Technology, Trash, and Art

Tuesday’s seminar delved way too far into the Disney Pixar movie, Wall-E. For those who’ve seen it, you know that that movie brings up a bunch of good points about what we are doing with technology and how that is affecting the earth. Yet, rather than being about the environment, I found myself fixated on the art…

Wall-E, a happy little trash compactor, fashions himself into an artist. One of my first thoughts on this movie was how much beauty came from the trash that humans had generated. I was amazed at how Wall-E took something so dismal, something with so much potential to be incredibly depressing, and made it into something as powerful as it was. The city was destroyed, ground into itself, and yet Wall-E rebuilds it into a strange new likeness of itself: similar looking on the outside, and yet so completely different up close. I Loved It.

The thing that really got to me here was the parallels to a Manufactured Landscape, from last semester. For this, a photographer took some of the most dismal scenes from our world: horrid instances of pollution, run down cities, children rummaging through trash, and through photography, made it “art”. This. Drove. Me. Nuts.

I got to thinking as to why… what was so different? In the end, I realized that I was angry because in manufactured landscape, peoples’ suffering was being used as just something to create art. On the other end, Wall-E physically changed the destruction; he took what was run down and in many ways useless, and created beauty from it. In my mind, it was the concept of a phoenix, as opposed to taking a picture of the phoenix’s ashes.

The environmental stuff was cool too, but what can I say, I’m an artist at heart.


Shuffling Up the Deck

I’m at an interesting point in the semester. Final Paper deadlines are approaching, and the stress and excitement of registration is setting in. Surprisingly enough, these two things (while both stressful) are actually coming together rather nicely…

For my cognitive psychology class, I’m finding that the AWESOME paper I was going to write on how we perceive art, why we perceive it differently than real life, and what influences our judgement of beauty… is actually just supposed to be more of a summary of the articles I read, with a tiny little conclusion of awesomeness. So that’s upsetting. But in the meantime, my IDEAS paper, which was essentially supposed to be a 5-7 page rant, has slowly developed into an epically unorthodox combination of concrete & free verse poetry on what it is to be human.

How does that connect with registration? Well, I’m awkwardly ahead half a semester and strangely crossed in the mechanics and mechanical engineering field, as well as having a minor in spanish and a desire to take design courses, that leaves me with an absolutely horrifying set of conflicts. BUT. It seems that with one online course, I’ll be sitting on top of some 19 credits that could create a very defining semester. I’m still weighing the odds between a philosophy and poetry course (connection to final papers = made), but I am definitely getting the feeling that I’m going to be a lot more in balance next semester than I am now. (For example, I’ll have Dynamics, Finite Element Analysis, AutoCAD, 3D design, philosophy/poetry, and the ever present IDEAS Seminar).

Let’s see how this plays out.

Star Trek, Frankenstein, and… Ethics?

The subjects that come up in my IDEAS seminar will never cease to amaze me. For example, three weeks ago we read Frankenstein. The week after that we read Playing God in the Nursery. Last week, we talked a lot about Star Trek.

Now for a girl who was named after a Star Trek character, and whose brother is a devout “trekkie”, this just makes me love my major. For those who have seen Star Trek Next Generation, we discussed the character of Data, and his desire to be human. What does it mean to be human? Why did Data want to be human? Especially as it relates to Frankenstein, why do we assume that being human is what everyone wants? (Now, Data is one of my favorite characters, so I had a lot to say).

In contrast to this, we also talked about Spock, and how he decides NOT to “be” human. Spock, who is half human, rejects his human side and chooses to behave as a Vulcan. This brought up some great discussion, because this was an instance of someone being able to see all that humanity is, and choosing NOT to be a part of it.

As our theme of “Technology and Humanity” dictates this semester, we found ourselves asking ‘what it is to be human, and how does technology take part in this?’. Even though that was the focus, I couldn’t help but be mind-blown over the sheer fact that I was getting academic credit to talk about Star Trek. I’ll be one of the first to say I could not have chosen a cooler major.

Up Next? Edward Scissorhands. BRING IT ON!

Can we break the cycle?

A lot of what goes on in the IDEAS seminar deals with technocracies; societies that become overrun by technology.

My problem with this? I think in some ways, we are the earth, and technocracies are Halley’s Comet.

As humans, as people, as engineers, we like to fix things. Design them and redesign them until they are better and better and better and then suddenly… what is left for us to do? What is our purpose? Suddenly we ARE a dystopian technocracy. Then, as shown in many dystopian societies, one thing will happen: the masses will rebel. They will rebel, and they will try to destroy all that has to do with the society they so despised and then… we are back at square one.

So, how do we break the cycle?

Here’s my thought. The world today is rigid; it does its best to keep us on the straight and narrow. To get an engineering degree, or any degree for that matter, there is a very strict set of courses you have to take. These courses, at least to some extent, start to narrow everyone’s thinking in a certain direction. Engineers get in the habit of thinking “How do we make this more efficient? How do we make it better?” and this kind of thought can be what gears us towards a technocracy. If these are the only questions we ask, we can only move in that one direction.

The solution to this, I believe, is going to be a combination of the arts, and the humanities, into engineering. Because really, why do we need humanities? We shouldn’t, strictly on the basis of our needs, but we do, based on the fact that we are human. If we integrate humanities into engineering, will it keep us from this downfall? Maybe engineers should stop trying to make machines do more and more and more in terms of manufacturing. Let the masses or the people maintain the machines, let us hold our place in that respect. Maybe, just maybe, engineers should be thinking, how do I create such and such an experience for people? For instance, maybe instead of creating autopilot systems for computers, and removing the pilot, maybe an aerospace engineer should work to redesign the versatility of the craft; make it more compatible with the pilot. Instead of taking the freedom from the pilot and giving the aircraft a specific guideline of “get from A to B”, they should give the freedom back to the pilot. Or maybe they should re-engineer something like the first plane, but do it in such a way that it can be more accessible to the average person. Because who wouldn’t want their own glider, their own chance to feel the wind on their face?

Is this whole idea feasible? I don’t have a clue. I’m pretty sure the economics would fall through in today’s world without hesitation. But maybe, someday, it could be like this? Should it be? Would that break the cycle?

Too many IDEAS!


My life as a first year college student; the number one question I get asked is…

“What’s your major?!”

My response has never been the same twice. Generally it’s a smile and something along the lines of “it’s complicated”. Lately, when new college friends ask me this, all of my friends (who already know the answer) groan and say “you really shouldn’t ask her that…” because really I don’t have any idea what my major is. Pun intended.

Technically, I will have an Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences in four years. But to get down to it? I think that just means I like stuff. Really. I chose this degree because I got cold feet about being a total engineer in my senior year. I liked EVERYTHING how could I possibly choose just one thing to stick with? Even now I find myself thinking… I like mechanical and…

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