McLuhan said “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us”. This has never been truer than in the case of stone age man. New Scientist suggests that stone tools helped shape human hands. The article actually suggests a more expected story of natural selection (namely the humans able to use the available stones survived), but it’s still an interesting reminder of how man is really a “tool-making animal”.
One of Nietzsche’s friends, a composer, noticed a change in the style of his writing. His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic. “Perhaps you will through this instrument even take to a new idiom,” the friend wrote in a letter, noting that, in his own work, his “‘thoughts’ in music and language often depend on the quality of pen and paper.”… “You are right,” Nietzsche replied, “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.” Under the sway of the machine, writes the German media scholar Friedrich A. Kittler , Nietzsche’s prose “changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style” (Carr 2008).
More generally, it points out how physicality can affect writing.
Rhizome interviewed video artist Mark Leckley. He comments on how photography has changed from being a gaze to something from the hands. He also notes both that vision is physical, but our digital objects are changing our sense of physicality:
Say I’ve filmed or made an object and then I’ve put it smack in the middle of the screen. Its really compelling, this object, its got real allure – real presence.Because the object compels me; it’s not me (as a maker), it’s the agency of the object drawing me to it. It causes a physical sensation in my body; this image, this picture, this mere representation, seems to be directly stimulating the material elements in me: all my nerves and fibre. Like I’m responding to a physical encounter. At this point I’m not just contemplating an image, I’ve embraced it and absorbed it into my body. There’s a great British phrase to describe this: ‘clapped eyes on it’ – your eyes are like hands that smack an object.
At the same time, I keep telling this story of when I last tried to sculpt a figure out of clay. I made one half of the head and then it was as if my body, the instinctual part of it, couldn’t grasp why I couldn’t just copy, paste and flip the other half. It’s as if I’ve un-learned how to behave in the physical world, or that this engagement with the immaterial realm has superseded the need to. That’s a scary thought but also an exciting one.
I noticed in some of my research how designers often referred to desirable natural materials as ‘raw’. I similarly see this in some design articles. The latest in relation to this is a coffee machine made from ‘raw’ concrete. There’s an interesting tautology here: concrete is in fact usually raw, unless it has had some process done to it (such as dying or it being sandwiched into other materials).
We Make Money Not Art gives an interesting review (and a thumbs up) of the newly released Material Matters.
There is nothing arid nor soporific about new materials.
The authors of the book handpicked some of the most surprising new materials. Their look sometimes belies their nature, their names often verge on the oxymoron and their applications have only just started to be explored. Most materials are allocated one page in the book but some of them are illustrated further with a spotlight on a ‘case study’ that describes designers, architects and engineers’ most innovative uses of materials….
The text is as techy as necessary to explain clearly the physical properties and latest applications of each innovation but you don’t require a degree in engineering to follow along.
…[The book] doesn’t pretend to be the bible of all materials, the ultimate encyclopedia but it does fulfill competently its ambition to be a source of inspiration for designers and artists.
The most powerful tool in design is language, I’d argue it’s more powerful than drawing. Being able to find the exact vocabulary to define a concept or approach is vital, not only for discussion with your peers but ultimately as part of customer communication. With great power comes great responsibility, and language can also be used to cloak a concept, mislead, misguide or bedazzle through doublespeak, jargon or acronyms.
Nick Foster. More on his site.
Audi is making an effort to retain and accomodate the needs of aging experienced staff, not only because of a skills shortage but their findings that properly supported older staff are more productive than younger ones.
What’s more, they’re teaming up younger and older staff as a means to pass on the sense knowledge:
Audi has also grouped older workers together with young recruits to aid the transfer of the “implicit knowledge” that is central to many car-making processes, said Dietmar Frassek, an Audi project manager for human resources policy. In Audi’s tooling department it can take a decade to hone the senses well enough to be able to run a hand over a metal surface and detect minute flaws.
A well thought through Idiom Magazine review of Vladimir Arkhipov’s Home-Made Europe: Contemporary Folk Artifacts makes an important distinction between many of the object, namely that a home made basketball hoop from Germany is not the same as a ladle made in Ukraine. This is because of the abundance or scarcity of materials, objects from Western Europe.
… are compelling, no doubt, but they also lack that ingenious brutality born from necessity that most of the Russian objects seem to possess.
I’ve sometimes reflected on this in regards to New Zealand and even Pacific inventions. It is perhaps the difference between invention (a creative act) and resourcefulness (a clever means of ‘making do’ with what is available?)