Western Classification Between Fine Art And Design (Or Applied Art)

I was reading a material for one of my class, “Art, Authenticity, and the Baggage of Cultural Encounter” by Ruth B. Phillips and Christopher B. Steiner about the western view of non-western art. The paper points out a lot of reasons why I think the western separation between what fine art and applied art is dangerous.

I’ve always thought that the way western society define and separate fine art and design is weird and problematic in many ways. The western idea of “art for the art’s sake” being seen as the highest form of art while utilitarian art is deemed the lowest is elitist. So many artists who create utilitarian art (as westerners love to call as “craft” or “kitsch”) are not considered to be “artist” by art critics and theorists. This deconstruction devalues people’s art, especially of those who came from minority groups. For example, in the paper I mentioned before focuses on, the indigenous community.

I will draw my favorite example from an art piece created by my colleague, Emary Parisi, who wrote a piece about the interactions that happened during a previous art piece of hers, “Reclaim Your Time (With My Time)”.


(Screenshot from “(this is) A Theoretical Analysis / section to I am all I have” By Emary Parisi, 2018)

I chose this piece as an example because it is something that I, as an artist, have witnessed first hand where an art critic directly questioned the authenticity of an artist by asking her why she was in an art school rather than being in other field such as journalism or anthropology.

What is art and who gets to decide who is to be called an “artist”? If there is anything that I learned from my undergraduate art school is that no one really gets to define what art is. This is very fundamental to me, as I think, it should to everyone else.

“Although the objects under discussion originated in such diverse times and places as mandarin China circa 1850, the American Plains circa 1880, and Kenya circa 1994, they are all equally difficult to contain within the binary schema of art and artifact. In some instances, where the fact of commoditization could be hidden, the objects have been accorded a place in one of the other category. In others, where their commoditized nature has been all too evident, they have most often fallen into the ontological abyss of the inauthentic, the fake, or the crassly commercial. A particularly dense aura of inauthenticity surrounds objects produced for the souvenir and tourist trades because they are most obviously located at the intersection of the discourses of art, artifact, and commodity.

What exactly separates art, artifact, and commodity? What makes these objects an intersection of all those things? To understand this reading better I searched for the pieces that are discussed in the book along with Oxford Dictionary definition for “art”, “artifact”, and “commodity”.


noun: art; plural noun: arts; plural noun: the arts
  1. 1.
    the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
    “the art of the Renaissance”
    fine art, artwork
    creative activity
    • works produced by human creative skill and imagination.
      “his collection of modern art”
      fine art, artwork, creative activity
    • creative activity resulting in the production of paintings, drawings, or sculpture.
      “she’s good at art”
  2. 2.
    the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.
    “the visual arts”
  3. 3.
    subjects of study primarily concerned with the processes and products of human creativity and social life, such as languages, literature, and history (as contrasted with scientific or technical subjects).
    “the belief that the arts and sciences were incompatible”
  4. 4.
    a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice.
    “the art of conversation”
noun: commodity; plural noun: commodities
  1. a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee.
    “commodities such as copper and coffee”
    item, material
    • a useful or valuable thing, such as water or time.
      “water is a precious commodity”
noun: artefact; plural noun: artefacts; noun: artifact; plural noun: artifacts
  1. 1.
    an object made by a human being, typically an item of cultural or historical interest.
    “gold and silver artifacts”
  2. 2.
    something observed in a scientific investigation or experiment that is not naturally present but occurs as a result of the preparative or investigative procedure.
    “widespread tissue infection may be a technical artifact”

“We aim, in particular, to add to the dichotomy of art and artifact a third, pivotal category, the commodity, and, further, to discuss how some aspects of the discourses surrounding all three were complementary and mutually reinforcing while others were intersecting, contingent, and contradictory.”

Another reason why I think this is a good book (that I might actually buy because apparently our school doesn’t have full access to this on Jstor) is this point. By the western definition themselves, art and artifact seem to overlap each other. And the belief that commodity cannot be considered as art is, I think, ignorant, as art takes many forms in our daily life. Igor Kopytoff wrote in “Cultural Biology of Things” that, “A commodity is a thing that has use value and that can be exchanged in a discrete transaction for a counterpart, the very fact of exchange indicating that the counterpart has, in the immediate context, an equivalent value.” In the modern day, what to be considered to be a “high art fine art” is also commonly commoditized as an exchanged value between art collectors and institutions.

Banksy’s attempt to destroy the painting after it was bought at an auction rendered futile as it was kept being commoditized at even a higher value than it was before the painting got shredded.

