On Monday. It's going to be a full day where all the first year students will make an account of what they have been up to since the year has started, and where we're going with it.
There was a short time, in a gap year between finishing my previous degree, and starting this new one, where I actually thought I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't go and follow this master degree in Rotterdam, it was becoming too complex, I had committed to too many projects, and landing them all on time and to a full stop seemed impossible. That turned out to be the case, definitively, but I still went for the course, and moved to Rotterdam.
The way I've been seeing it is quite simply affording myself some time. I guess the reasonable thing to say is that I had plenty of time before too, but affording myself time in this context is not the same. You see, the core of this program I've joined is an idea called Self Directed Research. I'm liking those three words more and more each time I use them.
So what have I been doing? Well, I've finally taken time to focus on a growing concern of mine, let's call it a concern about computers which I think will give me at least some clarity for myself, and hopefully, make points that resonate with other. Deliberately playing ambitions down, as usual. It is an observation I've formulated loosely like this: why is it that, as we use more and more computer devices day to day, we're not gaining more computer understanding, and skills. Up to now, everybody agrees with the first part. More devices are around, yes. The second part, is the thesis I have to argue.
A small note on methodology, and the RW&RM seminar?
So to cut a very long story short, my research has lead me to focus on language and interface (use interchangeably) within software, and analyzing the tone of speech that our various apps use to speak to us.
The reason I felt like writing a blog post about this all, is not to explain my research but to give myself a bit of background context again. As it has been before these posts are mainly for me, but using a second voice helps me make things clearer. I'm also writing this now, because while I have not been able to put my finger on exactly why yet, I think this research topic might be one I should set aside. We'll see about that.
So I think all of this goes back to photography. What initially amazed me with photography was all the technical items that were available to help you make shots. I'm going to kick myself for saying this next part, but it's still true; all the technical stuff that help you tell a better story. Now: I sort of unofficially gave up on photography but before leaving it, I knew that I would always have more respect for photographs that were thought, over photographs that were grabbed. I won't go into much more detail, but the scheme is like this: I find much more value in an idea being shaped into a visual, over a snap been made out in the world somewhere, then wrapping it up with an idea that came second. (Yes, I should write more about this loose statement, but, well, em, no). I spent most of my last year in photography (out of two years, so I think I can be happy with that average) practising this method: starting with an idea, and making it into a visual complemented by aesthetics.
My nineteen / twenty year old self's ideas at the time though, were quite useless and ill-formed, which ultimately lead to the project as a collection, not working out that well. The underlying topic there though is basically strategies for communication. This is also a time where I am introduced to industry grade software tools, and to things like graphic design, and video making. So I follow my gut, and leave photography behind for a field where ideas come before production, and I apply for a graphic design course in three art schools in Brussels. (Not to make this into an autobiography, but somehow I got accepted into all three, meaning that I had the luxury of choice of schools. The choice I made lead me to a ton of frustrations with the school itself, forever kicking myself for choosing a school based on it's reputation, rather than finishing my research properly.)
And graphic design does work like this, you make plans to ensure that whatever you're trying to say gets across properly. Plus if it can look nice, that will help, because we all like pretty things. I should probably be speaking about the role of aesthetics in correlation to functionalism, but if I went down that path, you would be forced to see how little actual theory I know about of that relation —and it's parts,— something I'd rather you didn't know, so for now, I'm going to fake it until I make it.
But graphic design only works on the surface. And at the end of the day, I feel like I can do better than surface level aesthetics for a message I usually won't have care for, for people that don't value the intricacies of the service that they are asking for. So, in a pattern establishing way, my focus goes to the process of the practice, and not the practice itself. This pattern will, of course, damage my ability to actually produce photographs or graphic design, because rather that drawing conclusions and applying them, I draw conclusions and move to where the grass seems greener.
Then looking at the way things actually get made, in graphic design, was also greatly stimulated by a couple of encounters, and overall meeting this working group, that I eventually join, which deliberately, and maybe even exclusively deals with the interest in process. For the sake of clarity, and maybe if there is a reader out there, this group is called Open Source Publishing, and it's one of the best things to have happened to me in, let's say, a would be named, professional sense. Next year OSP will be going for ten years, and it's been changing a lot, throughout that decade, and it's definitively changing quite a bit right now. But OSP was my gateway. If I had not met OSP, I certainly would not be writing to you, from this blog, from this laptop, from this tool, or with this interest. Going into the details of why and how OSP is so brilliant is no the focus of this post, but I will just add that it is by far the most exiting project that I have been involved in, and I do plan to get back to them, stronger and better, and with more skills and more abilities. That's quite a lengthy addition.
