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After an emotional and much needed chat with Jeff- I crumpled up my papers (skeuomorphically, into my mac book’s trash) and started in a new direction that I finding I am much better suited for.
My new topic is something along the lines of: What can UbiComp learn from museums. Probably per Yvonne Rogers reassessment of Weiser’s vision, in which she calls for the following:
“I propose one such alternative agenda which focuses on designing UbiComp technologies for engaging user experiences. It argues for a significant shift from proactive computing to proactive people; where UbiComp technologies are designed not to do things for people but to engage them more actively in what they currently do”
I wanted to share an experience I had today while researching for my paper. I went to the IMA, just to see what I could find. I actually felt sort of guilty taking time out of my day to do something fun, do you all feel like research doesn’t count if you’re not sitting in front of a pile of papers? Anyways, I sat in the Robert Indiana show decided to sit down and let myself see what would happen. I wrote down notes and observations. And feverishly at that… like, my friend was probably embarrassed to be near me and my hand hurt from writing. This went on for an hour and a half. I had so much to say and so many things just came to me. I had done some reading about UbiComp Friday night (a really cool way to fill a Friday night) and with that on my brain, so much started clicking.
Afterwards, the museum’s Audience Interpretation Director came up to me because she noticed me taking notes. She gave me some awesome insights and suggested some new sources. She is going to email me some internal case studies, as well (score!). I feel really good about this direction. It feels clear and bright and all those good fuzzy feelings.
Hope all of your paper are going well. I totally recommend leaving a desk and going out into your space (if possible). It felt like cheating, because I actually enjoy my topic.
The discussion we had on Tuesday reminded me this morning of a quote from Stolterman & Nelson in The Design Way:
“We are lame gods in the service of prosthetic gods.”
The word “prosthetic” was, I think, carefully chosen. According to the dictionary, a prosthesis is, “A device, either external or implanted, that substitutes for or supplements a missing or defective part of the body.” It’s an approximation, at best, of an organic limb or organ.
We closed class by establishing that Kieślowski used formalistic techniques to approximate the inarticulate felt experience of longing, and that this formalistic approximation was analogous to what we do as designers.
In the same way Kieślowski at best could only approximate that inarticulate felt experience, we can only approximate how people will react to and use our designs. Because of our education and experience we can make a pretty damn good guess, but a guess is the best we can hope for.
Technology is a means by which we can create prosthetics for our bodies and minds. We can remember things better, communicate over greater distances, and access information more readily than ever before in human history. But in the same way a prosthetic arm can’t communicate a sense of touch, our technology only can increase our abilities so much.
The best we can hope for is an approximation: there are a million to-do list mobile apps, but I still manage to forget to post on this blog; I can FaceTime with Hillary in Philadelphia, but it can never compare to sitting across a dinner table from her; I can look up Nelson Mandela’s birthday with Wikipedia in an instance, but the same article could also describe Mr. Mandela as the spawn of Cthulhu. I think this relates heavily to several of Dennis’ posts from earlier in the semester regarding the danger/necessity of normative thinking in design practice.
We build prosthetics, supplements, substitutes, extensions…but nothing more. But my question is: Why not? Why can’t we do better than that? Is it a human shortcoming? Is our technology not “advanced” enough?
The philosophical version of that question could be this: If we could easily manipulate the very fabric of our reality, would we then be able to design the ‘perfect’ prosthesis? What do you think?
I’m writing this blog post after reading the in-depth discussion of the 5 claims that Jeff makes about the role of art and criticism in human knowledge production. My thoughts are derived from claim numbers 1, 4, and 5; in essence, my thoughts are centered around art and my general perception of it. When I came into this class, in truth, I didn’t think that art was something I respected. I have seen people do the most outrageous things that I consider deplorable, but yet they call it ‘art’. Art to me at first isn’t a form of expression, it’s giving a person an excuse to just do something out of the ordinary, give a deep meaning, and have everyone agree with you and call it ‘art’. Perhaps seeing some of these people bastardize the actual practice made my outlook of the artistic ways become negative, but for whatever the reason, art isn’t something I felt that needed to be in the world.
Not just after reading this section, but reading Danto, Carroll and other readings that dealt with art, I reflected on how I saw art in the past versus how I feel about it now. Not just as a designer, but as a human being. I don’t know if this is Jeff’s evil scheme to change my outlook on life and have an artistic reflection as a designer; but now I see pretty much everything around me through an artistic view. I hate to admit it, but when I now critique things, I do so in an artistic manner–or maybe it’s because I’ve always done so, but I’m just now realizing it. This blog that I’m posting is a way of realizing how important art is to a designer. I’ve never really seen anything that I have designed in the past as works of art. I felt that design in general is something that we do as a way to meet the needs and desires of a user. Art to me is expressing the needs and the desires of the artist themselves versus others. I’ve never really thought that art can be used to express for others. Now that I think back to all of my designs and I look at them as an artist, I do see the underlying messages that I unconsciously embedded in them to express a point or a need that must be fulfilled.
Well, congrats Jeff! Your class poisoned me to have a better view of art! I hope you’re proud of yourself. Now I got to get back to reading this paper before class.