Posted: September 16th, 2012 | Author: jill | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Across disciplines we can find some blunt categories of design frameworks: positivist, critical/reflective, and hermeneutic. Positivist frameworks gain their validity from the community of scientific practice. They seek information through formal propositions, quantification of variables, hypothesis testing, and the drawing of inferences. Technical systems theory, Herbert Simon’s theory of design, and traditional engineering design fall into this category. In this paradigm, design activity is understood as using well-defined, objective, generalizable, and portable procedures and principles to find optimized solutions to a design problem. This paradigm was dominant in Western design research during the 1970s and 1980s and still is the primary design paradigm for engineering research.
Critical and reflective frameworks, such as Schoen’s reflection-in-action, assume restrictions in the positivist paradigm. For example, Shoen’s saw the rationalist paradigm as having no means to account for the tacit understandings and skill that are part of the professional practice of designers, as well as the uniqueness of each design situation. Because each design situation is unique, it makes no sense for the practitioner to apply standard theories or techniques. Professionals build up a repertoire of understandings, cases, theories, and actions to make sense and act within a design situation. Schoen describes a cyclic process of design activity whereby the designer names relevant factors in the design situation, frames the problem using a repertoire of experience and theory, makes active design moves, and evaluates these moves. Instead of using a problem-solving metaphor as does the positivist paradigm, Shoen describes design as a “reflective conversation with the situation” (see The Reflective Practitioner).
In hermeneutic, interpretive, or phenomenological frameworks, phenomena are understood through the meaning-making activities of the people experiencing them. Hermeneutics traditionally refers to the interpretation of texts. The phenomenological philosophers Heidegger and Gadamer developed hermeneutics beyond textual interpretation to include the everyday interpretive meaning-making of our experience. The hermeneutic circle, as developed by Heidegger and Gadamer, describes how our interpretation of the world depends upon co-emergent, interdependent, partial understandings of parts and whole. We cannot understand the meaning of part of an event until we understand the whole, and we cannot understand the whole until we grasp the meaning of the parts. Another way to understand this circular relationship is to consider that we cannot understand the meaning of a concept until we understand its context, but the context is made up of the concepts that give it meaning. Similarly, we cannot understand a word in a sentence until we understand the sentence, which we cannot understand without the words. Any act of understanding consists of this circular interplay between inseparable parts and wholes. The hermeneutic circle is not a method, but is prior to logic and methods. It describes something integral to thoughts, perceptions, actions, and interpretations. It is inseparable from experience.
Design theoriests Snodgrass and Coyne describe design activity as a hermeneutic circle. They quote Gadamer:
A person who is trying to understand a text is always performing an act of projecting. He projects before himself a meaning for the text as a whole as soon as some initial meaning emerges in the text. Again, the latter emerges only because he is reading the text with particular expectations in regard to a certain meaning. The working out of this fore-project, which is constantly revised in terms of what emerges as he penetrates into the meaning, is understanding what is there.
Snodgrass and Coyne read the above quotation with “design” in mind as “text.” They consider a design project as a project(ion) of experiences into the anticipated whole of the design. This gives us a portrait of the designer and the design process as embedded in a world of experience instead of preceding, detached, or over and above it as in other design paradigms.
Posted: December 5th, 2011 | Author: jill | Filed under: digital arts | No Comments »
…experimental research is culturally necessary and serves to transform how to simulate, interact with, and experience the world. – Joel Slayton, Foreword to Stephen Wilson’s Information Arts
Digital technologies and art have been coupled since the early days of digital computing in the 1960s. The figures below from Event One, a computer arts exhibition in London in 1969, and the Computer Arts Society, a group also active in London during the 1960s, prefigure ambient displays (Figure 1) and embodied interaction (Figure 2).
Figure 1. Installation view of Event One (1969) at the Royal College of Art. Photo: Peter Hunot. Courtesy of the Computer Arts Society, London
Figure 2. John Lansdown rehearsing computer-generated dance notation for choreography with dancers from the Royal Ballet School, London, 1969. From the Daily Mirror newspaper, March 24, 1969 via Catherine Mason, The Fortieth Anniversary of Event One at the Royal College of Art. EVA 2009 London Conference. 2009.
Figure 3. David Rokeby and Very Nervous System in 1993. Rokeby invented the system in 1986.
Artist David Rokeby mastered his practice of embodied interaction in 1986 with his development of Very Nervous System. Very Nervous System invites people to move within their everyday environment. Their movements evoke music from the system (Figure 3), thus exploring the resonant nature of interaction and its ability to create insight into people’s motion in their familiar spaces. Like many digital artists, Rokeby has written extensively on interaction and provides an example of interaction discourse from an alternative perspective. While computer science defines interaction as the “joint performance of tasks by humans and machines”, and related definitions , to Rokeby,“A technology is interactive to the degree that it reflects the consequences of our actions or decisions back to us” . In the 1980s, Rokeby came to consider topics HCI researchers in the 2000s have been exploring as part of HCI’s third wave:
The computer as a medium is strongly biased …. Because the computer is purely logical, the language of interaction should strive to be intuitive. Because the computer removes you from your body, the body should be strongly engaged. Because the computer’s activity takes place on the tiny playing fields of integrated circuits, the encounter with the computer should take place in human-scaled physical space. Because the computer is objective and dis- interested, the experience should be intimate .
