Slobodan Dan Paich  Comparative Culture Papers

Presented October 19-22, 2013, Symposium inaugurating China Lewis Mumford Research Center at the Center for Studies of Urban Culture, Shanghai Normal University — Shanghai

Slobodan Dan Paich, Director and Principal Researcher

Artship Foundation, San Francisco, USA

With comment by
Kuokuei Kao
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology
National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan Kuokuei Kao

Informed Response—Curriculums of Care

Seven Examples of Intended or Inadvertent Initiatives Reflecting Mumford's Ideas of Inclusive Technics


In opening we visit Mumford's articulations of three ages of Technology and reflect on their adaptation and amplification in response to the state of the world we find ourselves in. We continue by exploring Mumford's central notions of time and measurability with two examples. Then we follow with five other examples reflecting on or comparing with Mumford's notions about tools, technics, architecture, inner life and cultural phenomenon

1. Measured and symbolic elements integrated in a municipal clock proposal that won Art into Landscape Competition in 1974, sponsored by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

2. Reflecting on Mumford's interpretations of the past and issues of the role and commodity of measures is approached through analysis of the Renaissance double portrait The Ambassadors painted by J. Holbein, 1533, now in National Gallery, London. Mumford's ideas of pre industrial technics are paired with a few examples of Ancient Chinese inventions and his notions of use of tools, acquiring mastery, inventing and refining technics and learning as inseparable parts of human characteristics are explored through two contemporary projects that are not machine based.

3. In Nakhchivan, Ancient Water Technology Meets Modern Need, the author of the article S. Ostrovsky describes how newly trained youth workers systematically tackle drought in Nakhchivan by clearing blocked and abundant tunnels near the water sources at higher altitudes "reviving an ancient irrigation system invented by the Persians 2,400 years ago."

4. Fano-Educational Village; British Summer School in southern Italy (1975-1980), where practicing and future architects, landscape architects, urban planers, established artists and art students convened. The central communal experiment and curriculum intention was the building of a small lake. This gave the participants and practitioners concerned with the built-environment a visceral experience of using ancient technics and pre-industrial methods.

5. Mumford's critique of the one-sidedness of contemporary architecture is compared with intentions and methods of Children and Architecture project, which was structured learning outside of school setting. The project's intention was to integrate children's internal wisdom of playing with learning about the world of architecture. The program focused around free form model making of architectural principles and indigenous dwellings. It took place twice weekly from 1989 to 1995 at the Museum of Children's Art in Oakland, California, USA.

6. The members of Artship educational initiatives articulated Crisis Of Perseverance as an aspect of contemporary culture deferring the cognitive processes and mastery training to machines and algorithms. Ubiquities throughout society, this problem is particularly acute among children and youth lacking role models or witnessing success through perseverance. The paper discusses this in light of Mumford's ideas. Artists of all types are the embodiment of achievable mastery and the tangible experience of completion. In tackling this problem, Artship Initiative embarked on redefining a historic 1940 passenger-cargo/military ship for public peacetime use and as a cultural space. The ship was (from 1999 to 2004) an exciting, ever - changing campus of cultural activities and art-making surrounding extracurricular children's activities and potential hard-core youth job training programs. Students and teachers of Landscape architecture, Architecture and Urban Planning from the University of California at Berkeley were actively involved both through school projects set around and about the ship and as volunteers and youth coaches. The initiative of turning a massive and handsome machine into a symbol and learning space was a response to the crisis of meaning felt by many people, particularly by youth. This was already articulated by L. Mumford in the thirties and fifties of the twenties century.

7. Mumford's prophetic warning and insight are compered with the intentions of Gateways of the Senses Project, an educational initiative integrating art, science and deep ecology for children and youth. The project addresses many questions and issues of the contemporary culture with expanding and invasive product marketing. Mumford's call for contemporary ways of nurturing the inner self is compared to the project's intentions of cultivating discernment among the children and youth targeted as consumers. Mumford in many ways foretells that parallel to the outer warnings of catastrophes and global dangers, there is the less acknowledged ecology of mind, internal self, and internalized social interconnectedness that are also threatened.

In closing we reflect on Mumford's articulations on committing things to paper, separation between abstraction and organic life and direct cognition in light of architects' and urban planners' education as caretakers of habitation and bodily well-being and a development of the curriculum of care and reciprocity with nature.

Technics and Technology

The determining factor that makes technology ubiquitous and inseparable from daily life and societal behavior is its gradual separation and independence from a human operator. Lewis Mumford in the thirties of the twentieth century wrote his seminal book Technics and Civilization, where he names and articulates the history of the development of technology in three phases: eotechnic, paleotechnic and neotechnic. Mumford analyzes dazzling successes and foreboding characteristics of each phase. Not to get lost in redefining Mumford's word-coinage and loose track of his central ideas, we proceed without specifically referring to the phases as tool of our discourse.

