28 June 2011

What To Do With Numbers

so far... and more...

1. Tufte explains the temporal flip-parallelism as “enhancing the reading of differences, which is the exact purpose of comparisons in parallel.” He also states “despite the enchantment of flaps, comparisons are usually more effective when the information is adjacent in space rather than stacked in time” (Parallelism p.81) Which do you think is more effective? Do you have any examples of where one is better than the other?

2. On page 82 of Parallelism would you have been able to understand Margaret Morris' 'The Notation of Movement' without the explanatory notes? Tufte describes this example as “images in graceful parallel”. Did you find it to have 'good form' that 'is clear but not a spectacle'? Was her 'abstract notational system' understandable to you after you realized the meaning of those notations?

3. (p 83 Parallelism) “Editors of Newton's optical letters and lectures have been very negligent in such particulars, their diagrams often violating fundamental optical laws.” Does architecture have certain fundamental laws that need to be followed in parallel diagrams?

4. (p 86 Parallelism) Even though Peter Apian designed his diagrams with elaborate detail, was it as effective as the simple cube drawings used by Banchoff? When making a diagram 'less tedious' as Apian did, by changing or interchanging characters, can we complicate the understanding of it?

5. (p92 Parallelism)The cosmonauts of Salyut 6 found the wealth of information in their meter-long chart to be a “constant reminder of the lengthy ordeal ahead.” Can too much information be a burden to us? How would you compare the cyclogram of the cosmonauts with the coded images from Catich's 'Letters...' p98 ?

6. (p100 Parallelism) Can you think of a better parallel to match the names to the people in the photograph from 'Popular Astronomy'? On page 101 Tufte explains how “two thirds of 'confusing codes' can be avoided by means of thoughtful design, direct labels, and close integration of explanatory text with images.” How would you have simplified Scheiner's sunspot drawings?

7. On page 102 of Parallelism Tufte describes faulty parallelism. How is this sometimes used in the area of product design? Are we being dishonest if we use faulty parallelism in our design presentations, or is this acceptable?

8.(p ? Beautiful Evidence)How would you define a sparkline and where does its importance lie in the field of architecture?

9. (p.52 Beautiful Evidence)Did you find the use of sparklines & parallelism in “The DNA of Human Chromosome 7” easily understandable? In your examination of the 3-D scatterplot (p57) did you find it to be more or less understandable than the DNA diagram.

10. (p.63 Beautiful Evidence) “Just as sparklines are like words, distribution of sparklines on a page are like sentences & paragraphs.” What might cause are 'words' to be hard to understand and our 'sentences' hard to read?

27 June 2011

The Narrative Armature

  1. Davids contends that storyboards are constructed with the following things in mind that direct the viewer: Perspective, sequence, time dilation, and media. These four variables require agency on the part of the creator. What other choices of the creator might be considered to have an effect on the story? What about the parts of the story that can't be storyboarded? Tone, music, dialogue, effects, cinematography do as much to make a movie as the scenes in a storyboard. If a series of storyboarded perspectives can be a tool to ”explore sequences of space and time and ideas about change and movement” (11.6), what other methods can architects employ?

  2. Let's assume that you would apply a storyboard method to design work, and presumably everyone has done so to some degree. What do you think storyboards are most successful at conveying? Do you agree with Davids that “the succession of images implies a protagonist and simulates human experience whether or not people are actually included in the image”?(11.8) Is this better suited for the beginning of the project, for analysis and discovery, or it it better as a presentation tool, or is it equally applicable to both situations?

  3. Reading McCloud's explanation of the simplification of cartoon characters “toward a purpose” (31) led me to think about how much work actually goes into abstraction, and how the characters we know and styles we enjoy are the end result of much trial and error, having been manipulated constantly. Consider this original template done by a Disney animator that later worked for the creator of looney tunes: http://i.crackedcdn.com/phpimages/article/3/1/9/41319.jpg?v=1 Bugs Bunny is a template drawing, whose proportions were calculated and tested to evoke a specific character function. Do you think visual storytelling relies too heavily on tropes and stereotypes? It it an insidious art form? Have we been irretrievably conditioned to respond predictably to cartoon cues?

