his interpretation based on the author’s previous works (references to The Decalogue), life (French and Polish politics), lifeworld (Kieślowski’s attitude towards old people) and through his own judgements as well. This, we all agree, is by no means a simple task and Kickasola has done a kick-ass job. (Sorry couldn’t resist it!)

And here is where I start whining. I have one huge issue with this article. He beautifully states of what I think is the paradigmatic glasses we need to be wearing while watching Kieślowski’s movies.

“… the essence of the film hinges on the experience of watching it, not simply on an understanding of its story, characters, and use of metaphor.”

After stating this, he does exactly the opposite – explains the story and provides rationalistic explanations to the characters’ traits by contextualizing them with respect to the metaphors and motifs of religion, spirituality, politics and philosophy. It does help us understand the movie better but aren’t Kieślowski’s movies meant to evoke? Does one need to have a rational understanding to “feel” it better? If Kickasola is trying to do that, then he is essentially at logger heads with Kieślowski.

Kickasola paraphrases Kieślowski’s attitude towards this by saying
“This type of abstract, nonverbal “rhetoric” can be very persuasive…”

In other words, to me it feels like Kickasola attempts to help us understand a movie that the director did not want us to understand in the first place.

All said and done, I do not deny the fact that knowing about the director’s life, his works, his beliefs, the metaphors and motifs used in the movie and Kickasola’s interpretation of them have definitely enriched me to understand the movie. But the answer to the question whether it has helped me to feel it better is NOT a big resounding yes!

PS: I wonder how Pauline Kael would have critiqued this movie!

So I was trying to understand the works of Michel Foucault and came across one of his essays titled “What is an Author?” You can get the text here.

I think what Foucault has to say about the notion of an author is very important and is key to our class discussion about authors, architects, musicians, film directors, ciritcs and ultimately designers.

The Title:
Foucault did not make a grammatical mistake when he titled his essay as “What is an Author”. Rather it sets the tone for his entire discourse. He views the author not as a person but as an idea or a concept.

Read the rest of this entry »

So I started reading this week’s reading and found it to be “glerb”! After a few hours of crash course is sociology (I love you wikipedia), I think I understand the reading better now. I thought I should share this with the rest of you. So here we go!


  • Field of sociology divided into 3:
    – Micro-sociology: How individual forms identity and how s/he interacts with others. Study of individual.
    – Macro-sociology: Society is not just a bunch of people. It has something else. What is that “something else”? Study of society.
    – Meso-socilogy: Studying society and individual based on one particular criteria. Say for example, race or gender or income.
  • Sociologists were kicking and pulling each others hair before. Now they have realized that these three schools of theories are complimentary and inseparable. So they are well behaved now.
  • For our class reading, we will now focus on microsociology. It is heavily derived from phenomenology. Basic premise is how does an individual make sense of his surrounding world. Serves something as a bridge between psychology and sociology.
  • Symbolic interactionism and ethnomethodology are two key micro-theories amongst others.

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Frank Llyod Wright’s Falling Water for $18

Field trip! Field trip!! Field trip!!!