Skip to content

Surfing Culture

October 11, 2015


Designing homes is not an empirical act. It’s not an objective exercise. I ask my clients to provide me a window into their values, their aesthetics, and hopes. Beyond money, site engineering and the local zoning code, a home fails if its not a mirror of who lives there. Beyond a mirror, where you live should provide daily inspiration because it projects the homeowners desires into a built form, a place they wake up to every morning.

20 years ago my charge to my clients to show me who they are saw me receive a sheaf of ripped out magazine pages, photos snapped and articles clipped: I received a dossier of visual factoids, tied together with a narrative that inspired me to offer up a provocative set of options.

Now, as you might guess, unless you have just awakened from a 20 year nap, these dossiers are almost universally derived and very often formatted and communicated digitally: straight off the net.

In this way my tiny life niche mission is in a place of transition that has changed the way everyone does everything. Maps become relics. Newspapers vaporize making starting a fire far more difficult. Our news, medical and legal advice, our politics are all reflected, researched and expressed on the InterWebNets.

All more efficient, compressive, facilitative and free. 24/7/365 and in the last 5 years in your pocket.

Long, long before the technological revolution Marshall McLuhan cryptically said “The medium is the message.” More to the point he clearly was prescient to our present state of media immersion when he uttered “All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.”

Conclusions about the information revolution’s ultimate or even transitional impacts on our brains, hearts and bodies are way above my pay grade, but there has been a clear and growing method shift in they way we all grapple with everything.

We used to engage: with print, with culture, with humans: we now surf.

The surfer is moving atop a huge body of flow, but never immerses him or her self into it.

The surfer lets the wave take him or her where its going, not in a direction he or she wants to go.

The surfer looks ahead where the wave focuses.

Direction is based on the way the wave takes you. In contrast, the swimmer is slow, subsumed and exhausted in the move through the water but the swimmer controls where he or she is going: the surfer needs balance and attention, but he loses control over direction.

We surfers, we coasters on the trillions of waves of information, images, conversations and culture flow to a perspective in the ways we find: inevitably movement replaces thought.

No need to wrack your mind for the next book, article name, the screen offers billions of opportunities. I knew McLuhan’s quote: but the internet gave me it, correctly, in 3 seconds.

My clients surf architects and find me. They use HOUZZ and, like the rest of media, that company colors the choices based on who is paying them and who is not:

I surf ideas and write. You may surf recipes and cook. Or listen to music or watch a movie.

Surfing is not thinking.

Surfing is not reflecting.

Surfing is not feeling.

Surfing is simply reacting: its infinite snap judgments, unthinking reactions, instant judgments: surfing mimics the brain of an infant.

A baby has no knowledge base, no posture, manner or value system beyond joy, fear and stimulus response. We, I, are becoming infantile in the slow ebb of control we happily give over the the waves that support us, guide us and take where we think we want to go.

In lives that in human history have had precious little control – where death and love and achievement and failure are never transactional, but always inexplicable combinations of effort and happenstance, grace and evil, our basic relationship with world now has a flow of facilitation that takes me away from it, while it gets me where I think I want to go.

The surfer is not the swimmer.

The surfer goes where the wave takes the surfer.

We are all surfing now: but we may soon forget how to swim: and drowning is always there, beneath the wave.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Patricia Baldo permalink
    October 11, 2015 8:39 am

    Spot on! Thank you, Duo.


  1. Welcome to Saved by Design | Saved By Design

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: