Saturday, January 27, 2007

yay for systems

I enjoyed reading the responses to the articles. It sounds like most people have a grasp on some of the issues that classification can bring up. As many of you mentioned, it seems humans have a natural desire to gather information, organize it, and draw unambiguous conclusions. Yet simultaneously, we're energized and intrigued by ambiguity and mystery. I hope that this project will offer an opportunity to explore these seemingly incongruous sides of human nature, not to mention a unique and thought-provoking portfolio piece.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Classify Classify Classify

After reading both of the articles I have a better understanding of the world of classification but also has posed many questioning thoughts for me. Both excerpts have shown me that you can classify anything in your life, in the world, etc that brings forth questions, ideas or wonder. I think it is a natural practice in humans. I have collected and sorted Trolls, shells, stamps, etc as a child and persona.

I am intrigued with the idea of the chambers of wonder or curiosity and the process of collecting and treasuring. Over time, these chambers or rooms have become known as Museums. I am curious if there will ever be another level or change in Museum or the act of taxonomy. An example within the texts is the motion to box nature, couldn’t be done due to its vastness. Someday there is a possibility it could be done.

Appropriating too, can evolve. In “Appropriation,” I think by putting your ideas into a known and authoritative format become a parody is a parody in itself. Appropriation works, it grabs the viewers attention, is effective in getting your point across, and is often funny because of the relationship to the known and the new.

Being that you can classify mostly anything with reason, I also ponder are there any boundaries or lines that shouldn’t be crossed. An example I learned was of the young infants being preserved and in some ways made shrines. Just as in art, there may be blurry lines, but as always who is the judge.

Overall, the many paths of the complex classification process have been shown through these articles. I feel that you can go anywhere with classifying.

human wonder

If to talk about wonders, the first wonder that should be mentioned is a human being. Fortunately or not, they possess ability to think and reason, which easily allows them to think superior of themselves in comparison to the rest of living creatures on the planet. With the superiority in mind it is only natural that humans desire control. Classification of all living and non-living things into systems is an easy way to establish hierarchy and to keep things in order.
However, human mind does not exist on its own, but follows common biological organization of many other mammals, and maybe it is in this animalistic beginning where the answer to human fear lies. Humans have a lot of knowledge and over time acquire more and more but they fear the yet unknown. People’s imagination runs wild coming up with possible things of existence. Of course made-up things do not follow the familiar patterns, and therefore are scary. It is comforting to take a working system of classification and plug the unfamiliar in it. Faking familiar system’s elements makes the content of it look believable. It is now wondrous but not alien. Such approach to “wonder” satisfies both a hungry desire for knowledge and inferior feeling before the unknown. The two articles show that this approach was happening during Renaissance and Post-Modernism times. In my opinion it doesn’t matter what time the “wonder” happens in or whether it touches the field of science or art, people will continue creating methods of classification because it is the way they have been making sense of the world for ages.

Classification is a System of its own.

After reading the two articles, system of classification becomes more interesting and complicated. Classification has always been interesting because everything that exists right now is been classified with certain term to give a better understanding of particular substance or a living being. In the article “ Cabinet of Wonders” there were collection of rare substances and materials but didn’t have the classification because it was unique. So, a collection becomes unorganized for the fact it doesn’t have any classification and at some point it didn’t make sense. As time passed by, collectors with lot of research and study, started classifying those rare, and unique substances, which now has a greater value because of its classification.

Since the evolution of earth the system of classification was very vital. The Name given as “Earth” to our planet among the solar system is a example of classification. Who wonder the color black is classified as “Black” not “White” and sky is “blue” but not “yellow”. This are all the simple example of system of classification and its importance and I think it is very important to know the system of classification in order to have better understanding of our existences and environment that surround us.


Reading these articles I cant help but think of different things that I have read from a past anthropology class and especially the experiments that were done on human bodies especially ones that were not "normal". If I remember correctly anglosaxtons (sp) would take skulls from there fellow whites and skulls from non whites and fill them with marbles to see which had more room implying brain capacity which obviously makes no sense today but during the Renaissance when things were being collected to gain as much knowledge as possible probably made sense to people who wanted the whites to be scientifically smarter then the rest of man kinds.
I the way I see how this relates is that or assignment is to be just orginized by pure thought and what we think and maybe not correct at all as long as it could be correct.


From these two articles, I’d come to the questions of “what was really true,” and “was it creditable?” Both Poynor and Weschler state countless historic facts about the credibility arose from writings/theories such as Mandeville’s tale of the foreign land. His credibility was in question because everyone thought it was only a fable, and in the end he was branded a liar. Then like Greenblatt has noted, “since the East Indies were discovered, we find his relations true of such things as heretofore were held incredible.” This point is proven again and again throughout the two articles with the credibility from the ancient times, discoveries, facts, etc. Suddenly everything becomes logical and creditable overnight.

Of course doubts still linger, but it nonetheless makes us think critically and logically. In turn it leaves us open-minded and somewhat enlightened—it opens our mind to the vast possibilities out there. From this class, we are suppose to create a classification system of our own, and after reading these articles, I really want to create one that would seem logical and creditable in a sense of theory.

Authoritative formats, wonder and truth

The first article explained how artists have used recognized, authoritative formats like charts, graphs, maps, encyclopedias, etc. to present their own ideas and/or to mock the authority of certain formats. To create parody, insert fictional content into an authoritative format. From this it is possible to spread out in many directions of thought and commentary, for example an evolution chart starting with a monkey and working it's way up to man with "your political figure of choice" as the graphic of the man--you can be commenting on your personal ideas of current political climate, etc.

The first article also tells techniques in successfully appropriating formats to convey your own ideas. Appropriate the same conventions of detail, typography, graphic elements, structure, and layout as the format you have chosen. For example, a newspaper has columns, headlines, bylines, dates, etc.

The second article on cabinets of curiosity and wonder

In the age of wonder people made up their own truths about strange new objects, everything was new so anything was possible, no one knew otherwise. Since now we do know otherwise the parodies/commentary that we chose to make in this assignment will likely be apparent to our classmates if we successfully appropriate the format of our choosing to convey our own ideas.

"the alternative to doubt is authority" -Feynman


Classification seems to be a very interesting topic now that I have read the articles. Isn't it so normal of us to not question the authority anymore? We just seem to give the benefit of the doubt to the system that we live in. Sometimes I wonder if the rules that we have in this system were written out to function a robot it would simply not work at all.
From the day we are born we are brought into this web of language and then the rest is history. Language seems to have an enormous influence upon us interms of the way our brain works. Different languages generate different kinds of thoughts. So to be able to classify something we have to be in some kind of a system that validates it. Language is that system. It is really interesting how when people were just discovering the world there was a possiblity of existence of anything. And in some weird way there still is. But we give the benefit of the doubt to the system.
It might have been difficult for the early discoverers to convince the massess of foreign elements but today that has been made very much easy due to the advancement of the technology and we pretty much seem to believe everything we see on TV as long as it's shown in a format that we see as being authoritative.

Interesting world we live in!


Systems always undergo transformations. They evolve, as a result of continuous study, research, critical thinking and of course "WONDER". If it did not, we'd still believe that the earth is in the center of the solar system and everything else revolved around it. There are many other systems of classification that have undergone changes, but in a span of time.

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder talks about a lot of things, a lot of which was trying to tell me that same thing.. about "breaking the order", "the problem of continuity", "problem of credibility" and how different people found a way to tackle those. They need not always be accepted, and they haven't in many cases as well.

In reading both of these selections, I am bombarding myself with questions.. like "Isn't it the "SYSTEM" that creates the logic, that tells us that it is necessary to think and act logically?" If so, When does a group of classification become odd? How do we know that what we know is real? What is real? Am i making sense at all?

I try to understand why language is such an important infrastructure. How did we adapt ourselves into the system of semantics? How can we know that what I am typing on this screen right now, is actually what I am really trying to say? How did something like alphabets and words come into existence and became the voice of our mind? How did we manage to adapt ourselves in a such a complex system? A system where we even try to assume what someone is thinking without that person actually saying that thing. How often have you said "I know what you're thinking" ... How hard would it be to devise a system that did not use letters or alphabets, but just symbols. Is it even possible? And then my mind gets diverted to all the programming languages, C, C++ and so on ...

It will be a challenge to let go of the way we've been "TAUGHT" to think, but we all will practice it one way or the other.

Wouldn't it have been nice if i could have said all this in 10 symbols?

"Impossible ! ???" -- says the system ! ! !

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Street Signs and Specimens

"...Specimens in one corner were grouped by type of defect..."

This made me grin inside.

