Hyper Links

“Great cultural changes occurred in the West when it was possible to fix time as something that happens between two points”

McLuhan, Understanding Media 

Once it’s typed…

What follows is a project undertaken by the visionary designer J. Christopher Jones in the early 70s. Described as an experiment with new technologies of Xerox and microfiche, he wrote about it under the heading ‘Once it’s typed it’s published‘ (now part of Dexter Sinisters excellent serving library), and in doing so produced the most succinct and far-sighted premonition of the short circuiting of the production and distribution cycle that was to come. The project, in essence, involved him writing typescripts, and at any given point you could contact him and buy a book, compiled from a selection of his writings that you as reader would choose. He would then create a copy in whatever state it was in at that point, bind it, and send it to you. In a single step it cut out the lengthy and laborious elements of book production involved in finding a publisher, finding a printer, pre-financing its production and establishing a distribution network. Jones elaborates on the motivation and implications; “…eventually anyone may write what anyone may read, and the term ‘writer’ will come to mean, not that one has written a commercially published book, but that one can write at all, that one is literate, in touch.” The project, and more importantly the idea,  pre-empted the publish-then-edit online cultures that would subsequently emerge, and while not fully social in its production, it embodied the idea that a ‘thing’ could have multiple iterations of itself, and directly ties to more recent endeavours with RSS feeds, processing and generative software as a means of deliberately ‘incomplete’ or evolving states of production.


With creation, publication and distribution no longer distinct activities, interesting opportunities arise for public creativity. With specific reference to networks like Central Station, it is equally possible to see potential in the (web)site as a place for creation, not just connection and distribution, a continuation of some of the work of net-art pioneers and protagonists such as Anton Vidokle. The web can perhaps lay claim to being a primary location for ‘public art’ if we accept, as Seth Price suggests, that “collective experience is now based (as much) on simultaneous private experiences, distributed across the field of media culture”. In this sense, if a popular mp3 could be regarded as a more ‘successful’ incidence of ‘public art’ than a civic sculpture or intervention, the web opens up some contentious debates as a tool and a vehicle.

What is also interesting is that as well as compressing creation and publication, it reduces the distance between production and criticism and/or reappropriation. The chance to critically engage with the medium is another latent layer of potential, engaging with some of the issues Geert Lovink and others embrace via research centres like the Institute for Network Cultures. Far from the sunny utopia envisaged by California’s first wave of cyber-hippies, the web has emerged full of conflicts and contradictions and it’s important to tackle these head-on. As Lovink notes, “at best the net will be a mirror of the societies, countries and cultures which use it not the sweet and innocent, sleepy global village but a vibrant crawling and crashing bunch of complexities, as chaotic and unfinished as the world we live in”

RSS will feed itself

We need to then think about how effective the tools we have to hand are at realising these potentials. A common sensation associated with web 2.0 is that of ‘information glut’ – a level of noise and static that at times almost overwhelms the signal. It would be possible to write this off as the natural flip-side of ‘free information‘. But as this tide of information increases, so does our ability to sift it. The issue is mainly one of literacy, and several interesting projects have started to think critically about how we ‘create’ within this hyper-linked environment, not least Limited Langauage, a web/book project engaging with critical writing on design in a feedback culture.

The endism is nigh: against newness

Wired magazine’s latest breathless pronouncement is that the ‘web is dead‘ (though as a caveat they claim that the internet will go from strength to strength, via ‘apps’, services etc.). It’s the oldest trick in the book, neatly dissected by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid who view technology (and technologists) as being ‘obsessed’ with an unrelenting desire to see everything new as the death of what went before. In reality what emerges is a layered environment, subtly shifting practices, each layer augmenting what went before.

In the same way that tweets, as an abbreviated form of messaging, have a robust and healthy lineage via text messaging through telegrams to the advent of the telegraph and beyond, so the activity in networked creative communities is not new, it is just provided with new platforms and technologies on which to operate. The interesting question is not whether the technologies, in and of themselves, are any good, but whether they bring anything new or useful to these pre-existing communities. We then need to ask whether this, in a chicken-or-egg sense, may in turn cultivate new activities and modes of production. Text-based messaging, between the telegram and SMS messaging, may not have advanced much in that they were built on a similar social model of one-to-one or one-to-few communication across distance, but Twitter creates a much bigger shift by planting the short message in the social realm for all to consume. So the networks that operate on Central Station and other platforms are made visible, and in the process more open to interactions, input and chance encounters.

