Commit 9a87e6be authored by Colm O'Neill's avatar Colm O'Neill

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Title: Tangible tools
Date: 2016/12/31
### Colm O'Neill
#### student number: 0901273
Thesis submitted to: the Department of Media Design and Communication,
<br>Piet Zwart Institute,
<br>Willem de Kooning Academy.
In partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts in Fine Art and Design: Media Design (49114):
Adviser: Marloes de Valk, Second Reader: Aymeric Mansoux.
<br>Rotterdam April 2017
Title: Dissertation abstract
Title: Thesis introduction
Date: 2017/01/01
# Abstract :
The move away from manual crafts towards on-screen counterparts has been ongoing since the first generations of software, in the late 1940s. It is a regular phenomenon in this day and age. Computer and software technologies promise —potential— for accessibility, flexibility, scale and speed of innumerable tasks. Many types of software are available for ranges of jobs, from every day actions to very complex and specific professional needs. This study first presents an understanding of what *craft* means today, now that different professions —say electrical circuit designers and photo editors— use very similar utilities. We look at how the practices and cultures that stem from manual crafts have been affected by their transformations to work within an operating system. It becomes clear that some labours have improved, while others have only —at best— been accelerated by the morphing. Therefor this study puts forward that a confusion between efficiency and efficacy when transforming a craft into a computer program can put severe weight on the origins and traditions of that field, and ultimately make the tool feel hermetic. <!--(tentatively answering the question relative to why it is important that tools and practice transfer culture and knowledge)--> This observation drives the inquiry toward the user and the (re-)learning —curve. What is the users position in the new scheme of actions that is software? Is s/he supposed to know all of the reasoning's and practices or is one to accept that *this is the order of things* without any context? Then, we note that the workplace has also been shifted, first out of physical tools, onto personal computers, and now again onto ‘the cloud’. What is the reasoning behind this third step? Is it necessary? Who is this helping, and what extra barriers does it place between practice and field knowledge? Finally, this study posits that a few re-considerations, of the user and the way s/he is talked to by the software —and it's makers—, could be a very simple but important change towards a broader understanding of what is happening and why, with huge benefits for all involved.
This thesis speaks of modern graphic design. It is written from a personal perspective on the field, and on how I think it is understood. I feel like graphic design has become to be understood as purely utilitarian. A decorative function of communication. With this text, I follow an intuition that misunderstandings of what graphic design is come from the ways it is practised, on computers, with computers and for a computer based existence. I believe misunderstandings exists inside and outside the field, but this thesis will concentrate on my perceptions as a designer from within.
A [foreword](http://tangible.tools/dissertation-introduction.html#foreword) and a [formal introduction](http://tangible.tools/dissertation-introduction.html#introductionformal) to this dissertation exist, but are not included in the academic longform for word count reasons. Accessible via sentence linktext.
Researching this feeling requires the investigation of three main points; firstly, the notion of craft. How can craft be defined, and how has it's understanding changed with the the adoption of general purpose computers as tools. Secondly, a dive into the existing confusion between efficiency and efficacy in software tools. Efficiency being an avoidance of waste, efficacy being the ability to produce a desired effect. The interchangeability of these two notions lead me to understand the nature of some software tools, how they interface with me, and how that interfacing effects the use and understanding of the tool. Lastly, the learning curve of alternative interfaces is considered, what the payoff of a more invested relation to software tools may be, and what I believe is at stake when interfaces try to disappear.
I'm developing the opinion that for graphic design not to be seen as a simple utility, designer themselves must change their relations to their practice and their tools, so the secondary thematic of this text is interfacing —as an active verb. I refuse to accept the constructs that show the digital world as totalities, I believe I must see them as wrappers and conventions that masquerade as solutions to problems. Interfaces are a type of dialog. While developing this text, the realisation that the dialog was not neutral became clearer and clearer. With the setting of graphic design, I'll consider what it means to be an end-user.
