(Human) Modular design and thinking

catalog

Well-known member
Just an idea kicking round my head when i woke up this morning... i'm sure it's been discussed and commented on already somewhere, but couldn't find anything on a quick search...

So I was thinking about Droid's great 95 Jungle thread and how it's not quite the jungle i like best. And then for some reason i connected it to orgasm (dont ask me why) and how you could perhaps think of musical movements as mimicking or being modelled by the sex act: build up, orgasm, post chill, something like that. i'm sure reynolds must have addressed this? the idea of conceptualising music in terms of shagging? or barty?

but then my thoughts widened out a bit and I thought more broadly in terms of the 'modular' as a way of conceptualising a whole lot. So i mean the way the human body has been used to think about all sorts of different things...

So i think most recently i've been reading the thomas moynihan book 'spinal catastrophism' and there's this recapitulation theory popular in the nineteenth century and up to modernism, where it was thought that the (human) spine represents within it all previous forms of animal and fish life, so the base of the spine, those bones, they are fish, then as you travel up the spine, you get into mammals and finally humans. the idea that you could recreate all life out of a human spine.

and then i remember reading about le corbusier and his obsession with the modular, basically mapping the human body, its dimensions and proportions, onto architecture and building. and thinking of a city as a person.

forensic archtiecture is wher ei read about this most recently i think, there is a section all about the satellite image pixellation available to human rights groups, of bomb deaths, where basically it is lawful for the pixellation depth to essentially obscure the human, so that its hard for groups keeping tabs on drone attacks (say) to figure out whats going on from the data, cos the pixel depth has been calibrated alongisde the dimensions of the human body, purposefully.

and then i was thinking of yyaldrin's comments on the new design, the idea of dissensus becoming more human with the curved edges (and again, i know its already been discussed in other threads). got me onto the idea of breaking out of this anthropocentric way of thinking about design and planning... as in, whats the machinic design doing in terms of 'modular'? Are the features of the user interfaces we now use modular in a new way?

The modular of the hand: I can hold together approximately 5 disparate thoughts.
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
Don't mean to be too reductive here, as I am sure there is more to unpack, but how much of this can be said to stem from the ineluctability of our frame of reference? Whether it is projecting anatomical ratios onto our environment, or projecting some of our more abstract characteristics onto our other objects-of-thought?

Interesting series of examples you've strung together here - those that I am familiar with do indicate this kind of only-one-toolbox-to-pull-from(-and-that-toolbox-is-the-default) rationalization.

Someone else here mentioned the tempo of some music genre (maybe something classifiable under rave - but I am shooting in the dark here, not generally familiar with the topic(s) of music) being close/at the average rate of our heartbeat, which would be a physiologically informed aesthetics (?) that isn't necessarily confined to sex, but still is indicative of the kind of anthropocentrism you mentioned.

Interesting points on the human spine as some kind of evolutionary palimpsest, a compression of its own history. I wonder if the same can be generalized/applied to all organisms, to whatever degree.

For what these words are worth: some intriguing thoughts you have here. Nice to be able to frequent this place and regularly be met with such things.
 

catalog

Well-known member
You are right of course, so many things are built from our bodies outwards, the physical nature of our selves.

How could it be any other way, you seem to be asking? Yes...

Like I was also thinking of the phallocentricism of towers and things like that, cranes and projections.

Interesting how gender has a role too, roads are modelled on rivers, and rivers are feminised. Ganga was a woman, the daughter of a God, mischievous, tried to wash away another God...

But no...

This is what I'm wondering a little, are there new paradigms? The spinal catastrophism book seems to me to be arguing, ultimately, that the recapitulation theory feels a little stuck and old.

And I can't help thinking the same, that the body as a model has perhaps run its course, or at least there are maybe some other machinic things going on.

Can't really think of any, but I'll keep thinking...
 

woops

is not like other people
i assume you lot know there is an actual physical thing called modular synth? i'll be playing mine on saturday on the internet, gonna post it in the events thread.
 

catalog

Well-known member
I did a search on here for 'modular' and that was the only thing that kept coming up. I know nothing about music technically woops, so please, if you can, explain whether modular synths fit this exploration? Are they built out of a relationship to the human body? If not, what does the modular refer to?

Good luck with your gig, you need to do some more promo
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
What about this: If we tend to identify certain technological apparatuses/devices as extensions of our body, our sensorium, are those devices liable to be projected onto our creations? If any trend of anthropo/phallocentrism is winding down, or is exhausted, could it just be a shift from our organic body to, say, some kind of cyborg body? Does spinal catastrophism touch on that at all?

