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HYPER COMPLEXITY HYPER COMPLEXITY HYPER COMPLEXITY


2011 - 2015


INDEX 路 Taylorism and its Consequences to Contemporary Culture 路 路 Confessions from a Digital Designer 路


TAYLORISM AND ITS CONSEQUENCES TO CONTEMPORARY CULTURE 12-04-2017 Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam By Johannes Holt Iversen I know you have been strolling down the streets and passing endless rows of well-polished windows filled with goods. Overwhelmingly big are the amounts of brands, styles and trends coming and going overnight. If you are not overwhelmed by the buildings and their huge windows itself, you will certainly be overwhelmed if you were aware of the change that happened during the last two decades. We in the west, were supposed to be a generation of superior consumers, with endless possibilities and economic freedom, but the world changed and the market turned its sharp teeth against us. The long-lasting bad consequences of the early capitalistic production systems and market mechanisms came as a sly fox in the night. This is the quick and dirty explanation of how we in the western civilisation managed to build in the linear systemic approach into the capitalist ideology. Making a deep dependency on supply and demand, that today it is seemingly impossible to break into different cycles of systemic designs. In 1903 engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor introduced the world to his term Scientific Management and in 1911 he wrote the book The principles of Scientific Management, his thesis was to scientifcally measure time – and movement to thereby cut away unnecessary waste-time. This happening right in the industrialized revolution, factory owner Henry Ford took the principles of Taylors thesis and implemented it into his factory, the Ford Motor Company. What later would be known as the term Fordism, is in fact based upon the ideas of Frederick Winslow Taylor and his Scientific Management. (BramsnÌs, 1997) When Taylor further introduced his ideas to the Ford industries, Taylor immidiately chose to introduce the principles of the assembly-line to Henry Ford. The general understanding of massproduction, as we perceive it today, was born.


Frederick Winslow Taylor became the first modern system designer, but his system were not flawless, multiple incidents began to arise during the first decades of its implementation. When Scientific Management was implemented in its purest form, the repetitive and monotone work quickly became a depressive factor for the workers, demotivating them. Furthermore the mechanisms of constant time-measurement became a weapon in which the industry-management easily could put more and more pressure upon the working force, fasten the production rate and lowering their costs. These complexities within the system, psychologist George Elton Mayo tried 30 years after the first taylor-system were thought of, by solving its demotivational flaws within this system. He introduced his ideas of Human Relation Management, what we today know as Human Resource (HR) departments in every bigger company. (Wrege, 1991) As a solution to the Taylor-system flaws, Mayo showed how his sociologic investigations within the company Western Electric Company, could lead to higher productivity. Basically through occasional meetings with the workforce, about the workers individual well-being, their productivity rised. By making this addition to the Taylor-system, according to Mayo, this would solve the problems between the repititive work and the human workforce executing it. (Levitt, 2011)

But did it solve anything?

Today, a little more than 100 years after the term of Scientific Management were coined, we are facing new troubles within the structuralized production systems. Due to the constant development of automated systems and digital automation in general, system designers are now talking of an in-between era of neo-taylorism. During the last 20 years we have been facing the introduction of so called optimizing strategies throughout the world. Best known is the LEAN thinking strategy, first introduced on the Toyota factories during the early 1990s. (Womack, 1990) Instead of only measuring the time execution and movement of the workforce, neo-taylorists measure on a larger scale, the entire working environment the physical - and the psychological space. Here multiple aspects such as the daily routines after work as well as routines when socializing on the working space, are being measured in time, movement/flow and most important engagement. We are moving from having the factory (or office) as a physical space to get the factory as a mental space. When system designers talk about engagement from the workforce, they are adressing the desire of mentally plugging the workforce in 24/7, your kitchen is suddenly your factory and vice versa. However just as Elton Mayo adressed the humane complexities upon the pure taylor-system in 1933, the new modernized tayloristic approaches leads to new problems, such as information-overload, anxiety and ultimately stress. However today there are by far no sustainable Elton Mayo-ancestry and Human resource is merely an effective tool, rather than an artificial buffer as it was intended to be in 1933. Latest, LEAN Thinking has been argued to become obsolete within this decade, system designers are now talking about a new capitalist systemic model named Natural Capitalism. The approach in Natural


Capitalism builds upon the principles of LEAN and Taylorism by investigating the values created by the society, the company and its workforce. However the Natural Capitalist model also builds upon the thoughts of only one capital reality, that capitalism should be seen as a natural force, not as part of an ideologic system anymore. (Lovins et. al., 2000) Recognizing these terms, we would have to acknowledge the complete massproductive systemic approach based upon a single capitalistic realm. But we all know what singular realms leads towards, and in history it has never been a pretty outcome.

