Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Art of Being

My wife and I attended a niece’s wedding this past weekend and, as is my practice, I carried my trusty Leica camera to chronicle the happy event. Yet something happened during the ceremony that reminded me of the sacredness of the service. Of course, life’s big events are the very epitome of photo-ops, but as I was clicking away it dawned on me that it was more important to witness the event than to photograph it. After all, I was not the official wedding photographer, just a proud uncle of the bride.

And today I stumbled upon another blog that captured the same sentiment as it relates to our use of technology: “One way that technology degrades us, in the words of philosopher Martin Heidegger, is ‘forgetfulness of being.’ With technology, we cut ourselves off from the moment, from physical presence, from reality itself. Rather than really experiencing something we distance ourselves by filtering the experience through a little device.” Uh oh.

The very ubiquity of portable gadgets seems to encourage their frequent use, no matter how inappropriate. And don’t even get me started on other people’s dumb use of smartphones in such places as movie theatres. As Albert Einstein observed: “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” I usually strive to keep technology in its proper place but even I occasionally need a reminder that practicing the art of being is the very picture of propriety.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Design of Stuff

I recently checked out the design documentary titled Objectified by Gary Hustwit, in which he interviewed famous designers about good design such as Apple’s Jonny Ive and Braun’s Dieter Rams, among several others. And of all the thought-provoking statements made by the designers it was one by award-winning Karim Rashid that stuck with me. He said that according to his research the typical person interacts with an average of 658 objects a day, which says to me that life is too short for bad design.

In the documentary’s liner notes, Hustwit noted about observing others’ interactions with their stuff: “Looking at their belongings, or how they interact with objects as part of their daily routine, can sometimes be a much richer, more honest representation of their life than what they might say about it. It’s more, well, objective.” And on the disc’s cover he queried: “What can we learn about who we are, and who we want to be, from the objects with which we surround ourselves?”

One thing I have learned this past year from the process of whittling my possessions down from several thousand to a couple of hundred is that I care much more about quality than quantity when it comes to material possessions. I’d rather have one well-designed pen, for example, than a drawer full of them. And I’ve learned that good design doesn’t have to be expensive, although I am willing to spend more for better design. When all is said and done, quality design more than pays for itself.