APPLIED HEURETICS

 

Cyber-history is proposed as a supplemental location for exploring techniques that use historical material in the production of new ways of making, or new methods. As such, cyber-history is applied heuretics.

 

In the seventeenth century, the theologian Richard Burthogge wrote, “Ratiocination Speculative, is either Euretick or Hermeneutick, Inventive or Interpretive…” * Here Burthogge posits the definition of hermeneutics as the logic of interpretation, and at the same time posits its counterpart, “euretick”, as the logic of invention. While hermeneutics has grown into a rich field of research in the nature of interpretation and its role in the production of meaning and its relationship to rhetoric, euretics as the study of invention has been neglected and its native logic and relation to rhetoric remains obscure.

 

Greg Ulmer has spent decades developing heuretics and exploring its role in digital rhetoric as a supplement to hermeneutics. Hermeneutics emerged from writing technology, providing a logic for the relationship between intellection and textual media discourse through meaning. Ulmer proposes that heuretics can provide a logic for digital (multi-modal) media: invention can be articulated in any medium. While hermeneutics facilitates the construction of new theories from discrete pieces of information through processes of interpretation, heuretics as the logic of invention would use existing theories to facilitate the production of new methods.

 

One of the tools from Ulmer's work that is useful in the formation of techniques for cyber-history is the CATTt Generator. The CATTt Generator allows us to simulate our inventio, or the work the brain performs before and during invention of new material. Our brains are constantly producing new methods that we test and use to navigate our daily lives, like thinking of a safe way to walk on an icy patch of sidewalk in our new shoes, or figuring out how to open the front door with hands full of groceries. The CATTt Generator gives us a way to simulate the complex chemical and physical processes our brains perform for invention so that we can jump-start, fine-tune and better communicate them. To identify the materials needed to adequately simulate inventio, Ulmer analyzed examples of the discourse on method, wherein the author proposes and explains a new method. Ulmer identified 5 common components for proposing a new method:

 

  • [C]ontrast: a known discourse, field or method and a desired divergence from it. The inventor must begin by moving away from an undesirable example whose features provide an inventory of components made valuable through determining their exterior.

  • [A]nalogy: a discourse or method from some other field that offers a model for a successful way of working.

  • [T]heory: a rigorously developed methodology from the creator’s working discipline used primarily to offer weight and substance to the new creation. "[T]he theorist generates a new theory based on the authority of another theory whose argument is accepted as a literal rather than a figurative analogy. The new theory will include in one register a literal repetition of a prior theory".

  • [T]arget: the intended audience. The inventor must have an intended area of application that the new method will address, frequently identifiable in terms of the needs of an institution that desires the new method.

  • [t]ale/[t]ail: a final presentation format. The tale/tail is there to remind the inventor “that the invention, the new method, must itself be represented in some form or genre.”


 

The inventor decides what the input for each component will be, researches each of them to ensure a sufficiently accurate representation of the input is being used, and runs the experiment to produce the method, made communicable in the decided format. If the method experiment does not produce the needed results, the inputs can be adjusted, resulting in another method experiment, repeating the process until the desired outcome is achieved or something better is found.

 

While we can use the CATTt Generator for producing methods, we can also use it to analyze existing methods, articulating historical precedents as method experiments. This is particularly useful in architecture and design research, because practicing architects and design teachers constantly make use of history by pulling bits of material from existing buildings and objects, whether they be ancient or contemporary. This gleaning is not historiographical or archival in nature; designers are not attempting to document the precedents that inform their work through design. The architect/designer wants to use their precedents to make new things.

 

Heuretics is also particularly applicable to architectural discourse because architecture is inherently multi-modal; we write and speak about architecture, but the buildings themselves do not engage directly in discourse. While buildings seem mute, they certainly affect us, and they communicate through material, light, the sound and shape of their spaces, etc; this communication precedes anything we might say or write about them to evaluate or convey meaning. And, when a designer engages a new and complex project or a design problem, the first step is to propose a method for navigating all the material and possible processes that inform the situation; there is no single way of producing design solutions for infinite possible design prompts, or for determining how complex programs will be accommodated by a building on a specific and unique site. The designer must cobble together a method from diverse inputs, or at least adapt an existing method to the specific new project to begin working.

 

 

 

* Burthogge, R. [1678] 1921. ‘Organum Vetus et Novum, or a Discourse of Reason and Truth.’ In M. Landes, ed. The Philosophical Writings of Richard Burthogge. The Open Court Publishing Company: Chicago.

† Ulmer, G. 1994. Heuretics: The Logic of Invention. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore; p 8-9, & passim.