Chrome & Flesh

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 It’s as if I’ve un-learned how to behave in the physical world, or that this engagement with the immaterial realm has superseded the need to.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.

More at Rhizome.

The Raw and the Concrete

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).

Material Matters

We Make Money Not Art gives an interesting review (and a thumbs up) of the newly released Material Matters.

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.

Buy the book from Black Dog Publishers.

Design Linguistics

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 and Sense Experience

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.

 

Source: Stuff.

Folk Objects vs DIY

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?)

Distorted Body Perceptions

Most people are aware of how a cut on your tongue feels like a gaping wound, whereas you may get a gash on your leg without even feeling it. As Aimee on Mis.Science reports, Matthew R. Longo and Patrick Haggard have also found out that it means we don’t really know where our hands are. They carried out studies where participants attempted to map their hands. The results were consistently out: people thought that their knuckles were higher up and their base of their fingers lower.

The suggestion here is that we may get it wrong because we don’t need to get it right. Dreyfus also comments on this with the observation that people make the shape of a door handle when walking towards it which is more accurate then if they consciously try to make it.

Perception Strategy

There are a series of posts on Forum One investigating perception strategy. The first discusses general framing such as font choice, word selection and ordering of questions. The second relates it to a design context, as well as making a note of Stephen Anderson’s Mental Notes.

Perception Strategy: The Emotional Side of User Experience
Perception Strategy: The Emotional Side of User Experience Part Two

The Politics of Design

The ever-eloquent Paul Rand gave his opinion on many things in his life. Here is one on the politics of design (and through it, his assertion that designers need to feel empowered in the decisions they make, and for businessmen and others to trust them):

The creative arts have always labored under adverse conditions. Subjectivity emotion, and opinion seem to be concomitants of artistic questions. The layman feels insecure and awkward about making design judgments, even though he pretends to make them with a certain measure of know-how. But, like it or not, business conditions compel many to get inextricably involved with problems in which design plays some role.

For the most part, the creation or effects of design, unlike science, are neither measurable nor predictable, nor are the results necessarily repeatable. If there is any assurance, besides faith, a businessman can have, it is in choosing talented, competent, and experienced designers

Paul Rand.

Why Is The Sky Blue?

A brief interlude into vision as well as touch

To what extent is color a physical thing in the physical world, and to what extent is it created in our minds? We start with Sir Isaac Newton, who was so eager to solve this very mystery, he stuck a knife in his eye to pinpoint the answer. Then, we meet a sea creature that sees a rainbow way beyond anything humans can experience, and we track down a woman who we’re pretty sure can see thousands (maybe even millions) more colors than the rest of us. And we end with an age-old question, that, it turns out, never even occurred to most humans until very recently: why is the sky blue?

Via Radiolab.