ON THE AMERICAN DREAM
21 years later and I still have vivid memories of that morning. 8th grade, just started our first class. We gathered in the science lab and the CRT TV was rolled into the room while we watched a live broadcast of the carnage. It felt distant in more ways than one - I was young and couldn't fully comprehend those events, and it occurred at (what I consider) the dawn of the first social media platforms and networks.
Walking down Lavergne Ave. on a sunny and clear Sunday afternoon this late summer, I see a man tending to his lawn, a young man watching me go by on his stoop, a man riding his bike down the alley gnawing on what looks like a long breadstick or a sausage, I nod and smile and he smiles back silently. I cross the street to pass the Greek woman who I used to have cut my hair working on a customer... It's tranquil and I think that these people certainly have their own problems and concerns about their own lives and maybe also about the country and its future. It's not the shared moment, the trivial smiles, that make me optimistic about this country and its people. They know they're living a good life implicitly, whether they actually are aware of it or not, in what they were doing when I just saw them, in the daily activities that are important to them individually, in the pursuit of their own individual goals. We don't see it, many of us fail to acknowledge it, but its obvious to me that what this country stands for is so alive and well in the daily activities that comprise our individual lives, no matter how trivial or significant some of those activities may be. The activities we can pursue provided by the country that allows for them - the activities we take for granted daily that others around the world with their own ideologies would kill for, are killing for, and are resentful to us because of our opportunity to pursue them.
Many people might think that the spirit of the country and what it stands for, its ideals and values, are something distinct from the daily activities of their lives where in fact their lives are a visible, tangible expression of the reality that the American Dream and Spirit is being lived out in the unique ways each individual is choosing to go about each of their lives. That is why I'm optimistic about the future.
What is a society but a group of individuals held together by formal and informal agreements? It is the individual human being, the smallest possible minority, not the group he belongs to that matters to the flourishing of a society. The ethnicity or race he belongs to is secondary. The groups he forms his own unique part of are only as influential or powerful as the individuals within that group allow. That is why I'm optimistic despite the nasty and deceiving political rhetoric across the entire political spectrum. We implicitly understand as Americans that it is not our politicians we should be following but rather the course of our own individual lives that will allow us to rediscover in our own hearts and minds the true meaning of the American Dream.
The American Dream is not the cheap association to the big house with the white picket fence and the fancy car. That's merely one possibility. The American Dream is the pursuit of whatever your mind can imagine - whatever you want to shape the world as you want to see it - as something to benefit yourself even while it benefits others. That is what is possible in the United States - opportunity to shape the world you wish to see. What makes such a strong economy even possible is this liberty to pursue your dreams by your own rules and standards. What makes such a strong economy even possible is the possibility for ideas to even become reality. The more that possibility is stifled, suffocated, often by the state's arbitrary whim and regulation, the less ideas flourish and the less properity is possible.
Contemporary mainstream politics is primarily reactionary - a kind of funhouse mirror that warps, distorts and is often an outright mockery of the reality of the culture. Some can see the reality behind the mirror while others accept the mirror as sole arbiter of reality, maybe even reality itself. Politics alone is inadequate to understand the state of a country. One has to look deeper, not to politics, but to the political economy, and to political philosophy, and examine on those bases the fundamental ideas that drive those with terrible politics and terrible policy.
In the end, the struggle for the true progress of the country is fundamentally a struggle for better ideas, and those come from the hearts and minds of every individual in the nation, aggregated and eventually expressed in culture, and politics later downstream. If we want to have better politics we need to influence culture. If we want culture to go a different direction, we need to not only air our ideas but put them into action in the ways each of us individually sees fit for our own individual lives. We set examples for other individuals and it is my belief that the truly good, life-affirming, life-sustaining ideas tend to win out in the long-run, but not always the short-run. The long arc of progress is long for a reason - progress is a negotiation between the forces of good and of evil. Some think of progress as taking two steps back to go forward, others see it as just moving forward. The historical tendency is the forward inefficiency of the former.
The spirit of America is partly founded on the notion of the good of the individual, and so long as that is present, even implicitly, even when people talk of a common good or a public good, they know it's the effort of each individual (whether they simply refuse to acknowledge it for fear of their being wrong or whether they really aren't aware), not the prioritization of the group, that drives human progress. The actions of individual human beings tends towards the good the majority of the time. That will only be proved false when humans no longer exist, in any evolutionary form, period. The struggle for survival (the defense of life itself) is one aspect of that work towards the good, but when survival is no longer a question, the struggle for freedom (the defense of an individual's specific way of life) is the other aspect of that work towards the good that allows for maximal choice and maximal prosperity for every individual.