Although the remarkable technologies existed in ancient China, Egypt, Mesopotamian, Greco-Roman and the Medieval Arab world, Mumford delineates a difference through pointing to abstraction and commodification of measuring particularly in relationship to time. In Technics and Civilization Mumford writes:

The clock, moreover, is a piece of power-machinery whose "product" is seconds and minutes: by its essential nature it dissociated time from human events and helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences: the special world of science. [1]

Many of the predictions, critiques and warnings Mumford voiced in his work have become stark realties of our everyday life. This paper reflects on intended or inadvertent initiatives reflecting Mumford's ideas in response to the state of the world we find ourselves in.

Time and Measurability

We continue by exploring Mumford's central notions of time and measurability with two examples.

We cite a municipal clock proposal that won Art into Landscape Competition in 1974, sponsored by the Royal Institute of British Architect. The competition called for the ideas addressing urban decay and wastelands in modern inner cities. The winning project explored possibilities of including symbolic representation of time in the structural and tectonic arrangements of the piece. The intention was through public monument not only to address the multi-dimensionality of time and/or " to brighten up a patch of waste land" as to make a possible contribution to popular education, which has been very much neglected in the twentieth century. The catalog of the exhibition in the description of this project carries the statement "Popular education is the greatest wasteland we have today." Popular education through architectural and planning amenities of the modern city are paired in the light of Mumford's ides on mechanization and its effects on cultural well-being. In the chapter Art and the Symbol, from his book Art and Technics, Mumford writes:

But the good fairy who presided over the development of technics did not succeed in forestalling the curse that accompained this genuine gift: a curse that came from this very overcommitment to the external, the quantitative, the measurable, the external. For our inner life has become impoverished: as in our factories, so throughout our society, the automatic machine tends to replace the person and to make all his decisions—while, for its smoother working, it anestheitizes every part of the personality that will not easily conform to its mechanical needs. [2]

By proposing a mechanized sculpture whose main function is reinterpreting time as a symbol, the project subverts the dehumanizing aspect of automation and by placing it in the urban park links it to season and vegetation as its context.

Measuring Instruments as allegorical language

Lewis Mumford in his Technics and Civilization and in the section titled The Cult of the Past writes:

... an attempt to resume the ideas and forms of classical civilization, and during Renascence the cult was, in fact, a sort of secret ally to the machine. Did it not, like the machine, change the validity of the existing tradition in both philosophy and daily life? [...] Did it not, by breaking with the immediate past, encourage the future to break with the present? [3]

A potentially pivotal example for a discourse on relationship of symbol, machine and technic could be Holbein's painting Ambassadors made in 1533 now in the National Gallery, London. The careful arrangement of all the objects sets the scene for us to appreciate the culture, achievement, and preoccupations of the two men portrayed as representatives of their age. The first thing we notice is a number of exquisite time and orientation devices as intimate, personal machines. The painting depicts a definite moment in time 10:30 on April 23, 1533 and can be read on many instruments depicted. The hipper-realism disguises an almost encyclopedic set of references, every object is there as if real on a shelf but also carries cultural and symbolic references legible to the intellectual circles of that time. The twelfth century Cosmati Pavement from Presbytery of the Westminster Abby in London appears as a scenic element in this sixteenth century painting by Holbein. One thing most commentators on the painting agree upon is that the allusion was deliberate, like all the elements in the rest of the painting. The pavement in the painting links the ambassadors to a twelfth century ambulatory symbolic journey taken by the worshipers centuries earlier. This stretching of context is partly emphasized by an irrational, mysteries object on the painting's Casmati like floor. This object, panted accurately and mathematically according to rules of the stretched anamorphic perspective, which could be only comprehended by walking around the painting. The object when seen from an obelisk angle and from the side reviles an accurately and realistically panted skull. Here by rational means a symbolic, transcendence pointer, a memento mori is reviled by an ambulatory participation in the painting. So everything represented was panted as if real and for those people everything implied, hinted at and evoked, symbolic was probably real to. The connection between object and evocation was not yet lost at the time the panting was made.

Managing Water
Mumford's thought on a healthy relationship to technics in the chapter Cultural Integration from his book Art and Technics may contextualize the next example:

By contrast, we overvalue the technical instrument: the machine has become our main source of magic, and it has given us a false sense of possessing godlike powers. An age that has devaluated all its symbols has turned the machine itself into a universal symbol: a god to be worshiped. Under these conditions, neither art or technics is in a healthy state.[4]

S. Ostrovsky, the author of the article In Nakhchivan, Ancient Water Technology Meets Modern Need describes how newly trained youth workers systematically tackled drought in Nakhchivan by clearing blocked and abundant tunnels near water sources at higher altitudes "reviving an ancient irrigation system invented by the Persians 2,400 years ago."

