Richard Sennett on craftsmanship | talk

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Notes from the talk:


Richart Sennett
(Cf Atelier with Bruno Latour)

New kinds of craft being invented all the time, they don’t belong to a vanished world before the machine. Relationship between hand and head. Tactile knowledge essential to be able to think # to what Robert Reich calls symbolic labour.
Plato making: execute an action to its fullness. Building up skills. Motivation for productivity is not money but motivation and the possibility to do a good complex work: to engage in the work.
Contemporary capitalism: shorter terms of labour. Abridgement of time in the workplace, fragments of work do not easily add up to build up skills. ‘Short-term capitalism’.

1. Rhythm of skill development
Most of the things we do are tacit knowledge, a repertoire of habits, non-verbal knowledge
Skills begins to develop when tacit knowledge is challenged, and we have to think and talk to improve. First when you start thinking the system breaks down. Moment of crisis, reflection on the activity that de-flows the process. Tacit versus explicit knowledge (Michael Polanyi)

Welders, cellists: circular rhythm of tacit and explicit knowledge. The skill is not practiced self-consciously.

2. Adjacency: putting together 2 domains close to one another

Alfred Brendel (piano pedalling) – many ways of solving a problem: there is no right way to do a craft. Being able to do something in many different ways. Use on part of the practice to solve another. Creative intuitive leaps are about adjacency. Naming a passage from one practice to another. Demystification of genius by everyday craft procedures. Quiver (vibrato metaphor). Techniques versus inspiration. Democratising the access to skill. We get better by seeing what is the insufficiency of a given solution. The act of completion is unsatisfying to craftsmen: they want to do it another way: ‘If this is possible, then what.’ Curiosity: the exhaustion of rightness.

3. The difficulty stimulus, ease is a narcotic

Bruno Latour: the relationship between problem-solving and problem-finding gives a sense that a failure has to occur to produce the right answer. Good programmers tend to become bored by the fact that a programme works. Trivial.

Cf. elegance in science.

Understanding is built by the struggling with the problem. Versus the emphasis on facility put by capitalism, who wants to buy pre-developed skills.

Community of interest. Cooperation viewed as a craft.

Self consciousness of esprit de corps
Corrosion of character
Teamwork: theatre of cooperativeness Performance of loyalty but nobody believed in it. Durkheim mechanical solidarity is never content: legitimate cover we are in this together the actual practice of work is not generating esprit de corps
Cover for someone else

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