3 C’s of service design

More on this later, but I wanted to jot down this framework:

Service design aims to get three things right:

  • Continuity: ensure the whole experience is designed without thoughtless gaps at any unconsidered moment where the customer is confused, frustrated or unserved.
  • Consistency: design the experience to maximize familiarity and “learn once, use often.”
  • Climax: build memorable and differentiating highlights into the experience that make it special to the customer.
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The “yes, but, so” of pseudoliberalism

What is it about Rorty that makes him so satisfying to disagree with? Rorty’s mistakes and omissions make me like him even more. Maybe it is because his ultimate goals and tacit evaluations correspond to my own, and our disagreements are merely around facts and inferences.

Rorty was profoundly pluralistic, and you can feel it.

[I meant to just write about Rorty, but here the post takes a turn toward the theme of emergencies and liberalism, which appears to be my live problem right now.]

Rorty, as far as I know, never did that pseudoliberal move of piously nodding to the ideal of liberalism and then immediately finding reasons to betray it for the sake of saving it from those illiberal others.

Yes, there are illiberals. Yes, they attack liberalism from the inside when they attack it from the outside by forcing it to resort to illiberal measures to defend itself. But with pseudoliberals the eagerness to find necessities to resort to illiberal measures is palpable. Their faces brighten when they find the “yes, but… so…” that lets them have it both ways: appealing to liberal principles to support their own liberty, while finding themselves in the midst of an emergency that calls for privileging their own judgments over those who view things differently. “Yes, but people’s safety is at risk, so…” “Yes, but there is corruption (or conspiracy!) at the very root of the institutions we are supposed to trust, so…” “Yes, but the public is too deluded and stupid to judge for itself, so…” “Yes, but the USA’s form of liberal democracy was corrupted from the start, and the stain of sin remains, so…” “Yes, but we are being overrun by hordes of illegal immigrants, so…” etc., etc., etc.

*

Saturday, I tried to explain to a conservative friend that if we arbitrarily decide an illegal immigration problem (that is actually on a trajectory of improvement) is such an emergency that it justifies use of extra-democratic emergency powers, he has no right to complain in 2022 when President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declares an emergency over poverty or institutional racism or worker’s rights.

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Rorty on public and private beliefs

This passage from Rorty’s absolutely brilliant essay “Pragmatism as Romantic Polytheism” made a very deep impression on my politics:

I turn now to the other big difference between Nietzsche on the one hand and James and Dewey on the other. Nietzsche thinks religious belief is intellectually disreputable; James and Dewey do not.

In order to defend James and Dewey’s tolerance for theism against Nietzsche, I shall sketch a pragmatist philosophy of religion in five brief theses. Then I shall try to relate these theses to what James and Dewey actually said about belief in God.

First, it is an advantage of the antirepresentationalist view of belief that James took over from Bain and Peirce — the view that beliefs are habits of action — that it frees us from the responsibility to unify all our beliefs into a single worldview. If our beliefs are all parts of a single attempt to represent a single world, then they must all hang together fairly tightly. But if they are habits of action, then, because the purposes served by action may blamelessly vary, so may the habits we develop to serve those purposes.

Second, Nietzsche’s attempt to “see science through the optic of art, and art through that of life,” like Arnold’s and Mill’s substitution of poetry for religion, is an attempt to make more room for individuality than can be provided either by orthodox monotheism, or by the Enlightenment’s attempt to put science in the place of religion as a source of Truth. So the attempt, by Tillich and others, to treat religious faith as “symbolic,” and thereby to treat religion as poetic and poetry as religious, and neither as competing with science, is on the right track. But to make it convincing we need to drop the idea that some parts of culture fulfill our need to know the truth and others fulfill lesser aims. The pragmatists’ romantic utilitarianism does drop this idea: if there is no will to truth apart from the will to happiness, there is no way to contrast the cognitive with the noncognitive, the serious with the nonserious.

Third, pragmatism does permit us to make another distinction, one that takes over some of the work previously done by the old distinction between the cognitive and the noncognitive. The new distinction is between projects of social cooperation and projects of individual self- development. Intersubjective agreement is required for the former projects, but not for the latter. Natural science is a paradigmatic project of social cooperation: the project of improving man’s estate by taking account of every possible observation and experimental result in order to facilitate the making of predictions that will come true. Law is another such paradigm. Romantic art, by contrast, is a paradigmatic project of individual self-development. Religion, if it can be disconnected from both science and morals — from the attempt to predict the consequences of our actions and the attempt to rank human needs — may be another such paradigm.