Chinese Automated Factory, 2015

Photographer: Vincent Yu / AP Photo


Sources Bauman, Z. (2001) The individualized society. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford. pp. 17 – 30. Bramsnæs, C.V. (1997) Taylor-systemet. En Introduktion af nye ledelsesformer. Undersøgelse af de amerikanske Teorier om rationel Fabriksledelse. Særtryk af Nationaløkonomisk Tidsskrift, København, Gyldendalske Boghandel Levitt, S.D., & List, J.A. (2011). Was there really a Hawthorne effect at the Hawthorne plant? An analysis of the original illumination experiments. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 3, 224–238. doi:10.1257/app.3.1.224 Lovins, Lovins, & Hawken (2000) Natural Capitalism: The Next Industrial Revolution Womack, J. P., & Jones, D. T. (1996). Lean thinking: Banish waste and create wealth in your corporation. London: Simon and Schuster. Womack, James P., Daniel T. Jones, Daniel Roos (1990) The Machine That Changed The World Wrege, Charles D. & Greenwood, Ronald G.(1991)  Frederick W. Taylor, the Father of Scientific Management. Myth and reality. Homewood, Ill.


CONFESSIONS FROM A DIGITAL DESIGNER 17-04-2017 Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam By Johannes Holt Iversen What a paradox: Everything in his being were bursted out. Ripped and translated into cheap information. Our dirty cheap information. Priviliged academics sitting there, in favour for a higher governed cause. He was a syrian refugee, mildly traumatized and had been travelling for months. When he left, his childhood home were hit by the bombs he said, scattered into pieces. His father had been missing for months and the secret police were constantly surveilling the family who had to stay behind. This information were of no use to us,the empathy were enclosed in a shield of notebooks, tablets and laptops. We were interigating and searching for specific information. We were system designers, developers and the inner core of the digital future. We were searching for his beliefs, dreams and hopes, so that we could translate it into user behaviour and user experience. We would make him show the bread crumbs and we would develop a system delivering big data, that could be sold to governments, tracking the migration paths throughout Europe. It would become a digital solution, migrants would unknowingly provide information through their phones they thought was a helpful tool. But in fact it was disguised government surveillance and information tracking. I had become the solely weapon of the future, a young millenial optimist with a fresh haircut in a white-collar shirt, sitting there drinking caffe latte but with an everlasting bad taste in my mouth. In 1986 the German theorist and philosopher Ulrich Beck wrote the book “Risikogesellschaft� (risk society). Beck here proclaims that the tempo that modern society had evolved in, the countless risks we were endangered to be exposed to, would turn society into a risk-based society. (Beck, 1992) Beck used countless examples of societal risks from his contemporary time, nuclear accidents such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, where the consequences were lasting longer than one human lifetime. We were living in the age of complexities he further stated. The amount of risks would accelerate and the human capability of overview would come to an end, building a string og consequences that would be impossible to predict. Ulrich Beck were right about his predictions, until a certain point. Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman (1989) also theorized about this new era to come, in his words it was about a new modernity. Now we were heading towards a liquid modernity, a fluid version of the postmodern way of living we have had since the early 1970s. The future would become a global society in eternal continuation of one modernity and societal narratives. (Bauman, 2001) We were entering the times of the endless era with


