“Environments are invisible.”
That’s Marshall McLuhan’ overarching big idea. We are fundamentally, almost inherently, unable to see the largest thing in our lives — our environment. This ocean of ideas, assumptions, expectations, constraints, drivers, beliefs, blinders, and influences that shape our lives and minds is hidden from us precisely because we are in it and of it. It takes a peculiar stance and foolishness to step outside it long enough to perceive it.
Marshall McLuhan was strange and clownish enough to see it.
— Kevin Kelly
This week I’ve been slowly translating Judith Souriau‘s post about Repaired Things on the Libération arts blog, using my rusty high school French and the Mac translation widget.
I got stuck on this phrase:
les objets les plus simples mais aussi les plus créatifs de l’économie du système D.”
The widget translated “système D” as “resourcefulness”, so I Wikipedia’d it. Turns out it’s slang. The “D” stands both for the words débrouillard and demerder, meaning to de-tangle and de-shit respectively. It was popularized by food writer Anthony Bourdain, who used it to describe MacGyver-ish ways to whip up something from nothing or to dig yourself out of a culinary hole or a recipe-gone-wrong. But I guess now it can be used for any sort of under-the-gun creativity.
Unlike the somewhat clinical “repair”, these words conjure up thoughts of a pulling out of the muck and chaos, a rescue from oblivion, or a staving off of entropy that requires as much elbow grease as ingenuity.
I recently discovered Kevin Kelly‘s blog Street Use, which documents amazing instances of Système D from all over the world. Here are some favorites. The first is a raft kept afloat by bags of syrofoam peanuts! The rest are more or less self-explanatory. Click on the images to see the original posts.