tatjna (tatjna) wrote,

Burning Man was better in 1992

This weekend I got gripped by the Making Stuff bug again - this time the project is so dorky I'm not even going to tell you what it is till it's finished. But it is branching out into a new area for me, so I'm documenting it with photos and all will be revealed eventually if I'm not too embarrassed to show you.

But I can show you this:

I didn't make this, grist did. It's the light part of the lamp installation we are collaborating on for our downstairs hallway. While it looks kind of pink there, you can see in the reflection that it's actually a bunch of different coloured LEDs, programmed with an arduino to colour-change in a variety of patterns according to how we want our downstairs disco hallway to be lit. Each little square will go inside one of the lamps I made. Remember this?

And then they'll be hung amongst these:

And it will be pretty! This project is nearing completion and I'm looking forward to seeing it all done. And I bet you anything you like, the only part of it that other people will find interesting will be the arduino/LED/electronics part of it. Such is the nature of my social group.

I struggle with this every now and then. It's a weird thing and I suspect a lot of it is internal - after all, art is art is art, right? Creativity is creativity. But I'm not like a lot of the people I know, in that I'm not endlessly fascinated by electronics. I would rather cover my hands in glue and paint and scabby bits making something analogue than mess about with code and soldering wires. Not that there's anything wrong with coding and soldering, far from it. Lots of people make really cool things this way, and I think it's neat. But I'm something of a plebeian in that I think if you've seen one giant tesla coil that plays lightning music, you've seen them all, and I get bored with that sort of thing pretty quickly. And I'm sorry Happy, the mitochondrion is very cool and I do get that it's incredibly complex and satisfying to have made such a thing, but what I like about it is when you do contact with it. Without your skill doing contact and bringing it to life, it's just a shiny stick to me.

Sometimes I feel as if there's something lacking in my psyche because of this. Mostly I think it's because I'm surrounded by people who get off on tech, so my view is skewed to think that being a tech geek is the norm, or something. But if I'm completely honest, that's one of the reasons I don't get involved in things like maker spaces (even though I could have done with a lathe for 5 minutes this weekend). I've never been to one* so I'm probably judging from ignorance here - but everyone I know who's involved in them is a tech geek, and when I picture this I picture a bunch of mostly men standing around having conversations about things I don't understand and am not really interested in, while I go off by myself and splash around with glue and nails. And then I produce my masterpiece and someone says "Needs more LEDs and lasers."

I know this is an unfair view and I have no right to think this without having tried it out. But I've spent enough of my life being excluded because I'm different, that I now have a fairly large chip on my shoulder about anything I view as elitism - I guess the unfair part is where I assume that maker spaces are likely to be elitist. But hey - this is a small town and it's always the same people involved in these things, you know? And some of those people are deeply involved in things that are elitist, and I'm chickenshit at heart. I'm not interested in putting myself forward to be told I can't be in the club. I'd rather keep cleaning paint stains out of the carpet making stuff in my lounge, where nobody judges my things based on whether or not it involves getting a PhD to understand how it works.

* You know, the fact that I've never been asked to one tells me that perhaps this is not all just in my mind.

"Get over yourself Tats, geez!"

Yeah, it's not like I don't tell myself that every time I see someone talking about how TED has jumped the shark because now it's accessible to more than just a small group of smart people. I grin because 2-3 years ago, the very same people who are doing that now were all over TED as the best thing ever. But it's only good until it becomes mainstream, then it's not good enough any more. I know that now every person and their dog thinks they have an idea worth sharing, finding the actually good ideas has got a whole lot harder. One now has to apply a filter to TED. But I think it's a bit *ahem* privileged to expect to not have to apply a filter, frankly. Welcome to the rest of the world, where you mostly get fed dross and can't easily insulate yourself from the bullshit by hiding away with a select group of people. If you want to change the world, you have to be in it, and that involves accepting that the more accessible something is, the harder you have to work to maintain the quality.

There's probably a Sociological Theory to be applied here, eh? Some smart fuck came up with it and I'm not saying anything new. If this is the case, point me at it - I'm keen to know. But if you combine my working class background with my history of exclusion because I'm different* and then add a healthy mix of having one foot in both camps**, you get an inability to articulate exactly what it is that gets up my nose about the way people tend to denigrate things once they get popular - but I know it does get up my nose. I understand the logic behind it but it still annoys me. This is my attempt to figure out what's up with that. I think it's because in part, when people talk about the level of ignorance, lack of discernment, or plain thickness of the general population, it feels as if they are talking about me. And I want to yell "Not everyone who doesn't have access to your resources/education/clubhouse is stupid, you know!" But I can also see the evidence that people acting in large groups do behave more stupidly, and mass production often reduces quality. Should we only produce good stuff for the elite then?

So I guess the frustration I feel when I see this attitude among my friends is a combination of two things:

1. Cognitive dissonance - I'm a libertarian as an individual but I understand enough about how things work to be somewhat of a socialist when it comes to policy. This form of elitism is a similar individual-vs-population issue I think.

2. Part of me doesn't want to be left out of the club. I feel like an interloper, as if someone dressed me up as an intellectual but I'm actually a ditch digger that reads a lot, and I'm waiting to be told I don't belong and to piss off.

I don't know if I'll ever get over that second one tbh.

* Spent most of my life thinking 'different' means 'not good enough' and I still have this inner struggle on a regular basis.
** That would be the Outside camp and the Inside one. I am surrounded by the sort of people who are in a position to criticise TED and back it with smart arguments, yet I'm also someone who thinks that the concept of bringing knowledge to the masses is a fundamentally good one - after all, I'm one of the masses, you know?

Huh. That went somewhere I wasn't expecting. I guess I have feelings about this.
Tags: also a bit of a wanker, i have feelings!, rambling about rambly stuff
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