Sunday, November 21, 2010

Poetics of place and space

Ze Frank's web playroom reached a TED talk

Ze Franks TEDtalk begins with a picture, a metaphor of the virtual world.
And he says something like how every talk of the web uses a picture like this, the digital traces made apparent. Its a tracing of the social web from wikipedia, it might have been a network via ANT but the anthrocentrism of social networking per wikipedia doesnt acknowledge the non human actors.

Ze Frank also brings in a picture of a Netherlands street crossing sign. The person looks to be really interested in the button, but seems he's not that interested in crossing the street, having fixated on the button...
and it reminds Ze of a photograph from any current street corner, a person looking at the text on their mobile phone. And what he makes of this is:
"Truth is, life is being lived there,
when they smile,
life is being lived there, somewhere up there in that dense network.
To feel and be felt...

He might have said instead: To love and to be loved in return...
Really connecting with people isnt easy"

But Ze Frank manages it, mediated by web
His examples include the very beautiful audio hug; Hey you're ok, you'll be fine, just breathe...Made by strangers around the world.

And it reminds me of my phd study with youthline and its text counselling. What it takes to be supported, to feel affirmed, to be connected, might look small, but its a moment in reality nonetheless.
Its not necessarily the people i am with geographically with that make me feel connected. It can be the book I'm reading, the ideas of writers long past or very distant, people I am unlikely to meet, but whose thinking resonates, and a web of connection made it easier.
And the connections don't stop with the people, but with things of import also.
Transitional objects Sherry Turkle calls them.
And her book Evocative objects, things we think with demonstrates the point, we are shaped in connection not only with each other, but also with things.

Taking this a bit further, into philosophy and into metaphysics, what is, is shaped in connection with us, its not a chair or a table or a ...unless i think it so...its there...but its purpose is established in connection with me.
My mobile is also my outsourced memory, my torch, my holder of talismans- the little messages i dont delete.

Its what helps me feel good about myself.
oh...and its also a phone.

Both human and non-human identities are shaped in connection.
And neither are totally separable one from the other, but entwined, the sociotechnical is made in conjunction.

Gregory Bateson in an ecology of mind explores such connection also:
Is there a line or a sort of a bag where I can say that "inside" that line or interface is "me" and outside" is the environment or some other person? By what right do we make these distinctions?

This challenges bounded ways of thinking, arguing that relational processes are entwined in the forming of people, and of potentials:

It is through relational process that whatever we come to view as independent beings are given birth.... in whatever we think, remember, create and feel, we participate in relationship... we carry with us traces of myriad relationships, past and present, existing or imagined. These traces essentially equip us with multiple and often conflicting potentials for action. (p397)

Its not only our relating with people that has this import.
The social and technical are entwined, identities of both made in the moment, and the agency of both made in networks of possibility.

One of few memories of my Grandad was him repeating the maxim 'clothes maketh the man'
On reflecting, across time, and networking with dead people's thoughts, I find this a very ANT like saying.

But the ANT connection here that I really want to make is that there are people constructively using digital spaces that enhance the very human condition of feeling loved, feeling heard and being connected.

For Peter Sloterdikt, the spaces we make to live in, while talking of architecture, might also consider the digital spaces we choose to shape and be shaped by. Using the metaphor of spherology: a bubble's interior and exterior are made in the same breath. In designing where we live, such shaping influence us.
In moving into digital spaces how too are such spaces shaping us, and how might we shape them better to meet our human needs?

To use cutting edge technology in order to orchestrate the most archaic of all needs to be met, the need to immunize existence, to construct protective islands, to nurture human fragility...we arrive in a world of fingertip buttons.
Sloterdikt refers to his own explicative work; he refers to the dynamism of our being-in-the-world...where every created space enatils a projection.
That we take into each new space the memory of a different space, a past space we have been in.
What interiors are/were needed...becomes...what environments might produce such interiors...
Interiors that trace immunizing capacity, a protective capacity, a protection against the less fortuitous moments of life is what is wanted.

And so he infers that for architects geometry is not a starting point, but instead the atmospheric effects of space.
SO in teaching an dlearning, the starting point shouldnt be ppt...
Obviously not everyone's idea of what is desirable in nurturing spaces will be the same. But there are places to start from that are more and less helpful, the tools or the human values...shouldnt really be a hard question, mmm?

To appreciate technology's usefulness consider a functionalist question of what does the system achieve in current form? and at the end, What could be done instead? Rather than what do we use, begin with intent.
Just as modern achitecture sees itself as molders of humanity, , if one ignores the shot of meglomania, so too might designers of digital spaces.

This links a media as environment approach, in using emergent technologies consideration might first be given to the design of such spaces attentive to the needs of the human condition, remembering that variation exists and that diversity is therefore required.

'Language is the house of being' postulated Heidegger
'The medium is the message' asserted Mcluhan

I'm thinking that reals are made in unreal spaces also.

Bateson, G. (1972). Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology. Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press.
Sloterdijk, P. (2009). Spheres theory: Talking to myself about the poetics of space. Harvard Design Magazine, 30(Spring/Summer), 126-137. Retrieved from
Turkle, S. (Ed.). (2007). Evocative objects. Things we think with. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.

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