The experiments and research posted on the blog led to a possible methodology for Unconditional Programming. Go to www.thisthatandtheothers.com to view the resulting “programs” (stop motion animations created using the open source 3-D modeling tool, Google SketchUp), The Manual, and a collection of examples across a possible 5 step process:
“The first objective has been to establish whether the physical world can have a structure similar to the digital world. In effect, if a network is made up of nodes, connections, an environment and protocols that relate its content, in the case of the physical world, the world can be understood as a superposing of natural environments, the networks that crisscross it and functional nodes.”
It’s hard to imagine a time when, like the Arctic before the race for exploration began, or North America before its first colonization, the outlook for civilization was a blank slate. Rather than exploring through the marshlands of wilderness, our modern-day explorations ask for us to navigate through a landscape of mass-information and structural overload. In this new hybrid “post-natural” landscape, our role is no longer mapping the unknown, but rather disentangling an understanding of the “natural” from an increasingly structured and standardized world. Does the “natural” exist in glitches between our designed systems? Is the equivalent of past explorations of vast expanses now a sort of “view code” transparency of process within existing development? How might we capitalize on our current systematic instability and reconsider the possibility for integrating “natural” human understandings within what looks to be an increasingly structured world?
Although we may feel like giving up in what feels like a dead end endeavor, cross-disciplinary research is promising (among many include architect Christopher Alexander’s calls to apply his work with a generative pattern language to computer programming). We may now be able to achieve great momentum extending micro and macro scales, potentially fulfilling the prophesies which, until now, have only been written about in literary masterpieces speculating adaptable urban designs by the likes of Thomas More, H.G. Wells, Italo Calvino, and more recently, China Miéville. Borrowing from a method of reverse engineering, This, That, and the Other explores a “big design” methodology which imagines the micro rebuilding of macro systems, and the possibility of a “rational-based” algorithmic system as the next step in our logic-based information age.
Inspired by my manifesto, I contemplated the difficulties of discovering a manifesto given the
constraints of “fixed” systems for expression (from the syntax of a conditional programming language
to the common phrases which form our narratives). I continued to write poems in code, collecting
more experiences which fit between me and my environment, between logic and my own rationale.
Throughout this exercise, I borrowed from my own limited understanding of the conditional
programming language of “If’s” and “Then’s, sneaking in snippets of storytelling within
the comments beneath the coded syntax. How can we achieve the kind of intuitive
exploration practiced by Gertrude Stein if we don’t speak the language? Code is
different than writing – inherently a logical process less kind to the facilitation of intuitive
exploration, instead asking for translation into logical processes. This translation
simplifies complex “information” of the human experience. To use it, I would need to
adapt myself into it, rather than the other way around. This inspired more experiments,
exploring how to affect codes if I don’t speak the language.
I wanted to execute my urban observations, not wanting them not to disappear into thin air because of
an inability to translate beyond a vector illustration. I tried both encoding and decoding my
experiences: using my iPhone to encode films of me attempting to communicate with
neighboring windows by turning on and off my phone; and decoding through exercises in
“experience mapping” where I would map them out and label things with x’s and y’s.
capabilities? Do they continue as unseen, undocumented and resisting reflection and
adaptation? The simple answer is that most of these experiences usually stay as just
that – fleeting moments of joy, experienced as we retell them in our conversations, but
rarely do they have a place where they can be logged or searched, or reintegrated into
the system. Sometimes, someone creates a space for them to live, such as the internet
craze of sites to catalogue funny happenings, or “memes”, or the color-based search site
False Arms. How can a designed format facilitate cross-relational understandings? Are
there parallels to these kind of havens for the undocumented on a city scale?
Despite the perceived “crash” of cities such as Detroit and Pittsburgh, these cities seem
to be experiencing exponential growth in new industries such as sustainable architecture
and urban farming. It seems as though it is precisely the failing of their previously
established systems which has attracted those who might share Thoreau’s desire to
explore the sublime in a lack of development. After ten years of living in Pittsburgh, I
noticed this first-hand, seeing an influx of alternative communities who felt frustrated
with the increasing success of their previous homes in Portland and who had migrated
east after hearing word of the “potential” in Pittsburgh.