To be represented as “art,” in other words, the aesthetic objects of non-Western people had to be transposed into the Western system of classification of the fine and applied art. Feminist and Marxist art historians have revealed how this system reinforces hierarchies of gender and class. Its hegemonic implication for race have, however, been less clearly set out, in large part because the highly selective promotion of non-Western art by modernist artists has constructed the illusion that a universalist inclusiveness has been achieved.

I’m a firm believer of the notion that nothing in this world is universal, and that everything was created and defined within context of one another (Deleuze and Guattari’s Rhizome). Dissecting the work of indigenous culture through the western lens based on the classification of fine art and applied art, cherry-picking on what fits into the Oxford definition of fine art (“in a visual form such as painting or sculpture”) to represent to the rest of the world of what counts as indigenous art, ignores the indigenous systems of value and meaning that are attached to the objects, is a flawed and ignorant practice.

“The nineteenth-century critical historians of art also grounded their work in a Hegelian notion of progress in which the increased freedom of the artist and the greater incidence of fine art become signs of advanced civilization.

With that, if you connect the dots, believing in the classifications of what fine art and applied art mean could simply mean believing that western civilization is more advanced in comparison to indigenous civilization. And that is why I think the dichotomy between fine art and design (applied art) is a dangerous belief.

But still, I am guilty of this practice too, by constantly calling myself an “artist and designer” I am actively submitting to the belief. Why have I not changed my title to just “an artist”? As a creator, I have the autonomy to decide what my creations mean to my community, but I think I should still be aware of setting a context for myself and other people. This is both a question and a call out for myself.

Ordinary Computation

Today we learned more about P5.js in class. It was a lot of information in one session and I couldn’t grasp all of the materials because I was trying to understand the parts that was explained at the beginning. I personally think Nick was going too fast, though I understand why he needed to. We’ve only got 2 years in grad school!

I’ve had this conversation with a friend, Allan Doyle, before, but I just remembered again that learning coding is just like learning a language. And we’re trying to understand it over such short amount of time. But I think the upper-hand of being in a learning space is that we can consistently dedicate a huge chunk of our time to learn it.

Learn it like a language. Learn it as if it’s ordinary. I read the intro part of Ordinary Affect by Kathleen Stewart today. What is Ordinary Affect? I tried to break it down by word definition as I usually do to understand a word or a phrase:

Learn to pronounce
adjective: ordinary
  1. 1.
    with no special or distinctive features; normal.
    “he sets out to depict ordinary people”

    expectedwontedeverydayregularroutineday-to-daydailyestablished, settled, setfixedtraditionalquotidianprevailing

    “the ordinary course of events”



    • uninteresting; commonplace.
      “ordinary items of everyday wear”

      undistinguishednondescript, characterless, colorlesscommonplace,

  2. 2.
    (especially of a judge or bishop) exercising authority by virtue of office and not by delegation.
noun: the ordinary; noun: ordinary; plural noun: ordinaries; noun: Ordinary; plural noun: Ordinaries
  1. 1.
    what is commonplace or standard.
    “their clichés were vested with enough emotion to elevate them above the ordinary”
  2. 2.
    a person, especially a judge, exercising authority by virtue of office and not by delegation.
    • US
      (in some US states) a judge of probate.
  3. 3.
    those parts of a Roman Catholic service, especially the Mass, which do not vary from day to day.
  4. 4.
    any of the simplest principal charges used in coats of arms (especially chief, pale, bend, fess, bar, chevron, and saltire).
  5. 5.
    a meal provided at a fixed time and price at an inn.
  6. 6.
    another term for penny-farthing.


and interestingly, the word Affect had 3 different meanings in 3 different context,

verb: affect; 3rd person present: affects; past tense: affected; past participle: affected; gerund or present participle: affecting
  1. have an effect on; make a difference to.
    “the dampness began to affect my health”
     influence, exert influence on, have an effect on, act on, work on, conditiontouch, have an impact on, impact on, take hold of, attackinfectstrike, strike at, hitMore
    be unaffected
    • touch the feelings of (someone); move emotionally.
      “the atrocities he witnessed have affected him most deeply”
      upsettrouble, hit hard, overwhelmdevastatedamagehurtpaingrievesadden,
      distressdisturbperturbagitateshake, shake up, stirMore
       be unaffected, be indifferent to, unaffecting, unmoving


verb: affect; 3rd person present: affects; past tense: affected; past participle: affected; gerund or present participle: affecting
  1. pretend to have or feel (something).
    “as usual I affected a supreme unconcern”
    pretendfeignfakecounterfeitshamsimulatefabricate, give the appearance of, make a show of, make a pretense of, play at, go through the motions of; More
    • use, wear, or assume (something) pretentiously or so as to make an impression on others.
      “an American who had affected a British accent”

      assume, put on, take on, adoptlike, have a liking for, embraceespouse

      “he deliberately affected a republican stance”




noun: affect
  1. emotion or desire, especially as influencing behavior or action.