  4. It would seem that most of Davids' examples use story-boarding as a sequential narrative to either describe a spaces or discover them in a linear fashion. So too does McCloud rely on a linear sequence for the explanation of his incrementally complex ideas. These narratives keep the viewer on rails. Is this a fundamental flaw in using story-boarding for architecture? Buildings may be sequential, but aren't experiences that otherwise might be storyboarded actually divergent based on the user and program?

  5. McCloud states the best comics are those who have the best harmony between the realism of skillful drawn images and powerful words, and suggests that the further an artist and writer develop their individual sophistication, the harder they are to “reconcile” in comic form. (47-49) Do you find the same in architectural media, that the more finely rendered images are more difficult to abstract in verbal description? Does there need to be a reconciliation between our hero shots and our big ideas?

25 June 2011

The Narrative Armature

1.) The illustrator's role is to abstract a comic to essential parts in order to place emphasis on story concepts ("Amplification through simplification"). Where as an architect's role is to begin with an abstract iconic concept sketch then layer on complexity until a real project is constructed. Davids cites that this sketch can sometimes resurface in the publication of a completed architectural project as a way of authenticating a design. Often times these sketches are faked because the initial concept does not match final product
Is it important that to keep an iconic road map for your designs? How is this advantageous to the design concept? In what ways is this subversive to a design?

2.) Davids claims on pg 11.4 that cartoons refer to nothing beyond themselves. However McCloud would argue that the abstraction of the cartoon creates a vacuum which subconsciously pulls us into the identity of the cartoon, thus we become the cartoon (pg 37). What is your bias between the two views of the cartoon?

3.) On Pg. 38 McCloud describes Marshal Mcluhan's study of human's ability to attachment inanimate objects, seeing the object as an extension of themselves.
Have you ever consciously been found yourself attached to an object? (other than the examples in the reading) How did your behavior change?
How does product designer and capitalize on this behavior?
Can architecture absorb this quality?

4. ) Rene Davids discusses the placing of scenes out of sequence in film on pg. 11.3 & 11.4.
The films; Momento, Pulp Fiction, Babel, and Propos de Nice utilize this manipulation of time and story. To what extent do you think this effective in story telling or is it gimmick? Would the film(s) carry the same impact if you pieced it together in chronological sequence?
Have you experienced a building or place which utilizes this shuffling of sequence to create a unique experience? Was the shuffling designed or circumstantial?

5.) Davids explains media and technique are not neutral in their capacity to convey a concept. He claims storyboards were a precursor to animation in architectural representation. Animation is now a common form of presentation where often the designer will choose to reveal complete walk through of a particular project. In what way does this form of representation enhance or detract from the poignancy of the project?

6.) How would McCloud explain the longevity and popularity of South Park, the Simpsons, and Family Guy?

22 June 2011

NOTES ON THE INDEX_Rosalind Krauss

Much of Krauss's language is drawn from other scholarship, especially the fields of psychology, semiology and aesthetics. 'Signifier' and 'signified,' 'imaginary' and 'symbolic,' 'mirror stage,' 'syntax,' 'tautology' and other specialized vocabulary is used throughout. Was this level of diction accessible to you? How did you understand and shorthand her conclusions? How would you summarize her definition of the index? In discussion, how do these definitions satisfy or fall short of the ideas?

The particular quality of the index relies on its physical relationship to its referent, in the manner of a trace or an imprint. The empty meaning of the index without its referent (see the discussion of the pronoun as 'shifter') is drawn out, seemingly valued. In the case of Duchamp's Large Glass, "It is a sign which is inherently empty, its signification a function of only this one instance guaranteed by the existential presence of just this object." How does the author guarantee the 'existential presence' of the reference? How trace can the trace element be? Does the meaning of the index fade over time, as the reference becomes disassociated from the image? Is this where caption or text becomes important?

The primacy of the photograph as index is discussed at length. The process of light on emulsion and the impossibility of encoding and manipulating the image are important. Seen as a transfer of a physical presence, the photograph is a prevalent application of the index in art. Now, digital photography is easily manipulated and encoded. Then, tricks with exposure, effects and development modified the image. How do these processes affect the meaning of the index? Is its power in the honesty of its creation, or the perceived reality of its product? If we disagree with the author's analysis of the photograph, do we undermine her larger idea?

