Oct 2, 2018

Design, Technology and Art - The fertility of adjacent fields

This essay is based on the fireside chat happened on 27th Sep.*

Minjoo Cho

This is my personal logo I made as a representation of myself. What comes to your mind when you first see this? I would like to begin with a bit of personal story that dates me back to the Media Interaction class at the graduate school. At the time, I decided to develop a conceptual clock in a shape of the disk, displaying time while spinning on the table.
At the time, I was struggling with finalizing the mechanical design. I looked through various mechanisms already explored but cannot find the simple, elegant solution to it. They were either too complex or required too many parts. With several trial and error, I placed a rotating arm spanning around the edges of the disk that gradually lifts the disk that eventually makes beautiful wobbling disk.

Staring at the spinning clock, I started to project my life journey into the movement of the disk. If I call each edge represents different fields – such as Art, Technology and Design -, then I might be the arm that agilely spans those areas. Some of you might have already noticed that the logo, actually, is the clock seen from the side.

To shortly explain about myself, I was a daydreamer from my childhood. I wanted to be a poet when I was 5, was obsessed with Chinese martial movies flying over the sky, which led me to start learning their language, and I used to make my own concert in the empty toilet with violin and make personal records, which I would like to categorize myself to be in pretty much in the Artistic side.

Studying Electrical Engineering at the most technical university then put me into the wholly different realm of the study. However, I found myself always struggling with micro-scaled technical problems without being able to grasp the big picture, and that gave me enough motivation to start my professional career as a product manager at Samsung Electronics to broaden my perspective.

Later, my interest slowly moved towards the design, where I found the potential in moving people’s mind from the heart. With that belief, I returned to the graduate school to pursue studies inIndustrial Design. While enhancing my technical prototyping skills, I spend lots of time taking aesthetics course, reading philosophy books or thinking about what would be my nucleus that places at the center of my life. I concluded that it is my philosophy that supports me firmly from the ground.

Meanwhile, lots of people still ask me,“What brought you here to Germany?” Then I respond, “Because I have been fascinated with German philosophers”, which oftentimes scares people away. Still tonight, I would like to quote one of my inspiring philosophers, Nietzsche’s interpretation of Art.

In his book, “The Birth of Tragedy” published in 1872, he classified art into two types on a premise that life is the sea of agony, full of coincidence and contradiction.

According to him, there are two tendencies in facing the life. One is Apollonian, and another is Dionysian. As all of you know, Apollo is the god of sun, truth, and logic, and is represented as the rational thinking. On the other hand, Dionysus is the god of wine, festivals, and madness. When somebody is completely in Dionysian states, one sometimes obscures the boundaries of self and nature.

The Apollonian tendency refers to the compulsion towards the perfectional states to overcome the agony of the life, and he said dreams are the most Apollonian state human can experience. Where as, the Dionysian tendency is the compulsion to fully dive into the painful life as if drunk Dionysus. He saw Nature as itself as Art constantly revitalizing life. Nietzsche saw their fusion as ideal, as it allowed the tremendous frenzied energy of Dionysian to be applied constructively inside an Apollonian framework.

I reckon Technological advance enables human to take a balance between these two states.

For instance, with the help of VirtualReality or Augmented Reality, we can easily design the utopian world and fully immerse in it, as you can see from this Tilt brush interface from Google. Or the current research from MIT media lab tried to interface human with the dream. The wrist wearable collects bio signals that track transitions in sleep stages (loss of muscle tone, heart rate, changes in skin conductance). Before we completely fall into unconscious states, the audio robot is a trigger to input certain words (to wake one a bit back into wakefulness), and that words reliably entered the dream as the input content.

Then what about Nature? With mathematical computation, we can simulate the chaotic patterns in nature. These small intelligent particles interact with one another within the algorithm, like flying birds or flocking fishes.


Let me take a different perspective. If we correspond Apollon as a technician with logical thinking, Dionysus may represent artists who easily indulge in emotions. I believe designers have both characteristics, thus, know how to harmonize those two impulses. As such, the role of designers so important that they are mediators between technology and art.

Meanwhile, we should also note that the nucleus might be shifting to the different direction or taking us into the totally different spectrum with advancing Artificial Intelligence technology.

Yuval Harari in his book “Homodeus (2017)” claimed that we are right in front of the huge paradigm shift from the “Techno-humanism” where human leverages technology to keep ourselves relevant in the cosmos to “Dataism” where humans are part of massive networks of the algorithm in which humanism might be manipulated or reshaped.

My first project "How AI will change you" at INDEED was part of our attempts to visualize this consideration with technology. This installation scans the thinking face of the participant while they are asked to take a moment to speculate upon the fate of humanity in the computational age. Their thoughts are analyzed by Artificial Intelligence and it drives the 3D distortion algorithm that creates altered self-portraits.

Likewise, Indeed Innovation takes human-first perspectives in approaching problems and we strongly believe the Human-first Innovation.

* Find more information about the fireside chat here or see the invitation.

Minjoo Cho

Creative Interaction Technologist

Minjoo is Creative Interaction Technologist at INDEED. She loves to reach and combine ideas from different fields including design, technology and art, but always supported by firm humanity within.


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