“Apply one of the concepts of the Philosophy of Technology 1 & 2 sessions. Reflect on your practice or other scholarly/artistic/design work.”
Philosophy. Usually the word alone, stirring up images of Socrates and old men in Greece, sends me to sleep. However, I’ve never thought about it being applied to technology before. Philosophy has always struck me as something old fashioned, unproven, and lacking any rich qualities allowing it to underpin the foundations of any solid ideas. Have I been too quick to rule out philosophy and the implications it might have on my practice?
“The world of tools is an invisible realm from which the visible structure of the world emerges” (Heidegger, 1967)
Heidegger’s Tool is quite an interesting concept. I like the notion that people use “tools” – whether they are literal or metaphorical, to interact with the world. And do they matter? Does it matter what the “tool” is, and does the user pay any attention to it, if it’s getting the job done and the outcome is the desired result? Or is the tool just as important, is the tool part of the journey, which ultimately both leads to and defines the outcome? This raises a lot of questions for me around aesthetics and usability.
If the technology disappears in the user’s hand as they focus on the immediate performance of the tool – I’ll stick with the hammer example – does the way it looks, the material it is made of, its colour, etc, even matter? I’ve always been a firm believer that the tool is very important. I think any object a person uses is important, and its design/behaviour/aesthetics will ultimately impact on the experience of using it, as well as its performance. I do however like how it talks about the tool being “fused with the body”, as in my work I always aim to make the interaction work with the user’s body as I feel it creates a more fluid interaction, and thus a richer experience.
“The objective presence of the tool only occurs if it breaks during application” (Zics, 2008). This is a rather depressing thought, I think. It makes me feel like people only enjoy things when they are functional – that any beauty in the design is lost instantly should it fail to function. I’d hate to think that anything I have designed or created is viewed like that! I never discard beautiful things just because they are broken. I have several really old camera, old slide projectors, ancient light meters, etc, just because they are cool. I have a box of jewellery which is broken, but I would never throw it out because it is still of value to me – it reminds me of people and places and things – and it always will, regardless of functionality. I think the functions of objects change over time.
Ultimately, I think I must subconsciously consider a lot of these concepts within my own work. I have never taken the time to study them until now, so perhaps I wasn’t aware of the decisions I’ve been making. I started my first undergraduate degree when I was 16 – in film and media studies, and I’ve written a lot about the hermeneutic code. It’s quite interesting to revisit this and apply some of that to technology and design. Have I been doing it all along without realising?
I’m finding all this a bit mind-bending, but it has made me think a lot. I’m going to end this post here and will probably come back and update it in a few days when I’ve had some more time to process all this!