Today I had a conversation with my tutor Jay about my project, but also more widely, the culture of Ad Hoc, DIY modifications both digital and physical. He made some interesting points, which I was able to note down.
For context, Jay Payne is a lecturer at the University of Huddersfield and a practising animator. He is undergoing a PHD and his specialism covers Adobe After Effects and Cinema 4D. Jay’s input is incredibly useful to me as he has been in the industry much longer than I have, and can personally recall the development that After Effects (and our attitude toward it) has undergone over time.
To begin with, as I explained the area of research I’d be undertaking, he suggested I look up Gmunk, (Alias for Bradley G Munkovich) a technical developer who’s work surrounds modifications and hacking. He even delivers lectures, so I’ll be sure to have a look for those later.
In response to my idea for Ad Hac, Jay told me that the beginning to his involvement with hacking and modifying was with clothes. Rooting from a frustration with what was available to him in stores, “they never were quite the style that I wanted..” he began to make his own clothes.
Jay is dually interested in building and tinkering with physical objects as he is with code and software.
Upon reflection, I think many of us are, Sander Van Dijk’s career began in carpentry, and even I’ve been invested in both physical and digital modifications…
In many cases, Jay’s included, most tinkering of the traditional kind happens where you might expect: the garden shed. I have my own memories of building and modifying go-karts and bike ramps to play with. But I never used a workroom or shed, perhaps my age or gender was a factor, or perhaps it’s just simply because in my case the family shed was too full of junk to function as a workroom.
As I think and remember more examples of things I’ve built a modified myself, I start to fall a little off topic. Which examples are relevant enough to be included in Ad Hac? What constraints should I put in place? Why does it feel like ‘changing the image for the cusor on school computers’ and ‘making own clothes’ are on topic but ‘building a bike ramp’ is not? I’ll need to find more examples to investigate this. (See AdHac 001)
Jay also mentioned that he thinks many consumers (that’s all of us) feel a wall of detachment between them and the designer/builder/engineer of the product they’re using. And when the product doesn’t meet our needs, we are constrained by the role we assume (the consumer) to not take action by rebuilding or modifying it. Of course maybe a warrantee agreement or contract may stop you from tinkering with electronics, but there is also this unspoken rule of ‘user doesn’t create, user consumes’. Jay has his own ethos that drives him to break through this wall, and it is simply that ‘if a human being designed this’ I can too.
Curiosity plays a major part in this tinkering attitude too, so maybe this is the catalyst that septal users who use and users who modify. Maybe the reason why media authoring software is more often modified by its users than any other subset of software is because of this curiosity trait its users (creatives) all share.
Jay thinks that everyone to an extent has this trait, but the separation here is when the curiosity overrides the doubt. Perhaps this is when thinkers (wonderers) become do-ers.