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ID – Integrated Processes of Reading and Creating Post Objects in Digital Design
Lina Mantikou Athanasios Farangas
This paper investigates a mechanism for generating a logic that describes an under-design object by its user in a digital design medium (AutoCAD by AutoDesk) through a deconstructive tracing of the design process. The mode of deduction and the research results aim to measure the by-design idiosyncratization, a subject-oriented process of understanding and reacting to a deeper structure. Creating multiple, independent, and autonomous correlations of the design language structure and its representation during the design process leads to new associations accessing the notion of Post-Object. This socially and culturally expected mode revokes a singularization process. At the same time, the User-Interface relationship provides correlations between a personal and unique selection of things and the necessary infrastructure to actualize and activate them. The process of collecting and crafting an expression is dispositive of singularization. Crafting a method of relating the design of objects to subjects and the use of language to form questions about how contemporary design is constituted and the multiple ways of conceptualizing contemporaneous subjectivities and implicitly post-industrial societies and economies.
Background of the following research is a previous project entitled “I-D (I-Design_Idiosyncratic Meta Design) Idiosyncratic Processes of Reading and Creating Meta-Objects in Contemporary Industrial Design” in which we participated alongside Theodoros Zafeiropoulos and Alexandros Psychoulis. The objective was to design, implement and evaluate a method for reading, monitoring, and interpreting the experiential subject-object relationship in digital design. We are addressing multifaceted topics, so an interdisciplinary approach is necessary. The research group is constantly expanding, and the aim is not only to support our current individual Ph.D. theses but also to become an independent body of scientific and social interaction. Currently, we are exploring in-depth sub-research fields, such as Design Theory and Human-Computer Interaction, by extensively delving into curatorial practices, visual media theory (Kittler 2009), and critical post-humanism (Badmington 2000) in a post-industrial society (Reckwitz 2020). All these emerge as key research areas and form the overarching and connecting framework of the respected sub-fields.
Idiosyncratization: A Subjectification Design Process
The previous research focused on a deconstructive tracing of the design process in Autodesk’s most essential and widely used digital design program AutoCAD. The study has shown that the “structural knowledge” of design software, its development, and the creation of tools for managing and extending its constraints contributes to its recalibration according to the subject’s wishes. The mode of deduction and the research results aimed to measure the by-design idiosyncratization. Idiosyncratization is a subjectification process, away from the general and towards the particular. This socially and culturally expected mode of subjectification that defines our time has been described as a singularization process (Reckwitz 2020). The User-Interface relationship provides correlations between a unique selection of things and an infrastructure and showcases an open dialogue with the designer-subject’s deeper structure. This relationship creates a dispositive of singularization (Agamben 2009). We ground these theoretical approaches in the experimental study of a digital application by crafting a method of relating the design of objects to subjects and language to form. The question “how is contemporary spatial design constituted?” is stated within a specific cognitive and epistemological paradigm shift, where we note a broader interest in contemporary spatial design constitutions (Oxman and Oxman 2013). Interestingly, we observe increased attention to the constantly expanding digitization and disembodiment of the Self, the Subject, and Space (Gelernter 1993). This interest is addressed with an effort to establish rules and typologies for conceptualizing modes of personal expression within the design process. In post-industrial societies, design is not understood primarily as the production of objects but as the implementation of multiple description logics, in which the design process itself engages with the dispositive of the subject/user and its software. We seek to establish a mechanism for generating logics that describe an under-design object by its user in a digital design medium (AutoCAD), aiming at creating multiple, independent, and autonomous correlations of the design language structure and its representation during the design process. Moreover, these description logics acquire a connotative relationship with a personalized archive of image references.
Digital Design: A Medium of the Curated Self
In the digital age, in the reconstruction/reapproach of reality, the subject acquires multiple identities, such as a user, a client, a developer, or a gamer. From online, visual archiving, and bookmarking tools to social networking platforms, a curatorial process of the self as a “subject-user” in the digital world emerges. The design medium is the same, but the identity changes depending on the trope, the feasibility, and the design goal. Exploring the underlying structure of design in digital projects emphasizes in what ways the “archival” body of data of the subject-designer-user can be recorded, monitored, visualized, analyzed, and interpreted. All identities of the subject have at their core the concept of desire. Desire, however, is a construct that produces personal choices. Each time the subject is reduced to a different context of desire, it reconstitutes a curated self, the existence of which is one of the basic assumptions of late-modern society. In these societies, we value the exceptional-unique objects, experiences, places, individuals, events, and communities that are beyond the ordinary and generic and that claim a certain authenticity in chosen identities. We pursue the user’s different degrees of freedom of expression (Reckwitz 2020), and we access ‘expression’ through design ‘usability’ and software ‘utilization’ to the subject’s liking. This way, design software becomes conceptualized as a manifestation of subjectivity. We note a rise in the seminal impact of the relationship between a linguistic design process and images as representations and references in contemporary cultures. Curation gains a double role as new species of curatorial practice, both as a phenomenological observation of the design process and the curation of the Self in its capacity as a subject-designer-user. This condition urges the need to cross the traditional boundaries between academic disciplines and these new fields of thought more evident. The curatorial discipline is a primary ground for building conceptual and pragmatical bridges between them and acts as a “cura”; a treatment for the possibility and multitude of risen problems. Essentially, such a monitoring process harnesses the user’s engagement with the software, turning it into a logical protocol that “supervises,” “guides,” and “makes sense” of the act of designing. One of the questions is whether it is viable to apply this protocol to digital curation, i.e., to a predefined reference and operating system. Additionally, to what extent are the computer and the design software itself reconfigured and adapted to the current changes and/or quests of our design idiosyncrasy? It is essential to consider whether execution in a medium is transformed into curation and how the curating of personalized archives evolves into a medium of addressing subjectification processes.