The exerpts of the articles, I felt, tended to emphasize the appeal of a lack of direction (or as exhibited by the quote above; an unconventional direction) versus a coherant classification system. In a "standard" system of classification, we would expect specimens to be grouped into their respected species. Or, if visiting the Minnesota Zoo, we would expect specimens to be categorized according to their respected climates. We've grown accustomed to certain systems of organizing information.

I think there is wonder in the unexpected, in the out-of-the-ordinary. The Anatomical Museum in Leiden could have followed a more logical method of organizing their specimens. Instead, they were grouped by the type of defect. That's interesting. Interesting enough for me to stop and reread it, at least. The specimens are classified systematically, but possess a hint of wonder and curiosity due to the odd choice of classification.

Which leads me to ask; is the goal of our project to classify a subject with:
a. The most logic (the best system to help a person understand).
b. The most originality/creativity (the best system to keep a person's attention).
c. The most design/aesthetic appeal (the best system to catch a person's eye).

I have a feeling this class will challenge my preconceived notions concerning information design. What can classifications provide for us as information consumers? Maybe a street sign could do more than just tell me what road I'm on in a complex grid of other roads. Maybe it could indicate what type of neighborhood I'm in; how wealthy it is, what the crime rate is like. Maybe not.

But maybe it could.


What creates wonder in the human mind. This is the idea that became most intriguing to me while reading the selections from Rick Poynor, and mostly, Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder. The human mind is so wide and vast, ideas are constantly flowing in and out. It is interesting to think about how the mind handles these actions. How a satirical newspaper can become something of intense wonder, while an ancient artifact from India can have the same affect.
In reading these selections I began to understand more about what sort of concept or idea I may decide to do for the class project. I though about wonder… and what wonder was and is to me. And in my opinion I believe that wonder is what is most important about the selections that there chosen for us to read. I also thought that these projects laid before us this semester are possibly about not following conventions, and digging deeper inside ourselves to truly create something that is artful with wonder, yet scientific in it’s delivery.

What is Real?

What I get out of the article "Appropriation," by Rick Poynor, is that the Postmodern artists described are taking familiar subjects/systems of classification and are breaking them apart and taking a step back. By this I mean they are using their creative imagination to add new fictional/satirical meanings to something that already exists. The purpose of this is not necessarily to change reality, but to pose the question what if this were true?! Similar to our project in class, they are making up their own logic for certain systems of classification.
On the other hand, in "Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder," Weschler writes about what wonder is and uses the New World as an example. To the Europeans the New World was "new" and "different," which was intriguing and made people wonder what was truthful about this new place. Until the period of Enlightenment, when science took over, artists drew pictures of what they thought the New World entailed. Throughout this period, organization was necessary in order to categorize systems of classification. Through organization, logical conclusions became factual. Therefore, in order for our class project to be successful we need to organize our logic in order for it to seem truthful.


These articles made me think more critically about the truth, rather than clear up classification themes. I enjoyed the attention brought to the fact that not everything one reads about and hears is the truth. Many times we get caught up in the story and not the facts. We would rather hear and talk about what we enjoy, what we can laugh about, and steer clear of the truth, thus creating almost a Utopia around us. Simply put, facts can get dull. Expressing ideas differently and new classifications bring about new styles of storytelling, which...let's face it...we all love. :-)
At times, I wonder if what we know now and our theories today will be completely debunked in the future, or will our facts and knowledge continue to evolve and be told? The Cabinet article made a very good point about how our grandparents disproved their own grandparents in myths and creatures thought to exist. There is and always has been a "problem of continuity" (Cabinet article, page 83). I believe this is why classification schemes are interesting to study, because something always evolves into something else (thus, the continuity problem). I am curious as to what classifications our class can come up with and intrigued to see new theories.

I Don't Need A Title

Another piece of "art" that could be included in the first article is a printed newspaper that follows the guidelines of an authoritative source. I am referring to "the Onion." It has the same look in printed form and in online form as many large and reputable sources such as the NY Times. It isn't until you start reading and digesting the information that you realize it is satirical, which is similar to the examples presented in the first article.

I remember reading Mr Wilsons Cabinet of Wonders for another class (critical reasoning perhaps?) and the one thing I remember about it was how matter of fact Mr Wilson was. He was almost a exhibit himself because he presented exhibits or models as if they really could exist. He was not about to let the facade deteriorate no matter how unconvincing or convincing his objects were. He stuck to his guns and there is something commendable about that. So what if the object is not real, his descriptions lend the possibility that could happen.

What can we believe in?

