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Thinking about Mind 08 after the Symposium | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees

Thinking about Mind 08 after the Symposium

MIND 08 Notes Cloud

After spending a full day viewing and listening about science and design at the Mind 08 symposium organized by MoMA and Seed Magazine in conjunction with the exhibition of Design and the Elastic Mind I was ready to decompress. To suggest that it was an accelerated day for me to learn about new ideas was quite inspiring. At the wrap up talk it was suggested that who wouldn’t want to go back to school to learn and think more? The next day once I had the chance to recover I started going over my notes. I found the easiest way for me to interpret the phrases that caught my attention was to create a word cloud. The more important the words were to me, the larger they would be. It would give me a chance to see what themes struck a chord with me that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The phrase cloud above is a proximation but by no means literal translation of the entire symposium.

One of the ideas that kept coming up that I was interested in was in terms of scale and how that would translate as something would grow, fold and loop. I can’t remember if it was ever explicitly mentioned but the idea behind the koch snowflake seemed to be an inspiration. Another theme that I was interested in hearing about was how the functions of design, technology and science would blur together to create something new. The word “design” was used a lot but I never got a sense from any of the speakers as to their explicit meaning of it was. While it was understood that design was being used as a term that was not about consumption or decoration was obvious, but as a working term I couldn’t say with any certainty what some of the presenters considered it be.

There was idea of scale, there was also the idea of adaption. I’m not sure if some of the presenters meant to talk in terms of observation, but as the day continued it was interesting to hear and see about how people would learn from their mistakes, tweak things and evolve. At times concepts would be presented that I really had no idea about, but what helped bridge the gap between their knowledge and my understanding was to hear their process which was adapting to their observations. If there’s one issue that I have with the current Design and the Elastic Mind website, it was impossible for me to find and reference the New City information when I wrote about my original exhibition post. In Greg Lynn’s presentation I was drawn to the attitude of making something real yet not necessarily familiar. As he asked who needs another shopping mall? I also thought how he saw roads not as such but as connections was an interesting metaphor. If I were to dive really deep with any of the projects I think New City would be the one I’d want to spend a lot of time with.

While science and design were the key drivers it seemed to me that it was also very much a philosophical day. One of the concepts that Janna Levin proposed was to not look at the universe from the outside but from the inside. Kevin Slavin who I had hear about a year ago talked about process in a way that I hadn’t considered before. The approach that he mentioned was to see something as broken. By having an idea/concept/something else seen as broken you’re able to do things that were never meant to be done. It was quite amazing to hear Hugh Herr say that he designed his own legs after a climbing accident. Something that most people will never have to contemplate but a practical question was about how tall he should make himself?

As I alluded to in the beginning my head was quite overwhelmed by the end of it. The last session had seven presenters. While I did take notes I’ll be honest in saying that I kind of wished that the number of speakers had been cut in half. I can understand you want to give the stage to as many people as possible but it may have been pushing the number of people. While collaboration was implicitly mentioned I wondered how true that was. As a graphic designer it seemed it was more of a diy mentality where graphic designers could have been used in projects was never mentioned or probably considered. There were examples of slick animated renderings but it was also obvious that in some of the other slides visual design was not considered to be important. It was by far one of the best symposiums that I’ve attended in terms of wanting to do more myself afterwards, it just seemed that it missed the chance to see visual design as more then just illustrating data and more as part of the process to change things.

If you ended up missing the symposium they did mention that the talks had been filmed and will be placed at www.mind08.com in the near future.

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