Morgan Spurlock has released a documentary on modern day artisans called Crafted. The trailer is freely available:
Jason Kottke discusses this briefly but insightfully, noting that craft means away from the assembly line rather than just in a studio, and empathising with the concept of risk – should something happen to a craftsperson’s hands, they’re in a lot of trouble career wise.
The New York Times has recently featured an article researching amateur online reviews. Not only can the structure of a review tell you if it’s fake or not (hint: too many “I”s and lack of key information such as the size of a hotel room) but also a lot about the person (about 25% of reviews—real ones, that is—show off something of the author’s expertise. And there’s a growing body of reviews-as-literature. Though I’m amazed that the famed Tuscan Whole Milk and Three Wolf Moon shirts weren’t mentioned as part of them, I’m heartened that there are Tripadvisor reviews for The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Bazaar Voice have analysed over 15,000 reviews of wine on their site and provided some information as to what their readers describe as good and bad wine.
Generally, words such as “smooth” were used to describe good wines, with others such as “tart” describing less favourable ones (classified as 4 or less by the site, so these aren’t necessarily terrible wines).
Good wine tastes
Bad wine tastes
For anyone who’s attempting to do qualitative text research, it’s a time consuming and often costly business. However, the etcML site (short for Easy Text Classification with Machine Learning) is aiming to change this.
Made by Stanford researchers, it’s attempting to make text analysis more freely available.
Read more about it at the Stanford site.
When I first came across Malcolm McCullough’s book ‘Digital Craft’ in 2005, I was put out that I didn’t have access to the various videos mentioned.
Now, two of the key ones are available online:
Winkler’s In Praise of Hands (174) is mentioned as an early example as paying attention to the skill of craft
In Praise of Hands by Donald Winkler, National Film Board of Canada
Waliczky’s In The Garden (1991) is nicely summed up by Anna Szepesi (1995):
In 1991 Waliczky wrote the script for THE GARDEN, an animation based on an idea which came from an old piece of Super-8 film, made over ten years before, showing a little girl playing in a country garden. The artist’s aim was to portray the alertness and curiosity of a small child investigating its surroundings, and to evoke the particular sense of affection that children often inspire in us. To illustrate these lines of force, Waliczky devised a new type of perspective, the “waterdrop-perspective-system”. The conventional notion of perspective, dating from the Renaissance, privileges the viewer as the person for whose benefit the depiction of the world unfolds and whose gaze completes the image; the stability of his or her position is mirrored by the fixed vanishing point. “Waterdrop-perspective” is a quite different principle which structures every object from the vantage point of the child within the space of the image: the objects grow or shrink as the approaches them or moves away. Thus everything in the space becomes visually distorted; the world is seen as a sphere and the child as its centre. In other words, the depicted world is the child’s own private universe; shaped entirely by the child’s movements, it is independent of the viewer who stands outside it and sees the dream of another.
While in my school days playing flute, I remember standing in front of a mirror to ensure my posture was correct: a bad posture was not only tiring but would stop the sound. As least that’s what the books said.
This sense of bodily awareness is being explored by The Poised Guitarist. (The article on Body Map Self Map is pure phenomenology).
Apparently the research is based on the related Virtuoso’s Map Project (VMP), “a research project where successful guitarists of extraordinary ability are video recorded responding to inquiries into their Body Maps and Self Maps”. The videos are available on the site.
HCI researcher Thelca Schiphorst has investigated what she has coined ‘somatic connoisseurship’ in relation to her background as a dancer, so it’s interesting to see this concept developed in the creative fields in general.
A recent NPR article emphasises how language affects our understanding of the world. It reports on research that specifically shows how words can affect how cultures understand locations or even taxonomies: Aborigine children can easily point in an asked global direction such as south or north-east thanks to their language using that rather than left or right, while Russians distinguish between their language equivalent of cups and glasses based on material rather than shape.
None of this research is particularly new: I remember reading ethnographic accounts several years ago about such considerations (one that stuck in my mind was how some Aboriginal children could happily read a newspaper or writing from any angle, even peering at the text upside down as another read it).
On a similar theme, another article highlighted research into where exactly emotions were felt in the body.
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”.
I’m charmed that two people have got together and created not only a website but a podcast devoted to pens. Pen Addict is about to release their 50th podcast and has great reviews on iTunes.