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September 14, 2006 4:44 AM   Subscribe

Architectures of Control in Design. A blog examining product designs intended to restrict or enforce behavior. In the built environment, we see speed bumps and roundabouts with intentionally obscured visibility; in the digital environment, we see various species of DRM and trusted computing; and in other commerical products, we see car hoods only openable by licensed dealers, printer cartridges for only one sort of printer, and a set of shoes for children which detects the amount of steps they take in a day and translates that activity into the amount of TV they may watch. The control may be for economic reasons, for reasons of safety, or even simply to enforce social nicety - and for each of these reasons are the implications worth regarding . [via the excellent things]
posted by Sticherbeast (27 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm having just too hard a time getting past his ridiculous title, but then I guess I'm just controlled by my knowledge of correct English.
But yeah. Damn all those speed bumps and handrails always controlling me.
posted by Flashman at 5:11 AM on September 14, 2006


See also: poka yoke
posted by kcds at 5:59 AM on September 14, 2006


I work for a software company where we continually ask if a control is necessary. We actually debate "What is the harm of letting the client do XXXX?" Sometimes, we determine there is no harm and do not restrict the choices available to the client. At other times, we have to restrict the choices to make sure our software complies with various laws or industry standards. There are many reasons for implementing controls in software such as keeping a client out of a loop or guiding them through a process in a user friendly manner.
posted by onhazier at 7:14 AM on September 14, 2006


It's not a ridiculous title, in the slightest. It describes Dan's interests perfectly and with a minimum of fuss.

The site itself is, I find, quite consistently thoughtful, insightful, and provocative. Glad to see it linked up here.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:58 AM on September 14, 2006


Hey, that's funny. I just came back here to point out that they reviewed our very own adamgreenfield's book, Everyware.

That's cool.

Aaaand here I am, posting right under him. Congrats, Adam- and Sitcherbeast, thanks for bringing this site up- it's fantastic.
posted by fake at 8:16 AM on September 14, 2006


There's lots of 'controlling' design around that bugs the hell out of me. Like how you can't open the windows on the new trains here in Tokyo. Like how increasing numbers of streets here in the city actually have fences that make it impossible to jaywalk, even when it's a really long walk down to the intersection. And there's more, but I think it'll start getting boring, so I'll shut up.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:45 AM on September 14, 2006


Good post and blog (and perfectly sensible title.)

It is interesting but not at all surprising how little people like being controlled by design and the lengths they will go to avoid it. There is great stuff from the Intelligent Space Partnership on how pedestrians circumvent street furniture. For exmaple, around St Giles Circus in London:

"This stretch of street has been designed with a specific idea of about where the pedestrians should walk, but they don't follow the rules. Pedestrians vote with their feet, walking through barriers and in the road along a heavily used bus lane. This is a dangerous kind of design failure: the risk of accident on this section of road is twice as high for the number of users as it is on surrounding streets."
posted by ninebelow at 8:50 AM on September 14, 2006


Architecture is the design and construction of buildings - my job, by the way. The noun is never pluralized, nor ever used as a verb, gag, except by the designers of computer software and hardware who needed to appropriate the term because they wanted to make their jobs sound more impressive.
This kind of business school speak - always reaching for the most portentous word available when a simple one would do the job just fine - drives me nuts. That is one reason I have difficulty with the title of his blog.
The second is that it is a redundancy: Design of control in design.
That's not to say that there aren't interesting aspects to this sort of study - there is cool stuff in here and I'm glad it was posted, and not only because it gives me the chance to give voice to my inner pompous blowhard.
posted by Flashman at 9:41 AM on September 14, 2006


and not only because it gives me the chance to give voice to my inner pompous blowhard.

Don't be silly. People having the temerity to use words without first acquiring years of expensive, highly-specialized schooling in the uses vetted by the professional class is definitely something to keep a watchful eye on. We wouldn't want folks to start communicating.

Also, you just gave me a chance to voice my inner random asshole.
posted by poweredbybeard at 12:15 PM on September 14, 2006


Architecture is the design and construction of buildings - my job, by the way. The noun is never pluralized, nor ever used as a verb ...

And here you're trying to express control over a corner of the language. That's never worked very well. (See also "hacker").