Post-production: sample culture

It’s a slightly glib way of putting it, but author Matt Ridley suggests that we’re on the cusp of really seeing what happens when ‘ideas have sex‘, because of the way ideas circulate online. We may also be able to put to bed the myth of the lone creative genius in the ivory tower. Historically, this myth seems to have some resilience. But whether via Bourriaud and his ideas around ‘post-production‘ or Sara de Bondt and her collaborative projects to unearth more nuanced (and realistic) versions of design history, there are interesting and taxing issues about ‘ownership’ and ‘ideas’ which online networks bring to the fore. In this sense the value of the network is increased as both a channel for production and distribution, but with the potential for parallel debate about the issues involved. But how open is this discussion? The lawyer and prolific writer Lawrence Lessig asks many critical questions about the future of ideas, our culture in ‘read-write’ terms, how our laws are badly out of step with behaviour online, and the potential benefits of a creative commons. To this end, we’re always teetering somewhere between open and closed networks, and an inbuilt conflict between the online masses and those who control the cables and connections.

Open and closed

Talking in a TV interview in 1995, Neil Postman discussed what he saw as ‘cyberspace’s Faustian pact’ – embodied in the many trade-offs we encounter online daily; between privacy and the desire to connect, the benefits of ‘collective intelligence’ and (some would perhaps rightly argue) a misplaced desire to be identified as sole originators of our own ideas. ‘Open networks’ are of course not always exactly that, but sometimes a semi-closed environment also has benefits. Writing on the discussion board of one particular semi-hidden archive, a member suggests; “There’s a utility to being closed. It makes things possible. In this age of connectedness, places where small groups can meet, both online and off, are to be prized.”

Digital and analogue

Technology is shot through with numerous false dichotomies, and digital vs analogue and online vs ‘real world’ are two prime examples. To characterise online networks as digital would be to completely miss the point. More useful distinctions, if indeed they are needed at all, would be between networked and non-networked artifacts. Much of what is passed off as ‘interaction design’ is actually, as Daniel West observes, ‘interpassive‘ – limited to a restrictive set of human/machine sensory interactions. As soon as interaction design connects to a web or network (of other people) it suddenly enters another dimension. In the same sense that a book is a ‘linked object’ and therefore more interactive than, for example, a motion graphic sequence, people and ideas are the only thing that really matter. In the unlikely event that Wired magazine’s web-death predictions did transpire to be correct, the network will still exist and will always be able to find other platforms. Just as some of the more covert and clandestine archives and sharing networks that contribute to the web’s ‘share’ culture simply change their URLs when they get shut down, there is always ‘somewhere’ for the network to go.

Undisciplined and other boundaries

One of the most exciting features of online creative networks is that they kick, more persistently and more effectively, at the false silo-ing of creative disciplines, formal and informal education and petty sector-specific cultural turf wars, than any top-down or heavy-handed attempts at inter-multi-trans-cross-diciplinarity. Just as at the grassroots, in studio complexes, artists rub shoulders with designers, craftsmen with writers, model makers with architects, the online platform is equally unprejudiced (or at least relaxed) about ‘discipline’ and other distinctions such as educational background, geographical location, or professional or ‘amateur’ status, which weigh so heavily on funding bodies and state educational institutions. This ties into a wider emerging ecosystem, embodied in projects such as the Parallel School and Department 21, where the benefits of self-directed and augmented collective educational experiences are realised.

Network of networks: multiples and parallels

Therefore, an interesting future for Central Station could counter-intuitively be found in it supporting other networks, and thinking about whether it could devolve itself, de-brand itself, relocate itself. The future benefits of these platforms lie in their ability to ‘be nothing’, or at least morph and spawn in equal measures. The web is an environment of multiple realities and parallel worlds, where the same information can be accessed from numerous different angles and as parts of all sorts of different constellations. It is, fundamentally in its DNA, not either/or but both/more/extra/at the same time.

