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Asher Wolfstein [userpic]
Some Considerations...
by Asher Wolfstein (asherwolf)
at November 26th, 2007 (09:16 pm)

Ergonomics is about designing an element that bridges two realms: environment and user. Specifically, definitions of ergonomics range from the cold scientific study of the efficiency of people in the workplace [Online Etymology Dictionary], to the warmer technology concerned with the design, manufacture, and arrangement of products and environments to be safe, healthy, and comfortable for human beings [American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy].

The largest considerations future, or virtual, ergonomics can, and will, face consist of the broad, almost limitless, range of phenotypes a user could adopt. Furgonomics can be seen as a subset of, or a specialization of, these much larger considerations, but only in so far as to what falls under the definition of a fur. To consider this topic in pure isolation we need only select a specific phenotype and then cater all equipment needs to this model. This, however, would be as fruitless as selecting any particular man, large or thin, tall or short, and doing the same across the board. For effective furgonomics then, just as in effective ergonomics, what needs to occur is a recognition of patterns of phenotypes, much like architectural patterns, or software design patterns.

The external factor to all of this, and truly the qualifying factor (for without one no effort would be fruitless as previously described) is the environment of the user, and it is here that I believe we must take note. We can discuss furgonomics in a purely virtual environment, where the setting may be on another planet with different gravity, or in a society where impossible technologies exist, and all is well and good despite the fact that the environment itself can be warped to whatever means necessary. However, there are even more subtle differences than are readily apparent, for we could talk of Earth and current technology, even possible future technology, but are we discussing a world where furries have existed for all time? Is it an environment where individuals can or cannot change their phenotype? For instance, is it a near two, three, or four decades into the future where we may manipulate our bodies like drawings or computer code? Or in a transition period between now and a world of phenomic freedom?

At first, it seems we might not consider such questions, but each post here has suggested that we automatically take into account in our thinking how certain goals might be achieved. All technology works in a circular fashion, through its impact on the environment and the environment's reciprocation. When we speculate that a company could do this, or that an economy or institution might be affected in a particular way, we are considering the impact furgonomics has on the environment and the likewise equal impact the environment has on furgonomics.

Have it be given that phenomic freedom has been established, that being the right to choose one's own shape, as that right has not been explored in the medical community (out of the scope of this discussion, but as of now, outside of sex change operations, all other desires are quickly categorized under a dysmorphic disorder by the respected establishment). As of now, super-industrialization is taking foot in several countries globally, and, for lack of a better term, the focused end-points of global-super-industrialization (that being the main economic superpowers of the world) have been established. In the (post-)super-industrialitized world, as one could argue we are living in now, there is economic conflict between companies that take advantage of the inevitable and constant increase of cultural and market diversification successfully, and the desire to prevent further diversification via marketing methods meant to enhance conformity (borrowed from cults and politics). In the end, diverse production succeeds surface marketing attempts towards conformity, and in this we find a constant technological push for customizable on-demand production.

As a side note, this conflict is ironic, in the colloquial sense, considering the fear many critics attempted to raise about mass cultural conformity, and stale orwellian or huxley-esque societies to be brought about through mass-production technology and publishing. However, we may prove the critics right if corporate marketing ever leverages particular networking technologies as those technologies became ever more ingrained into the functions of our lives.

To examine the target subject of our designs, the first thing we notice is the apex in lifestyle transience: the transience of our own physical identities. Much of our identity is wrapped up into our physical selves, despite our notions otherwise. With the possible ability to change the style or even function of our bodies, the transience of all of our daily utilities increases. What used to work as a chair, keyboard, even cup may not be compatible with a new phenotype, and thus, would need to be replaced. This gives rise to not only concerns about construction, but to production, and even to waste (though that is out of the scope of this post). What's interesting to note is that replaceable utility items, common everyday use and throwaway items, are fairly recent inventions of the last century complete with their own transition period. One instance of this powerful psychological notion's introduction into the public psyche was when Mattel announced that young girls could gain a trade-in allowance for their old Barbie dolls towards a purchase of an upgrade. What disturbed the public the most, amusingly, is the invention of intentional obsolescence.

This transience is important to note when considering furgonomics, assuming that individuals can change their phenome, for then we can frame the question: what is a manufacturer going to do? Although I can't remember the term for it at the moment, perhaps we might look towards three (and of course more) solutions: sculpting with nanotechnology (microtechnology?), complete custom on-demand manufacturing, or 'snap-together' constructivist technology; (a possibly interesting offshoot of the art movement?)

