Archive for May, 2008
Also on the Thinking Allowed ‘Hoodies’ episode that I mentioned a while back was a piece on city planning.The piece covers ‘the traditional and futuristic notions of what makes a good city’ and decisions that we now perceive to have been destructive but at the time were motivated by a desire to get rid of Victoriana, to build better roads etc.
It seems that one generation’s modernisation is often the next’s wanton destruction. The romanticism that my generation has for things from my grandparents time horrifies my parents. They see it as a retrograde attitude. They have none of the nostalgia for period properties & antique fittings, they merely associate them with the hardships and limitations of their childhoods (cold & drafty houses, filled with dark wood and laboursome devices). Their values are of the 60s, warm, clean, light modern houses, scandanavian furniture and labour-saving, electronic devices.
My mother-in-law was amused to see we have a manual coffee-grinder and politely inquired if we knew there were electric versions available. We got it partly because we’ve been looking at our electricity consumption and also trying to buy devices that last longer. I’ve been increasing shocked at how many electronic devices I end up chucking. But there’s also a kind of motivation that I call the From Scratch Diet i.e. you can eat as much as you like of anything that you make from scratch. Sod Atkins…bread can’t make you fat if you had to knead the bloody dough yourself. Not that coffee makes you fat but you get the idea.
Mum just thinks we’re on some weird puritanical kick.
“to say this is not to plead for a return to the buggy cart, the steam engine, or the vinyl record. It is to plead for attention – attention to stubbornness, to what will not budge, to the things that people fight for. So it’s to plead for design that takes into account resources that people care about. Such design, we are confident, produces tools that people care about – a kind of tool that seems, despite modern inventiveness, in remarkable short supply. (Take a quick look over the computer applications you have bought, borrowed or downloaded over the past five years and see how many you would actually fight for.)”
I’d keep my Grandad’s singer sewing machine just to have it around, which I guess would have seemed bizarre when he bought it.
The friend with his walkman mounted in a picture frame is somewhat ununusual. The aesthetics of most electronics are shocking. Apple is the best we seem to have but they only really do one style and it will be interesting to see how it ages.
That’s not to say the quote was just about aesthetics. But where are the things that will last?
Nice to see a story suggesting that everything isn’t going to the dogs:
books are thriving despite the internet
“Academic researchers are starting to examine that question by taking an unusual tack: exploring the parallels between online social networks and tribal societies”
Reading the Science of Lego Serious Play brought back many memories of school.
“constructivist learning happens especially well when people are engaged in constructing a product, something external to themselves”
I remember lots of making stuff: making clay birds & fruit pictures in art lessons; designing stamps and fruit boxes in product design; a bag in home economics; and a mirror, a chess box and a candlestick in CDT.
But it wasn’t just in the obvious classes. I also remember making a seed packet for rice in geography, making paper chains in an economics class, making models of roman bath houses in history. I’ve still got all that stuff – except the paper chains.
The odd thing is I was a science and maths geek. I don’t really remember those classes. I haven’t kept any things from them.
From the programme I learnt that clay tablets will last longer than any modern media. Interesting if obvious when you think about it. And Ancient Roman concrete lasts better than modern concrete. They didn’t mention the fact that bronze sculpture will pretty much last forever or that copper will just patina, surprising given the potential for CGI of the Statue of Liberty.
They said that film will crumble but didn’t cover the more interesting bit that radio waves and TV broadcasts will never die.
According to the programme the things that will really last are massive stone structures like the Great Wall and, Pyramids. The Hoover Dam will make a valiant effort.
And curiously as Mark Vernon points out, there’s no mention of plastic which Weisman’s book suggests may be around for a very, very long time.
Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy was not what I expected.
“what is existence if not an enduring polarity, an endless dance of limping dogs and lilting crocuses, starlings that are spangled and frustrated worms?”
“we wonder, then, if the obsession with happiness, is at the end of the day, a kind of unknowing necrophilia”
“we all know of this,the mind’s winter. No leaves now hide the nakedness of the branches. We stare at the gnarled and exposed limbs. They shiver in the wind. The oak and the elm, the maple and the birch: all these formally regal trees resemble poor souls desperate for clothing. No one meanders through the lanes radiating affection. The trees simply stand there, alone. They are the failed rules of a bleak land. Their domain is one of emptiness. Nothing stirs in the excruciating stillness. We have the feeling that there is room for almost anything to fill this wintry void. Something surely is going to happen out there in the vast spaces drained of all meaning”
I *think* that at least part of his argument is that without melancholy we wouldn’t get great art, poetry etc. I’m not sure his prose makes the point very well.
I’ve just started a short archaeology course with the Open University. I’m not sure what connections I can make with IA but we’ll see.
Fossils and the history of life was my first ever OU course, so I seem to be reverting to courses about digging.
With all this fussing about professional identity at work, starting my archaeology course, and reading this…
“Prolific artists don’t question their artistic identities. They own the title of artist, writer, musician, etc. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important. Prolific people aren’t shy about what they do, or about their love of art. When they have corporate jobs they tend to view themselves as writers with desk jobs rather than a corporate employees who also write. “
…I realised I couldn’t pin down that sort of identity.
Somehow this morphed into writing down a list of everything I have formally studied over the years. As one angle on trying to see if there is a picture:
physics, chemistry, biology, maths, english lit + lang, french, geography, graphic product design.
physics, maths, english (and more maths)
BA Communications with Philosophy
(by year and then in descending grade order)
- reason and argument
- history of science B
- technology and society
- history of science A
- intro to practical philosophy
- intro to theoretical philosophy
- the mind
- communications in the modern world
- philosophy of science
- audio-visual communications
(sucked at my major, ok in my minor, excelled in my electives – doesn’t bode well for judgement)
- political communications
- modern political philosophy
- social communications
- communications arts
- meaning and truth
- theories of meaning
- modern moral philosophy
- communications sciences and technologies
- technology and society
- film theory and aesthetics
- media ethics
- advanced topics in political philosophy
- communications theory
- matters of life and death 1
- matters of life and death 2
- philosophy of science 3
MSc Information Science
- dissertatation – organisation of newspaper websites
- fundamentals of information science
- principles of knowledge organisation
- media information
- information retrieval systems and applications
- data representation and management
- research and communication skills
- information resources and users
- advanced online retrieval
- information law and policy
- information management and records
- fossils and the history of life
- life in the oceans
- studying mammals
- starting with psychology
Any themes? Well I’m good at logic, maths & organising stuff. I like science, but particularly the history and sociology of it. I find politics interesting enough to get good grades.
There are always some random courses in there: graphic product design, english, film theory. And film theory was one of my best grades ever.
Perhaps I’m just a serial student.