S. Ostrovsky describes how the traditional technology was saved from near extinction by tapping the knowledge of two chehriz technicians, a 65-year-old and a 72-year-old, "who remembered the skills from their youth. They have since trained 100 more young men and the project has spread to other parts ...rebuilding chehriz in their spare time."

Chehriz, kariz or qanat (kahrezesin Armenian) is a type of underground irrigation aqueduct; a human-made tunnel connecting an underground layer of water in the foothills of seasonally snow covered mountains or a higher altitude mountain lake to the dry and arid plains below.

The water distribution takes place along a deliberately crafted tunnel, often lined with bricks or some reasonably impermeable material. To maintain the qanat, aerate the water and allow hotter air to ascend out of the system, there are well-like openings all along the length of a qanat, built close together at regular intervals. The qanat uses gravity as a main source of propelling the water downhill. This marvel of engineering and understanding of the environment has been the underpinning of Persian culture since the Iron Age.

S. Ostrovsky in his article quotes Sarat Das, head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) supporting the reconstruction of waterways as saying: "Nobody attended to the chehriz in Soviet times, mechanization replaced the traditional systems." S. Ostrovsky concludes that on the reconstruction project they were "unable to pay the higher prices for electricity imported from other countries, the locals looked to the region's 400 or so crumbling chehriz to turn their dusty fields green.

The inclusion of this example is to further Mumford's studies in areas where his assessment of over insistence on mechanization and disregard for internal human biological and cultural processes can balance the present state of the world.

Making a Lake

Fano-Educational Village; British Summer School in southern Italy (1975 - 1980), convened practicing and future architects, landscape architects, urban planners, established artists and art students. The central communal experiment's curriculum intention was building a small lake that involves multiple skills. These gave the participants visceral experience of using ancient technics and pre-industrial methods. The curriculum's intentions were to better value and understand the benefits and shortcomings of mechanization, automation, absence of toil and social bonding in contemporary culture. For thousands of years people at Fano in southern Italy have maintained a rare, almost unique fresh water stream and carefully diverted it into irrigation canals. This meticulous art deeply understood water and its potential. This tradition became the basis of building the lake at Fano. The schools improved the land, repaired the ancient dry-stone dwellings, some of them had prehistoric origins and were maintained by successive occupants since Paleolithic times. These activities in some way echo Mumford's thoughts on pre-industrial technics, tools and bodily engagements:

The essential distinction between a machine and tool lies in the degree of independence in the operation from the skill and motive power of the operator: the tool lends itself to manipulation, the machine to automatic action.[5]

The reason of including this example in the paper is the model of learning it offers that can be a contribution to informed responses to environmental design issues and one of the starting points for the curriculums of care. The disciplines of doing and making, are often visceral and most of the time a non-verbal process. In traditional society such rich learning surrounds children. In the modern urban life, learning is allotted to the school environment and children rarely see parent or neighbors engaged in learning, particularly visceral learning where they could participate. Most architectural, landscape and planning students come from this model of segregated learning. Because building, gardening, arts and crafts activities, instruction, learning and production are often considered remedial, there is significant societal atrophy of some basic cognitive processes that start with the attention span and inability to contain inner and outer agitation. In our view, witnessing and engaging in lifelong visceral learning can help children, students and adults overcome the sometimes debilitating effects of virtual and commercialized reality. This brief synopsis of a series of conceptually interrelated projects in view of Munford Ideas of Inclusive Technics, not technologies of production line, could offer some learning models. These conceptually interrelated projects come from continuous effort to engage learners at all stages of life in doing and making and in acquiring personal mastery that in turns get shared. Commitment to children and youth in extracurricular settings is a big part of it.

Children and Architecture

Mumford in his book Myth of the Machine insightfully points to the core issue of the industrial age by pointing to the eighteenth century roots of mechanistic thinking:

Descartes could not of course foresee that this one-sided effort to "conquer nature" would bring a special danger, the closer it approached realization: that of dispossessing and displacing man himself. But though we must now confront the ultimate threat. [6]

This understanding permeates Mumford's critique of the one-sidedness of contemporary architecture. As a public intellectual and architecture critic of the influential magazine in his time, the New Yorker, he points in many ways to the shortcomings of the Le Corbusier's, International Style inspired architecture branded as Machine for Living. By the final decades of the twentieth century the crisis of this architectural style was palpable among the users who had to live with this threatening environments. Mumford writes:

