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robertogreco : interpretation   30

How to Learn Stuff | vextro
"My understanding of a workable, comprehensive goal for education, is something that meets and facilities the needs of students. This has to go beyond surmised vocational preparation. Needs is a semantic to soften the core of education: teaching students survival skills. It’s an obvious mistake to treat kids and students like organic computers for information to be punched into. To condescend is to lose their humanity.

What I mean is, how useful will these menus and tables of arranged factoids be under economic collapse? Or maybe our future is positive: how useful will they be under automation? If the signs can be seen it feels imperative that, in whatever way possible, mentors prepare their mentees for times of crisis. And I think the most crucial element of that is reaffirming their value as a person and an individual, by encouraging and thinking through their perspectives as a collaborative effort. Though not to complicate this rhetoric anymore: anti-capitalist education is anti-hierarchical education.

Honestly I felt a vision of what edutainment together was like playing Learn 100 Words: One at a Time! It’s a deceptively simple game, made for a deviously indulgent glorioustrainwreck’s challenge to make a hundred games. So a microgame per word; play goes rapidfire through a collection of microgames, with various styles of play: quizzes, platformers, find-an-object, each based on vocabulary someone (probably) doesn’t know. It’s good natured and very goofy. Some microgames are obviously jokes, but others are very in earnest, and are surprisingly entertaining!

Lean 100 Words is made in Clickteam software (as GT games often are) and I don’t know what version, or what parts come from official asset packs, but I do recognize the buoyant, iconic clipart-esque sprites. Backgrounds are dark, hard gradients, with chunky buttons, reminiscent of web 1.0 or even a Vasily Zotov game. A wall of retro-futuristic, full bodied synth sounds greet on start up. All of the UX has a pleasant shape and exaggerated proportions, which gets me nostalgic for edutainment games of my childhood, and more oddly, the various online classes I’ve taken in my life.

I think it’s the hardest I’ve laughed at a game in a long time too. The game’s tone is just so innocuous from the get. Like the first word (when playing alphabetically instead of randomly) is aal, and I was like, that’s a word? That’s not a word… is this game about made up words? It is a word though, it’s a really technical term that I don’t really understand. But it’s a word! The hint is, “I couldn’t find a textbook definition,” so I slowly scrolled around and eventually clicked on a textbook, and completed the game. Close enough to the real definition? Honestly, sure!

Whether it’s intentional, or a happy accident of trying to do a lot with whatever means, Learn 100 Words is a genuinely hilarious parody of edutainment games. Instrumental to this are voiceovers done by the developer of every word and accompanied hint. They’re off the cuff, not really rehearsed."

"In Learn 100 Words it’s feels fine to hear misspeak, it’s fine for hints to be somewhat mistaken, or trail off, lose their thread, because it still comes back to learning 100 words. The goofs put me at ease, like, I don’t feel self-conscious about the stuff I don’t know. This is a big contrast to the real methodical approach for a standard edutainment game, games that fuss over whether its textbook blocks are working. No matter how vibrant a game like that manages to be, it’s still cut up by a very rigid, very institution-minded push for absolute legibility. A vague, palpable desperation could be felt over their needy hope that this information is getting through to my swiss cheese brain. In other words, capitalist about its use, and condescending.

Further, Learn 100 Words doesn’t shy from expressing poetic game design, like the former microgame for abaton. Maybe the most successful “mnemonics” are associations formed by emotional impact. Getting someone to care is an obvious step to engagement, but there’s a tendency to overthink, overpolish what generates care. There’s something about candidly, simply, presenting ideas, with personality. Concepts are expressive vehicles and are sometimes better expressed by individualistic interpretations.

I don’t think the process to genuine retention, learning, growing, can be calculated. In my lifetime effective education came from mentors who felt invested in my development and were willing to learn with me. I don’t think there’s a combination of software or even other programs that will magically work. Curriculum, which edutainment is, should be about creating environments that can facilitate positive relationships, that can generate a mutual investment in growth.

The coldness of profit extraction will tinge and undermine self-determination. I remember most of the silly, complicated words I learned from playing Learn 100 Words, while I’ve absolutely struggled through other language software (some from my youth, some from the now). My point isn’t that games need to “learn” from this and try to imitate a casual friendliness, it’s that compassion is done, not imitated."
via:tealtan  games  videogames  seriousgames  gaming  play  edutainment  2017  leeroylewin  sfsh  howwelearn  education  capitalism  self-determination  tcsnmy  compassion  relationships  mentorship  howweteach  curriculum  growth  environment  interpretation  engagement  emotion  learning  humanity  automation  hierarchy  horizontality  microgames 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Notes + Links / Casey A. Gollan — At once something like scales fell from the eyes....
"At once something like scales fell from the eyes. All at once something like scales fell from the eyes. Immediately something like scales fell from the eyes. Immediately something like fish scales fell from the eyes. And immediately something like scales fell from the eyes. And immediately some things that were like scales fell from the eyes. And immediately there fell from the eyes as it had been scales. And immediately there fell from the eyes as it were scales. And immediately there fell from the eyes as it had been scales. And immediately there fell from the eyes something like scales. And straightway there fell from the eyes as it were scales. Instantly something like scales fell from the eyes. Instantly there dropped from the eyes what seemed to be scales."
translation  interpretation  bible 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Against a "Life Hack" Approach to Art Education | Claudia Ruitenberg -
"This paper critiques de Botton and Armstrong’s Art as Therapy project (2013-2015), a collaboration with art museums in Canada, the Netherlands, and Australia, in which labels in the gallery, as well a catalogue and website, explain how viewers might use works of art to serve therapeutic purposes in their lives. The paper argues that, instead of making art more accessible to those who, allegedly, do not find access to art on their own, the Art as Therapy project undermines the force and richness of art by first declaring it useless and inaccessible and then repurposing it as therapeutic life hack "

"I commend de Botton and Armstrong for their premise that art is not the exclusive preoccupation of the cultural cognoscenti, but can have a bearing on anyone’s life— as long as we’re willing to let it. I also commend them for highlighting that art is not a purely cerebral affair, that works of art do something to us, and that the emotions are involved in this doing. My main criticisms of their approach are that they predetermine what bearing art can and should have, and that they privilege the therapeutic over the aesthetic value of art.

There is an important difference between a life hack approach in everyday life, where household items are repurposed but also retain their original use-value, and a life-hack approach to art, where the practical utility of “repurposed” works offers redemption for purported uselessness. Life hacks typically repurpose discarded or cheap materials; people don’t turn objects they already value into life hacks. de Botton and Armstrong’s message seems to be that art is useless, but that with the help of their commentaries, these useless works can be turned into something viewers can benefit from.

Whatever else art is and does, it offers an aesthetic experience, which is to say that it intervenes in perception (“aesthetic” is derived from the Greek verb aisthesthai, meaning to perceive, sense). This intervention may have various further effects, including therapeutic ones, but art is not useless if its effects are not therapeutic. Art may make us laugh or cry or leave us indifferent. It may disturb or console us, give us nightmares or fits of giggles. It may do this and a whole host of other things—but it does not inherently need or mean to do any of them. When de Botton and Armstrong cite the “art for art’s sake” credo, they dismiss it as saying that art has no purpose. That, however, is not what the credo says. That art is done for the sake of art suggests that art has no purpose other than to be art —and the latter is quite a bit of purpose."
2016  claudiaruitenberg  alaindebotton  johnarmostring  arttherapy  lifehacks  accessibility  artastherapy  inaccessibility  museumeducation  education  aestheticexperience  experience  interpretation  interpretativefreedom  pedagogy  pedagogicalintervention  intervention  freedom  aesthetics  carelpeeters  uselessness  purpose 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Against Interpretation
[before quoting the entirety, quoting one line:

"What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more."]

"“Content is a glimpse of something, an encounter like a flash. It’s very tiny - very tiny, content.”
- Willem De Kooning, in an interview

“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”
- Oscar Wilde, in a letter


The earliest experience of art must have been that it was incantatory, magical; art was an instrument of ritual. (Cf. the paintings in the caves at Lascaux, Altamira, Niaux, La Pasiega, etc.) The earliest theory of art, that of the Greek philosophers, proposed that art was mimesis, imitation of reality.

It is at this point that the peculiar question of the value of art arose. For the mimetic theory, by its very terms, challenges art to justify itself.

Plato, who proposed the theory, seems to have done so in order to rule that the value of art is dubious. Since he considered ordinary material things as themselves mimetic objects, imitations of transcendent forms or structures, even the best painting of a bed would be only an “imitation of an imitation.” For Plato, art is neither particularly useful (the painting of a bed is no good to sleep on), nor, in the strict sense, true. And Aristotle’s arguments in defense of art do not really challenge Plato’s view that all art is an elaborate trompe l’oeil, and therefore a lie. But he does dispute Plato’s idea that art is useless. Lie or no, art has a certain value according to Aristotle because it is a form of therapy. Art is useful, after all, Aristotle counters, medicinally useful in that it arouses and purges dangerous emotions.

