06 November 2006

answering glorianna's questions: imagination

I can't separate myself from my experience; I am my experience. My experience is leading me by my nose... sure. So maybe instead of trying to appear objective, I should be blatantly subjective. Glorianna's comments I think are quite right. And I think her process may be a better suggestion than "give me the first page."

So again. Please be patient. I'm not a writer. In fact, I find dealing with words overly cumbersome at times. Maybe it would be fair to say that this thesis will end up with me examining my thought process just as much (if not more) as I want to explore others' thought processes.


+ what do I want to make?
+ what can I make with these materials?
+ what makes me want to build something so badly that I scavenge?
+ what if I have a kit/materials but no technique?

Sometimes as an artist, I feel that the overwhelming pressure is to be "new," to be "unique," to be "cutting-edge" and all that. If someone can look at your work and name your influences, somehow it makes you less of an "artist." There's this idea that permeates -- the idea that the artist is a lone genius living in the wilderness and that one day inspiration, a muse, comes down and the artist creates. No artist lives in complete isolation. Ideas don't come from nowhere. What makes something unique is not so much that the techniques are radically new, but maybe more that the things have never been put together in that order before. What goes for art in this case also goes for design to some degree. People want designs to be "innovative." Following from the conversation over dinner at sponsor week, perhaps innovation comes from viewing the problem in a unique way. Hm. I'm a little off topic now.

Anyway. I think the first two questions fall into the same answer... the first step is usually immitating what's around you. There's a lot you can understand about something by observing an object and interacting with it. But when you try to build your own version, you realize (more) why the design is how it is. Especially when you are able to try alternative designs and see how they may work differently or may not work at all. A good example I can think of this is truss structures. If simply observing a truss structure, it may not seem obvious why there are all these triangles around, but if you try to build something that is only squares (for example), you soon find that it fails. I had this experience as a kid. Cylinders/columns are also another good example. It's easy to build paper versions of different extruded shapes, and simply placing the same weight on the top, you can see which is stronger. And it's this gut intuition that matters... not knowing all the reasons like... well... the mass is a certain distance from the neutral axis and thus has a large moment of (bending) inertia blah blah blah mechE stuff that I learned in 2.001.

So maybe you want to make something that's familiar to you. And the perceived affordances of the materials will depend on your prior experience with those materials. You're more likely to use a material as you've seen it used.

The third question is harder. What makes you want to build something so much you want to scavenge parts? Oh man. Well. I guess I'm a strange person to ask about this; I make things compulsively/obsessively. I was just telling someone the other day that me drawing wasn't a question. In some ways my compulsion to draw exists beyond me "enjoying it"... I MUST do it. And if I didn't have my familiar materials to do it with, I would come up with some way to do it... in the sand, make my own paper, make my own glue, burn a piece of wood to use as charcoal, use hairspray as fixative, etc. I've actually done quite a few of those when I've been in situations where I want to make something and I don't quite have all the necessary materials. I think the simplest answer to this question is the idea that making something might have a personal, emotional meaning to you. "A cidade que a gente quer" (the city that we want) is a good example. This desire is something the student needs to bring. No amount of cajoling by the teacher can force a student to care. So if this is given by them, they'll be working on something they care about, and will therefore be more involved.

At least, this is my own personal experience. I've found that if I don't care about what I'm working on, it's damn near impossible to get me to do it. But if I care about it, I'm fixated on it until the end. And the things I care about end up with better results. And vice versa. (I was once often told about my highschool english papers that I write well, but uninspired.)

So for the last question... What if I have a kit but no technique? Hm. Good question. This is part of the reason I think the kit should go along with a small booklet. The contents of this booklet are up for debate. Perhaps the contents could emerge from my experiences with what the people who interact with this kit want? If I find that people have trouble starting here or going there, perhaps instead of telling them what to do, I could provide helpful questions to ask yourself? Maybe ideally, there'd be an online community of people using these kits and sharing their experiences with others.

Maybe this is enough for this post for now.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Boy, I think I lost part of my thread in this maze of windows... no matter. One of the difficult aspects of the road you are racing down is "art" itself. How do I know when I am doing art? In the case of the city I want, I might want a more artful city or I might just want a working city. These may not be the same thing. You express your hypothesis well in the following statement "I propose that a low-cost construction kit focused on enabling the building of interactive kinetic sculptures would be beneficial in aiding the learning of mechanical and structural design." This does not say the kit must be used for making art but rather that the kit opens a door to deliberate design. This is great.... however for yourself as the writer, you probably have to resolve the thorny issue of the relation of the kit and the skills of making using the kit to the activity of "art" making vs. engineering ...

    does this make sense? if yes, I think you now have most of the major pieces of the proposal -- of course they all require some honing.

    the background/related work section needs to draw from at least 2 but probably 3 areas... you can do that at the end.

    the evaluation needs to take a stand on the kit and on a group to use the kit with... to date the kit has been evolving.. you may want to specify it with some fixed number of elements and allow for cultural augmentation....

    I am standing by. G