a fragmented self-identity. Ultimately leading towards an increasing responsibility to the individualized human of making their own existence become valuable. What neither Bauman or Beck had foreseen in their early theoretical frameworks, was how important the computer would become twenty years later and also how dependent we would be on its capability of clustering global networks, calculate risks and posibly solve human complexities. I strongly believe we are entering a Hyper-Complex phase in society, in all aspects of its being. Hyper-complexity was a term coined first by among other theorist and computer scientist John Urry (2010) in his book “Handbook of Research on Technologies and Cultural Heritage”. As an explanatory term to technological singularity, such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI). Hyper-complexity refers to the fact that a certain complexity has moved beyond its own capable complexity and grown exponentially. In a hyper-complex structure you cannot see it from a one-centered point of view. To see a hyper-complex structure, one must see it from multible anchor points to understand. Experiencing such complexities and seemingly also to be exposed to the high risk of chaoticism for the human brain, we are naturally creating a cycle of ongoing singular thinking (ex. simple living) and multible thinking (ex. space travel) in a constant interaction. This can be seen on multible stages in both society, culture and existence. We are becoming Hyper-complex humans due to a computerized cognition, not due to ourselves necesarily. We would naturally block out chaos by simplifying complexities and vice versa. Scandinavian sociologist Lars Qvortrup (1998) also argues for the age of the hyper-complex society in his book of the same name. Qvortrup here argues for the fact that this liquid modernity of Zygmunt Bauman, has made among other the computer a catalyst towards hyper-complexity beyond human comprehension, that calculates any outcome in which we presumably trust blindly. However this relying on technology also gives it the position to constantly build new complexities, just as John Urry stated. (Qvortrup, 1998) This celebration of the computerized cognition have altered the very nature of the human being of today. We simply wanted to write out the human (and animal) behaviour of ourselves from the equation. I would even go as far and say in the latest years, the artistic and innovative workfields despiced the empathic and humane part within the sphere of “creation”. In order to pull off the aesthetic realms of conceptual thinking and the pure white-cube-realm it somehow searched for. Throughout art, architecture, music, litterature and design the more distanced, the more functional, the more conceptualized we would become, the better. We became ironically distanced, we would hate the human and we would hate the colours of the past. Now what is left for the future generation is a highly capitalized empty shell of what was thought to become an era of the absolute. But such coldness and radical hatred towards the empathic human behvaiour, brings on consequences.


So there I was sitting; in my white-collar shirt looking at this man, who had fought his way through the Middle-east and throughout Europe, becoming a refugee in order to save his family. What had I become? He had experienced the horrors of humanity up close, he had felt the world. I had not felt anything, in fact I had lived on the surface of an empty concept-generating shell. I had worked out ideas, praised the conceptual minimalist thinking, reproducing the norms of the former generation. Walking up and down the corridors of glass and steel. I had praised the postmodern way of living, the distanced human in a slim-fit suit. The cold white surface of nothing. I had walked into an endless stream of so-called cultural enlightenment and watched the distanced human become even more distanced. Praised it as the linear truth of artistic and aesthetic progression. As a part of the future brigade of global digitalizers, we would design everything from user interfaces in washing machines to defense-systems in drones. We would become the ones who had the power to build weapons or save people, however neither of us chose to. Why bother when everything equals itself on a higher conceptual level? We were ironically distanced, we worked in minimalist glass and steel cages, with white-collar shirts and bad coffee. We were living in the dreams of postmodern architects, we were looking at minimalist sculptures in the courtyards, feeling nothing. Oh the sweet feel of nothing. We were the ones that economists and politicians wrote about and praised as the young aesthetic hope for the future. We would build the new empires.

But we did not build anything.

In fact we felt nothing, that was the sole problem.

I do not accept a continuation of todays conceptualized approach towards innovative creation anymore. Conceptual thinking needs to be contextual again. The cycle of singular thinking has come to a point where the future human must accept its complexities in being human. Not rely on computers to calculate optimized decisions anymore. The future human should apply themselves into the human expression again, not just build structures in which you make people live in. Not just make art in which people do not need to commit themselves but instead ultimately urge them to empathise with the art. It has come to a point in contemporary life where there needs to be a link. An inter-historical bridge needs to be build. The human of the future cannot deny the past anymore, nor can the future human live in the past either. The future human needs to be embracing the liquidity within any complex structure. Simplify it if necessary. In fact accept that there are no structures anymore at all. The future human must learn to renounce the unlimited centered power that it has so long granted to itself.


IT University of Copenhagen, 2017

Architect: Henning Larsen Architects


Sources: Bauman, Z. (2001) The individualized society. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford. pp. 17 – 30. Beck, U. (1992) Risikogesellschaft (Risk Society towards a new Modernity). Sage Publishing. London. Qvortrup, L. (1998). Det hyperkomplekse samfund, Gyldendal, Copenhagen. ISBN 8700-45508-3 Urry, J. (2010) Handbook of Research on Technologies and Cultural Heritage. doi:10.4018/978-1-60960-044-0


Hyper Hyper Hyper  
Hyper Hyper Hyper  
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