In Plato and Aristotle, the mimetic theory of art goes hand in hand with the assumption that art is always figurative. But advocates of the mimetic theory need not close their eyes to decorative and abstract art. The fallacy that art is necessarily a “realism” can be modified or scrapped without ever moving outside the problems delimited by the mimetic theory.

The fact is, all Western consciousness of and reflection upon art have remained within the confines staked out by the Greek theory of art as mimesis or representation. It is through this theory that art as such - above and beyond given works of art - becomes problematic, in need of defense. And it is the defense of art which gives birth to the odd vision by which something we have learned to call “form” is separated off from something we have learned to call “content,” and to the well-intentioned move which makes content essential and form accessory.

Even in modern times, when most artists and critics have discarded the theory of art as representation of an outer reality in favor of the theory of art as subjective expression, the main feature of the mimetic theory persists. Whether we conceive of the work of art on the model of a picture (art as a picture of reality) or on the model of a statement (art as the statement of the artist), content still comes first. The content may have changed. It may now be less figurative, less lucidly realistic. But it is still assumed that a work of art is its content. Or, as it’s usually put today, that a work of art by definition says something. (“What X is saying is . . . ,” “What X is trying to say is . . .,” “What X said is . . .” etc., etc.)


None of us can ever retrieve that innocence before all theory when art knew no need to justify itself, when one did not ask of a work of art what it said because one knew (or thought one knew) what it did. From now to the end of consciousness, we are stuck with the task of defending art. We can only quarrel with one or another means of defense. Indeed, we have an obligation to overthrow any means of defending and justifying art which becomes particularly obtuse or onerous or insensitive to contemporary needs and practice.

This is the case, today, with the very idea of content itself. Whatever it may have been in the past, the idea of content is today mainly a hindrance, a nuisance, a subtle or not so subtle philistinism.

Though the actual developments in many arts may seem to be leading us away from the idea that a work of art is primarily its content, the idea still exerts an extraordinary hegemony. I want to suggest that this is because the idea is now perpetuated in the guise of a certain way of encountering works of art thoroughly ingrained among most people who take any of the arts seriously. What the overemphasis on the idea of content entails is the perennial, never consummated project of interpretation. And, conversely, it is the habit of approaching works of art in order to interpret them that sustains the fancy that there really is such a thing as the content of a work of art.


Of course, I don’t mean interpretation in the broadest sense, the sense in which Nietzsche (rightly) says, “There are no facts, only interpretations.” By interpretation, I mean here a conscious act of the mind which illustrates a certain code, certain “rules” of interpretation.

Directed to art, interpretation means plucking a set of elements (the X, the Y, the Z, and so forth) from the whole work. The task of interpretation is virtually one of translation. The interpreter says, Look, don’t you see that X is really - or, really means - A? That Y is really B? That Z is really C?

What situation could prompt this curious project for transforming a text? History gives us the materials for an answer. Interpretation first appears in the culture of late classical antiquity, when the power and credibility of myth had been broken by the “realistic” view of the world introduced by scientific enlightenment. Once the question that haunts post-mythic consciousness - that of the seemliness of religious symbols - had been asked, the ancient texts were, in their pristine form, no longer acceptable. Then interpretation was summoned, to reconcile the ancient texts to “modern” demands. Thus, the Stoics, to accord with their view that the gods had to be moral, allegorized away the rude features of Zeus and his boisterous clan in Homer’s epics. What Homer really designated by the adultery of Zeus with Leto, they explained, was the union between power and wisdom. In the same vein, Philo of Alexandria interpreted the literal historical narratives of the Hebrew Bible as spiritual paradigms. The story of the exodus from Egypt, the wandering in the desert for forty years, and the entry into the promised land, said Philo, was really an allegory of the individual soul’s emancipation, tribulations, and final deliverance. Interpretation thus presupposes a discrepancy between the clear meaning of the text and the demands of (later) readers. It seeks to resolve that discrepancy. The situation is that for some reason a text has become unacceptable; yet it cannot be discarded. Interpretation is a radical strategy for conserving an old text, which is thought too precious to repudiate, by revamping it. The interpreter, without actually erasing or rewriting the text, is altering it. But he can’t admit to doing this. He claims to be only making it intelligible, by disclosing its true meaning. However far the interpreters alter the text (another notorious example is the Rabbinic and Christian “spiritual” interpretations of the clearly erotic Song of Songs), they must claim to be reading off a sense that is already there.

Interpretation in our own time, however, is even more complex. For the contemporary zeal for the project of interpretation is often prompted not by piety toward the troublesome text (which may conceal an aggression), but by an open aggressiveness, an overt contempt for appearances. The old style of interpretation was insistent, but respectful; it erected another meaning on top of the literal one. The modern style of interpretation excavates, and as it excavates, destroys; it digs “behind” the text, to find a sub-text which is the true one. The most celebrated and influential modern doctrines, those of Marx and Freud, actually amount to elaborate systems of hermeneutics, aggressive and impious theories of interpretation. All observable phenomena are bracketed, in Freud’s phrase, as manifest content. This manifest content must be probed and pushed aside to find the true meaning - the latent content - beneath. For Marx, social events like revolutions and wars; for Freud, the events of individual lives (like neurotic symptoms and slips of the tongue) as well as texts (like a dream or a work of art) - all are treated as occasions for interpretation. According to Marx and Freud, these events only seem to be intelligible. Actually, they have no meaning without interpretation. To understand is to interpret. And to interpret is to restate the phenomenon, in effect to find an equivalent for it.

Thus, interpretation is not (as most people assume) an absolute value, a gesture of mind situated in some timeless realm of capabilities. Interpretation must itself be evaluated, within a historical view of human consciousness. In some cultural contexts, interpretation is a liberating act. It is a means of revising, of transvaluing, of escaping the dead past. In other cultural contexts, it is reactionary, impertinent, cowardly, stifling.


Today is such a time, when the project of interpretation is largely reactionary, stifling. Like the fumes of the automobile and of heavy industry which befoul the urban atmosphere, the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities. In a culture whose already classical dilemma is the hypertrophy of the intellect at the expense of energy and sensual capability, interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art.

Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world - in order to set up a shadow world of “meanings.” It is to turn … [more]
art  interpretation  philosophy  theory  essays  susansontag  plato  artistotle  film  representation  innocence  nietzsche  proust  kafka  tennesseewilliams  jean-lucgodard  rolandbarthes  erwinpanofsky  northropfrye  walterbenjamin  yasujirōozu  robertbresson  culture  thought  senses  oscarwilde  willemdekooning  content  appearances  aesthetics  invisibile  myth  antiquity  karlmarx  freud  jamesjoyce  rainermariarilke  andrégide  dhlawrence  jeancocteau  alainresnais  alainrobbe-grillet  ingmarbergman  ezrapund  tseliot  dgriffith  françoistruffaut  michelangeloantonioni  ermannoolmi  criticism  pierrefrancastel  mannyfarber  dorothyvanghent  rndalljarrell  waltwhitman  williamfaulkner 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Vale Umberto Eco | Overland literary journal
"I still consider it his main contribution to our culture: that of demystifying and modernising the role of the intellectual; of making it more accessible, more contemporary, more relevant. He wasn’t a radical like, say, Pier Paolo Pasolini or Michel Foucault, and never viewed himself as part of a struggle, be it political or existential. He never operated outside of the establishment, either, embracing rather a role of international academic superstar that saw him bouncing for two decades between Italy and the United States. Yet he also helped create lasting institutions, like the modern field of semiotics and the university faculty known as DAMS, in Bologna, where one could survey new phenomena such as mass communications and culture through very old means, reaching as far back as the scholastic philosophy of his beloved Thomas Aquinas, and from there further back to Aristotle. At the time when I went to university, in 1990, this was still an almost singular exception in an academia that clung for dear life to its pre-war methods, structures and concerns.

Then, at the age of forty-eight, Eco became a novelist. Later he revealed that he had come to hate The Name of the Rose, which he regarded as his worst work of fiction but, with all due respect, it’s a silly assessment. That first novel, his best, reflects his approach to intellectual work in that it’s a superficially difficult book, delving at length into obscure theological and philosophical questions, that manages nonetheless to be highly enjoyable and readable. Its themes are the same themes that preoccupied him at the time, chiefly the problem of interpretation. I think we are beyond spoiling the plot, but in the simplest of terms, in The Name of the Rose an occasional murderer becomes a serial one in order to fulfil the plot that the detective has come up with in order to explain the original killings: therefore his subsequent murders are effectively inspired by the fervid imagination of the detective. Like his semiotic work Lector in fabula, which he had just finished writing, The Name of the Rose is about the role of the reader in making sense of a text, only in a literal and essentially comic fashion. As Eco explains in the postscript to the second edition, he had been fascinated by an attempt by the French writers of Oulipo to produce a matrix of all possible murder stories, whose conclusion was that they had all been written save perhaps for one in which the murderer was the reader. That was the paradox, or joke, at the root of it all.