In science classes, you learn that a theory is a fact by means that it can be proved by anyone. After reading these articles, you have to rely on fact, but you do not know what to believe in. With an imagination, you can come up with the most ridiculous ideas but as long as you can prove it and make your case, others will start believing in what you say. For example, the Print magazine cover. It was a complete mockery of diagrams, maps, and charts. Paula Scher's idea parody proved that charts can be used in design. An even better example is from the Television show Twin Peaks. Richard Saul Wurman and the producers from the show created and published a book that made the fictional characters from a television show come to life. It was made to believe that the characters lived an everyday life like you and I.

In Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonders, I came to the conclusion that hierarchy persuaded your decision. Early Europe to even past the Renaissance, rulers had their own collection of wonders that included tons of paintings, and artifacts that were obscure. A lot of these legends came about while discovering the new world in which we live in today. Also, the The example of the unicorn. It's "I found a horn and it is from an Unicorn." when we now know it is from a rhino. To best sum it up is a quote from The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance,"When the legend becomes fact...print the legend."
1. the act of distributing things into classes or categories of the same type
2. a group of people or things arranged by class or category
3. the basic cognitive process of arranging into classes or categories
4. restriction imposed by the government on documents or weapons that are available only to certain authorized people
From reading the articles I found myself gaining more from the definition from the dictionary than the articles themself.

Excerpt Response

At first I didn't know where this project was headed, but after reading the two excerpts I have an understanding. Classification systems are a structure that is considered the law in science. And in both of these short readings people have challenged that idea. Richard Feynman wrote, "Teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed." The idea of this assignment is to push authority asside and challenge it with no fear.
It was interesting to see how museums evolved into what they are today. During the discovery of America it seemed almost any kind of animal could exist. All the new animals created a great deal of displays almost freakshows of endless creatures. I remember reading about Mr. Wilsons Cabinet of Wonder in another class. The museum is filled with real and fake taxonamy but some are so convincing you can't tell the diffrence. It's interesting how they make you question yourself and how it sparks you imagination.
These articles were informative. I think overall I understood the Cabinet article a little more because it had a basic background and explained the reasons and roots forming the basis of constructing systems and in general how systems were formed. At times however the reading got a bit too wrapped up in history I think. Overall it was helpful in understanding the beginnings of systems. The Poynor article was helpful in the area of presenting images and examples of systems which answered alot of questions I had about the forms and functions a system serves, as well as some of the known designers that have experimented with and have used them.
I personally found that the use of the encyclopedia as a classification system opened my eyes to what was being explained in class on Monday. Now with a better understanding for what is intended for the class I am interested to explore the possibilities of classification. I personally had more difficulty getting through the “Cabinet of Wonders” reading, maybe because it was referencing a time that I am not real familiar with, or it just didn’t catch my attention. I was really more drawn to the Poynor article because it emphisized the alternative use of classification. I too had a connection between that of the Frederik Ruysch descriptions and the Body World exhibit. While I feel that we have made leaps and strides since the time of Ruysch, I do believe that as humans we have a have a burning need to be surprised with what is presented. If the Body World exhibit were just plasticized body parts it would be a human anatomy book in 3-D. But to show the bodies in activies that you or I could leave and do, it puts a new perspective on what is being viewed.

Merely Pastiching Stylistic Fragments?

Reading these selections back to back was interesting in that they offer two different aspects of organization, both a practical need for it, as illustrated by the Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders excerpt, and the self-conscious repurposing of it, (organization as a confidence game?) as discussed in excerpt from Rick Poyner's Appropriation piece. It seems like the first challenge of the semester will be for us all to wrap our minds around the possibilities of creating our own unique systems of classification and organization—to grasp the concept of evolving metrics and proofs to categorize something in a new and different way. It’s a little boggling, but exciting, too.

The “Cabinet of Wonders” excerpt was thought provoking in its own right, and I wanted to mention a few things that came to mind:

1. Is innocent wonder really such a bad thing? So what if people used to collect random oddities without much regard for their place in the grand scheme of things. The confines of kingdom, phylum, class, and order are just an illustration of humankind’s need to make the infinite possibilities and variations of our world small and digestible.

2. The description of the works of the anatomist Frederik Ruysch, who positioned human skeletons into bizarre tableaux, reminded me quite vividly of Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds exhibit, which just closed at the Minnesota Science Museum, and which contained a legion of plasticized human corpses in many different positions, including riding horseback, skateboarding, and playing chess. Perhaps we haven’t come quite so far as we might think.