9. The Critical Engineer notes that written code expands into social and psychological realms, regulating behavior between people and the machines they interact with. By understanding this, the Critical Engineer seeks to reconstruct user-constraints and social action through means of digital excavation.
First of all, throughout the reading, I was not really sure about the definition of the term "Critical Engineer". I felt like it can be interpreted in different ways. This role can include every participant who is working towards the future, building Art-design-tech that deals with human interactions. Or, it can be a jargon describing a specific group of people. But no matter what group this term refers to, it all contributes to the overall manifesto and its emphasis on the social, cultural, and psychological importance for inventions. It first says the Critical Engineer writing codes that touch on social studies and psychology, both relating to research in human behaviors and interactions. This is a common point in many design and artworks theme. However, I found these concepts were rarely connected with coding. Coding is sitting on the other side with logic and rationality. So it is creative and interesting when reading part of the Critical Engineer's job is to use coding with ideas in the social and psychological realms for revising our conventional understanding and behaviors related to user experience and social actions. Nevertheless, when thinking about the production of coding, how is our behaviors being shaped? If we look around, we may find that most things around us today are partly constructed through written code, e.g. social media apps, personal websites, etc. If we look at these finished products, a majority part of human interactions and social life is actually connected or even shaped by code. In this sense, the statement points out the eventual consequence and influence of the critical engineer in the aspect of shaping a way of living and communicating.
5. The Critical Engineer recognises that each work of engineering engineers its user, proportional to that user's dependency upon it.
This article of the The Critical Engineering Manifesto talks, in my eyes, about the symbiotic relationship between a work of engineering (or indeed art) and its creator. As creators, they feel that a work of engineering is just as much a part of the engineer as the engineer is a part of their work. On top of this, the engineer learns more with every work they produce, growing their own capabilities. This is the heart of the symbiotic relationship: the work feeds the creator as much as it is fed and grows into fruition. It is the goal of the engineer to become the best they can be, and the only way of doing such is by engineering works.
To me this is interesting because as artist's I feel we should always be striving for better as we create works and learn as we go along. I personally find myself bogged down in my outcomes so heavily a-lot of the time that sometimes I forgot what I have learnt on the road, and for me this article was a succinct reminder that the road is just as much a part of the journey as the destination is.
Example: look at any artist's oeuvre through time, their own growth in skill and ideas is evidence of this article.
9. The Critical Engineer notes that written code expands into social and
psychological realms, regulating behaviour between people and the machines they
interact with. By understanding this, the Critical Engineer seeks to reconstruct
user-constraints and social action through means of digital excavation.
What this strikes a chord with me about this proposition is the very explicit notion here that code is not just a technological artefact but also a cultural one. I would argue that this idea extends beyond code, to all objects of technology and design - anything human created for human use, really. The objects we design, design us - and what makes code particularly tricky with this notion is that it is often very difficult to exactly point to how the software and interface are changing us. Thus, the role of the "Critical Engineer" to dissect this social interaction and reveal it is crucial.
Designed artefacts (and this includes code) are not just banal "objects" - they are encoded beings with inherent political, social and cultural meanings - intentional or unintentional. As Abraham Maslow has been credited to have said, "When you're holding a hammer, everything tends to look like a nail" - I think the same philosophy applies for code, in an even more potent way. While a hammer is still an immobile object, code is living, acting and shaping. The way google maps shows the world to you eventually influences the way you see the world, and a critical approach to dissecting and revealing this influence must be undertaken.
- The Critical Engineer recognises that each work of engineering engineers its user, proportional to that user's dependency upon it.
This tenet of The Critical Engineering Manifesto states that a critical engineer must note how engineering has the ability to "train" its user once the user begins to rely on it. I found this tenet to be interesting because it phrases our dependency on technology in a way that is new and almost frightening. It is true that we are engineered by works of engineering, even though we usually think of ourselves as the engineers. As engineers, it is important to have foresight about how the things we make will affect the user, and to pay attention to how we ourselves are affected by technology. This almost suggests through transitivity that we can engineer others with our work, which is a dangerous thought to have.
Examples of people being engineered by works of engineering are prevalent throughout our lives. Personally, I feel as though I am heavily engineered by my computer. I use it for work, communication, and entertainment among many other things. All of the things I can do on my computer affect the daily routine of my life. Checking emails, submitting assignments, and even making art depend so much on this work of engineering that I rely on.
In tenet four of the Critical Engineering Manifesto, its states that in order for one to be a critical engineer, one must consider implications of their work. Moreover, progressing technology or trying something just because one can is dangerous if the repercussions of one's actions are not considered beforehand. Especially in the areaing of fast technological advances, it is vital that a creator understand the impact that their programs, work, experiments, ideas, etc. can have on others and society as a whole. For example, this becomes essential during the discussion of A.I. when considering morality, impact on jobs, society, our laws etc. A critical engineer must understand and weigh the importance of the progress with the effects of the creations impact.
