Postscript on The Societies of Control; The Nature and Art of Workmanship; ‘What is Cybernetics?’ from The Human Use of Humans: reading response

I’m going to breakdown my reading responses into individual response to each reading materials, make correlations of all of the texts at the end, and as usual, share my direct notes that I wrote while reading these materials.

First, Deleuze’s Postcript on The Societies of Control:

Societies of Control is a faux freedom by giving the societies an illusion of choice to do anything, however, the number of choices are limited and cannot break a certain boundary that was already set in the beginning. While disciplinary’s societies does seem more controlling if not traumatizing, societies of control is not that close to human freedom either.

Foucault’s disciplinary societies and Deleuze’s Societies of Control were metaphorized as molds of distinct castings and modulation respectively. I think this metaphor helped me understanding how limited and deceiving societies of control actually is. Given no room for options but to obey is objectively terrible. Nobody likes being told what to do and watched over, living in a determined mold and cast. But if one were to live in this kind of society, it is pretty easy for one to realize that the rights of freedom was taken away from them. They would have an urge to break out of the mold. But in societies of control where one could modulate their options, it might not seem like a bad idea at first. But there would be less awareness on how restricted one really is. If you see my scribbles and notes on the file attached (more pages on pdf file), you can see an example of how having the opportunity to build your life out of pre-existing modular pieces is more tricky way of control to break out of. while one does have multiple options, they cannot break out of those options that were given. These options give an illusion of freedom to manipulate the societies and make them feel more content than being casted in a small mold, but it is harder to realize that they are, in fact, being controlled.

another example was to use password instead of watchwords. using a password is active, and regulated by watchwords is passive. People are more driven to gain something, to gain more access by being active on getting passwords give the society more will to do things told by the system. Societies of control operate with computers that runs under codes that is starting to evolve machines to appear to have conscious mind of its own. For machines to function like human, is that the mutation of capitalism?

One more response I have on this text is this sentence Deleuze wrote in this text that struck me the most, he said, “Marketing has become the center of the “soul” of the corporation. We are taught that corporations have a soul, which is the most terrifying news in the world.” How are so many philosophers have got this theory down to its core, and that so many people are aware of these systems, but nobody has succeeded in dismantling it yet? Would our world fall apart if we were to dismantle such system that only benefits a certain privileged group? Are there any other better system? would it have its flaws again and the world is just a cycle of failing systems that were created and dismantled to create another defective system that was thought to be better? I have a lot of questions.

Second, David Pye’s The Nature and Art of Workmanship:

In the process of making crafts, developments; improvisations; and risk takings happen as it goes. Those process, especially risk taking, are the keys to create something new, something that is not reproduced over and over. This risk could create variations, and even mutations, and I think both could be charming. People tend to not value the workmanship of certainty, a machine work, but I think a work by machine, precision, has its own beauty to it. It is definitely a quality that is different than a workmanship of risk but nonetheless has its potential to be beautiful.

The value of handmade things raises because of the change in technology dropped the supply to a place lower than the demands. And as the supply gets lower, society seems to be more interested in the variety, rarity, and unattainability of crafts, creates higher demand in the industry. This places a higher value on items of workmanship of risk. Not everyone can afford expensive crafts, which then creates a smaller market for it, making it seems exclusive. With this small market, not everyone who makes workmanship of risks can sell their work for a living anymore in this capitalistic world. People prefer to buy a ready mass produced items for their daily needs.

If you think it economically, it’s true that if the number of demand declines, the number of supply will decline as well. But we’re human beings with compassion, love for certain things, and passion to do what we love. This is what makes human different than machines that are made of binary numbers. while our behavior could still be calculated, we are made out of innumerable things. Crafts will not die that easily in the hands of humanity, no matter how terrible humanity is anyway. And instead of dwelling on the idea that some of hand handled traditions are being taken away by machines, why don’t we use this as a way to take a step further to discover more skills that are out there that only humans can do. and let them take over again and let us learn more again. The universe is too big to whine on how all printed letters in books look the same, there are still book artists who make things by hand and younger generation can focus more on the content rather than the production.

There are people who tries to create variety with machines, which I think has been the topic of this class, hasn’t it? But I have my own comment on the subject, while technology is amazing and with algorithm it is possible to make machines create different products within variations I think it is also a problematic way of thinking. And here is why: to have variety as a goal to achieve is not a mindset I want people to have. Variety should be the default, not the goal. By trying to achieve variety as the product goal is exploitative, and to have variety as default is inclusive. If you don’t get what I mean try to apply this statement of exploitation and inclusiveness in social issues. This should apply to almost everything.

Pye stated that workmanship and design is extension of one another. And I personally think that workmanship and design are not just extension of one another, it is a collaboration, a choreographed combination that only work when one respond to the other.

Last, on Wiener’s ‘What is Cybernetics?’, from the Human Use of Humans:

human are good for what humans are good for. But what are the things that only human has? Old machines such as automata has grown into robots that could communicate with the environment surrounding them just like us. But we have compassion and ego. These are the two factors machines do not have that could change the communication– the calculated output from the input given.

From what I read from the material, it seems like we do not sympathize with things that do not communicate with its surroundings. But by the time it starts to communicate with the rest of the world and blend with its surroundings, we begin to express sympathy towards it. With this advanced technology, it’s easy to exploit both the machines and their environment including humans who have begun to show sympathies towards them.

Thoughts on all those readings:

It seems like, Pye’s view of crafts and technology is really restricted within the society of control. He kept mentioning all the possibilities crafts could continue on within capitalistic world (to keep as hobby, to be a part time, to fully dedicate time for craft to be the source of income, to not be influenced by money, to have to make craft from only love) but none of his possibilities are ideal. He is not thinking outside the modular options that has been given to artists and craftsmen in the society of control. In an ideal world, craftsmen can create work without thinking about the money he would make out of it, but just for the love of making it, and still would be able to live off what he does comfortably.

Under the society of control, it’s really easy to exploit both craftsmen. There are people who control codes behind machines, too, that are being exploited to create more finished products under short time, like factories. That is all to benefit the people above the creators, as Wiener referred to those who suffer from a power complex, those who benefit from capitalism.

So knowing all these, how do we react as artists who create? Do we give into the system so we could live? Or do we use this knowledge to dodge the mistakes people make and work as a creator that are not being used as worker bees to benefit the upper ups? How do we dismantle something that are as entangled as it is in everyone’s lives today? Am I going too philosophical and deep on these reading materials??? Life is weird and hard. For now I guess I’ll just focus on what I’m gonna do for my project– that being said, I have momentarily given myself to MICA as an institution, I guess.

Attached is the pdf file of the notes and scribbles while I was reading the texts.