The author looks at the work of Marcel Duchamp and the artists of the 1970s to develop her argument. Duchamp grows out of the Dada movement, concerned with absurdity, inversion, meaninglessness and other avant-garde ideas. In the 1970s, the art world was characterized by pluralism, or 'willful eclecticism.' Maybe in both cases (certainly in Duchamp's) the artist is a subversive, eschewing societal norms, seeking new ways of communicating. The index is helpful because it rejects the meaning of traditional forms and symbols. It communicates meaning in a new way, direct and from unfiltered sources. In this, is the index subversive? Why is its meaning preferable to that of more usual pictorial representations? Why is the use of the index located here in two periods of cultural upheaval? What are the connections between the index, meaning, culture and history, if any?

The photograph as index conveys 'spatial immediacy and temporal anteriority.' 'Its reality is that of a having-been-there.' 'This took place in this way.' Is the index nostalgic? How does the index as evidence and implied past tense affect its meaning? Is this a detriment in some ways?

The index is a result of 'cropping, reduction, and self-evident flattening.' 'It is the result of selection and isolation.' How does the fragmentary nature of the index shape its use? In selection, is there an act of 'encoding' and 'schematizing' contrary to the author's depiction?

Krauss describes the necessity of including text, caption, or verbal discourse in the application of the index. In the case of the artists at PS1, these textual captions are missing, but compositions involving successive images are provided as surrogates. How else might explanatory text be included or replaced? Is it essential? If so, for what purpose?

20 June 2011

The Agency of Mapping

  1. Tufte describes Ernst Mossel as a “busy bee” in mapping artwork, who claims to be uncovering “universal and orderly structures that lurk beneath nearly all art.” (p30-31)Tufte seems quite critical of his work,describing it as “fanciful” “ad hoc”, the “dotty drawings of a monomanic.” Do you agree and if so, where exactly do you think Mossel fails at making his maps meaningful? What is Tufte's lesson to us?

  2. How does mapping make something easy for you to understand? Tufte has two examples that I think are very demonstrative in producing clarity from photographic images; the French-method skiing guide (p36-39) and the 1902 photograph of the colleagues of E.J. Marey (p42). Both mapping techniques provide all the information required to understand the image using the least amount of detail necessary. If you were to create mapped images like these, how would you know what information to extract and highlight?

  3. Corner has much to say about the bias of the mapmaker. “Mapping is never neutral, passive or without consequence” (p216) This is a topic we visited in the last discussion, but have your thoughts changed with this reading? Is knowing the bias of the mapmaker absolutely necessary to understanding its context and therefore its meaning? Can designers and planners trust the maps made by others to begin their design process or must they make maps of their own?

  4. Corner describe Minard's map, a work with which we are already familiar, as one that has multivariate qualities but is not rhizomatic, because “It only depicts the facts that are relevant to its narrative theme, and must therefore be read in a linear way.” (p246) The advantage to this choice of depicting information is conveying a message. What are the advantages to a map that is not so clear in its message? How would you measure the success of such an image?

  5. Amoroso seems to suggest that Corner's embrace of the subjective process of map making adds an artistic quality to his resulting images, and that they are valuable as a result. “Corner's map-drawings become both the subject and the object of representation; in and of themselves, they are carefully crafted pieces of work-even paintings.” (p105) Is the relationship between mimetic cartography and the eidetic images that Corner produces a spectral relationship, where his images represent a closer proximity to artwork than those of ancient mapmakers? In other words, is there art and meaning to all maps, or do maps require the conscious agency of the mapmaker to have artistic value?

