Saturday, September 10, 2011

heavyDuty : highDefinition

Our first work this Tuesday was to design mock-up of a smart surface that engages the terms "wind", "inflate", and "daily."  Our group process was amazingly unproductive.  Given the time-frame I'm not sure what else could be expected in terms of a deliverable.  One aspect that was especially present, and unfortunately continued into our interminable out of class meeting on Wednesday evening, was the impossibility of having a good idea.  A full group consensus style discussion of every concept (usually critically) from the instant they're thought of is not really productive.  Random lists + Scattered movement among the items on those lists = not helpful.  Most ideas start out as bad ones and need to be developed to a point where they can stand up to any kind of judgement.  Without developing an idea to the point where it begins to announce its own criteria for judgement, we end up with attempts to solve everything that inevitably fail at solving anything. Ironically, I think less (full) group work and discussion, will make for a better working group.  Have an idea, develop it, and present it.   Our greatest achievement so far was the decision to move forward in this mode.


I also think the necessity (read: presence in the syllabus as an apparently concrete instruction to cling to) of "identifying a high-value problem" couldn't be more incongruous with a design prompt like "wind, inflate, daily."   It's the tack you take if you want to sell a million widgets, not where you (read: I) would start an elegant design solution.

The Craftsman in me, concerned with work done well for it's own sake, starts with mechanisms that respond to wind, operate daily, or inflate, and builds on interactions between, or refinements of them, until you have processes and and objects you can actually interrogate fruitfully.  Why you're spinning a turbine, or what it might cost, is just not important yet.

On the other hand, the Humanist in me, concerned with meaning making, starts by creating a narrative that defines the terms wind, inflate, and daily, in such a way that coherent relationships between them arise.  That these relationships aren't immediately related to power generation, or heating, or even a 'user,' isn't important yet.  What matters is establishing a framework that enables you to think clearly about the terms in play.

I tend to (rapid)cycle between these approaches, often finding that the logic of one suggests the criteria of 'what is working' in the other.  Neither approach (on it's own or in combination) involves random lists of one-dimensional associations.

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