September 11, 2020
I AM WHAT I USE – UNDERSTANDING REALITY
How often do we stop to ponder over the things we interact with or make use of in our everyday mundane lives? Perhaps only when they fail to produce the output we subconsciously demand out of their use. This is an interesting phenomenon that has been explained by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger who believed that we as human beings find ourselves living in a world full of things and that we simply can’t. ‘be human’ if we don’t engage ourselves with and through these things. Heidegger proposed that everything that is the object of human concern is done through what he called ‘tools’ and explained the notion of tools ‘disappearing into their essence’, when they are available in the ‘ready at hand’ stage.
Being in the world is a documentary directed by Tao Ruspoli. that is based. on Heidegger’s philosophy which. celebrates the philisophical aspect of being human, suggesting the great ability of man to master intellectual and physical skills in order to make sense of the world around us.
Pivoting back to Heidegger’s ideology of a ready at hand tool, we must establish an understanding of the concept. A tool that allows you – the user – to perform or carry out a task effectively without any external or internal interference is said to be functioning in its true essence. The entire action is carried out ever so smoothly that the user doesnt need to ‘think’ about the tool at use, further suggesting the fundamental components of a good design.
In accordance with Heidegger’s philosophy, I can very well identify several examples of tools that have aided and abetted my everyday actions, making it easier to function as a (human) being in a world that is moving fast towards the realm of digitisation.
Wait… so when do you think about the tool in your hand? When it stops functioning. Heidegger called it the ‘present at hand’ situation suggesting that we only become aware of the tool if it is brought to our explicit attention, is unused or broken.
As designers we want the user to be focused on the task at hand and not the tool in use. The tool must be coveted, almost as if it is ‘invisible’, yet it must serve its purpose and live up to its quality. Design is all about creating quality in the everyday mundane life and unlike art, it does not require an encounter between the viewer and the work of art.
The recurring problem of the design world has been the lack of long lasting quality. How often do we come across design – be it industrial or interactive – that guarantees everlasting long term quality? Not quite.
It is for this reason that we see the vast disparity in the quality of living between countries around the globe. As a designer one must be mindful of the culture and people they produce for.
Despite the consensus of western philosophers, Heidegger refused to separate the mind from the body, arguing that there lay a cyclical relationship between ‘thinking and doing.’ No product can be designed in isolation and no tool can have an identity of its own except for one that we associate with it