Dieter Rams Wants Silicon Valley to Stop.
Dieter Rams is a famous industrial designer who worked with Braun from the 1950’s to the 1990’s. He was a believer in simplicity of design (a descendant of the Bauhaus movement, I suppose.)
Rams is the subject of a documentary by Gary Hustwit (who also did a documentary of the font type Helvetica). Hustwit is interviewed here, and he says that Rams believes that we’ve gone too far towards the digital and that it’s alienating us from each other.
Not sure if the doc has come out yet, but it sounds interesting.
“‘The world that can be perceived through the senses exudes an aura that I believe cannot be digitized. We have to be careful now, that we rule over the digital world, and are not ruled by it.'” — Rams
Rams use of “Aura” recalls aura in Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” At first sight Rams and Benjamin seem to come from very different places – one a German industrial designer “closely associated with the consumer products company Braun” (Wikipedia) who stayed in Germany after the war, and the other a German Jewish philosopher and critical theorist with Marxist sympathies who fled the nazis and tragically committed suicide at Port Bou in 1940 when he couldn’t get out of occupied France. Does the Bauhaus connect them?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t know. However, Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction came out in 1935 (Wikipedia), and that is the work (or at least the most important work) in which he discussed Aura.
Rams may have been directly influenced by Benjamin’s work. Or they both could have been influenced by Bauhaus separately.
I’m drawn to Rams’ use of “aura”, too. It’s at once highly evocative and vague. It captures something essential, something that gets lost because it is difficult (impossible?) to express. It’s a signpost for qualia that aren’t transferred from one person to another through intellection (words), but can be invoked, sometimes, empathically. Because of its inchoate, unempirical, unconscious nature, it’s often severely undervalued.
I really need to read more Benjamin. Thanks for the implicit nudge, Sabina.
I’m catching up on the class blog and wanted to say how much I enjoyed this article. I’ve been stunned by the amount of accessories the Apple corporation has unleashed on to the world and it’s landfills due to non-bio degradable packaging AND products. I’ve often wondered if others see the ironies and hypocrisies of “Cali culture” and waste being churned out, so I LOVE this quote: “‘That’s why I do feel like it’s a challenge to the design world to reassess what we’re producing, why we’re producing it, and how we could do it better. Do we really need all this stuff?’ asks Hustwit, in a way he knows his question isn’t even a question.”
I also liked Hustwit’s allusion to Benjamin: “The world that can be perceived through the senses exudes an aura that I believe cannot be digitized” as others have noted and look forward to seeing this documentary.