19 Şubat 2010 Cuma

Consciousness of Being Human, Nur Esin, 2005

Referans: Esin, N., “The Consciousness of Being Human: Reflections of technological and social change on architectural education”, Mimar.ist, Special issue for UIA İstanbul (in English), No. 16, 2005, pp. 82-84.

Consciousness of “Being Human”:
Reflections of social and technological change on architectural education


For the memory of Prof. Dr. Nihat Toydemir

In the recent years, I was just at the center of paradoxical feelings. I was charmed by the visible progress of our architectural design students by technological change, where at the same time; I was suffering from the administrative responsibilities to provide the educational atmosphere as a necessity of changing technological and social needs. Yet, I have discovered that all these matters are not the administrative or organizational issues, but, matter of “being human”.

Life Changes
The new way of looking at our environment and listening to it change our life. Information technology, with its all kind of opportunities and possibilities penetrates into our daily life dramatically. Our expectations from the future have changed. World societies and individuals are learning more and asking for more in a chaotic, post-modern world, and so do we.
The positive and negative effects of technological change on societies have long been discussed. The social change is not only driven and initiated by the accelerated developments of technology. With its symbolic meaning, “new millennium” brings new understanding to our lives. Human beings are asking for more livable world. Naturally, this search begins with our daily environments. Each of us is re-discovering the meaning of our lives. We have the unknown “new” in one hand, and usual, secure lives on the other. Our own paradoxes in new life turn out to be a deep explosion in our souls and minds. We are searching for our new identities as countries, organizations, citizens, professionals, parents, students, and as children too in this changing world. Societies have confronted with the problems of adaptation from old styles of governing to new, more humanitarian ways. From the Worldwide perspective, we can discover the reflections of change in different scales. When USA government had decided to stop the war in Serbia and Bosnia, societies discuss if it is the “interior affairs of a country” or not. The paradoxes of country’s unity versus ethnical rights, benefits of a country versus benefits of individual citizens are in continuous discussion. In fact, it is hard to say these concepts are under discussion, there is almost consensus on individuals’ priority in all areas.
There is no black and white anymore; there are several degrees of grays in the world of human.
On the other hand, world is getting so closer that science views the world as a natural unity. World is accepted as a living organism. Even the rights of a nature with its all kinds of “world beings” (humans, animals and non-livings) are discussed. They are tried to be preserved for the future of our children. The right of unborn child is discussed. Conservation programs are introduced by several world organizations to save our cultural heritage. Preserving sub-cultural identities, preserving the beauties of nature, preserving the air we breathe, the water we drink is our contemporary concerns. The growing importance and power of the effect of a single individual in saving the living world is explained to our children.
Although the concept of “globalization” gains negative meaning in economical terms; it has positive effects on humans understanding of personal rights and freedom. Personal needs do not anymore mean the defined needs in our legislations. Today we go further from the well-known basic human needs graduation list of Maslow. We discuss more on our social need for freedom, affective and emotional needs for our personal satisfaction. We have a growing request to live in quality environments that can satisfy our new type of socio-psychological needs. The origin of our quality expectations lay in the other types of human rights.

Other Rights
To feel one’s freedom
The concept of “freedom” is very comprehensive and flexible one having many dimensions. The meaning of “to be free” is contradictory to obey the authoritarian rules, restrictions, and any kind of limitations. On the other hand the concept is closely related to personal needs, independence of behaving, and motivation to free choice. Up to this time, we were convinced to obey the rules of our community for the sake of others. Today we should re-define our social values, and we have to learn how to be respectful to others while to be free. Obviously, it is not easy to shift from a learned behavior mode to new mode of life.
We try to establish our personal and mental balance in the context of our mental framework, which refers to our value systems. Thus, we try to be open to the continuous improvement of our internal systems, which is motivated by the phenomenon of change. To be in a mental balance is an important motive of a man, but man has also a strong desire for experiencing the new.
We should be flexible and adaptive in our ideas, but, having a flexible mind needs special mental effort. In this mental process, the hardest thing is to accept the basic law of the nature that is “every being born, live and dead”. Nobody resists the flowing of time.
Nobody escape from the phenomenon of change
The need for ‘individuality’ or the need to present one’s personality
‘Individuality’ and ‘personality’ are other two concepts that are related to ‘freedom’. The encyclopedic definition of individuality pointed out the personal, individual differences, and interests of individual, which are different from others. Personality is defined as observable special characteristics of one. In psychology these characteristics comprise physical, mental, emotional and social characteristics as a whole. On the other hand, the term means consciousness of self, where one organizes his/her behavior patterns. We should also consider the term identity. ‘Identity’ defines the various conditions in which individual’s unique personality occurs.
All these explanations bring us to the rediscovery of the importance of an individual. In the definition of psychology, the reason of “one being different then others” comes from the very nature of man. It goes further to the desire of being enjoyed or loved by the others. When young one –teenager- is looking for his/her identity, he/she should discover his/her own individual characteristics, which are different from others.

Two Prepositions and Three Questions
Preposition 1: An individual feels deeply the need for “being recognized and respected” by others. This desire is reflected out in various forms.
Preposition 2: An individual needs his/her “level of expectations” is being recognized by others. This desire is independent from his/her social status in the society he belongs. The level of his/her expectations is directly related to his/her personality characteristics and his identity. The feeling of one’s being (or self consciousness) is possible by understanding one’s differences from others. An individual tries to establish his/her status in the society consciously or unconsciously by using his/her individual differences. An individual should find the ways of attract others attention and respect.
So the first level of consciousness is about self, and then the second level is the consciousness of others for understanding an individual. Now we can examine the paradoxes in the levels of self and social consciousness.

