Home About Subscribe Search Member Area

Humanist Discussion Group

< Back to Volume 32

Humanist Archives: Feb. 4, 2019, 8:07 a.m. Humanist 32.419 - deliberate imperfection or asymmetry?

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 419.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

        Date: 2019-02-03 12:48:20+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty 
        Subject: deliberate imperfection or asymmetry?

I am looking for scholarly work on practices of making in which a 'flaw'
of some kind or asymmetry is thought to be deliberately introduced. 
Navajo and Persian carpets are well-known examples. It is not difficult 
to find casual statements about these practices online, rather more 
difficult to find citations of reliable studies. So far I have Ellwanger, 
The Oriental Rug (1903); Bennett, The Navajo Weaving (1974); Schwartz, 
Navajo Lifeways (2001); and two of Yohe's studies from 2008 on the Navajo, 
including her very helpful doctoral dissertation. Thorstein Veblen, 
in Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), makes the interesting statement 
that it was only with manufacture by machine that 'errors' in handcrafted 
goods became a sign of worth. Could it be that machine-made goods in turn 
made the deliberate 'flaw' (e.g. in those carpets) visible as a special 
feature for the first time, at least to collectors?

The connection to computing is by way of the perceived randomness or 
unpredictability of combinatorially generated output. To put the matter 
crudely, expecting symmetry we find slight asymmetries surprising, 

Many thanks for any pointers.

Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/),
Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London;
Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney University; Editor, Interdisciplinary
Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist

Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted
List posts to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org
Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/
Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php

Editor: Willard McCarty (King's College London, U.K.; Western Sydney University, Australia)
Software designer: Malgosia Askanas (Mind-Crafts)

This site is maintained under a service level agreement by King's Digital Lab.