"The computer world deals with imaginary, arbitrary made up stuff that was all made up by somebody. Everything you see was designed and put there by someone. [...] There are so many ideas to care about, and with ideas comes the politics of ideas." (Ted Nelson, 2012)
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Title: Dissertation conclusions
Title: Thesis conclusions
Date: 2017/01/05
# Conclusions
With this dissertation I attempt to understand the factors made and that make software plainly utilitarian. The economic dimensions always seem omnipresent as an uphill battle, but I'm too exited about the potentials of computers and software to give up on the fight for “cultural software” (Lev Manovich, 2011). Moreover I'm motivated by movements that question the political and social elements that are translated into the technical domain. "The computer world deals with imaginary, arbitrary made up stuff that was all made up by somebody. Everything you see was designed and put there by someone. [...] There are so many ideas to care about, and with ideas comes the politics of ideas." (Nelson, 2012)
The questions that drove this thesis have been addressed from my personal experience. I feel very strongly about my field becoming functional utility because I believe in the power of a visually shaped message. It confuses me that the majority of the graphic design I observe in the public, executed by professional shape givers, is not more interested in it's position in relation to the politics of the tools it is created out of. During my training in art school, I used to get frustrated with my peers and I coming to similar visual resolutions to the assignments we had. It became clear after a few of these occurrences that, while we might have had different interests and background cultures, we were receiving the same assignment, from the same teachers, out of the same workshops; and we responded to these assignments with influences from the same lectures, the same blogs, same magazines; then we resolved them with the same tools (and similar methods in said tools, as we had been thought these tools together) on the same computers. Finally we all went to the same print shop and did our final cuts and bindings in the same ‘technical’ room, before assessments. I'm explaining this frustration because I think a lot of what was happening during graphic design school is happening in today's professional design world too. Trends will be trends and influences weigh differently from place to place, but my reoccurring feeling is that a lot of the bits of graphic design I see nowadays tastes the same as the next. It feels similar. It's not unthinkable that these designers would have had similar influences, or followed similar trends, but the taste and the feel I'm talking about comes from composition and from shapeliness. It's like all this design was made on the same grid, or had to abide to the same template. It's like all the production had to conform to the same guidelines, bordering on the line of subliminal. My cynical belief is that this is true, because it is an almost sure bet that these designers have worked within similar environments, within similar influences, with similar design tools, on very similar computers. The consequence of all design looking the same is that it all gets read the same way. Serving the same pictorial facture over and over means that the audience views in comparison, not in difference. This shortcuts to a view of graphic design that is a regularised transaction.
I hope to have addressed indirectly the situation of computer illiteracy and made a stance for what we users should be demanding. I am simply weary of interface constructs that seem to make the learning of the behind the scenes elements harder because they have no reason, and therefor make me think that there may be a hidden agenda in these practices. This suspicion is probably more often false than true, but is a growing concern stemming from “the Agile Turn”(Gürses and van Hoboken, 2016). Confirming this statement is not an area I want to research, for fear of what I might find, but the example of ways in which lack of functional computer knowledge is leveraged for a solutionist financial gain occur very often online and across digital services. They offer something for free, but get a lot more out of the data that is harvested from their user base. These are reasons why I advocate for wider spread knowledge of the functioning of information systems. Meanwhile, in and for all of this the *learning* aspects are key, and it is with the ideas of learning and spreading knowledge that I stay motivated.
To state this opinion clearly: I am not holding the position that every human must learn computer architectures and programming languages. What I am calling for are interfacing methods that are not seamlessness, but that reveal their parts, toggling between heterogeneous and homogeneous displays, and that trust their users as equally smart as the software builders. I do not believe that everybody must be on similar technical levels of understanding computer technologies either, but I do think that a broader and better understanding of all of the types and all of the layers of abstractions that are needed for computers and networks to function is, in my opinion, a valiant way forwards.
I think the similar compositions and similar shapes come from the defaults and presets the used tools have. Somehow the mould and the cast are identicals, and that ends up being just OK. I'm quite confused and disenchanted by this state of affairs, but I do believe that interesting graphic design can be restored. It can be rebuilt by looking at what it involves to make graphic design today. The re-identification as crafts-people as opposed to sequencers is the first point. Understanding how craft has changed, how tools have changed it, and what it means to practice with abstracting / abstracted tools and understanding the politics that surround these tools is a second point. Seeing that ‘industry interests’ are not to be taken for granted, and that efficiency and speed actually have costs. The costs constitute the third and broadest point of this thesis, about learning curves and their payoffs.