Another way of summarising the plot of The Name of the Rose would be that a deranged monk becomes a killer in order to prevent the recovery of the lost last book of Aristotle’s Poetics, the one on comedy. Therefore the novel is another dramatisation of the struggle between apocalyptic and integrated intellectuals, between deadly seriousness and life-giving irony. Foucault’s Pendulum picks up on the same themes, but with a little more of an edge. The fanatic conspiracists at its centre bear a striking resemblance to contemporary flat earthers and 9/11 truthers, and as a result the book still reads very well: Eco’s concern with textual interpretation, if anything, has become more relevant and more political now that everyone writes as well as reading.

I suggested recently in an Overland article that we are all Umberto Eco now, by which I meant that the internet gives everyone an opportunity to be a published – therefore public – intellectual, such as was afforded to Eco for a mainstream national audience only at the height of his career. The inverse of this observation is that Umberto Eco was Umberto Eco first. That is to say, he exhibited the kind of encyclopaedic intellectual interest that is almost a default, standard setting of the current reader/writer, covering the most disparate of topics like a one-man Twitter or Facebook timeline.

This may be why, in spite of neither being a great admirer of his fiction nor a follower of his semiotic theories, over the years I have found myself drawn to Eco time and again. I think it was his voraciousness, that medieval appetite for universal knowledge that is nonetheless truly modern, his prodigious curiosity, and the obvious enjoyment he derived from intellectual work and was able to transmit to the reader. Of some of his work, in the fold of that vast output, I am truly fond. Like his heroic translation into Italian of Raymond Queneau’s devilish Exercices de style (a one-page narrative about a chance encounter on the bus is re-told in ninety-nine different styles); his introduction to the work of one of my favourite writers, Achille Campanile; his recent, inexhaustible book on the passion for lists in Western thought; and above all so many of his columns, too many to count.

There will be many obituaries, and I’d like to conclude this one with a nod to the one he wrote for the great illustrator, designer and author Bruno Manari, with whom he had long worked at Bompiani on technical and other non-fiction work. In this brief piece for a magazine after Munari’s death, in 1998, Eco recalled his friend’s great talent for sketching complex book layouts with a few strokes of the pencil, equal only to his ability to argue and immediately show that any alternative suggestions would simply not work on the page. It was a little lesson on the craft of publishing that obviously stayed with him: he remembered it four decades later, and it has stayed with me for two decades more. Deep thinking about book design is a form of deep thinking about culture, which is also ultimately the sum of all of our crafts. Eco was above all this: a devoted and joyous practitioner of the art of being interested in things."
umbertoeco  giovannitiso  interestedness  2016  obituaries  publishing  bookdesign  books  culture  brunomunari  semiotics  interpretation  intellectuals  thomasaquinas  pierpaolopasolini  michelfoucault  readwriteweb  publicintellectuals  twitter  facebook  socialmedia  web  online  internet  foucault  interested 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Redrawing the map | Boston Society of Architects
"Given the proliferation of GPS devices and interactive mapping online, it’s easy to declare the traditional map obsolete. Intuitive turn-by-turn directions have replaced road atlases, Google has upgraded the static map with everything from real-time traffic to restaurant reviews, and Wikipedia has taken the place of the hefty geography textbook. Is there any hope for a cartophile? Will the stand-alone map, lovingly produced and custom designed, be only a niche product for rich collectors and Luddites?

Framing the question that way is misleading because it conflates two separate changes in recent geographic knowledge. One is the shift from paper to the screen. And yes, even though wall maps still have an important size advantage, it is, indeed, difficult to see much future for the traditional coffee table atlas, road map, or topographic quad. But the other shift is much more important, and here the digital realm offers a huge advantage.

The proliferation of new spatial tools — everything from the GPS and GIS (Geographic Information System) to the easy availability of statistical and environmental data sets — is making certain kinds of mapping more relevant and ubiquitous than ever. We are not facing the decline of maps, but a shift from maps as repositories of geographic fact to maps as interpretive, argumentative, and unapologetically partial. Cartographic authorship has changed dramatically as well, since scholarship, design, and craft are now increasingly mingled. Mapping is no longer a specialist pursuit anxious about its scientific credentials; it is instead a powerful form of everyday communication. Whether these new maps appear on paper or online is largely irrelevant."
cartography  data  mapping  maps  2015  via:shannon_mattern  gps  gis  interpretation  partiality  williamrankin 
july 2015 by robertogreco
On seams and edges - dreams of aggregation, access and discovery in a broken world | ALIA
"Visions of technological utopia often portray an increasingly 'seamless' world, where technology integrates experience across space and time. Edges are blurred as we move easily between devices and contexts, between the digital and the physical.

But Mark Weiser, one of the pioneers of ubiquitous computing, questioned the idea of seamlessness, arguing instead for 'beautiful seams' -- exposed edges that encouraged questions and the exploration of connections and meanings.

With discovery services and software vendors still promoting 'seamless discovery' as one of their major selling points, it seems the value of seams and edges requires further discussion. As we imagine the future of a service such as Trove, how do we balance the benefits of consistency, coordination and centralisation against the reality of a fragmented, unequal, and fundamentally broken world.

This paper will examine the rhetoric of 'seamlessness' in the world of discovery services, focusing in particular on the possibilities and problems facing Trove. By analysing both the literature around discovery, and the data about user behaviours currently available through Trove, I intend to expose the edges of meaning-making and explore the role of technology in both inhibiting and enriching experience.

How does our dream of comprehensiveness mask the biases in our collections? How do new tools for visualisation reinforce the invisibility of the missing and excluded? How do the assumptions of 'access' direct attention away from practical barriers to participation?

How does the very idea of systems and services, of complex and powerful 'machines' ready to do our bidding, discourage us from seeing the many, fragile acts of collaboration, connection, interpretation, and repair that hold these systems together?

Trove is an aggregator and a community. A collection of metadata and a platform for engagement. But as we imagine its future, how do avoid the rhetoric of technological power, and expose its seams and edges to scrutiny."
seams  edges  interactiondesign  collections  archives  mrkweiser  timsherratt  seamlessness  connections  meanings  meaningmaking  discovery  trove  fragmentation  centralization  technology  systemsthinking  collaboration  interpretation  repair  repairing 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Opinion: Alexandra Lange on how architects should use social media
"It’s easy to make fun of Bjarke Ingels on Instagram. Selfie, LEGO selfie, girlfriend (I hope), Gaga, monograph, fog, fox socks. His Instagram has a lot to do with the architecture of self-promotion, but little to do with actual building. The same goes for many architects' Twitter feeds: lecture, lecture, award, positive review, lecture. You could say that's just business today. But social media can do more for architecture than showcase pretty faces and soundbites. Architects need to start thinking of social media as the first draft of history.

There's an unofficial rule of thumb that you should only tweet about yourself 30 percent of the time. That's a rule many architects break over and over again. They treat Twitter and Instagram as extensions of their marketing strategy, another way to let people know where their partners are speaking, that their projects are being built, and that the critics like them. Happy happy happy. Busy busy busy. Me me me. In real life, most architects aren't quite as monomaniacal as their feeds. (There are exceptions.) They read reviews written about others. They look at buildings built by others. Heck, they even spend some time not making architecture. That balance, between the high and the low, the specific and the general, the obvious and the obscure makes life, not to mention design, much more interesting.

That unselfish reading, writing, seeing and drawing form part of the larger cloud of association that, one day, critics will use to assess and locate the architecture of today. A more flexible, critical and conversational use of social media could suggest interpretations before the concrete is dry. As an example, consider Philip Johnson, perhaps the most networked architect of his day. Philip Johnson would have been really good at social media. He understood, better than most, that interest is created by association. That was the principle of his salons, drawing the latest and greatest from a variety of cultural realms. Those young artists and architects helped him stay young and current, he helped them by offering literal or metaphorical institutional support.

Isn't that how these platforms work too? I look better when I spread the word about everyone's good work, not just my own. And seeing others' projects gives me new ideas. Johnson was a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, but he was also a "curator" in contemporary parlance, collecting and distributing people and objects and styles.