Being in a class called “Affect And Emotions In Practice” I went into the reading with presumption that within the context of the class the affect mentioned in “Ordinary Affect” primarily mean the 3rd description of the word. But I would miss the entire point of this reading if I take that as the only meaning of the word here.

Order, rules, fixed, not special, habitual, common and normal. It is what it is supposed to be and just is, ordinary. Nothing is out of place, it’s just there where it is supposed to be. What is it? Affect. But what is affect? “to make difference to”, “to move someone emotionally”, “pretend to feel”, “pretentiously”, or “desire or emotion”? perhaps it is all of them. They might seem to mean differently, but they make sense together in “Ordinary Affect”. as Steward wrote:

“Ordinary Affects is an experiment, not a judgement. Committed not to the demystification and uncovered truths that support a well-known picture of the world, but rather to speculation, curiosity, and the concrete, it tries to provoke attention to the forces that come into view as habit or shock, resonance or impact. Something throws itself together in a moment as an event and a sensation: a something both animated and inhabitable.”

But of what something? gestures, was it, that we talked about in class? Maybe it’s the poetry of everyday movements, the way someone touch their hair, when your parents lick their thumb to flick the page of newspaper, the way trees  grow in directions that are recorded in their grain pattern, the tic toc of a clock? characteristics of the universe that are always affected and affecting to one and another, going on continuous motion keeping the world rotating and revolving.

I don’t know. I would love to hear what other people have to say in class on Monday. I’m very excited for the discussions in this class. But ordinary, ordinary…. I also want to make coding something that is ordinary to me.

So I did a little more practice this afternoon, and probably gonna watch videos and do more tonight. (you know I prefer a night out dancing at some old men bar with friends but I haven’t made many friends just yet and this is okay too).

I tried to create a prototype of our group project that reacts to microphone input, but somehow it’s not working on mobile as we intended to for the context of the piece.



I tried to find solution to it but google wasn’t much of a help this time around.

But I also want to show this other thing I worked on for fun,



Which is also in my sketches that make sketches series. The dot goes up and down based on microphone input and the horizontal movement are moving steadily. It’s almost as if it’s making graph for voice input. It was very fun to make!

P.s. we learned how to use webcam on our p5 sketches as well. And we captured this in class.


took us 4 collaborators to make this pic happen. Thanks Liam, Jessie, and Lilian.

What I learned From My Research Topic

i have been reflecting a lot about the research topic of my project, what picked my interest, and how it applies to the world today. what exactly do i want to do with it? i think of robots as beings just as much as other living beings on earth are. the growth of artificial consciousness today are scaring people away, and it is my passion to close the gap of unfamiliarity between humans and machines through the familiar experience and bias. but why exactly are we scared of robots?

i believe that humans fear of robots came from how us humans treat each other and other beings on earth. we kill animals to keep us living. we take other people’s rights so we can live more comfortably.

now that artificial intelligence is growing and becoming more human, we’re scared something will surrogate us. especially for those who are privileged to have never been below, today’s technological and robotics advancement is a good reminder to take a step back and check your privileges. is this why you’re so scared of robots?

we want to be above, so other things have to be below. it’s kill or be killed, oppress or be oppressed, exploit or be exploited. it’s natural to do things out of fear– to avoid danger that prevents us from surviving.

but as social animals it’s important to recognize that this instinct is a selfish act of survival. you want to be above everybody else so you are safe. admit that. own that. be uncomfortable with that. and then dismantle that even though that’s what the society has been drilling through your brain everyday of your life. be aware of your bias of race, color, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, nationality, species, culture, and on and on. then go against it. get as close to neutral as much as you can

i personally think that this fundamental understanding is necessary to keep yourself in check in every situation possible. and i will work alongside everybody else who value the same belief that i believe in to keep making.

5 Senses and 5 Levels of Intimacy: Do we need all 5 stimuli to evoke emotional response?

I’ve had this thought for a while since we discussed ‘The Sympathy of Things’ in class. Ryan mentioned something about how he went to a conference a while back and hearing people talking and working on making the best, high definition, and realistic visual and audio simulation but not much about human sense of touch. I think today, it’s safe to say that people have been trying to achieve that. through full body experience virtual reality, pressure, vibration, use of gravity, wearable technologies, etc. I think those are the beginning of it.

