Wilson Miner – When We Build

I found this presentation incredibly eye opening and inspiring. It also made me exited for the future, working as an interaction designer. The running theme through out was how we are a product of our environment but we are also its designers. Each new thing we make changes our environment and the way we live. This may seem obvious to some but it’s an idea that I’ve never stopped to think about before so in that way this talk was a massive eye opener. Miner in the beginning brought up a quote from Marshall McLuhan – “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us”. This quote fits in with the aforementioned overarching theme of the talk and I hadn’t heard it before but I think it’ll stick in my head now because of how impactful it is.

He quoted McLuhan again – “The Medium is the Message”. New mediums change our  outlook on the world and attitudes towards how we relate to it. I found it fascinating when he talked about how even something as simple as a light bulge b creates a completely new environment. When I think about it, days would seem so much shorter without them especially in the winter. He goes on to say that even though cars themselves haven’t changed that much (other than cosmetically) overtime we’ve almost completely  structured the world around them. I hadn’t thought about that but now I’m realising that the huge intersection outside my window and all the traffic lights and the huge carpark outside the nearby retail outlet are all there because of cars.

Miner then played a video that I found fascinating as it touched on ideas I hadn’t really thought about before. Firstly, the idea that all mediums are extensions of the  human faculties. Wheels on a bike a re extensions of the feet, clothes are extensions of the skin etc. and how the extension of any one sense alters how we think and view the world. It makes so much sense and yet I’ve never thought of it that way. Then Steve Jobs started speaking about how what divides us humans from the high primates is the fact that we are tool builders and how the computer is the most remarkable tool we’ve built because it’s like a bicycle for our minds. Again, makes so much sense and yet I’ve never thought about it that way, eye opening.

I found what he said after the video very inspiring, about how tools can be an empowering, almost bionic extension of our own human ability, In that way, it’s a show of strength to avail of them. He then goes on to talk about how the first computer was this massive machine that you’d have to wait patiently for feed back unlike how now we can interact directly with our devices, this is something we quite easily take for granted. He also speaks about how as time progresses instead of adding things take things away and make them invisible, like how we now have wireless networks and computers have gotten significantly lighter and smaller and what we are left with is a screen we can see and interact with. I found this fascinating to hear about and it made me think back to the evolving forms of the computer that came through my house during me childhood. Pc monitors for example went from chunky boxes to flat, almost centimetre thick screens. Even recently, I got a new laptop and the screen is like a third of the thickness of my old one and the fascinating thing is that it’s capable of so much more. He goes on to say that he thinks that the screen will be as important as the car was in shaping the 20th century in the 21st century. I must say that I agree.

He later talks about the need to always be learning if the environment is always changing and quotes Alistair Solith – “At times of change, the learners are the ones who will inherit the world, while the knowers will be beautifully prepared for the past that no longer exists.” This struck a chord with me as I love learning new things and problem solving so the idea of an environment constantly changing and evolving to where you constantly have to be learning new skills and ways to solve problems like that of interaction design is one of the main things that attracted me to this course in the first place. I felt that bit more inspired.

At the end of the talk he touches back on the theme I mentioned at the start of this, that we are a product of our world but we are also its designer.We make our world what it is and then we become the kind of people who live in it. He said that we all have something we wanna make for no other reason than for it to exist. I related so much to this especially as someone who likes to make art. A lot of the time I will paint or draw something, not because I think it’ll serve any particular purpose but simply because I think it’ll look cool on my wall or I want to experiment with new styles and techniques. This summer I painted a cosmic space whale for my brother, not because he asked or anything, his wall just looked empty and I wanted to fill it with something.

He finished his talk by saying something along the lines of we get to put a dent in the universe, something hope nudges the world in the right direction and his final word are “This is a great job”. The way he ended by saying this as well as the presentation as a whole left me feeling very inspired and hopeful for the future, as well as feeling more confident in my decision to study interaction design. That all, there were other things he said that stood out to me but considering we were only asked to write a couple paragraphs , I thought it best to leave it at that.




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