That's why his physical library at his Glass House in New Canaan, CT remains of interest: the shelves reveal what he thought worth reading and keeping. Outside, its form reveals the same: the work of architect Michael Graves, promoted and digested. Even earlier, in the September 1950 issue of Architectural Review, Johnson set out the inspirations – possibly decoys – for that same Glass House. There's Mies, of course, but there are also the less expected references to Suprematist painter Kasimir Malevich and eighteenth century architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux. There's an image showing the Brick House, the almost windowless box set behind the Glass House where he actually slept, a building often eliminated from later photography of the site. There are many readings of this combination of text and images, few of them straightforward. But I'll take false fronts and red herrings over pure self-promotion any day. Trails of breadcrumbs like this are catnip for critics then and now. Johnson used a prestigious journal to try out his version of the Glass House genealogy. You architects could be doing this every day.

Instagram is popularly characterised as a more perfect version of everyday life: the artfully mismatched tablescape, the colour-balanced Christmas tree, the accessorised child. But it doesn't have to be that way. We get enough better-than-reality images of buildings on sites like Dezeen. I’ve started Instagramming my visits to exhibitions and buildings, as a way of sharing the first cut, taking visual notes, and focusing on details and moments that didn't make the press packet. We so often see the same images of a building, over and over. What about the rest of it? My unprofessional photographs pick up on different things. At Herzog & de Meuron's Parrish Art Museum, for example, I snapped the sign required to point you to the "Main Entrance." And the ten-foot, blackened, windowless doors that could flatten a five-year-old. These images can be critical in a different way - fleeter, funnier, like popcorn - from the endangered building review. Could architects point out their own mistakes? Or – with love, of course – those of their colleagues? Of their heroes?

At a higher artistic level, there's the example of the Instagram of architectural photographer Iwan Baan. His Instagram reveals that he has seen more contemporary architecture (and more of it from helicopters) than anyone. I find something aggrandising, even aggressive, about the relentlessness of his travel and the harsh aerial views. There's also something humanising about his Instagram as a series of outtakes, capturing the surround for the more perfect images that end up on the websites of the architects. We see the faces of people, the buildings imperfectly lit or weathered. The heroic and the ordinary combine in this extra work, and will ultimately contribute to the way we look at the official pictures too. It would be even better if the architects were right there beside him, taking pictures of what else they see. I know architects make design pilgrimages. Why not take us there?"

"Social media can make criticism, interpretation, dialogue and history part of daily life. Don’t leave it to the critics.

In a more recent example, the announcement that the American Institute of Architects would award its first Gold Medal to a woman to Julia Morgan, dead these 56 years, was announced, praised, dissected, and reconsidered, all in a matter of hours on Twitter. Dezeen's own post on the matter quoted me from Twitter; Architect Magazine created a reaction story to its own story by Storifying a discussion between several architecture critics (and didn’t have to pay us a dime). What do architects think of her work? What woman would you have nominated? It shouldn’t just be critics in on that discussion.

Architects sometimes forget what other people don’t know – or forget to share the positive assets of the past before, during and after they are threatened. Social media collects in real time. You can hashtag your firm. You can collate your campus work. You can geolocate your project. You can tip your hat to a colleague. You can tell us what you're reading. In doing so architects contribute to a broader dialogue about what makes a good experience. What social media can do for architects is make criticism, interpretation, dialogue and history part of daily life. Don't leave it to the critics. Don't farm it out to your communications staff. That's boring. Surely you don’t want to be boring? I'd be surprised if one social media platform or another weren't part of most designers' daily practice (at least those under 50). Let the rest of us in, so it doesn't take bankruptcy, demolition or obituary to get people talking about architecture."
2014  instagram  alexandralange  process  iwanbaan  bjarkeingels  socialmedia  howto  curating  curation  design  architecture  architects  context  communication  sharing  conversation  criticism  critique  interpretation  dialog  history  juliamorgan  philipjohnson  twitter  #daydetroit  #folkmoma  archives  tumblr  glasshouse 
december 2014 by robertogreco
The language of objects | Interactivate
"Objects may not be silent, but what difference does that make if you don’t speak their language?

I’ve been doing a bit more musing on some of the anecdotes Stephanie Weaver shared during her keynote at the recent Interpretation Australia conference (first instalment here). She mentioned the often-heard claim that objects “speak for themselves” (a view that appears especially prevalent in art circles), thus rendering interpretation irrelevant at best, interfering at worst. In response, one time she challenged some “speak for themselves-ists” with an image of a carburettor, similar to this one:


Did the object speak to them about what it was? Was it a particularly fine or noteworthy example? In the absence of any relevant mechanical or technical knowledge, Stephanie’s interlocutors were stumped. They accepted that this object was mute in the absence of interpretation (at least to them).

But Stephanie also told the story of the object that spoke to her immedately, profoundly, and so powerfully it moved her to tears – no interpretation required:


In this case, the painting was the trigger for an avalanche of meaning that lay within Stephanie’s own life experience. In was in the Musee d’Orsay, during a much-anticipated and long-awaited trip to Paris. The painting was beatifully presented in a gallery context. The content resonated with Stephanie’s childhood as a dance student. And of course there is an aesthetic appeal that needs no overt explanation*.

This made me think that the “objects are mute” vs “objects speak for themselves” debate may be missing an important nuance: perhaps objects do speak, at least some of the time, although we as visitors may not necessarily be conversant in the language any given object speaks. And if not, the object is as good as mute to us.

Some communication transcends language: in another conference session, Pamela Harmon-Price described how a Japanese tour guide used timing, gesture and body language to convey considerable meaning, despite Pamela not understanding a word of what was said. Drawing analogy to objects, there may be some aspects of an object: form, colour, positioning, and so on, that can speak to us on some level.

But then there is the Tower of Babel of other languages any given object may speak. And of course the same object may speak multiple languages (the languages of technology, or art, or social history). And that is where interpretation can step in – conveying that meaning to those who don’t know enough of the language enough to understand it.

On a radio interview held with Stephanie, Pamela and John Pastorelli during the conference, they reflected on the fact that people outside the cultural sector tend to assume “interpretation” has something to do with languages. Perhaps on some level they’re right: it’s just that it’s intepreting the languages of objects and places rather than other people.

So next time you see an object that you think “speaks for itself” – ask yourself: can you only hear it because you already know the language?

*At least to people enculturated into a Western perspective of aesthetics. Although there are some aspects of aesthetics that may be ‘hard wired’, so to speak, yet others will be a product of the culture we live in, and we deem those as “universal” at our peril!"
objects  communication  language  2014  gestures  bodylanguage  technology  art  socialhistory  interpretation  stephanieweaver  via:anne  pamelaharmon-price  form  color  positioning 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Seeing Seeing
"Each week, we will consider an image. This image may come from anywhere—from a painting, the news, an art photograph, a picture of my child.

Your job is to read this image. You need write only four lines; you may write more. Inflect the image. Give it a spin. Make us see what we may not be seeing. Take up the image, do something with it, then give it back to us—in words.

The goal is multifold. It is to learn to reckon a diversity of images. It is to learn the art of the riff, the spin, the take. And, in the end, I hope we have created an exquisite symphony, a chorus of voices, each distinct, each singing an image in its own register."
images  imagery  danielcoffeen  photography  art  reading  riffing  spnning  interpretation  classideas  2008 
october 2014 by robertogreco
a meditation on personal translation | clusterflock
[Links to comment by India, quoted here]

"“personal translation — the way we interpret ourselves for others”

What a useful term.

Incidentally, Deron, I mentioned this to AmandaAndrewKelsey the other day, but you should know that I can’t stop thinking about what you said at CFstock last year (which IIRC you also posted here somewhere) to the effect that the survival methods we learned to get us through our childhoods are what will destroy us as adults. I definitely got the gist, but I’m still trying to translate that into thoughts I can use.

Thank you."
presentationofself  identity  codeswitching  translation  2010  vangogh  interpretation  relationships  survival  childhood  trauma  via:tcarmody 
august 2014 by robertogreco
The Journey West (East of Borneo)
"Coming from New York we found all this both exhilarating and baffling; Los Angeles seemed to be a city hiding in plain sight. There was plenty to see, interesting people to talk to, all easily accessible by the sporadically flowing freeway. But that veneer of easy connectivity masked a deeper, and more troubling, sense that nothing was easily available, a misleading perception of nothing going on. This was a city of outposts and easily missed landmarks connected by a sprawling, historical disposition not to connect; a deeply unsociable city – not unfriendly, just unsociable, the opposite of places like New York or Paris with their gabby rush to embrace and discard. When we left Los Angeles we had some ideas for future articles, but we didn’t have a satisfying grasp on the place.

