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12 August 2009

Derek Thomson

This is great.  Where does the tonality come from?  Is it something within us as human beings rather than an artefact of our social conditioning? 

If we transpose this to the built environment, why is it that we all, for example, consider “bright, happy spaces” desirable?  Would we think that if we had never encountered the built environment before?  Would someone taken from the middle of a mythical desert share this preference if they had not been brought up in (and conditioned by) an urban context?

This video, to me, sums up one of the arguments that suggests that human beings find certain things desirous simply because of their genetic composition.  Some traits of our built environment “suit us” as humans; and we have an immediate affinity with them when we encounter them. 

Give a goat a box and it will stand on top of it.  Give a cat a box and it will sit inside it.  Give a human a box and they will find it cold and feel alienated by it. 

Some marketing people (Zeldman, I think it was?), for example, through some ethically-dubious experimentation with monkeys in the 60ies and 70ies concluded that certain stimuli will produce predictable results.  They concluded that the embedding of certain images / patterns in marketing materials would subconsciously stimulate predictable purchasing behaviour.

Are we really that simple?  Will our genetic traits always override our personal constructs?  The move towards “evidence based design”  (which is becoming increasingly close to the previously-derided pattern languages) is suggesting that architects can learn “tricks” (patterns, at least) to stimulate predictable responses in us.  And that opens a whole box of ethical issues – should we be tricked into “doing the right thing?” who determines what “right” is?  And that in turn leads us into architectures of control, but I’m starting to go off on a tangent.  Enough for now.

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