Tuesday, September 18, 2012

effective, affective surprise...

First, I cannot help but respond to news of the US presidential campaign by saying that 47% of Americans are not moochers, and do not see themselves as victims. Many of those who do not pay federal income taxes, do pay social security taxes at a 15+ percent rate (federal taxes higher than many rich folks) and thereby support the retirement of the current generation of retirees, and as workers, contribute to the success of American corporations and small businesses.

On the point of those 47% being dependent on government, I would like to point out that we are ALL dependent on government, 100 percent of us. Without roads, without law enforcement, without national defense, without public education, without some level of social safety net, and without civic ordinances and compliance with those ordinances the United States of America would be a pretty sorry excuse for human society.

Governor Romney, on the other hand, says what he meant was not elegantly stated, but he stands by what he said. If ever there was a more out-of-touch presidential nominee, I would be surprised and amazed. But not all surprise are effective. However, comments disparaging nearly half the electorate may turn out to be both surprising and affective... Leading most of us deeply insulted. Give the man a wrench and see if he can turn a bolt. Lefty-loosey, righty-tighty. Can he possibly be one of those untrained by personal experience in the use of his hands? There is a relationship between idle hands and ignorant, out of touch minds.

One of the important principles of design is that of "visual illusion" but please remember that the principles and elements of design were intellectually crafted as a guide for visual artists. When you get into 3-D design, or become engaged in curriculum design for schools, the same principles and elements of design apply, but with some adjustment. Instead of "visual illusion", substitute the concept "effective surprise." While visual illusion may lead the eye into a painting, it is surprise that leads a casual viewer into participation and engagement with either an object or process. I also mention "affective" surprise because whatever happens in the work should affect the emotions as well as the intellect of the observer or participant.

I used a simple turned knob design the other day on a series of boxes, taking a thing that was commonplace, instantly recognizable but reshaped through a simple though delicate sanding operation. The instantly recognizable requests no further investigation, but that which incites curiosity leads to deeper engagement. This is a simple principle to understand, a sometimes difficult principle to put into practice.

Just as a painter may require advanced skill to create visual illusion, makers of things and planners of curricula, must think outside the box in their efforts to surprise. If there is one thing in particular troubling American schools it is the consistent lack of surprise. Humdrum, boring, routine. If it does not surprise in at least some simple way, it is not good design, and teachers whose hands are tied to tightly by administration do not engage children's minds in learning.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Anonymous2:31 PM

    Just remember you didn't build that.

  2. Certainly not by myself. I use tools made by others, lumber cut by others, allowed to grow and be nourished by others. All ideas are not mine alone, and the skill I have was earned because someone was willing to pay for me for my labors in the making of finer work. No craftsman is an island unto himself, and not one of the fools that think they stand on their own two feet, actually do.

  3. Peter Evans6:29 PM

    Doug, as you say we all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before... some stand on the shoulders of giants, others...

    Being not an American I have no right to comment on US politics. Except - what the US does mightily impacts the whole world, so the superficiality of the current challenger takes my breath away.

    Keep plugging away, the decay of education will hopefully be reversed before my grandchildren finish school, as the old saying goes "constant stoning wears way the drips"

  4. Lets see as a farmer,Cabinetmaker of some 55 of my 65 years. I planted seed by hand, pulled weeds by hand,harvested by hand. Guess I did grow that. I can do the same thing with a tree. As did the very first person that did that. And not use anyone else's tools. yes others make it faster and easier but they don't build it. I would love to know how you speak things into existence. I thought that was reserved for God. And you didn't mention what part of what you receive if you sell something you didn't make you give to others. WE can only hope that your thinking doesn't prevail and this comment does

  5. It's true what you say about a certain segment of society loosing touch with any understanding of manual work. I visited the Metropolitan Museum last year and was amazed by what a teacher told her highschool students about Ugolino and His Sons. She said that the artist only came up with the general concept for the sculpture and that stone masons carried out the rest of the work. She elaborated, eventually fleshing out a vision where this stupendous sculpture had been concieved by an artist who worked like a fashion designer, tossing off rough sketches and then then everthing that followed was mere labour that could be outsourced. She had taken her notion of how things are produced today and draped it over the art.

    The anonymous flying monkey brigade is being supplied with very weak talking points -seeing as you need to willfully misinterpret the "you didn't build that" quote as not referring to the public roads and bridges that make local commerce possible. I get the feeling that the big money interests are keeping their powder dry for 2016.

  6. So, Dave, as a cabinet maker, you started out at the age of 10 and are a self-made man.

    Most of us, on the other hand, have received some benefit from others. For instance, I took wood shop and metal shop in 7th and 8th grades, and went to my public library, and museums where I became exposed to beautiful work that I hope influenced my craftsmanship.

    Obama's comment "you didn't build that" was taken completely out of context knowing that there were a individuals who would jump on the bandwagon and take offense.

    But there are far more people who do understand that we are in this together and have a responsibility to prepare the ground for others to plant, plant trees for others to harvest, to make objects of useful beauty, and thank others for the opportunities our civilized culture provides.

  7. Rick Schuman5:56 PM

    I find the question of "who made this or that" to be the stuff of straw man argumentation (debate over useless and irrelevant notion in order to draw attention away from real and important issues). I also find it rather arrogant and off-putting that you would spoil your otherwise good blog by involving yourself in political rhetoric, especially in the middle of an otherwise fine article. Mitt Romney is in touch with what has made our country the most powerful on the planet. Mr. Obama would lead us down the path that has been the ruin of our the previously second most powerful country (no longer a player) and those other countries that have been suckered into the notion that only the government has the authority control the people and all their assets. Read socialism /communism if I have not been clear enough.

  8. Rick, don't you find it ironic that most of the major advances in the stock market have taken place during Democratic administrations? If Mitt Romney is in touch with what our country needs, then I guess we need to lose more jobs to outsourcing, and more major investors putting their capital in the Cayman Islands.

    When folks say Obama is a socialist, as a political science major, I know they know nothing about what socialism means.

    A socialist would have taken over the auto industry rather than saving it as a capitalist venture.

  9. Rick Schuman7:08 AM

    I'm not much on following the stock market as I just work for a living. The stock market is abused and misused according to its original design and purpose.

    I did a little research and a better descriptor for Obama would probably be fascist according to his actions, although a lot of his rhetoric is still very socialistic.

    A socialist would have protected auto industry and the union jobs at stake. A capital venturer would have allowed them fail in order to create new business opportunity without the burden of continual cost/price increases, inflation, and continual hostility engendered by union labor.

    I think your poly-sci education has made you narrow minded and arrogant. Perhaps you should stick to rhetoric and wood working and leave economy and finance alone. And stop spoiling your blog.

  10. Rick,
    As a person you think "narrow minded and arrogant," I'm not surprised you would think Obama socialist or fascist, without knowing what either of those terms actually meant.

    I don't follow the stock market either, except to note that it goes up under Democrats and fails under Republicans and so much for capitalism. I don't see any point in your reading here in the blog as it seems you get most of your information and world view from Fox News.