Constellation Reflective Text

Constellation has widened my mind to things that before I most likely would not have considered whilst designing. Being in interdisciplinary groups has helped broaden my understanding of art and design as a whole, I now realise how my mind works differently in comparison to someone who studies a different disciplinary. In ‘the body in society’ whilst studying the architecture of Bentham’s Panoticon (which was a prison designed in order for the prisoners be seen but not to see from the ‘Peripheric’ building, but for the guard to see but not to be seen from the central tower), we were put into groups of different dispensaries and were asked what the idea of seeing and not being seen reminded us of. Typical of a product designer I thought of CCTV, whereas a fine artist in my group had angels as their first thought.

Both of my lecturers seemed very passionate about what they were teaching which I admired, they also both had a very different style of teaching. My ‘Creativity and Cognitive Development’ lecturer was very good in terms of keeping each lecture’s layout very similar, this made it easy to adjust and prepare for the lectures. Although when given a text to read, we did not read through it as a class, whereas my ‘Body in Society’ lecturer would read out loud and explain complicated terms as they were reading, which was much more effective since we understood more as a class.

A specific theory that stuck out for in constellation was Piaget ‘The Relation between Subject and Object’ which I studied in ‘Creativity and Cognitive Development’. Before Piaget’s work, the common assumption in psychology was that children are merely less competent thinkers than adults. Where in reality, children simply think in a different way to adults. Our lecturer then related this to Ikea’s Plush toys which were designed around 10 children’s drawing. The children could justify why they drew their drawings like they did, and this revealed that children do indeed think differently to adults. This raised the question, ‘Can adults Design Toys for Children? I explored this idea of adults designing toys further, I chose to do this because as an adult designer that is very interested in design for children (in the past I have designed baby bags, car seats and high chairs), I thought it could help me understand what is needed to be done in order to design effectively for children.

Another theory that was introduced to me in one of the ‘Creativity and Cognitive Development’ lectures which I found of great interest was Rudolf Arnheim’s theory of ‘Visual Thinking’ which was based around the concept that everyone’s cognitions work differently due to the fact we all experiences things differently due to our five sense. To explain further, nobody will ever be able to see exactly what you see from your perspective. This idea adjusted the way I think about my practice since it is proven that everyone thinks differently regardless of if they are the same age, race or gender, which makes designing for a certain category of people even more difficult.

The final theory I will discuss from one of my ‘Creativity and Cognitive Development’ lectures is Duchamp M’s ‘The Creative Act’, his theory was that a designers ‘intentions’ of a design idea ‘and its realisation’ can be very different, as a designer I can relate to this straight away, for example during my a-levels I had designed and made a baby changing bag for a mum with arthritis, once it had been completed I gave it to my target audience to use for a period of time and then gave them a questionnaire to fill out, and some of their reactions were very unexpected, for example, they said that the pockets which were initially categorised for bottles, they tended to use for storage of toys. I have unintentionally designed for newborns/children a lot during my design education; this year at Cardiff Met I am designing a car seat for a new-born. The reason why ‘The Creative Act’ theory is relevant to this is since it is based on one’s visual, and a child ‘Looks and recognises before it can speak’ (Beger). Therefore, children pay greater attention to the world’s aesthetics. To help differentiate between a child and an adults cognition in regards to ‘visual thinking’ , if you were to show an adult a box, all they would see is a box, but a child could see the potential for things such as a rocket ship or a car.

‘The body in society’ has influenced the way I think about my practice enormously. My practice revolves primarily around designing for people, therefore understanding the way people think about themselves and how others think of them is essential in designing effectively. One lecture we read the text ‘Identity’. I had never realised how complicated the term identity was until this lecture. It was more complex due to the fact that, for example, you may identify someone as a woman, but they may not choose to be identified in that way, they may choose to be identified as a man. And within that identity category of women there are many more categories, although binaries help simplify this, for example, you must identify as; man/woman, black/white.

We also studied ‘Ways of seeing’ by John Berger in ‘The body in society’, Berger discussed how the eating of the apple in Genesis made them aware that nudity brought shame, and most oil painting after had the women being subject and being shown that they are aware of being seen. Being educated about gender in art and design history is of use to me as I can see how things have progressed throughout time. In today’s world mass media not only focuses on the female form but now also the male form is subject to desire. I am now only more curious of what people’s opinion on gender will be in another century’s time.

Word Count: 997


The Body in Society- Reading Cyborgs

Some fear things such as cyborgs due to that fact that it challenges the stability of human identity.  This is due to identity depending on the notion of the other, for example; male/female. Since Cyborgs have both human and non human characteristics they are not like us but just like us. Due to the cyborgs dual nature it disrupts the persistent dualism that people recognise, for example, are they human/artificial. Due to cyborgs being different to human kind they represent otherness which arises humans fears and desires. 

The Body in Society- Affordance, Conventions and Design

We were taught about the terms ‘affordance’ and ‘perceived accordance’ in our week 6 lecture. I had heard of these terms before but could not recall what their meanings were so was curious to find out their definitions. To explain simply, affordance is the relationship between a person and an object which results in the way the person naturally interacts with it. This idea  discussed in the article we read ‘Affordances, Conventions and Design’ (Donald A. Norman) ‘When you first see something you have never seen before, how do you know what to do? The answer, I decided, was that the required information was in the world: the appearance of the device could provide the critical clues required for its proper operation.’

