lou suSi @ MassArt

2011 MFA Design graduate from DMI

December 30, 2013
by lou suSi

on I, Frankenstein

as much as i’ve put my active and timely research on my appropriated theme ‘from Robots to Puppets’ on hold for a bit to focus more on my upcoming talk for MassArt’s Thursday Night Lecture Series in February 2014, a recent Google purchase of the local robotics firm Boston Dynamics brings me back to the cyberSurreal nest so delicately affixed to the roof of our self-driving car

as we enjoy the scenery on our adventures through the uncanny valley into the post-humanity i can’t help but notice some of us are far too busy watching the latest episode of Spongebob Squarepants on the mini-TV mounted for everyone comfortably sitting in the backseat — and evermore of us are also mediasnacking and lifestreaming away on our nearly-irresistible little second screen mobile devices just Liking and Commenting and Sharing away the time while i keep my bionic eye positioned to take in the rapid-approaching horizon in our continually sinkholing Grand Canyon of evolutionary strangeness into this, these advancements into our supposed progress toward the inevitable future

Slate columnist Mark O’Connell nicely ponders a bit about Google’s recent surge of acquisitions and activities in their Google X initiatives in his article I, Frankenstein: The uncanny, human inhumanity of Boston Dynamics’ androids

the article nicely gets any newbie to this circus of the uncanny valley up-to-speed with the concept and the history of our delightful journey with the tools, tricks and technologies that push us forward with an interesting, financially-confounded influence into the glory of our future machine-fueled, self-invented post-humanics that also simultaneously frightens us with a strange unease, uncertainty and downright fright-or-flight-like fear

i personally don’t understand why we don’t better trust these negative gut reactions we get to spooky robotics syndrome

after all, unlike robots, we’ve been blessed with these amazing mystical senses that reach far beyond any reasonable scientific explanation that typically act as a means to help the very survival of our species — for some reason when you throw a little pro-economic success incentives into the mix we simply seem to shit our pants, ignore the hot mess and smell, clamp down and keep at it until we get to these awkward points of no return

sad enough for me — since i’ve been researching in this area for a while now — i no longer get the roboNausea that O’Connell describes in his brilliant article

none of this even surprises me anymore

not even the transparent and obvious reasons why the government-induced funding into research and activity such as designing and developing robotics for war and other destruction-based regulation of people — none of this, unfortunately, shocks me or produces the same emotional-electric response in the gut that O’Connell describes in I, Frankenstein

i’m more than a little desensitized to it all at this point

which is one of the scariest factors in this entire ordeal i’ve been investigating

i think O’Connell actually hits the robotic nail on the wireless, automated head in I, Frankenstein — he picks up on and expresses the very core point that i want to make with from Robots to Puppets when all is said and researched and done, which is this notion of a continuum between the flesh and blood and the digital-robotic mechanism of the future we’re inventing — that as well as the notion that there’s a less-than-subtle flip thats coming along with all of our interesting developments in the name of human progress

one of O’Connell’s passages nicely sums up the give-take paradigm flip that i’ve been feeling lately regarding our technologies:

But there is something about WildCat’s uncanny dressage, about BigDog’s insectile scuttle, that encapsulates a certain kind of anxious ambivalence about technology — about where we might be taking it, where it might be taking us.

i sometimes unfairly return to researching the original promise and intent that our life-long devotion to these technological endeavors began with a long, long time ago

and it almost seems like we’re mysteriously all now on auto-pilot — we’ve forgotten the mission and the real value these things we make were supposed to provide for humanity

the original human promise of technology purely offered up a utopian vision where machines would create more comfortable and convenient lives for people — and the new ease from physically-burdensome and sometimes humanly-impossible feats of strength and reasonable, natural endurance that our technological advancement originally promised to provide us would then, in theory, free up human beings from the more menial and task-oriented aspects of modernday life and free us all up to enjoy spending the new majority of our daily lives pursuing more leisurely, creative and intellectual activities that human beings enjoy more and actually do better than our wired-up, electronic-robotic, technological counterparts

