Sterling Lecture

517 and 400, what were your impressions of Mr. Sterling’s lecture? Are you called to action? If so, what is your role? Please review any aspect that you found engaging, new—what would you like to discuss further? Let’s talk.

posted by Tony Brock on February 23, 2005 | comments: 5 | post a comment

The little keychain that was produced by a 3D printer - Mr. Sterling was impressed by the simple fact that it was able to be made. That one was able to design anything on a program and produce it all in one step by the simple press of a button. The object in itself had no purpose, other than being evidence to the fact that it could be made at all. Sterling went on to include all things such as these in his file of things that amuse him. It's cool to look at, touch, investigate, think about, discuss, yet do any of these things serve any real purpose? Do they help the general public perform any task easier, more efficiently? Is learning made easier through the investigation of these products?

I started thinking about project one in all of this. We find things about a program or system that intrigue us, and we showcase it. "Hey look Johnny, I can make a ball bounce while changing from blue to orange, then when you click on it, it changes into a dancing bear and sings 'When she's comin over the mountain'! For Bruce Sterling, this is amazing, as to us it is the same. But what real purpose does this serve? Are able to take a project like this, and any project for that matter, and use it to do more than showcase our talents? Are our designs in the real world doing more than this? What do we think when make something - that this is better than Suzy's design at the next table, or that we have really made something that can contribute to society more than just look cool and new?

These simple investigations can be blueprints for bigger things to come. The fact that we are able to make the ball bounce in Flash can lead to us learning scripts that can teach and serve society. But are we really taking advantage of this?

Posted by Alex [Ford] on February 24, 2005 12:00 PM

i would say i am called to action, but i don't feel this is a new call for me personally. my problem is that i read and talk an awful lot about others taking action, proposing new ways of approaching design, and making crazy new objects, but i can't seem to make any significant steps myself. i can barely seem to make baby steps.

much of what bruce said i can basically understand and i agree with. i think its awesome that there is a place in our society for thinkers like him and that he is supported in such a literally progressive endeavor. i tend to latch on to the ethical implications of things, so his proposal for auto-scrap-detecting, or whatever he called it, makes me both excited/optimistic, and nervous. the big brother possibilities of this process scare me and appeal to my tendency to question and resist certain technologies. that it is a proposal to solve a massive resource-use problem greatly excites me. he did say, "a technology with no down-sides is not a technology", which is very true. for quite a while now i have been a proponent of using design against the dark side--designing for the public good through cultural institutions, non-profits, and small buisnesses who will more greatly benefit and appreciate what i can bring them. i think we all have a responsibility to use our talents to give back to society in whatever way we can; wether it ends up being graphic design or cooking soup at the shelter kinda doesn't matter.

Posted by tyler on February 24, 2005 03:54 PM

WOWWWWWWW!!!!!! Bruce Sterling is just so amazing, smart, articulate, and
amusing. I cant even begin to write anything because he practically> overwhelmed me, but in a good way. I took 6 pages of notes because I am goin
to write a one page extra credit paper on him. But Im not sure how Im gonna
exactly narrow down everything he said in one page. Oh well, I am going to
attempt to highlight some of the areas that I really thought were pretty cool.

First off, Im not so into sci-fi and "Lord of the Rings" type stuff, so I
thought it was interesting that he is a science fiction journalist but in a
different way that contradicted my biases of what a science fiction author
would be like. He described himself as a rare example of a novelist and design
teacher and that the cross-disciplinary is what really makes him unique. He is
really into the interplay of technology and society, the tangible, working
with the people that are actually doing the work in technology and coming up
with ideas. I loved the way he compared a scientist to a designer. How a
designer can tell you about human interface, relationships, affordances,
problems, one's desires, wants and even repulsive qualities of a human
relaiton with real objects. The quality that you miss out with a scientist is
that they will never talk about one's desire and what a consumer wants. He
sees science fiction and design as sister disciplines because of
MAYA-thinking(Most !
Advanced Yet Acceptable) The fact that people like him can have crazy ideas
and science fiction related concepts but then the designer can put it into
affect and make it.

