Archive | March, 2012

the builder/product connection

13 Mar

There are oodles of reasons why it would have sucked for me to live in some other era. Not only would I be Mexican (meaning dark-skinned, meaning persona non grata) and have my own troubles, but then there’s the stuff everyone had to deal with: unknown diseases, shortened life spans, rampant rape, boring dances, etc. There was, however, one big reason the past was awesome. IKEA helped me remember this reason.

I had two choices when attempting to furnish my apartment: IKEA or no IKEA. There was really no middle ground. My relationship with the Swedish (& snazzier) Wal-Mart has had its ups and downs: during college IKEA was the place you went to purchase style on the cheap; after college IKEA was where you could potentially spend hundreds of dollars of short-life cutesy shit. When thinking about my apartment’s decor, I decided to take a third route: use IKEA, and not let it use me. Instead of buying a TV stand from them, I recycled some old IKEA stuffs to build one. Rather than buying my desk at this glossy megastore, I created my own desk top (made out of wood and brawn) and incorporated some IKEA table legs, just by themselves. My chalkboard is a re-used IKEA table top covered in chalk paint and drilled onto studs. I don’t love/hate IKEA anymore, I just understand it.

Back to my point. When I finished assembling the aforementioned mish-mash furniture, I felt something tingly inside. It was pride. The work wasn’t as nice-looking as anything the store could offer or a professional could make, but that wasn’t the point. I made it, and that’s why it was beautiful to me. I envisioned and created that desk right there; I decided to convert two shelving units into a bookcase. I did it, not IKEA or some one else. That builder/product connection was missing all those years I was buying stuff from the store (a store that could replaced with any other and produce the same sentiment). During those dark years I was a consumer, nothing more. My interaction with the product was superficial and artificial. Anyone can be a consumer, but not everyone can/is a builder, at least not anymore.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the builder saw his/her product: the tables, the books, the guns, the bread. It’s not even about making something intangible, because consultants and preachers have always existed. It’s all about the pace of work and the distance between the maker and their product. Since the IR these have grown so quickly that they have made a substantial connection nearly impossible. Today, almost all of us work in a position where we will never really be able to see or touch what we are making. Even if we do happen to work in a position where our labor is manifested and at hands’ reach, it passes by so quickly, counted in bulk, that the moment is fleeting. Being so disconnected from our labor is a very recent thing, a tiny percentage out of thousands of years of existence as a species. My guess is we are still reeling from that abrupt tearing away.

My crappy, second-rate work is standing right in front of me. The screws are not totally flush with the rest of the desk, and the stain wasn’t properly applied, but it was all me. That connection can’t be bought or stolen. It can, though be taken for granted. Failing to appreciate that connection between my work and my end-product led me astray…specifically, it got me lost somewhere between showroom sofas and Swedish meatballs.


give it a second–it’s going into space!

1 Mar

We are an app-happy country. These apps, more or less, represent shortcuts. Show me something and I will find an app that lets me do that right now. But eventually, we find the shortcut’s shortcomings. The satisfaction we get from using our apps is short-lived (nice use of ‘short’, eh?). We don’t really stick with any of them for too long because we end up considering them useless. Siri will soon lose its mojo; instagram will quietly fade away. They, like their tiny icons, provide us droplets of glee, which soon melt away. But that will not end our craving them. There’s such a plethora of new options to choose from that these shiny pretty things will be around for a long time.

Is that it? Apps only represent the few hours of lifetime we spend installing and using them? I don’t think so; these creatures taking up megabytes of space in our electronics and in our days are about our addiction to technology. Continue reading

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