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PHD-DESIGN  May 2018

PHD-DESIGN May 2018

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Subject:

Re: Gibson, perception and affordances....

From:

Keith Russell <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 17 May 2018 23:44:24 +0000

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Dear Heidi,


excellent outline of key aspects of this issue for designers.


You wrote, in part:


>>>>>>>>>
From: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Heidi Overhill <[log in to unmask]>

Sent: Friday, 18 May 2018 2:17 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Gibson, perception and affordances....



The brilliance of Gibson's holistic approach may be appreciated by comparing it to the designerly heritage of Modernism, and its essential approach of "ontological discontinuity." As American teacher William Everdell points out, Modernism in all fields adopted a dividing approach to knowledge: separating whole things into their parts, and then studying the parts, in isolation, as a way to gain understand the whole. This approach has proved enduring; as Everdell wrote: "We cannot help seeing theobjects of our knowledge as discrete and discontinuous  digital ratherthan analogue" (1997, p. 351). Modernist discontinuous analysis has achieved outstanding success in many areas. In chemistry, understanding of the structure of the atom explains the behaviour of metals, and the operations of bio-chemistry, leading to the operations of living cells (though difficulty remains in understanding how the the atom explains the existence of the giraffe).
In art, Modernist fracturing of wholes into parts can be seen in movements like De Stijl and Cubism, and also, more importantly, in the curriculum of the Bauhaus. Still taught today in design schools, the Bauhaus approach sets up first-year exercises using a restricted range of elements like squares and circles. Manipulation of these elements is understood to reveal entirely abstract "principles" of "visual language" that are expected to inform eventual higher-year production of meaning.

>>>>>>>>>


I would add to these crucial observations, that Modernism, in the case of architecture and design, experienced the discontinuities in particularly forceful ways. While Modernism was already in the air before WWI, it was an unavoidable reality after WWI. Being required to reform the world's value structures after the catastrophe might have lead to interesting transformations of literature (think imagism in poetry), but what were the implications for public buildings and then everyday objects? Rogers might not have talked about the need to redesign everything from the Spoon to the Town until after WWII, but his call to enlightenment was a direct implication of Modernism.


The observation I am making is that designers addressed the perceived calamity of discontinuity, at the time, by searching for more stable, technical, scientific, universal modes of designing to ensure that they were not simply slipping back into cultural, ideological and retro-traditional modes such that they would soon replicate the discontinuities and cultural fragmentations made obvious by WWI. Ornamentation for example, was seen as a cultural layer added in defiance of the truth of materials and the logics of grounded design.


Gestalt theory offered a stable way of dealing with the remaining fragments - that is, we still needed to design and build things and these things would pretend to being parts of wholes even if we did not want them to be seen this way.


This agony is still part of current design and hence we still search for ways to ground practice as something more than mere whim. Does Gibson help in this project? Maybe at the level of the psychology of the individual designer. If I find information in a particular way in the world, maybe that is how information is found by others in the world. And, I can test and promote such conformings.  If I find the look of an infinity pool to be exciting, because it affords me certain sensory information, maybe others will too.


I do like infinity pools, especially on very tall building.


all the best in your research

- keith









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