By Hand & Brain: Essays on Making & Culture

Through Russell Davies I found By Hand & Brain, a series of essays by the great and good (not always the same people) of future thinking and making, vaguely on the subject of “how does it feel to be living and making things now”? They’re all worth reading in their entirety, but here’s a list with a personal highlight of each.

Laura Potter writes about the power of the act of making, and I think this quote also tangientally applies to writing:

The ability to articulate your thoughts through and with matter, rather than just make it into a shape you have thought of, means that you are more likely to find innovative or creative ways to exploit both materials and machinery.

Alice Taylor also writes about making, and this quote really struck me, because the majority of things I’ve made are also gone:

Digital things are far more temporal, transitive; all my digital creations from pre 2000 have disappeared, gone, never to be seen again. That’s a weird feeling.

Bruce Sterling is a little more dismissive of the maker movement, or rather in its role in changing culture:

I’m unclear on how we’re supposed to get by through the almighty power of pecha-kucha hackerspaces. I see zillions of those and they’re groovy, but they don’t reap wheat or change diapers; there’s something creepy and flimsy about them — “favela chic”.

Warren Ellis underlines something I’m really interested in, the idea that modern culture is really not that unique, and that we ignore historical manifestations of our behaviour:

Sometimes I wonder if (Western) culture only works if we have this weird cultural amnesia that allows us to believe that we’re doing everything right this time. We forget all the other periods where people thought the same thing.

And William Gibson points out that we’re probably not the best people to talk about our culture:

We can’t see our culture very well, because we see with it.

No offence intended to Rod McLaren who also wrote an excellent piece, it just didn’t have an eminently quotable sentence.