To discover one’s self: The desire of being different (having unusual identity) or the phobia of being different (being out of a social group).
An individual presents his difference with his preferences, tendencies, and choices. He/she can resist to the accustomed rules, tries to be out of the expected identity, and denies existing standards. He/she wants to experience the alternative ways of lives in his limited educational period or life period, and behaves accordingly. He does this because he wants to be recognized by others with his personal differences, and wants to control his own life. But, this behavior can easily go to limits for youngsters.
These are basically risks of the private decisions of one’s own life. Self should recognize his power of shaping his social environment.
We should shape our lives; in fact nobody can do it for us.
Paradoxically, in order to conceive his position in a group, an individual needs to be the part of a social unit that he lived with. He wants to be free of social forces, but just wants to be with them and enjoyed by them. He needs to gain his self-esteem. Without sharing his ideas with others, one cannot be satisfied, no matter if these ideas are extreme ones or not.
Naturally, different individuals respond in different manners. Some are passively and some others are actively respond to the process of self-construction. So some can prefer to be more adaptive to a social group, or some may lead the group with their extreme ideas. The variety of personalities in a wide range gives richness to a specific social group.

Expectancy level and personal satisfaction:
An individual survives his life happily in a “satisficing” conditions (Thanks for Dr. Herbert Simon for this cleverly adapted word). This means he is in a balance in his mental world, construct his mental structure and behavior patterns. The expectancy level of an individual defines his level of satisfaction.
And individual’s expectations are effected by “change”. They are closely related with how deeply and intensely the life is experienced. The satisfaction of free and creative individual goes beyond the physical requirements and should be discussed in intellectual (mental and emotional) dimensions. The expectancies of today’s men who is learning, reading, listening, and seeing continuously are different then yesterday’s. The men today are in continuous interaction with the environment both in real and virtual context.

What happens in our universities?
If we can truly recognize each other’s expectations, we can understand our position in our educational environments by asking series of questions under three main headings. These can be stated as flexibility, democracy, and recognition:
Flexibility: Are we (administrators or design instructors) flexible enough to coop with new needs of the students? Does our approach to our students respect their desire of being different? Can we give chance to them to experience new ways of designing, communicating, representing their ideas, behaving, etc. in education?
Democracy: Do the process of putting social rules democratically stated in our universities? Do the administrators share the way we are managed or organized? Do we share our decisions to our students? Do we trust them?
Recognition: Do we (as instructors) recognize our students’ satisfaction expectancies? Do we really care for them? How our needs and desires are accomplished?

Some observations from my university
There are four interest groups in the university environment. These are students (as primary importance), educators, administrators, and society. These parties participate in and have effects on the programs and activities of education in various scales. Their expectancies have differed from each other.
Our undergraduate students want to experience architecture by theorizing, designing, and practicing design during their 4 year educational period. They want to be a well-known architect, and getting good commissions in practice. Finally they are motivated to gain money and have a comfortable, desirable life.
We also have some expectations as educators. We want to precede our work in enjoyable conditions. We want to update ourselves by new teaching methodologies, learn new technologies. We want to enhance ourselves as practicing architects as well. We aim to provide quality in our education methods. We want to materialize our organizational or individual successes by the success of our students.
Administrators in our state universities are chosen from faculty members. Thus, they have double role of reaching quality both in administration and education. They have also responsibility to public and state government.
Society needs well educated individuals. Parents want to see the graduation of their sons and daughters with success. They want them to find good jobs, and reach a good life. Industry needs expert architects equipped by technical knowledge in building material industry, in construction.
All these social needs and expectations seem so similar with ours when we were architecture students in the past. So what is the difference today? Let us look at the university world from the eyes of our students:
They want to be more active in a participative university life.
They want to be more active in an intellectual atmosphere.
They want to go beyond the old defined limits of architecture education, their new interests are
… Philosophy, cinema, graphics, art, music, nature
… Virtual architecture
… Temporary events, art biennales
… Two or three discipline training - double major
… Joint abroad architecture education - exchange programs
Participation is defined as to participate in decisions that an individual is effected by. But the participation here is not mean to choose from a given set, but to be actively participating in the creation of that educational set. Students want to organize and participate in social events, to define their own design programs according to the given environmental context, to design their own projects (not the instructor’s), to decide his/her way, to chose the set of lectures he/she wants.
Our students are no more satisfied with old styles of lecturing. They prepare successfully their creative presentations. They do not want us to take our pencils and draw for them. But they are always eager to hear discussions on philosophy, psychology, art, surprises and opportunities of our daily life. Like the 1970’s socially oriented students, today our architecture students discover the fact that the societies’ improvement lies in their willingness to reach quality on every sector of life. They want to improve their life quality during their education periods.
The graduates want to continue their further training, in order to be in such an active intellectual atmosphere. We have already good number of Masters and Ph.D. students in different programs in the Faculty of Architecture.
As educators and administrators, we should say that we have reached many of our objectives. Today we have joint abroad programs, student and staff exchange programs, double major programs, philosophy lectures, set of electives that student can prefer, variety of masters and Ph. D. programs. We have continuous architectural events, conferences, ateliers on philosophy, on art, on technology, on sustainable life, on ecology, on design education, on humanities, etc.

We have still a lot to do
There are several issues that are waiting to be solved. The primary issue is to overcome the problem of communication. We can not efficiently use the advantageous sides of information technology. Our communication patterns were designed according to the old bureaucratic administration structure. But, we need new flexible ones. Educators can not communicate as much as needed with each other. Sub-disciplines and/or departments turn their attention inwards, so that we are confronted with the problem of disintegration in “architecture”.
We have to make true scenarios of future of life expectancies, conjecture about the new flexible and creative ways of education, and do not afraid of taking radical decisions that give way to our new ideals. Let us respect each other and encourage the individuals who can take risks of changing our lives positively whether they are students, educators or administrators.

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