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Hopefully this is a bit more coherent than my last post, though my brain is a bit hazy right now. That is, I know at some point prior to now I’ve had a better conception of the topic, but I wanted to get some of it down now in order to start the process, get some feedback, and at least get some of it in order.

So generally, I want my topic to focus on the body acceptance movement – the radical notion that fat people are, well, people (That quote doesn’t work as well here) – It’s something that I’ve been introduced to through my wife, and has really opened my eyes to many forms of discrimination, and yet often seems downplayed even in feminist contexts. I also think there’s a really neat connection in what we discussed today, and that perhaps the dualistic disconnect from mind and body contributes to this stigma, and perhaps a way of thought which holizes self in both mind and body would be beneficial (or at least is crucial for design (Well, anywhere. But here where bodies are the focus, there’s no way around it)). Regardless, I want to avoid any medical issue, and approach it from social and ethical direction.

I’m not entirely sure how I want to focus the HCI-side of it however. I’d considered focusing on one of these body data fitness devices that have come up in class a few times, like the FitBit, question what values it’s promoting (and since I’m going to disagree with them, posit values that I feel it should be promoting). However, this seems like a bit of a low hanging fruit. Of course the fitness industry is going to produce devices which devalue people while promoting a social image of beauty. That’s the entire point. More importantly, I’m not personally interested in these sorts of devices, or this industry, and find the issue more important from a social or personal position.

Reference wise, I think I’m pretty well off. I have good resources for body acceptance writings from my wife, and I think tons of the readings that we’ve done across many classes apply. I’d be especially looking at the 3rd wave foundations papers (esp. Feminist HCI and Critical/Cultural Design), and many of our IC readings (perhaps Folkmann to get at the social/ethical dimension, Dunne and Raby’s ideas of design as a way of looking for alternate/possible futures, and what do you know, this accultured body idea (The Film Theory paper in general) seems pretty damn important. Shusterman and Somaesthetics will be crucial as well. Basically, I believe I have a bunch of good material (Though more would be great) – but not a solid direction/lens/example to examine through.

Not entirely sure what the question I have here is, I’ve re-written this a few times,and it’s not entirely concrete yet.

But based on something Jeff mentioned offhand – “Our field has struggled with adopting phenomenology for sometime”, I want to question either who’s doing it right, or rather what the best way to do it is?

We instinctively categorize in order to make sense of… well anything. The very phenomenological readings we’ve had have still introduced metaphors or models as a way of making sense of our felt lives. In many ways these separations are important for the author to even make their point at all. Dewey’s idea of experience is, while phenomenological, still dualist! It’s Feeling of Experience vs. “That other non-experience stuff that’s not as interesting”.

And this gets at the issue of language reinforcing this dualist way of thinking – but if you have to, say, write an academic paper, how do you construct a good phenomenological argument without a) breaking things down into disparate categories, or b) basically saying “Well, everything is holistically important, guys.”

In some ways choosing a focus or topic at all seems… against the belief. and yet building it up like this is a straw-man. Help me, I’m going in circles!

Hey guys, thought I’d share my pre-writing thus far.

My idea is to look at Tabletop Role-playing games, and the aspects of them that make them different/exciting, look at them in online situations, compare those across CSCW guidelines of collaboration, and fill in with in pieces of aesthetics and experience that we’ve been talking about. I think the main idea is to talk about failings of virtual table tops such as Roll20 (or simply using Skype), and to motivate further guidelines for these types of applications/

So, I’m pretty comfortable with the amount of evidence I’ve gathered – at least as far as gaming is concerned. The CSCW side may be a bit lacking, so if anyone has pointers there (And I’m hoping to talk to Norman Su to see if he has an idea.). But if anyone has an idea how to explore this further I’m definitely open to suggestions. Really though, I think I need to start pulling out quotes and start making connections.

Basically the motivation for this (and I’ve heard similar comments from other gamers, including Nathan) is that I’ve been in a very long gaming session with some close friends since… November 2012. It’s the longest game I’ve ever been in, and one of the most detailed worlds a DM has constructed. And yet I *still*, even as the game is wrapping up, don’t think of it as fondly as many other games, including ones that I’ve played for maybe a week. I can definitely point to a disconnect of engagement of myself and Taylor (my wife), as we’ll do other things as we play (Draw, work on homework, browse the internet, etc.) and there’s certainly an issue there, but even sessions where everyone is on point, it simply can’t match the in-person collocated experience.

And I suppose the question is what are the factors of the experience which make it so difficult to connect, and what’s the best way to create something to enable that connection better?