The great problem of our time is to restore modern man's balance and wholeness: to give him the capacity to command the machines he has created instead of becoming their helpless accomplice and passive victim; to bring back, into the very heart of our culture, that respect for the essential attributes of personality, its ceativity and autonomy, which Western man lost at the moment he displaced his own life in order to concentrate on the improvement of the machine.[7]

One spontaneous response among many to this crisis of the built environment was expressed in the intentions and methods of the Children and Architecture project, which involved structured learning outside of the school setting. The project's intention was to integrate children's internal wisdom of playing with learning about the world of architecture. The program focused around free form model making of architectural principles and indigenous dwellings. It took place twice weekly from 1989 to 1995 at the Museum of Children's Art in Oakland, California, USA.

The project was an extracurricular activity where parents brought their children to the museum as a treat and an educational outing. Regardless of developmental theories of the day, the project allowed children of mixed ages and abilities to work together. Children from 5 to 12 worked together around the table. Each session had a thematic framework.

For example, one of the themes was an enactment, making a small model of a primeval dwelling as if building a first ever shelter. To accomplish this, basket making materials were bundled up in a number of sizes, eventually tied with string to hold them together as a model making material and as an example of tying and lashing. Dry and fresh leaves or fabric scraps were available for cladding. Simple non-toxic, water-soluble glue and paint was always at hand. Also during the class parents were allowed to sit around the table instead of in the waiting area for parents. The class, with this inter-generational mix and adults present became an ever-changing mini community. Dynamics of this mixture are worthy of reflection in a separate paper. To open possible discussion and to focus on the activities of the children, a summery of some key issues of this learning / containing exercise are below:

  1. Framing concept: Simple learning of a building tradition or architectural principle.
  2. Openness to the process: Attempt to represent the theme in three dimensions as best as one can.
  3. Community building: Helping each other.
  4. Valuing and cherishing: Enjoying and finishing the object as is, regardless of traditional prototypes.
  5. Shared meaning: Owning the object and encouraging respect for its duality, of being both one's own and also helped by others.
  6. Intimacy of play: Qualities of enactment usually not associated with architecture and architectural models.

Children and Architecture Program was based partially on a post graduate research at the Design Education Unit of the Royal Collage of Art in London from 1980 to 1983. It was an inquiry into resources, means and theoretical implications of three-dimensional model-making for design learning in general, and environmental design in particular. The project implemented and evaluated learning materials and techniques for three-dimensional model making. The research was involved in creating learning materials and systematically observing three-dimensional model-making with select groups of pupils from London schools, first and second year architectural students and practicing architects and designers. Observation included psychological, symbolic as well as practical ramifications of model making as an aid in planning (e.g. rooms, dwellings, streets, villages, towns, parks, gardens) on a large scale.

The antecedents

Paradoxically the most important antecedent of the Children and Architecture Program was not the architecture itself, but working with children and their involvement with puppets. The scale, the anthropomorphic simile of puppets, the intimacy and relatedness they invoked, helped in encouraging creation and reflection on the architectural model as an extension of the human figure and presence. The multiple layers of this project point to a need for de-conditioning and creating Learning Communities that offer cultivation of sensibilities apart from de-humanizing solutions

Crisis of perseverance
Mumford in his Art and Technics writes:

Yes: the burden of renewal lies upon us; so it behooves us to understand the forces making for renewal within our persons and within our culture, and to summon forth the plans and ideals that will impel us to purposeful action. If we awaken to our actual state, in full possession of our senses, instead of remaining drugged, sleepy, cravenly passive, as we now are, we shall reshape our life to a new pattern, aided by all the ressources that art and technics now plase in our hands.[8]

One initiative that reflects this call for action was the redefinition of a historic 1940 passenger-cargo/military ship for public peacetime use and as a cultural space. The ship was (from 1999 to 2004) an exciting, ever-changing campus of cultural activities and art-making surrounding extracurricular children's activities and potential hard-core youth job training programs. Crisis Of Perseverance, articulated by the members of Artship educational initiatives was a response to a local need that addressed a problem, particularly among children and youth lacking role models or witnessing success through perseverance. Artists of all types are the embodiment of achievable mastery and the tangible experience of completion, hence the name "Artship," expresses an exciting, ever changing campus surrounding hardcore training programs.[9]

Frank Giunta, the Airship board president at the time, in an annual report for 2004, wrote:

