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Re: [PPLetterpress] Re: Materiality

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  • Bryan Hutcheson
    By materiality are you referring to what Marx, Hegel, the phenomenologists and existentialists referred to as materialism? [Non-text portions of this message
    Message 1 of 7 , Sep 1, 2000
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      By materiality are you referring to what Marx, Hegel, the phenomenologists
      and existentialists referred to as materialism?


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Gerald Lange
      Hi Katie Actually, I believe this came to fore with the initial writing of _Printing Digital Type_, as the rationale for maintaining the integrity of the
      Message 2 of 7 , Aug 30, 2002
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        Hi Katie

        Actually, I believe this came to fore with the initial writing of _Printing
        Digital Type_, as the rationale for maintaining the integrity of the
        letterpress page. At least, that's the first time I think I put it in writing.
        Robert Bringhurst, later appropriated the idea (with permission, and
        credit!!!) for a similar argument in the second edition of _A Short History of
        the Printed Word_. So there. You have two more artifactual references to wave
        in the naysayers faces. Haven't hear of _The Hand_ before. Have to look it up.
        I remember you are familiar with David Pye's work. Another reference!!!

        Gerald

        Katie Harper wrote:
        >
        > Gerald:
        >
        > This is very well said. Does it come from your teaching, perhaps, or did you
        > just think it up? I find myself continuously in conversations or even
        > arguments regarding the point you make below, that "the computer doesn't
        > have a material basis" and that designers or design students have no concept
        > of what the materiality behind the tool is unless they have been exposed to
        > printing, printmaking, or even, from the old days, paste-up. Does this mean
        > their design work or computer artistry is inferior? In my experience as a
        > teacher, anything that involves the hands seems to give artists and
        > advantage over those who never use them.
        >
        > There was a lot of bolstering of this argument in Frank Wilson's book, The
        > Hand, which came out a couple of years ago. Others who disagree with me
        > argue that such stuff is purely anecdotal. Perhaps, but anecdotes do reflect
        > actual, real-life experience, and why that should make them suspect is
        > beyond me. I suppose my anecdotes come from actual teaching experience,
        > watching how some "get it" and others do not, and til my last breath I will
        > assert that the ones who get it do so because they have touched the material
        > and therefore better understand what it means.
        >
        > I recently was in two similar discussions at two very different universities
        > where I was defending the idea of teaching letterpress as a part of any
        > healthy typography program. Many of these schools have spent pots and pots
        > of money on fancy computer systems and the LAST thing they want to hear is
        > that they could improve their program by instilling outmoded technology. I
        > often reference the Art Center, Yale, RISD, and other top-notch design
        > programs that have a large letterpress component. But, like the students
        > mentioned above, some schools "get it" and some don't.
        >
        > Katie Harper
        > Ars Brevis Press
        > Cincinnati, OH
        > 513-233-9588
        > http://www.arsbrevispress.com
        >
        > > From: "bielerpr" <bieler@...>
        > > Reply-To: PPLetterpress@yahoogroups.com
        > > Date: Fri, 30 Aug 2002 09:15:11 -0000
        > > To: PPLetterpress@yahoogroups.com
        > > Subject: [PPLetterpress] Re: making your own!!!
        > >
        > > What is unique about
        > > digital technology is that it is essentially a simulator of the tools
        > > of previous technologies, not a tool itself, and that is where it can
        > > be taken advantage of. I've gone on and on about this previously and
        > > elsewhere but I believe it constantly bears repeating. The computer
        > > doesn't have a material basis, you must supply this. In this regard,
        > > believe it or not, you actually have the advantage over the computer
        > > design folks because you know what physical spacing and physical
        > > leading and physical type and physical etc is. In a differing
        > > context, Eric Gill said, "Letters are things, not pictures of
        > > things," but, what the hey, I'll use it.
      • Peter Fraterdeus
        ... WELLL... Not entirely ;-) The principle holds true in many ways (I first heard this mentioned around 1986, I think, at an STA event with Gene Youngblood).
        Message 3 of 7 , Aug 31, 2002
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          At 1:41 PM +0000 2002-08-30, Gerald Lange wrote:
          >
          >> > What is unique about
          >> > digital technology is that it is essentially a simulator of the tools
          > > > of previous technologies, not a tool itself, and that is where it can
          >> > be taken advantage of. I've gone on and on about this previously and
          > > > elsewhere but I believe it constantly bears repeating. The computer

          WELLL... Not entirely ;-)

          The principle holds true in many ways (I first heard this mentioned around 1986, I think, at an STA event with Gene Youngblood). However, there is no previous technology being simulated by the web, unless it's some global interlibrary loan system! (the analogy won't stretch very far!)

          What the computer is, rather than a simulator, is a modelling tool. Any number of technologies and processes can be developed with digital models, and then extended in ways that 'materiality' would never allow. The computer and the network extend the brain in the same way that the telescope or microscope extend the eye.

