Andy Clark on Embodiment

Somewhat close to a joke isn’t it. You say to someone you know, do you know the time, and they say yes. And then they look at their watch. You can sort of challenge them well, did you really know the time when you said yes? They’ll say “yeah, I knew how to get the time” and I think that’s often what we do mean when we say yes, we know things, we know how to get them from our long term memory, from some reliable environmental resource, from wherever.

The artist’s sketch pad is kind of more interesting I think because for certain forms of abstract art there’s actually some detailed psychological work out there showing how, if you like, looping your ideas out onto paper enables you to perform kinds of reorganisation on the ideas that you can’t perform in imagination. That’s a good case because the abstract artist certainly thinks that that their creation, they may be prone to commit what I call the “Naked Brain Fallacy”, to create a nice piece of abstract art and then think hey, my brain did all that. But no, those loops into the outside world play a crucial role in the genesis of these products that we take to be just our intellectual products, expressions of ourselves.

Andy Clark, interviewed on Australian radio, 18 May 2003.

Where I’m trying to get to with Smart Spaces/Discreet Computing, is something with the intimicy of Andy’s wristwatch example, and the affordance of Marcos Novak’s Liquid Architecture:

A liquid architecture is an architecture whose form is contingent on the interests of the beholder; it is an architecture that opens to welcome you and closes to defend you; it is an architecture without doors and hallways, where the next room is always where it needs to be and what it needs to be. It is an architecture that dances or pulsates, becomes tranquil or agitated. Liquid architecture makes liquid cities, cities that change at the shift of a value, where visitors with different backgrounds see different landmarks, where neighborhoods vary with ideas held in common, and evolve as the ideas mature or dissolve.

Marcos Novak – Liquid Architectures, in Cyberspace: First Steps