It's the beautiful mind of man that can harness and subdue the sublime chaos of nature. I do believe harmony exists in the universe and we Americans, having so arduously built a beautiful infrastructure for freedom, the diversity of ideas, and prosperity to flourish, have historically expressed that best.
MIDJOURNEY / MACHINE ART
Join Midjourney's Discord. Type whatever words you want. AI will generate interesting images, art, debatably. The renders of Chicago in the year 4022, in particular, have a certain 80's sci-fi/fantasy novel illustration lo-fi quality to them - like how those in the past expressed their visions of the future. There appears a general tendency toward a kind of retro-futurist/surrealist aesthetic quality that I've found curious.
The potential application for architectural rendering is intriguing. Imagine just entering keywords for your project in coordination with BIM data, and AI produces rendered images of a quality that's equal parts parametric but fluid and spotaneous. This could add a new dimension to project renders in a way that enhances the perception of the project itself.
Surrealist Michael Jordan
Pomo Frank Lloyd Wright
Farnsworth House In Space
Chicago In 4022
North America 4022
Art Deco Neo Futurist Cloud City
THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL NETWORKS: THE ACTION NETWORK?
The system of accountability (honor system) and the focus on action in The Strenuous Life is the ideal model for future social networks. The Strenuous Life is a more social network primarily in the way it fosters interaction in the real world through earning badges, completing agons and working with members rather than interaction with the real world via platform-based social interaction. The SL platform is intended, intentionally or otherwise, to discourage lingering on the platform itself. In essence, SL online is a big message board, and currently rather clunky in organization and funcationality, but that doesn't take away from its straightforward utility in supporting members and keeping track of activities. It does just enough of what it needs to do to get members away from the platform rather than continually drawing them to it, without sacrificing the overall purpose of the network - connecting with members and encouraging real world interaction. There is no built-in endless scrolling and the primary format of communication is written word. A "liking" feature exists that is, on the surface, no different than that found on any other social network, but it doesn't necessarily overshadow any other calls to action.
Further, the platform allows for the freedom of individual participants to make their own choices, share their results, accept failure, responsibility and criticism in a self-reinforcing structure. Even if it runs on the honor system that only means that there is more pressure on the individual to perform because he can only fail himself, not being strictly tied to his Class. On SL one values all the time he spends on it - whether engaging on message boards, earning badges, or meeting up. Everything revolves around the core message of SL.
Finally, SL has the added advantage of being a system that one has to pay into, even if it's a one-time use-for-life fee. I suspect that if a social network requires users to pay, those users will at least be more conscious of how they spend their time on it. They would be more compelled to get more value out of their buck - perhaps this means less wasted time with antagonization, trolling, etc. and time spent more efficiently in communication and sharing - especially if the network charged per hour of use. One can only wonder how social media behavior might change (and what behaviors will not) if the networks, or perhaps certain features, were behind a paywall. Imagine if social networks charged a penny per "like". Would people be as quick to like something, or would they begin to second guess their choice? Would they give their likes, or more importantly their written comments, more thought? What if it were one dollar per like? Would we begin to see more accurate, less over-exaggerated, metrics and more authentic social media behavior? The revenue from membership or pay-to-play features could conceivably also eliminate or at least reduce the need for advertising, which simultaneously would address in some measure extant privacy issues involving user data and advertisers.
I recommend that a future action network (the evolution of existing social networks) needs the following additions to build on the success of today's networks while mitigating their shortcomings:
Charge users to join: Clearly a lot of people won't like this and would rather opt for existing free options, even knowing there are inherent negative trade-offs (ads, privacy, lower quality, etc.), but there are people out there who are also willing to pay, and there are plenty of pay structures or scales that can be researched or tested (subscription-based tiers, one expensive lifetime fee, pay-to-play features, etc.)
Place limits on certain features like calls-to-action: Maybe a social network could do without a like/dislike/love button and a views count and a share feature and a re-post button, etc. This would be particular to each platform, but the point is to actually minimize engagement with the platform itself (what you might call indirect user engagement) in favor of more direct person-to-person communication. Build in measures to encourage direct communication with people's content - maybe requiring text or video replies only, and a minimum number of words in order to reply in text. Charging to use certain calls-to-action may also be a more viable alternative to just eliminating them.
While limiting platform-binging features, add features that encourage real world social interaction and activity in lieu of platform interaction and activity: Eliminate digital games on the platform itself, less calls-to-platform-action and more calls-to-real-world-action. Take a page from The Strenuous Life's book and add challenges, maybe even a reward system, skill-building courses that require participation with real members in your local area, etc. There are plenty of possibliities.