Fourth, the idea that we should love Truth is largely responsible for the idea that religious belief is “intellectually irresponsible.” But there is no such thing as the love of Truth. What has been called by that name is a mixture of the love of reaching intersubjective agreement, the love of gaining mastery over a recalcitrant set of data, the love of winning arguments, and the love of synthesizing little theories into big theories. It is never an objection to a religious belief that there is no evidence for it. The only possible objection to it can be that it intrudes an individual project into a social and cooperative project, and thereby offends against the teachings of On Liberty. Such intrusion is a betrayal of one’s responsibilities to cooperate with other human beings, not of one’s responsibility to Truth or to Reason.

Fifth, the attempt to love Truth, and to think of it as One, and as capable of commensurating and ranking human needs, is a secular version of the traditional religious hope that allegiance to something big, powerful, and nonhuman will persuade that powerful being to take your side in your struggle with other people. Nietzsche despised any such hope as a sign of weakness. Pragmatists who are also democrats have a different objection to such hope for allegiance with power. They see it as a betrayal of the ideal of human fraternity that democracy inherits from the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. That ideal finds its best expression in the doctrine, common to Mill and James, that every human need should be satisfied unless doing so causes too many other human needs to go unsatisfied. The pragmatist objection to religious fundamentalists is not that fundamentalists are intellectually irresponsible in disregarding the results of natural science. Rather it is that they are morally irresponsible in attempting to circumvent the process of achieving democratic consensus about how to maximize happiness. They sin not by ignoring Mill’s inductive methods, but by ignoring his reflections on liberty.

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Emergency and hubris

An inclination to see emergencies — emergencies being states of affairs demanding extraordinary means to address an immediate dire threat of some kind — can often seem more motivated by a strong inclination to use extraordinary means than in the circumstances claimed to demand them.

And it is not uncommon to see this inclination to exercise extraordinary means appearing alongside a hubristic frame of mind: I/We, unlike those others, see clearly what those others cannot and will not see, because, unlike them, I/we possess special virtues they lack. I/We are [smarter/braver/profounder/greater/kinder/fairer/more rigorous/industrious/prophetic/etc.] than those [sheeple/unwoke/blue-pilled/liberals/pinkos/privileged/bourgeois/Establishment-flunkies/fascists/racists/sexists/cisists/etc.]”

The concern, obviously, is that the response to the emergency will position the emergency-monger in a position where justification and deliberation (behaviors normal among equals) are replaced by pure exercise of authority, where power is knowledge and knowledge is power and it all runs together into a privilege to judge and dictate to everyone what is true and right, on the basis one’s own personal criteria and justifications, despite objections to those who believe in different criteria and justifications for determining what is true and right. From this vantage point, anyone despicable enough to doubt what is plainly true and right (to those virtuous enough to know it) cannot be reasoned with and have forfeited their right to the niceties of reason, such as being allowed to present their case. To use the idioms of the George W. Bush era, if they won’t “support the troops” by keeping their Politically Incorrect doubts to themselves they must be deplatformed for the sake of considerations far more important than civil rights and due process. “The Bill of Rights is not a suicide pact,” they #dittoed. Wherever folks all have the same borgy thing to repeat/repost/retweet/#rehash at each other, I get the creeps.

Complicating this suspicion of emergencies is the fact that emergencies requiring quick, procedure-free response do happen. This is where it is terribly important to look at the character of the person seizing power on the basis of emergency. Do they demonstrate a taste for pluralism, or do they seem preoccupied with their own special powers and the privileges these powers justify? If you are a true prophet who sees the future, or you have a special talent for discerning what is most moral, just or kind that permits you to see with clarity others lack who should sacrifice what rights to whom to restore the scales of justice, or your intuition provides you with special insights into discerning what is really real or truly true, or you possess extraordinary courage to look directly into possibilities that terrify smaller souls, or if you are a member of a vanguard who has history on its side — I’m sorry but all these beliefs strike me as varieties of microomniscience and symptoms of apotheoitis.

It is depressingly difficult to figure out exactly how much we are God, because the answer is neither 0% nor 100%, but an uneasy point between. I look for that unease in my political allies.

*

Just as one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter, one person’s suppression or silencing is another’s deplatforming.

*

I know folks who were on the wrong side of 9/11 and now admit it, but are now making up for it by fighting on the right side of justice by deplatforming people who do not care about equality among all categories of person.

Infinite sigh.

