+ INQUIRY + THOUGHTS ABOUT EMERGING MEDIA AND THE ROLE OF DESIGNERS


A series of questions and “mini essays” that relate to specific design problems and ideas. Each “mini essay” ends with an open ended question, constantly making me wonder and think through these complex design issues and ideas. The writing is a culmination of my thoughts.










++ WHOSE ++ IS ++ IT ++ WHOSE ++ IS ++ IT 


My question ties together the reading of Sol Lewitt Doing Wall Drawings and Processing… The process is the artists art, the wall drawing is the artists art but if someone were to recreate the drawings with the instructions that Sol Lewitt had written down, who’s art would it be? Should artists that are recreating the piece be given equal authorship, less or more? I’m trying to make connections to open source coding. When you find a code that someone has shared and interpreted it and changed it to your needs, whose code is it? Is it now the communities’ work? Is it yours? Does any of this even matter?

I ask because I’m curious about this idea of authorship. It seems like the open source community is open to the idea of sharing and taking to expand the knowledge within that community. Open source opens up the platform to a wide range of users that can come in from different levels of expertise. The model creates possibilities for conversations and interactions within the community which it relies on to enhance and push forward the abilities of processing. In a way, the community is moving forward together in terms of advancements.

In a way Sol Lewitt’s concept of sharing the instructions is an earlier form of open source. He opens up and shares the process of the wall drawings thereby allowing viewers to understand how he got there and have the ability to recreate one in their own way. The drawing process being revealed moves it from temporary art (something that will eventually be gone)  to permanent art because the wall drawings can be recreated over and over and over again. I think that the process of how you get to the final piece is just as important if not more than the final piece itself. It gives you a glimpse into their minds and their work process.





++ DECOMPLEXIFYING ++ PROBLEMS ++ BIT ++ BY ++ BIT 

“YOU DON’T NEED A SENTENCE TO SAY YES OR NO; YOU DON’T NEED A WORD, AND YOU DON’T EVEN NEED A LETTER. ALL YOU NEED IS A BIT, AND BY THAT I MEAN ALL YOU NEED IS A 0 OR A 1″

– CHARLES PETZOLD

I found this reading really interesting because it seems as though you can really codify a complex problem with some basic solutions by using numbers (0 or 1). It’s the simplest way to convey as little information as possible by disregarding any noise. Noise being any information not relevant to the “problem”. I wonder if bits are something only computers can understand? Can we extend this knowledge so that humans can eventually use this as a form of communication? Could this be something that can help us decomplexify problems? Because in reality that’s all it is… a simple numbering system and “the basic building block of information” (Charles Petzold) that helps you visualize the possibilities of a question.

I’m trying to answer this question myself…I think it could be interesting to use it as a tool to simply our problems, would that be beneficial or problematic? A limitation with using this system is the need for everyone to know and understand the code and what the numbers mean. Something else to consider are the consequences of simplifying problems into numbers – is less more? Or is more more? 





++ WHAT ++ IS ++ THE ++ MESSAGE 


Marshal McLuhan states “the medium is the message”. “It means that you even though humans are the animals that shape tools, it is in the nature of tools and man that learning to use tools reshapes us” (Alan Kay, 76). It changes the way in which we experience the world. The computer is a medium, it has changed the way we think, interact and experience the world. How might new technologies change the the thought patterns of those learning to use it? Is this our way of having a deeper understanding of computers to engage with it? It seems like this is an ongoing cycle. We create something that becomes the medium, which then influences our understanding. We can then start to alter what the medium becomes according to our needs. The entire thing becomes a learning process.

Alan talks about two characteristics that classifies you as literate when it comes to the medium: reading and writing. Reading it allows you to access tools created by others. Writing it means you can generate tools for others to access. Should a medium be something that everyone becomes familiar with? In the case of VR, should everyone learn how to experience it AND learn what it takes to make a VR scene? Would we have a better understanding of what VR is if we learned how to create it?

[It took me a while to really understand what this means, so this is how I understand it] The medium is the message. The medium can be defined as the effects of technology. Put simply, the effects of technology is the message…





++ HACKERS ++ ARE ++ THEY ++ CRIMINALS? 


