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For my pre-writeup, I am looking for sources and topic opinions around aesthetics and damaged products. Here is gist. 

There is something I’ve noticed with people, but I don’t know how to….bottle it up. I have a plug-in microphone I use for recording podcasts and in-field interviews for my iPhone. Punchy (Emma’s French Bulldog) chewed it up a bit, and it looks really bad. It works fine, and I am still using it, but three people have told me to get a new one. I have also had some say that they wouldn’t even pick it up as it looks a certain way – junky. But I don’t mind it at all, just wear and tear. At first I was bothered by it, but then mentally decided it’s just material that has been shaped different, it’s still “the product”.

I wrote down three thoughts before collecting materials as possible areas – ideas to explore when searching for information. I would like to get anyone’s opinion or suggestions on materials. If someone has a better way to state what I am after please mention anything…there is something with aesthetics and people’s perception there. 

_______

Aesthetics of Damaged Products and its relationship between owner and observer. Wear and tear on products in first-world countries and the importance of aesthetics.

The idea of removing perfection – perfect aesthetics for added value; a sense of uniqueness from mass produce objects.

Prolonging the use of objects and changing people’s perception of relevance by designing imperfections into a design’s aesthetics.

 

More to follow as I keep poking around. 

Strangely enough, reading architectural case studies is like a breath of fresh air for me. Some of my earliest memories are of my dad discussing the constraints of a building site – his struggles reconciling the different stakeholders needs, the requirements of the building itself, and his personal desire to effectively balance the built space and the local ecosystem & context.

I’ve always wondered if this is part of why UX design was a natural fit for me. Architects know instinctively that no two buildings will be the same – even if the blueprints are direct copies. Every solution has its own context that imposes its own set of constraints. In Rowe’s first case study, the architect must balance the desires of the client with the reality of the physical properties of the building site. As Rowe says, the architect’s early ideas were, “…dictated in large measure by the size of the program of accommodations and the geometry of the site.”

Throughout the case study, words like “attempt”, “backtracking”, “evaluation”, and “exploration” all make multiple appearances. This reflects one of the ideas we just discussed in class – defining the problem and solving the problem happen simultaneously, with each effort informing the other. Early in a process, Rowe describes the space as “underconstrained and lacking a specific direction.”

I like the word underconstrained – it gives voice to an all too common problem. How do you overcome this obstacle and start developing constraints? Rowe says, “The apparent deadlock was addressed by systematically evaluating different aspects of the scheme….” The designer knew he didn’t have enough information to advance the process, so he or she went back to the beginning. In essence, a designer must engage in a dialogue with a problem and its constraints.

It is in the dialogue between problem framing and problem solution I think most of the excitement of design occurs. Through this dialogue, a fuller picture of a problem’s constraints is elucidated; thus, a fuller understanding of a problem’s solution is also achieved.

It seems that there are some strong similarities that can be found between UX and architectural design. However, I can’t help but think of Jeff’s challenge at the end of today’s class – to problematize the notion of “The Designer.” Architecture is probably more guilty than most design fields of encouraging the view of the designer as a lone genius. Perhaps HCI is ill-advised to look to architecture for reference and inspiration as we may be more likely to fall into similar patterns of thought and practice.

When I first read the title and how the movie came about, I immediately thought that it must be just like Kung Pow: Enter the Fist.  It definitely caused me to roll my eyes initially.  After all, how could a movie essentially made on a whim have any real acclaim or substance?  I was definitely very wrong.  This paper on the movie legitimately made me want to go and watch the movie.  The critique was just dripping with juiciness and left me a little lost, honestly.  It was enthralling, but I really had no context to go off of without having seen the movie.  I think the confusion also came from the fact that this movie has a lot of overlapping features: people named the same, story lines that overlap, and just my general unfamiliarity with the names/characters.

One quote that really stuck out to me (related to this) as interesting about the film was the following assessment by the author:

“It is possible to see this frequent doubling of women as a misogynistic flattening, suggesting that all women are ultimately interchangeable, but since it’s true of the men in Chungking Express as well, something else seems to be going on, something about the fluidity of individual identity.”