*

“But, Stephen… aren’t you claiming to have privileged insights into what is really going on?” — Oh, I do believe my efforts to understand what is going on have produced some valid truths, but I have caught myself being wrong too many times to want to impose the implications of my convictions on anyone else. I will argue them with anyone willing to engage them, which, by the way, is not the same as swimming into a logical conspiracy-theory vortex with them. Usually, such vortices are comforting Dervish dances for those who find an overpowering logical suction a suitable substitute for the up-down of gravity and magnetic North in the midst of pluralistic relativity. But to put it bluntly, such folk are entirely wrong to think they lack magnetic attraction to North… On the contrary, they are locked in and frozen in their negative current.

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Jaspers on philosophy and science

From Philosophy, “Epilogue 1955”:

This came to be the great philosophical challenge: to hold on to science, to keep testing by its standards of compelling certainty, and yet to do our ascertaining in the realm of our lives. The point is to make our philosophizing a function of our reality itself, to have the thought figures spring from personal life and address themselves to the individual. The only proof of an impersonal, objectified philosophical construction lies in personal Existenz. It makes no sense as a knowledge of formulae, theses, and words, nor as a contemplation of soul-stirrmg figures; it does make sense in the inner action which it stirs or recognizably reflects.

This philosophizing is thinking. That is what sets it apart from the tendencies of emotional self-satisfaction, from thoughtless romanticism, and from the self-destruction of reason in so-called irrationalism. The joy of a thinking life, whether in sorrow or in rapturous love, is that philosophical thinking will not only make each experience, each action, each choice more clearly conscious but more deeply based and more intense.

To study such thinking means to deal with oneself. It commits not only in the manner of surface laws, to which I might conform in calculable fashion. This commitment goes farther; it is an existential responsibility which my thoughts make clear and certain.

Philosophical thinking occurs in movements that accomplish and confirm an ethos so that the effects of the philosophical thought extend into our private and political lives, thus showing what it is. The thought proves true if it encompasses our everyday actions as well as those of the exalted moments of its birth.

The sciences can neither vindicate philosophy nor produce it as their result. Philosophy antedates them all, and in the grandiose figures of Antiquity it managed to exist without them. Still since their development they have constituted the inevitable field of orientation for any philosophy that cares about truthful thinking. To philosophize today, a man must know the profound satisfaction of scientific insight. At the same time he must know the consciousness of method without which he cannot be sure of his insights; he must know what it means to be aware of the limits of science. He must experience the immense difficulty of communicating with the unscientific, about concrete everyday questions in particular, whether the unscientific approach appears in the guise of pseudoscience or as “philosophy.” The scientific approach is the premise of all rationality. We sense its germs in the earliest philosophies, in Anaximander, in Mei-Ti, in the Sankhya system. It is not the basis of philosophical truth, but today it is a condition of truthfulness in philosophizing. The scientific approach has become unavoidable in the conceiving, the weighing, the judging we do every day.

The belief that a science, religion or political vision can be an adequate substitute for philosophy is an artifact of an inadequate popular philosophy. Generally, such popular philosophies lurk inside common-sensical attitudes toward truth without ever articulating themselves as philosophies, while presenting “philosophy” as a useless, abstract, speculative activity that has been supplanted by more practical and rigorous disciplines.

My concern is that the majority of educated Westerners have been indoctrinated in this anti-philosophical philosophy through the content of their educations, through consumption of what passes today for public intellectual product, and, increasingly, enacted in the routine social just-so stories the casually woke perform for one another to signal their fealty to a class identity none will admit is an identity, which uses its full hegemonic power to suppress talk of its own existence.

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Judging judgment

Whenever I hear stories about how unjustly the emerging generation deals with the injustices of past generations I recall Anaximander’s immortal snark:

Beings must pay penance and be judged for their injustices, in accordance with the ordinance of time.

We all get our turn.

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Apprehending apprehension

The word apprehend is uncanny.

When I encounter it, I cannot fully comprehend what it means, in a way that makes me mildly anxious.

When I comprehend an idea, I am able to wrap my mind around it, conceptualize it as a complex whole, explain it to others and use it. Not so with the idea of apprehension. I can only touch it with my mind, not grasp it. It feels like trying to pick up a basketball by my fingernails.

My topological intuition suggests that I try some russian-reversal style eversions. Perhaps in apprehension the normal subject-object relationship is flipped. a) What I comprehend “belongs” to me as a fully-contained part of me. Apprehension is not mine in this way, and I might very well exist within it, as a mere part, or participant, not privy to the containing whole. b) I do not comprehend apprehension, but those incomprehensible beings I know only through apprehension might comprehend me.

