make a tiny thing

An exploration into making objects as a method of both thinking about and imagining ideas. This process is ultimately designed to facilitate the manifestation of innovation, technology and thoughts.

How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you? Meno [1]

We imagine the moment of discovery standing on the edge of darkness, leaning forward toward that-which-cannot-yet-be-seen. Judith Butler states that we are required to: “risk ourselves precisely at moments of unknowingness, when what forms us diverges from what lies before us, when our willingness to become undone in relation to others constitutes our chance of becoming human.” [2] Shklovsky promises us that art can recover the sense of immediacy and wonder that habit slowly erodes. [3] Susan Stewart in turn proposes that souvenirs are objects of desires that assist in the formation of continuous personal narratives connecting the present with the past. [4]

Just as souvenirs act as tangible links to our past, can we create objects that connect us to our future? Can we bear witness to the process itself? The questions raised by this line of enquiry will be investigated through the building of experimental and explorative devices. These devices are then evaluated and tested within a theatrical methodology, as if they were what they say they are. In this manner we can build up a large array of possible futures and their dystopic or idealistic possibilities. The device making process will range from highly technological and bespoke to low tech and largely imaginary. Depending on the phases of the project, the makers will be children, non-designers, design students, robotics engineers, etc.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.  Arthur C. Clarke [5]

If future technological objects indeed are unimaginable on par with a yet-to-be-experienced magic, is it then possible to turn the question and ask: Can we design that magic?

A workshop should be a live volatile process, understood in the sense of Dewey’s ‘experience’ [6] where we work with ideas not just in the form of description, where only language can become knowledge and meaning but rather as a ‘process of becoming’ that allow us to create patterns through embodied experiences. The public experiments will be built to facilitate risk taking, to provide a temporary space in which we can ‘become’. In that sense it allows for a recursive flow of opportunities to make and explore ideas as we structure them in response to not only the actual physical situations but also to a mentally and emotionally fluid environment.
Methodology and Intended Results

Ground Work:
During the initial period I will conduct thorough readings of Shklovsky, Boal, Butler, Dewey, etc. For each of these I will develop and make a series of objects and rules in the style of board games or magician’s tricks. The overriding rule is that the experience must embody and demonstrate the central thesis of the work. Each game will be tested and reiterated with a variety of audiences.
Deliverables:
The basic theoretical groundwork for the PhD expressed and interpreted as a series of physical objects and protocols. The objects are shown and exhibited / played with the public.

Discovery:
Phase two of the project is an exploration of methods of working and making together. Workshops will thematically build on the more general cultural ideas like the souvenir [memory], placebos [illness and medicine], fear [bombs and talismans] etc.
Deliverables:
A series of workshop formats developed and tested in an iterative process and submitted to peer review in the field of participatory design, human computer interaction and design research.

Exploration:
Using the methods and formats gathered we make new participatory processes to generate new theoretical connections and frameworks. These new “things” will be co-created and owned by the participants in processes that are reminiscent of the workshops in phase two and the results might be new cultural objects or technologies.
Deliverables:
A large series of workshops with the public. Described, analyzed and submitted to peer review.

Connecting and Building:
By analyzing and describing the body of work I will synthesize theoretical pathways through the experiences and objects made and gathered.
Deliverables:
Thesis and exhibition / workshop series.

We are constantly confronted with new advanced ubiquitous technologies that require us to modify our intuitions and abilities. Instead of leaving this accelerated process to be driven by technologists and markets, I believe that we can reclaim it in spirit. Through this ‘practicing at the future’ we have the chance to develop our ethics and cultural responses to the new and the unknown. The heart of innovation must be recaptured, explored and shared amongst us.

[1] R. Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost (2005)
[2] J. P. Butler, Giving an Account of Oneself (2005)
[3] V. Shklovsky discussed by Beasley-Murray
[4] S. Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (1993)
[5] A. C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future (1984)
[6] J. Dewey, Art as Experience (1958)

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