When Hallie Williams—a founding member of Artship, its long time chair, and a juvenile probation officer in Oakland—and Artship artists worked at Juvenile Hall [Detention Center for Delinquent Youth and Children], it became clear that artists' relative mastery of drawing and other arts helped the youth realize their ideas. The presence of a trained artist was essential. What we also discovered over and over again while we had the ship, was that bringing people to the ship itself accelerated the motivation in acquisition of skills and mastery better than when we went to their familiar environments. It seemed that the stationary ship—too old for transcontinental voyages and therefore stationary—brought people directly to their imaginative self. They were on, to use Stanislavki's term, an as if poetic journey. The connection to imagination seemed to feed their perseverance and attention.[10]

As a response to a number of local issues such as the discrepancy in educational opportunities for urban poor and multilingual populations, the lack of accessible non-remedial job training, and the lack of access to waterfront amenities and extracurricular recreational and learning activities, a number of Oakland projects were carried out which culminated in the creation of the Artship Initiative in 1992.

Throughout 1991-92 weekly community meetings where held. At those meetings, community members identified the need for a signature venue, at the municipal scale, capable of being a symbol for the diverse city. After many discussions, the idea of a decommissioned ship was adopted, and the future cultural facility was named "Artship." To manage the ship and it's programs, the Artship Foundation was established as a cultural arts and public benefit foundation.

But Artship was not just a local initiative. In 1995, Artship Initiative was chosen as the US headquarters of the International Peace University. Under the patronage of more than twelve Nobel peace laureates, the International Peace University opened in Berlin during the fall of 1995. Laureate participants, sponsors and the committee appreciated the breath of the work, community oriented spirit and cultural sensitivities of the Artship programs and initiated a partnership. This brought different, more sophisticated and academic constituents to the ship, which merged with the artists, local youth, their younger siblings and parents.

Community gathering place On any average day on the Artship, you could find musicians recording in acoustically unusual spaces of the ship and visual artists making things. For example, Ben Trautman created sculptures as a part of the wheelchair accessibility route throughout the ship. Schoolchildren touring the ship engaged in ship specific art and interpretive projects, and non-profits held meetings from a coalition of 30 local community-orientated groups. There were dancers, clowns, actors and musicians rehearsing, knitters knitting, poets reciting, welders welding, cameras clicking, and wood chips and plaster in unlikely places. Also quietly working or instructing were researchers, archivists, volunteers, teachers and librarians. This is a glimpse of multiple constituencies that co-existed and shared with the general public.

One experience shared by most users and visitors to the ship was imagining travelling and journeying, partially because the ship was stationary. The richness, configuration, and smell of the ship brought people to the imaginative and imagining self without having to voice it or be an artist. It was a non-verbal, spatial and associative experience that brought poetic sense regardless of age, cultural background or levels of literacy.

Psychologist James Hillman in his book Myth of Analysis has said:

Poetic language intensifies meaning by packing many implications and references into the small space of a word or phrase; that a poem miniaturizes and is like a computer chip or an optic fiber in that it carries many messages simultaneously. [11]!

In the case of the ship's visitors, this poetic compressing of meaning was brought about non-verbally by a sense of the space. The process of abstracting was visceral, cognitive and involved feeling experientially that needed no words. The children visiting the ship were exposed to activities that gave them insight into ship functions, history, folklore and introduced them to maritime and arts/crafts skills. Also it nurtured a sense of wonder and met the nescient curiosity with care that opened the doors for systematic learning later. The fact that it was not a children's or youth ship but it belonged to and represented "all the people of the town" helped to value and treasure the learning given and assimilated in that place. There it was a machine turn into an experiential learning place where the ever-present element of the vast ocean pointed to the relative scale of the machine itself.

Constructing Future

It may be interesting to bring into discussion a potential project as a shift from reflecting on and learning from the projects in the past, to a future potential, a possible project yet to be implemented. The issues that the project addresses may be of interest in thinking about, for and with children. Mumford's quote from Art and Technics may offer some context:

During the last two centuries there has been a vast expansion of the material means of living throughout the world. But instead of our thus producing a state of widely distributed leisure, favorable to the cultivation of the inner life and the production of enjoyments of the arts, we find ourselves more absorbed than ever in the process of mechanization. Even a large part of our fantasies are no longer self-begotten: they have no reality, no viability, until they are harnessed to the machine, and without the aid of the radio and television they would hardly have the energy to mantain their existence.

Mumford wrote this even before computer games, smart phones, reality shows and social media's invasion. The initiative we are looking at here is a proposal for creating a curriculum project, Gateways of the Senses, integrating art, science and deep Ecology. Addressing less-acknowledged ecology of mind, internal self, and social connection that are as threatened as the natural environment. Central to this curriculum initiative is personal mastery and informed balancing of the visceral with the virtual.

