Instruction Sets For Strangers / Week 6 Reading Response

‘The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces’ and ‘Cultural Probes’


The first thing I will note about these articles is the futility of researching and attempting to classify the Human Experience because of its amorphous and temporary nature. Not only do we all have our own tendencies and predispositions, these change as our lives develop. There is a plethora of nuanced physical, physiological, environmental, cultural, psychological, etc (this list could go on for at least a couple more paragraphs), that could effect the circumstances written about in both articles.

That said I do admire and respect the more soft and creative attempts at “quantifying” this data at least in the Cultural Probes example. While I do respect the attempt, once again it does not offer much correlation to the solutions they offered to the technological problems they were trying to solve. Perhaps it is because they did not directly break down how they compared the data they received back, but at even at the end of the piece they admit three factors that I think negate this as effective research to design problem solving: a. they didn’t receive all the information from each group, b. they do not quantify the data in a comparative format, and c. they admit that at least some of their decision making was based off their impressions of the area. I think that fixing a and b would at least combat the biased nature of problem c, because we as human beings will never be completely impartial.

Almost ironically, I think that the researches in the urban spaces project did not do enough to explain the cultural biases that were involved in their recording. I think this would have been interesting in comparison with the demographics that they present by comparison of the time period to ours.

With both pieces in mind it makes me think that both for artistic/design based research there needs to be a healthy balance of cultural and emotional context as well as quantifiable data to put side by side. Numbers rarely ever come close to touching the artistic experience but it is necessary to put an intellectual foundation under your more amorphous concepts. Art is emotion and design is more direct and absolute.


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