In short, I am not holding the position that every human must learn computer architectures and programming languages. What I am saying is that interfacing methods should be helpful, reveal their parts, toggle between heterogeneous and homogeneous displays, and that trust their users as equally smart as the software builders. I do not believe that everybody must be on similar technical levels of understanding computer technologies either, but I do think that a broader and better understanding of the types and the layers of abstractions that are needed for computers to function is increasingly important. I also believe that the need for a certain digital literacy extends beyond professional practitioners. The powers of information technologies, information systems are all around us and the examples that show us how their use and existence embodies specific politics, become forms of governance, arise daily.
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......@@ -24,40 +24,38 @@ EXAMPLE VIDEO
Mrgeorged, 2009. Top Gear The Stig revealed Full. [video online] Available at: <http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=eTapK5dRaw4> [Accessed 23 June 2009].
-->
EXAMPLE MAILINGLIST
* Sweeden Josh, 2009. Craftsman, by Richard Sennett | Center for Practical Theology [online] Available at: <http://www.bu.edu/cpt/resources/book-reviews/craftsman-by-richard-sennett/> [Accessed November 2016]
Author, Initial., Year. Subject line, Title of Mailing List. [online] date of message. Available at: include web site address/URL (Uniform Resource Locator) [Accessed date].
* Stiegler Bernard, 2012. ITW Geek Politics Bernard Stiegler. [video online] Available at: <https://vimeo.com/32540487> [Accessed September 2014]
Murrey, T., 2009. Sharing good practice, Forum for International Students. [online] 23 June 2009. Available at: <http://www.internationalstudentforum.com> [Accessed 23 June 2009].
* Broeckmann Andreas, 2001. Review: Abstracting Craft: The Practiced Digital Hand by Malcolm McCullough, Leonardo, [online] Available at: <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1576995> [Accessed November 2016]
-->
* McCullough Malcolm, 1996. Abstracting Craft: The Practiced Digital Hand. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
* Apple Inc, 2017. macOS Human Interface Guidelines. [online] Available at: <https://developer.apple.com/library/content/documentation/UserExperience/Conceptual/OSXHIGuidelines/DesignPrinciples.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/20000957-CH18-SW1> [accessed February 2017].
* Sennett Richard, 2008. The Craftsman. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
* Briz Nick, 2016. The Browser: how it became the artist's modern canvas. [video online] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRCgREBrcTo> [accessed March 2017].
Fuller, Matthew, It looks like you're writing a letter: Microsoft Word, 5 Sept 2000 http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-0009/msg00040.html
* Broeckmann Andreas, 2001. Review: Abstracting Craft: The Practised Digital Hand by Malcolm McCullough, Leonardo, [online] Available at: <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1576995> [Accessed November 2016]
Lialina, Olia, Rich User Experience, UX and Desktopization of War, 7 November 2014 http://contemporary-home-computing.org/RUE/
* Fuller Matthew, 2000. It looks like you're writing a letter: Microsoft Word. Nettime. [online] 5 September 2000. Available at: <http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-0009/msg00040.html> [Accessed 22 September 2016].
Dobbins, Michael, Urban Design and People, 1st ed. “for the answer before the questions have been fully asked” (New York: Wiley, 2009), 182.
* Gürses Seda and van Hoboken Joris , 'Privacy After the Agile Turn, in: Selinger et al (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Privacy, Forthcoming 2017. [online] Available at <https://osf.io/ufdvb/> [Accessed October 2016].
http://www.trademarkia.com/theres-an-app-for-that-77980556.html
* Goldberg Adele and Kay Alan, 1997. Personal Dynamic Media, original publication: *Computer* 10(3):31-41. March 1997. [Available in] The New Media Reader, 393-404, [text online] Available at: <http://www.newmediareader.com/book_samples/nmr-26-kay.pdf> [Accessed January 2017].
Seda Gürses and Joris van Hoboken, 'Privacy After the Agile Turn, in: Selinger et al (eds.), The
Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Privacy, Forthcoming 2017. Available at https://osf.io/ufdvb/.
