week2 readings (prototyping)

The gist of the readings seem to be more or less the same; which is a discussion of what prototyping is, the language of prototyping and different types of prototyping.

What I found most interesting about all the readings – in particular, ‘cardboard computers’, is the near constant use of the word ‘tools’ (as opposed to ‘apparatus’, although cardboard computers does briefly mention it in terms of cinematic use) The word ‘tools’ strongly reminds me of Heidegger’s essay on ‘origins of art’ as well as his essay on technology (if I’m not mistaken, it was published in 1935) where he brings up 2 important concepts – tools that where ‘in hand’ and tools that were ‘at hand’. Tools that are ‘in hand’, he describes, are tools used without ‘concept’; as in they are so near and at readiness that we don’t really think about their use at all – in fact, in the example he uses (a pen), he describes it as an extension of one’s self (like an arm or use of hand) where the potential is constantly stored and ‘ready for use’…. I guess if you want to do a bit of class-crossover, you could even consider it in terms of Clive’s lecture about the Rhine and hydroelectricity where the nature of the Rhine is transformed from an abstract to an object in readiness.

In contrast, an object ‘at hand’ is one that an object is unto itself – where you view it as an object aside from its function (i.e. a broken pen is merely a pen in itself and not a tool used for writing) and here’s the interesting bit: most of the discussions centred around prototyping views the tools for prototyping to be always ‘in hand’, which makes perfect sense since the focus is on functionality and ‘making sense’ (to borrow the term from gary benett) – that is, to use ‘making’ as a form of ‘understanding’. However the completed prototype is one that is always ‘at hand’, because it’s not really meant to be fully functional but rather a representation of function; a method of observation so you end up with a kind of crisis?conflict? where what is fundementally ‘made’ is also fundementally abstracted.

This becomes even more complicated when you consider the apparatus used for prototyping. The readings don’t really touch on the concept of apparatus (a bit of a pity… especially since they narrow the definition to the cinematic variant) but consider Processing, which is typically used as a prototyping platform. Is it a tool? Is it an apparatus? What level of abstraction can you consider an object like Processing to belong in? I would cautiously place it as an apparatus since it’s beyond both 1st or 2nd order abstraction; and where it sits on a library of java wrapped in a library of APL wrapped in a library of binary- a black box literally. I would guess – that if a computer is an abstraction of the mind, and code is an abstraction of making reality (in the sense that you take an action and translate the said action as a verb) then a platform like Processing would be an abstraction of conscious understanding. Therefore, the question is: If you make a prototype on Processing, is it an apparatus as well? Can it ever reach the state of being ‘in hand’ or as cardboard computers say: ‘a computer that doesn’t exist?’

I don’t think you can really reconcile both concepts…. because the core of mechanisation *is* to create black box systems. It’s not just systems in terms of platform (i.e. OF or Processing) but systems in the sense of procedural rethoric and to some extent; the gamefication (or gamespacing?) of what we perceive to be ‘world’ as well. Heidegger harps a lot about alethetia and the truth of which is ‘making’/unconcealment, but such unconcealment cannot exist when what is revealed is merely another apparatus of which the current one is built upon. Perhaps what we reveal in such unconcealment is how much things are concealed, and that awareness of the power of apparatus helps us with what an ‘interface’ is. That what we create as ‘user experiences’ or ‘natural computing’ or whatever trendy academic term people come up with, is also a system of navigating through the black box – and perhaps – we do not make, but only make aware.

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