The Project is a factual and experimental learning exploration for children and youth. The project addresses many questions and issues: In the contemporary milieu of intense commoditization with expanding and invasive product marketing, what are the mechanisms for nurturing the inner self and cultivating discernment among the children and youth targeted as consumers?

Can a coalition of scientists, artists and educators create a pilot project with programs that are easily implemented for children at different levels of development, as well as create supporting materials for teachers and parents workshops to lessen this global pandemic of un-contextualized information?

Jean-Noël Jeanneney, the head of La Bibliothèque Nationale de France writes:

A 2005 survey of 22,000 adult Internet users... found that 62 percent make no distinction whatever between advertising and other information, and only 18 percent could tell 'which data were paid for by companies.[13]

Gateways of the Senses Project is envisioned as multi-year comprehensive educational project addressing the ecology of mind and perception by teaching about the senses and their physical and psychological effect on cognition and learning abilities.

In reflecting, responding and critiquing the issues raised by the Gateways of the Senses Project we can imagine all kinds of activities in schools and the community and advocate for the richness of learning/playing environments.

B. Shneiderman wrote in his paper Human Values and the Future of technology, a declaration of responsibility in 1999 for the Computers and Society Journal:

We can make a difference in shaping the future by ensuring that computers "serve human needs (Mumford, 1934)." By making explicit the enduring values that we hold dear we can guide computer system designers and developers for the next decade, century, and thereafter.

The intention of initiatives like the one mentioned here probably exists in many places. We have heard of some and can imagine others: coalitions of parents and teachers, students and citizens, psychologists and botanists and paper lantern makers with computer analysts. China's Lewis Mumford Research Center may be one of the places to collect and create forums for these intentions and experiences to be shared towards an informed response and curriculums of care.


In closing we reflect on Mumford's articulations on committing things to paper, the separation between abstraction and organic life and direct cognition. The function of paper in the industrial culture is as insightful as the articulations of the refinement and improvements of the clock. Mumford writes about what committing to paper offered.

... and by centering attention on the printed word, people lost that balance between the sensuous and the intellectual, between image and sound, between the concrete and the abstract, which was to be achieved momentarily by the best minds of the fifteenth century - Michelangelo, Leonardo, Alberti - before it passed out, and was replaced by printed letters alone. [14]

The projects we cited as examples throughout this paper reflect Mumford's thinking about education that rely mostly on information committed to paper:

The divorce between print and firsthand experience was so extreme that one of the first great modern educators, John Amos Komensky, advocated the picture book for children as a means of restoring the balance and providing the necessary visual associations.[15]

In the machine age architectural education, practice, esthetic and reality depended almost entirely on paper schemes extruded into actual materials. Brunelleschi who won the competition for finishing the dome in Florence in the fifteenth century stipulated in his proposal that he be allowed to build the first half of the arching structure which would teach him how to complete it. In our reflection on Mumford's ideas we are not advocating the abolishment of Engineering and Building Codes. What we are looking into is a richer, more experiential learning process for environmental designers that start with the familiarity of architectural principles and traditions experienced through play and early learning as a part of general education. This may require an integration of experiential learning parallel to mathematic and linguistic development, Curriculum of Care that signals respect for the natural world around us. Mumford also articulates the roots of machine age institutions and points to the antiquated origins of the construct of "scientific objectivity" that puts pure reason as the apex of human achievement, equating human to a machine and disguising mechanistic propaganda.

The primary mechanical inventions of the clock and the printing press were accompanied by social inventions that were almost equally important: the university beginning in Bologna 1100, Paris in 1150, Cambridge in 1229 and Salamanca in 1243 ... In the sixteenth century two further social inventions were added: the scientific academy, first founded in the Accademia Secretorum Naturae in Naples in 1560, and the industrial exhibition, the first of which was held at the Rathaus in Nurnberg in 1569, the second in Paris in 1683. [16]

Parallel to this worldview and values, there are always alternatives practiced, often less respected that preserve the essential, embodied paradigms necessary for sapient conciseness. From these paradigms the surviving humanity may nurture and educate future caretakers of habitation and bodily well-being and integrate them with a development of the curriculum of care and reciprocity with nature. Mumford's articulations and critiques are an aspect of these emerging paradigms.

[1] L. Mumford, Technics and Civilization, The university of Chicago Press, Chicago 2010, p. 15

[2] L. Mumford, Art and Technic, Columbia University Pres, New York 2000, p. 10

[3] L. Mumford, Technics and Civilization, The university of Chicago Press, Chicago 2010, p.288

[4] L. Mumford, Art and Technic, Columbia University Pres, New York 2000, p. 138

[5] L. Mumford, Technics and Civilization, The university of Chicago Press, Chicago 2010, p. 10

[6] L. Mumford, The Myth of the Machine, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York 1970, p. 79

[7] L. Mumford, The Myth of the Machine, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York 1970, p. 48

[8] L. Mumford, Art and Technic, Columbia University Pres, New York 2000, p. 162

[9] O Fulton & R Baili, 'Artship Master Plan'. Oak to Ninth Avenue Waterfront Development, Port of Oakland, 2002, p. 55.

