Week 1 - Readings

Dunne and Raby - Critical Design

Interesting to consider the speculative work of these designers in the context of beginning to research a topic that I've never previously considered - the Soil Food Web.  The strangeness of their moving landscape in which travelers would live out their entire lives is almost as strange an idea as the reality that an animal kingdom of tiny creatures plays out the theater of an underground ecosystem.  Wild ideas spark imagination.

Taking Art Seriously: Understanding Studio Research

"At a panoramic level it is not too extravagant to claim that it is the visual which shapes our experience of the world" - Bernard Hoffert

   - "You are what you look at." Dan O'Sullivan, in Rest of You

Research in art takes on the same fundamental goal as in any other discipline..."research results in new knowledge and the final test of new knowledge is what it contributes to the human condition.

Comparing the advancements in medicine, science and technology to the cultural benefits that new art (as a result of art research) does seem related but not analogous.  The latter rests on much more subjectivity.  

Also I must include this opinion piece from this weekend's NYTimes alongside his example of the implied purity and objective net benefit of the formation of Yosemite Natl Park.

Art knowledge - music example - Russolo's Noise Machines, his intonarumori (here in action in contemporary art music ensemble discussing and performing his piece The Art of Noise)


The Menaced Assassin - Rene Magritte


"..the challenge becomes to establish the academic infrastructure and a research methodology through which art can be undertaken as research in university degrees; to allow practice based research the same recognition and status accorded other research."  

     - What we're moving towards in this class.


Publics and Counterpublics - Michael warner

Nature of a/the public

Vague vs distinct.  Anyone in a society, anyone who may ever read a particular text, or anyone inside a stadium at an event


Type 1 - the social totality

Type 2 - concrete audience event based

Type 3 - assembled out of shared experience but nondependent on time (readers of a text)


Autotelic - (of an activity or a creative work) having an end or purpose in itself.


1. “A public is self-organized.”

A public is a conversation, and forms solely because people want to take part in that conversation.

“It exists by virtue of being addressed.”

Because there’s a circular logic here - can a public exists if no one hears you speak? - this def of public “is as notional as it is empirical.”

Publics can of course be partial in their fraction of a total population.

“(The public, different from the total a public) is self-creating and self-organized, and herein lies its power, as well as its elusive strangeness.”


Efficacious - (typically of something inanimate or abstract) successful in producing a desired or intended result; effective.


Powerlessness and questions of free will haunt citizens in modern capitalist societies because of our humanist liberal ideologies.  We navigate worlds of corporate interests, and so organizing ourselves based on shared interest in conversation and values is incredibly encouraging and meaningful, even if shared belief in faith and group-making/world-making (aka self organized publics) “we would be nothing but citizens of capital (which of course we might be, and some more than others).”


This must be why in modern societies where the lack of a freedom to assemble must be one of the most spirit crushing conditions of all.


“Any distortion or blockage in access to a public can be so grave, leading people to feel powerless and frustrated. “

  • Voting is external framework imposed on a public, and a poor substitute for notions of free will.  A la Clay, voting individualizes the illusion of power, and for many their votes are meaningfully irrelevant as they are residents but not members of a selectorate.


Merely paying attention to a discourse equals membership in a public, and we can be members of many different publics, thus it is very hard for social scientitsts and pollsters to sutudy these groups.  How do we quantify a public?

  • Polling - most powerful example of escaping the circularity of publics, and extricating data from a public.

“An elaborate apparatus designed to characterize a pubic as social fact independent of any discursive circulation.”


In fact though when you add up all these data points it does not equal a public opinion because it has none of the flexibility or reflexive framing of a public discourse.  “It lacks the embodied creativity and world-making of publicness.”  You have to analyze a public within the context and form that it takes, and polling attempts to quantify/sample that quality outside of those forms.  “Publics do not exist apart from the discourse that addresses them.”


“Publics exist by nature of their address.”


