[-empyre-] Hactivating Design

naxsmash naxsmash at mac.com
Sun Nov 22 06:24:32 EST 2009

And Ricardo.. Your tactics and the why of them so drastically needed  
within the pedagogy of new media! I am forwarding this post to a bunch  
of my uc Santa Cruz grad students straight away. Perfect timing for  
them in their struggles right now.


Sent from my iPhone

On Nov 20, 2009, at 12:38 PM, nicholas knouf <nak44 at cornell.edu> wrote:

> Brooke, Ricardo, and everyone,
> Thanks for your interesting points regarding notions of design,
> designing, and designers.  This has also been on my mind recently,
> especially as a result of my position within a traditional
> human-computer interaction program.  Here there is no questioning the
> role of the designer: the designer is to be subservient to the "needs"
> of the "user", where the user is defined as that constructed by
> corporations and the market.  Researchers actively seek out
> relationships with corporate sponsors and corporate research labs.   
> As a
> result, there is no discussion regarding broader societal issues,
> excepting where they intersect with present corporate priorities, as  
> in
> the rhetoric of "sustainability"---and of course there the limits of  
> the
> conversation are already set, again by the market.
> This situation caused me to write a polemical paper for the main
> conference in HCI, ACM SIGCHI, called "HCI for the Real World"
> (http://zeitkunst.org/publications/hci-real-world).  In it, and this  
> is
> the main point of my post, I draw heavily on on the work of Victor
> Papanek, an industrial designer who wrote, for me, a very influential
> book originally published in 1970 entitled _Design for the Real  
> World_.
> He focuses on the role of the designer, not only in the composition of
> the products made, but prior to that, in the very selection of  
> projects
> to work on:
> "...I must agree that the designer bears a responsibility for the way
> the products he designs are received at the market place. But this is
> still a narrow and parochial view. The designer’s responsibility mus 
> t go
> far beyond these considerations. His social and moral judgment must be
> brought into place long before he begins to design, since he has to  
> make
> a judgment, and a prior judgment at that, as to whether the products  
> he
> is asked to design or redesign merit his attention at all. In other
> words, will his design be on the side of the social good or not" (66).
> This is one of the key, but unasked, questions within HCI.  There is a
> general agreement on the relationship of HCI to corporations, the
> market, and "users", yet there is no questioning of the very  
> assumptions
> that underlie that agreement, and thus what are the important problems
> that students and faculty spend their time on.  Of course there are
> complicated interrelationships here between funding agencies,
> professional societies, methods of reward, the system of publication  
> (in
> HCI, emphasis on yearly conference papers versus less-frequent, but  
> more
> in-depth, journal articles or monographs), and so on.  Yet these are  
> the
> very conditions that should be at the forefront of debate,  
> especially in
> a "discipline" that is relatively young like HCI---but they are not.
> Returning to someone like Papanek, writing a similar polemic for
> industrial design and at the height of an earlier "ecological"  
> movement,
> is key to foreground the continuities between different aspects of
> design, different time periods...and to suggest transdisciplinary
> connections.  Design can be more than ICT for development, more than
> "sustainable consumerism", but only if designers take responsibility  
> for
> their choices of what to research and what to design (and where they  
> can
> have a decent amount of control over that choice, such as in the
> academy), and if they instill in their students a similar ethic.
> Designers in academia would have to push against the notion that they
> have to teach their students "marketable skills".  (And, I would  
> argue,
> that if the designers really wanted to teach skills that would improve
> the "bottom line" of companies they would allow for much more creative
> activity on the part of their student-designers, but that is the topic
> for a longer post on the interrelationship of interrelationship of
> contemporary "cognitive capitalism" and modern technological
> development.)  Undertaking projects such as Brooke's "hactivating
> design" and "undesigning" and Ricardo's "garageScience" opens up  
> spaces
> to address these questions and suggest possible alternatives.
> Nevertheless, I want to additionally point to the ways in which
> Papanek's project is an explicit critique and condemnation of
> contemporary (both then and now) processes of consumerist capitalism.
> Thus this approach is not to encourage design to necessarily create  
> new,
> more "hackable" "products", but rather to question the very system of
> consumption and the manufacture of desire that creates a system of
