Following the INDEX conference, I got to thinking a bit more about how the designers posited design as an unquestionable good to be used to solve the many problems of the 21st century.
But what is good design? How do you know when you’ve found it?
Well, this summer I read Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and he discusses that exact question with regards to technology: What makes good technology? What is quality – not only in design and technology – but in all fields of use and application of such? And how do we come to appreciate it?
Pirsig’s book was a big “cult classic” in the 1970s, and some consider it to be the most widely read philosophy book ever. It seeks to find the answers to the questions above both in Western philosophy, represented by the logic of the motorcycle, and in Eastern mysticism, represented through the Zen Buddhism also mentioned in the title.
But today I suspect that only a few members of my generation have come across the book, and even less have been convinced by Pirsig’s style of narration.
For while I really liked some of his insights, I was frustrated by the way they’d been hidden within a 400 page auto-biographical narrative which at times confused rather than illuminated the main points around the nature of quality and the influence of technology on our lives.
So I set out to remix the book to highlight the questions of technology, quality, and design and the interrelations between them. I found an on-line version of the book and turned 400 pages into around 60, which I have gently formatted and made available in html.
I find the way we relate to technology and design fascinating, and I hope that this remix will help to show some of the ways we think and imagine technology and quality. Please have a read and add your comments.