this dream-vision for our relationship with technology and the entire reason for its advancement as conjured up through many of the internationally-held, corporate-sponsored World’s Fair events early on in the twentieth century told an extremely enticing story and always seemed to point toward the time-saving and miraculous advantages real living human beings would enjoy as the fruits of our collective innovative labor toward building that technohumanic utopian future


call it a dream deferred or the titty-twister of a sidespin on the original promise made by our technological dreamscapes gone wild — more often than not, the human benefit gets lost along the way and gets marginalized to advance destructive, power-based initiatives

with nuclear energy and experiments with atom-splitting at the microscopic level, for instance, instead of producing the originally-promised global benefit of these new sources of energy that were supposedly going to change the world in a positive way forever, we ended up with one of the most destructive nightmares humanity may have ever witnessed during our short-lived history on this planet

i think the part that simultaneously fascinates and horrifies me about all of this — the original idealistic promise of our inventiveness through our tools and technologies as well as the eventual, actual use for both good and bad that these technologies ultimately result in — is the where it might be taking us part of O’Connell’s amazing snapshot on where we’re at with modernday robotics { these supposedly artificial intelligences }. And to so poignantly allude to Doctor Frankenstein and the kind of monster he made by trying to play god in the scientific laboratory — what more appropriate metaphor could there be for the Devo-esque marching automatonic soldier we see in the footage of Petman?

just look at the elegant movement of Petman on his treadmill and get a sense of the graceful manner in which modernday technologists imitate the very elegant movement of a realistic-looking person — don’t take your eyes away from the video for too, too long for you might get confused and think you’re witnessing the beautiful dance of a ballerina on her walk-cycle commute through a cityScape of imaginary futuristic stageSpace to the factory where she will undoubtably sit on the assembly line to create the new wetware human race for the posthumanity

we sometimes seem to pursue the next best thing for the sake of the thing, for the very sake of advancement itself, as if a sabertooth tiger were still just about to pounce on our little cavebound tribal families and we simply still need to develop new tools and tricks to survive in the world — so we’re suddenly graced by the Steve Jobs Gods with the iPhone 7S+ with High Density viewport and some unnecessary new combination thumbprint and retinal scan encryption capabilities even though the market is already over-saturated with these devices and the genuine human need goes beyond the gadgetry

we are already outnumbered by our devices

its no surprise to me that this Christmas Seasons numbers disappointed the economic needs of the world — there’s a much lower need to tech the halls than the industry might want as a means to perpetuate a globally-failing hedge bet on things over people

we need to start investing more in people now

our inventions are fantastic, yes, i agree — but we’ve put the direct worth of our humanity on hold for long enough and now its time to return to the flesh and the blood and the mysterious

no, no, no — i’m not talking about Jesus Christ for ChrisSakes!

we’ve plenty of major waves of religious zealotry now and enoughs enough, right? a Science-centered take on the world, after all, is just another form of religion — its just another mysterious guiding light that worships knowledge and information over other more esoteric explanations for the chaos and disorder we need to face in life as human beings — and its been a wonderful little trip, but i honestly feel with all my heart and soul that now is the time to look inside and trust that the next step forward for our evolution as humanity has nothing to do with a posthumanity or with The Singularity and other science fictionalizations of where we’re headed

we don’t need to blindly follow
the sad techno-fate put before us

in fact, to blindly follow the techno-economic breadcrumb trail into the posthumanity would simply be wrong — it would be giving up on humanity and on the real power of who we are as people in the universe — our fate should be far greater than to merely merge with the machines we create and re-imagine ourselves through the oversimplified Big Data translation of everything while forgetting what we really know to be true about humanity and the universe we live in — i actually don’t understand when Science began to forget some of the key qualitative and more biological earth scientific learnings and discoveries we’ve made to-date and why we’re no longer focused on this investigative sense of discovery