Usage Nature: A Post-Object Manifestation
Our research begins as a critical approach to design in the digital world and its problematics. Interestingly, the result is digital software itself. One cannot escape the self-consuming behaviors and panopticism that characterize the digital world. According to Rancière, image is an element of democratic autonomy (Ranciere 2013). Our work develops a software for reading and describing design software. This software aims to be a dynamic and shifting syntax based on a democratic logic of empowerment of multiple, different, autonomous, and independent options for describing the design process. These options relate the syntactic discourse to linguistic-semantic (Krippendorff 2005) and serial-metonymic image-references, the final object, and the multiple aspects of the curated Self of the subject-user approaching the Post-Object. According to Rancière, image is an element of democratic autonomy (Ranciere 2013). So, utterly, it is a tool produced by users and returned to the user community, marking a development from user to prosumer (Toffler 1971). In our era, we encounter a change of descriptive dynamics; in digital design, the subject designs with commands, transforming the object into a product of a process synthesized by the grammar and syntax of the digital language of the program in question (Fankhänel and Lepik 2020). As the subject chooses commands, it gives attention to reference, both as a process and syntax, of the design narrative rather than its conceptualization so that the order, manner, and number of choices become more important than the representation of the sub-designed object. How can a design program construct its “identity of use” on the one hand and, on the other, highlight idiosyncratical “escapes” from it? Also, how does the study of the subject-user’s rhythm of use (Lefebvre 2013) translate into sentences of macros in which we can discern idiosyncratic rhythms constituted by pauses and macro commands?
Industrial practices for developing large-scale design tools have progressed since the days of waterfall processes of the linear execution of a predefined development plan (McCormick 2012). They have now come to involve a set of established methodologies that aim to uncover and serve iteratively usage scenarios and needs that relate to the largest possible population of end-users. For example, the User Centered Design method (Abras, Maloney-Krichmar, and Peece 2004) includes sets of practices such as requirements gathering, user testing, and iterative development. They all aim to involve stakeholders and users to diagnose and improve on issues such as fitness to the domain and its standards or the cognitive ergonomics of user interfaces. As such, they seek to facilitate standard practices rather than cater to scenarios that might be isolated to an individual. This is primarily achieved by decomposing observations of individual user interactions with testable designs into essential primitive elements that can be universally supportive of many use cases. Still, end-users are finally the recipients of a carefully pre-designed software product but can do little to modify it once it has reached them.
The question of how domain experts and users (and not the original software developers) can adjust the software to fluctuating and often conflicting requirements that arise at the time and level of individual use is an active field of research. End-User Development (Barricelli et al. 2018) is a field that investigates how to adjust the software to the particular needs of users, not only at design time but also during their usage (Fogli 2017). However, when our time, space, work, productivity, and our presence, in general, become digital, a presence through absence, does idiosyncrasy become redefined and situated in a new context of (mediated) activation through interfaces(McLuhan and Fiore 1968)?
Our response centers around what Culture-Computer-Interaction (CCI) (Manovich 2020) is in the context of Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI). The research aims to highlight the computer’s significance through cultural relations and interactions with the subjects, not just in the broad spectrum of the human-computer relationship. The study can be applied practically and directly as a framework for mapping the methodology of the design itself. This has pedagogical/educational, gnosiological, professional, and more broadly artistic value because it allows us both a penetration into the archive of the Subject’s Self, its processes of the constitution, and the typification and clarification of the Style, through its own reading process.
Our research methodology centers around digital design use through experiments. Design data is identified in its abbreviated command syntax inherent in AutoCAD. The subject-user’s inputs are transcribed chronologically from a video, marking the user’s context of actions/interactions (commands) in the digital design world. Then we evaluate the acquired information in variable filters. After an initial assessment, a further distinction is made based on the physical, embodied interaction type. This defines the first level of interaction: “Corporeal Interaction Type.” The next stage is an interpretation by conceptualizing a genealogy of actions (Event Type) (Badiou 2011), distinguishing the points of error and failure (Fail/Section vs. Incomplete), and identifying the points of pause and reflection (Pause-Unplug).