> "products".  This is the potentially radical implications of following
> in the wake of Papanek: of using design not to create a "more just"
> capitalism, but rather to create the conditions of possibility of real
> alternatives through an engagement and reconfiguration of our material
> world, of understanding how design methodology can construct different
> ontological realities (following the work of someone like John Law in
> _After Method_) with different political implications.
> nick
> Ricardo Dominguez wrote:
>> Hola all and Brooke,
>> I really enjoyed "undesigning" poster Brooke and it would be really  
>> great
>> to slip into classrooms from pre-k to post-grad spaces. (I will  
>> work on
>> that.)
>> I do think that the tactical re-engineering is an important gesture  
>> and
>> one that has been important in my thinking since I first encountered
>> the community research initiatives that ACT UP/SF - Golden Gate  
>> established
>> in late 80's as a response to the viral politics of therapeutic  
>> state at
>> the time.
>> And by creating a "hactivating design" gesture of smashing popular
>> toothpaste with the politics of the question that can become viral  
>> - which
>> at the core of its performative matrix is that anyone can do it.  
>> Now that
>> I have a young son everything becomes amplified in terms of  
>> toxicities at
>> all levels. We are encountering particle capitalism(s) clouds at  
>> every
>> scale of being. Which, is an important theme for the *particle  
>> group* as
>> well (http://pitmm.net).
>> As, part of video mediation on Open Fabrication systems, the  
>> attempted to
>> bring together EDT/*particle group* and the other gestures that
>> criss-crossed each other under the sign of “science of the oppress 
>> ed”
>> (which I came to understand came from Monique Wittig – really fant 
>> astico)
>> - here is a section of the text that I thought might fall into the  
>> sphere
>> of “hactivating design”:
>> [science of the oppressed and garageScience]
>> We can imagine Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, Chela Sand 
>> oval’s
>> Methodology of the Oppressed, Critical Art Ensemble’s tactical sci 
>> ence,
>> Natalie Jeremijenko public experiments and what the Electronic  
>> Disturbance
>> Theater has framed today as the “science of the oppressed” –  
>> each of these
>> parts of a wide area call for a re-framed relationalilty between
>> spectator, poesis, praxis, experimentation and Sandoval’s differen 
>> tial
>> consciousness of the “la conciencia de la metiza”.  Each gesture  
>> diagrams
>> alternative social forms of life and art that fall between the  
>> known and
>> unknown, between fiction and the real, between clean science and  
>> dirty
>> science – each a part of a long history of an epistemology of soc 
>> ial
>> production which privileges the standpoint of the proletariat, the
>> multitude, the open hacks of the DIY moments, and of autonomous
>> investigators who stage test zones of cognitive styles-as/and out  
>> of –
>> concrete practices as speculation and speculation as concrete  
>> practices –
>> at the speed of dreams.
>> What the artivist adds to this circuit is the ability to stage  
>> potential
>> rehearsals for the now-and-future community laboratories, for the
>> nanoGarages to come, for the current empirical speculations of new
>> ecologies of social formations that can create a space for the  
>> agency of
>> actor-spectators – that can route around the neoliberal walls of  
>> “venture
>> science” as only protocol for “scientific” research and  
>> instead offer a
>> counter-frame/unframe of a science for and by the people. As Boal  
>> stated,
>> “we must move towards a rehearsal-theater and away from a
>> spectacle-theater.” The “science of the oppressed” for EDT is  
>> type of
>> “rehearsal-lab” that imagines community laboratories blooming  
>> from the
>> always/already “lowrider” robotics of East L.A., from the  
>> Zapatista “Open
>> Seed” an assemblage Open Wetware lab(s) – each garage a  
>> “rehearsal-lab”
>> for new agency(s) defined by the people/the citizen/the nomad to “ 
>> resume
>> their protgonistic function” between/within/without art and scien 
>> ce.
>> The whole video is here:
>> http://medialab-prado.es/article/nanogarajes_especulaciones_sobre_fabbing_abierto
>> Also, some other thoughts on these themes by *particle group*'s
>> Nanosférica presentation:
>> http://hemisphericinstitute.org/hemi/en/particle-group-intro
>> nano nano,
>> Ricardo
>>> These are some of the specifics I am dealing with, but I am  
>>> interested in
>>> this general premise: if design is about intention and if we want to
>>> create
>>> change through design then we have to design with a broader set of
>>> objectives in mind. Reverse engineering our everyday products is a  
>>> good
>>> starting point. And when I rebuild with broader objectives as I  
>>> define
>>> them,
>>> financial considerations are part of the equation but not top of  
>>> the list
>>> or
>>> the lead imperative as with mega-corporations that are designing  
>>> popular
>>> toothpastes.
>>> I came across this paper a few weeks back by Scott Burnham called  
>>> "Finding
>>> the Truth in Systems: In Praise of Design Hacking" that is quite  
>>> relevant
>>> to
>>> this discussion (http://scottburnham.com/?p=521).
>>> A brief sample from that paper:
>>>    * Hacking creates new engagements between the product and the  
>>> consumer
>>>    * Hacking mandates relevance and necessity in design
>>>    * Hacking is resourceful
>>>    * Hacking creates abundance from limited resources
>>>    * Hacking finds the truth in systems
>>> And, I leave you with a short essay of mine (this is actually text  
>>> from a
>>> poster you can download here: http://undesigning.org/cmos.html)  
>>> for those
>>> who want to read more.
>>> Best, Brooke
>>> Our Chemically Modified Organisms (CMOs)
>>> Industrial chemistry is a 20th century phenomenon. During World  
>>> War I,
>>> military demand for war gas was a great boon for the burgeoning  
>>> industry.
>>> But, in 1925, with the signing of the Geneva Protocol that banned  
>>> chemical
>>> warfare, industry had to look for other markets. The production of  
>>> nerve
>>> gas
>>> (a phosphorous-containing chemical) gave way to a new line of  
>>> insecticides
>>> and the chlorine used in weapons such as phosgene and mustard gas  
>>> became
>>> feedstock for newly designed solvents, PCBs and, eventually,  
>>> plastics.
>>> The chemical industry really took off after World War II. In the  
>>> United
>>> States, synthetic organic chemical production has grown more than
>>> thirty-fold since 1940. Today industry produces billions of tons of
>>> chemicals per year of approximately 90,000 substances. These man- 
>>> made
>>> chemicals are the foundation of our built environment. They form our
>>> plastics, cosmetics, household cleaners, pharmaceuticals, resins,
>>> pesticides, food packaging, paper, clothing, flame-retardants,
>>> electronics,
>>> solvents, paint, automobile parts, mattresses, lumber, pigments,
>>> refrigeration, detergents, PVC, silicone, dry cleaning,  
>>> disinfectants,
>>> lubricants  the list is truly endless.
>>> Many of these chemicals and the byproducts produced during their  
>>> life
>>> cycle
>>> are stable and persist in the environment. These chemicals also
>>> bio-accumulate, meaning they increase in concentration as they  
>>> move up the
>>> food chain. Chemicals can travel great distances on currents of  
>>> wind and
>>> water, making remote regions like the Arctic just as susceptible to
>>> degradation.
>>> New research demonstrates that some of these pollutants, even at  
>>> very low
>>> doses, can cause serious health problems. Previously it was  
>>> thought that
>>> decreasing the concentration of a substance would mitigate its  
>>> impact.
>>> Dilution is no longer seen as the pollution solution. Timing of  
>>> exposure
>>> is
>>> crucial and sensitivity is particularly high when exposure occurs  
>>> in utero
>>> or early development.
>>> For many years, cancer was the primary health concern. Today,  
>>> laboratory
>>> studies and wildlife observations demonstrate that chemical  
>>> dangers are
>>> extensive. Chemical exposures disrupt endocrine, reproductive,  
>>> immune and
>>> nervous systems as well as contribute to cancer and other diseases.
>>> In its first scientific statement published in 2009, The Endrocrine
>>> Society
>>> -- an international body with 14,000 members founded in 1916 --  
>>> stated:
>>> "Results from animal models, human clinical observations, and
>>> epidemiological studies converge to implicate EDCs [endocrine- 
>>> disrupting
>>> chemicals] as a significant concern to public health."
>>> The United States government does not require manufacturers to  
>>> prove a
>>> chemical is safe before use and companies generally do not  
>>> voluntarily do
>>> so. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has only required
>>> testing
>>> for some 200 of the 90,000 chemicals already in circulation. In  
>>> response,
>>> many groups and concerned citizens are promoting the precautionary
>>> principle, which states that the manufacture of certain products  
>>> should
>>> cease even when there are only hypothetical and untested risks. This
>>> places
>>> the burden of proof on the industry to show that a substance is safe
>>> rather
>>> than on society to demonstrate there is a specific risk.
>>> Some scientists are creating new frameworks, citing the failure of  
>>> the
>>> scientific method alone to sufficiently protect human health and
>>> ecological
>>> effects. Funtowicz and Ravetz, for example, have introduced  
>>> postnormal
>>> science, which is useful when facts are uncertain, the stakes are  
>>> high and
>>> decisions are urgent. These scientists encourage dialogue and
>>> participation
>>> with a full range of stakeholders since scientific objectivity  
>>> cannot
>>> provide all that is needed for decision-making on high, risk issues.
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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