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Matt Webb on Design and Culture


Really enjoyed the video of Designer Mark Webb speaking at Reboot 11 in Copenhagen in June 2009, that was brought to my attention in a Leisa Reichelt blog post. Here’s the video:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

A few gems of insight.

The first is the notion of what Designer John Thakara, in his book Inside the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World, calls a macroscope. Quoting Thakara:

A macroscope … is something that helps us see what the aggregation of many small actions looks like when added together.

Mark Webb elaborates:

Scientists have microscopes. Astonomers have telescopes. Designers, in order to see the very big, in order to see culture – which is bigger than any one of us individually – have macroscopes.

The way I think of a macroscope, is it’s something that shows you where you are, and where you are in the big context, simultaneously. So you can comprehend something much vaster than you in a human way, at human scale, in your heart.

I found a wonderful example of a “macroscopic” perspective from Ze Frank – a brief 4-minute video on the history of US involvement in Afghanistan. I don’t completely agree with his narrative, but it’s a wonderful visual communication of the “big picture” – i.e. a macroscopic lens:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The second wonderful insight starts off with a quote from, again, Ze Frank:

Over the last 20 years, the cost of tools related to authorship of media has plummeted. … When people starting learning something new, they perceive the world around them differently. … As more and more people have access to things like iMovie, they begin to understand the manipulative power of editing. Watching Reality TV becomes almost a game, as you try to second guess how the editor is trying to manipulate you.

Adds Webb:

Look, everytime someone tries to take into their own hands the tools of production, it’s like they’ve eaten a macroscope. They see and feel the world in context. They’re able not just to consume, but to produce, to invent culture.

… So I say our decisions about culture at large … are written in personal ability to weild the tools of production.

Very provocative stuff.

glenn

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