we’ve following the technological subconscious now for long enough and we know the way its shown us

our devices tend to unleash our inner depths — both the extreme goods and bads — and we’ve followed the very paths technology leads us to and we’ve now seen how grim and disconnected our innermost nature as people can truly be — its frightening to see, but the lowest behaviors we see are not due to the apps and gadgets but instead are interesting enablers to unleash our true psyche as a people in The 21st Century — we are ultimately responsible for our own behavior, good and bad

now, i’m not totally unrealistic about all of this — i don’t expect that society at large is just going to stop international production of smartphones and tablets and robots and technologies of all shapes, sorts and sizes, and, in fact, that’s not at all what i’m trying to get at with my reflections on the I, Frankenstein article anyways

the march of techno-madness must continue and it will

in fact, i insist upon it!

i just believe with all of who i am that some of us must start to explore the extremes of another way — a more balanced and human way — and we must now, more than ever, advocate for everything that it means to actually be human

i’m not even aspiring to become some sort of neo-luddite that lives a life disconnected from all the conveniences and distractions of our modernday technologies

but i do believe we’re not on-track with the original promise of our technological advancements and i personally want to not only get back on track on the side of our progress through technology, but i also want to explore other ways that people can progress with or without the involvement of technology

we’ve got a lot to learn and we’ve got so much more to do — and i believe a lot of what we need to work on as a global, interdependent human organism is far more steeped in self-awareness and consciousness than in technology and systems that profoundly exploit our subconscious weaknesses as mortal animals of society

instead of focusing on artificial intelligence,
i suggest we focus on intelligence

and perhaps, better yet, instead of intelligence, wisdom

the focus will need to start as a personal, individual initiative for those that want to this other way

we will all most likely discover very individual details and wisdoms inside of each of us, but these individual wisdoms will be so important as to transcend to a more universal place

and instead of optimizing our external inventions of wire and steel and plastic and microchips, new means to focus on and explore our inner selves might just move us nicely away from the target of our eventual post-humanity to something we seemed to miss the mark on entirely

we might even discover a new potential sense of our humanity

November 12, 2013
by lou suSi

The most important part about tomorrow …

The most important part about tomorrow is not the technology or the automation, but that man is going to come into entirely new relationships with his fellow men. He will retain much more in his everyday life of what we term the naïveté and idealism of the child. I think the way to see what tomorrow is going to look like is just to look at our children.

— R. Buckminster Fuller

September 17, 2013
by lou suSi

Is Humor the Best Way to Teach?

i just bumped across an interesting article out on LinkedIn about teaching called ‘Is Humor the Best Way to Teach?

as most people that try to wickid oversimplify things down to a word or singular concept, Senior Editor at Large for Fortune Magazine, Adam Lashinsky, wants to know ‘… whether humor is really the best way to teach.’

he talks a little about a start-up called Schmoop and Formation 8 and its founders and funding and Khan Academy, Quizlet and Cheggs { they don’t really seem to directly mention edX or other new options like Skillshare and Udemy — or even old, tried and true sites like Lynda.com and others } — but at the end of the day he seems to be asking us whether or not a teacher needs to somehow entertain students in the classroom

oddly enough, the examples he provides in the article are mostly online learning environments — and although i’m not entirely sure how interactive these experiences actually are and if they feel anywhere like an in-classroom experience — i think the experience you get in