This work group gave me all the food for thought and all the fuel I needed to pursue these feelings about my insertion into a bigger context, and also my place within the graphic design field. You see, the core of everything that goes on in OSP is a level of honesty that meets no other. A coherence in practice that is exemplary, and a real world example of a way of practising, and thinking, and doing, with an logical integration of morals.
So there is a way of applying beliefs.
Back to the now: I'll be presenting two main things for my assessment on Monday. One will be the research track I've followed to try and understand the claim I made about computer knowledge being taken away, the other is going to be trying to see how I can continue this belief application to myself, more.
I just dropped the words honesty, morals and beliefs out of context earlier, but these are items I guess I'm going to try and turn into tools or strategies to explain myself, and hopefully to continue to guide me to my next production projects.
If there is one lesson I'll really keep from my time studying graphic design, it is the notion of coherence. We we're often asked to review elements of design in favor of an overall coherence, mostly that meant visually, but also it means in all the layers underneath. An other sentence we were told a lot: " graphic design is about making choices ". Well these two things work very well together, and while they are definitively true in design, they are even truer in other —artistic— processes.
Somehow these have turned into my methods to counter critiques I might get about the things I do. I think I would say that ultimately, I try and always evolve, always grow, always better myself, become a better person. The things I do to try and make this progress happen often critique things that may or may not piss people off, but for this growth to happen I try an maintain a level of constant questioning of things. (That's very vague. If that makes no sense, sorry, I'm not writing to be read here, I'm writing because I want to get things out of my head, and onto something else.) So if you start questioning something and then you voice, or apply the conclusions of this question, you also have to sometimes explain yourself to an other. I'm uncontrollably switching in and out of active and passive writing styles, I should work on that. Meh, ref last (). What I am getting to, is that to justify beliefs or actions or arguments, I have been using the idea of (self)cohesion.
An other dimension of this that I'll try and word here properly is the one of choice as a definition method. When I say definition here, I mean defining myself. This idea also starts off with an intuition: I feel like the choices one makes are the only thing we have left to define ourselves. (I think I might need to abandon the idea of being an individual, but I'll just start with where I'm at now). To go back a bit further, I guess my feeling is that, while growing up, I always felt quite passionate about not following the beaten track. Every single person I saw seemed to do school, do university in some large impersonal field, work and get married. Also, kids. (This is an other one of those sentences that I'm going to kick myself for writing, mais bon) That just seems so boring. I felt like not doing that, and somehow, by magic, by not doing that, everybody who had followed that path would see my non conformity as the critique I meant it to be. Yet somehow, I'm now 25, and studying, and working in my impersonal field providing services, so I've accomplished quite a bit of this path that I wanted to initially reject. Ok fast forwards a bit, and yes, it's all fine, and going to school is fine, and conformity is also a bit fine, somehow, and I've lost a good deal of this teenager rebellious feeling. But there is still this frustration, (that I guess relates back to I guess wanting individuality?) because even though I've followed this path quite a bit, I have taken some detours to be critical about parts of it. And as I detailed above, aiming to be a better person means transforming your critics into actions and choices. So what I'm trying to say is that looking at someone by their choices seems to be the most powerful manner of sussing someone out. Further, I notice that I'm not the only one that started out with this rebellious feeling, but that ended up conforming, which is reassuring in a way, but it makes me realise that as we've all conformed, and we are all the same, the smaller choices we make are the only real way we have left to express. I also wish I could argue this choice based observation method better, but it's really as clumsy as I just wrote it. It's this mixbag of mushy unsorted feelings and intuitions.
Ok, I have no idea how to wrap this up, because nothing is really clearer in my head at this point, but it feels good to have written it down. I think it makes an ok account of where I'm at currently.
I don't know if this mixbag is something I should present in school, or if this is something I should have some degree of shame about, in the sense of keeping it to myself, because it's unsurprisingly sounding like some sort of personal life lesson, and it might not make sense to anybody else. Also the idea that maybe presenting something badly might damage it more than waiting for the dust to settle and see.
But wait, because this dimension of choice did come up in conversation in school. I have notes about that. Ok now this blog post has turned into a project note pad, but I think a way of including this dimension of choice into my work (albeit with some sorting, and a lot of exclusions for the public presentation) might be to argue that by following the reduction of ability and scope that the industry has given itself reference to Olia Lialina latest text from terms like user to people, from computers to technology and from interface to experience, and in conjunction with the aspect of the computing evironment being changed (no file sytem, only a buch of apps) we are flooded with choice, and choices to make.
Example of definition though choice and culture identification: the bike messenger's fixed gear bike. Minimalism as an approach. Making a choice to perform better.
Ok I'll leave it here then. Need to see if this thing connects or not. That was definitively the longest blog post I ever wrote. I'm not even going to spell check it. Raw = nude = honest (also = lazy).