Printy’s: The lure of the handmade and surviving media transitions

Reaction to the statement: For Paz, the handmade object’s value is like a companion that is aesthetically pleasing while also exhibiting signs of decay,

I’ve become more and more attracted to the artifact over the past several years because for me, the artifact engages more of the senses than web pages, software and other “hi-tech” designs. The physical interaction is so much fuller than one mediated through a low resolution screen, mouse and keyboard. All my senses are engaged rather than just the eyes. Although there has been quite a bit of growth in the interactivity of virtual work recently, the bandwidth is so much shallower than the real.

As to the exhibition of signs of use and decay, for me they seem a bit like badges of honor. Signs that others have found value in the interaction with the piece. Others have interacted and worked with it over time and they profited from that experience. In today’s disposable society someone still bucked trend and thought, “I want to keep this”. “This thing helps me now and want to have access to it so it can help me in the future.” And the craft displayed or the customization added to the artifact by people makes me pause and reflect.

On the other hand, the preciousness of an artifact has always been a bit of an annoyance to me. Although I understand the economics of supply and demand, the idea that something is of more value purely because of its rarity seems elitist to me. The quantification of, “I’ve got it and you don’t”. I feel true value lies in how something works rather than how many of them there are. And artists and designers who attempt manipulate the value of their work seem more like the businessmen they love to scorn.

As to Sterlings concluding idea that there is “an unexpected delicious thrill in the thought that individual human beings can now survive whole generations of media”, I guess I don’t agree.  Sterling’s suggestion that people are thrilled to outlive a number of forms of media. Its been my observation and experience that the excitement surrounding transitions between media technology, whether that be typesetting services to do-it-your-own type, offset to digital printing, computer to computer, or software version to software version +1, to be nearly equal proportions of stress and anticipation. Both looking forward to the possibilities opened by the new artifact and trying not to lose the data, and access to content that one already has.

If the idea of “losing something”, see the endowment effect Kahneman, Knetsch, and Thaler (1990), is more emotionally taxing on people than the possibility of gaining additional resources, the migration from one media platform to another is an explanation of this stress on users. And the speed of migration between technologies is increasing. So to contrast the thrill of outliving generations of media, I think some might feel the danger that their work and their impact on society not surviving any one of a number of media migrations they will see during their lifetime.

And it seems one cannot just chose not to play the game of keeping up with temporary media. Those that are not moving at the speed of technology, constantly feeding morphing technology are in danger of becoming obsolete themselves. If one is not plugged in, not only will they not get their fifteen minutes of fame, but the world will hardly know or care they existed.

Yes, its true that the mechanisms people used to live on in the past still exist. Individuals can live on through the monuments they build, the books they write, or the children they have. But the focus on the “new” within our society is very powerful. The transition from the physical to the virtual. The ability to access and wield information regardless of our location on the planet is a game changer but we lose the benefits of physical presence. The attribute which makes today’s communication so powerful, its decentralization, is the very thing that robs us of some of the ability to live on past our years. If we are not part of the current froth of technology, we are just like another obsolete computer. Our presence is felt for a short time only as our efforts support the “next big thing”


One response to “Printy’s: The lure of the handmade and surviving media transitions

  1. I agree it is disheartening in a way to know that much of our work will soon no longer exist. With today’s media its even worse than loosing creative work when a media gets replaced by another. I’ve had to face that realization when I started design websites; even that first job designing with the online media lasted longer (4 years) than many of my websites.

    In my earlier response to Paz’s writings I mentioned that graphic design seems much more inline with Paz’s ideas about industrial design. In that, once a item is no longer useful, it is discarded. Art and craft is different, their usefulness comes in the form and beauty of the object itself. My websites were made for businesses and once they were seen as no longer “useful” they were replaced. This is partly due to the nature of the media but mostly due to that fact that it’s graphic design, not art.

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