  • an online-delivered tutorial
  • a physical, real-space, real-time classroom
  • a learning management system
  • a more interactive and engaging and sometimes event-based online learning environment { like the one experienced on Animation Mentor }
  • and that of a MOOC { or Massive Open Online Course }

are most likely entirely different from each other and deliver a different experience that fall upon different stops in a learning engagement spectrum for us all to really consider with more careful consideration

first of all, i’m not sure where Adam is coming from here or what kind of feedback he’s really asking for — why doesn’t he take a few different classes and start doing some reflective assessment of different teaching styles and the feeling of each learning environment, online or off? i for one would appreciate just a bit of context here since he doesn’t seem to address the humor- or entertainment-value manner in which he might want to measure those particular factor of a learning experience

but anyhow, here was my response to this LinkedIn post { oddly enough, LI doesn’t seem to allow me to add comments to articles anymore, which i hope isn’t intentional }:


I don’t think there is one particular way to teach. I think every effective educator brings a huge part of themselves to the table, whether it be through humor or acting or straight up passion and enthusiasm for the topics they decide to teach. And then, those that are ineffective might be failing in one or several possible ways. But I think that factors like: passion; personality; understanding of the subject matter being taught; clear and reasonable sequence and pacing of the curriculum; variation of approach from session to session; in-class versus outside work; the range of activities and ways to explore the subject landscape; focus; openness; personal guidance and feedback; properly setting and maintaining expectations throughout a course; and delivery methods all lend various degrees of success or failure to a given course section in and over time.

I personally use a lot of humor — but I make sure to bring valuable insight that also lends to the serious, actual learning portion of teaching a course like Interaction Design at MassArt. As a performance artist and professional designer, too, my methods are a bit unusual and more, well, performative. I’m a little chaotic, which sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t work as well, depending on the individual students’ learning styles. I try to provide a balance just to keep ME entertained, energized and moving in a postivie and exciting way for both me and the students. I do feel that, like in parenting, there’s a certain energy behind real, human presence in a classroom — when the teacher is fully ‘there’ and into what they’re doing in the moments that are shared with the students in the time and space spent together — and that energy { good, bad or somewhere in-between } gets transferred and sometimes invisibly effects attitudes, personal presence from each student and the ability to learn from each and every participant in an educational setting.

September 10, 2013
by lou suSi

the option to ‘make it’

Ninety-nine percent of humanity does not know that we have the option to ‘make it’ economically on this planet and in the Universe. We do. It can only be accomplished, however, through a design science initiative and technological revolution.

R. Buckminster Fuller
from Critical Path, 1981

May 6, 2013
by lou suSi

..:: teaching IxD ::..

this Spring semester at Massachusetts College of Art and Design — which is, like, almost over, sadly enough — i got the distinct pleasure of taking the materials, sequencing and my approach to teaching Interaction Design { by night for MassArt’s Continuing Education Department } and filtering the entire course down into an independent study with Aliyah Domash

i didn’t realize it until we met up to work on the fine details of how Interaction Design might work at this independent study scale — but, that whole ‘small world’ kind of aspect of the design community in Boston was working its crazy magic from the onset, and strangely enough, i already met Aliyah and got to see her work from a semester or 2 back by sitting as a guest critic in one of the final presentations of Alison Kotin’s Foundations of Graphic Design course — anyhow, flashback to that class and i got to see a lot of hand-drawn, amazing depictions of an artichoke, all in black and white, cropped and composed and mounted very professionally and pinned to the wall — it was a fantastic and dynamic final critique that i’m sure involved a smörgåsbord of hummus and cookies and water and other potluck snackage as a part of this wonderful celebratory discussion of all the fine work and progress each student made over the course of the semester

so, as you can probably tell, i have a certain obsession with foodly comestibles AND a little bit of an issue with portion control, right? ;]

but, back to our regularly scheduled topic — meeting Aliyah in Alison’s design class

anyhow, that night and these sorts of conversations with students and faculty and different nuance of design potentialities always makes me happy and excited about the kind of design community we have at MassArt and in the Greater Boston Area in general — and what? with AIGA Boston, BostonCHI, Boston Cyberarts, Dorkbots, IxDA, Pecha Kucha Night Boston, Refresh Boston, Upgrade Boston, UXPA and the myriad university-driven lectures, hackathons and networking opportunities steeped in designery, you almost can find it difficult to keep up with just the community, forget about the most current trends, buzz and general discourse that accompanies the fine world of design in the general locality