I wonder of this can be mapped onto "brutalist" architecture at all. I can't say I am familiar enough with it.
 

catalog

Well-known member
If any trend of anthropo/phallocentrism is winding down, or is exhausted, could it just be a shift from our organic body to, say, some kind of cyborg body? Does spinal catastrophism touch on that at all?
The podcast about it may have something to say, but I can't remember it specifically. I seem to recall them discussing how the more modern interpretation of the theory is more satisfactory than the magickal 'as above, so below' formulation, cos it has more nuance. I think that's somewhere in the earlier bit (I have listened to it all, but it's pretty heavy...). The book is good tho, would recc.
 

catalog

Well-known member
Might as well post this here, just been reading some interviews with Julia fox, I had no idea she did these photo books, but this bit stood out and seems relevant

Autre: You post a lot of pictures of you and your gun, do you use your gun for protection?

Fox: I like to say that my gun is my dick. In that it's so phallic in both its appearance and its significance. When I had it on me, I felt the same security that a man must feel. As women when we are born we are given this diamond and then taught to defend and protect it for the rest of our lives. When I have the gun, all that goes out the window. I'll just kill anyone that comes for it. In Louisiana it's customary to have a gun. Most people have one on them or in their car at all times. I didn't really have a choice. I'm not bringing a knife to a gunfight [laughs].
 

catalog

Well-known member
Ballard, from the drowned world:

The brief span of an individual life is misleading. Each one of us is as old as the entire biological kingdom, and our bloodstreams are tributaries of the great sea of its total memory. The uterine odyssey of the growing foetus recapitulates the entire evolutionary past, and its central nervous system is a coded time scale, each nexus of neurones and each spinal level marking a symbolic station, a unit of neuronic time.
 

catalog

Well-known member
Moynihan, in the spinal catastrophism book, says ballard almost definitely would have read up on one of the recapitulation theories as advanced by a guy called Firenczi (might have spelt that wrong), who was a student of Freuds, but took some of Freuds ideas further eg he said our pleasure in baths and water is not about being back in the mothers womb, but more about our going back further and wanting to be in the fucking sea
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
That's cool, a kind of amoebic yearning, cosmic homesickness.

Do you mean the plaguepod episode? Or a different podcast.
 

catalog

Well-known member
From Craners recent essay on Swansea


he's quoting a poet, Vernon Watkins

The sea is “a wave running over the Earth”, a hurling “sea-mass” “of pitiless history”, “the engulfed, Gargantuan tide” and “the magnificent, quiet, sinister, terrible sea”: an elemental force that is unpredictable, threatening and destructive. But it is also “that eternal Genesis”, “regenerate”, a “resurrection-blast” that “gave back a sigh”: an eternal source of renewal, comfort and vitality.
We could probably do with a thread for the sea
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
We make things based on animals too, e.g. attachments for dogs without the use of their back legs. Something like that has to stray from the human due to the differences in anatomy.
 

sufi

lala
i like the idea that your cells have layers starting with that dna protein core with bits added for functions some chlorophyll stuff and maybe you're a plant leaf sinew, some neuron stuff and you're a brain cell, a few more features and your a wiggly amoeba
and then
how bodies made up of ingenious unlikely combinations of disparate components: hammer anvil stirrup and cones is an ear, lens and goo and photosensitivity and you can see. ligaments and gristle, you can swap it out, upgrade,
 

sufi

lala
extend that to all our prosthetical tools and constantly fizzing artificial remote comms and we're a big squishy cyborg all pulsating together in a massive unwieldy multihuman blob
 

sufi

lala
and so, even before we realise about this newly emerged gooey molten global consciousness we become the autopilot - our beautiful species spaceship navigates towards our destiny somewhere out there in the heavens - we steer the solarsystem through the cosmos with tiny subtle shifts to the gravitational fields of the astral bodies, a nudge to our moon pulls us off orbit enough to set a new trajectory, changes to our tides bounced the moon just enough when we threw that statue into Bristol harbour
 

muser

Well-known member
Music and sex is a fun comparison, the release is only ever as good as the build-up, passionate or mechanical and loveless, titillation and vulgarity. Ambient is the equivalent of tantric sex. But in this case it can be tied directly to biological processes that are probably very similar in both sex and music, the release of endorphins comes from the expectation.

I think instead of the body we can model everything as nature and biology because it is. I imagine if aliens came to the planet Earth and looked at the structures and cities we have created they wouldn't be seen as separate from the trees and rivers, all of which are equally shaped and formed by the organisms that surround them. It feels like recent design has stopped resisting this idea in a way, using models of the human eyes to make image recognition technology, modeling motor neurons to control bipedal robots, alphazero, I'm sure there's a lot of this in architecture and city planning.. I can imagine a positive feedback loop as we find that working with nature is far more successful than trying to better it.
 
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