Reading Response #8

to Artful Design • Chapter 8: “Manifesto a Philosophy of Artful Design”

Nicholas Shaheed

November 20, 2022

Music 256A / CS476a, Stanford University

For this week’s reading, I will be responding to Principle 8.6 from the sixth chapter of Artful Design, which states:

Principle 8.6: There Has to Be an Aesthetic Dimension That Underlies Our Shaping of Technology

I interpret this principle in two ways: that there is a moral imperative to including this “Aesthetic Dimension” when creating technology, and that the creation of technology, by its very existence, is shaped by an “Aesthetic Dimension.” I don’t think that these are mutually exclusive interpretations. In fact, the latter can be used to inform the former. With the inevitability of the aesthetic in technology, there is a sense of urgency: how do you account for something when it’s required of you? If you don’t, you’re not really absolving yourself of the issue, you’re simply just choosing to not engage with it further. In the scenarios that I am imagining, the creation of a new technology, whether it’s a piece of code, or some hardware, or some other gadget, has its aesthetic tied to the convenience of the medium. This is not a necessarily a bad thing per-se, and ties into the previous principle from chapter 8:

Principle 8.5: Technology Is neither Good nor Bad, nor Is It Neutral (Kranzberg’s 1st Law of Technology)

Plenty of “default aesthetics” have qualities that I like and enjoy. Such as a command-line based interface when making software for a Unix-derived operating system. However, whether these serve the design (and its corresponding dimension of aesthetics) is not a guarantee and not putting the necessary thought and effort into figuring that out will have consequences to who and how the technology is used.