There are pressing issues of ownership, in the same way that all internet endeavours are inseparable from problems of openness and organisation, but it is possible to argue that one of the best things a government could do would be to fund, with as few strings attached as possible, this kind of platform (or multiple platforms), taking a joyously open-minded approach to many of its members being from outwith its geographical borders, and seeing the richness that brings. Richard Barnbrook and Andy Cameron, writing in Mute magazine in 1995 with some degree of foresight, suggest “… hypermedia in Europe should be developed as a hybrid of state intervention, capitalist entrepreneurship and DIY culture … once people can distribute as well as receive hypermedia, a flourishing of community media, niche markets and special interest groups will emerge. However, for all this to happen the state must play an active part.” In the spirit of connectivity, funding is connected to form, is connected to function.

The five-handed, thirteen-faceted Central Station clock, (whether deliberately or not), says something about McLuhan’s ideas on time and its measurement. While he was using the concept of a clock as an example, to suggest that society needed to find new analogies for its electronic networked existence, the two have ended up blending into one another, just as the physical network blends into, and is, the digital.


Featured in Central Station Book. The fee from this article has been donated to Telecom Sans Frontiers, www.tsfi.org



1. Once it’s typed it’s published, J. Christopher Jones,  Reprinted in Portable Document Format by Dexter Sinister, published by Lukas & Sternberg, 2009, and available online in PDF format from the Dexter Sinister Library: http://www.dextersinister.org/library.html / http://www.dextersinister.org/library.html?id=160
2. See: Anton Vidokle, Produce, Distribute, Discuss, Repeat,  published by Lukas & Sternberg, 2009, and http://www.e-flux.com/
3. Dispersion, Seth Price  Reprinted in Portable Document Format by Dexter Sinister, published by Lukas & Sternberg, 2009, and available online in PDF format from the Dexter Sinister Library: http://www.dextersinister.org/library.html
4. http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/portal/
5. Dark Fiber, Geert Lovink, MIT Press, 2002
6. http://www.limitedlanguage.org/
7. The Social Life of Information, John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, Harvard Business School Press, 2000
8. PostProduction, Nicholas Bourriaud, published by Lukas & Sternberg, 2002
9. http://www.manystuff.org/?p=6913
10. The Future of Ideas, Lawrence Lessig, Vintage, 2002
11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49rcVQ1vFAY
12. Digital Blur, Ed. Rogers and Smyth, Libri, 2010
13. http://www.parallel-school.com/
14. http://www.department21.net/
15. Proud to be Flesh, Ed. Josephine Berry Slater and Pauline van Mourik Broekman, Mute Publishing, 2009

Leave a Reply

Talking, Thinking, Linking, Dying

Sometimes in conversations thoughts or connections come thick and fast. The following is a stream of consciousness hyperlink ramble through some recent project reviews with Architecture students at Strathclyde University, stopping off at interesting points along the way:

A UK Housing crisis, but is it housing, or rather the economies of land and housing that requires design attention? — From Andy Wightman to Danny Dorling, to recent work from the New Economics Foundation (and Zed Books) — and connected to that, the work of GCPH on resilience, and Harry Burns’ TED talk — Soliders returning, to what? Did William Lethaby say something about good accomodation being a more fitting monument to service than any public sculpture? — If we’re thinking about parliaments and buildings, we need to consider the nature of government (and built parliaments) now and in the future, and consider issues such as extra-state-craft — how might the shape of our seats of democracy shape the politics that passes through them? — If creating ‘speculative design’, or devising design fictions, we need to think about speculative everything (dunne and raby) — what are the pressures on students and their mental health? Should architecture seek to mitigate these pressures, and could we engage more directly with the politics of the situation? — Developing a critical vocabulary when approaching temporary urban interventions, this is a useful case-study (and the urchronian maps are interesting) — A space port in Paisley? Here is one in a colliery in Wales — if redesigning civic spaces, how might they operate under Fully Automated Luxury Communism? — and how might we die in the future?

