wk15 reading response

Abstracting Craft: Malcolm McCullough

Malcolm McCullough says “Hands are the best source of tacit personal knowledge because of all of the extensions of the body, they are the most subtle, the most sensitive, the most probing, the most differentiated, and the most closely connected to the mind”.  Hands are our intellects extension into the physical world.  They allow us to carry out our intentions.  Not only are they explicitly able to interact with the physical world around us, providing innumerable feedback mechanisms, but can also make/use tools to amplify characteristics necessary for interaction with the physical world.  The notion of hands as being a source of knowledge and skill does not exclude the need for our other sense organs that also interact with the physical world.  We too have sight (eyes), sound (ears), taste (tongue), smell (nose) which all aid in our discernment for the world around us.  But it is touch (hands) that has largely gone unnoticed.

What I find more interesting that the medium of the hand itself, or even the tools that it makes to use, is the interaction between multiple mediums that can hardly be quantified.  The eye must see first, for the hand to know what to do.  Each of these biological mechanisms of interaction with our physical world provide a wealth of feedback, all of which is synthesized and made sense of by the mind.  It is within these interactions, and within the power of the mind, that I find real value.  This is what I think true skill is.  It is having a conscious, critical knowledge of how you are interacting with tools, with the physical world that surround, with another living thing, and using that knowledge to progress that interaction in new and unforeseen ways.  McCullough uses the example of the MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) controller in the field of music.  This tool hasn’t made other more traditional instruments obsolete.  Rather, it has provided a new way (an interface) for allowing many musicians to actually design the sounds they want.  It is another tool, not unlike the guitar, that “users” interact with to create, mix, change, reinterpret sound.  It can be critiqued in the sense that it is, out of the starting gate, limiting to some degree because there is a preconceived notion of what the midi controller can do.  That is like saying “over there is an autocad building” and “there is a rhino building”.  But, in fact, it is not the tools that are limiting, but the minds ability to use those tools.

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