Exemplar: Codex Seraphinianus



Codex Seraphinianus is a book using drawings to depict an imaginary world,
written by an Italian artist, architect, and industrial designer Luigi Serafini
in 30 months between 1976 and 1978.

The books describe the imaginary world’s flora and fauna,
physics and chemistry,
machines and vehicles,
biology and human body,
historical scenes, food and clothing,
and architecture.

This piece of work really blurs the line between critical design and fantasy. Foremost there is no (easy) way to ‘read’ its content (the invented writing system). And the drawings of the things are so radical (and weird) that even a slight imagination of their existence will cause a huge disturbance to our sense of the real world.  It looks like a very well-done, exaggerated piece of critical (or fantastical) design that challenges our ability of interpretation and acceptance, and afterwards, leaving us with a hard time to wonder what all this really means.

Exemplar: 3D printing is really cool

So I’m a huge fan of custom fabrication. My first run-in with the concept was at a design lecture by Nervous System in 2011 (they design algorithms that create digital patterns that replicate biological processes, and use those patterns to create custom fab products like jewelry and furniture). The idea of custom/on-demand fabrication of everyday household items seemed fun.

I still think this idea is fun and useful. And I would very much like to explore the potential in my own career. But I’m also worried about the implications. In that same year of design lectures, Cameron Tonkinwise gave a spoke about sustainable design, where he points out designer and “makers-of-things” are so empathetic to humanity, that they materialize that empathy into designed things – and thus we have so many things. And I am worried that custom fabrication will just add more things to this world. But perhaps it will eventually lead to less things, by replacing the mass production of useless or less necessary or less popular things? I don’t really know. But I’d like to learn more about the possible implications of 3D printing and custom and even in-home fabrication on society and the environment.

Do we really need more teacup designs?
No rings
No puddles
No dangling strings
No handles
No thieves
No need for a plate or a napkin or having to get up and throw away the teabag?!

Okay, back to business. Here are some examples of 3D printing I looked at…

3D Printed Homeshttp://www.cbsnews.com/videos/3d-printing-could-revolutionize-home-building/
This is so cool. And the professor researching this area points out that he hopes it will be used for humanitarian purposes, like building structures after a natural disaster. But my mind jumps to two things: what happens to these structures after the disaster dissipates and there is need for real and well planned infrastructure; and what happens to the construction and architecture industries and that have already taken a huge hit in the past decade? 

3D Printed Everythinghttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10372598/A-vision-of-how-3D-printing-may-change-the-world-unveiled-Science-Museum.html
When I look at this I see a lot of junk. There are some very useful and unbelievable projects that are highlighted in this gallery video (like 3D printed tissue and food?!), but a lot of the knick-knacky things look like they will just occupy landfills one day, or worse – the stomachs of poor, unsuspecting birds!

3D Printe Objects Recyclinghttp://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/3-d-printing-a-recycling-machine
Some people are developing ways to grind test prints, as well as everyday objects, down into filament to be re-used for new 3D print jobs. This seems like a step in the right direction.

3D Printed Toyshttp://www.notcot.com/archives/2012/03/free-universal-construction-ki.php
Perhaps this could extend the lifetime of childhood toys, adding a new layer complexity to playtime? But on second thought, homemade products like this can bypass US Consumer Product Safety requirements for children’s toys, of which the standards have been remarked as some of the toughest in the world.

3D Printed Guns: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/11/14/245078880/plastic-guns-made-with-3-d-printers-pose-new-security-concerns
(More) unregulated weapons? Yeah, that could be a problem…

Like I said, I’m not 100% sure on where I stand, but custom fabrication can have some serious implications on society.

Teaching the fuzzy stuff – critical design

slides: GamesForEmpathy

I wanted to explore how technologies are being appropriated to teach people about empathy, socio-emotional learning, and other aspects of “fuzzy stuff” which are typically highly-valued in the classroom, but primarily ignored when it comes to actual assessment.

Empathy and socio-emotional learning ideas are typically reinforced in classrooms through discussions, activities, and stories (e.g., star-bellies sneetches and their buttered-side-up toast). I wanted to see, more recently, how tools and technologies have been developed to more directly engage children with these ideas. I first looked at the existing tools teachers are using to teach students about empathy, including “The Empathy Toy” which is, essentially, tinker-toy like blocks that can be used to promote discussions to reinforce the idea that people have different knowledge bases, and support understanding of theory of mind. There are also a number of games being developed to support these ideas, such as Quandary, where students play as the captain of a planet who needs to make complex decisions. The game’s goal is to encourage students’ understanding that no decisions are inherently right or wrong, and that everything is dependent on context and perceptions. Similarly, the game “IF” challenges some of the current standards in games by making the characters (1) aware that they are being controlled by a human, and (2) that parts of the games like failure or death deserve to be reflected upon and worked through. The characters help the students regulate different aspects of socio-emotional learning by teaching self-regulation methods, encouraging awareness of other characters’ feelings, and allowing room to mourn for a character’s death.

Recently, though, the idea of teaching these fuzzy principles of empathy and other aspects of socio-emotional learning are being explored through technologies that engage more directly with the user. For example, sensory fiction explores what it would be like for readers to *really feel* what the protagonists of stories are feeling through body-temperature regulation, constriction, and sensations like chills that automatically change along with the story. People are also talking about appropriating google glass to have people more directly engage with questions of ethics by having their real life monitored by an application called GodFilter, which monitors their behaviors, such as entrance into sex shops, and can do things like call their pastor, or shut their laptop off automatically once they open up porn.

I think the interesting difference between these technologies that exist and are being used and the ones that are currently fictions is the line between (1) giving users an opportunity to explore different feelings through the safety of an avatar, and (2) directly enforcing these feelings onto the user directly.


IF game: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/11/20/246395383/video-game-creators-are-using-apps-to-teach-empathy, and learning goals: http://www.ifyoucan.org/exsel-stats/

Quandary: http://www.quandarygame.org/teachers

The Empathy Toy: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3024127/wanted/can-these-toys-teach-kids-empathy

Sensory Fiction: http://vimeo.com/84412874

GodFilter article: http://donteatthefruit.com/2013/07/how-google-glass-will-transform-your-spiritual-life/