“Fifty years ago no one would have chosen Darwin and Lincoln as central figures of the modern imagination. Freud and Marx would perhaps have been the minds that we saw as the princes of our disorder. But with the moral (and lesser intellectual) failure of Marxism, and the intellectual (and lesser moral) failure of Freud, Marx and Freud’s ideas have retreated into the history of modernity, among the vast systematic ideas that proposed to explain it all to you.”
Adam Gopnik, Angels and Ages, A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln and Modern Life, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, 14.
When I took intro architectural theory in my master’s program, the course was in fact based in Marx and Freud. Well, Marx, Freud and Nietzsche and the three lineages that followed. What would it have been like as a course with Darwin and Lincoln? Too anglo? Is it only recently that architectural discourse has shifted to American and English ideas of modernity dealing with humanity and its place in nature, history and republican politics?
I haven’t seen many advertisements that group these three uses together, psychosis, surgical and obstetrics. I am not even sure I’ve yet seen an advertisement for tranquilizing obstetric patients, maybe those go out of fashion by the 1960s?
“I knew that, slowly and steadily, humanity was breeding such situations as a sick body breeds pus. It was as if our race was no longer able to cope with its own numbers and with the problems—greater every day—that resulted from this.”
Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques. Translated by John Russell. New York: Criterion, 1961, 31.
Lee, of the American Science blog, offers a first hand speculation on technology and society in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy featuring this photo of an ad hoc charging station, neighbors sharing with neighbors.
Amazing technology would allow for underground parks in NYC
If you’ve been to Manhattan in the past several years, you may have heard of the Highline in Chelsea. It’s a project that converted an abandoned above-ground railroad track into a park, and it has turned the formerly underdeveloped area around it into one of the trendiest new neighborhoods in the city; if you visit Manhattan, you have to check it out. Anyway, two architects want to build a park that will do for the Lower East Side what the Highline did for Chelsea, but with a twist: they want to build it underground!
If you’ve been to Manhattan ever, you’ll also know that space is at a premium, and there are few open spaces left to grow leafy green things or build a park. Dubbed the LowLine, the project would convert an old underground trolley car station, abandoned in 1948 and untouched since, into a 1.5 acre underground park. But how? This is where the science comes in: they’ve developed the technology to transmit sunlight underground. Using large parabolic mirrors and a fiber optic relay, sunlight from the surface would be shuttled to the park and then redisbursed, allegedly yielding enough light for photosynthesis. As shown in the artist’s renderings above, the park could house trees, grass, farmers markets, or art installations, all year round, rain or shine. The architects raised money on Kickstarter for a proof-of-concept exhibition, happening RIGHT NOW in the Essex Street Market in NYC, and they’re doing battle with the city and the transit authority that owns the underground depot for approval. Here’s to hoping the city bureaucrats see the light! *slaps knee*
“In contrast with the person whose purpose is esthetic, the scientific man is interested in problems, in situations wherein tension between the matter of observation and of thought is marked. Of course he cares for their resolution. But he does not rest in it; he passes on to another problem using an attained solution only as a stepping stone from which to set on foot further inquiries.”
Dewey, John. Art as Experience. New York: Minton, Balch & company, 1934, 15.
To parse: the intellectual or man of science cares for the gaps in observation and thought. Could we extrapolate and say, he or she cares for the mismatch in form and idea? (To be Eisenmanian about it.) Dewey continues to say that both the esthetic and the scientific are merely differences in the “constant rhythm that marks the interaction of the live creature with his surroundings” and that to try to say they are so different is false. Which I love. If there is one thing I am constantly frustrated by, it is the use of the artist by the scientist and the use of the scientist by the artist… science is not some perfect, non-human endeavor. Art is not some un-analyzable beast. But let’s go back and finish the thought with Dewey:
I’d really like to warm this old blog back up, after time spent in a kind of mental hibernation and healing to do with the closure of the dissertation and the shift in pretty much everything else in my life. While maybe too ambitious for me to fully unpack, I’ll open with one of my new favorite blogs commenting on one of my old favorite blogs. I’d read through some wonderful posts that led me on to new works on the history of human science in the US, including a review of Joel Isaac’s new book, Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn, that repositions Kuhn and post-positivism as socially contingent knowledge production… am I the only one to see that as not entirely surprising? Or at least, somehow meta?
Anyway, back to the new favorite blog posting about the long time favorite blog and what it may mean for you, dear reader, or me, as I open a new favorite direction about an old favorite set of ideas. And that is? Quantification, statistics and humans as thinkers and subjects. Lamely, all I really want to call attention to right now (no pun intended) is the block quote here calling for humanists to ply their trade in interpreting data from the past, even the recent past. In my new job, I’m thinking a lot about how quantitative work might mesh with historical work. How can humanities research be transformed into group projects? It seems that humanities research likes to be done in the head of one or two people, so how do you write grants to fund student researchers to help you get more done? Couldn’t they do more than pull articles that you will scratch to find time to read? As I sit in meetings and talks here at Huge U, I keep being drawn to Schmidt’s way of working and reasoning.
Check out the block quote, but also, this great instance of Sapping Attention turned to explicitly spatial analysis.
“I knew I was at the position on the totem pole that got chipped by the lawn mower…” A nice turn of phrase from Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty.
Okay, I know I am no Olympian… I’ve seen enough of the national team rowers walk by at the boathouse that it’s pretty clear. Even so Megan Kalmoe’s account of the focusing of the rowers in preparation for the racing reminds me of my own feeling that right now, in advance of final submission of the dissertation, it’s hard to have distractions or really to speak with people about things other than finalizing the document, preparing for defense, and of course, coping with the departure from a much loved grad program. I’ve always had that tendency about racing, to get quiet and to concentrate beforehand, and then relax and open up to the rest of the world after. I guess it’s a good thing.