Greetings from North West Europe


“Taking to the stage at the Gove/Johnson victory press conference, both speakers spoke slowly, quietly. With Johnson the contrast was particularly stark, perhaps through shock, perhaps through tiredness, or perhaps through the dawning realisation of the pyrrhic nature of this most pyrrhic of victories.” Read more.

(Image: D. Coyle)

Don’t Panic, Don’t Organise


What is to be done? 
In the days following a narrow decision by the people of Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom – after my personal sadness subsides – it’s difficult for your mind not to turn to imagining what might come next. What are the positives that can be built on? If 45% of the population think positive change could and should happen through independence, where do we go from here?(1) If this does signal a reborn or new type of politics, what might that look like, and in what context might it come in to being?

The return of Real Politik: A Ghost is Born(2)
Amid the tokenistic sound-bites about ‘wake up calls’, an already muddled non-constitution is set to get even messier. Unless a wholly unlikely political compromise can be wrought between labour and the conservatives, ‘The Vow’ (©Pirates of the Caribbean) looks likely to unravel, and whether or not that swung the referendum is now irrelevant as it has become a matter of trust inextricably linked to Westminster. Given that ‘No’ scraped through this following the most remarkably desperate and messy campaign I have ever seen, in the cold light of day it’s impossible to see this as anything other than a delay of the inevitable. Westminster politicians, in a desperate attempt not to lose the Union on their watch, and lose their jobs in the process, have created a new compromised set of circumstances that can only see it fall in the future. With the details of this ‘settlement’ thrashed out in the closed rooms of Chequers and Westminster, this only adds to the crisis of legitimacy already engulfing mainstream politics. Viewed through another prism, 45% of the people of Scotland were ahead of the curve, but it is a curve nevertheless.(3)

An embarrassment of riches
Throughout the last 2 years a natural curiosity and desire to debate has been evident on the part of ‘YES’. I’m fully conscious that this is where I spent most of my time and energies, (though did start off as an instinctive ‘NO’), but really struggled to find any engaging debate in favour of the Union. That’s not to say that it didn’t exist, but where it did, it seemed to exist in a much more limited form, and was frequently tied up with political theory, micro-constitutional machinations, and very much ‘marching in to the future, whilst looking in the rear-view mirror’, (to borrow a Mcluhanism). Where there are two protagonists in any discussion, over the long run, fortune will favour the inquisitive.

Another striking characteristic within the YES movement (and I’m aware of the difficulties in calling it that, but can’t find a better word for now) was the ability to tolerate differences of opinion, on policy issues, whilst being able to recognise common goals. This was wholly refreshing, speaking as someone in possession of their own mind who finds party politics to be utterly crushing of both the spirit and the will. ‘Pragmatists’ point to this as a weakness, but it should be viewed as a great strength. They will also critique choices to debate issues through plays, song, poetry and design – but again this was the most invigorating of all this referendums many revelations. By opening up the collective imagination as a space that can be occupied by the most ‘real’ of politics, a space to discuss issues was created that wasn’t subject to the usual political modes of engagement. A binary choice at the ballot box created the least binary (and most imaginative) political discussions I have ever been involved in, and that is something that the political establishment needs to reflect on. Engagement follows choices with consequence, and YES made the political weather in terms of provoking an informed and lively debate about what choices and consequences we might be faced with. Meanwhile, the ‘don’t know, vote no’ mantra of Scottish Labour is indicative of the intellectual ambition of ‘better together’, and, as mentioned earlier, that intellectual ambition isn’t heading anywhere fast.

While there will naturally be a massive desire and energy to address whatever perceived shortcomings there are believed to have been in the YES movement, and it’s failure to win the referendum, YES should continue doing exactly what it has done to date, in exactly the same manner. I would attempt to summarise that as a friendly, communicative, cooperative but essentially unorganised movement for independence and self-determination – one lived out with wit, warmth, and imagination, sometimes a little insular, and occasionally prone to conspiracy theories, but by and large a reflective movement that could think about itself, and it’s place in the world. Most striking of its characteristics is it’s distributed structure.

