Monday, March 27, 2017

11. Blog post: class and reading discussion


Fashion hacking was a great experience. For one, I loved the chance to sew more. For another, I had time to work through a couple of different ideas before settling on one that I thought actually worked out well. In the end, I had three pocket squares from a $1 button down shirt and some ideas for what to do in the future.

Now, "three pocket squares" is being a bit generous. I made one 10" square that I messed up the stitching on, one 17" square that's a bit too big for most men, and an 8" square with a pocket on it that I didn't have time to finish stitching. If there's time this week, I hope to finish those projects off. Life is too short not to have pocket squares in pocket squares.

The discussion was fascinating, but I admit I was a bit wrapped up in the pocket squares. The sense that I'd created my own fashion item was intoxicating. Equally exciting was seeing the final products my classmates had come up with, after discussing some of their early ideas. The creative re-imagining of a jacket as a making utility belt was really incredible.

As for last week's readings, the class overall seemed to come down on the side of Leah Buechley, agreeing that in general Make: needed to follow through on its promises of diversity, and that representation on covers matters. The class also honed in on the thread of subjugation to authority: much of the science discussed in Innocent Experiments was intended to put children in the industry pipeline from an early age.


This week had a lot to digest in the readings. I was particularly interested in a theme that emerged in both chapters: intellectualism (or anti-intellectualism) and science fiction and education.

Homer Hickam and the Rocket Boys were a big part of my childhood. October Sky really resonated with my family, since my dad grew up building rockets himself and introduced me to rocketeering at an early age. Rockets were a fusion of creativity (painting and design) and science (geometry, trigonometry, and aerodynamics), and were seen as a gateway to formal scientific study followed by a career in engineering. Things didn't really turn out that way for me, but that context was extra fascinating for the readings.

Asimov took a strong stance that science fiction was essential in the fight against anti-intellectualism. On the other hand, Heinlein took a somewhat opposite view: that science fiction could "save" young men from the feminizing influences of formalized education. Onion spends considerably more time on Heinlein, so there may be some bias based purely on availability, but Heinlein's commentary shows an incredible willingness to take himself and his own experiences as an authority. Heinlein reminded me of a certain political figure who embodies the very anti-intellectualism that Asimov was fighting against.

I saw similar threads in the chapter on the Exploratorium, though not actually about the Exploratorium itself. Rather, the chapter closed by highlighting the tension between science as play and science as hard educational work. As with Asimov and science fiction, Oppenheimer was concerned about making science exciting and accessible for children. He was more of a rule-breaker than Heinlein, but his model of teen guides and formal exhibits (even if loose ones) probably drove Heinlein crazy.

Science fiction predicting the future, or rather charting a possible way through, remains a hot topic today. NPR just produced a piece about when science fiction actually does predict the future. Science fiction authors like Neal Stephenson and Cory Doctorow write about how science fiction is essential for conquering coming challenges like global climate change (link pending). Especially in the context of the 2016 election, the potential defunding of the EPA, NASA, and other groups, and the current president, I am curious if there's an analogue to Heinlein to be found.

As an interesting aside: my grandfather edited some of Asimov's work for science fiction publications.

1 comment:

  1. The joy you had in creating your pocket squares brought a smile to my face! Just had to say how refreshing it was to hear your joy in making, really encompassing the maker mindset.

    I find your connection between Oppenheimer and Heinlein surprising but when I thought about it, it made perfect sense. The appear vastly different but at the end of the day they wanted science to appeal to children (well, boys in Heinlein's case).

    I also found it interesting that Heinlein relied heavily on personal experience and anecdotal evidence to support his claims. One would think that someone who proclaims the virtues of science would know you need a larger data set than just one person!