These everted-comprehension relationships are identical with the relationship I have with reality that transcends my own existence. As I unceasingly try to comprehend this reality, with increasing recognition of the futility of the goal but the value in the action, reality hands me consolation prizes of new concepts and new modes of understanding. (I am reminded of a t-shirt design I’ve been laughing about for the last 30 years where a bulky weightlifter exclaims “I will not rest while gravity threatens my people.”)

However much we comprehend truths about reality, what is comprehended are mere intentional objects, not the realities themselves (“extensional objects”?). The realities are only apprehended. The anxiety we feel in the discrepancy between known reality and real reality ought to be called apprehensiveness.

I notice that I feel less apprehensive about the word apprehension. While the objects of apprehension cannot themselves be comprehended, the relationship between a knowing subject and objects of apprehension can, and this consolation prize is not only consoling, but useful.

*

In the past, when I needed a word for experiencing reality in a non-cognitive way, I used “perceive” (in contrast to “conceive”) or “encounter” (in contrast to “understand”) , but I think “apprehend” (in contrast to “comprehend”) might become my new word of choice.

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A more subdued existentialism

Jaspers published his magnum opus Philosophy when he was 49 and delivered the lectures that became Philosophy of Existence when he was 55. His is a different kind of existentialism from that of Sartre, who was a full decade younger when he reached his peak.

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Jaspers

Jaspers is uncannily close to my own worldview:

Authentic reality is the being that cannot be thought in terms of possibility. What does this mean?

Any actuality, whose existence I comprehend through the causes that produced it, could have been different under different circumstances. Considered simply as something known, any known actuality is a realized possibility; as an object of thought it retains the character of possibility. Even the whole world, considered as an object of my thought, is one of many possible worlds. To the extent that I know reality, I have posited it in the realm of possibility.

When we are dealing with reality itself, however, possibility ceases. Reality is that which can no longer be translated into possibility. Where what I know is one of many possibilities, I am dealing with an appearance, not with reality itself. I can think about an object only if I think of it as a possibility.

Reality is therefore what resists all thought. . . .

Since reality as thought recedes from us while nonetheless being present as the all inclusive bearer, and since its presence consists in what no thought can turn into a possibility, philosophical thought means not that we void the inconceivability of authentic reality, but that we intensify it. The force of the real is made palpable by the foundering of thought.

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James Dickey documentary

This James Dickey documentary is required viewing: “James Dickey: Lord Let Me Die, But Not Die Out”

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Intellectual fashion

When an idea goes out of fashion it is not always because it is shown to be false or discovered to neglect important considerations. It can also be discarded prematurely because another idea ascends and conflicts with it, or even because the new idea makes the old idea seem dull and played out and sucks all attention away from it. An idea can also be abandoned and forgotten because of a change in collective mood, or because the philosophical drift of a time renders an idea irrelevant, then incomprehensible, then nonsensical. Or a whole culture can decay into ideological microomniscience: all thought beyond the ideology’s horizon is self-evidently immoral, ignorant or both.

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Oppressive rooms

It feels terrible to be in the midst of hyper-aggressive people who only care about what they are doing and saying, who leave no room for anyone else and expect anyone who wants to participate to barge in, make room for themselves and fight off all competitors. If your ideas are not fully worked out and armed with hard, definitive answers it will be crushed by better arguments or obscured in the fog of war. In an aggressive milieu subtle thoughts are lost.

It feels terrible to be in the midst of hyper-receptive people who are sensitive to what is going on with everyone else, who are incessantly on the lookout for subtle signs that someone might have something to contribute, who make room for all people at all times — and who expect all others present to do likewise. If inspiration distracts you from perceiving and tactfully responding to each and every individual present, or worse, compels you to unfold your idea beyond your equal share time and attention, only your boorishness and inequity will be heard and your injustice will be secretly repaid. In an excessively receptive milieu big ideas are placed in solitary confinement.

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Jaspers

Look out. I am entering a Jaspers phase. Reading Hannah Arendt’s essay “What is Existential Philosophy?” I’ve drawn a ridiculous number of stars, explanation marks and yeses into the margins of her summary of his thought. My plan is to read him through a material-turn lens and see if I might connect him up with Postphenomenology and ANT as a complementary second-person perspective, and develop it all into the design philosophy I’ve been threatening to write about about for last decade.