YES lost the debate significantly in one key demographic, 65+ – a demographic more responsive to the mainstream media (MSM), less involved in digital networks, and more receptive to the establishment onslaught – but won or came close in most other age groups. These new ways of doing politics have found favour with large parts of the electorate, and have engaged a number of people almost completely unheard of before. To lose the referendum should not mean that the potential pains of future losses force us to change this modus operandi. YES will be pressured, internally and externally, to identify its goals and ‘get its act together’ but I can only feel dispirited at the prospect. ‘Organisation’ and ‘discipline’ are of the old political paradigm we’re trying to leave behind, communication and cooperation are the new watchwords we should be aiming for. Questions of organisation are usually followed by ones of ‘leaders’ and ‘control’ – of money and ‘sustainability’. By organising and then collectively sticking ones head over the parapet, it only makes it easier for others to categorise and label you, and in the process neuter any opinion you may have. By keeping loose, but staying connected, influence and trust travels further. We can take responsibility for our own actions, and the movement becomes richer and more layered than it was before. YES functioned as a distributed network which makes total sense in the world in which we live, and should remain its key characteristic. In this spirit of undisciplined action, I’m going to share some of the following thoughts on what could be done next, varying from the practical to the ridiculous, but in the world of unorganised ‘YES’, they all get an airing.

Disbelief, Suspend Thyself.
Most fundamental to moving forward is the need to behave paradoxically. We need to join political parties but not be defined by them. Joining helps us identify as a group, and deal with the real politik of holding politicians to account. But we should also consider being part of a number of parties, as well as seeking to join groups with similar aims elsewhere in the world (be that in Wales, Spain, Hong Kong or elsewhere). By building networks internationally, we can strengthen the resources, knowledge and popular support for all of these movements. To extend this further, we could make links with groups in the rest of the uk in a campaign for the uk to declare independence from itself, striving for a constitutional year-zero, rather than the piecemeal concessions on offer.

YES should continue to develop strong citizen journalism. Already a strong commentariat has emerged, and through projects such as the Scottish Inquirer, we should support the development of these voices to include great independent investigative journalism, the likes of which have been largely missing throughout the referendum campaign.

We should set up the Scottish Institute for the Imagination (motto: “Disbelief, suspend thyself”), an initiative to bring about a reawakening of the collective imagination.

Collective remembering: in the heat of the final vote, it’s possible to forget the more surreal aspects of the referendum campaign. Keeping those minor insults and faux-pas to the front of the populations mind could be a key aspect of any future YES activities. By secreting speakers in the flagstones of Buchanan street, we quietly pipe in the Imperial Death March, on continuous loop. Just as the Spanish celebrate festivals and national holidays with giant paellas cooked in enormous dishes in the street, we instigate national ‘Eat your Cereal‘ day, where a massive bowl of coco-pops is placed in the centre of George Square for the population of Glasgow to feast upon.

We should research, design and develop a Scottish currency. By learning from other micro and alternative currencies, we don’t need to wait for a future referendum, but can start this project now. The hold that Westminster has over some parts of Scotland is directly channeled through the Bank of England, and by circumnavigating this, in our own time, and on our own terms, we demonstrate possible answers to the depressingly recurring ‘currency question’.

We need to support and encourage ‘independent mindedness’ in all spheres of life – at work, at school, in the home – building people’s capacity and trust for independent thinking.

We need to continue to work through the cultural sphere. Through creative thinking, we will get there, and we need to support and promote the work of the likes of Lateral North, regardless of whether we got the result we want or not. We need a heady mix of expertise and ideas of a particular type, those rarely found in single people, so we need to prioritise the connected collective over the cult of the leader.

More of the same
The worst thing YES as a group could do would be to seek to emulate any of the operations of mainstream political parties (and I include the SNP in that). We should refuse to mimic, and keep doing what got YES to this point – just do more of it, more often, with more people, having more political fun.