* Goldberg Adele, 1979. Smalltalk-80 in a TV show. [video online] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuXCc7WSczM> [accessed March 2017].
Fuller, Matthew, It looks like you're writing a letter: Microsoft Word, 5 Sept 2000 http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-0009/msg00040.html
* Lialina Olia, 2014. Rich User Experience, UX and Desktopization of War. [online] Available at: <http://contemporary-home-computing.org/RUE/> [Accessed 10 October 2016].
https://developer.apple.com/library/content/documentation/UserExperience/Conceptual/OSXHIGuidelines/DesignPrinciples.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/20000957-CH18-SW1, accessed February 2017
* Manovich Lev, 2011. Cultural software. [online] Available at: <http://manovich.net/content/04-projects/070-cultural-software/67-article-2011.pdf> [Accessed January 2017].
Briz, Nick, Video essay, The Browser: how it became the artist's modern canvas, accessed March 2017, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRCgREBrcTo
* McCullough Malcolm, 1996. Abstracting Craft: The Practised Digital Hand. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Goldberg, Adele and Kay, Alan, Personal Dynamic Media, original publication: *Computer* 10(3):31-41. March 1997. Available in The New Media Reader, 393-404, http://www.newmediareader.com/book_samples/nmr-26-kay.pdf
- Nelson Ted, 2012. The Myth of Technology/Computers for Cynics. [video online] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdnGPQaICjk> [Accessed December 2016].
Goldberg, Adele, Smalltalk-80 in interview, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuXCc7WSczM, accessed March 2017.
* Sennett Richard, 2008. The Craftsman. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Manovich, Lev, 2011, Cultural software,
* Stiegler Bernard, 2012. ITW Geek Politics Bernard Stiegler. [video online] Available at: <https://vimeo.com/32540487> [Accessed September 2014].
- Ted Nelson, The Myth of Technology/Computers for Cynics(2012)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdnGPQaICjk
* Sweeden Josh, 2009. Craftsman, by Richard Sennett | Center for Practical Theology [online] Available at: <http://www.bu.edu/cpt/resources/book-reviews/craftsman-by-richard-sennett/> [Accessed November 2016].
Title: Bibliography
Date: 2017/01/07
* DiSalvo Carl, 2012. Adversarial design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
* Galloway R. Alexander, 2012. The interface effect. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
* McCullough Malcolm, 1996. Abstracting Craft: The Practiced Digital Hand. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
* Morozov Evgeny, 2013. To Save Everything Click Here. London, UK: Penguin books.
* Sennett Richard, 2008. The Craftsman. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Title: Acknowledgements
Date: 2017/01/08
I would like to thank Marloes de Valk, Aymeric Mansoux and Steve Rushton for their writing support. The body of tutors at the Piet Zwart Institute, Master in Media Design and Communications for feedback and project development. Open Source Publishing for their energy, welcome and flexibility. Finally, my family and parents for their enablement, encouragements and support.
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Title: Dissertation introduction
Title: Dissertation introduction longform outdated
Date: 2017/01/01
# Abstract :
......
Title: Trim 5 assessment presentation markdown
Date: 2017/04/03
Template: slidy
Status: draft
# Trimester 5 assessment:
* Part 1: Recap, update, prototypes
* Part 2: Question: cynicism best managed with critical making or with direct communication?
# Part 1: A) Recap, contextualisation
## What?
This project is about interfaces and how they address us.
<br>The way interfaces speak, what they are, what they do and what they embody.
The project looks at language specifically, but the context for the language is equally as important.
![](../images/tone-profile-delta.png)
# My interest in interfaces stems from
* communication
* textual communication
* visual communication
* accessiblity
* possible literacy
# software interfaces have many forms
* command line interface
![](../images/CLI.png)
# software interfaces have many forms
* IRC bot interface
![](../images/IRC.png)
# software interfaces have many forms
* Graphical user interfaces
![](../images/inkscape-menu.png)
# software interfaces have many forms
* Chatbot interface https://www.tacobell.com/feed/tacobot
![](https://d29vij1s2h2tll.cloudfront.net/~/media/images/taco-bell/feed/slack/tacobot_preview.gif?la=en)
# Interfaces for software services appear in so many different ways, we don't really know what they do for us anymore.
![](../images/interfaces2.gif)
# Interfaces address us in so many different ways, We're beginning to forget about them. A sort of interface omnipresence, then an incontestable voice.