who would’ve known that a year out i’d be working to teach and mentor Aliyah at MassArt in this wonderful independent study setup, right? small world, crazy small, in fact — and then, its just utterly phenomenal to see how quickly a student like Aliyah comes in on day one, starts up with the first 3 more analytic exercises in experience design deconstruction and all — and then through reading, dissection, personal and professional reflection and our near-weekly conversational sessions at MassArt and the project work that puts the focus on active exploration of interaction and user-centered design as a theory and a practice and an empathic journey to guiding this bizarre, almost otherwoldly force we call Design in a way that keeps real, live people at the center of our approach and goals as design professionals — well, its just amazing to see Aliyah’s progress over the semester and to see the full spectral journey of her final project work for final critique and completion of the course

its been a really wonderful semester — really interesting to see how i’ve had to flex and bend the materials and approach, only slightly in all actuality, to keep the design of the course itself ultimately very interactive, human and fun

i’m really looking forward to the final critique, although i know we’ll miss meeting up on a semi-regular basis with the good excuse of putting some credits on the roster while hopefully also digging into what design can really mean for all of us as both professionals and people exploring the world through the filter of human-centered experience design

March 14, 2013
by lou suSi

don’t forget


the wheel
is an extension of the foot
the book
is an extension of the eye
clothing, an extension of the skin,
electric circuitry,
an extension of

The Medium is The Massage, Marshall McLuhan

i think we can all interpret these effects, as McLuhan calls them, in various extremes, dimensions, and ways

one way i interpret some of our extensions as influenced by books like The Body has a Mind of Its Own and The Moving Body: Teaching Creative Theatre is that in some way, the tools we use become a part of us, and likewise the other way, too — we become part of the tools we use

i specifically think of the performance art and new media works of the Australian artist Stelarc — in his piece called Muscle Memory { seen in the image included in this post, below }, the artist installs himself into a robotic, spider-like structure that augments and extends his physical abilities as a human being through this strange, science fiction-like machine contraption


a question i think about a LOT recently is — well, what’s so controversial and different about this performance and the gadgetry involved and, let’s say, the average commuter driving to work at 6:34 AM?

in the case of Stelarc’s Muscle Memory, the artist demonstrates the sheer power and new capabilities afforded the machine operator to an audience in a gallerySpace — its a performance and a demonstration, and its very future-forward and cyberSurreal and interesting in a way that might inform the audience in both a positive and negative way — we might be able to very obviously see how Stelarc, now living and breathing within the confines of this ginormous metal robot, might start to behave, well, like a ginormous metal robot — he, in many ways, becomes the machine, and he learns and adapts and adjusts to both the new things he can do with it while simultaneously sacrificing his own human experience along the way — or, maybe i’m thinking far too much like a transitional, if that’s even a term — i’m not sure that he evolves in any literal way by using the robotic equipment as part of his Muscle Memory performance piece, but his discussions on the topic of this Singularity between man and machine, the combination of the biological and the technological extensions of the previously nearly-pure physical human form, put us in the typical uncanny valley of confrontational wonderment — what does this all mean for us as human beings — will we all need to put on a robotic suit in the near future to perform our on-the-job tasks and assignments? or are our human capabilities ‘man’ enough to get the job done? perhaps it depends upon the line of work you’re in, not sure though, but i’m sure we’ll find out in 10 to 15 years