1. While talk of ‘reconciliation’ is occupying much of the MSM, this would assume that there was much acrimony in the first place (which there wasn’t, apart from in the collective imaginations of Nick Robinson, Jim Murphy MP, and the Telegraph). It is also the flip side of the ‘no more referendums’ coin, again peddled by the MSM, and difficult to read as anything other than an establishment uncomfortable with the idea of a large section of the public engaging in politics. The people of Scotland will decide if and when there is another referendum, not Lords or career Politicians or a subservient media. End of.

2. Link

3. To further explore this I plan to re-read ‘After Britain‘ by Tom Nairn – a reflection on what politicians thought the Scottish Parliament was about and what it came to mean. Scotland, viewed across the last 30+ years, seems to be heading in one direction only, and this referendum, narrowly lost, can be read as simply another step in that direction.

Once the Dust has Settled

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 09.45.14

Here’s hoping. Reflections to follow, once the dust has settled.

Quietly Daring

Via Experimental Jetset, we came across this article: Brand Minimalism – An Art in America report on a 1980 exhibition exploring links and dialogues between late modernist art and american corporate identity design.


Radiant Discord: on brand, design and Mexico ’68. Click through to the Byrne article.

Branding the Baptists

Interesting post about the visual identity of the Westborough Baptists, using primary design research, by Emmet Byrne on The Gradient — Walker Art Center.

Free Beer

Good beer branding for good beer.

In lieu of the new

Political Colours and New Year messages.

On fewer handles and more system bending

Thought 1: Shaping Design Education at LEAP Symposium may have been very good. A few too many post-it notes, a few too many kooky documentary illustrations, but that aside, it may have been a well considered, far-thinking event. I’ve read the article, looked at the pictures, and of course broadly agree with the summary, it being so general that it would be difficult to disagree with. ‘Humility’ and ‘optimism’ are advocated as key qualities,  (but of course, who wouldn’t agree with humility and optimism in their broadest senses?) and as anyone who knows me will testify, I have at least one of these things in spades. But there’s something not quite right, something that is *annoying* me.

Thought 2: I think perhaps this conference just crossed my path at the wrong time. Its possible I’m really frustrated by something else, and maybe it’s this; In Higher Education this type of thing seems to increasingly happen. Didactic initiatives keep cropping up to makes students be more sustainable, more employable, more ‘responsible’. Its undeniable that the academy now has a far stronger view, (and often goes to much greater lengths to realise that view) of what it’s graduating students should ‘be like’.

In the same way that conferences about ‘creativity’ seem to miss the point, a scheduled agenda about any of these big issues seem doomed to do them a disservice. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately in relation to some events I’m working on next year, loosely political in nature. But we can’t make people be ‘political’ or act ‘politically’. For that to have any value, it needs to come from the person, at the right time in the right place – to genuinely ‘respond’. The most we could/should do is create a platform for that to happen, which is in itself a political act enough. And it should be the same in education. Creating spaces – encouraging, supporting, challenging spaces – designed from the person or cohort outwards, not from a socio-economic political endpoint backwards.

Capital likes to know what it’s dealing with. Projects of the ‘what’s to be done about’ variety, while probably well intended, try to offer people too many handles on things, and at the same time set up too many fences around things, and (if you’ll indulge me in this triple-metaphor-a-thon), easy ‘pidgeon-holing’. Discussions about education, creativity, sustainability etc should come about as a by-product of doing other things, and be constantly open to revision, making things, abject failure, making things, delighting in specifics, making things, letting things not be named, and contrarian views.

Thought 3: This reminded me of another post I have never got around to writing. Celebrating ‘system bending’ – people and groups who can navigate, but more importantly ignore, subvert and generally distract from the prevailing meta-narrative of quantifying, modularising, commodifying, systematising (and yes, even understanding) contemporary creative life. Let’s try and learn more, understand less.

(And maybe watch this).

Less War War, More War War.

“Even as our government prepares for a multi-million pound rebranding of the First World War next year, ideas are being spun at the Ministry of Defence to mitigate opposition to current and future conflicts, a 2012 report has revealed.

Far from an institution which is divorced from politics, the report paints a picture of a military which is desperate to shape public opinion. Although the report’s suggestions have not yet been enacted as policy, the fact that these questions are being asked at all tells us something of interest.”

