Thursday, September 6, 2007

489 Seeing Like A State

Message no. 489[Branch from no. 488] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Saturday, February 24, 2007 12:43pm Subject: Re: Relational Summary Adrienne

That was an enjoyable summary Adrienne. I was especially taken by your description of the control environment in the in-patient locked unit. What was most interesting to me was that you were actually given input authority by the designers, who honored your in-situ expertise and experience. This is great to hear, since most of the design flaws that create long-term problems arise because outsiders come in and do all the decision making without a nuanced understanding of place.

There is a great book called "Seeing Like a State" by James C. Scott in which he talks about the difference between "techne" and "metis".

( A review of the book is here:

Techne is knowledge created by "experts" from disembodied theory that seems universal, and metis is knowledge that can only be acquired locally from direct experience. Ideally we trade the two knowledge sets to get a desirable outcome. Profit and politics too often, however, favor the techne, since it can be concocted in some office or laboratory somewhere at relatively low cost and then mass produced cheaply and implemented all over. This, my architect friends tell me, is the reason there are so many ugly and dysfunctional buildings in Egypt -- the developers didn't care about the residents or the environment or the topography or climate -- they didn't want to pay local architects to do time consuming site surveys or interviews with the local people to find out their needs. They wanted to make a "one size fits all " solution.

It costs time and money and attention to pay attention to the needs of your local environment and try to blend the technical solution with the on-the-ground need. I am so impressed that the designer cared about the important little details that only those of you who worked there on a daily level would know. It makes me feel good!

I won't comment in this post on Noise pollution, because I could write a book about it, and don't have time yet. I will comment more when we get to chapter 5. Suffice to say that living in Egypt has made me curse urban noise as never before -- my wife and I are under constant stress because of the ambient noise levels here!

My question for you, reading your post, so that we can get deeper into the psychology is "WHY does the tree outside your window make you feel better"? Is it the visual complexity of its dendritic, fractal pattern of growth? If so, would a dendritic sculpture work as well? Is it associations you made as a child with a "benevolent power" in "nature". Is it the possible presence of other life forms in its branches? Is it because it reaches upward and gives you a feeling of reaching to the limitless or spiritually abundant heavens? What experiment could we run to prove that it is the tree itself, and not the shape or form of the object, that elicits a positive response from you? How do you feel about cell phone towers that are made to look like trees? Do you think biophilia is in our genes?

Finally, have you seen the film "OFFICE SPACE"? I recommend you all rent it and watch it so we can discuss it in this forum. You will love it, I think!

Also thought you'd get a kick out of this cartoon:

This guy would probably LOVE to have a copier in his office, and daily visitors to use it...!

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