The first citation in the OED2 for "architect" as a verb (" To design (a building). Also transf. and fig.") is from Keats in 1818. Two of the other four citations (all prior to 1923) use "architect" as a verb in a figurative sense. One of the other two refers to the practice of architecture itself as "architecting", in comparison to "building".

As for "architecture" referring to things that aren't buildings (5th sense, "transf. or fig. Construction or structure generally; both abstr. and concr."), the first citation is from 1515, followed by a dozen more up to 1962.

Clearly the word means a great deal more than you think it means, and has done so for a very long time.

Your inner pompous blowhard ought to stick to buildings.
posted by mendel at 12:30 PM on September 14, 2006


Well you've both architected some very compelling responses - wendell, those citations are rock-solid and unassailable - a poet would never make inventive use of language, after all.
Sure, I'm comfortable with the use of 'architecture', used in a poetic or grandiose way to describe things besides buildings - trees, mountains, sports cars. And indeed my mini-rant about the term's co-option by computer-folk was an unnecessary cul-de-sac, borne of the frustration of excitedly scanning through reams of job ads only to discover that none were really looking for architects at all ... I grow increasingly aghast at the biz-school speak creeping into common use - such as the 'incentivize' I just read over in AskMeFi.
But I'm an extremely widely read, fairly literate person as well as being a (graduate) architect. I know when something isn't proper English.
'ARchitecture of Control'? Fine
Control in Design'? Fine
Architectures of Control in Design is just a bad title. It's redundant - both in the pluralizing of that word, and in repeating 'design.'
posted by Flashman at 1:22 PM on September 14, 2006


Flashman, don't be petty and ridiculous; you're just digging yourself in deeper.

For such an extremely widely read, fairly literate person, you have a surprisingly retrograde and proscriptivist perspective on who is empowered to use language, and to what ends. Frankly, this doesn't make me sangine about the quality of the buildings and environments whose architectures you will devise in the course of your career.
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:28 PM on September 14, 2006


I rest my case.
posted by Flashman at 1:46 PM on September 14, 2006


Wonderful! Thanks for the amazing link!
posted by redteam at 1:47 PM on September 14, 2006


[sound of a flight of F-4 Phantom IIs in Missing Man formation, mere inches supercranially]
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:49 PM on September 14, 2006


I'm sorry if this guy is like a buddy of yours or something, or if I've offended a horde of 'systems architects', but the reason I'm being petty and ridiculous about this is because I'm right ... on this utterly trivial issue. And it's going to take more than a quote from William Buster Keats to prove to me otherwise.
posted by Flashman at 2:04 PM on September 14, 2006


Maybe I am too tired but something seems amiss… the subject is interesting to me (I architect things) but the structure of the exposition might do well with some different… er… controls.

(My favorite traffic calming item to date: in Denmark, trees are planted in the middle of a travel lane. Speed bump indeed!)
posted by Dick Paris at 2:06 PM on September 14, 2006


Wow, he's responded to the name debate already!

I think "Architectures of Control" is a fine name, far cooler than "Architectures of Control in Design", which just keeps lurching on redundantly and leaves one feeling mentally breathless.

Interesting post and blog anyhoo, thanks.
posted by MetaMonkey at 2:52 PM on September 14, 2006


though the pluralization is yucky, and again redundant. "Architecture of Control" sounds more awesome the more I say it, however.

/couldn't resist

posted by MetaMonkey at 2:57 PM on September 14, 2006


I like that website. The topic is fascinating.

Dubiously qualified pedants I like a bit less.
posted by srboisvert at 3:00 PM on September 14, 2006


srboisvert, by definition a pedant is somebody who is dubiously qualified, so that there's nothing but a goddarned redundant expression.
posted by Flashman at 3:14 PM on September 14, 2006


wendell?
posted by mendel at 3:44 PM on September 14, 2006


Er, I mean: wendell?
posted by mendel at 3:49 PM on September 14, 2006



posted by five fresh fish at 8:22 PM on September 14, 2006


srboisvert, by definition a pedant is somebody who is dubiously qualified, so that there's nothing but a goddarned redundant expression.

It becomes clear now. You are using a dictionary nobody else has. Good luck with that.
posted by srboisvert at 2:20 AM on September 15, 2006


Could one of you kind gentlemen please direct me to the Department of Redundancy Department?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:38 AM on September 15, 2006


Well there used to be one of those around here, but then everyone who worked there got laid off.
posted by Flashman at 6:04 AM on September 15, 2006


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