I cant really go into everything, but another thing that fascinated me was the
idea of objects being tagged, like his example of the chair. The existing
chair that you have in your house can speak to you and tell you where you got
it what its made of, what other chairs you may like etc etc.The chair is
simply a hard copy like the hard copy of a chair on a website. And you could
order another chair by having a conversation with the existing chair. Crazy,
but he predicts that this could be happening in 30 years. I mean, how can he
just predict what will be happening???? Just crazy to me.

To sum it all up, I loved his response to why this interests him. He loves the
genuine physical phenomenon, the facts, and the human relationship to
technology. Working with all types of people because there are no boundaries
between disciplinaries anymore. We are all bits of technology, car exhaust,
shoes, sony walkmans etc, simply by bioaccumulation. And thats what gets him
out of bed in the morning.

Posted by sarah on February 25, 2005 12:44 AM

There are ways in which we never usually consider our existence and the effects or consequences of our existence in this world. I know that’s pretty deep, but to me this is mentality of Bruce Sterling; the kind of thinking that “gets him out of the bed in the morning.” I never took the time to consider that the abrasions from the rubber bottoms of our shoes are slowly being incorporated into the chemical composition of our body. Who does think about that stuff?? But when one does take the time to consider something like this, he or she may start to think, “what else am I not thinking about—what are the other “invisible” aspects of the world surrounding and simultaneously influencing us?” Sterling proceeded to argue that it is because of the faulty methods in which we rid ourselves of old objects—objects of consumerism. For example, what I am going to do with this Powerbook G4 when I am done with and ready to buy the next G5 or G6? If I give this computer to someone else, and they continue to pass it down the lineage of “hand-me-down” computers, where, then, is the ultimate destination of this machine? According to Sterling, the ideal destination would be a deconstruction warehouse where the most basic component parts of this older G4 (i.e. computer chips, or even more fundamental, the silicon used to compose the motherboard)would be deconstructed and then reconstructed into the new G5 or G6. Sterling believes that this day will come, when we can track every object of consumerism with a built in chip, calibrated to a unique radio frequency—allowing it to be tracked from anywhere in the world. He suggests this tracking might take place via the internet, but he also suggests a more sophisticated interface that could result from this tracking system. This interface would allow you to “ask” the physical object that you’ve bought what its made of, where it came from, etc (via this new computer chip). You could also ask, where can I get a newer version of you that was made by the same company? From there you would order that object directly and either have it sent to you assembled or you might assemble it yourself. Perhaps that might happen 30 years from now, as Sterling suggest. If that be the case, it will make my consumer purchasing process that much easier when I have to replace my G9 computer watch with the newest G10. I wouldn’t mind that kind of consumer experience.

Posted by Liollio on February 25, 2005 01:27 PM

I thought that his ideas about consumer waste were really interesting and different, since usually people suggest different ways to change the consumer's behavior to reduce waste. This fails because most consumers aren't concerned about what happens to waste as much as they are concerned about having the next thing. So to put this burden instead on the designers and producers of these objects makes a lot of sense. They should be responsible for their products, long after they are sold. Sterling's idea, although it seemed really simplified (I imagine there's a more detailed version of it in his book), is on the right track in my opinion.

I heard about a system that some northern european countries have developed regarding packaging materials. It has to do with the manufacturer being responsible for the packaging that something comes in, and even after the consumer receives it, it is coded to get sent back to the manufacturer for reuse or recycling. I think the manufacturer can be fined for everything that is found in the trash. This forces the manufacturer to rethink the purpose of packaging and to really use resources wisely because it saves them money.

When are we gonna start acting as smart as the Europeans?

Posted by berkowitz on February 26, 2005 04:56 PM