On the Thinking aloud radio 4 (UK) program recently they discussed the idea of craft in modern society. Of the notable points they made were several relevant to design of Google Earth projects:
- Comparisons were made between computer programmers and traditional crafts such as pottery, musicians and architects. All of them require a detailed knowledge of related areas and to learn them requires constant experimentation and making mistakes. This is certainly true of building Google Earth (GE) projects, I know a lot about drawing icons because icons are important in GE projects. As for making mistakes, I'm always tinkering about with things that don't quite work in GE to get them looking right, I rarely know the 'right' way to do something complex before I start. One commentator even went so far as to carve 'creativity is making mistakes' in the concrete beam of his studio.
- Many craft people talk of knowledge and memory embedded in their hands. I told my Google Earth students this as a way of encouraging them to go out and experiment, if they don't practice building GE projects they are going to forget everything I've shown them very quickly.
- The discussions also involved discussing computer aided drawing and how it had affected architecture. Commentators felt that this introduction of technology has led to users forgetting about good design because they became infatuated with the tools. Another example is the appearance of microwaves in kitchens, remember all the fuss about the wonderful things you could do with this tool? It was only after lots of use we realized what its truly good for: warming up leftovers and cooking baked potatoes quickly. It's only after some time and experimentation that a community discovers what the tools can be best used for and starts producing valuable items again. IMHO we are well and truly in this period with virtual globes, I see lots of examples where I end up thinking someone just whacked a lot of data into GE because they thought it would be 'neat' rather than really thinking of what GE is actually good at doing to their data.