Anthony Dunne + Conceptual Cartography

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Anthony Dunne’s Hertzian Tales, a treatise on design ethics, reconsiders the implications of digital transparency, ie: whether tenets like ‘seamlessness’ and ‘user-friendliness’ should come to be understood as pernicious.  Dunne’s antidote to such invisible technologies is user-unfriendliness, an attribute of design that interjects a layer of opacity between human and technology, enhancing our ability to detect nuance and engage with tools to solve complex problems.

I am experimenting with applying Dunne’s framework of user-unfriendliness to a sculptural ‘conflict map.’  The goal is to take the principles of representational cartography, or metaphor, to represent a personal conflict.  I am interested in in-group/out-group dynamics and the minimal group paradigm, which describes the minimal conditions required for members of a group to discriminate against those from other groups.

Behavioral studies show evidence that members of a group may discriminate against an outsider, or ‘migrant,’ because they require a higher cognitive load to categorize.  Appropriating Dunne’s framework, discrimination in this context could be understood as ‘seamless.’

My mixed cultural heritage (black/white) presents an inherent insider/outsider dynamic between cultures that stew in a legacy of antagonism. I am using an interplay between phenomena — magnets and gravity — to create a situation that seems to defy natural laws.  Setting that in the context of very personal images (pictures of my kin several generations back, culled from family archives) should provoke a reconsideration of attraction and separateness between cultures at war.

Dunne argues that design can “counteract the familiarization encouraged by routine modes of perception.  We readily cease to ‘see’ the world we live in and become anesthetized to its distinctive features.”  Perhaps an appropriation of Dunne’s framework can apply here.  If discrimination is seamless, can awareness be provoked by a confounding — or user-unfriendly — object?

Here are some images of my map:

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