Timeline

Nov 2-8
motor tests
familiarization with functioning’s and capabilities of motors

Nov 9-15
rough model
drawings for posible designs
motion and strength tests

Nov 16-22
refine design
begin final machine
order any specific parts

Nov 23-30
finish machine

Dec 1-7
finishing touches
flesh sack experiments (material and design)

Dec 8-14
create final flesh sacks
document in the gym
edit video for gallery show

Netherlands – Dutch Design Week

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Headed to the Netherlands on the most colorful airline!

 

This video was featured at the For Play exhibition.  This is one video of a multipart video series.  I thought this was so unbelievable clever.  This entire exhibit was so clever.

 

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A company called MetalFab is working on some crazy 3D prints using metal as medium. Amazing!  Added to the list of dream future employers.

 

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A beautiful show in the center of Eindhoven.  It is so wonderful to see design, craft, and art equally valued and executed within one work.  For me, this is the biggest distinction that I see in comparing working being done in America versus in the Netherlands.  I would love to be working in this way.

 

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Willem de Kooning and MICA collaboration. Hard at work programing, building, making magic, etc.

 

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Some really beautifully designed patterns and products by Susan Biji. Found in Rotterdam.

 

Thoughts on “The Human Use of Human Beings – Cybernetics and Society” by Norbert Wiener

I’m currently working my way through this book. It’s an incredibly interesting piece of writing and very relevant to this course in that it discusses the social and political implication of the use of technology and mechanism, as well as a slew of other relevant topics.

Below is a very apt introduction.

The full text can be found here.

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Wiener had said that the purpose of this book was to “explain the potentialities of the machine in fields which up to now have been taken to be purely human, and to warn against the dangers of a purely selfish exploitation of these possibilities in a world in which to human beings human things are all-important.”  

Steve J. Heims, who wrote the introduction to this edition of the book, describes author Norbert Wiener, unlike many critics of technological developments during the industrial revolution, was “a non-stop thinker in mathematics, the sciences and high technology and equally an imaginative critic from a social, historical and ethical perspective of the uses of his own and his colleagues’ handiwork”.  

“There are those who hope that the good of a better understanding of man and society which is offered by this new field of work may anticipate and outweigh the incidental contribution we are making to the concentration of power. I write in 1947, and I am compelled to say that it is a very slight hope.”  – Norbert Wiener

Wiener viewed technologies “not so much as applied science, but rather as applied social and moral philosophy”.  I think this is incredibly fascinating and becomes visible when observing the correlations between machine behavior and human behavior, of with Wiener gives several examples.

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He implores the reader to critically consider the implications of technological developments on the human and social framework, not just our industrial and economic framework.  How are machines affection peoples lives and who reaps the benefits?
Wiener describes, from a technical engineering perspective, the process of input/output systems and feedback loops in examples such as simple machinery as well as factories.  With this comprehensible model, he they applies this system – the flow of energy and output produced, to a social organization.  He criticized social organizations where all orders come come from above, offering no return.
Is he implying here that the behavioral function of our social organizations have been influenced by the function of technology and machines?  In this way, our own inventions (technology) are now having great effect on our behavior.  We created them, but now they are dictating our behavior.
Helpful definitions:

“A complex action is one in which the data introduced, which we call the input, to obtain an effect on the outer world, which we call the output … These are combinations, both of the data put in at the moment and of the records taken from the past stored data which we call the memory.

I am particularly interested in this phenomenon in regards to the human body.  I am interested in how the human invention that is the machine has in turn influenced the behavior of humans. I am interested in how humans have adapted their behavioral patterns to more closely mimic those of machines.  These examples can be found throughout societies, but for my research I would like to focus this issue to a smaller scope that can be more comprehensible and relatable. I would like to focus specifically on a human body, rather than a group.

I am interested in gyms and fitness centers and the relationship between human and machine that can be observed within these facilities – not only how humans interact with machines in these spaces, but the history of machines that has led to the possibility of and also the need for these facilities.

We would not have gym and gym equipment if it were not for the human technological invention of machines.  In saying this, I am not trying to draw attention to the complexity of gym equipment in its mechanical or programed aspects, as these machines are not terrible complex in any sense.  The gears and pull systems, as well as any digital technologies, are quite rudimentary.

What I mean to say is that there would be no need for these facilities if it weren’t for the advent and prominence of technology and industrialized machines in our societies.

The industrial revolution, as well as numerous technological revolutions that continue, have decreased and continue to decrease the need for physical work to be exerted by humans.

Humans created machines to relieve themselves of physical work and to increase productivity.  This is visible in the manufacturing industry.

What is visible in the gym is that humans have then created an environment full of machines in order to keep their bodies in the same peek physical condition they were in before the invention of machines.  Also evident here is the human’s desire for optimum efficiency. But here at the gym, it is the human, not the machine that is operating at maximum efficiency.

Yes, one could go outside for a run or lift stones to build a sculpture – being able to take in the joys of the outdoors or the joys of creation while also exercising their muscles and cardiovascular system. But why? When one could just go to the gym. It will be more efficient.  You can run on a constantly spinning belt until you are too exhausted to continue, and then walk only a few to go lift heavy weights in a regimented, controlled movement (dictated by the machine, of course).