now let’s take the case of driving to work in the morning — i embed myself into my maroon Honda Accord every morning and drive from Boxford to Waltham every day and i would like to argue that while i am in the car i actually become the car — i adopt the personality, the feelings and the mentality of driving to work, at least for 40 minutes to an hour, twice a day — and, depending on traffic and the flow of traffic and other automobiles on the highway as i drive down Route 95 South, and depending on my mood as a human being now living and breathing as a wetware organ beating inside the machine like a nearly obsolete heart of meat, i act quite differently than i normally do when we talk face-to-face in the office or when i’m at home playing with my son or my grandchildren on the floor — i really think i can become the car in a very literal way, at least if you let yourself follow the subconscious flow of desire that stands in front of you like the temptress you know she is

let’s say you’re in a hurry and you know that if you stay in your conscious state as a person sitting at the wheel that you’ll get to work in about an hour and 15 minutes — not bad, not bad

but why not trust you’re own muscle memory as a driver, as a commuter that’s gotta get shit done, as a worker bee that’s gotta shake the tree and make the magic happen today, ya know? that care now becomes far more than a mere vehicle for rapid movement across a peripherally streaked landscape of trees and jersey barriers and guardrails flying by at 80 miles an hour

that’s right, think about it

from a human-centered perspective, you’re not really moving at all — in fact, you may move here and there, adjust the ball of your foot to move from brake to gas, click the direction into the left position to send a signal to the 20 people behind you as you course like blood through the body that is the highway, but for the most part you’re parked solid and still on your ass, sunk into a quite comfortable chair that let’s you command your magic journey some 30 to 50 miles away from where you live

if you let go a bit and begin to think and behave like the car, you start to decipher new rules of the road that can be leveraged to your advantage — little openings in the flow of traffic beckon you to quickly shift lanes and push ahead of the losers driving slowly in the passing lane to the left — sure, they’re supposed to pass you, but for whatever reason the first and second lanes are wide open and you can make better progress by ignoring the implicit rules of the road — let’s get moving, right? and so on, and so forth

your a little less human when you drive, and more like the pilot of a zombie robot that’s bolting to the office, zipping in and out of the lanes that help you make it all happen

the wheel is an extension of the foot is what McLuhan said in the original quote from The Media is the Massage, but i beg to differ

with our newly adapted and evolved modern lives and our commonplace daily use of machines and devices like cars and trains and other vehicles, the person becomes and extension of the automobile — we become the force that operates a vehicle such as a car, a forklift or an airplane — we become a reverse-extension of it, or them, and we do all the adjusting and discover the new terrains now opened up by our technological progress

i’m not sure where that leaves us as human beings

but i think we should all exercise, at times, a little more conscious awareness and control over our newly-extended selves

cyberSurrealism is about looking at the self by psychoanalyzing the human element through our cybernetic machine influence back on the wetware components of our society — how do our machines change our behavior? how do they then influence: our culture; our interactions with each other as people; and our capabilities on a more holistic scale? as certain capabilities improve, is it inevitable for us to lose other very valuable skills and qualities as human beings? and, in all of this, these thoughts and experiments and explorations through progress and innovation, do we still have any control whatsoever over the evolution and invention of the tools we create and use? or do these things almost subconsciously invent themselves now? how do we keep focusing on the valuable potentials of these human ingenuities and foster more humanly helpful technologies and progress? and most importantly, what the fuck does 4G mean? 

February 3, 2013
by lou suSi

mechanical turking in service to the internet

i just bumped across this interesting Big Think post under the theme Collective Intelligence that interestingly discusses a new crowdsourcing paradigm called mechanical turking:

Is Your Mind for Sale? Inside the Allure of Digital Sweatshops

so, although the post / article is not directly about robotics, per se, it does seem to point out a certain interesting human exploitation paradigm rising within the realm of artificial artificial intelligence — as a means to make all the magic behind the scenes of Amazon’s search, recommendation engines and other similar web experiences more human-centered and natural for its customers, corporations are offering up a rather lame gamified pseudo-occupation up to people that

aims to use human intelligence to do the work that one day a computer might do

Human Intelligence Tasks or HITs are assigned to web surfers aka micro-laborers — their behavior is recorded for future use by Amazon or some other similar behemoth corporation — micro-laborers might perform these assigned tasks for free or for points or sometimes they are actually compensated pennies per task

