Richard Sennet and The Craftsman – the debate continues

A week or two I posted on a chapter I found interesting in Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman  and got a bit of a debate going on the relationship between CAD and craftsmanship.

This has been fascinating.  Does the notion of a disconnect created by the  purely digital manufacture of an ultimately physical, tangible object, detract from the skill of making if the designer was never involved in the physical creation of the end product? Does a lack of knowledge of the materials and the processes used in the creation of a finished product detract from the notion of craftsmanship?

Many of my commenters say, quite emphatically, no.

As one fellow commented:

“There is a lengthy debate around all this concerning technology as a deskilling issue that embeds previously individualistic knowledge as part of its processes. This is indeed the dominant use of technology, principally as a means of gaining management control and increasing predictability of outcome. However, technology can be subverted and humanised … The trick is to find examples of how digital processes can be incorporated into the craft and design process as a means of enhancing creative potential, as opposed to reducing it.”

Could it not equally be argued that the humanity in a process is the capacity for error which leads to the creation of something unique?  And, as Sennett argues at one point, the use of CAD can equate to the removal of the capacity for human error, which is a dehumanizing of the process.  That we have become afraid to fail?

Colleagues and commenters alike have also put forward the position that a lack of knowledge of your materials can, in fact be seen as pushing your creativity further as you are not hampered by considerations of what can and cannot be done.  And yes, of course, this also pushes us to work collaboratively with others, something encouraged in the modern-day workplace/market place.  But is this still not absolving the maker, in this instance, of the responsibility to problem solve in the creation of their work?  That you are absolving yourself of crucial aspects of the learning process?

What are the roles and responsibilities of the modern-day craftsman?

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