I feel like the Carroll reading was predominantly straightforward and easy to understand – His argument is that criticism’s main purpose is to be evaluative, and that this evaluation should be backed up (through description, classification, contextualization, elucidation, interpretation and analysis), and generally be well reasoned. As I understand it this evaluation is not simply positive or negative, but based on discovering the value within the work, based on its classification (or genre, if you will). His first chapter was providing arguments for this view, and arguing against views which counter it.

My main question comes from his response to one of these arguments, specifically where he’s arguing against criticism being seen as ‘subjective’. And, simply, I just don’t get his point here. First he seems to argue that, based on one definition of subjective, “subjective does not mean ‘not objective'”:

But in the case of convergence, it is consistent with the proposition that critical judgments are subjective (in the eighteenth century sense) that there could be bridging laws connecting the regular correlation of art objects with certain properties to uniform sensations across normal human populations (pg. 33)

Which makes sense, but then:

which laws, in turn, could be inter-subjectively verified and used as major premises in evaluative arguments

Which seems to me to be saying that “Many subjective views, if agreeing, constitutes an objective one?” While I agree to the extent that there may not be any other way to form an actual basis of criticism without some sort of common ground or reaction to artistic stimuli, isn’t this still in many ways just a special brand of subjective?

And then when he takes the “modern” interpretation of subjective, he argues against the “I like X, you like X, Neither of us is “right”‘ types of appreciations of arts:

…disagreement is what is being advanced as evidence for the incommensurability of what are said to be our broadly divergent appraisals of artworks. First, along with the evidence of a diversity of critical appraisal, there is also a perhaps even greater amount of data showing converging appraisals… Moreover is it not clear that, once we have an explanation of these convergences, we will not have logical grounds for the possibility of maintaining that some critical evaluations are objective and some not

…No? It’s not clear to me I suppose. This sounds to me like “Yes, we disagree on who we enjoy but there’s a consensus which is ‘better’, and that’s what’s important.” Which seems dismissive and perhaps elitist – and sure, Carroll is saying that critics are supposed to be curators and educators of value and meaning, showing us deeper insights into art – but to do so he’s dismissed and ignored the negative reactions in order to focus on the more dominant positive consensus.

I mean, I certainly agree that arguments back and forth over whether Mozart or Beethoven is “better” are entirely pointless and uninteresting – But if one person finds negative value in a work of Mozart where the Mozart lover does not, can’t both have perfectly fine reasons as to why? If both criticisms are based in Carroll’s layout (description, classification, contextualization, elucidation, interpretation and analysis) and yet come to a differing conclusion, what answer is there other than subjectivity?

I guess what I’m saying is that the “subjective” that Carroll puts out is almost a straw-man “subjective”. A touchy-feely “You like this, I like that, let’s get along” type thing, where it seems to me that in a very real level, two top of the line brilliant art critics could critique the same piece which they’re both intimately aware of, look at the same value or look at it through the same lens, and still come out with different readings. And still neither would be “Wrong”. It seems as though he’s divorcing the art from something personal, or asking objects to be read from only two of Folkmann’s three pieces of aesthetics.

Moreover, why the need to be objective at all? I guess it seems to me that to serve Carroll’s role as critic – one who educates and enlightens the rest of us on meanings and values within artwork, he’s distancing himself from perhaps the biggest reason we each engage in art in the first place – our personal understanding, and how that fits into our individual lives.

But then again, I haven’t read the entire book yet. (And could be way off in my understanding!)

Something Julia mentioned briefly in our discussion last Thursday stuck with me, and I wanted to bring it up – basically this notion of the audience or a cultivation of appreciation for aspects of a concept being important for conceptual design to be done at all. Put succinctly, there has to be a place to see these concepts. And moving it out of strictly the academic/curatorial level and into everyday homes breaks whatever barriers or walls of thought are brought in by even those institutions.

Now Julia had said something about the ‘everyday artist’ who works at some job which doesn’t necessarily fit his goals in order to pay the bills, but creates all sorts of artwork in their spare time. I think to make it a bit more specific, it should be someone who does this on the side, not as their job, and they should be ‘un-trained’ (Not have gone to school for it). And what I’m wondering if this sort of amateur level work is somehow necessary for a audience or a culture to build up around these designs.

In each of the other fields that Dunne and Raby bring up I believe this amateur level work is at play to some extent. Graphic Design, Fashion, Film and Game are all pretty obvious. Vehicles and architecture are more about remaking/remodeling than creating from scratch, but still I think the thought is there.

I think we’re beginning to see this in Product design/IT – Notions of everyday design, as explored in Methods, takes in this amateur aspect. Participatory design in a step in the right direction. The Maker Movement is probably the closest and best thing to this amateur product/IT design culture, and it’s growing in leaps and bounds… but still I don’t think it’s quite made the pervasive mark on our everyday to make ‘doing design’ be seen as a thing.

