On the Sympathy of Things

In our reading from “The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design,” Lars Spuybroek draws a connection between digital technologies and Gothic architecture. The text was somewhat challenging because I am not familiar with the craft or theory of Gothic architecture, so the references felt quite abstract.

I was intrigued by this statement: “We come across the same erroneous idea time and time again… that we can humanize machines by slowing them down, refraining from their continuous use, alternating their use with authentic home- and handcrafting, or using them on a less massive scale.” It reminds me so much of the conversations we are having about our digital relationships right now. In so many ways, refraining from machine use is fully impossible. We need to complete our work or connect with people in ways that simply cannot be accomplish in person. I think it has fundamentally impacted our society’s relationship with technology. I don’t know that slowing down is possible, so thinking of ways to “make machines do things differently” may be the only effective strategy.

I appreciated when Spuybroek articulated that the design of a Gothic cathedral related to a coded methodology through redundancy, changefulness, rigidity, naturalism, savageness, and grotesqueness. For me, this provided the best explanation of the connections he was drawing.

When Spuybroek described the patterns of snowflakes, my mind wandered to considering digital patterns and the concept of “uniformity amidst variation.” It reminded me of fractal branches created using p5js.

Sources: Learn p5.js by Making Fractals & Fractal Tree GIF

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