Thursday, January 30, 2020

a digital model is a plan out of water, or like swimming at your desk

--- Kristina Andersen, Ron Wakkary, Laura Devendorf, and Alex Mclean, in Digital crafts-machine-ship: creative collaborations with machines, ACM Interactions, December 2019
Consider the complexities of swimming in the sea, indescribable and impossible if you try to think about it. But the body knows. We are made for engaging with this, an intentionality toward the world, the wind and the waves, the knowledge of the body and the strokes of the swim, the currents and the undertow, the shoreline and the place on the beach where we left our shoes. 
The digital twin promises an understanding of the complexity of the original, so that we can explore and control without risk, without consequences. But a digital model is a plan out of water, or like swimming at your desk. It is at best an abstraction, at worst a simplification, a safe reduction. When it reaches an impending level of complexity it overflows our coping capacities, typically cognitive, as we sit hapless, staring at our screens. 
Arguably, we can make a digital simulation of the sea and the currents. We can experiment safely within the confines of this reduction, a space of alternatives. Yet the difficulty for us is how to switch between plans and simply swimming, succumbing, feeling, as the currents push against the body; becoming insignificant in the process, humble; negotiating a camaraderie with the humbled; joining together, appreciating, flowing, and forming, to become again in relation to another.