Once it does, or if it can, we as a society can begin to comment on the highfalutin top of the line designs that are only shown at trade shows, research papers, or inaccessible labs. Not to say that the expert opinions need defer to the masses, but at the moment it seems there’s only talk on one side of the table.

So this is going to be my attempt at summary and explanation of Danto. I seriously doubt that I’ll grab everything (Or even much more than a solid hand(head?)ful), but hopefully we can talk more directly about some of the points that are made. Overall I found it to be a fascinating, and yet easy read – probably as Jeff points out to my detriment as I likely missed some of the deeper implications he’s trying to make.

Let’s start at the very end though, because I think it pretty well sums up his argument, and gives a bit of a map as to where the pieces of the argument are:

He turned the world we share into art, and turned himself into part of that world, and because we are the images we hold in common with everyone else, he became part of us. So he might have said: if you want to know who Andy Warhol is, look within. Or, for that matter, look without. You, I, the world we share are all of a piece.

It’s kind of hard to see exactly what he means here without the context of the rest of the piece, but basically I see Danto as arguing that Warhol directly challenged and changed the way we think of art, and brought it to a much wider and more every-day context, much the same way Dewey (as Angelica points out! Great insight!) for experience.

In fact, Danto’s main argument almost has a similar structure to Folkmann’s (This is tenuous… perhaps I should have left it out?):

He turned the world we share into art

This is the Sensual – phenomenological part, where Danto explains that Warhol’s exploration of art of everyday objects simultaneously brings with it a re-valuing of the everday of art. This is seen directly through Danto’s exploration of what Warhol is doing with form, shape, and medium (sensual characteristics), such as in Brillo Box, or Empire. And on this level, I believe is Danto’s point (Or Warhol’s. Are they different?) – If an everday object can be art, isn’t art an everday thing?

and turned himself into part of that world

This would be Folkmann’s Conceptual- Hermeneutical -This I think deals with the more meta-art aspects of Warhol’s work, him versus the ideas of art, or him versus abstract expressionism’s “self-proclaimed heroism.” Ideas like:

“Nothing could be deeper or more meaningful than the objects that surround us, which are “more numerous, more sound, and more subtle” than all the portentous symbols dredged up in sessions of Jungian analysis, about which ordinary people know nothing and regarding which artists may be deluding themselves in supposing they know more.”

Finally, we have the last aspect:

and because we are the images we hold in common with everyone else, he became part of us.

And finally this is the Contextual – Discursive. This is where Danto talks about Warhol’s work of symbols and character. Icons. Marilyn Monroe or Warhol himself (Was his life character art?).This is the contextual, social, political ideas wrapped up in everything we do:

Warhol’s art gave objectivity to the common cultural mind. To participate in that mind is to know, immediately, the meaning and identity of certain images: to know, without having to ask, who are Marilyn and Elvis, Liz and Jackie, Campbell’s soup and Brillo, or today, after Warhol’s death, Madonna and Bart Simpson. To have to ask who these images belong to is to declare one’s distance from the culture.

And of course the three levels of Folkmann’s Aesthetics apply and are connected throughout, but taken as a whole these basic ideas that Warhol played with introduce much more than, I think, simply ‘all things can be seen as art’

He did not tell us what art was. But he opened the way for those whose business it is to provide positive philosophical theories to at last address the subject.

Philosophical understanding begins when it is appreciated that no observable properties need distinguish reality from art at all. And this was something Warhol at last demonstrated.

It’s not only just ‘all objects can be seen as art’. But everything – ideas, people, lives, values, and importantly the cultural and social connections we make between all these things. The object is art, but so is the viewer, and the dialogue between them. As far as I can tell, Danto’s reading of Warhol is some sort of awesome *real world example* of the Deweyan or Folkmann understandings of aesthetics and experience which we’ve been arguing about for some time.

Many of us have said “yeah that’s interesting, but how is that applicable?” – myself included. Warhol was someone who really applied it.

Okay, maybe you’ve heard of it or not, but this has been a big trending story the last few days:

For those of you not willing to click the link, J.K. Rowling put out a statement in an interview telling us that she regrets Hermione and Ron getting together, that it should it have been Harry instead, and as it is they’ll need counseling.

Not that everyone in the series probably couldn’t use counseling, but hey. And this is the second time she’s done something like this, trying to change the way we think about the story long after it’s been written – The first was when she announced Dumbledore was gay.

From my corner, I have no issue with either change (Not really a huge potter fan in the first place), but it still irks me in some way – I guess that instead of being careful and writing these ideas into the books when they were written, she’s come out later and gone “Well I screwed up, it should be that way.”

