usesless and lovely
May 6, 2019 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Can you think of a term, concept, and/or framework for creating things where the output is incidental, but the process itself is what is important? I can think of lots of related things - the concept of a wicked problem, Simone Giertz's Sh*tty Robots, DIY ethos, "fail better" - but they all are missing elements of what's in my head...

I'm thinking specifically of projects with a certain playfulness of spirit, where you set off to create something, but the learning that comes from the set of decisions, questions, weird and clunky aspects, and the practice of making something are much more meaningful than the literal outcome itself.

This is something that lots of people do formally and informally in lots of ways I think, but I would be interested in reading and learning more from deliberate proponents of this philosophy/ethos, especially in unexpected places, and from folks who treat this in a playful, reflective, sort of goofy introspective process (in that sense, Simone Giertz is the best fit I can think of right now). Thanks!
posted by elephantsvanish to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
This may not be what you're after, but your question brought this song to my mind: The Wood Song
posted by wellred at 10:51 AM on May 6


I generally hear this looped under, "It's not the destination, it's the journey." Or simply under the category of play.
posted by lazuli at 10:58 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


What you're describing sounds very much like the classical hacker ethos - twiddling with things to see how they work, investing substantial time in learning a thing so it can be automated or improved, etc. So: recreational coding? I've been rediscovering the fun of perl - fetching data from APIs, parsing the JSON, parsing and presenting the output. Why? So a bot in an irc channel can tell us when and where the most recent earthquakes occurred. For no real reason at all other than that I thought it would be neat. People have been pasting oddball functions into the bot for awhile; this one was my contribution. But I've re-learned/re-remembered a ton in the process.
posted by jquinby at 11:01 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


-- Anne Lamott discusses "shitty first drafts"
-- the Tibetan process of creating a sand Mandala
-- the theory of flow
-- concept of wabi-sabi This is not exactly about a process, but it has some related intersections with what you're discussing. Also other Japanese traditional arts might have philosophies that privilege the process over the product. Calligraphy, Ikebana, etc.
posted by jj's.mama at 11:04 AM on May 6 [5 favorites]


Chidōgu! "ingenious everyday gadgets that seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem, but are in fact nothing more than a useless gag."
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:18 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


The use of "praxis" by the Situationist International captures some of what you're talking about. (And they have some related ideas, e.g., the Dérive is sort of the equivalent applied to walking rather than making.)
posted by eotvos at 11:33 AM on May 6 [3 favorites]


This idea is reflected in much of the work of Robert Fripp's Guitar Craft. For example, one useful aphorism is, "Address the process rather than the outcome. Then, the outcome becomes more likely."

Other aphorisms are available.

For those curious about the activities of a professional creative - practical, unusual, and mundane - the diaries are worth a look.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:49 AM on May 6


I'm thinking specifically of projects with a certain playfulness of spirit, where you set off to create something, but the learning that comes from the set of decisions, questions, weird and clunky aspects, and the practice of making something are much more meaningful than the literal outcome itself.

Rube Goldberg machine?
posted by ian1977 at 12:27 PM on May 6


Process Art
posted by rollick at 2:17 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]


I was reading a professional book about tactical urbanism and they talked extensively about this - for instance, "pop-up" spaces that aren't meant to be permanent but show proof of concept and create community investment. Surely there is an academic term for this, but I don't know it.

I feel like incubator spaces employ this same idea. Pedagogical theory is probably also relevant.
posted by toastedcheese at 2:17 PM on May 6


In knitting there are "process knitters" and "product knitters" - basically whether you get more out of the act of making something, or the final object you made.
posted by DoubleLune at 2:18 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]


Came in to mention process vs. product knitting as well. Here is an interview with a psychologist about this kind of framework (audio link at top of page; interview starts at 4:10). It's on a knitting podcast, but the psychologist is talking about process vs. product orientation in general.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:29 PM on May 6


Sorry to toot my own horn but my Eyeo talk about my Giertz-esque project of making a shitty musical instrument every day seemed to be well-received. (Instrument-a-day on metafilter)
posted by moonmilk at 4:49 PM on May 6


A lot of community arts/social arts are like this. Sure, the output is often important, but the core is the process - especially when it involves people who don't usually engage with art on a creator (or even observer) level. For instance, a community theatre group, or how a lot of women's circuses are geared primarily towards providing a space for women (esp marginalised ones) to be creative and learn skills in an open and friendly environment.
posted by divabat at 4:51 AM on May 7


I was reading a professional book about tactical urbanism and they talked extensively about this - for instance, "pop-up" spaces that aren't meant to be permanent but show proof of concept and create community investment. Surely there is an academic term for this, but I don't know it.

If this is of interest to you, check out the work of Renew Newcastle (and similar, the link has resources). The founder, Marcus Westbury, wrote a book about the process too.
posted by divabat at 4:54 AM on May 7


Many artists write about about their creative process. You can read about this in their letters like Miro or Rilke or ther writing like Gerhard Richter.

Don't get suck on process over outcome because the artists don't, both are the pinnacle meaning. See Tom Sachs Paradox Bullets.
posted by bdc34 at 6:19 AM on May 7


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