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on “Societies of Control” by Deleuze

I found this writing completely fascinating. I have been doing a lot of reading about mechanisms, the evolution of workflows in production factories since the industrial revolution and the technology boom, as well as input/output systems and feedback loops. Much of these readings have been quite technical, but I have been thinking a lot of how the observations drawn in these texts can be applied to understand human interactions, as well as to observe the effects that developments in industry and technology have had on human behavior.

This text has offered a great perspective on these thoughts, widening the scope of analysis to larger systems, outlining the differences between each type of society of control, and drawing attention to the political and economic implications of these systems.

“The ideal project of these environments of enclosure, particularly visible within the factory: to concentrate; to distribute in space; to order in time; to compose a productive force within the dimension of space‐time whose effect will be greater than the sum of its component forces.”

Though the example given refers to a factory, this model, when applied to a society, is particularly telling. One can easily imagine a society in which of the aims of this society have evolved, in such a competitive global market, to operate with the efficiency of a machine. This relentless drive to triumph above other societies has forced groups to dismiss all ethical or moral aims and focus solely on the goal of achieving over others.   This immense pressure forces the members within this society of control, both directly and inadvertently, to adapt their human behavior to a more mechanistic behavior, as a cog of a machine, operating at maximum efficiency. (What a sad state to exist in as a human for forty or more hours a week.)

 

Deleuze also expresses the futileness of societies of controls’ tendency to tweak and alter the way they function, to no noticeably prosperous end.

“The administrations in charge never cease announcing supposedly necessary reforms: to reform schools, to reform industries, hospitals, the armed forces, prisons. But everyone knows that these institutions are finished, whatever the length of their expiration periods. It’s only a matter of administering their last rites and of keeping people employed until the installation of the new forces knocking at the door.”

 

Deleuze lays out that “corporation has replaced the factory” and that “perpectual training tends to replace the school, and continuous control to replace the examination. Which is the surest way of delivering the school over to the corporation.” This disheartening evolution of societal priorities is still true today, and has perpetuated itself invasively into nearly every aspect of life.

(I recently came across an interesting article in Harper’s magazine that touches on this. See The Neoliberal Arts – How college sold its soul to the market)

Thoughts on Gilles Deleuze’s “The Fold”

The importance of Deleuze’s theory of the fold manifests most for me in the distinction that it highlights between organisms and inorganic matter.

“An organism is defined by endogenous folds, while inorganic matter has exogenous folds that are always determined from without or by the surrounding environment. Thus, in the case of living being, an inner formative fold is transformed through evolution, with the organism’s environment.”

Thinking about this concept in respect to nature, it is easy to conceptualize the potential of infinitely unfolding matter.  Potential is pent up within folds, and released in the process of unfolding.

Deleuze progresses the concept of the fold, speaking of it as a mechanism, and later, even as a series of machines.  He furthers his argument of the infinite potential of organisms in his comparison of the organism and the mechanism:

“If plastic forces can be distinguished, it is not because living matter exceeds mechanical processes, but because mechanisms are not sufficient to be machines. A mechanism is faulty not for being too artificial to account for living matter, but for not being mechanical enough, for not being adequately machined. Our mechanisms are in fact organized into parts that are not in themselves machines, while the organism is infinitely machined, a machine whose every part or piece is a machine.”

That idea that nature is the unsurpassable designer and engineer is no new conclusion.  However, what is revolutionary is Deleuze’s claim that “a mechanism is faulty not for being too artificial to account for living matter, but for not being mechanical enough, for not being adequately machined.”  Here, Deleuze dismantles the common perception that the concept of ‘mechanism’ is associated exclusively with inorganic, man made design.  However, it is really the organism that is “infinitely machined”.

Keeping this concept in mind, broadly, can help to advance human invention and design.  I am always a bit skeptical of designs that claim biomimicry as source. Biomimicry is a flashy design trend at the moment, and because of this is overused, or over-claimed, by designers and architects.  They will etch a pattern resembling a cellular structure onto a piece of bent aluminum and call it biomimicry.  I have no problem with deriving aesthetic designs from nature, but I don’t think this deserves the title “biomimicry”.  The real potential in mimicking nature, which many makers are exploring, comes from studying and mimicking how organisms self-operate.  This study has to come from first understanding organisms for their infinitely complex and ever-unfolding engineering.

Our reliance on the crutch of intelligent software programs is impeding innovation

In the midst of technologies and softwares that can do all the math and calculations for you, there is a temptation to neglect the fundamentals and dive right into tinkering with the middleman software to produce a result.  There is a danger of loss of innovation and invention in this.

George Legendre, an architect by trade with a have extensive educational background in mathematics, lobbies for the need to understand the mathematics behind software used in architectural modeling software.

Without understanding the root equations behind all of this software, making is extremely limited.  If one doesn’t understand each component of an equation, how can one adjust parameters for different results?  Software programs are useful for the novice maker who wants to play unwittingly and see what result.  It allows for quick, tangible results without having to possess even a cursory understanding of the physical principles behind a design (thank you to the brilliant and diligent programers of these softwares).

But I think the ease of these softwares, in that they do (almost) all the thinking for you, poses a huge threat to innovation.  It might sound archaic, and certainly like drudgery, but I think it is imperative that we do not forgo an understanding of the mathematic and physical principles that make these creations possible.  As the minute we do, our collective results are doomed to homogeny.