REALLIFE Magazine was very much the project of a walk-around city. We had an editorial point of view, which was that we wanted to provide a forum for younger artists who saw themselves operating in a post-conceptual landscape, with an interest in connecting to issues of everyday life. That is to say we were still working in the shadow of a well-known history, a narrative of progress and upset that we tended to accept as more or less given. The wrinkle in that acceptance was an ever-present conviction that the somatic experiments of Surrealism held out a lot more promise than our more academic peers allowed. Our editorial process had a trajectory, but it was one easily, and willingly, sent off track by an interesting chance encounter. We sought openness within a structure framed by opinion, and sought that through the old-fashioned networking of the street. Los Angeles proved fatal to this method, and the magazine came to an end shortly after the two of us moved here in the early ’90s.

In 2002, after a ten-year break from the business side of art magazines, I joined the editorial team of Afterall, a self-described “journal of art, context and enquiry” that had begun as a counterweight to the market-driven art talk prevalent in London in the ’90s, and that maintained a purposefully old-school attitude to the idea of the art journal as something deliberately out of time. The founders, an artist and a curator, designed an editorial process that took the form of a twice-yearly seminar to discover the most interesting artists to discuss. When they invited me to join them, the idea was to expand this method; investigating international art from two separate but simultaneous perspectives, that of London and Los Angeles. For several years this proved to be a rich, intense, and very productive experiment. And then an intellectual exhaustion set in and the project drifted into an ill-defined state of ennui. Paradoxically the root of this exhaustion was our lack of rootedness; in a fundamental way the journal had no point of view, only a premise. Unmoored in the jet stream, our two bases separated, buffeted by argument without end.

In the 21st century the ramifications of this rootlessness and the practical challenges facing publishing began to require ever more radical responses. The small bookstores that had once supported small magazines were closing at an increasing rate. Museums were turning their bookstores into gift shops. Fluctuations in the currency markets made it increasingly difficult to budget production costs in an international context, and then the huge economic crash made everything impossible. But the biggest challenge of all was the Internet, which manages to make everything simultaneously local and international. When Susan and I were publishing REALLIFE Magazine we had a substantial subscriber base, a much larger figure across the United States than Afterall ever achieved, despite significant institutional backing. But of course before the Internet, people had to subscribe to little magazines if they wanted to keep up-to-date, whereas now we inhabit the complex world of websites, blogs, aggregators and Twitter feeds, and can keep informed by the instant.

What this all suggested to me was that what an art publication could be now was something both more participatory and more traditionally edited. I still believe that people may actually like some editorial guidance – the most successful blogs seem to be the most opinionated. But these blogs tend to a linear, one-thing-after-the-other format that runs counter to the open horizontality of communication offered up by the hyperlink. Discussions flare, and can become engrossing, but they tend to be one-dimensional, focused on one issue at a time. I found I was hungering for a more complex participation. As a writer I have become accustomed to working in a way that allows skipping back and forth as a text builds, checking references, finding new evidence as a result of lateral moves across the Internet. A few online publications allow readers a similarly multifaceted experience, although most quarantine reader participation in the shadow zone reserved for comments. Until now no art publication has offered this kind of experience.

As you navigate the site today you will discover that East of Borneo incorporates the benefits of online media not only for timely art-related content, but also for lively dialogues and the sharing and distribution of research and archival material. Our articles incorporate and offer the materials—video, audio, links and texts—that the author drew from. Users can upload their own relevant contributions, creating a growing archive of associated content. Topics will develop depth over time as material accrues, becoming substantial repositories of information and interpretation.

What we imagined was an intricately interwoven site that would allow us to build an archive of Los Angeles, past and present, using the power of a networked collectivity to create depth and complexity. To some Web 2.0 is old news, but established magazines are only slowly awakening to its challenges and possibilities. East of Borneo’s genesis has been long and deliberative: several years of thinking past the delights and constraints of the printed page, and one very intense year of thinking through the actual possibilities of current online publication.

I am tremendously proud and excited about all this, and hope you will share my enthusiasm. Visit us often to watch the site grow in both content and interactivity as we roll out further features. Visit us often to upload that telling image, indispensible text, incredible link. Join us on this journey."
eastofborneo  losangeles  thomaslawson  art  history  2010  artjournalism  journalism  1980  publishing  online  linear  onlinemedia  epublishing  bookstores  cities  urbanism  nyc  urban  accretion  interpretation  internet  howwework  archives  networks  networkedcollectivity  collectivity  depth  complexity  howwewrite  howwethink  linearity 
august 2014 by robertogreco
At 13, all poems are about you
"Remembering the way I misread that poem — remembering the joy and wonder and sheer absurdity of it — is a good antidote to cleverness or cynicism. Who am I to scoff at anyone's taste, when I could think that Maya Angelou's words meant my gangly milkshake would bring at least some of the boys to the yard? Who am I to question what resonates with someone else, or why? I can't bring myself to wish I had understood it any other way. Maybe misreadings can help us figure out how to be. Maybe first (sideways) readings are for seeing the poems we need instead of the poems that are.

We can sort out the rest later."
coreycaitlin  poetry  misreading  understanding  interpretation  adolescence  beauty  mayaangelou  teens  reading  howweread  whyweread  poems  2014 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Design tutorials: the basics | SB129
Within design education, there’s little shared wisdom about how to conduct a tutorial. The tutorial is the bread and butter of design learning; the main pedagogic object of interaction. But we, the design community, rarely share the nuts and bolts of how to navigate and steer a student through a successful project; how to encourage, provoke, inspire and lead a designer into new and fascinating territories.

In this post, I’d like to outline a few basics. It’s me, stating the obvious, in what I consider good pedagogic practice; how best to support, guide and get the most out of students and their work.

I believe the things I’ve learnt over the last ten or so years are applicable to other disciplines and within the professional context of design. Whether as a Creative Director or a Design Manager, the following points are a good place to start when it comes to directing creativity;

Listening is Key

At the heart of a good tutor is their ability to listen. Understanding ideas, position and intent allows for more connected, meaningful feedback. Asking questions to clarify is key to aiding your understanding. Sometimes students take a long time to get to the salient point, they can skirt around the topic due to a lack of confidence, confusion or perception of expectation, so be patient, let them ‘talk out’, only respond when you understand what’s in front of you. Wait until nerves die down to get to the heart of the matter, then you’ll be in the best position to advise.

Ownership and embodiment

It’s all to common for design tutors to try to design vicariously – to direct a student in a way that they would do the project. This, in my opinion, is a flawed approach. It has a history in the master/apprentice model of education; watch, copy, admire, repeat (where learning is a happy side effect). However, it rarely allows the student to feel ownership over the content and learning experience.

Within Art and Design, intellectual ownership is a tricky subject to navigate. The messy and complex network of ideas become distributed across a number of different references, conversations and people, the genesis of an idea is difficult to locate. Tutors that have a ‘that was my idea’ attitude rarely survive or remain happy and motivated. Intellectual generosity is an essential quality of a good educator. Having the humility to understand and value that the adoption of ideas ‘as their own’ is an important part of learning – it allows for the embodiment of the ideas into the identity of the designer.

Mutual exploration

However, in the age of the Internet, the tutor as gateway to all knowledge is long gone. The ability (or illusion) of a Professor having read ‘everything’ in their discipline is a distant memory. When knowledge is acquired and disseminated in such a radically different manner, it calls for educational revolution. Sadly, the rise of the MOOC isn’t the revolution I was hoping for.

The abolishment of levels and the flattening of hierarchies are at the heart of how I believe education needs to change. Breaking the often fictitious boundaries between teaching and research to allow for the mutual exploration of ideas is a fundamentally different model of education. Sadly, due to financial scalability, this remains relevant only to an elite. But as a tutor, see your conversations with students as a space to explore ideas, be the learner as much as the teacher. Reframe higher education away from the hierarchies of expertise towards mutual exploration of the distant boundaries of your discipline.

Expanding possibility space

It’s important to remember that a tutorial should be expanding the cone of possibility for the student. They should leave, not with answers, but with an expanded notion, a greater ambition of what they were trying to achieve. It’s important to be ambitious and set tough challenges for your students, otherwise boredom or (heavens forbid) laziness can take over. Most student’s I’ve met love being thrown difficult challenges, most rise to the occasion, all learn a great deal. In order to move towards the goal of a self determined learner, the student should control the decisions of the design process. If you’re telling them what to design, not opening up possibilities and highlighting potential problems, you’re probably missing something.