It's gratifying to see that a official time-honored document exists for engineers from all walks of life as there does for medical practitioners in the form of the Hippocratic Oath. The tenet that personally rung a chord with me is (1)
The Critical Engineer considers any technology depended upon to be both a challenge and a threat. The greater the dependence on a technology the greater the need to study and expose its inner workings, regardless of ownership or legal provision.
Up until this point in my creative and technical career I have been guilty of relying on a handful of tools well within my comfort zone to reify my creative vision, but it is becoming increasingly evident to me that this reliance on my staple technologies (Unity and Blender to name a few) is becoming a crutch to the point where I frame all my projects in terms of what these tools will allow me to accomplish, and thereby fail to do justice to my creative intent. (Incidentally when I introduced myself to the class, this is the core of what I was trying to express).
The engineers I respect the most, both in pop culture as well as real life, are the ones that can make the best of any situation. The engineers that raise no qualms about not knowing a certain language, pipeline or tool and invest themselves in learning said skills seem to be boundless in their creative capabilities.
This semester I am going to focus on what I see as being "language agnostic", I will boil down the core components of what I am learning so that I may adapt to any method of producing creative content. I noted some degree of parallel between (1) and (5), because ultimately all engineers are also users, and thus engineered by the products we use. I am going to strive to be a creative professional rather than a "Unity expert" or a "Java guru" (although the latter 2 labels would also be formidable to say the least).
"9. The Critical Engineer notes that written code expands into social and psychological realms, regulating behaviour between people and the machines they interact with. By understanding this, the Critical Engineer seeks to reconstruct user-constraints and social action through means of digital excavation."
This tenet observes that the code we write and the way it's expressed to users exist only in a theoretical space, but the experiences and ideas they create for their users have a very concrete impact on physical reality and our mind's perception of it. These are technologies that express how a person constructs an understanding of their reality. In this way, the technologies themselves have a significant impact on the way we understand reality and the decisions we make based on that understanding.
We design technologies that operate within our physical reality, consisting of 3 spacial dimensions along a single-dimensional timeline that we experience linearly. The mechanisms in our brains however, provide an understanding of reality where information is transmitted through space independent of mass or energy. In my personal reality I can make someone laugh, start a club, gain respect, or transcend the laws of physics by only touching a piece of glass with my body, all without having to exist at any specific point in physical space.
9. The Critical Engineer notes that written code expands into social and psychological realms, regulating behaviour between people and the machines they interact with. By understanding this, the Critical Engineer seeks to reconstruct user-constraints and social action through means of digital excavation.
This rule describes the fact that while we have a great deal of influence over the technology we create and its purpose, technology also has a great influence over our emotions and minds, and can be utilized to influence others. Technology, for better or for worse, can be created to bring about social change and to influence the minds of others, whether they are conscious of it or not. Particularly when art is combined with engineering, it can be used to move people towards a particular goal.
It was intriguing to me to imagine coding as something that can be designed to bring about social change and to have a psychological impact on "users". That not only does technology have an influence on the person using it, but that it has an influence on relationships between individuals.
One example of this which comes to mind are news apps that regularly notify users of certain headlines, filtering what it is that they're seeing to create an emotional response. Another is dating apps, which allow people to "browse" through profiles and possible partners based on algorithms that match their compatibility, which could become more and more advanced and specific.
I found the first tenet of the manifesto to be the most interesting:
"The Critical Engineer considers Engineering to be the most transformative language of our time, shaping the way we move, communicate and think. It is the work of the Critical Engineer to study and exploit this language, exposing its influence."
This rule of the document explains how technology has become such a crucial part of our everyday lives that we basically depend on it. It has been intertwined so complexly into our daily rituals that it is considered a language -- and it has helped the world become more closely connected. It is a Critical Engineer's job to facilitate these interactions, discovering its intricacies and publishing them so the rest of the world can come to a greater understanding of what the future holds for us.
I think this guideline is especially interesting because it kind of relates to the main topic of my first year writing class, the ethics of human-enhancement technologies. Soon it will become normal for people to be partially bionic or extend their lifespans or edit their genes, which might constitute a complete reformation of society because these technologies are changing what it means to be human. Someday soon our thoughts could actually be read, controlled, and changed by technology.
1. The Critical Engineer considers any technology depended upon to be both a challenge and a threat. The greater the dependence on a technology the greater the need to study and expose its inner workings, regardless of ownership or legal provision.
As we become more and more dependent on a single set of technologies, the authors of the manifesto see it as very important that we explore how the technologies are made and make clear how they work. Perhaps the most pertinent technology in the present is the internet; it has become so engrained in almost every part of our lives and very few people know how it really works. The same principle can be applied to applications of the internet, such as social media sites. These are particularly difficult in that they are closed source, so finding a way to examine them becomes more of a challenge, but this does not stop the Critical Engineer. When social platforms become such a huge part of people's lives, it seems important to really understand the mechanics of the system in an effort to better understand why they can so easily capture and maintain their hold on a user.