I remember when I was a 11, I started to learn how to download music and movies illegally (since my brother never let me borrow his casettes and CDs, this condition forced me to be tech savvy) and at some point I wondered if we would ever be able to download smell and have a scent devices like mp3 players. It’s been a decade and I haven’t heard any word about a research or development. If we are able to create visual and audio simulations then what about our other senses, touch, smell, and taste?

The more I think about it, the more I think about our senses’ relationships to our memories and emotions. If I were to list down all 5 senses starting from least intimate to most intimate, it’d be like this:

  1. Sight
  2. Hearing
  3. Touch
  4. Smell
  5. Taste

And so far we have devices that could simulate what we see and what we hear. We could easily make digital copies of it and share it with whoever we want. And we are currently trying to create simulations for touch. I wonder how long it’d take, if it’s possible at all, to create simulations for smell and taste.

Both are such abstract concept and even we have trouble describing it with today’s linguistic expressions. They’re also strong triggers for emotions and memories, if one day technology could make those simulation happen, it’d be such a strong instrument. 

I’m still curious about it. but anyway, back to my project:

Is it necessary to activate all 5 of our senses to trigger emotional response? I don’t think so. While I won’t deny that some of them are stronger stimuli than the others, I believe we can use other things that are readily available in today’s technology to get emotional response from an audience.

Based on a study conducted in Berkeley, human adults can only focus and be conscious of 4 tasks at a time. If one were told to watch their breathing, be aware of their heartbeat, feel the texture on their fingertips, and listen to a voice, they would be lost in those four moments.

I can use this limit to my advantage on creating a false full immersive experience with a simple machine.

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.

Where My Mind Is Currently At: Warm Machines

Recently I have been thinking about a lot about robots (as I have stated on my about page) and how the society perceive them. Now let’s take a step back and process what ‘robot’ means.

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 11.12.43 PM

(source: dictionary.com, through Google search engine)

How the first and second sub-definition uses one another as a way to measure how human-like and robot-like two of them are was one of the first reasons why this topic piqued my interest and I chose to pursue it. It says that 1) robot is a machine that resembles a human being and able to replicate certain human movement, and 2) used to refer to a person who behaves in a mechanical or unemotional manner. But with modern technologies and inventions, human beings have come so far to make robots function as humanly as possible, and I don’t think people are going to stop anytime soon. So with so many advanced robots running today, where do we draw the line of being ‘robot-like’ and ‘human-like’?


(source: Google, Gizmo, Amazon, Ubisoft, SONY, Disney, Adafruit)

Programmers, artists, scientists, and hobbyists become more and more interested in making robots that move and function just like those that we see in science fictions. Growing up in Tokyo, Japan during the second half of the 90s had made me become really accustomed to the friendly robot trend that was being popularized mainly through media and commercial products at the time. However, I realized when I went back to my hometown, Jakarta, Indonesia, that it wasn’t the case for most people there. I would say that in early 2000, technology and globalization was going pretty slow in Indonesia, with internet still being new. So most people were more often exposed to traditional process. There were less robot toys in the toy store. Computed toys and video games such as Tamagotchi and SEGA saturn were less favored by parents, also took a couple years to become as popular in Indonesia as when it was first released in Japan.


(source: Mushi Production, Shin-Ei Animation, Bee-Train, Studio Bogey)

Of course I wasn’t aware of this cultural resistance as a kid, but now looking back, there definitely was a form of rejection by this different group of consumers. Were they uncomfortable by those games? Were they scared that our traditional games and toys would be replaced by imported foreign products? Why was there a resistance toward those products? I’m sure there were a lot of aspects ranging from economy to politics that might have influenced the attitudes people had. I wonder if the fact that the idea of machines was foreign to them played a big role in it. If that was over than a decade ago, then how are things today world wide? That’s what I want to learn and discover more.


(source: SONY, BANDAI)

I think we’re not at the point where people can just accept robots to work alongside human beings without rejections. I’m confident a lot of people still think of them as ‘the cold machines that do not have feelings and will of their own, running on instructional language controlled by human’. What I want to prove is not that one day robots will function and act fully like human beings, but rather how human perceptions of robots can change with modern technologies and inventions. Robots are cool, but they’re not cold hard machines, they’re warm if you share a heart with them. I think they are a bunch of very warm machines.

I have accumulation of materials for references and sources I gathered out of interest that I could share here as well. I will post relevant ones on separate posts in the future. For now, this is where I am at.