Understand motivation, vulnerability and ‘learning style’

Every student we teach, learn in a different way, have different hopes and desires, react to feedback in a different way. Navigating and ‘differentiating’ these differences is really difficult. Some tutors take a distanced intellectual approach, where the content in front of them is a puzzle that needs to be solved, this is the classic personae of the academic, distanced, emotionally arid, intellectually rigorous. But this doesn’t alway mean a good learning experience. Other tutors operate on a more psychological level; the try to understand the emotional context of the situation and adapt their advise accordingly. Whatever happens, understand you have a individual in front of you, they have lives outside of the studio, they are going through all manner of personal shit that will effect their attention and engagement. They come from different cultures, different educational backgrounds, so their response to your advice is going to shift like the wind, be adaptive, read body language and don’t go in like a bulldozer (I have definitely done this in the past!).

In terms of learning style, without this becoming a paper on pedagogy, understand that your advice need to be tailored to different students. Some (a lot) need to learn through a physical engagement with their material, others needs to have an intellectual structure in place in order to progress. Throughout a project, course or programme, try to understand this and direct your advice accordingly.

Agreed direction

Tutorials shouldn’t just be general ‘chats’ about the project or world, they should give direction, tasks and a course of action. I have a rule: Don’t end the tutorial until you’ve both agreed a direction. This can be pretty tough to manage in terms of time, as I get more experienced, I get better at reaching an agreement within my tutorial time allocation, but I still often can overrun by hours. The important thing to work towards is the idea that you both understand the project, and you both understand how it could move. End the tutorial when this been reached.

Read and respond

It’s really important, in design, to respond to what is in front of you. To actual STUFF. It’s far too easy to let students talk without showing evidence of their work. This is a dangerous game. Words can deceive, hide and misrepresent action. Dig into sketchbooks, ask to see work they’ve done. If they haven’t done anything, ask them to go away and do something to represent their ideas and thoughts. Production is key to having a productive tutorial. Only through responding to actual material evidence of action can a project move forward. At its worst, students can develop the skill to talk about stuff, making it exciting in your mind, but fail to produce the project in the end. But this isn’t the main reason for this section, it’s more about the ideas of design residing in the material production, not just the explication. You can tell me what you believe something does or means, but it’s only when it’s in front of me that I can fully grasp this.

The art of misinterpretation

Another reason why it’s important to dig into sketchbooks and look at work, is that looking at something and trying to work out what it means – the space of interpretation – is an important space of learning. By interpreting and indeed misinterpreting work, you and your student can find out things about the project. If the student intended one thing and you understand something else by it, you’ve at least learnt that it was poorly (visually and materially) communicated. But the exciting stuff happens when misinterpretation acts as a bridge between your internal mental processes (with all references etc) and your students. Your reading of a drawing acts as a way to generate a new idea or direction. This is when there is genuine creative collaboration.


One of the roles of a tutor is to point students towards relevant and inspiring resources. In the age of the internet, when student’s roam the halls of tumblr and are constantly fed inspiration by their favourite design blogs, the use, meaning and impact of tutor driven references has changed. Be focussed with reading, ensure students know why they are looking at a particular reference and make sure that you contextualise the work within the ideas that they have."
mattward  2013  teaching  pedagogy  cv  howweteach  howwelearn  design  art  tutotials  canon  listening  ownership  understanding  interpretation  misinterpretation  embodiment  making  exploration  apprenticeships  hierarchy  hierarchies  possibilityspace  motivation  vulnerability  feedback  constructivecriticism  context  empathy  conversation  audiencesofone  differentiation  contextualization  process  documentation  reflection  reggioemilia  emergentcurriculum  evidence  assessment  critique  communication  collaboration  mentoring  mentorship  mentors  response  action  direction  mutualaid 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Going Into Detail |
[now at: ]

"For a place named “Earth,” the oceans appear wildly over-represented. I haven’t been able to make more dirt, so I’ve been working on the representation angle a bit lately:"

"I won’t say much else about the Matterhorn, except to point out that it’s a very clear boundary. It feels like a place where one ought to stop, turn around, and go back.

I suppose that’s the benefit of using physical features as borders: they’re indisputable. Maybe national borders are a map of where people got tired of arguing over where the borders are. I suppose without the physical boundaries, it’s harder to tell where one’s obligations start and end, which brings us back out to space: [image]

The 1972 photo of Earth known as “The Blue Marble” is now ubiquitous, a cliché, shorthand for “everything that matters,” but without going into specifics. But as summaries go, the photo is weirdly editorial: we see clouds, and sea, and a lot of Africa. No mountains are visible, hardly any forests, certainly no cities. Nothing of any scale that we can apprehend directly. It’s strikingly humanity-free.
In this way, the photo makes a kind of political statement — a “truth claim” — which is both vague and hyperbolic simultaneously. This is the context, it says. This is the whole thing. But of course that’s ridiculous. It is obfuscatory in its apparent completeness. It’s a map of the planet’s color and brightness, at relatively low resolution. It is a context — we get to decide for what.


History is made of stories. And to be clear: I mean stories that we tell ourselves, and that wouldn’t exist otherwise. They’re a mental hack we use to order and interpret the available data, more self-consciously now than ever. The grand determinist narratives of the past are now rightly seen as embarrassing artifacts of a pubescent culture.

But our age will be seen that way too. The entire history of History has been the gradual overthrow, reinterpretation, and assimilation of old stories by new ones. We have to have these stories. They’re how we know things. The fact that they are almost certainly not “true” in the sense we imagine shouldn’t mean they’re useless. I’d just prefer to be more self-aware about what we think we know, what we’re making up, and where the border between those things lies.

I mean: even the mountains are moving. The tip of the Matterhorn is from something that became Africa, and will eventually be something else. None of these things exist as distinct, concrete “things” except with our active involvement. And of course, as has been implicit since the adoption of a long-range view of Earth as an environmentalist symbol: If we blow it, the Earth won’t miss us. Borders are drawn and redrawn for our convenience. The mountains will continue to move underneath them.

I like to imagine this relates to what Stewart Brand was getting at with his “We are as gods” manifesto in the first Whole Earth Catalog. It’s a bit mind-numbing to see our actions observably affecting the whole planet at once. Even when you accept the fact, it still feels unreal.

It’s hard enough to understand how we behave locally, much less on a planetary scale, and even less how all the different scales relate. I want better, more visible ways of setting and viewing context, ways which reveal the underlying assumptions and manipulations and allow for adjustments.

So that’s why I made this demo."
peterrichardson  maps  borders  scale  scaling  2014  matterhorn  history  representation  mapping  mountains  alps  switzerland  europe  earth  stewartbrand  wholeearthcatalog  bluemarble  storytelling  understanding  interpretation  data  reinterpretation  self-awareness  truth 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Towards Fantastic Ethnography and Speculative Design | Ethnography Matters
"So how do I teach ethnography to design students? First, I tell them that if they’ve ever wondered why people do things, or how things got to be the way they are, then they’re already part ethnographer. I say that my job is to help them get better at asking and answering social and cultural questions, because understanding and building entire worlds is a huge challenge that no single discipline can accomplish on its own. And I tell them that I believe the best designers are those who understand that what they’re doing is cultural innovation, which requires them to move beyond both personal impression and expression, as well as any self-righteous desire to ‘fix’ the world. My approach to design ethnography binds us to others, and I place a lot of emphasis on the need to develop a social ethics, rather than relying solely on personal interests and beliefs.

Over the years I’ve observed that design students often have much better observation and documentation skills than sociology and anthropology students do, but they appear to struggle greatly with how to interpret the information and represent this knowledge to other people. On the other hand, anthropology and sociology students often have superior analytical skills but are terribly limited in their desire or ability to communicate in anything other than the written word—even when their topic is visual or material culture. Consequently, I’ve come to think that ethnography makes design better as much as design makes ethnography better, and in that sense I believe we can serve each other equally.

Design ethnography, in the context of our classroom, is about trying to understand how people use words, images and objects to build worlds—and creating new combinations of words, images and objects that help us, and others, understand these worlds in different ways. All of our projects involve empirical fieldwork and analysis, along with the production of creative works that critically engage the subject of fieldwork. Because so many students attempt to do the creative work first, and use their ethnographic work to justify their ‘solution’ to a perceived (but rarely demonstrated!) ‘problem,’ I tend to be a bit more dogmatic about doing the ethnographic work first than I would otherwise advocate. The important thing I’ve learned, though, is that the best work always treats design and ethnography as complementary activities that are done in an iterative fashion that actually makes them difficult to separate in the end.

In teaching design courses, particular ethnographic methods became unappealing to me. Take auto-ethnography, for example: at its best the students continued to privilege their own thoughts and experiences; at worst it became a self-serving exercise in psychoanalysis or confession. And although performance ethnography can be interesting, I lack the expertise to assess it and worried that the students would again turn design into a form of privileged self-expression that could be difficult for others to understand. I needed something more accessible, that could more effectively trouble the opposition between subjective experience and objective fact—and I found it in fiction, which I think is rather beautifully both and neither."