2. “A public is a relation among strangers.”


A public is made up of strangers, but strangers in a within a public have commonality of origin, belief, etc.  These form the basis of tribalism, one of our most innate and treasured characteristics.  


Gesellschaft - social relations based on impersonal ties, as duty to a society or organization.


3. “The address of public speech is both personal and impersonal.”


Louis Althusser’s notion of interpellation - communist philosopher whose theory that states are made up of Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs, e.g. private institutions like church, family) and Repressive State Apparatuses (RSAs, e.g. public institutions like military, police).  The two are fundamental to continually reproduce the dominant ideology in a society.  Interpellation is when ideology, embodied in major social and political institutions (ISAs and RSAs), constitutes the very nature of individual subjects' identities through the process of "hailing" them in social interactions.

As in the example of the cop that yells ‘hey you!’ at you , and when you turn around to acknowledge the hail you have turned yourself into a subject.


4. “A public is constituted through mere attention.”

The only condition of entry into a public is to pay attention, in whatever amount.

Even if you went to a performance and slept through the entire thing you’d still be a part fo that public, because  you elected to be there and not somewhere else.

Thus the existence of a public is contingent on the activity of the public’s members.

Like a church is dependent on the active uptake of it’s message through upkeep and strengthening of faith and of conversion fo new members.


Appellation - a name or title. Or, the action of giving a name to a person or thing.


5. “A public is the social space created by the reflexive circulation of discourse.”


Concatenate - link (things) together in a chain or series.


Alone, a text cannot create a public, but if that text is in response to a previously understood or known ideology then it can address a public.  There is a social element here of ideas in conversation with one another, a “context of interaction.”


Dialogic - relating to or in the form of dialogue.


Polemic - a strong verbal or written attack on someone or something.


Warner discusses here the history of polemicists ability to reach audiences or affect publics, ostensibly because they are good at turning up the volume on their argument.  **I wonder if there would be an interesting line of research into the history of quiet ideas that have effectively reached publics and gone viral.**


6. “Publics act historically according to the temporality of their circulation.”

Populations cannot look too far into the past when they converse with historical ideas. An example of politics - “In modernity, politics takes much of its character from the temporality of the headline, not the archive.”


Thus, texts that have publics are inherently intertextual and intergeneric, because they must continue to receive attention and circulate through time.  There must be some significant measurement of an idea or document’s temporality.


This is why webpages may fundamentally disrupt publics, because it is difficult to time stamp their creation.  Unlike books or journals or newspapers, the internet exists in a vague and sprawling temporality.

“If the change of infrastructure continues at this pace, and if modes of apprehension change accordingly, the absence of punctual rhythms may make it very difficult to connect localized acts of reading to the mosdes of agency in the social imaginary of modernity.

**When rhythms land where we expect them we locate ourselves within time, space, context.**

At some point, Warner argues, we may have to lose the notion of ‘circulation’ entirely if media becomes so overwhelmingly consumed via the rhythmless web.


7. “A public is poetic world making.”

Indefinite address, self-organized discourse - this is risky territory.  “Abandons the security of the positive, given audience.”
But in this way is becomes the engine for recharacterizations of ideas and social mutation.

In other words, “public discourse is poetic.”


Mise en scene - the arrangement of scenery and stage properties in a play.  Or, the setting or surroundings of an event or action.


Interlocution - the interchange of speech.  An interruptive utterance.


Lexicon - the vocabulary of a person, language, or branch of knowledge.


Idiom - a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light ). Or, a characteristic mode of expression in music or art.  "they were both working in a neo-impressionist idiom"


In this world making poetic way, a public is in search of itself.  A text is inherently saying ‘let’s have a public that responds and pays attention to this, uses this lexicon, has this character’ and then you run it up and the flagpole and see who salutes.  Throw a show, see who comes.


"What if.. Crafting Design Speculations" keynote talk by Anthony Dunne at Interaction Design Association