Sculpting with nanotechnology is something we haven't touched upon. I've only briefly been exposed to the technology and haven't had much time to investigate, but this is how I understand it to work. You build a three-dimensional model in a computer program, then you output that three-dimensional model to a piece of hardware that takes a substance that can be put together into a composite, or one that can be microscopically 'chiseled', through a group of LASER like components. It is akin to a super-prototyping machine for various mechanical parts, but obviously in this sense we are talking about much larger and more enduring (or not?) pieces of hardware.

thelistener wrote "A company can, say, produce clothes that are MEANT for rodents and only rodents." This is what I also mean when I write of custom on-demand manufacturing. In the major publishing industry it used to be that you had to run limited prints of a particular publication to make production cheaper (sometimes this is still the case, particularly in smaller industries such as niche comics this is still the case), however new technology emerged that has enabled some players in the industry to meet publication demands 'on-demand'. What this means is that a publisher can have an array of publications in various forms ready (most likely electronic) to print, and when one is ordered it is printed on demand for delivery. This is most often accomplished in reality with a marriage between the two methods, but none-the-less it can also be done with CD production (although online delivery is quickly surpassing actual production). A large clothing brand or company owning several brands could easily employ the same type of technology with clothes (if not already implemented) particularly since many various clothes' partial assembly are outsourced to large seamstress farms.

thelistener wrote "Medicine would most likely be species specific, or at least family specific." With genetic manipulation (or simply assuming that genetics would HAVE to be different) then yes, I would have to agree with this completely. We are seeing the dawn of medicinal technologies catered to specific individuals today even if at the most basic level we are only experiencing a constant diversification of medicine aimed towards ever more diverse needs and requirements. Nanotechnology and biotechnology (often overlapping) combined with increased understanding of our own physiology are fueling this trend into the future. An interesting discussion one day might go over what medicinal needs might need to be met by post-human furries and how those needs might be met.

thelistener wrote "... generalization tailored to end user customization ..." This is what I also mean when I talk about 'snap-together' constructivist technology, in fact I got 'snap-together' from his mention of clothes. What if we didn't just snap together clothes, but general hardware? Chairs could be designed in such a fashion that they were made mostly out of component parts that could snap together, and be adjusted in terms of size/measurement? When something doesn't work or was incompatible it might be easily adapted via other components or a reconfiguration of existing components. A modern example of reconfiguration is the computer, desktop or server, particularly a server.

Thus, a shop for furries, or even for anyone in the future might look more like a shop from SecondLife than a shop we see today with loads of materials on the racks. In this shop of the 'future', or virtual shop otherwise, prototypes of clothes might be tried on, then custom ordered, or even possibly fabricated on demand right on the spot. The same could become of life's other numerous utilities. Perhaps we might view holograms of items and peruse a selection much like we might view a selection of album's on an Apple computer in a store, then order that particular configuration for which the parts would then be brought out for purchase.

We haven't even touched upon possible complications, or perhaps opportunities, coming from food products. Would different species or phenotypes desire or taste foods differently? Would there be certain food products catered to certain furries? (And in keep in mind that furries will most likely not comprise the majority of post-human forms... but they might who knows?)

This discussion doesn't even take into account the social aspects of the existence of furries, such as furry culture between actual furs. We talked about sports, and inter-species play, but we haven't necessarily touched upon all the aspects of culture that furry physical identity could affect. However, I don't even know if furgonomics would cover such a topic (I don't think it would or should, but perhaps we can segment it off as furry sociology? Buzzword invention anyone?)

Anyways... there's some thoughts from me.


Posted by: thelistener (thelistener)
Posted at: November 27th, 2007 04:52 am (UTC)

Excellent response to my prior article!

In my article, I made the assumption that the target market were those who are "purebred" furs, or ones that evolved naturally on alternate planets rather than genetically modified humans, but I don't think that would significantly change your diagnosis of my argument.

As far as natural vs. augment, should we choose on one to argue about, or is it just splitting hairs?

Posted by: Asher Wolfstein (asherwolf)
Posted at: November 27th, 2007 05:02 am (UTC)

Well... by argue do you mean discuss? I'm not sure how an argument could be structured between natural vs. augment. In the end, it is simply a matter of what ends you wish to pursue in a particular consideration I might think. Me personally, I've always been an unabashed advocate in becoming an actual furry (which might be why I was compared to Claude Degler once) so I'm more interested in the realistic avenues. However, discussion here is not limited to that variety only.

What I mean by advocate is that, when taking the time to consult the subject, I've attempted to face the situation head on. I've gone so far as to present the idea to my psychiatrist and psychologist, with interesting results. I've talked about phenomic freedom, something it seems no one in the fandom is really interested in or understands, despite that it will be an issue in the future. I believe that in the next forty years or so, we will be able to become furries, and in essence post-humans.

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