Analysis of this data enables the configuration of a tripartite system of evaluation and recalibration of a subjectification process (User’s Software-Usage Profile), of the subject-user’s creative process (User’s Design-Trope Profile) and the creation platform, i.e., the design program (Design Software Singularisation-Tendency Mapping). We create a usage log per user involving actions within the design tool and data from the accompanying visual platforms. Collected data are analyzed using methods such as process mining (van der Aalst 2012).
The objective is to improve on measuring the subjects-users in the operations and actions they activate in digital design. Additionally, we try to define and manage the ever-emerging degree of complexity of the data and the associations they generate. We want to group them in a way that will produce wider frameworks for understanding a meta-object that constantly eludes their description. Ultimately, the aim is to increase our ability to better read spatial design through new but also emerging curatorial practices. We intend to transform an identificatory protocol into an associative-linguistic and serial-metonymic syntax.
By establishing an AutoCAD usage supervision mechanism, we seek a design condition that delves into the “typical” process in design. We examine whether this “typical” is related to the commands and the relationships created, both syntactically and at the level of communication between subject and object (connotational process). This syntax can describe the post-conceptual era, where the conceptual and the pragmatological appear simultaneously. This system will be able to distinguish moments and pauses in the design process and to reconstruct them into macros and complete design sentences within a linguistic reference domain (software). At the same time, the system will also be able to record the user’s traces in his or her personal digital space. Our attention focuses on the importance of visual reference, which belongs to a personal image archive, a product of the curation of a user’s Self, as the process of contemporary design constitutes a new dialogue between language and image. It unfolds along three main axes: theoretical & data mining tools, an experimental & data analysis, and the design and production of the pilot plug-in. Simultaneous and continuous diffusion activities accompany all these. At each step, we apply an inductive method of evaluation and development.
Design theories, such as Shape Grammars (Stiny 1976), Space Syntax (Hillier and Hanson 1989), and Blob Theory (Lynn 1998), share an increasing tendency to conceptualize the incomplete form (Lynn 1999). The current theories of element correlation in the context of spatial planning serve as references for interpreting the structure of a design process. These references reflect methodologies for describing the design process in the historical moment we are now in. Potentially they can be changed and adapted (updated) when new theories of element correlation are produced. We are not concerned with efficiency or data related to a “good” and optimized design but rather highlight usage trends related to the correlations of the elements of the design process (Stiny and Gips 1971). At the same time, capturing a second body of data in the parallel user visual references functions as a connotation of the design process. The correlation of the two bodies of data produces independent and multiple diagrams of description logics. These researched logics are transcribed into developing a plug-in/menu that can be integrated into digital design software, such as AutoCAD. This menu, as substantial software, will be the final product of the research process, a design and curatorial tool for Post-Objects.
Central to this is the development of a model for understanding the idea of the meta-object in the digital world as an evolution of the deeper structure of the design language within existing digital design programs. The subjective user-software relationship as a requirement in digital design relates technology to the designer’s personal identity and the hyper-value of the object both in design and as a final product. What is ultimately produced is rudimentary software, i.e., a tool for generating multiple descriptive logics. It is a meta-object of the researched software and a meta-object of the under-designed object, making an institutional critique of the digital design itself.
Current Findings & Future Objectives
We consider essential an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the complexity of contemporary design. New needs, specializations, and even professions emerge. In architecture, there is an increasing interest in artificial intelligence (Chaillou 2022), machine learning (Bernstein 2022), and the production of architectural information pools (Leach and Campo 2022). Simultaneously, digital curation concentrates and requests a need for curating image databases, digital data objects, and video art archives, as well as optimizing the user interface to the digital world (UX Design) (Higgins 2011). Hence, we identify an interdisciplinary data hyper-aggregation demand, which aims to recommend optimized algorithms and rapid Image and word correlation systems, which can equip cultural production with scientific validity.
This project builds upon the difficulties in developing a system for observing and interpreting the subject-user’s moments of idiosyncratization during the digital design process. As idiosyncratization is fundamentally related to the notion of (digital) temperament, this concept is transmitted and dependent on the dimension of time and moments of synapses. The whole experiment method obtains qualitative data from quantitative measurements, allowing us to penetrate many diagrammatic description logics. The result of all these processes is the production of work cycles as “representations” of a user’s design method. An additional outcome will be the design of multi-component “profiles” of users at that time and for a certain period of design. This project aspires to impact the public by promoting certain skills and competencies such as cultural and artistic awareness, skills of critical thinking, and self-awareness about a design for all. Our project explores how contemporary design is constituted in the making and in what ways mechanisms of forming multiple, autonomous, and independent user identities foster a more democratic condition of design production. It contributes to the research field of the humanities involving collaborative, interdisciplinary, and computationally engaged research (Digital Humanities) through a critical look at the role of the subject-user’s engagement with design software and the parallel applications of curating aspects of the Self in the Digital World. This is the intended scientific outcome to be achieved by the proposed project.
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