The Sympathy of Things: Excerpt 1 Reading Response

Discussions around craft and mass productions had always caught my attention ever since I started to question what my art practice really is. Is it design? Is it Art? is it production? is it craft? So the first part of this reading really got my interest. There are so many experts and philosophers who always argue around this topic with strong opinions from both sides, just like Ruskin and Babbage in this reading. Why do a lot of people feel uncomfortable emotions when they think of machines doing things that human beings are supposed to do when the purpose of machine invention is to achieve time and labor efficiency? Is it really about the missing craft and authenticity of the products created or is it about the process itself?

I think we as human feel uncomfortable when we cannot find a way to relate to something we are exposed to. Our brain constantly look for connections and correlations on things that we sense, and when we fail to do so our first defense mechanism is to reject those things in forms of emotions such as anger, sadness, disgust, or disappointment. After we processed our emotions, we look for reasoning behind the emotions. However, this process does not seem obvious for most people because all of it happens under our subconscious thinking and our mind does not naturally take it further to our conscious thoughts, for it takes a conscious effort to do so. Therefore, a lot of people jump into immediate conclusion that it’s the objects that are presented to them that makes them feel a certain way.

For example from the reading, for most of the part of the world, society are still used to the butchers slicing and cutting their meat products. Even if most of us are not butchers, we can relate and imagine ourselves holding butchers knives and do a slicing motion and hold the meat with our other hand. But with machines? It takes a lot of effort and understanding to relate to pieces of metals and electronics. Even if most mechanical movements are inspired by nature and that our body share a lot of same elements as metals that are used in machines, most of us cannot spontaneously relate to something that we are rarely exposed to. This disconnect creates discomfort when one is exposed to a piece of meat that is supposed to go inside their body that was handled by something so alien to them, even if the final products are more likely to be more hygienic, evenly cut, and neatly packed.

(It is also mentioned in the reading that our eyes prefer variation rather than seeing exact molded copies, that is also a fair concept that still confuses me even though I agree with it. Why is variety pleasing to our eyes but to have a couple of odd ones out is seen as an error? Our brains like neither perfect orders nor disorders. We conform, like variations, and we dislike minorities by nature. This might be a little out of topic but with all the recent big issues revolving around discrimination against minorities I can’t help but wonder if human mind was just built to be rejecting and defensive towards differences, and to dismantle that subconscious thinking we really have to take a conscious effort to fight against our nature. I don’t know where I am going with this but it’s kind of saddening to think that there are inevitable going to be people who are not going to take a conscious effort to go there.)

If some people are really scared of the world where craft being replaced by cold repetitive machine, hard labor being replaced by instant products, shouldn’t they also realize that machines are also a craft of another human being? It takes time, effort, and knowledge to create inventions. There is a lot of research, thinking, design, and crafting that goes into making machines. I think our tendency to only take things in front of us only on superficial level makes it hard to not take the work that goes from far behind what is presented in our face for granted. Some of us think of machine made product as cheap products and easy quick work, physically. But what goes into machinery and the programming behind it is complex.

I think it is easy for some people to discredit programming and coding, for they do not have a physical form that is visually easier to understand. After reading and understanding the concept that coding is a language, it opened my mind and see it from a different light. “…, the language we speak every day is descriptive, while programming language is instructive. …“, I have never paid enough attention to realize that coding is a language because it is communicating. And a limited one at that because it is only used to demand something from the receiving end, which in this case are machines. Given this information, you could say that machines do not and will not have will on their own since we can only communicate with them through the language of commands, and execute they do. But with the technology that we have today, programs can learn on their own with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and if they were to be given commands to have will on their own and create varieties like human do, they would, wouldn’t they? I can’t really say that because I don’t have any knowledge in programming but I’d like to think that it is a possibility. And I wonder when we reach that point, will society warm up to the idea of machines working along side human with the same acknowledgement of craft.

Now diving more into the reading topic about coding, patterns, formula, and creation process. responding to the question of ‘what it is made of’ or ‘what is its pattern?’, I think an object cannot be separated from its material and a concept cannot be separated from the mind it was born from. And pattern is the creator, a formula, of all matters, manipulated by time. Last semester I took an Astronomy course taught by Forrest Hall, and I learned a lot about the universe and all the matters inside. “The universe is just one big blanket of patterns of molecules, all holding hands together and dancing“, or so he said. It’s so poetic that I still remember the tone and the smile he had when he said it. If everything in the universe has a similar pattern, then I think its safe to assume that this is also the case for programming.

There were a lot of parts that I picked up from the reading that I have trouble articulating into words for this entry, however, I attached notes that I took and wrote directly onto the reading materials in pdf format. I hope it would somehow makes more sense.

See my ‘The Sympathy of Things: 1st excerpt’ direct notes and scribbles