Motivated by simple rewards, collective intelligence can be harnessed to create huge stores of accurate, useful data (as opposed to computer-generated nonsense)

the entire human-behavior-technology socioeconomic dynamics behind this new digital workforce paradigm is described in further detail in the Big Think post, but what i would like to focus on here are the very flip-metaphor implications of this new micro-laborer workforce — this flip in the purpose of our technological advancement as we originally dreamt it up and the actual realities behind where we’re really heading worries me and its been on my mind for decades now as i try to heighten my own personal awareness of how i interact with the digital and mechanical aspects ubiquitously embedded in our world — these matters, in fact, may be the most important reason why i focus on user-centered design, a field i would rather refer to as human experience designmy love / hate relationship with the technologies i use on a daily basis can sometimes lead to controversial discourse with those that are so financially tied to the blind progress of these technologies as to never dare express a negative bone of contention toward the pure and happy exponential growth of our techno-advancements to an ultimately better integrated, man-machine, post-humanic after-culture — many don’t wanna hear that at all, if you know what i mean — after all, i’m supposed to be a computer person, someone that knows and understands technology at the bleeding edge at all times — not only am i supposed to know it, i’m supposed to love it


now that society has advanced to the point of paying micro-laborers pennies per Human Intelligence Taskshouldn’t we be concerned?

the machines, the systems, the robots, the technologies we invent according to the retrodelicious vision of our State of the Art in the future { as established at events like the World’s Fairs and so on } always emphasized the benefits to our human quality of life improving due to technological advancement — machines were created to reduce the amount of toil put upon people thence freeing up our valuable human time to live more fulfilling and leisurely lives, maybe taking on more than mere tasks as our avocational activities — NOT the other way ’round, right? and now we’re finding out about this micro-labor economy whereby people are kept in their isolated home office caves clicking and tapping to help huge corporations optimize machine intelligence to just sell more shit through behavioral psychosemantic algorithmic manipulation? aren’t their any bigger problems to solve in the world? wouldn’t some other application of our technologies at least begin to fulfill the promises made back in the 1940s, 50s and 60s? why do we always think so small? who will create the case study showing the more profound profitability behind really helping people in the world, not just selling, selling, selling — this is getting a little off-topic { not unusual for me, for my personal subconscious style of following little threads of thought this way and that }

we constantly dehumanize the human aspects of our life to compensate for the inhuman accoutrements we live with in our self-made technohumanic ecosystem

we expect more from people when it comes to work performance or task-level activity and far less from our technologies

Sherry Turkle points out in Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other the same notion but from the completely opposite, kitty-corner perspective — she starts to ask questions about how we relate to each other as mediated and propelled through our highly evolved new systems of sociable technologies — Turkle looks at the oft ignored dark side behind all our advancements — Ray Kurzweil often refers to Moore’s Law in his futuristic projections regarding technology, reinforcing the notion that our technologies do not progress in a predictable, linear fashion, but instead our technologies improve exponentially when it comes to speed, memory storage, etcetera { see the attached and stolen line graph depicting Moore’s Law }

What neither Kurzweil nor Turkle seem to point out { yet }, however, is that for every step of exponential progress in technology, there must be some similar charting mechanism for human experience as it dynamically relates to our relationship with the invisible other { our technologies } now sitting at the table with us — i hope its not related in some natural physics of the universe kind of way to Newton’s Universal Laws of Motion, equal but opposite would certainly NOT be good news for humankind — but we should examine some at least minimilistic notion of the question but how do these exponential advancements effect:

