Summary interview with Jogi Panghaal

Jogi Panghaal argues that while interacting with material, a human being changes the material and the material changes the human being as well. The senses get skilled early in life when human beings learn to distinguish between light and heavy, soft and hard, more fragile and less fragile and so on. The moment one touches material, this material becomes present and it communicates it qualities.

How these qualities are perceived is dependent on the way the senses of the human being have been trained and the experiences one has had. Like natural material, also the interaction with technology deeply affects the human being’s presence in the world. With the same skills of the hand for instance one can interact with natural materials and technology as well. However, the use of technology changes deeper concepts of behaviour, like how and when to make decisions for example. When making new things, the interaction with the material is playful, exploratory, testing the possibilities of the material to see what is possible. Such an attitude is part of the survivor’s kit of any human being.

Learning the skills to work with the material is a process of inducing in traditional artisan contexts. It is about learning the body language of approval and disapproval and finding the sense of one’s self to be able to relate to the environment. Centeredness is an important concept in the daily physical practice of the artisan and it is also a quality of the products that are made. Even more important is that it creates centred communities. A centred person create a centred objects, which will centre the users and as a result the community gets centred as well. In a technology context only reference to physical and sensorial qualities can be made. Up until today the sensorial experience of technology and the experiences one can share in online communities with others are still secondary to sensorial experiences one can share in real life contexts. A quality like centeredness may be approached in technological environments through knowing more and having more engagement, even though it is still very distant from the original experience of centeredness.

The way references and values will be understood in a technology context is highly dependent on how a human being is grounded in his or her life. A quality experience creates a search in you to look for quality experiences in other areas of life as well. When making reference to profound experience, these references cannot be exhausted since one makes reference to what one could be looking for. Through references to profound experiences the search for quality is shaped.

In traditional artisan’s context, where the user and the maker shared time and place, there was an immediacy to the cycle of quality of the work. Craft had its very own consequential: an artisan made something, a person used it, the problem was immediately told, the object was improved, the artisan became a better craftsperson. With the abstract concept of the market, this immediacy has faded. The senses become less skilled, quality easily travels away and other quality control mechanisms like statistics have come in place. However, when having to address crisis, the senses are crucial indicators for survival. Sensorial trial and error, pattern recognition and analysis, define a persons wits to survive.

With the new technologies there are new possibilities for service design and these can bring some values of the material to the technological realm. Synchronicity of the voice, sharing a rhythm and personalization of online environments, are some of those features. When tuning witnessed presence, ‘sensing it’, between human beings and machines the principle of the handshake could be applied. Both move 50% towards each other. The machine can recognize and anticipate the human being. In this anticipation user values are first. Features like historical awareness can be interesting, but are not part of the core experience.

When designing new work one looks at values and locates something in a particular community and see what shape the hardware and the technology. It is an interesting question to reflect upon the effect of this way of ‘informing the form’. To be able to inform the form, the community does not have to have consensus as before, on what values should be represented. Today’s technology is capable of materializing many ideas and forms. It is a question of self organization and self ordering now.