Don't seem to be in the mood to write serious stuff (Ritual in design blathering...)

Next section in the outline of the Play section is the use of Ritual in Design. The problem is that much of the material in the section is a rehash of the stuff earlier. Ritual plays with hidden orders, and the arbitrary. The difference is in the experiential quality of the play.

Ritual involves making the user do something. It has that strong linear (temporal) quality. It reinforces a sense of belonging and connection because it offers explanations of the seemingly arbitrary operations. It is a performance, a theatrical presentation, though it may only be for our own benefit.

Ritual in object design is generally a subtle thing. The ritual of opening a newspaper or a book, for instance. The ritual of turning one's wrist to read a wrist-watch compared with the ritual of pulling out a pocket watch.

In architecture, the best example of ritual in design I can think of is the procession from public to private embodied in the entryways of houses. The passage from one state to another (a favourite subject of rituals in all media) is articulated, and it is the articulation of the underlying order (the rite of passage) that makes it seem special and important to us. It exposes to us an understanding of the world if only we would reflect upon it.

Ritual's purpose is to help us cope with our environment. It allows us to deal with things which we might not otherwise be able to accept. It gives us a role to play which is well defined, and fits into an accepted order. It tends to make us feel (once we feel we are a part of the order which defines the ritual) accepted and connected with the powers and orders that control our environment.

Ritual doesn't necessarily involve an unknown order. Though many rituals are based on mysteries, the mysteries are often fully explicated for those who achieve inner circles of a group. This effect is somewhat different than that of hidden or arbitrary orders; there is a promise that, with enough search, the answers will become available. That is, the articulation of the mystery is explicitly known in most cases, so that all aspects of a ritual can be explained with enough study (though such study might require a lifetime).

Of course, the designer may very well violate this implicit contract when playing with this form of play. However, the ritualistic aspects of non-ecclesiastical designs are not often complex enough to entirely escape explanation.

Need a really good couple of case studies for the ritual of entry, I think. Too bad I don't have my notes from architecture school, there were quite a few buildings discussed as particularly good examples of ritualism-in-entry.

Anyway, I suppose I'll leave the real writing to tomorrow.


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