  • our overall human quality of life
  • general real economic dynamics around the world
  • the way we communicate with real people in the world
  • and the quality of that communication, not just the speediness or anywhere / anytime aspects of communication now afforded us via technology
  • our overall improvement as a global civilization

now, these are pretty heavy topics for someone who’s previous thesis research and reporting centered on humor, laughter and everything in between { but mostly that in between area } — but i think this is all related in some cosmological way

between these recent delvings into puppets, robots and intelligence and my design thesis confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy, i did have the glorious and exciting opportunity to present at Club OBERON for Pecha Kucha Night Boston — i called my 20×20 talk The 2012 Human eXperience Report, and it was a mostly humorous report on some of the modern, found systems i find annoying, strange or just plain ‘off’ — for instance, automated bathroom experiences create more of a confusing haunted house of animated insanity than a safer, cleaner and more efficient visit to the corporate Men’s Room — i am guessing this is not what the engineering efforts behind these micro-robotic interactions intended during the development processes — but nobody seems to really be optimizing these uncanny experiences, either, right? my handicap stall toilet almost always superflushes midmovement for me, blasting not only a cool breeze up from an articcool water swirl but also some of the cool water { and other } contents of said toilet bowl making for a far less sanitary experience than one would ever want — the autosoaping dispenser presents the strangest game of delayed ejaculation i’ve ever encountered, the anticipation and my need to properly position my hand in the most mechanical way to compensate for the autoridiculously unintelligence built into such a simple gesture are minimal, but significantly bizarre — i can never guess the exact height to hold my hand under the shiny chrome faucet to help trigger and maintain a stream of water to wash my semi-soaped hands with — not to mention, now it seems, the bathroom stalls are the only safe and private space for some people to send emails, SMS texts and other micro-messages from — there’s even the occasional business call conducted from the urinal

civilization { yes, i just used the ‘C’ word } progresses technologically but seems to psychologically and sociopoetically regress in rather comical yet totally saddening ways

February 3, 2013
by lou suSi

key terms, defined

in order to fully build an understandable argument, we all need to start from the same place — and that’s by understanding what the terms puppet and robot actually mean in our language according to some official source such as a modernday dictionary

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word puppet as follows:


nounoften attributive \ˈpə-pət\

Definition of PUPPET

a : a small-scale figure (as of a person or animal) usually with a cloth body and hollow head that fits over and is moved by the hand
b : marionette
: doll
: one whose acts are controlled by an outside force or influence <a puppet ruler>
— pup·pet·like adjective

Examples of PUPPET

  1. a dictator who was perceived as being an American puppet
  2. <gave her a puppet with strings for a gift>

Origin of PUPPET

Middle English popet youth, doll, from Middle Frenchpoupette, diminutive of *poupe doll, from Vulgar Latin*puppa, alteration of Latin pupa

First Known Use: 1538

Related to PUPPET

Synonyms: action figuredollypoppet [Midland], doll


and then, as our running title for this thesis in-the-works suggests, we also now need to define the second important term, robot — Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word robot as follows:


noun \ˈrō-ˌbät, -bət\

Definition of ROBOT

a : a machine that looks like a human being and performs various complex acts (as walking or talking) of a human being; also : a similar but fictional machine whose lack of capacity for human emotions is often emphasized
b : an efficient insensitive person who functions automatically
: a device that automatically performs complicated often repetitive tasks
: a mechanism guided by automatic controls
— ro·bot·ism noun

Examples of ROBOT

  1. The cars are assembled by robots.

Origin of ROBOT

Czech, from robota compulsory labor; akin to Old High German arabeit trouble, Latin orbus orphaned — more at orphan

First Known Use: 1922

Other Mechanical Engineering Terms


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Any automatically operated machine that replaces human effort, though it may not look much like a human being or function in a humanlike manner. The term comes from the play R.U.R. by Karel Capek (1920). Major developments in microelectronics and computer technology since the 1960s have led to significant advances in robotics. Advanced, high-performance robots are used today in automobile manufacturing and aircraft assembly, and electronics firms use robotic devices together with other computerized instruments to sort or test finished products.

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