The Agency of Mapping

1) Form / Ground maps seem to be what Corner describes as “tracings”. Can they be used as a “map” if you are describing something specific about the city/town? What kind of additional information transforms the “tracing” to a “map”?
2) Corner talks about mapping “space and time”, what has anyone done (in a studio) that effectively mapped “time”?
3) How do we properly find subjects to “map”? Are there always typical maps that are to be done? (ie circulation, traffic, solar) Or should the maps be project/program specific? Are maps the same as, similar to, or completely different than diagrams?
4) Is an abstract “map” a better map? Can you portray the information in a more instructional manner in lieu of just regurgitating information? Does the abstract map (more easily) help you develop new ideas from the same information being mapped?
5) Tufte seems to use what Corner describes as “tracings” to begin some of his maps (on page 42,43). He then adds some text to help explain the map to the viewer. Per Corners idea of what a map should do (learn something new from the information), is Tufte really mapping, or is he _________?

15 June 2011

More questions

1) How large a role does personal perception play in abstraction? Culture and individual preferences/experiences influence our understanding of the abstract, but to what extent?

2) Related to the first question: Is it possible to be truly objective? On page 162 of Visual Thinking Arnheim discusses the notion that scientific papers might be a total shame because there is no way to approach a subject without having preconceived ideas about it. So the question is this: Is the process of abstracting such a fundamental part of our conscious that we are unable to shut it off?

3) Arnheim discusses the notion of abstraction in generalizations on page 157. He discusses theory that we categorizes into generals made up of particulars of a subject, but there seem to be an infinite variety of ways to categorize things. Later on page 160 he quotes a chicken and egg scenario for abstraction, quoting Henri Bergson “In order to generalize on must first abstract, but in order to abstract usefully one must know how to generalize.” So which comes first, the abstraction or the generalization, or are they one and the same?

4) In Arnheim’s discussion of what the abstract is or is not, it becomes clear that there may not be a clear line that defines the concrete from the abstract. So how is it determined, where on the gradient between concrete and abstract is the tipping point?

5) I think a great example of following the concrete to the abstract is the work of the De Stijl painter Mondrian. On this website his paintings are shown from early on as a direct representation of a tree to an abstraction of it and beyond. I didn’t really pay too much attention to the text on the page; it was just a good one that had all the images in one place. At what point in the sequence do you think the notion of a tree was lost? Do the simple line paintings at towards the end still carry any abstract meaning, or are they just lines?

abstract vs. mimetic

And the questions start to flow… here’s our first batch:

1. In his book Beautiful Evidence, Tufte suggests that a competent diagram addresses this question: “What are the content-reasoning tasks that this display is supposed to help with? (Tufte, 136)” In other words, the success of a presentation depends on its content , clarity, and breadth. We all know about the concepts of abstraction for clarity, and we understand that a total solution is better than a partial one, but where is the median between too much and too little?

2. “Minard’s last work is an anti-war poster. (Tufte, 134)” Minard has an obvious bias in his work. Does it carry more meaning because of his leaning? How does the collective work of a designer affect the particular diagram?

3. What does Tufte mean by “flatlandy thinking (Tufte, 130)”? Can you think of precedent disregard for Tufte’s 6 principles of analytical design? Is Tufte on the right track?

4. “Human activities, after all, take place in intensely comparative and multivariate contexts filled with causal ideas: intervention, purpose, responsibility, consequence, explanation, intension, action, prevention, diagnosis, strategy, decision, influence, planning. (Tufte, 139)” Since it seems every human behavior is infused with most of these variables, how do we overcome the sheer volume of these inputs to come up with a valid presentation?

5. “One is guided by a sense of where characteristic aspects of the phenomenon might reveal themselves. One discards weak, unclear instances and neglects unnecessary repetitions. One matches each example with the tentative concept, thereby completing, rectifying, trimming it. (Arnheim, 187)” What does this thesis mean for arriving at an architectural concept?

Summer 2011 Discussion leaders

Abstract v. Mimetic - Bloedel, Taylor
The Agency of Mapping - Fifer, Bruni
Index - Luehring
The Narrative Armature - Bruni, Bakkum
What to do with Numbers - Dawley
Avoiding Digital Pitfalls - Dawley, Fifer
Research Methodologies & Experimental Architecture - Taylor
Muybridge & Movement - Gedi, Bakkum
Presenting Your Work - Luehring, Gedi

12 June 2011

Amon Tobin_Mutek

Simultaneously: structural, experiential, and musical. While I find it fabulous, I'm at a loss for how it works...