But of course she has the right to say whatever she wants about her work. Hell, I defended George Lucas’ abysmal edits to the original series – of course I have no requirement to watch the new ones or care about them whatsoever – but I do agree on some level with his idea that an artist should keep trying to fix and tweak their art until it’s ‘right’. But it does raise an interesting question, because pretty much anytime anything like this happens (an artist changing their work long after it’s released) it’s met with open vehemence. It’s a stance that in a sense flies right in the face of allowing the user to create their own meaning.

It gets into the ideas of aesthetics we’ve been playing around with, but once the object is imbued with a meaning and set out into the world, you get your users or perceivers creating the other half – They fill in and understand the work through their own lens and get to know it as themselves. It’s sort of the idea of emergence that game developers work towards, just muted and hidden within one person’s interpretation. And to come back in as an artist or designer and say “Whoops I fucked up, let me edit that” can easily rip apart someone’s understanding, and have them lose a lot of faith in both your story, and you as a creator.

So when is it okay to do so? When is it better to just start on an entirely new work? I mean in either of my examples, I doubt that many Potter or Star Wars fans were irrevocably thrusted out of enjoying their fandom, but these types of edits seem to be damaging in some way. What lesson is there to be learned as a designer?

While I agree with the general consensus that the Desiderata reading seems to be the most palatable view of design, I can’t shake this feeling that I’m not entirely comfortable with it. If anyone can tease out a bit more to this, please do so.

Originally in my notes I’d decried this sense I’d been getting of overlooking marginalized individuals. I don’t think that desiderata was necessarily (or even has to be) aimed in this way, this supposition that user’s needs are somehow not what we should be designing for, or that the designer needs to tease out secret hidden desires… Hell, there are tons of people where simple basic need IS the problem, and the design work comes into play (i’d assume) in understanding what systems are in place that are denying them that need, and subverting or establishing a new system.

I don’t really want to keeping harping on this ‘Consumerist! Capitalist!’ thing which has cropped up in half of my posts here, but I guess that the idea of desiderata to me seems to come from this idea that designers will be working within a company setting, or on products. Or that in order to create “the next big thing”, we need to take a deeper look beyond what people simply say they want and discover what they really do. (And of course this gets into the whole ‘designers knowing better than the user’ thing, but that’s been talked about a bit more already).

And I think that’s me just forcing that perspective onto the paper a bit. I think Nelson and Stolterman are a bit more closely concerned with a careful design of what values we *want* the future to hold, ala Dunne and Raby. Which overall I really agree with. But I guess my point is more – although yes, in order to design for the future we need to get at underlying desires and imagined futures, there are simply some issues for which the “need” is right there in front of us, and really *is* the main issue. Now maybe dealing with this ‘need’ will have to take into account the desiderata of the other players involved?

A deeper and much better critique I think is the way Jeff framed it this afternoon – Nelson and Stolterman are directly prescribing *how design should be done*. Even if I think they’re right on the money for a whole slew of design thinking, even in their wide net, they’re still limiting what design is or can be.

Little too exhausted from Connect to fully engage with this now, so I’ll come back and write a bit about it later, but I thought this paper was really interesting, and some of you may think so as well!

(Thanks to Gabriele for posting the journal on fb!)

Aack – unfortunate that we won’t have a discussion over this reading, as I’m still pretty lost as to what I should be taking away from it. More than anything it seems to remind me of the power of constraints (as it did Tiffany). The third building seemed to start from a well grounded understanding of the constraints and desires of the users. However they also seemed to need continual re-design as they kept missing pieces or had their sights set too lofty (Moving the theaters underground, cutting out the technology half, etc.)

The second (as I read it) didn’t seem to do well until constraints about separating the hospital and hotel, and treating the rooms within as variable arose. This I probably found to be the most interesting one, as while I disliked the idea of compartmentalizing everything and keeping the aesthetic and function separate, it also gives the most power to the owners of the hotel to re-imagine as needed. (Assuming I understood that argument correctly).

However, it’s the first design that resonated most with me, as it seems very similar to that which we went through in IDP. Build something, evaluate it, find the issues, introduce constraints when necessary. Here of course the problem is that the constraints introduced were up to the architect’s whim, and not inspired by user needs (But that seems like an overall trend throughout).

But yeah – constraints. Obviously a huge huge help for designers – in no instance here could the designers really begin without them. In addition to that, the other really interesting point was that of sticking doggedly to the ‘big picture’, or initial ideas. Sometimes this turned out well. Sometimes it didn’t. When to do this and when not to? Good question.