Home > Media and Culture, Visual Thinking > Matt Webb on Design and Culture

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.


  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: