This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
The Politics of the Artificial Author(s): Victor Margolin Reviewed work(s): Source: Leonardo, Vol. 28, No. 5, Third Annual New York Digital Salon (1995), pp. 349-356 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1576217 . Accessed: 02/01/2012 18:06
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The MIT Press and Leonardo are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Leonardo.
" a definition I developed with my colleague Richard Buchanan. Cole thought the purpose of design was to improve the appearance of products. To the degree that design makes incursions into realms that were once considered as belonging to nature rather than culture. It was this emphasis that gave rise to the profession of industrialdesign we have known until recently . in extending the domain within which we conceive and plan. both material and immaterial. we can see it at work in the products of the American consultant designers of the 193os such as Walter Dorwin Teague and Raymond Loewy ^ and in the resistance to those products by the design staff at New York's Museum of Modem Art. But this project has been implicitly and explicitly challenged by various theorists such as Herbert Simon and John ChrisJones who have argued that a process of design underlies everything in our culture. Critiques of nature have also striven to abolish any presence. Vol. and function. that continues well into the twentieth century. one of the chief promoters of the British Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851. the distinction between nature and culture appeared to be clear. Until recent years. one that does not reductively resist incursions of technology into what was formerly considered the domain of nature but which preserves a realm of the spirit that is beyond technological manipulation. and he hoped to confront the confusion and profusion of historic styles that were being loaded onto Victorian objects from furniture to steam engines by promoting a closer collaboration of artists and industry. we consider design to be the "conception and planning of the artificial. economy of means. Thus. whether we call it God or the spirit. Closer to home. other theorists have questioned design's meaning. integrity. the meaning of objects was to be found in their relation to a value Victor Margolin. 199f ? 1995 ISAST LEONARDO. Objects were considered to be signs of value with uncontested referents such as clarity. IL 60201.A. That is to say. that exists beyond the frame of a socially constructed discourse. It is echoed in Charles Eastlake's exhortations for simple forms and honest representations of materials. so does the conceptual scope of design practice widen. simplicity. The reductive slogan "form follows function" assumed that use was an explicit. we are widening the boundaries of design practice. Received March 1. This new sense of spirituality can address the increasingly complex relations between the natural and the artificial and offers the basis for a new project for designers. 5. with design. for which we might substitute the theoretical terms aesthetics and pragmatics. 1207 Leonard Place. of course. U. Evanston.The Politics of the Artificial Victor Margolin IF DESIGN CAN BE CONSIDERED "THE CONCEPTION AND PLANNING OF the artificial. pp. This paper seeks to reinstate spirituality as a category that is associated with a new conception of nature. and contemporary cultural critiques have made references to nature difficult without qualifications. Although the modernist belief in simplicitywas turned on its head by the expressive furniture of such groups as Studio Alchymia and Memphis in the late 1970S and early 198os. In the discourse of the modernists the locus of meaning was twofold: form and function.Simon has gone so far as to call design a new "science of the artificial". There is no longer agreement on a distinction between the natural and the artificial.28. 1995 349 . No. beauty. Where Simon and Jones proposed a broadening of design's subject matter to embrace all that we might call the artificial. Early modernist designers believed that meaning was embedded in the object rather than negotiated in the relation between the object and a user. unambiguous term. Herman Muthesius's call for a language of industrial forms." then its scope and boundaries are intimately entwined with our understanding of the artificial's limits. then its scope and boundaries are intimately entwined with our understanding of the artificial's limits.S. With Cole begins a discourse about objects. 349-356. as it was initiallydeveloped by early theorists such as Henry Cole. belonging to the realm of culture. the terms of the discourse were still focused on objects. The concept of design. particularly about how they should look. and Adolf Loos's antagonismto ornament. was a static one that was inextricably bound to the object.
he posited the natural as an uncontested term. Donna Haraway. like the artificial intelligence Wintermute (an AI that intervenesin social life). although his implicit positivist construction of the naturalwas also the model for his explicit methodology of design. this is no longer the case. arguing that the artificial "may imitate appearances in natural things while lacking. and some. namely as possessing the capacity for convertibilityand an indefinite transformabilityor processuality". Gibson's charactershave no grounding in the real. the equation of the naturalwith the real has been heavily contested in recent years. and Gianni Vattimo. Stanley Aronowitz. I believe the centraltheme to be addressed in this new discourse is the artificial its boundaries. This critique has at least succeeded in contesting the easy equation of the naturalwith the real and has thus made references to nature more difficult without qualifications. and Jean-Francois Lyotard's refusal to acknowledge any metanarratives or "grandsrecits" that shape social values all exemplify this tendency. The difference between the two was clear to Simon. was about objects and phenomena invented by humans. "Natural science. which he called synthesis. are totally artificial. and The Boundary Problem In the first of his Compton Lectures on "The Science of the Artificial. Since we can no longer talk about design as if these terms were not in question. the realityof the latter" . is the way humans relate to nature. most notably by poststructuralists and deconstructionists. The critique of scientific discourse mounted by Paul Feyerabend. analysis. in one or many respects. Besides the slippery subject matter of design and the questions regarding the conditions under which we can talk about its meaning. where the artificial is unbounded by any presence outside it." he wrote. critics have attempted to challenge a previous faith in scientific truth. as does Donna Haraway'sdiscourse on cyborg culture. The artificial. The two were differentiated by the term "should. While some characters are more human than others. and to acts. The Politics of the Artificial .Hence."which marked the task of humans to invent the artificial world in order to achieve their own goals while honoring the parallelpurpose of the naturalworld. goals.Three of these define the artificialas the result of human agency. For the "first modernity"-and here I will use Italian theorist Andrea Branzi's distinction between two modernities-reality was an uncontested term . By focusing on scientific thought as a linguistic construct. can claim that "only where there is no terminal or interrupting instance of the highest value (God) to block the process may values be displayed in their true nature. offers us a scenario of Neuromancer design triumphantin a world where the real is no longer a point of reference." while he defined a science of the artificial as "normative" in its engagement with human goals and questions of how things ought to be. Roland Barthes's and Michel Foucault's challenge to authorialintentions in literaclaim that ture and art. or spirit. whether we call it nature. Part of the fascination with outside the cyberpunk milieu Neuromancer is Gibson's portrayalof a world in which the artificialis dominant and where the abilityto manipulateit is the most potent human activity [lo]. a new discourse is needed. although the way that discourse will develop as a reflection on design practice is not yet clear. While these attacks on the real legiti- mately challenged implicit assumptions of positivist thought that closed out many of the voices which now constitute our cultural community. he described nature as the ground of meaning againstwhich a science of the artificial or a broadly conceived practice of design would be defined.as a basis of meaning. they also strove to abolish any presence. a hybrid of human and machine. God. Simon defined four indicia to distinguish the artificialfrom the natural. Jean Baudrillard's simulacraare signs without referents. hence we are unclear as to how or whether boundariescan be drawn around the real or authentic. and that is the nature of reality. "meaning" and "reality. that might exist beyond the frame of a sociallyconstructed discourse.in her 1985 essay "A Manifesto for Cyborgs.However. the other hand. "is knowledge about naturalobjects on and phenomena" . It was the stable ground for the attribution of meaning to objects. Vattimo concludes from his readings of Nietzsche and Heidegger that "Nihilism is thus the reduction of Being to exchange-value" . As I have already mentioned. we must also confront a more difficult problem at the heart of the politics of the artificial. When Simon compared the artificialto the natural. to images. as "a fiction mapping our social and bodily reality" .as concerned.just as the use of the term "meaning"must be.he characterized the artificialby "functions."delivered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1969. Donna Haraway. Simon's postulation of the artificialas an imitation of the naturalcarries no weight 35 Victor Margolin. When Herbert Simon called for a new science of the artificial in 1969. Herbert Simon characterized naturalscience as descriptive. We also find evidence of this in William Gibson's cyberpunk novel Neuromancer.while the act of observing. none possess any inherent resistance to the incursion of the artificialin their bodies or their lives. He does not mean this in the mercantile sense of selling the self but in terms of the self's convertibilitywithout a ground such as nature or God against which it can be defined. the Italian philosopher who has postulated "il pensiero debole. they are constructed of motives and impulses that are facilitated by the manipulation of artificialproducts. and others has since called into question the way we claim to know nature as real. Furthermore." or "weak thought" as the appropriate philosophy for the postmodern era. Simon said that artificial things result from an act of making. Hence we have two contested terms.that was grounded in belief. adaptation"and discussed it "in terms of imperativesas well as descriptives". and any mention of "reality" must be qualifiedby conditions." that severely undermine the certainties on which a theory and practice of design was built in the first modernity. "solely with how things are. Poststructuralismchallenged that idea of grounded belief as well as our right to use "meaning" as if it were a term that itself did not raise questions about the possible conditions of its use." could argue for the cyborg. Today.
it has also reinforced the belief of many that social life has no ground of meaning. That is why we spend more to produce economically valuable engineered species than to protect economically useless endangeredones. In the most profound sense. Although metanarratives of the modern have been variously defined.. including myself. meaning only exists for Baudrillard in the operation of exchange rather than in a realityoutside it. let loose on what remains of nature without any moral or ethicalimperativeto govern it is terrifying. "nothing more than operational" . being is convertible into infinite forms. Although Baudrillardis a prophet of doom. the real for is Baudrillard. The world of Neuromancer a reflecis tion of Baudrillard's own nihilism. Rather than an imitation of nature. in order to increase overall social efficiency and profit. But the recognition of difference has also led to a widespread refusal to postulate the world in terms of shared values. The characters in Neuromancer have even themselves but without an designed external ethical imperative or an inner sense of self to guide them. The technical possibilities of Expanding the Discourse The collapse of a particularmodernist paradigm has opened the space of social discourse to many voices that were formerly marginalized or suppressed.in this context. Victor Margolin. As Lyotard states in The Postmodern Conditionof 1979. in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference [1 3]. how do we reflect on the issue of meaning in Gibson's world? We first need to question what meaning is in a world where reality is no longer the ground on which values are formed. many people. and artistshave defined and elaboratedit. the belief in progress animated by instrumental reason is a central one. Although Lyotard's skepticism has usefully stimulated a critical analysis of how social discourses are constructed. Instrumental reason continues to alter species and biosystems for human use. In his book Simulations. led by Lyotard."Baudrillardbelieves there can be no representation since "simulationenvelops the whole edifice of representationas itself a simulacrum". that is to say. The disbelief in metanarratives. the specter of instrumental reason.particularly among prominent cultural theorists. The Politics of the Artificial 35 1 . Such biosystems might be simulacra of nature without our even knowing it. As in Neuromancer. reduced to the signs which attest his existence? Then the whole system becomes weightless. If design in Neuromancer victorious is at the expense of reality. it is no longer anything but a gigantic simulacrum-not unreal. and he wants to guard against the hegemonic dominance of knowledge that in his perception may be illegitimate. as is the belief in universals rather than differences. However. But this does not mean that it has to be countered by sustaininga modernist position that is no longer valid.. is Neuromancer a fictional depiction of world of the simulacrum. have already blurred the boundaries between the artificialand the real. He believes that knowledge may be accepted as legitimate for reasons other than its inherent truth. but the metaphoricalevocation of life in the present" . Jean Baudrillard's As in Gibson's novel."This wager was based on the belief that signs could exchange for depths of meaning and that something external to the mentions God-could exchange-he it. Meaning then becomes a strategic concept that exists pragmatically at the interface of design and use. The materials that constitute the substance of design have alreadygone that through so many transformations their locus in natureis no longer evident. and values of identity are constituted primarily of throughthe manipulation technology. These biosystems still maintain the appearance of the natural in that they draw their energy from the earth. never again exchanging for what is real. Lyotard refers to the situation of difference as "a biotechnology.. have insisted that metanarrativesare no longer possible. but a simulacrum. Mark Sagoff has described the potential impact of advances in biotechnology on the environment: The goal of biotechnology is to improve upon nature. "I define as incredulity toward metanarpostmodern ratives" . pragmaticsof language particles" . with its increasing technological power. He expresses his doubt as follows: But what if God himself can be simulated. is an essential factor in the argument that the postmodern is a rupture with the modern. critics. According to him. the managed biosystem becomes a replacementof it. but their transformation from natural to managed systems may disengage them from a larger ecological balance that their managers are either unaware of or do not wish to take into account. which Jean-Francois Lyotard defines as any large idea or presence that exists as an uncontested phenomenon outside the realm of human social action. However. the simulacrumis a sign for the real that substitutes for the real itself. to replace naturalorganisms and processes with artificialones. Its value is determined by operational rather than semantic concerns. He sees the West as having lost what he calls the "wager on representation. Baudrillardhimguarantee self expresses no faith in God or a metanarrative of equivalent power. as described by Sagoff. are unhappy with the postmoder condition as Lyotard and other scholars. And yet postmodern theorists.Baudrillard discusses the difficulty of finding meaning in a world without a metanarrative. In the world portrayedby Gibson. The result is what he calls the "hyperreal. but exchanging in itself. The issues raised here are similar to those previouslyreferredto in Neuromancer and thus justify the critic Peter Fitting's reading of Gibson's world as "not so much an image of the future. And that is also why we continually turn whatever naturaland wild ecological systems we may have-from rain forests to savannas to estuaries-into carefullymanaged and engineered (and therefore predictableand profitable) bioindustrialproductive systems . I use interprequalifiersto account for Lyotard's tation of legitimate and illegitimate knowledge to ensure that we relate his thought to his own perception of truth rather than to anything that is or isn't inherentlytruthful. his ability to explore the implications of a world without the presence of the real is useful.
terized by the quest for meaning and unity in relationswith others. and many 35 2 Victor Margolin. been involved with numerous other causes relatedto a healthy environment. The only way to distinguish between the two is to identify one with a value that is missing in the other.which is at the core and experience in generating positive of ecofeminist spiritual belief. the earth is a living being with whom we must cooperate.particularlyfor economic profit. The accomplishments of ecofeminists on two fronts-opposing groups that damage the earth's ecology and creating actions that draw women together to collaborate positively with the life forces of the Earth-signify the power of a narrative in changing human action. can serve as a basis for forests. which the ecofeminists identify from which to engage postmodern theowith patriarchy. It can only acknowledge an absence of meaning. the Goddess narweb of life and a rethinkingof the relationof rative can nonetheless form part of a both humanityand divinityto nature . particularly as a ground of meaning that testifies to the limits of the artificial. This is it design. They have also demonBoth the Gaia metaphor and the strated the power of spiritual conviction Goddess narrative. believes that way. particularly regards but it would certainlybe characdesign. to political action. but we have had little chance to explore its meaning because it has been suppressed by a powerful intellectual discourse of materialism. have simply begun from a difmental. within contemporary Earth. When they are seen as interchangeable. as well. I refer to it here as it is manifested in human action. as biotech managers prefer to do.action. addressing the problems of meaning and reality that have arisen from the expansion of the artificial. and emotional being. There is much that design and technology have to gain from a metanarrative of divinely inspired spirituality. The confusion between the artificial and the natural that the capabilities of biotechnology have engendered exists because both realms have been reduced to exchange-value. Simulacra and the Real I realize that spirituality. Startingfrom a marginalizedposition. and spirituality also share the belief that the earth is alive. vegetables. Where they have been less effecerated a strong critique of instrumental tive is in establishing a rhetorical stance reason. flourishes only at the expense of the natural. that could be consistently and cooperaminerals. also an ries in both a critical and an affirmative ecofeminist. It can also recognize the significance of the many incisive critiques of contemporary culture and the attention they have brought to the problem of the artificial.If a broad discourse on the spirit can become as compelling for other social groups as the Goddess narrativehas been for ecofeminists. its capacity to animate humans from within themselves while also existing as a presence outside them. It can acknowledge the value of a social narrative in modernist thought while recognizing the shortcomings of the first modernity's faith in universal categories and instrumentalreason. is one of the most contested terms in our contemporary vocabulary. From the position of ecofeminism. but. As Paula Gunn Allen writes: and the proliferationof nuclear weapons and have. the destruction of the rain to the Divine. is physical and therefore a spiritual. tively pursued within the framework of a new narrative. more inclusive metanarrativeof spirituality within which differencecan be asserted For ecofeminists the narrative of just as the postmodernists argue it must Goddess spirituality has been a powerful be done socially. as are all their by-products or nihilistic poststructuralists. According to James Lovelock's Gaiaprinciple. It is difficult to say what form this as action would take. ecology."that late twentieth-century machines have made thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and artificial. the depletion of the ozone layer. mind and body. or some other transcendent source. A recognition of the Divine as neither exclusively matriarchal nor patriarchal can overcome the breach between the modern and the postmodern in several ways.and I in and participated demonstrationsagainst interpret spiritualityhere as a connection acid rain.with a project expressions.whether we link it to God. have gen. They have. Extreme views of biotechnologists and ecologists who collapse the distinction between the artificialand the natural can be contrasted with another set of views that regard nature as sacred. made a place for themselves cultural discourse. one can be substituted for the other without any sense of loss. then it has the capacityto empower large numbers of people to find meaning and fulfillment in action directed to the well-being and life enhancement of themselves and others. the Goddess.While I trace spirituality to a transcendent source. implicitly challenged Lyotard's dismissal of metanarrathe preservationof the Earth requiresa tives by producing a narrative of their own that is clearly empowering. The Politics of the Artificial . Planets are They ferent position from either positivists or alive. Donna Haraway states in "A Manifesto for Cyborgs. What characterizes the spiritual is both its immanence and its transcendence. Ecofeminists who have adopted the triadic values of feminism. the postmodern philosophy of Vattimo and Lyotard has little to offer those who wish to act together constructively. Grandmother activity. through cooperative intellectual The planet. such as animals. is not simply to oppose patriarchalpower but "to transform the structureof power itself" . another ecofeminist says. Ecofeminism has also made a valuable contribution to the understandingof discourse formationthroughits resistanceto a narrative has closed out earthat patriarchal lier matriarchal cultures in which women maintainedroles of authority. Hence. as in Neuromancer. our mother. selfdeveloping and externally designed. They have led impetus Spiritualityas a metanarrative. Their aim. While it profound shift in consciousness:a recoveryof more ancient and traditional views that revere might be seen as marginal because so the profound connection of all beings in the few people embrace it. Carol Christ. however. climatic and meteorological phenomena . the ecofeminists have. as Starhawk.
or Or a piano. For Case. as virtualrealityresearch makes the visualizationof electronic identities more palpable. the artificial entertainment.Case. as from video games to interactiveVR environments. is part of a continuity narrative.In fact. displaysa shrewdintelligencein breaking through barriersto crack information codes. Lawyers are already at work on cases where electronic events have threatened or violated constitutional rights and have resulted in psychological or even physical harm to individuals. will The images of becoming as explorations of fantasy are a far cry from the discourses about human development embodied in the different strands of the Within this metaspiritualmetanarrative. This distinction was made by Dennis Doordan in an article on simulation techniques in museum exhibits . the lack of a metanarrative that can serve as a source of normative values compels Haraway to emphasize power and economics as primary in determining the boundaries of the artificial and the real. Thus the boundarybetween the simulated and the real collapses and the simulated becomes the new real. Neuromancer. Recall the comment of Case. legal codes will not be applied to virtual action without great difficulty. with no reference to an experience outside itself.modified and erased is hostile to a deliberatelegal system that arose in an era of tangible things and relies on documentaryevidence to validate transactions. New technology always promises more. Surely. In a 1989 interview. The ease with which electronic impulses can be manipulated. As we know from the many accounts of hacker behavior and from novels such as Neuromancer. I'veconsidered beinga piano. neither Lanier nor others involved in VR research privilege personal fantasy as the primary justifica- tion for what they do.this certainlyappearstrue. Gibson's antihero in "The body is meat" . the primary issue raised by virtual reality technology relates to whether we experience simulation as a mark or a mask. or mightbe something quitedifferent. . Lanier spoke euphorically about the new possibilities of VR: The computer that's runningthe Virtual Realitywill use your body's movements to control whatever bodyyou chooseto have in Virtual whichmightbe human Reality.virtual reality. a cyberpunk writer and libertarian. It may also become such a powerful diversion that incursions into the natural by aggressive biotech corporations go unnoticed. is Whereas Neuromancer a dystopic narof self-interestand power played out rative through design and the control of technology. A principal theme of technological discourse is that innovative devices will enable us to do things we have not done before. the simulation becomes a simulacrum. a place where constraints can be overcome and new freedoms can be discovered. . as Baudrillardhas pointed out.Measured of againsta reductiveunderstanding "natural" experience. the symbolic world of the Net becomes for Case a more intense and expansiverealitythan his corporealone. may become even more engaging than corporeal life . virtual reality suggests that electronic identity offers something greater or more fulfilling than bodily existence. The counterbalanceof perceived constraintsin corporeal society and the envisioned freedom of an electronic self raise questions about how physical reality is valued in relation to its virtual counterpart. In a world of collapsed boundaries between the artificial and the real. You mightverywellbe a mountain range or a galaxy a pebbleon the floor. a marginalfigure in real life. The Politics of the Artificial 3 53 . as has Jaron Lanier. this is classic techno-rhetoric.becoming Victor Margolin. Brenda Laurel has described the many experiences that VR will make possible. which has already become a site for virtual sex.incriminatemiscreants and affirm contractualrelations . Cynicism about the constructivepossibilities of the American political system leaves a vacuum of meaningin civil society that offers little or no resistanceto the artificial. However. In Baudrillard's sense. As attorney Ann Branscomb states. quite Needless to say. and he shows considerablecourage in maneuvering his way through nets of electronic opposition.no 'natural'architectures constrain system design" . What is possible.cyberspace is a political frontier where the world can be invented anew without constraints. When the edge is masked. is that the potential for boundariesbetween corporealand virtual identities to become blurred will increase. will continue to develop into a powerful entertainmentmedium.other distinctions that used to apply to organismsand machines . electronic for some may no longer be a repidentity resentation of a self but may become the self againstwhich life in the body is poor psychic competition. When the designer marks the edge of simulation. but it is certainly a strong element and one that promises extensive economic payoff. Let's take virtual reality research as an example . Virtual reality enthusiasts sometimes speak of VR as an alternative to the physical world. psychic engagement with electronic communication can be intense. Such an absence also makes resistanceto technology more difficult. But the expectation that this new symbolic territory will be immune to the same tendencies to regulate life that characterize the corporeal world is unrealistic. We are told that new experiences made possible by technology will be expansive. Harawayclaims that we are moving to a "polymorphous information system" in which "any objects or persons can be reasonably thought of in terms of disassembly and reassembly. jackinginto cyberspaceis a life-enhancing experience that is more meaningful than being in his body. or for manipulating machines electronicallyat a distance. While it promises numerous advantages as a simulation device for training surgeons or pilots. However. Haraway proposes her view of this new polymorphous flexibilityas a vehicle for positive social change. In cyberspace. But the power of lived spirituality can enlarge the experience of being and thus provide a strongerposition from which to supportor resistnew technologies. it is distinguished as a second-order experience whose referent is more authentic. I'minterested beingmusical in instruments a lot . one of the medium's founders and early spokespersons. On one level. For some. For Bruce Sterling.
spirituality must be brought from the margins of contemporary thought to a more central position. The Politics of the Artificial . spiritual evolution is the ground of reality against which the virtues of the artificialmust be assessed. Spirituality and the Future of Design We are now challenged to take up the same question as Teilhard at a moment when the capabilities of technology are outstripping our understanding of what it means to be human . As he wrote in an unpublished text of 1937. is a service. or designing mechanisms of artificialsupport that render future design action redundant. We are living in a moment which Teilhardde Chardin could not have conceived in 1937. an artificial-life environment. we would have to wrestlewith questionsof whetherparticular forms of artificiality-a genetic mutant. for example-were appropriate replacementsfor equivalent phenomena we have designated as natural. It/I/they also have to discover how to stop designing. spaces. I don't want to make grandiose claims for spiritualityas the source of an entirely new design paradigm when in fact many of our products already fully satisfy human needs. "No objects. Such reflection can resist the reduction of the artificial to simulacra.we need to understand the connection to the Divine as a force of evolution that is not in opposition to technology but at the same time offers some of the equivalent fulfillmentwe currently seek in the realm of the artificial. As a rhetoricalmove. the proper code. It can provide instead a more profound and conscious reflection on the artificial as a subject which has yet to be explored with any depth by designers and technologists. can be constructed for processing signals in a common language" . it is the love of the Divine that animates human beings to strive together towards a higher unity. As artificial beings like cyborgs or replicants more closely represent what we have always thought a human is. it can enable technologists and designers to make decisions about what research directions to pursue and what to design . is to reintroduce the concept of spiritualityinto the currentphilosophic debates from which it has been excluded. "any component can be interfaced with any other if the proper standard. The first step. the more likely he or she is to design a valuable product . To move towards a self that is more differentiatedfrom rather than similar to artificial constructs. but it is one in which we need to engage if we are not to be engulfed by simulacra. they have to be more critical. In short. and the natural. While Fry was referring to the effects of too much design on the naturalenvironment. The late Jesuit theologian and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin related the motivation to embrace spiritualevolution to the force with which it is experienced: In any morality of movement. It generates the products that we require to live our lives. or violations of nature. which is humanmade. But I do want to suggest that the more a designer or an engineer can conceive of a user as a person of depth and worth. on the other. To the degree that our activities are enabled by the presence of useful products. which always argues for the superiorityof the artificial. or an expert AI system. one that does not attempt to completely replace the natural but moves instead to complement it. This view is in opposition to the thrust of techno-rhetoric. It means finding a way of talking about the spiritual that does not present it in but opposition to the artificial instead recforms of the artificialas ognizes particular fruitful manifestationsof spiritualenergy. A metanarrative of spirituality can help designers resist techno-rhetoric that sanctions the continuous colonization of the natural. The task is difficultbecause of the plurality of human experience and the lack of a discourse that can accommodate the presence of spiritualityeven for those who resist it or marginalize it. it nonetheless empowers us to stake out a different territory for design. it is imperative that the goal shall shine with enough light to be desired and held in view .leaving ambiguous the relation of the bounty hunter played by Harrison Ford to the female replicant. By considering its place in our reflections on the artificial. which is only defined by relation to a state or object to be reached. or bodies are sacred in themselves" she argued in "A Manifesto for Cyborgs". "What we are all more or less lacking at this moment is a new definition of holiness" . 354 tictor Margolin. that whatever they/I design goes on designing. This is not an easy task. we would have to manage the boundaries between the artificial. For example. understood in a deeper sense. which draws humans into a closer relation with machines. we can raise questions about design and technology that would otherwise go unasked. on the contrary. The film Blade Runnerplays with this idea of interchangeability. The Australian design theorist Tony Fry has addressed this problem in a recent lecture on eco-design given at Notre Dame University. As manifested in product design and technological devices. I find his words germane to the larger issue of boundariesfor the artificial: Designers have to become more informed about the environmental impact of what they do. whose feeling for him may or may not be the equivalent of human love. however. as a paleontologist. we are hard pressed to define the difference between us and them. which exists independent of human design. on the one hand. he realized that humans need to think about spirituality in a new way that does not oppose the realm of the spirit to that of science. While this distinction is more problematic than it may have appeared to Herbert Simon in 1969. Yet. This is the problem that Donna Haraway addressed with her myth of the cyborg. They/I have to fully recognize. more responsible. which implies learning how to let essential systems be. For those who hold this belief.of development that results in a self which understands its purpose within a larger framework of spiritual evolution. Design. To the degree that a metanarrativeof is spirituality articulatedas a discourse on human purpose. spirituality can be a source for cultivatinga sense of what is worthwhile. For Teilhard the Jesuit priest. a moment where the real cannot be taken for granted but must be wrested from the artificial.
the deconstruction of scientific discourse. In the face of such a prospect. References and Notes 1. and John ChrisJones."A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science." states Branzi. maintenance. This term enables him to continue talking about a "project for design. there is no choice but to fight back. world than it is a natural world" . TheSciences the of Artificial(Cambridge. See Constance Penley VictorMargolin. He characterizesthe second modernityin terms of a set of theorems that differentiatethe conditions of design from the prior period. No. see Richard Buchanan. I want to return to Herbert Simon's 1969 Compton Lectures. 1988). as the artificial's incursion into the natural domain of our lives advances. While ecological concern is no substitute for the spiritual.MA: MIT Press. 5. Learning Milan:DesignandtheSecond from Modernity (Cambridge. Most importantly. 6. Technology. it can have an effect on what the market produces. could become a parallel economy where electronic analogs of corporeal experience are bought and sold. 1990). Simon  p. See Herbert Simon. Among those heavily invested in the artificial as a replacement for the natural. eco-design has nonetheless generated a discourse in which the natural and human cooperation with it are central. but no theory has thus far addressed this problem."WickedProblems in Design Thinking."For Branzi the principles of necessity and identity may refer to the Modernist movement's concern with function and its faith in objects that could embody a sense of absolute value. or artificial. longevity. In recent years several tendencies have challenged this emphasis. Thus. Among them is the conceptualizationof design as strategicplanning. See Andrea Branzi. for example. See also Branzi. Haraway reflected on her essay in several subsequent interviews. 4. 6. 2. 6. The various critiques of positivism and patriarchy. A greater attentiveness to questions of human welfare and purpose can also help us weigh the merits of new technologies as well as the possibilities they offer for the design of products. This activity could absorb vast amounts of capital and concentrate it in the hands of a few corporations that control the technology to make it happen. What I believe is important in in Simon's work.is his delineation of the natural and the artificial as distinct realms. "is an acceptance of Modernityas an artificialculturalsystem based neither on the principle of necessity nor on the principle of identity but on a set of conventional cultural and linguistic values that somehow make it possible for us to go on making choices and designing.MA: MIT Press. designing design (London: Architectureand Technology Press. To consider the question of the artificial in the way we need to. Simon  p. 7. The design of cyberspace. the natural is not interchangeable with the artificial. "Three Theorems for an Ecology of the ArtificialWorld. a spiritual metanarrative can empower individualsto act confidently and forcefully in the face of a widespreadculturalnihilism. Branzi has devised the term "second modernity"to characterizeour present moment. "An Ecology of the Artificial"and "Towardsa Second Modernity. 66 (March-April 1985). A discourse on human purpose generated independently of the market is not utopian. and Simon acknowledges that "the world we live in today is much more a man-made. we may lose part of our humanity. 3. 4."in Branzi."DesignIssues8. 4. and Socialist Feminism in the 198os. particularly terms of my own call for a new metanarrative." SocialistReview 80. And yet. For a discussion of how changes in human experience stimulatenew forms of design practice. But I don't think we can accept Simon's assumption that either "nature" or "science" hold uncontested claims to truth. This metanarrative can also reunite design with the two contested terms "meaning" and "reality" in a way that resists their collapse. In recent years ecology has become important to product designers and the public. Donna Haraway. and the multiple new voices that now fill the space of social debate are all part of a different situation within which the artificial must be rethought. 2. and other factors . It can link design to a process of social improvement that becomes the materialcounterpartof spiritualevolution. The Politics of the Artificial 355 . A metanarrative of spirituality can empower designers and technologists to better understand design as a form of action that contributes to social wellbeing. 1969) p. Simon  p. without having to ignore either Postmodernism'scritical responses to Modernism or the culturalcomplexities of the present that it has recognized. Today we recognize that the artificial is a much more complex phenomenon than postulated by Simon in 1969." one that can absorb infinite amounts of human ingenuity ."in La Quarta Ambientale (Milan: Designe Cultura Metropoli: Domus Academy Edizioni. they may also generate new products that respond to previously unimagined human activities. As designers and technologists develop a more caring feeling for how people live. Another is an emphasis on the interactive aspects of "smart"objects such as the Xerox copying machine. Bruce Sterling has characterized virtual reality as the "ultimate designable medium." as the designers of the first modernity did. 1991).resistance to this challenge is strong. There is clearly a need to understand the meaning of products within a larger set of issues about the artificial. Although the natural can be transformed into the artificial through human action. Here a sense of continuitywith the modem period can reinvigoratethe idea of a larger project for design that needs to be thought anew in relation to contemporary conditions. we are now rethinking the construction and purpose of many products in terms of materials. "WhatI mean by this term. We need to ask ourselves whether the construction of such analogs is where designers can most usefully concentrate their talent and the economy its capital?I think not. 5-22 (Spring 1992).spiritualityis the attention to human welfare and life enhancement seen in relation both to the individual self and to humanity as a whole. We therefore need to address it as a problem in new way.
Vol. Moravec in his search for congruencies The Reweaving of edited and with essays by Irene Diamond and Gloria Feman Orenstein (San Francisco:Sierra Club Books. 1988) p. 1984). "Common Law for the Electronic Frontier. 17. llo. 69. Human Intelligence (Cambridge. 10." Whole in with Donna Haraway. Snyder (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Trained as a Buddhist priest before becoming a designer. Icographic No." pp. 1992."Power. 2. 19. and the GeographyIs Elsewhere:Postscript to 'Cyborg at Large'. 11. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. 1969) p. xxiv. Dennis Doordan." It is "a portable device that helps the Japanese people communicate with their ancestors and. From EcoCities to Living Machines (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books. above all. with themselves."in Lev Ginzburg. Design. II Corpo Tecnologico: Influence delle Tecnologie Corpo e sulle Sue Facolta sul Ekuan views products as more than functional objects. Chicago. xenophobic. 34. Australia. The opposite course is taken by Hans the World: Emergence Ecofeminism." in Diamond and Orenstein  p. Christ. 16. 11o (Fall 1989). MA: Harvard University Press. 14. Baudrillard p. This is a revised version of an earlier edition that was entitled Bioshelters. February 1993. "RethinkingTheology and Nature. For an extensive survey of virtual reality research." Baudrillard. 82. Ann Branscomb. 155. This theme is particularly significant in light of the current emergence of right-wing. 1984) p. Minnesota Press. see Peter Fitting. 23. Teilhard de Chardin  p. Haraway  p. Jean-FrancoisLyotard. 37. For information. Assessing (Bologna: Baskerville.. lo. Margolin is also the editor of Design Discourse:History. 1988). 1983) 12. a small portable Buddhist altar that can be installed in the home. Sterling made these comments as part of a presentation at the Cooper-Hewitt conference "At the Edge of the Millennium" in New York City." 2. The survival of democratic institutions and the struggle for social justice now require significant attention and action by many who may find it more tempting to ignore this call and devote their primary attention to the electronic realm. 3. 1984). 8. 39. Nature Is Coyote.. ed.No. 21. 3. Ethics. 3. See Stelarc. a journal of between humans and machines. "Da strategie a cyberstrategie: prostetica.Criticism (1989) and the co-editor of DiscoveringDesign: Explorations in Design Studies (1995)." in Pier Luigi La Capucci. William Gibson. 140-143. Gianni Vattimo. 112 (September 1991). See Hans Moravec. ed." in Teilhard de Chardin. Virtual Reality (London: Seeker & Warburg. Design Quarterly. Haraway. 76. 2]) pp. 65-84 21. 35. 9. In this paper Ekuan makes special reference to the butsudan. A recent exhibition catalog by Jeffrey Deitch and Dan Friedman is entitled Post-Human (New York: J. the same volume by Donna Haraway." unpublished paper presented at Notre Dame University. Mind Children:The Future of Robot and history." (April-June1991). followed in 26. Deitch." in Design and Industry. Similar Risks of Biotechnology a themes are addressed in Incorporations. 1991). A hopeful alternative to this conclusion is the current discussion within the Internet community on the relation of electronic space to the body. 30." in Vattimo. see Howard Rheingold. Constance Penley and Andrew Politics. Australia.O. 295-316. p. Jean Baudrillard. 18. A leading organization in this field is the Eco-Design Foundation in Sydney. 1991) p. 36."The Actors Are Cyborg. City Farming: Ecologyas the Basis of Design (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. Moholy-Nagy. January 15-18." Technoculture [Cultural Earth Review. No. 356 VictorMargolin. OceanArks. 20. Translatedand with an introduction by Jon R. Baudrillard p. 1991) pp. and fundamentalist groups around the world whose messianic militancy has posed a severe challenge to liberal democracy. Rozelle. contact the foundation at P. 11. Victor Margolin teaches design history at the of Illinois. Translated from the French by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis:Universityof Minnesota Press. Starhawk. The Australian performance artist Stelarc has created a performance that deconstructs the idea of the human through an intensive relation of biology and technology. An important book that demonstrates the kinds of new products that can result from an alternative design paradigm is Nancy Jack Todd and John Todd. translated with a prologue and notes by Walter Kaufmann (New York: Scribner's. "Overhaulingthe Meaning Machines:An Interview with Donna Socialist Review No. 4." Diamond and Orenstein  p. 32. 1984 [Design Policy. 1994). ed. TheEnd of Modernity: NihilismandHermeneutics Postmodern in Culture. p.Richard Langdon. robotica ed esistenza remota. 1-20. 38. Baudrillard  p. The work of the Japanese industrial designer Kenji Ekuan is a good example of how spiritual values can be self-consciously brought into design practice. and criticism and is currently a co-editor. See also Marcy Darnovsky. 27. For a reflection on the relation of Gibson's novels to central issues of Postmodernism. 1970). The Politics of the Artificial . "The Precession of in Simulations Simulacra. 52. He writes that "the butsudanrepresents the essence of man's life in a condensed form. 36 (Spring 1992). 81. 28. (New York: Semiotext(e).MA: Ecological issue of Zone edited by Jonathan Crary and Butterworth-Heinemann. "The Phenomenon of Spirituality. Human Energy (London: Collins. 25.Lissitzky. ThePostmodern A on Condition: Report Knowledge. 1992). 3]. "An Apology for Nihilism. 1994) pp. Haraway  p. Theory." Scientific American 265. New South Wales 2039. 22. 21-26." I cite his characterization of the butsudan as indicative of his aim to embody spiritual values in material products." in 33. "On MakingNature Safe for Biotechnology. 1917-1946. Box 369. Forthcoming books include The Idea of Design (co-editor) and The Struggle Utopia: for Rodchenko. Mark Sagoff. Martin Buber has addressed the question of depth in human relationships in his seminal book I and Thou.and Andrew Ross. He is the University founding editor of Design Issues. Haraway  p. Authority. Vattimo  p. 1990) p. 109. "Nature on Display. a Planet. and in Mystery. Tony Fry. Carol P. (Minneapolis:University of Ross." eds. 29. 21. "Smallness as an Idea. 345. "Cyborgat Large:Interview 24. 58. See Kenji Ekuan. "The in Lessons of Cyberpunk. 61-76. Simon  13. xxiv. "Crisis. Fitting [lo] p. 15." Penley and Ross  PP. Neuromancer (New York: Ace Books. 299. 31. 1992 [Zone ]). 2-3 (March 1984). Paula Gunn Allen. theory. "The Woman I Love Is Sanford Kwinter (New York: Zone. The Planet I Love Is a Tree. 21. special (Stoneham. "An Interview with Jaron Lanier. I discussed Buber's work as the basis for a new design ethics in my article "Community and the Graphic Designer. (London: Design Council. Vol.