Friday, October 23, 2009

The Craftsman in Society/Dr. Richard Sennett

I'll start by pulling a bit from The Craftsman (which i highly recommend reading) to give you an idea where we're going here.

"Craftsmanship" may suggest a way of life that waned with the advent of industrial society - but this is misleading. Craftsmanship names an enduring , basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for its own sake. Craftsmanship cuts a far wider swath than skilled manual labor; it serves the computer programmer, the doctor and the artist; parenting improves when it is practiced as a skilled craft, as does citizenship.

Below are the talking points I extracted.
  • Does quality work for its own sake.
  • Doesn't take shortcuts.
  • Exhibits an evolution of skill.
  • Building skill is slow and experimental.
  • Making something is a primordial mark of identity, it confirms you were here.
  • Code Craft, computer programmers making coding a craft. Dr. Sennett is a big fan of the Linux community.
  • A pursuit of problem solving, less or no focus on end product.
  • Open knowledge systems that share "tools" of the trade.
Conflict and Challenges for Craft Inside Modern Capitalism :
  • Mediocrity dominates over quality.
  • Conflict between the desire for solutions and desire for craft.
  • Enormous pressure to deliver goods in a short term economy.
  • Quantity or growth matters more than results.
  • Model of life long career is gone.
  • We no longer reward quality and discriminate against craftsmen.
  • Technology is created to remove us from the process of making.
  • Machines remove the need for tacit understanding. Can the machine eliminate subjective knowledge?
  • Example: CAD design. Designer is the spectator. When the computer shows the results it understands, but do you (the designer)?
My two cents:
When did we get so fast? When did everything get so big? Why did "everyone" decide they wanted to "go public" and thus be pressured to produce quarterly growth at any cost? Is it because the bigger a corporation gets the exponentially greater the compensation for the top executives and they're making the decisions that benefit them? Is it the illusion that growth in corporations improves quality of life for all despite the fact that only a fraction of the population benefits from this growth?

Dr. Sennett mentioned that, "closed knowledge systems have small life cycles". I am not sure if I am understanding exactly what he means but it made me think, this is where the fashion industry has so strayed from craft. The current American fashion industry is generally closed, highly secretive and rarely collaborative among peers. We are forced to design in short life cycles, 3-4 collections a year. Has that hindered our progress and the quality of our work? If we had open knowledge systems, where we assumed our ideas were safe, shared contacts, ideas, resources, techniques, maybe even space, would we experience healthy competition, a sense of community and produce less but better fashion?

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