09 February 2006

really, i'm not a crazy engineer.

so it's thursday. classes have started, and i'm so happy to be going to them. i think they'll be very good for me this term. i almost feel like i've become a real and somewhat (more) responsible person.

class 1: special topics in cinematic storytelling with glorianna davenport. first day of class, we got to tell a story. the reading list is good. the people in the class are a nice mix. and glorianna looks so happy to teach. it's her last time, she says. so i guess it's good that i get a chance to take this.

class 2: media theories and methods II with henry jenkins. henry is awesome. the class dynamic is strong. there are lots of good discussions that go on. the reading list is also awesome.


"The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth -- it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true." -- from Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster (Stanford; Stanford University Press, 1988).

first week of class, and i'm sure i have some thoughts to go along with it. i've been reading about fair use and american copyright law and i keep getting angrier about the state of things. i'm tempted to agree with baudrillard's argument of the simulation of freedom... the simulacrum. i also started reading "thing knowledge." am gonna read some foucault and some more dewey. maybe i've discovered my hidden love for philosophy. maybe i've discovered that i actually care about the state of things than i thought i did. maybe i'm getting over my skepticism and cynicism and am actually trying to do something about it, because anyone can sit around and wank about how things suck and about how they used to be so much better back in the day. words are cheap and thoughtful actions are rare.

maybe sometimes it's better to start doing something and to try and remain confident that you can figure things out along the way. it's better to be confident in your abilities than to be confident in your ability to predict the future.

anyway. back to that whole doing stuff thing.

i started building some dancing flowers. simple. made out of scraps of stuff i had around as an exercise in mechanisms and building stuff with wire. i don't think there's much better of a way for me to do this other than me doing this. it feels like working with the material speaks so much more than i could ever theorize. in some way, it's nice to give up control in favor of something that would work better with the material. i don't know if that statement made any sense. basically... i can only plan so much before building something. after that, everything has to come from experience. i'm not old enough to have the design experience of a mature engineer, but i'm flexible enough to admit that i don't. and i'm flexible enough to admit that sometimes the material knows (in a sense) more than i do.

maybe i sound crazy when i say this, but i think it's an engineer's job to listen to the materials and the situation and to be willing to admit that their planning is sometimes not enough. it's not an engineer's job to forcefully work out a situation. there has to be elegance and grace. in particular when working with nature or trying to create a certain motion.

does that make sense? i realize that sometimes i ramble and that sometimes things make sense to me when in reality i'm leaving out a bunch of explaining.

maybe i should expand on that.

too long, engineers and industry in general has tried to forceably make what they want to have happen instead of finding the best solution with the materials available. this leads to excess and over engineering and a whole host of other things. i can't see technology without any sort of philosophy or ethics or art, and i don't know why it's not taught as being inextricably tied together. i also hate the way people put themselves above nature. the world was here before us and the world will be here after us. it's prideful and foolish to even pretend that we can predict and control things. what we CAN do, though, is listen to the situations... to the materials involved. instead of trying to find the best materials from the farthest away to create the "perfect" model of something, we can find local materials and create the most effective local model.

for me right now, i have a lot of wire around.
its strength is its flexibility
its strength is also its weakness... i.e. it's hard to build larger structures out of it
but if you use its strength as a solution to its weakness (by wrapping lots of wire together in certain manners and soldering/welding in key spots), you can end up with a pretty stable structure.

this solution comes from simply listening to the material and using its strength.
likewise, the same should be done for other materials.

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