Part 1: The Ghost in the Machine – human and machine psychology and the resulting culture of a communal systems architecture

Image by bitzcelt on flickr ID no.2198147520A carpenter wakes up in the morning: she is excited and looking-forward to the day ahead. Today she will begin building a new desk for a client. She has built hundreds (maybe thousands) of desks in her lifetime and yet has found that year after year she enjoys it more an dmore. Especially projects like this. Projects where the client has given her and open brief, but with some very clear constraints. The constraints are easy really, size, measure, material, look and feel, some basic functionality such as number of drawers, etc. While these things matter in getting right because the client has requested them, in truth the carpenter knows that these features matter little in the actual scheme of things. She knows this desk will become more than its basic functions. It will *mean* something to this person over the years. Emotions will be attached to the desk, feelings for what it stands for and represents. The family will know “that’s mom’s desk, you can’t touch it as that is where her world revolves around”. This desk will be the control centre for the house as well as for her consultancy business. Though the carpenter knows it is more than this; the desk will be more substantial than emotions, not only will each person in the house have a ‘feeling’ about the desk (e.g. ‘that’s where mom does her thinking and is happy so I am happy’, “that’s where mommy goes to get away from us kids”, “that’s where my partner goes to help pay for our lives”, etc), this collective feeling the family has for the desk will create a sub culture within the house that will make up the overall communal psychology of the family.

The carpenter knows these things because she has had clients come back to her over the years and tell her these stories. After each story she has changed her way of thinking about building desks a little bit each time. About five-hundred desks ago, she stopped asking for the client to just draw up a picture of what they think they might want and started meeting with the client. Meeting the client made all the difference: a nice cup of coffee and chat, asking about what kind of work the person would do on the desk, what their favorite tools are on the desk, who else would be around the desk and what they would think and feel. These types of non-functional questions that drifted into the psychology of the individual, these were the questions that made all the difference. Since then her desks had become more than just surfaces, measurements, materials, features and designs. These desks had become emotions, feelings, processes, usabilities and culture. She was arguably the most sought after carpenter in the world.

But how did this change come about, why had the carpenter realised how powerful this additional care and concern would make to her business? It all came down to one day while working with a particular chisel… To be continued.

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~ by dfflanders on May 16, 2012.

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