My first thought when I was done reading this was how poetic this manifesto was. It’s almost like hackers use the computer to create in order to escape from all the judging (who you are, where you’re from, etc). In the manifesto they talk about hacking as a way to be in control of things – where you’re the one who’s held liable for what happens, not any other external factors. It’s interesting to think about the time this was first published and how our viewers of hackers hasn’t really changed – how people view them as criminals with a bad/negative reputation. When I was going through the manifesto I was thinking about Anonymous, a group of hackers that believe in freedom on the internet, equal rights to speak and are anti-oppression. So if Anonymous were to hack into a system and access information to help make a point, is that a bad thing? I was listening to this NPR episode where the hacker hacked into someone’s security nest to alert him about the vulnerability of the system. Nest’s response was that the homeowner didn’t do everything they recommend to avoid hackers. But what is that really saying?

HOW CAN HACKING BE USED TO ADDRESS PRIVACY ISSUES OR TOPICS THAT AREN’T REALLY TALKED ABOUT? ARE WE EVER GOING TO GET TO A POINT WHERE ALL HACKING IS ETHICAL AND HAVE THE PUBLIC’S BEST INTEREST?

At the end of the day hackers are really intelligent people who can work around a system to get access to information and make a point. It’s a community of people that use a tool that doesn’t judge it creates off of your input.





++ EMPOWERING ++ INDIVIDUALS ++ EMPOWERING ++ INDIVIDUALS 


The Whole Earth Catalog can be seen as a tool that provides knowledge to people through direct participation by making and learning. When this was first published it was a response to anti-individualism–what we know as counterculture. It created a new age of individual empowerment by acquiring some of these skills and techniques spelled out in the catalog. In a way this was hacking – hacking into new knowledge and the system to create a space for individuals to express their own self. The readers can then take this information and make with their own understanding and experiences.
“WHEN I WAS YOUNG, THERE WAS AN AMAZING PUBLICATION CALLED THE WHOLE EARTH CATALOG, WHICH WAS ONE OF THE BIBLES OF MY GENERATION … IT WAS SORT OF LIKE GOOGLE IN PAPERBACK FORM, 35 YEARS BEFORE GOOGLE CAME ALONG. IT WAS IDEALISTIC AND OVERFLOWING WITH NEAT TOOLS AND GREAT NOTIONS.” – STEVE JOBS
It’s interesting to think about how these different forms evolve and change over time, going from catalogs to the internet but sharing the same concept: opening up information for everyone to access. How will the dissemination of information change in the upcoming years? In what ways can we empower individualism but still maintain a collaborative network? In the 1960’s Brand was pushing for this idea of individualism vs. collectivism, but where does collaboration come into play? Is it a form of individualism coming together?



++ PRIVACY ++ AND ++ BEHAVIOR ++ CHANGE


Our behavior changes when we realize someone is watching – whether it’s a person who walks by or a camera that’s watching us, it affects us. Our actions are suddenly morphed into what we think social norms are. I always think of elevators as an example. I always find myself goofing around, dancing, etc but right when I’m about to go into the elevator my behavior changes because I know someone is watching me through that camera. I’m more aware and I become more reserved because I’m being watched and judged. The way I see it with lack of privacy is a way to minimize risk. Imagine a risk benefit on a spectrum, one with risk at the far end and on the other end you have benefit. I listened to a Hidden Brain episode where they talk about seat belts. You would think that by adding seat belts to cars it would increase safety. But that wasn’t the case, when seat belts were added people thought that they could drive a little bit more recklessly because they knew there was something there to save them. I wonder how differently we would act if we knew surveillance didn’t exist, would we be reckless? Or would we go about our normal life acting the same way we would in our homes? By adding “something” [surveillance] the outcome changes because you’re behavior changes.  So if behavior changes the way we act, are they really watching/observing the true us? Or are they watching the way we’ve altered ourselves to appear? I also wondered who watches the watchers? Are they also being watched? How can we create a system that allows for privacy while still keeping a general lookout for problems? I understand the need for some surveillance for safety reasons. But how can we allow for a system to become more of a spectrum? It seems like this is a complex problem because who gets to decide all of these factors? How do we create a system that allows for flexibility based on each person’s level of comfort and how much they want to share?