From the reading (and having not seen the movie), it seemed that this was the pervading theme throughout the entire movie.  I think this speaks incredibly highly of the director.  The circumstances under the production of this movie seem really thrown together, but the execution and the details that the director put into the film seem to be so deliberate and precise.  I think it’s part of what is drawing me to the movie.  The fact that there are so many instances of crossing over and dual plot/stories seems fascinating.  It also seems like it could get very tedious, but since I have already read this critique, I think I would know what to expect ahead of time (at least a little bit).

One other thing that I am curious about, that seemed to me to be a parallel with another movie we previewed was the fact that there is mention constantly throughout the critique of innovative uses of images and sound.  I immediately thought of a parallel or something similar to Run Lola Run.  For those who may have seen it (I am guessing perhaps only Jeff?) is this the case?  That was one of the things (among MANY) that drew me into Run Lola Run.  The soundtrack and interesting visual elements in the movie kept me hooked the whole movie.  This may be partly due to my affinity with the techno/trance/euro genre music, but take that as you will…

In class on Thursday I was getting caught up on the word “Identity” and I’d like to use this post to discuss different meanings of identity.

Jeff wrote “Difference vs Identity” on the board refering to structuralism and phenomenology* where difference stood for the idea that nothing has meaning in itself but rather only has meaning when it is in a network and creates oppositions where was Identity was the idea that someone or something had inherent properties, it has an essence, and this was not dependent on context.

So how does this idea of Identity as essentialism relate back to the idea of ones personal identity? For me, the two are very interrelated. Identity in the essentialism way states that I have some sort of Katie-ness which is intact even when my context changes. However, I think that my Katie-ness is constructed based on my past experiences. It is what we experience in life that shapes our lifeworld. If my lifeworld changes do I still have the same essences as Katie? How do these two relate to each other?

In class, Jeff seemed to have a fairly strong stand on this, although we didn’t really get into his thoughts on it. I’m curious what others in the class thought about this. Can we separate who we are from our lifeworld and experiences? How do they related to each other? Do they relate to each other? What exactly is the difference between Identity and Identity?


* Can Phenomenology and Hermeneutics be used interchangeably? I’ve been using them interchangeably but I’m not sure if there is some subtle difference between the two that I missed…

The class challenge: Is there some object that is so foreign that we cannot find a “way in”? Is there ever a place where we don’t have horizons?

Conclusion on 10/28/10: It is impossible to have no horizons; we always have some relation to something; our horizons help us interpret an object; there is always a way in to something

Imagine this is true … that within your head is “some bit of knowledge” that can help you relate to some object, no matter how strange or foreign that object appears.

So here’s the visual culture object I’d like you to relate to: a film clip from The Lost Weekend. I have heard some recovering alcoholics say that this is a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be an alcoholic; this is an example of an alcoholic’s alcoholic.

But, and here is where it gets interesting to me: I have heard some Alcohol & Drug counselors argue that you can’t counsel or help an alcoholic unless you’ve been one … so they would disagree with Gadamer; they would say there is no way in to the life-world of an alcoholic unless you’ve been one and been through it. Watching a film, reading a book, observing, talking with an alcoholic, won’t work — to understand an alcoholic’s life-world you must have lived it.

So, I’m wondering, is it possible for a non-alcoholic to find a way in to the world of an alcoholic? What might a non-alcoholic say to convince an Alcohol & Drug counselor that they could understand the life-world of an alcoholic?

I’m not sure if what I’m asking and wondering is related to Gadamer exactly, but I do know that there are many films and objects that attempt to give viewers a glimpse into the life-worlds of others. I guess I’m still not convinced that there is always a way in to everything.

Here’s the film clip:

Clive Bell says

To “appreciate a work of art we need bring with us nothing from life, no knowledge of its ideas and affairs, no familiarity with its emotions” (Barnard,p. 171)

I find it strange that the above is considered to be a weakness. To see something with no attachments or associations, to look at an object as if one had never seen it before seems instead to be a strength. If one looks upon an object and sees (not the object) but the associations that the object brings to one’s consciousness, then are all objects perceived nothing more than the summation of the individual’s associations and attachments?

