A recent mind maps workshop was a succesful way for me to expand concepts and vision for my thesis topics.
For Futurology and Design, I envisioned a scenario in which their are two actions resulting from the study of the future. One is to use the knowledge to speed up society – predicting changing market demands and the need for new tools and gadgets. I believe this is the commonly understood use of futurology, and goes hand in hand with current economic models and the promotion of technological recycling. Speeding things up. On the other hand there is a big movement in design to slow things down, and futurology conceivably could be used to create long lasting products that withstand changing demands…. if more products are like this, and we ultimately need new products less frequently, wouldn’t the economy slow down? Sociological change itself would slow down, negating the need for futurology itself. The snake eats its own tail. For me this is a more interesting approach to using futurology in design.
Also important in the notion that the study of the future has historical antecedants; reading tea leaves, I-ching, and astrology et al. One can argue that these lack the scientific basis of modern future studies, but science itself is driving the need for futurology itself. What are the similarities and differences between futurology and these ancient understandings of the future?
Futurology must also be affected by culture. It is the drive for technological change, but technology is a manifest of culture and so cultural differences must in turn shape futurology. How do the Japanese perceive the future differently from Europeans?
For the topic of Scale, the mind map session was a nice confluence of ideas. First up was the idea that transformation of scale modify the form external to its quality ofscale. Shrinking highlights fineness, enlarging highlights grain. This is not true with scale independant digital technology (e.g vector software) but is always with representation of the object – on screen, or in manufacturing. Even rapid-prototyping machines must operate at a tolerance (currently around 0.25 to 0.05mm for common machines).
But is the quality of scale in an object theoretically infinite? Science is continually proposing and sometimes discovering smaller and smaller particles in nature. The building blocks of the universe, but usable will they be? Does the rabbit hole go down forever? I am reminded of a anecdote about some American researchers in the 1950’s. They engineered a tiny little drill bit, and assuming they had created they world smallest, sent it over to some Japanese engineers to show off. The Japs returned it with a hole drilled through its shank. I can imagine the way this drill bit must have been prepared and wrapped for postage. Smallness paradoxically a way to increase value in sometimes. Despite the reduction in material, small things convey technological prowess through the quality of fineness, and an aspect of fragility the is inverse to their size. Miniature dolls, stamps and micrographia.
I will now begin to read “On Longing” by Susan Stewart, subtitled, “Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection.”
One more insight: if visual perception is mediated by the distance between the viewer and the object, what are the scale of perception in other senses? How can touch, smell or hearing be affected by scale? Can a musical note have a grain only audible at a certain volume? What s smell? I guess the perception of grain is based on the volume of sensory input i.e the more you can see or sense the better you can perceive its detail. This is true for senses sensitive to changing levels of input… sight, hearing, smell, taste even. But what about touch? It a sense that is at once immediate and rigid to input…. you either touch it or you don’t. The area touched can be increased for more input….
…and “time” can be put into play to get a increasing sense of texture… we do these when we run our hands over the carpet. But sensing grain via touch is often used for adding the sense of grain percieved by vision. And for this there is little variation we can feel in the “volume” of touch. We either touch, or we don’t.