Edinburgh College of Art hosted “Drawing and Making: the Elements of Creativity” yesterday in the Hunter Lecture theatre. I’m happy that I was able to go to see it, it made me want to draw more, which is a good thing, since we all know I have issues with drawing for real.

the repetition of small objects
(bricks) make the buildings

There was a lot of discussion of mark-making, both as an exploratory tool and as a making process. Textiles were represented quite well, and our incoming department head, Geoff Mann, had been asked to speak before anyone knew that he would be joining the faculty here at ECA.

High Tech is about demand on the individual to produce more in less time
High Touch is about process, about allowing time for discovery
it is knowing when to unplug and when to plug in
– John Naisbitt

One statement that I was interested by was a quote (above) from John Naisbitt. I’m not sure that I think that the above quote is really a fair statement. I think that High Tech can be a slow and painstaking process that creates a very specific thing tailored to the individual goals and needs of the particular problem at hand. It is a process that, much like many craft processes, becomes more intuitive as it is practiced. If High Tech is not about process and discovery, that’s not a fault of the tech, but of the user.  I think that “High Touch” as a way to describe things that are about process and allowing time for discovery, mis-represents the ways that people who do work that is not literally “hands-on” think critically about their process and allow space for accidents. Geoff Mann addressed that issue in his talk, describing how his process allows for the unknown, space for the tool to speak. Amusingly, while speaking at a drawing symposium, he insisted that he didn’t draw. Additionally, the juxtaposition between “tech” and “touch” in this way is blind to the fact that there are very route, repeatable processes in hand-making, and that a process does not need to be high-tech to respond to pressures on the individual to produce more in less time. This characterization of “tech” implies that tech is always predictable. It may be true that we want tech to be predictable, but it’s also true that when I make a lost wax cast, I’d often like its outcomes to be somewhat predictable too.