"I think that the research environment for exploring these ideas has been crucial to their development. For the past few years, I’ve been working on a project that re-imagines NZ merino sheep in the (imagined) context of an Internet of Things. Note that I’ve not been tasked with designing possible software applications, but rather to imagine how different technologies could shift relations between livestock production and animal-product consumption. For this research I’ve combined traditional ethnographic methods of participant observation and qualitative interviews, with speculative design practices including fictional object and image-making—and I’ve given them both ‘life’ through creative writing. We’re about to launch these design scenarios, and will spend the next six months following up with more participant observation, interviews and online surveys to see how different audiences interact—or do not interact—with them.

For me, creating ethnographic fiction and speculative design has most often been a matter of material choice: both literally and figuratively. When the research subject matter is wool and meat-producing livestock, it was easy to start by imagining weird and wonderful things made of wool and meat! All the contexts for these fictional things (a government ministry and public programme, a host of consumer products and services) are plausible because they’ve been based on ethnographic research of people’s actual interests and concerns—but none of them are possible or even particularly realistic. To be honest, I really felt I was on the right track when I started talking about getting inspiration from contemporary urban fantasy novels—especially favourites by Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs—and both my design and ethnography colleagues just laughed. (It was like Joanna Russ had never written How To Suppress Women’s Writing!) But the important bit is that I came to understand that although fantastic ethnography and speculative design don’t have to derive their plausibility from realism or rationality, they should move people—because the space of the fantastic and the speculative is, after all, affective space, or the space of potential."

[Related (lined within):
and ]
annegalloway  2013  ethnography  designethnography  fiction  designfiction  writing  speculativedesign  design  ursulaleguin  margaretatwood  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  ilonaandrews  patriciabriggs  plausibility  rationality  realism  research  speculativefiction  worldbuilding  imagery  words  images  objects  fieldwork  noticing  observation  listening  wondering  ethics  documentation  interpretation  autoethnography 
september 2013 by robertogreco
The Lives of Images Peter Galison in conversation with Trevor Paglen [.pdf]
"What is observation? What is seeing? What counts as “right depiction”? Are images today now doing more than showing? What is objectivity? What does the future of imaging hold?

Peter Galison, one of the world’s leading historians of science, has written widely on how visual representation shapes our understanding of the world. Trevor Paglen is an artist whose work with photography has explored governmental secrecy and the limits of seeing. For his most recent project, The Last Pictures, Paglen worked with a group of scientists to create a disc of images marking our historical moment; the project culminated in last year’s launch of a satellite, carrying those images, that will remain in Earth’s orbit perpetually. The following conversation took place at Aperture’s office earlier this year."

"Well, what is it that the digital really does? There are many ways in which the digital is shaped by the legacy of analog photography and film. Both for political reasons and aesthetic reasons, what’s really important is the fact that digital is small, cheap, and searchable. The combination of these three features is dramatic. It means that your smartphone does facial recognition—no longer is that an inaccessible and futuristic piece of the state-security apparatus. It’s ubiquitous.

Aesthetically, this can mean a kind of decentering, a vision of the world that is not directly human. It also means that cameras are everywhere, and you’re not even aware of them. There’s an interesting film by a colleague and friend, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, working with Véréna Paravel, called Leviathan (2012), filmed on fishing boats in the North Atlantic. A lot of the film would have been completely unimaginable just a generation ago. They use little high-resolution digital cameras to achieve points of view in places that would previously have been impossible: amidst the pile of dead fish, or underwater as the tank is being filled, or looking back at the front of the boat. These are not impossible camera angles, but they’re nonhuman points of view."

"It seems that we’re moving away from thinking about images interms of representation and toward thinking about their creation as part of a networked process, guided by political or economic “scripts” embedded in the algorithms controlling these image-making networks. If we look at Facebook’s facial-recognition and search technologies, or at Instagram, we see similar things going on, but in a commercial context."

"If images become tools, it’s easier to see them as stepping-stones to other things. For me, the fundamental separation between art and science is not an eternal characteristic of science. The split happened in a historical moment. If you said to Leonardo da Vinci—pardon me, historians—“Are your studies of turbulent water art or science?” he would reply (so I imagine): “You’re crazy! What are you talking about? I don’t even recognize this choice.” But in the nineteenth century, you begin to have the idea of an objective image and of a scientist who is defined by being self-restrained, followed by the idea of maximal detachment from the image. At that moment, Charles Baudelaire criticized photography, saying (approximately): “You know, this isn’t really part of art because it’s insufficiently modulated by the person who says he’s an artist.” In that sense, what Baudelaire is saying and what late-nineteenth-century scientists are saying is the same thing, except they come to opposite conclusions. What they agree on is that art is defined by intervention and science is defined by lack of intervention.

I believe the trunk split, at that point, into two branches. But in many ways the branches are coming back together again in our moment. People in the art world aren’t frightened, in the way they once were, of having a scientific dimension to what they do. It’s not destabilizing for Matthew Ritchie to collaborate with scientists, nor is it a professional disqualification for scientists to work with artists."
trevorpaglen  petergalison  aperture  images  photography  perception  interpretation  history  science  art  seeing  sight  leviathan  recording  video  film  processing  photoshop  digital  luciencastaing-taylor  vérénaparavel  presentation  manipulation  capture  distortion  depiction  universalism  language  communication  symbols  semiotics  aesthetics  interdisciplinary  glvo  instagram  networkedfictions  canon  matthewritchie  leonardodavinci  facebook  uniquity  gopro  charlesbaudelaire  newaesthetic  convergence 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Resistant Objects | HiLobrow
"What I’m trying to do is understand how things come to take their place—especially in museums and collections—as embodiments of knowledge, artifacts out of time and nature, and objects provoking curiosity and wonder, how they become objectified. And just as much as Foucault long ago pointed out, neither the natural nor the human sciences exist until “nature” and “the human” take their modern form as such, I’m eager to imagine a science that employs enough modesty to realize that the objects of its interest do not take their sole, true, or final form beneath its gaze. Even under the light of science, objects withdraw their auras, that dark matter reaching back into deep time; and when the museums are in ruins, they will expose new banners to unfolding time. I think Tamen would agree with me here—the tupilaq are players in a luminous, long-durée ecology in which paintings and pelts, sculptures and scarab beetles, clay pots and crania take equal part."

[Expanded here: ]
matthewbattles  objects  2013  museums  withdrawal  foucault  darkmatter  meaning  context  collections  knowledge  stories  storytelling  auras  resistantobjects  ebay  tupilaq  lowellgeorge  corbis  interpretation  interpretableobjects  figurines  sculpture  sociability  northwestterritories  migueltamen  michelfoucault 
january 2013 by robertogreco
[this is aaronland] signs of life [These quotes are only from the beginning. I recommend reading the whole thing.]
"I've been thinking a lot about motive & intent for the last few years. How we recognize motive &… how we measure its consequence.

This is hardly uncharted territory. You can argue easily enough that it remains the core issue that all religion, philosophy & politics struggle with. Motive or trust within a community of individuals.

…Bruce Schneier…writes:

"In today's complex society, we often trust systems more than people. It's not so much that I trusted the plumber at my door as that I trusted the systems that produced him & protect me."

I often find myself thinking about motive & consequence in the form of a very specific question: Who is allowed to speak on behalf of an organization?

To whom do we give not simply the latitude of interpretation, but the luxury of association, with the thing they are talking about …

Institutionalizing or formalizing consequence is often a way to guarantee an investment but that often plows head-first in to the subtlies of real-life."

[Video here: ]
dunbartribes  schrodinger'sbox  scale  francisfukuyama  capitalism  industrialrevolution  technology  rules  control  algorithms  creepiness  siri  drones  robots  cameras  sensors  robotreadableworld  humans  patterns  patternrecognition  patternmatching  gerhardrichter  robotics  johnpowers  dia:beacon  jonathanwallace  portugal  lisbon  brandjacking  branding  culturalheritage  culture  joannemcneil  jamesbridle  future  politics  philosophy  religion  image  collections  interpretation  representation  complexity  consequences  cooper-hewitt  photography  filters  instagram  flickr  museums  systemsthinking  systems  newaesthetic  voice  risk  bruceschneier  2012  aaronstraupcope  aaron  intent  motive  storiesfromthenewaesthetic  canon 
october 2012 by robertogreco
No Accidents, Comrade – The New Inquiry
"But where fiction generally resists reader alteration, board games take it for granted and depend on it. A fictional narrative remains the same despite how it’s interpreted by readers. The underlying expectation in gameplay, however, is that the player actively constructs a narrative and perhaps even modifies the game’s rules. Meaning for players comes only through the active process of experiencing play. Operating Twilight Struggle’s narrative platform provides a ludic truth — truth through play that gives experiential knowledge using popular, though misleading, historical explanations for the period. It purports to compress the Cold War experience while maintaining some semblance of fidelity to the mentalité of the period, but the chance experienced through gameplay is wed to narrative exposition that clearly embraces a U.S.-centric worldview. Chance narratives help players validate experiential knowledge they acquire during play, but their execution actually inverts the meaning…"
influence  ussr  alternativeplay  bias  toplay  containment  rationalirrationality  distortion  nostalgia  meaning  interpretation  assemblage  narrativeassemblage  narrative  individualism  perception  history  us  opportunity  luck  chance  gameplay  storytelling  fiction  2006  2012  coldwar  boardgames  gaming  games  play  twilightstruggle 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Charlie Kaufman: Screenwriters Lecture | BAFTA Guru
"we try to be experts because we’re scared; we don’t want to feel foolish or worthless; we want power because power is a great disguise."

