21 March, Learning log

If I were to use a metaphor to describe this week it would be a calm lake, with a million skimming stones sliding across it, creating numerous ripples. This week was incredible in every aspect, I’m going to attempt to capture as much of it as possible. I started this week off extremely inspired, especially after Friday’s class. I felt I had a clear path to travel along and the path seemed relatively safe for as far as I could see. I started to get really excited about what I was going to be researching. On Friday there was a line that Kosheek said, “ We look at systems as isolated systems, that survive on there own. “ This was a new light bulb moment which had caught my attention. My brain automatically linked it to this quote by Stephen Hay;

We’re not designing pages, we’re designing systems of components.— Stephen Hay

I came across this quote while browsing through an article by Brad Frost, on his concept of atomic design. In Atomic design, Brad Frost talks about creating design systems where one looks beyond the foundations (ie. The typography, grids, texture) and rather looks deeper into what our interfaces are comprised of and how we construct these design systems. Frost talks about chemistry and that all matter (whether solid, liquid, gas, simple, complex, etc) is all comprised of atoms. These atomic units bond together to form molecules, which then combine into complex organisms, which ultimately create all matter in the universe. This is similar in interfaces, they’re made up of smaller components, which means we can break down entire interfaces into fundamental building blocks and work up from there. I had re-visited this concept of Frost’s in a new light, he had drawn from the elements, a deep understanding of how we design a system. Again, there is this self-observing knowledge which led Frost to uncover a way of design. This week I read through bits of Computers and Cognition by Flores and Winograd (1986) they discuss the designing of a way of being, not only concerned with how the system looks or how it works but rather with cognition and perception. They state that technology is the facilitator of human evolution. If we examine technology, it is largely a way for ourselves to extend our consciousness into another realm. Think of the first piece of technology we know of, a stick – we used this tool to extend our reach, so that we could so something better. Our perception of the world is dependent on how we act within its realm. How do we deal with this reality? This is ultimately why we are so fascinated with technology, because it is at the edge of human ability, perception and cognition. We have created meta-patterns to decipher this new realm, by infusing what we already know into what we still don’t know. I feel that with technology, we can create new ways of explaining the human mind state, while influencing it at the same time.

“ The language-action perspective, as its name suggests, rests on two key orienting principles. The first is its focus on linguistic communication as the basis for understanding what occurs in information systems. Ultimately all information is communication: not an abstract system of bits and bytes but a means by which people interact. The second principle is that language is action. Through their linguistic acts people effect change in the world. In imposing a language-action framework on information technology, we emphasize the action dimension over the more traditional dimension of information content. “

In designing a new foundation for design. Winograd (2006) speaks of the ability to live in designed worlds. With the rapid increase in channels, which compete in absorbing as much of our consciousness as possible, we are already seeing new kinds of interaction emerging. We are already seeing a difference in how one relates to oneself through online channels of consciousness. We recognize a loosening in the grip of self-criticism and self-editing, this allows for constructs to break down so we are able to re-invent and restructure. Winograd refers to introducing a simplicity to a design, but not by diluting the human phenomena to simplicity, but rather by providing a uniform and comprehendible structure which can support human activity in all its complexity and beauty. It is important for us to further develop the perspective to clarify and meld it into a process of user-centered design. Wingrad believes this is where we find a new foundation for design. I have been looking at applying these concepts by Frere and Winograd to my work at the Western Cape government. Right now, I have more questions and less understanding of where to go. I’m currently looking at e-services for Government. Which services can they provide in the digital space, which services does the South African public sphere need. Right now, I have a stack of books, journals and authors to look up and begin researching further into this realm. This fits perfectly into the next part of this week, which is this unknown realm, which I have been battling to articulate. Then I started reading Computers and Cognition by Winograd and Flores, 1986, p.1 and I found two great quotes which expressed what I was going through.

“ I shall reconsider human knowledge by starting from the fact that we can know more than we can tell. “ Michael Polanyi, The tacit dimension, 1996, p.4 “ Speaking is the alienation of thought from action, writing is the alienation of language from speech, and linguistics is the alienation of language from self. “ Stephen A. Tyler, the said and the unsaid: mind, meaning and culture, 1978, p.17 I

felt myself in new swirling pools of thoughts of new phenomena, which I had been struck speechless and incapable of articulating to anyone who dares to recognise the reflection I was emitting. I had noticed that one of the biggest reasons I had found it so difficult to communicate to others in this time, was the fact that I had been trying to grasp onto this still water in my hand, so I could share it’s perfection with others, and in grasping it – it was lost. I’ll carry on with the metaphor of water here. In this time I had also noticed I had begun to only see my experience of the external world reflected within my communication and internal thoughts. I felt like I was just blurting out previous conversations, media, experiences I had witnessed or heard, which were just stored in my brain like an external hard drive of patterns, circulating in a strange loop of some sort.

“In the end we are self-perceiving, self-creating, locked-in mirages. We are miracles of self-reference.” Douglas Hofstadder

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