[10] F Giunta, 'Case Statement'. Artship Foundation Archives, March 2004, p.2

[11] Hillman, ames. 1998. The Myth of Analysis: Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, p. 45

[12] L. Mumford, Art and Technic, Columbia University Pres, New York 2000, p 6

[13] J Jeanneney, Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: A View From Europe. University of Chicago Press, November 2006, p. 32.

[14] L. Mumford, Technics and Civilization, The university of Chicago Press, Chicago 2010, p.136

[15] ibid p.136

[16] L. Mumford, Technics and Civilization, The university of Chicago Press, Chicago 2010, p. 138


Giunta F., 'Case Statement', Artship Foundation Archives, March 2004

Fulton O. & Baili R, 'Artship Master Plan'. Oak to Ninth Avenue Waterfront Development, Port of Oakland 2002

Hillman J., The Myth of Analysis: Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology, Northwestern University Press, Evanston 1998

Jeanneney J., Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: A View From Europe. University of Chicago Press, November 2006

Mumford L., Art and Technic, Columbia University Pres, New York 2000

Mumford L., The Myth of the Machine, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York 1970

Mumford L., Technics and Civilization, The university of Chicago Press, Chicago 2010

Mumford L., Technics and Civilization, Harcourt, Brace & Company, Inc., New York 1934

Shneiderman B., Human values and the future of technology: a declaration of responsibility, ACM SIGCS Computer and Society, volume29 Issue3, September1999, New York

Comment By

Kuokuei Kao
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology
National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan Kuokuei Kao

Dear Slobodan,
The following is my responses to your thought-provoking essay. Personally, I admire very much your natural-humanist proposal to combine the art of interpreting symbols and the life of using tools into a "curriculum of care" for all, which means for every human being beyond the ingrained divides of children and adults, laypersons and professionals, etc. I think your vision of "visceral practice", presented masterfully and beautifully in a balance of theoretical ideas and empirical cases, has succeeded in exposing the perils of privileging the restricted and restricting alliances of intelligence and machine, science and technology, or academia and business in the age of modernity. I believe your natural-humanist spirit will be ardently embraced by artists and intellectuals living in the post-communist China. After all, the Chinese literati have inherited the natural-humanist tradition of Confucianism and Taoism from the immortal routines of life. It was the fragmentary nature of everyday practices which allowed such natural humanism to survive even the attempt at exterminating the singular forms of life, languages and cultures, during the dark years of Cultural Revolution. The Chinese humanists have never ceased to strive for recovering a creative relationship with the worlds of nature and society.

As a sociologist, however, I often enjoy adopting the role of a player in the ritualistic game of "gift exchange" (Marcel Mauss) or "symbolic exchange" (Jean Baudrillard). Therefore, I'd like to introduce a couple of comparative views closely related and yet somehow distant from yours as a gesture of reciprocity. It is my way of thanking you for these beautiful hand-made gifts you were willing to share with me. You may or may not agree with these views, but my intention is purely to pose a challenge to the natural-humanist way of thinking as the highest and liveliest way of honoring the originality of your paper. I simply reopen some questions you have marvelously answered, and lead them toward a different direction so as to render the techno-capitalist reality we live in a little bit more mysterious.

As I understand this paper, you generalize, exemplify and finally surmount Lewis Mumford's art critique by demonstrating several accomplished art projects. The critical spirit of the argument reflects on the epochal domination of machine technology and human intelligence because they result in "segregated learning". The creative spirit invokes on the perennial capability of human individuals and communities to retrieve their umbilical cord with language (symbol-related interpretation) and instrument (tool-using skill), as well as body (visceral sensation) and nature (object-evoking connection), by cultivating the liberal arts of "doing and making".

Your admirable faith in spontaneous human practice is in political agreement with The Human Condition (1958[1953], University of Chicago Press), in which Hannah Arendt offered a historical-philosophical narrative of homo sapien qua homo faber having already degenerated from poetic "thinking" and "making" to productive "laboring" in modernity. Moreover, your faith can find a spiritual resonance with The Practice of Everyday Life (1984[1980], University of California Press), in which Michel de Certeau provided an urban-sociological account of ordinary people having always preserved the tactics of "doing" and "using" through the practical arts of cooking, walking and talking.

