Critical Engineering

5. The Critical Engineer recognises that each work of engineering engineers its user, proportional to that user’s dependency upon it.

This tenet expresses how the people who use these ‘works of engineering’ are in fact ‘used’ by the works themselves – in the sense that they allow themselves to be so easily shaped by their own devices. I find this tenet interesting and see a lot of truth in it because I believe that there is always a special dialogue in the interaction between the user and the creation. Utilitarian creations, in particular, have had a great impact on the lives of humans – and I feel that our lifestyles have been firmly molded by the objects we have made for ourselves.

Take, for instance, cell phones: whenever I go out I see people of different ages immersed in their tiny boxes of plastic and circuitry. Even I, on occasion, allow myself to get lost in the world offered by this small box when I feel the need to pass the time. Why do we do this? Well, what else can we do while we wait for our meal at the restaurant or stand in a long line at the grocery? Over the years, we seemed to have developed a dependency on our mobile devices, seeking a quick relief from the boredom of the outside world by going to the one presented on a 3-inch LCD screen. The question is whether we have conditioned ourselves to do this, or the item has conditioned us.

Technological Art that Inspired Me

As someone who is fascinated by weird, abstract concepts such as the 4th dimension, I was immediately drawn in by the ‘Hypercube’ installation by Jaap van den Elzen. Collaborating with sound designer Augusto Meijer, Jaap van den Elzen created a surreal and disorienting experience that gives the viewer the illusion that they are trapped in infinite space – despite being in an enclosed box that is only 2 meters wide and 2 meters tall. Within the cube, the viewer is surrounded by loud, discordant ambient noise and color-changing neon lights that seem to stretch on for eternity. By shutting the viewer out from reality and immersing them into an area in which their senses are invaded, this audiovisual project provides a new way for people to experience space.

An article overviewing the project by Mitja Prelovsek