Well, if you couldn’t tell by the title, TED Talks have come to an end.
By that I mean, as of December 30th, 2013, Benjamin Bratton finally gave the last TED Talk anyone will ever need to hear. (Ha ha ha!!! I made a click bate!) But seriously, I’m mostly disappointed that it’s two and a half years later and I’ve just recently seen this video (posted below).
If I were to give a TED Talk, this would be it. The ending is killer when he says, and I’m paraphrasing, that if we keep making ourselves feeling good with things that don’t solve problems and, in turn, don’t do things that don’t make us feel good but that might actually solve problems- than the outcome is that it becomes harder and harder for us to feel good about solving problems. My BFA thesis talk (at the 2014 Creative Works Symposium at EWU) was about this in part. (One part was about rediscovering wonder and one part about re-innovating innovation).
And this is another one of those life’s mission points that I try and emphasize all the time. Design and innovation require more than us just making things pretty, cool, or making things that we’re comfortable with. It’s great to do things that support your art and design community in your local area. But, personally, I think real social responsibility needs to play a firmer role. Especially if you’re a designer of some kind* – YOU have a responsibility to shape the world. Every choice we make from the clothes we wear to the lazy decisions we make to not bend over and simply pick up a piece of trash on the ground, are all decisions that shape the world. In a sense, all of our decisions are purely aesthetic as well. I mean, think about picking up a piece of trash on the ground. I would bet that most of that decision is based on what feels good.
Consider the term Aesthetic Emotion. Emotions based on our reactions (including disinterest) to aesthetic experiences. Now, typically aesthetic experiences are thought of as music, theatre/cinema or art of some kind. To refine the definition though, the term aesthetic (or aesthetic philosophy) is pertaining to sensations and perceptions of beauty, sublime, comic, etc – and their antithesis. And you can take the specific and say this is supposed to apply to art. But if you ask artists what art is, most of the time they’ll agree that everything is art – it’s all a matter of perception. That’s certainly my stance.
So, in summary, I’m saying that our decisions are just as aesthetically based as more literally aesthetically based decisions (i.e., art). Together these are design choices. All of our design choices are either responsible or they’re not. I don’t entirely agree with the notion that you are accepting the concept of what is socially responsible if you’re merely creating art and design for the community of art and design.
And so we circle back to re-innovating innovation. While Bratton applies his talk specifically to TED Talks in general – it truly applies to designers and even artists. (I watched the video last yesterday, but I think he may actually say this much himself). We can’t continue to pat ourselves on the back as designers for making something that’s just comfortable to us; something that we can bask in the glory of and say, “Look at this great idea I came up with! Let’s make an app for that! And to make it effective, we’ll gamify it! We’ve just changed the world!” We can’t, as artists, claim to be doing something important in our community by saying, “Let’s make something cool and get artists together to make more cool stuff!”. Are you kidding?! We live at the pinnacle of Maslow’s Hierarchy – able to look down upon the other needs and understand them better than most. And all we want to do is make cool shit in return!?
Come on! We’re living in an old house in a run down neighborhood. I’m calling all designers to tear out that ratty old carpet, pull up the termite ridden sub-flooring, break down the cracked concrete and let’s build a new foundation for innovation. Let’s re-shingle our roof. Let’s not just put a new coat of paint on again. Let’s repair the boards themselves! Let’s not plant more annuals. Let’s do some real landscaping! We aren’t just visual people – we’re visual communication people. And our house can be seen by the whole neighborhood. Let’s set an example. Let’s renovate and raise the property value.
*We’re all designers. Some of us just do it and get paid for it.**
**Well, a few of us get paid for it.