Digital artists can prefigure issues in computer science research and engage in discourse from alternative perspectives.
Figure 4. Camille Utterback's Text Rain, 1999.
Figure 5. Jim Campbell’s Scattered Light, 2010. Images by James Ewing courtesy of Madison Square Park Conservancy.
Figure 6. Fragile by Carla Diana, from a paper given at alt.chi 2008.
Figure 7. Virtual VJ by Steve Gibson and Stefan Müller Arisona. The User in Flux workshop performance. CHI 2011. Photo: Cassim Ladha.
Figure 8. humanaquarium at The User in Flux workshop performance. CHI 2011. Photo: Cassim Ladha.
 Hewett T., Baecker, R.M., Card, S., Carey, J., Gasen, J.B., Mantei, M., Perlman, G., Strong, G.W. and Verplank, B. ACM SIGCHI Curricula for Human-Computer Interaction. Available at http://old.sigchi.org/cdg/cdg2.html. Last updated 2009-07-29.
 Rokeby, D. Transforming Mirrors: Subjectivity and Control in Interactive Media. 1996. Available at http://homepage.mac.com/davidrokeby/mirrors.html.
 Rokeby, D. Very Nervous System. Available at http://homepage.mac.com/davidrokeby/vns.html.
 artsactive.net. Available at http://artsactive.net.
Posted: October 25th, 2011 | Author: jill | Filed under: artists invent | No Comments »
While the concept of artist-invention can be dissonant with respect to the disciplinary categories of academia and society, there are many artist-inventors. LED video artist Jim Campbell holds several patents in video image processing (for a quick description of his process in creating this piece –>).
Jim Campbell’s Scattered Light, 2010. Images by James Ewing courtesy of Madison Square Park Conservancy
Artists Laurent Mignonneau and Christa Sommerer hold many patents, including one for a solar-powered informational building façade along with architect Michael Shamiyeh.
Laurent Mignonneau, Michael Shamiyeh, and Christa Sommerer’s solar powered media façade. 2008.
In 2003, artist Joseph Scanlan used a gallery space to process consumer byprod- ucts into high grade potting soil, which he then sold through the gallery. The process took 5 years of research and development and resulted in a patent.
Joseph Scanlan’s Paydirt, 2003.
Catherine Richards’ art piece, Method and apparatus for finding love, 2002, and patent application to the U.S. Patent Office are one and the same.
Image from Catherine Richards’ US Patent Application Method and apparatus for finding love, 2002.
These four examples hint at the the spectrum of approaches that artist engagement with technology takes. Campbell’s work was created in the service of his LED light installations. Mignonneau, Shamiyeh, and Sommerer created the solar display as an end in itself to expand the possibilities for interactive art. Scanlan’s Paydirt can be considered as a metacommentary on the relationship of the artist to the contemporary gallery system, a do-it-yourself ecological project, a mockery of the entitlement that the patent and innovation system can bring, as well as technological innovation. Paydirt is being developed into a commercial product, yet, at least in certain institutional contexts such as the gallery space, it retains these other meanings as well. Catherine Richards’ patent application both challenges and utilizes the patent system to assist in the pursuit of love.
Modernist painter Yves Klein holds a patent. It is commonly thought that he laid an intellectual property claim to the color International Klein Blue. His brevet d’Invention does not describe the chemical composition of the pigment, but the procedure of smearing it on the bodies of models and transferring the imprint to a surface. The patent also covers “A titre de produits industriels nouveaux, les décorations ou intégrations architecturales obtenues par application du procédé spécifié.”
New interactions with technologies circa 1960. Yves Klein’s Anthropométrie de l’époque bleue.
These examples demonstrate a full range of invention, and while culturally the arts and technology development appear on opposite ends of the disciplinary spectrum, we can see similarities that align the practices. While engineering is the assumed path to the development of new technologies, many visual artists and engineers imagine, conceptualize, and build artifacts as in the course of their practice. As part of this work, many visual artists and engineers develop high levels of technical and fabrication skill. Visual artists as a group have traditionally worked with industrial technologies such as paint and pigment chemistry, metalworking equipment, and kilns, as well as materials such as metals, resins, and coatings. Many post-industrial visual artists use high technology as both medium and highly-charged cultural material. These contemporary technological artists work with similar materials as contemporary engineers: electronics, computation, robotics, bioengineered materials, and smart materials, for example. The work of these artists often bleeds into technological development as they create new technologies and new interactions with technologies in the course of their projects. In these senses, the work of artists and engineers are aligned. On the other hand, we can see tensions erupting into humor as artists Richards, Scanlan, and Klein approach the role of technology developers.