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Hineni

Hineni might be the best one-word Jewish prayer.

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Humility as insight

Objective reality as we all (to some degree) know it is a product of myriad overlapping subjective realities as each of us know it; and each of these subjective realities is in turn a product of metaphysical reality none of us knows in any normal sense of knowledge.

If we are insufficiently alert our objectively-tempered subjective truth seems for all the world to be an imperfectly but adequately known objective reality that faithfully represents metaphysical reality.

The hardest thing for a human is not mistaking oneself for God. Most of us fail at this task and succumb to apotheosis.

Humility is a hard-won insight. Self-humiliation is a grotesque counterfeit.

(I’m pretty sure I’ve written this post before.)

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How-first

Far too few folks have given real thought to how they think — only to what they think.

They might think outlandishly different things, but they do not think about those things in different ways. And they think about different things precisely because the things they think about in their conventional way fail to give them satisfying answers, which drives them to go digging for data in new places, or to speculate about things allegedly happening beneath the surface, inaccessibly, but in a manner that soaks up the inexplicable remainder without requiring any change in how one thinks.

My instinct, a pragmatist’s instinct, is, when confronting an intractable conflict of interpretations, to suspect the How of thought first, and only after to question the What, or Why, or (God forbid!) Who.

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Object attachments

Most of the research I’ve done in my career has been focused on removing problems or finding opportunities for increasing usefulness. Much less has been focused on intensifying desirability and long-term attachment, except as a side-effect of function. I’d like to focus more on designing for desirability in the next decade.

I would also like to think more about what desirability is. It is not only visual aesthetics. Nor is it only a matter of personality or identity projection. Since early childhood I have always formed unusually strong attachments to objects, and these attachments are deep, intense and inward. They are never one thing, but a mix of aesthetics, use quality and symbol — and occasionally they are social as well.

*

I keep returning to my triad of What/How/Why (aka Is/Can/Ought) which started as an obsession with the meaning of the I Ching trigram yaos back in the early 2000s, and which is still a live problem for me and in the form of a venn trefoil is one of my most enduring geometric meditations (along with three other diagrams: wheel, star and spiral).

(For me, these shapes are intuitive springs and no matter how hard I try to finally explicitly nail down what they mean, they are never even close to exhausted. I’ve written about each of them extensively, in prose and verse, but it all seems so pompous that I get embarrassed and I don’t want to expose it. I should probably just get it all out of my head onto ink on paper and into boxes in a storage area and just move on. And if it is not obvious, I have a powerful object-attachment to my unpublished magical pamphlet.)

For the moment, I want to connect this with Liz Sander’s design trinity of Useful/Usable/Desirable.

I am tempted to view Usefulness as the overlap of How/Why; Usability of How/Is; and Desirable as the overlap of Why/Is.

*

I might need to explore attachment theory.

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Lek and “the social”

Yesterday, talking with a friend about the current generation of youth’s terror of being awkward or inappropriate, I realized I’ve somehow managed to never write about the concept of lek on this blog, much less in connection with Buber’s social versus interhuman/interpersonal distinction. I’d imagined this linkage so vividly I assumed I’d written about it already.

So what is lek? I learned about it from Clifford Geertz: in his paper “Person, Time, and Conduct in Bali: The Social Nature of Thought”:

The concept of “shame,” together with its moral and emotional cousin “guilt,” has been much discussed in the literature, entire cultures sometimes being designated as “shame cultures” because of the presumed prominence in them of an intense concern with “honor,” “reputation,” and the like, at the expense of a concern, conceived to be dominant in “guilt cultures,” with “sin,” “inner worth,” and so forth. The usefulness of such an overall categorization and the complex problems of comparative psychological dynamics involved aside, it has proven difficult in such studies to divest the term “shame” of what is after all its most common meaning in English — “consciousness of guilt” — and so to disconnect it very completely from guilt as such — “the fact or feeling of having done something reprehensible.” Usually, the contrast has been turned upon the fact that “shame” tends to be applied (although, actually, far from exclusively) to situations in which wrongdoing is publicly exposed, and “guilt” (though equally far from exclusively) to situations in which it is not. Shame is the feeling of disgrace and humiliation which follows upon a transgression found out; guilt is the feeling of secret badness attendant upon one not, or not yet, found out. Thus, though shame and guilt are not precisely the same thing in our ethical and psychological vocabulary, they are of the same family; the one is a surfacing of the other, the other a concealment of the one.

