January 16th: Questions and Discussion


7 thoughts on “January 16th: Questions and Discussion

  1. Well, okay, I’ll start it off with a softball. Aisling mentioned in the first class that critical design is not art, and I’d like to know what the difference is. A lot of the projects in the readings seem to me, as an uneducated observer, like art projects. Provocative things that make you think or feel, that make you see the world in a different way. (or else they’re real-world products people are using/will use, like vat-grown meat.)
    Not arguing, just genuinely curious. Thoughts?

    • I was actually wondering the same thing. Bardzell et al. describe art as “an elitist mystery” in their paper, but don’t go in-depth into defining critical design and what makes it different from art. Perhaps design is more accessible, both literally and figuratively? Art lives within galleries and museums, and thus people have to physically enter those spaces to engage with the artwork. Design, however, can come into our lives and enter into private spaces like our homes. Design, also, is created with a particular audience in mind that it’s trying to engage with, whereas art might just be the artist trying to express himself or herself without a particular target audience in mind.

      • I agree that it can be true in some cases that design is more integrated into our lives, but this is dependent on the audience. In terms of accessibility, I disagree. Art can exist in a frame on your living room wall, or it can exist in a sculpture form (and many other countless different forms). There is even something called video game art. Needless to say it’s easily accessible.

        I think the separation could be this : art doesn’t necessarily need a purpose, or it’s not made to address a problem, but it’s merely an expression. However with design, it’s more purposeful, and it’s more about problem-solving. (not just expression)

        Although I do agree that those projects look a bit like art, I still think it’s not. A good example can be the minority report’s famous gestural interface. Many interactive art installations use kinect or similar gestural input devices, and they’re usage is solely art. While in some big data fields (like air traffic control) kinect can be used to navigate through tons of data, and usage of such gestural input would be a design decision.

    • After a few years of majoring in Art, most of my peers decide to settle on a very simple yet maddeningly recursive definition of art.
      Art – n. – That which is created or presented with the intent of being perceived as art. (See Art).
      This is not a perfect definition, but it is among the best I’ve encountered.
      There is also the ‘I know it when I see it’ model, which is viewer-centric rather than artist-centric.
      On the readings presented; I don’t see them as art at all. For one thing, the agents of their creation clearly see this as the future. You can see in their eyes the glimmer of hope in their brazen speculation.
      In my slanted art-inclined view,Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is the art-iest of the set, as it is science fiction as such. It is not intended to excite investors into opening their wallets nor to slowly accustom the public to the idea of eating lab meat. It is a imaginative work, presumably intended to induce catharsis and awe in the reader.
      If I had to categorize the readings, and I think I do, I would say they are much too genuine to be either design fiction or art. They are journalistic. No irony or sarcasm. Just a bunch of slightly daft predominantly white males who grew up on science fiction and want to build a future. Isn’t that valid on its own? Does it need an art label to become valid?

      • “the agents of their creation clearly see this as the future” – you mean from https://cmudesignfiction.wordpress.com/course-resources-2/inclass-activity/ readings, right? Yeah yeah, I agree, those seem more like journalism (or new product development) than art or critical design or design fiction.

        But the https://cmudesignfiction.wordpress.com/course-resources-2/readings/ ones, those are the ones I was mostly talking about. The Subversion Suit, Coffins for the Stillborn, Faraday Chair, Whispering Wall, Solar Kitchen, Slow Car.

        OTOH, “Isn’t that valid on its own? Does it need an art label to become valid?” — fair enough. I’d be glad to stop worrying about the labels and just get on with it. But I got the sense that it was important to critical designers that they distinguish their work from art. I don’t know, is it?

    • I think you can differentiate some of the given examples of critical design from art by examining the intended direction the designer/artist wants to take a viewer’s thoughts. While art can highlight external factors of society and culture, I think its essence revolves around the subjective intent of the artist. Generally speaking, one might ask: “what was the artist thinking?” Whereas these examples of critical design inspire more tangible, empathetic reactions that prompt externally directed questions such as: “what are we thinking?”

  2. I’ve been curious about the aspect of discourse and evaluation as I’ve been reading about these different critical design projects, but I think my question requires digging in deeper to specific cases to actually see what happens when a critical design is put out there:

    Dunne and Raby emphasize how critical design can be used to create spaces for discourse for non-designers like, scientists, philosophers, policy-makers, ordinary people, etc. Critical design is meant to add to the decision making process for future outcomes. So, reflection, discussion, and discourse seems to be what critical design artifacts/scenarios/interactions are ultimately supposed to create once the things themselves have been created. [At least that’s my interpretation.]

    However, do other people (especially those working outside of a creative realm) actually use them to affect the decisions they make? Do these discussions ever take place?

    If a critical design is critiquing an issue you are involved in (for instance if you were a police officer encountering Ralph Borland’s Suited for Subversion, http://ralphborland.net/s4s/), would it feel like it is an accusation against you or would it make you reconsider future actions?

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