          Because the computer is a type of chameleon doesn't mean it lacks the potential for unique expressiveness.

          For that matter, there are many instances that previous technologies could never have created work which the computer makes possible, even in domains such as typography or photography, where it is a 'simulation' of an imposing stone or a darkroom.

          BTW, another famous letterpress typography teaching program, of course, is in Basel, where Wolfgang Weingart broke all the 'rules' (and bent others into long curves, set in plaster in the bed of the Vandercook) on his way to proving that offset printing was not just a simulation of letterpress!

          jm2cw

          ;-)

          P.



          At 1:41 PM +0000 2002-08-30, Gerald Lange wrote:
          >Hi Katie
          >
          >Actually, I believe this came to fore with the initial writing of _Printing
          >Digital Type_, as the rationale for maintaining the integrity of the
          >letterpress page. At least, that's the first time I think I put it in writing.
          >Robert Bringhurst, later appropriated the idea (with permission, and
          >credit!!!) for a similar argument in the second edition of _A Short History of
          >the Printed Word_. So there. You have two more artifactual references to wave
          >in the naysayers faces. Haven't hear of _The Hand_ before. Have to look it up.
          >I remember you are familiar with David Pye's work. Another reference!!!
          >
          >Gerald
          ...
          --
          -
          AzByCx DwEvFu GtHsIr JqKpLo MnNmOl PkQjRi ShTgUf VeWdXc YbZa& @

          Peter Fraterdeus http://www.midsummernightstamps.com
          www.semiotx.com Magical Images from the Moon's Garden!

          Whatever happened to the War Against Injustice and Poverty!
        • bielerpr
          ... Peter Well, I would like to pursue this a bit just for my own clarification. So, I ll throw out a few thoughts here and try to follow your argument. In
          Message 4 of 7 , Aug 31, 2002
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            > WELLL... Not entirely ;-)
            >
            > The principle holds true in many ways (I first heard this mentioned around 1986, I think, at an STA event with Gene Youngblood). However, there is no previous technology being simulated by the web, unless it's some global interlibrary loan system! (the analogy won't stretch very far!)
            >
            > What the computer is, rather than a simulator, is a modelling tool. Any number of technologies and processes can be developed with digital models, and then extended in ways that 'materiality' would never allow. The computer and the network extend the brain in the same way that the telescope or microscope extend the eye.
            >
            > Because the computer is a type of chameleon doesn't mean it lacks the potential for unique expressiveness.
            >
            > For that matter, there are many instances that previous technologies could never have created work which the computer makes possible, even in domains such as typography or photography, where it is a 'simulation' of an imposing stone or a darkroom.
            >
            > BTW, another famous letterpress typography teaching program, of course, is in Basel, where Wolfgang Weingart broke all the 'rules' (and bent others into long curves, set in plaster in the bed of the Vandercook) on his way to proving that offset printing was not just a simulation of letterpress!
            >


            Peter

            Well, I would like to pursue this a bit just for my own
            clarification. So, I'll throw out a few thoughts here and try to
            follow your argument.

            In terms of what the computer is, physically, I'd think less a
            modeling tool than a counting machine, which is what I remember it
            was originally based on. Once you have applied the concept of a
            graphical user interface, yes, the user has a different perception of
            what is going on, but what the interface consists of, is, "in
            reality," binary code. The original (successful) interfaces were
            themselves based on the metaphor of the office (aka The Desktop).

            Yes, a GUI itself is designed to simulate modeling. And yes, once you
            break from physical realities and exchange them for simulated
            realities, well, who knows what the limits are, or, if there are
            limits. But in regard to your example, I think one can find a number
            of "material" analogies for the concept of the web. One can easily
            find the physical model for email! But, just to be the Devil's
            Advocate, whereas the telescope and microscope, as tools, may have
            extended our eyes and informed us more about the nature of physical
            reality, I'd submit that the brain/mind extends the "computer and the
            network," not visa versa!

            The phenomenon of what is possible with digital technology is beyond
            dispute. In areas such as animation, music, video, or as you say
            typography and photography, the progress is quite advanced, far
            beyond the capabilities of previous technologies, but it is still
            quite apparent to me that these technologies still drive the
            simulation. As we move further from these technologies, and their
            physical basis, however, our photography and typography will not
            actually "improve" because of the computer, or will they? or, will
            they just change? I think that is the basis of the argument, and more
            to the point of the concerns Katie was expressing.

            Re: The Great Innovator. The rules of letterpress typography were
            broken long before Weingart. Half a century earlier, Marinetti's
            printer was quite adept with the plaster of paris trick (though I
            think he used molten type metal). I've even found an early twentieth-
            century advertisement from where Weingart's famous split "typography"
            image could have been inspired! I've wondered if he had found it as
            well!