"Don’t allow yourself to be tricked into thinking that the way things are is the way the world must work and that in the end selling is what everyone must do. Try not to."

"This is from E. E. Cummings: ‘To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.’ The world needs you. It doesn’t need you at a party having read a book about how to appear smart at parties – these books exist, and they’re tempting – but resist falling into that trap. The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying, ‘I don’t know,’ and being kind."

[Giving up, too much to quote.]
danger  risktaking  risk  failure  simplification  fear  fearmongering  materialism  consumerism  culture  marketing  humannature  character  bullying  cv  meaningmaking  meaning  filmmaking  creating  creativity  dreaming  dreams  judgement  assessment  interpretation  religion  fanaticism  johngarvey  deschooling  unschooling  unlearning  relearning  perpetualchange  change  flux  insight  manifestos  art  truth  haroldpinter  paradox  uncertainty  certainty  wonder  bullies  intentions  salesmanship  corporatism  corporations  politics  humans  communication  procrastination  timeusage  wisdom  philosophy  ignorance  knowing  learning  life  time  adamresnick  human  transparency  vulnerability  honesty  loneliness  emptiness  capitalism  relationships  manipulation  distraction  kindness  howwework  howwethink  knowledge  specialists  attention  media  purpose  bafta  film  storytelling  writing  screenwriting  charliekaufman  self  eecummings  2011  canon 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Two talks about data on Env
"Both of these discuss the limits of data visualization and indeed data and indeed knowledge. It’s not hard to find people claiming that we don’t know very much, but these two are experts at figuring out and showing what we know. Skepticism about the power of scatterplots means something serious – is more than sophomoric nihilism – when it comes from them.

I hope these might be news of a fresh wave of data work: analysis and visualization that retains a sense of play, but also admits its responsibility as rhetoric and is more able to expose its own assumptions and omissions. In my head I’ve been calling this data with context, but I think we need something catchier."
patterns  patternrecognition  sensemaking  rhetoric  interpretation  design  skepticism  designinggeopolitics  context  datawithcontext  analysis  dataanalysis  usmanhaque  eyeo  jenlowe  visualization  data  2012  charlieloyd 
june 2012 by robertogreco
Taylor & Francis Online :: On mediators: Intellectuals and the ideas trade in the knowledge society - Economy and Society - Volume 33, Issue 4
"This paper aims to provide some broad outlines of a model of intellectual practice that is arguably gaining increasing salience today: the model of the intellectual as mediator. The paper begins by drawing briefly upon some empirical data from a recent study in order to suggest that, although institutions such as universities and think tanks do seem to be embracing practices of intellectual production that are at some remove from ‘traditional’ models of knowledge, the shift is not absolute – not least because the idea of the ‘traditional’ intellectual as a basic norm is itself no doubt somewhat problematic. In seeking to address precisely this question as to how to think about norms of intellectual practice, the main body of the paper is more theoretical in its orientation. It seeks to adapt and extend some features of the work of Michel Foucault and Zygmunt Bauman in attempting to theorize a fourfold typology of intellectual style on the basis of the concepts of legislation…"
interpretation  expertise  zygmuntbauman  foucault  mediators  mediation  thomasosborne  2006  endofideology  ideology  intellectualism  knowledgesociety  thinktanks  michelfoucault 
june 2012 by robertogreco
Making smart on Env
"Smart people can take something complex and express it faithfully in different, especially simpler, terms. They can interpret and reinterpret. If you want to make something smart, it’s tempting to do smartness to your topic until you’ve condensed it into some admirably lucid interpretation, then hand that to the audience and wait for the applause. Sometimes this is what’s needed. But it isn’t how to make smart things. A smart thing is something for a smart person. However many interpretations you put in it, however fertile they are, you leave room for more.

You do this because you respect what you are interpreting and you do it because you respect your audience. It’s a lot like being considerate. And that’s how you make smart things."
making  writing  subjectivities  balance  interpretation  dryness  comments  audience  clever  cleverness  criticism  superiority  disdain  milankundera  kitsch  storytelling  airs  malcolmgladwell  ted  smartness  authenticity  entertainment  art  nervio  thomaskincade  beauty  humor  neilgaiman  2012  consideration  smarts  smart  charlieloyd 
may 2012 by robertogreco
Multiliteracies and Designing Learning Futures | DMLcentral
"I want to outline a few ideas about how I see literacy expanding today. These are initial thoughts and I hope we can engage in collective development around what you may think as well. There are three developments in literacy that are under-recognized in classrooms, in policy, and in empirical learning theory research:

1. Search, Query, and Interpretation

2. Conscious identity development

3. Online/Offline Hybridity and Spatial Interaction"
anterogarcia  multiliteracies  literacy  literacies  beyondtext  socialmedia  search  query  interpretation  identity  identitydevelopment  consciousidentitydevelopment  offline  online  2011  spatialinteraction  facebook  google  mmorpg 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Design Thinking for Educators
"The Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators contains the process and methods of design, adapted specifically for the context of education."

"The design process is what puts Design Thinking into action. It’s a structured approach to generating and developing ideas.

The Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators, available as a free download here, provides guidance through the five phases of the design process. It outlines a sequence of steps that leads from defining a challenge to building a solution. The toolkit offers a variety of instructional methods to choose from, including concise explanations, useful suggestions and tips."
education  design  designthinking  ideo  teaching  pedagogy  discovery  interpretation  ideation  experimentation  evolution  iteration  howto  pd  professionaldevelopment  tcsnmy  lcproject  projectbasedlearning  classideas  pbl 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Caterina Fake: WikiLeaks and Free at the New Museum
"Pervading the show is this sense of how the 'data' tells us something, but fails to capture the human drama, the story, the suffering, the lived lives behind the info gathered & arranged. Images of people caught on Google Maps "streetview" appear in Jon Rafman's work, Martijn Hendrik shows texts of people responding to video of Saddam Hussein execution; Joel Holmberg asks earnest questions on Yahoo! Answers – all show the gap btwn the impassive data-gathering technology, human inputs & the strange hybrid that is result of those interactions. The final quote in Magid's Becoming Tarden is from Jerzy Kosinski's Cockpit:

"All that time & trouble, & still the record is a superficial one: I see only how I looked in the fraction of a second when the shutter was open. But there's no trace of the thoughts & emotions that surrounded that moment. When I die & my memories die with me, all that will remain will be 1000s of yellowing photographs & 35mm negatives in my filing cabinets."
art  media  free  news  wikileaks  information  data  emotion  meaning  internet  flickr  googlestreetview  photography  jonrafman  julianassange  2010  caterinafake  experience  perception  feeling  drama  human  suffering  detachment  humandrama  streetview  lostintherecord  colddata  interpretation  jerzykosinski  laurencornell  jillmagid  lisaoppenheim 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Marriage, Memories, and 'The Morning News' - Rachael Brown - Culture - The Atlantic
"I find memory unsettling. It's dishonest, it's erratic, it's open to interpretation. Courts no longer trust eye witnesses to determine convictions—that's pretty much my approach to memory. And yet, it's the only machinery we've got. We have to believe in our memories. We have to have faith in them, even when we know how frequently they're wrong. When something robs us of that faith, it can be terrifying."
memory  forgetting  rosecransbaldwin  youlostmethere  meaning  inaccuracy  interpretation  faith  interviews  books  2010 
october 2010 by robertogreco
Pregnant With Meaning: A Reproductive Reading Of <em>What's Opera, Doc?</em> -- Daddy Types
"symbolism's about as hidden as a bolt of lightning, and the sexual subtext's as subtle as a sharp spear thrust into a rabbit hole. While the symbolism is unequivocal, I'll be damned if I can tell you what it all means."
pregnancy  film  animation  subtext  interpretation  bugsbunny  chuckjones 
march 2008 by robertogreco

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