But Balinese “shame,” or what has been translated as such (lek), has nothing to do with transgressions, exposed or unexposed, acknowledged or hidden, merely imagined or actually performed. This is not to say that Balinese feel neither guilt nor shame, are without either conscience or pride, anymore than they are unaware that time passes or that men are unique individuals. It is to say that neither guilt nor shame is of cardinal importance as affective regulators of their interpersonal conduct, and that lek, which is far and away the most important of such regulators, culturally the most intensely emphasized, ought therefore not to be translated as “shame,” but rather, to follow out our theatrical image, as “stage fright.” It is neither the sense that one has transgressed nor the sense of humiliation that follows upon some uncovered transgression, both rather lightly felt and quickly effaced in Bali, that is the controlling emotion in Balinese face-to-face encounters. It is, on the contrary, a diffuse, usually mild, though in certain situations virtually paralyzing, nervousness before the prospect (and the fact) of social interaction, a chronic, mostly low-grade worry that one will not be able to bring it off with the required finesse.

Whatever its deeper causes, stage fright consists in a fear that, for want of skill or self-control, or perhaps by mere accident, an aesthetic illusion will not be maintained, that the actor will show through his part and the part thus dissolve into the actor. Aesthetic distance collapses, the audience (and the actor) loses sight of Hamlet and gains it, uncomfortably for all concerned, of bumbling John Smith painfully miscast as the Prince of Denmark. In Bali, the case is the same, if the drama more humble. What is feared — mildly in most cases, intensely in a few — is that the public performance that is etiquette will be botched, that the social distance etiquette maintains will consequently collapse, and that the personality of the individual will then break through to dissolve his standardized public identity. When this occurs, as it sometimes does, our triangle falls apart: ceremony evaporates, the immediacy of the moment is felt with an excruciating intensity, and men become unwilling consociates locked in mutual embarrassment, as though they had inadvertently intruded upon one another’s privacy. Lek is at once the awareness of the ever-present possibility of such an interpersonal disaster and, like stage fright, a motivating force toward avoiding it. It is the fear of faux pas — rendered only that much more probable by an elaborated politesse — that keeps social intercourse on its deliberately narrowed rails. It is lek, more than anything else, that protects Balinese concepts of personhood from the individualizing force of face-to-face encounters.

Lek is clearly an artifact of what Buber calls “the social”, where “each individual existence is enclosed and contained in a group existence.” The role one performs (and in lek, fears performing poorly) is a role assigned by a culture for the purpose of smooth social functioning.

My suspicion is that the combo of social media and inadequate liberal indoctrination has brought lek to dominance in today’s youth culture, in the form of anxiety about awkwardness and inappropriateness, endangering intimacy and solidarity among individuals.

Lek combined with the devastating consequences of digitally amplified public shaming the stakes of performing one’s own individuality, which is individual to the degree that it deviates from the norm, are simply too high to risk. People play out their individual deviance in isolation, without company, language or light. We have taken more and more of our singing birds back into the cellar and locked them up with the wild dogs, transmuting gold to lead, virtues into vice. Shame is back, with a vengeance.

Love is profoundly individual. Only an individual loves. An individual loves only an individual.

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Perspectives on hybrid systems

Approaches to the composition of hybrid systems (systems made up of both objective and subjective elements) can be classified according to perspective.

Actor-Network Theory views hybrid systems from a 3rd-person perspective, in objective terms, without emphasis on either the human or the nonhuman components that make up the system.

Postphenomenology views hybrid systems from a 1st-person perspective, in subjective terms, emphasizing how a human experiences, interacts with — or, better, participates in — the hybrid system.

This suggests a question: what would a 2nd-person perspective on hybrid systems look like? I would assume a radical Buberian I-Thou conception of 2nd-person, that would concern itself with accurately empathizing with and understanding others, appealing to and persuading others and motivating participation in order to influence the formation, development and or stabilization of hybrid systems. I am tempted to answer: Design. And by design, I always mean Human-Centered Design.

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One way to see design

Design is materialized philosophy.

When designing something — which always and necessarily means designing something for someone — the central question is always: what is the right philosophy for this context?

The purpose of design research is to get to the heart of this central question out, and then to pose the design problem in such a way that designers think about the design problem in the right way, from the philosophical perspective suited to the problem.

Design briefs are tiny philosophical primers.

A good design brief will effect a perspectival shift in the reader (the designer) that brings new possibilities into view, possibilities that were inconceivable prior to the shift. This phenomenon is what is commonly called inspiration.

It is the job of design researchers to produce precision inspiration.

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