Joe Glenton, in the The Independent. (See previous)

Interesting article, and as an aside; in the ‘privatisation of public services’ debate, why not privatise the whole military. See how that goes. If it works out well, then, (and only then), apply to Health and Social Services etc.

Ornament and iOS7

Adolf Loos contributes to the iOS7 debate:

“…Nowadays, putting skeuomorphism on objects which, thanks to progress, no longer need to be decorated, means a waste of labour and an abuse of material. If all objects would last as long in aesthetic terms as they last physically, the consumer would be able to pay price for them that would allow the worker to earn more money and work shorter hours. For an object from which I am convinced I will get full use until it is superseded by an updated handset, I am quite happy to pay four times the price of another I could buy, and would gladly queue up from 3am in the morning to do so. I am happy to pay forty crowns for my iPod touch, even though there are mp3 players for ten in another shop. But in those trades that languish under the yoke of the skeuomorphic artist, no value is put on good or bad workmanship. Work suffers because no one is willing to pay for it at its true value…

…A modern person, who regards skeuomorphism as a symptom of the artistic superfluity of previous ages and for that reason holds it sacred, will immediately recognize the unhealthy, the forced–painfully forced–nature of modern skeuomorphism. Skeuomorphism can no longer be produced by someone living on the cultural level of today. It is different for individuals and people who have not yet reached that level.

The ideal I preach is the technologist. What I mean by that is the person at the peak of humanity, who yet has a profound understanding of the problems and aspirations of those at the bottom. One who well understands the way the African inputs data into his Blackberry according to a certain rhythm; likewise the Persian coding his GPS device, the Slovak peasant woman making her Android user interface, the old woman making marvelous algorhythms from lines of secondhand code. The technologist lets them carry on in their work accustomed way, he knows the time they spend on their work is sacred to them. The revolutionary would go and tell them it was all pointless, just as he would drag an old woman away from the wayside shrine, telling her there is no God. But the atheist among the technologists still raises his hat when he passes a church.

My shoes are covered with skeuomorphisms formed by sawtooth patterns and holes. Work done by the shoemaker, work he has not been paid for. Imagine I go to the shoemaker and say, ‘You charge thirty crowns for a pair of shoes. I will pay you forty-eight.’ It will raise the man to such a transport of delight he will thank me through his workmanship and the material used, making them of a quality that will far outweigh my extra payment. He is happy, and happiness is a rare commodity in his house. He has found someone who understands him, who respects his work, and does not doubt his honesty. He can already see the finished shoes in his mind’s eye. He knows where the best leather is to be found at the moment, he knows which of his workers he will entrust with the task, and the shoes will have all the sawtooth patterns and holes an elegant pair of shoes can take. And then I say, ‘But there is one condition. The shoes must be completely plain.’ I will drag him down from the heights of bliss to the depths of hell. He will have less work, and I have taken away all his pleasure in it.

The ideal I preach is the technologist. I can accept skeuomorphism on my own person if it brings pleasure to my fellow men. It brings pleasure to me, too. I can accept the African’s skeuomorphism, the Persian’s, the Slovak peasant woman’s, my shoemaker’s, for it provides the high point of their existence, which they have no other means of achieving. We have the art that has superseded skeuomorphism. After all the toil and tribulations of the day, we can go to hear Throbbing Gristle or Florian Hecker. My shoemaker cannot. I must not take his religion from him, for I have nothing to put in its place. But anyone who goes to Instal and then sits down to design a wallpaper pattern is either a fraud or a degenerate.

The disappearance of skeuomorphism has brought about an undreamed-of blossoming in the other arts. The Gristle’s symphonies would never have been written by a man who had to dress in silk, velvet, and lace. Those who go around in velvet jackets today are not artists, but clowns or house painters. We have become more refined, more subtle. When men followed the herd they had to differentiate themselves through colour, modern man uses his dress as a disguise. His sense of his own individuality is so immensely strong it can no longer be expressed in dress. In iOS7, flatness, and a lack of ornamentation, is a sign of intellectual strength. Modern man uses the skeuomorphs of earlier or foreign cultures as he likes and as he sees fit. He concentrates his own inventive power on other things.”