            All best

            Gerald
          • Gerald Lange
            Bryan Well, my undergraduate minor was in Philosophy and half the department was made up of phenomenologists and the other half was made of logical positivists
            Message 5 of 7 , Sep 1, 2002
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              Bryan

              Well, my undergraduate minor was in Philosophy and half the department was
              made up of phenomenologists and the other half was made of logical positivists
              (if that's the correct term). They were in a constant undeclared war. At any
              rate, I have a fairly ok background in this stuff. In fact, I was considering
              pursing graduate studies under Glenn Gray, one of the more contemporary writers
              on phenomenology.

              So, to answer your question, in terms of a definition of materiality (Katie's
              term), which, by dictionary definition, is a "material nature or quality," only
              by linkage to that meaning. More to the point in terms of the discussion,
              technology, and specifically, typography, I'd think you'd find more clarity in
              this regard, in the work of Robin Kinross, who underpins his theoretical
              arguments in _Modern Typography: An Essay in Critical History_ and _Fellow
              readers: notes on multiplied language_ with consideration for the material
              basis of typography (printing, and the accruements of).

              There are, of course, several phenomenological studies on technology, though
              they are somewhat outdated and do not take into acoount the new digital twist
              in the road. But, we are moving a wee bit off track here I suspect.

              Gerald

              Bryan Hutcheson wrote:
              >
              > By materiality are you referring to what Marx, Hegel, the phenomenologists
              > and existentialists referred to as materialism?
            • Katie Harper
              Since I m being quoted, I guess I better weigh into this discussion about the computer as a tool, etc. One of the more fascinating aspects of teaching the
              Message 6 of 7 , Sep 1, 2002
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                Since I'm being quoted, I guess I better weigh into this discussion about
                the computer as a tool, etc. One of the more fascinating aspects of teaching
                the history of graphic design is the way we (artists, designers and our
                viewers, etc.) adapt to technological shifts. Seems like these technological
                breakthroughs always start out being fancy ways of doing the same thing that
                everyone is used to, and then subsequent generations find new things to do
                with the new tools until a new aesthetic has been created, which then
                becomes standard and all too soon, old hat. Back in the Renaissance, this
                process took several generations; we are in a much faster lane and it seems
                as though the techniques that the computer allows us to use become obsolete
                even before they are perfected. This goes, all too sadly, for whatever good
                and useful things that come out of the technological shifts. (I do not use
                the term "technological growth," because I do not view technology as an
                evolutionary or linear process that leads inevitably from inferior to
                superior. In fact, I don't even view evolution that way, but that is another
                story...)

                One of the things that I point out to my students about previous
                technological shifts is to look at the group of people involved in their
                development and use. As we go through the centuries, those people have
                changed from being an intellectual elite (the scholar printers such as Aldus
                Manutius) to every Tom, Dick and Harriet creating his or her own web site.
                More democratic, surely--I for one would never advocate a return to a time
                when the vast majority of the population was ignorant and poverty stricken--
                but not necessarily best for developing technology to its fullest in terms
                of its content, form or use to society. What we have today is almost the
                equivalent of everyone being able to print his or her own books in the
                1500s. There is a lot of bad stuff out there, and those of us who are trying
                to bail out the deluge with a thimble are losing the battle. But I'm sure
                this is what the monks said about moveable type, no?

                I have found that a lot of the recently revived interest in letterpress
                coincides with a general return, in the graphic design industry, to
                materiality, perhaps as a backlash against the computer, whose use as a tool
                to create more and more eye candy is becoming old hat. A recent article in
                PRINT talks about an entire wave of new design shops devoted to books and
                materials and the new wave of three-dimensional forms that print media can
                take, because this is where the "new" vocabulary of communication will come
                from, and it's captured the imagination of designers and their audiences by
                providing something more rewarding than eye candy on a computer screen. It's
                a specialty market, of course, and if it thrives, it does so outside of the
                mainstream. But it reminds us again that there is nothing new under the sun.




                Katie Harper
                Ars Brevis Press
                Cincinnati, OH
                513-233-9588
                http://www.arsbrevispress.com
              • Kathleen Whalen
                Kathy has updated the website, and although she says she s not too pleased with the way it looks on the wider screen she has access to at work, I think it
                Message 7 of 7 , Sep 6, 2002
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                  Kathy has updated the website, and although she says she's not too pleased
                  with the way it looks on the wider screen she has access to at work, I think
                  it looks OK on the imac in the office here. Comments welcome!

                  But it does include the two latest books, one about some Bewick bookplates
                  and the other with some previously unpublished Seamus Heaney poems in it.

                  All good wishes

                  Graham Moss
                  Incline Press
                  11A Printer Street
                  Oldham OL1 1PN England
                  (44) 0161 627 1966
                  http://www.inclinepress.com
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