![](../images/interfaces.gif)
# The meaning of **interface** is slowly being confused, in the very same way the word **technology** has lost meaning.
# (T)technology has slowly lost meaning, because it has started to mean everything.
# Most of the times we say T(t)echnology we mean to say that it is packaging, and conventions.
# Not to say that technologies do not exist, they simply are much deeper buried than we think.
* TCP/IP
* DNS
* DHCP
these are all technologies, but to say that 'the internet', for example, is a technology is plain oversight.
# Most of the times we say Technology we mean to say that it is **packaging**, and **conventions**.
# What we see with interfaces, is the tip of the iceberg, we see the wrappers, the packaging’s. And these wrappers are given to us **with but also as** interfaces.
# Why?
# interfaces are the front-end to *technologies*
# from here, I believe it is important to remind that interfaces are active, they are an action, not a mechanical process.
# (To) interface is a verb (I interface, you interface ...). The interface occurs, is action.
# As an action, the interface is the conduct of a person or a set of people.
# As an action conducted by people, interfacing comes attached with the ideas of people.
# This project exists to remind that there are lots of ideas to care about, and whichever ones we do or don't care about, ideas, through actions, through interfaces, come with *the politics of ideas*.
# More specifically, more personally, → Why?
# I believe that there is alot at stake, a lot that is risked when interfaces 'disappear'.
# The masking, the dissapearance, the misleading, the confusions of interfaces and technologies. I think that most of these phenomenons are happening mainly due to an over flooding of interfaces in the users regular digital practice.
# Entire fields are developing around the ideas of user interaction and user experience. Processes and constructs that exist to keep a user interested, to keep a user focused on the interface, and therefor, acting within the ideas / the ideals / the morals of the interface.
# We are renaming interfacing as experience:
* ‘experience designers’
* ‘user experience designers’
* ‘user interface designers’
* ‘interaction designers’
* ‘product designers’
# Because so called Technology is also about capture, most pessimistically, getting permanent customers chained into their seats. Everybody seems to be wanting to capture the user, either for money, or for identical (almost religious) reasons.
# Attempting to keep a user focused and interested with the extremely well researched fields of user experience leads me to think of these ideals as enforced politics. That by using such interface to a program, I am substituting my ideas, my ideals for the ones of the interface.
# It is an uneven playing field. One of service and literacy. A model that has existed for years, but this model of service, service in the digital realm touches many more aspects of life and culture and politics then trades services used to.
# To balance out this playing field, the simple answer is, in my opinion, broader understanding and broader literacy of interface practices.
# How?
# B) Prototypes : catalogue and database
# The issues that keep me interested in interfaces are vast and wide spreading. The effects of the image practices, the visual cultures are an example of an aspect of interface communication I have not been able to look into.
# Instead I've focused on the very most basic interface: language.
# In all the ways in which interfaces speak to us, the use of language is one way of slicing through this vast topic.
# a few of my attempts to grasp the languages employed by interfaces:
* http://tangible.tools/problematic-modes-examples.html
* http://tangible.tools/active-text-conversions.html
* http://tangible.tools/text-conversion-diff.html
* http://tangible.tools/flesch-kincaid-readibility-tests-cookie-policy-anouncements.html
* http://tangible.tools/visualising-website-cookie-policy-information.html
# building a database, a catalogue, with which to look at the ways in which interfaces work. Building collections and crossing metadata.
* http://tangible.tools/problematic-modes-examples.html
# Attempting to broaden this collection resulted in the attitude of an ethnographic analysis, a categorisation of the subversive methods by which interfaces become omnipresent:
http://localhost:5000/
# catalogue / ethnography vs net art piece
→ a cynical overtone
# Sort of a cross section right now; go with the 'negative', or go with the 'positive'?
* https://darkpatterns.org/
* https://crit.hangar.org/toolbox/
* https://www.autistici.org/index
* https://tacticaltech.org/
* http://www.ifapa.me/
* https://disnovation.net
* http://internet-atlas.net/
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