And what about the object itself? If you put too much attention towards associations and attachments, then some type of reality or quality inherent to the object might be ignored or forgotten.

It seems better to look and detach from one’s mind every association, good, bad, and neutral. So that one can see the object as if they have never seen it before.

I now feel a lot better about “this stuff” after reading Jeff’s article. I feel like it helped explain a lot better what this class is supposed to be about (I’m looking at you Nina).

So now, after reading this, I’m thinking to myself… why the hell is criticism NOT presented like this and here at IU? Yes, we talk about critique and how good/useful/blah blah etc it is, but we don’t go anywhere near this kind of heavy thought process about criticism, art, understanding, and so on. It seems that interaction criticism is … well more than a tool at our disposal.

If the HCI community really started to engage in criticism, can we see a major shift within HCI? From reading this paper it certainly sounds that way. It just sounds way too important to not create some sort of black whole in the universe. I’m really curious as to how much influence it’s going to have in the future and what direction (if any) it leads or has an impact on HCI.

I have a question about “society” and how it plays a role in visual culture and understanding. In class Jeff gave an example that if he were in class wearing leather pants that we would all laugh because of how not “normal” it would be for him to wear leather pants while teaching. Granted, I think that it would have been normal (as probably a lot of you) considering how we know Jeff. But! Society would have said, “No that is not normal.”

What is the role of society in all this? We have talked and read a lot about the individual, but I’m curious about the community as a whole and would it be possible for a group of individuals to jointly decide on what is or is not art and the effects that might have on understanding. In class we talked about how hermeneutics emphasizes on the individual and his/her activity (i think?) and that structuralism is that an understanding is an effect that is caused, but from class seemed also focused on the individual…. what about community, society, groups of people, etc?

I feel more confused now than I was before writing all of this down so I will add more questions..

Society and time seem to play some sort of role here. We are born and raised within society and therefore there are “societal norms” that are around us and in our environment. If understanding is based on interpretation, configuration of thoughts and feelings, and the other two meanings, then can our “understanding” actually be genuine or has it been “brainwashed” by how we are raised? How much of our own thoughts and interpretation can we really call “ours”? Therefore, can we actually have an understanding based on our own free will or is our understanding “given” to us based on how we were brought up?

Rather, how much of our interpretation is influenced by society and is that a bad thing? (I think it is.)

So we were introduced to the concept of what the power of a critic can wield over others. The critic, as I have interpreted through our class discussion today, has the job of modelling how something should be read, and then providiing his/her expertise on the subject. This was all fine and dandy for me, until there was a comment in class today that the critic usurps the role of the author of the author, insomuch as to say this how a person who is not in this authoritative role should view an interaction.

When I heard about this, my mind went immediately to Ben Parker, or Spider-Man fame. One of his famous quotes to Peter was “With great power comes great responsibility”. Of course, the original context was in regards to Peter, but I believe this comes with our job as soon-to-be experts in Interaction Design. Since we have the power to critically interpret what we interact with, I believe we are ethically bound to giving our true critique of what we see, rather than a skewed approach meant to satisfy or placate certain interests (which may be our boss or a client). From this comment, I also believe that this power of critique shouldn’t be used for any selfish ends, either (e.g. using it to assert your intellectual authority over others, or using our power to keep some information away from someone).

Sometimes, when I am reading some of the readings from the past year, I have gotten the impression that some of the authors are using this power in their writing to try to assert the fact they are smarter than the reader. This, to me, is a grave misuse of our power in interaction design. If we are supposed to help advance the knowledge of our field and the human condition, I don’t see how this can help add to the discussion of the HCI community at large. Hopefully, we can get to talk about this further either here, or in class, as I feel it is part of the “tacit” knowledge of our field that isn’t being passed on completely. It just seems right to me, but I hope for all of us that we use our power with respect and responsibility.

Of course, I come from a strongly-based religious background (I am Catholic), which is where this opinion is grounded from, and why this comment in class has struck a dissonant chord with me.

Dec 17, 2008 2:30 pm  (as on Oncourse)

OR

Dec 18th, 2008 2:30 pm (as told by Jeff in the class)

I am confused .. along with a few others…