The Shape of Things: A Philosophy of Design

By Vilém Flusser

Contributor note: Martin Pawley (Introduction)
Publish yr note: First released 1993

This publication provides for the 1st time in English an array of essays on layout by means of the seminal media critic and thinker Vilém Flusser. It places ahead the view that our destiny is determined by layout. In a chain of insightful essays on such traditional "things" as wheels, carpets, pots, umbrellas and tents, Flusser emphasizes the interrelationships among paintings and technology, theology and expertise, and archaeology and structure.

Just as formal creativity has produced either guns of destruction and nice artworks, Flusser believed that the form of items (and the designs at the back of them) represents either a possibility and a chance for designers of the longer term.

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As some extent is with no measurement, is not anything, the wheel is rarely involved with the truth it truly is rolling over and for this reason should still by no means be stimulated by means of it. however, it does in truth rub up opposed to the treacherous repulsion of the realm, and donkeys need to pull it that allows you to maintain it rolling. reflect on how distant now we have come, in discussing the matter of the automobile wheel, from the legendary international of the wheel of the solar. And the fundamental distinction among the realm of delusion and ours is that this: on this planet of fable, there might be no unmotivated stream. If anything strikes in it, reason why it has a motivation – i. e. since it is lively through a motivation. In our global, nonetheless, circulate demands extra clarification. Our global is inert, or – to place it extra elegantly – the legislations of inertia explains all flow and all relaxation. in fact, there are, additionally in our international, routine that seem to be encouraged. Our personal, for instance. Such irregular activities are attribute of dwelling beings. The eighteenth century adored a wish of explaining away the motivations of dwelling beings as legends and of explaining dwelling beings by way of complicated machines. This wish hasn't ever materialized, and but the area of fantasy is an lively international – dwelling beings are all inside of it and are wheeled alongside by means of destiny – whereas ours is an inert, inanimate international, no matter if residing beings take place inside of it, and this inert global rolls on and on with out motivation. So how come car wheels are regularly catching? simply because some degree is just not anything in idea and since a wheel is barely a circle in thought. In perform, some degree is often elongated, and a circle is usually a bit of abnormal. based on the legislation of inertia, wheels may still in conception roll ceaselessly to infinity, yet in perform they arrive up opposed to friction, which places a brake on them. despite the fact that, this doesn't suggest that we should always abandon concept while development motor vehicle wheels. to the contrary, it implies that we needs to, whilst, construct a conception of friction into the idea of inertia. With the cart pulled by way of the donkey, we're stuck correct in the course of a contradiction among thought and commentary, among thought and scan – i. e. among pondering scientifically and considering technologically. the realm has develop into inert and inanimate and even as treacherous and repulsive on account that, through the discovery first of the water-wheel after which of the automobile wheel, now we have damaged during the fateful wheel of the everlasting recurrence of an identical. yet we will conquer the repulsive treachery of the inanimate international through the dialectic among conception and test and strength it to behave as a foundation for a limitlessly rolling development. The wheel of growth can't circulate ceaselessly ahead instantly since it is compelled time and again to beat the blind, unmotivated resistances of an inanimate international – e. g. the earth’s charm and the unevennesses of the skin. The wheel of growth wishes a motor, and we ourselves are this motor, our personal will.

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