If the paywall begins to pay, remove ads: When MySpace or Facebook first arrived they were clean, to the point, straightforward, and an actual joy to use, with little to no extraneous features to distract on the platform itself. Granted, they were early in design, but at least when I interacted with other users it was actually talking to them using words, no emoji, no concern for reacting with other buttons. The addition of ads and the calls to action that also contribute to ad analytics took away that clean, focused experience. Sure, today's networks still clearly function just fine with ads, but imagine what they might be like without any? How much more enjoyable would using the platforms become? When users pay for services today, they expect to see significantly less ads (the complete elimination of ads not always being possible) compared to free services, and the quality and features of the service to be at least level with what they are paying. Knowing the connection between ads, analytics, and user behavior has been lightened would be another welcome bonus.
Sometimes I like to experiment with alternate gift wrapping designs and techniques. There's always some visual satisfaction in a nicely wrapped gift if one cares enough to notice, but it's often the case most people rush to open the gift without giving the wrapping a second thought. Fair enough, it's just wrapping, but what if part of the gift itself was the unique way in which it was wrapped - a bonus layer to the gift underneath? This wrap was something I cobbled together last minute with whatever materials I had lying around, but there are always ways to make wrap interesting - it's just a matter of how you think through and arrange the materials at your disposal. It's a matter of what you want your gift to say without revealing it (or perhaps what not to say while revealing some of it). I'm not talking about crafting a showstopper, but rather doing something that's a step beyond the traditional box wrap and bow typically chosen for basic convenience and familiarity. This is one of those cases where there's nothing wrong with tradition, but there's also nothing to lose by doing something new. Further, it's also a more explicit demonstration that you spent time and care on something you want for someone. Wrapping multiple gifts in unique ways can definitely be a chore if you don't enjoy such an activity, especially when it already is a chore to wrap them all in the same way. It is, however, a great way to exercise your own creativity by turning what could be a chore into an artistic or even a package design project, which is what I've attempted here. Design everything!
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Locvs Commvnis circa 2015
I've redesigned the site as a blog. The reason is twofold: first, to become an extension of Locvs Commvnis, my ongoing set of personal journals I've been keeping since 2008, and second, to leverage the blog format to assemble a clearer picture and progression of my own ideas about design, architecture, art and the various contexts in which they reside as well as what they mean to me. Projects are now more appropriately integrated into a personal and professional history instead of compartmentalized or categorized as isolated pages. The site will be first and foremost a note-taking medium and creative outlet while serving as a portfolio of work and ongoing design and artistic experimentation - an extended sketchbook and journal of sorts.
In this sense, the website is perpetually under construction, never really a finished product, and contingent on piecemeal and personal effects to constitute its most fulfilling development.
A study of drawings is not only the necessary basis of all scientific art criticism; it is the best training for the private sensibility. The distinctive mannerisms of the artist are most clearly revealed in his drawings, and this is particularly the case with the great Italian masters. Their drawings are leaves torn from their commonplace books, and in his commonplace-book a man writes (or did, until it became fashionable to publish them) only his intimate thoughts. He has no consciousness that the world is looking over his shoulder. He writes, or draws, to please himself, to explore the recesses of his own mind. We feel this to be true particularly of those great artists of the Renaissance whose minds were consumed by intellectual curiosity: of Leonardo, who was equally interested in a unicorn and a foetus, a cannon foundry and a wild flower, a human face and a fold of drapery: of Signorelli and Pollaiuolo, always trying to arrest the moving figure in some significant attitude; of Michelangelo, testing the solidity of some aspect of the visible world. So enticing is this art of drawing, that the danger is we may never turn to what is the primary work of the artist, his painting or his sculpture. That is why it is so important to realize that drawing is a distinct art, and that when we pass to painting or to sculpture it is to discover a different set of values.
My selection of architectural sketches and sketchbooks, published here in faithful reproductions, goes back to my fascination for the process of designing architecture. The quickest way to envisage an imagined idea is by hand. A drawing translates and visualizes thoughts with unique, inimitable immediacy. Eduardo Souto de Moura considers the sketchbook to be "an agenda" in which he records and plans his professional life. For Sou Fujimoto the act of sketching is like a dialogue with himself. With the contemplative concentration of a calligrapher, Wang Shu sketches out his buildings in meticulous detail. And for thirty years Steven Holl's watercolors have formed the nucleus of his architectural oeuvre. All of these architects, whose work I especially admire, live according to a credo very aptly formulated by Louis Kahn: "Drawing to find out." Eduardo Souto de Moura: Sketchbook No. 76