Norman then followed with discussing perceived affordance, he claimed ‘I will make a global change, replacing all instances of the word “affordance” with the phrase “perceived affordance”.’ he then continues to define the term- it is more about what actions the user perceives to be possible than what is true.

He later refers both of these terms directly to my disciplinary of product design, showing how relevant both terms are to my chosen subject  ‘In product design, where one deals with real, physical objects, there can be both real and perceived affordances, and the two sets need not be the same.’

Norman then followed to discuss the different kinds of constraints):

  • Physical- When you are limited to what you can do physically with the object.
  • Logical- This is often your natural reaction to things and most people will find that the answers are obvious.
  • Cultural- Cultures have conventions that they follow, and if two cultures follow different conventions, it could lead to confusion.

The Body in Society- Body Projects and the Regulation of Normative Masculinity

This weeks text ‘Body Projects and the Regulation of Normative Masculinity’ focussed on the male gender primarily and body modification they go through in order to look desirable, such as ‘working out (at a gym), tattooing, piercing and cosmetic surgery.’ It is mentioned that the male body has become much more prominent in terms of media, where as before it was always females. And since this has happened the male body has been viewed differently, which has put much more pressure on the men in society to look sexually appealing ‘male bodies in idealised and eroticised fashions, coded in ways that give permission for them to be looked at and desired’ (Moore, 1988; Simpson,1994).  They link this back to a text previously discussed in our ‘body in society lectures ‘men look at women and women watch themselves being looked at’ (Berger, 1972, p.47). The male (body) has become an object of the gaze rather than simply the bearer of the look.


The Body in Society- Identity, Cross Gender, Gender Performativity

The first piece of text we read as a class ‘Identity’ explained how identity was hard to define due to the fact that there isn’t  a ‘single over arching definition of what it is. But tends to be known as a combination of ‘sameness’ and ‘differences’ (how our similarities and differences with each other makes us ‘identical’ with ourselves).

It is then further discussed how difficult it is to define people into these identity categories. For example you may identify someone as a woman, but they may not chose to be identified in that way, they may chose to be identified as a man. And within that identity category of a women there are may more categories such as white, black, Christian, Muslim, atheist. Although binaries help simplify this, for example you must identify as; man/woman, black/white.

The next text we discussed fitted in well with the topic discussion, it was ‘Cross gender/ Cross gender’ by Mike Kelley. Out of the whole text read, the abstract below is what stood out for me the most.

‘As in the Cockettes, the Mothers’s version of drag was an incomplete version. But there are differences. The Cockettes, despite the ridiculous nature of their image, have a playful and positive quality that is absent in the Mothers. The Mothers’s use of drag has more in common with the traditional comedic adoption of female garb by the male, and in that sense it is an abject usage. In Western culture, men who dress in female clothes are considered funny, while the opposite is generally not the case. A woman dressed in male clothes has little comedic value. The sexism at the root of this difference is obvious, for why else should the adoption of feminine characteristics by a man be abject’

I found it interesting how the idea of being incomplete in terms of your gender category could be seen as humorous, and the suffering that Trans-gender people must go through, throughout their transition period. Yet Kelley brought up the fact that it is less humorous for a girl to be thought of and dressed like a boy and then explained how this is due to misogyny, as to be female is to be seen as less worth, where as to be male is not to be a joke. I would consider using this idea for my final end of year essay.


The body in society- Bentham’s Panoticon

I enjoyed how the use of Architecture was introduced into this session and found it so interesting how cleverly the ‘Panopticon’ was designed in order to be seen but not to see from the ‘peripheric’ building, but to see but not to be seen from the central town. Allowing the inspector to observe the inmates in each cell of the building at any point from the central tower without being visible.

After we read the text on this Amazing piece of architecture we discussed the links between the idea of the ‘Panopticon’ with things that are now used in today’s society, one example was CCTV. We then discussed how such things are close approaching to breaking ethical boundaries.

Personally, I think observation technology such as these do more good than harm since the increased fear  of being caught committing a crime will in turn reduce rebellion.

Body in Society: John Berger, Ways of Seeing

In today’s session we read through a text which was of great interest to me. Admittedly, when finding out I was studying ‘The body in society’ I was very unsure of whether this topic would be very useful to me and provide me with knowledge that would help me progress further. Although, I could clearly make links between today’s text and product Designer.

Today’s text was ‘Ways of seeing’ by John Berger, it began with saying that a man’s desire is to be powerful even if it is only ‘fabricated’. Where as women are described as much more complexed, and although women are known to be the weaker sex Berger, says that women naturally ‘express what can and cannot be done to her’ this itself shows how women aren’t completely weak beings, although have been controlled for men years and conditioned into believing their job is ‘keeping men’.

Berger makes it very clear that women are much more judged in society and restricted by social constructs where as men are much more free in what they can do with little bad acknowledgement being received. Berger described this well when saying ‘Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.’

He then discusses this difference between man and woman in relation to nude oil paintings;

  • Genesis– ‘woman is blamed and punished and make subservient to the man. In relation to the women the man becomes the agent of god.’ He discusses how the eating of the apple made them aware that nudity brought shame, and most oil painting after had the women being subject and been shown that they are aware of being seen.
  • The use of mirrors- Women are judged for looking in the mirror because it is vain. Proving that they see woman’s nakedness for their pleasure and not her own.
  • Feelings- The women tend to have expressionless blank faces and tend to be expressed as timid. ‘Her nakedness is not an expression of her own feelings; it is a sign off submission to the owners feelings and demands.’