However, sometimes I wonder if a stark contrast of cerebral technology versus visceral humanity might be a confusing vision of apocalyptic end and messianic hope. Or, in terms of metaphysics, has nature- and/or human-centered reality truly challenged the modernist idealism of mind over body, spirit over matter? Or, in more positive terms, perhaps we have lost sight of the constant reinventions of human reality under the spheres of heaven and earth via "anthropotehnology" (Peter Sloterdijk)? In You Must Change your Life (2011[2009], Polity Press) and The Art of Philosophy (2012[2010], Columbia University Press), German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk breaks away from the over-intellectual distinction of contemplation and action (Hannah Arendt), and turns directly to "the substantial complex of human behavior that is neither merely active nor merely contemplative called the life of practice" (Sloterdijk, 2012: 6). He defines "practice, or exercise, is the oldest form of self-referential training...they develop the practicing person himself and get him 'into shape' as the subject-that-can...Depending on the context, this is defined as constitution, virtue, virtuosity, competence, excellence, or fitness" (Sloterdijk, 2012: 6).

If the above concept of the life of practice is put into social-historical contexts, then the following long quote might be of interest, especially when we correlate it to the creative spirit of your paper: �The citizens of modern life have long since known better; they are not influenced by the acquired blindness of theoreticians. They have opened sluiceways to officially ignored training practices, and the ascetic improvements that Nietzsche postulated under various names— continuing education, training, fitness, sport, dietetics, self-design, therapy, meditation— have become the dominant modus vivendi in the positive achievement subcultures of the West. Moreover, all the signs now indicate that the ancient great practicing powers in East Asia, that is, China and India (following the Japanese model), have completed the transformation to globally oriented forms of training...I am taking account of a fact that is apparently trivial but whose effects are unpredictably far-reaching: the fact that everything people do and can do is achieved more or less well and done better or worse. Adepts and players are constantly involved in a spontaneous better-or-worse ranking of their skills and actions' (Sloterdijk, 2012: 7-8).

However, it's worth stressing that Sloterdijk's generous notion of practice does not exclude the role of the "pure observer" championed by traditional European rationalism modeled on the figure of Socrates, since a "lover of wisdom" is supposedly a "dead person", a person who practices the "art of dying" or "looking at the truth of the afterlife 'autoptically', as if face to face" (Sloterdijk, 2012: 3). Simply put, Sloterdijk does not mindlessly join the fashionable anti-philosophical campaign of "killing the dead person", especially those who follow to the letter (but not the spirit) Marx's maxim of "changing" instead of "interpreting" the world. Why? I reckon the main reason is that we are already living in "Integral Reality" (Jean Baudrillard), since our semiocapitalism itself celebrates continual change in the melodramatic scenes of organizational overhaul, personal journey and bodily makeover. If so, then the problem at stake is neither a matter of participation versus observation nor of change versus interpretation, but rather concerns whether there is any "play with reality as a form of illusion" (which means never raise reality to the dignity of truth by asking "is it real?") in participatory change itself. In some situations, perhaps Bartleby's "I prefer not to" attitude, as a counter-practice to the art of doing and making, is the better strategy (I am thinking of Melville as one of Mumford's favorite writers).

Under the cybernetic signs of liberty and change, we might need to strategically play Lewis Mumford against his contemporary Ernst Junger who was a shameless defender of technology. In Introduction to Antiphilosophy (2012[2009], Verso Books), Russian philosopher Boris Groys offers a progressive reading of Junger's Der Arbeiter (1932). Basically, he understands Junger's political-aesthetic conception of technology as a superhuman endeavor to achieve earthly "immortality through alienation" (Groys, 2012: 135). Under the inhuman domination of technology, fairly speaking, machines of reproducibility and serialization do unleash democratizing potentials by promoting mechanisms of the anonymous, the impersonal and the replaceable. Subsequently, these technological mechanisms find a strong affinity with artistic procedures of the avant-garde from Russian constructivism to Duchamp (ready-made) and Warhol ('I am a machine') (Groys, 2012: 135-137). As a result, Junger's technological utopia led him to visualize "the perfect worker-state", which "is much more germane to the mass culture of our time" (Groys, 2012: 143). In his science-fictional state, "the figure of the worker does not consume—which means that, after its grand historical victory, work becomes identical with non-work, or leisisure" (Groys, 2012: 140). Does not the figure of the worker look somewhat similar to an artist in practice, since they both create by doing and making in the same manner as resting and playing?

Inasmuch as I prefer to write more about the ambiguous relationship of art and technology for your pleasure, I really need to get back to work. So dear Slobodan, I wish you a very, very pleasant experience in Shanghai. Do enjoy the Chinese food and scenery as much as you can!

Best wishes, Pascal (Kuokuei Kao)