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doctor robert e markison
interview by justin with amy, photographs
march 12, 1997

full text

parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

shoe doctor markison is a hand surgeon, artist, cobbler, musician, and holder of several international sailboard handgrip patents, amongst other things.

i saw doctor markison when i developed computer-related hand troubles. his advice to me at the time was more focused on diet and exercise - personal maintenance, rather than medicine.

he had seemed full of ideas beyond my twenty minute appointment, and so i scheduled a return with amy to talk at greater length. he mentions that doctor means teacher in medieval french, and this is certainly true here:

a broad range of tightly focused sentiments spill endlessly from his sharpened mind - he plays a flute along with charlie parker, quickly demonstrates shoe-making, discusses the appropriate age for pole-vaulting and spells out a demanding but rewarding practical philosophy of personal tending in a consumer world.

he comments at length on the state of computer interface, drawing on his own experience as a digital artist in the eighties, and provides some roundabout advice for people wedded to machines.

s u b j e x : on computers/interface issues
computers should be used to tolerance, and other alternative outlooks on personal technology.

hand advice

suffering in your hands? this is what you might hear visiting markison's office.

creation can give you a whole new outlook. markison is an admirable learner.

downcast doctor
here's some samples, get a flavour.

r - because i realized that as soon as you took silicon sand off the beach and turned it into a chip, you did something horrible to the cycle and rhythm of nature. because the rhythm of nature was waves washing over that silicon sand, ok? that's action and repose. which is like this, a series of cycles of action and repose. the wave, the peak, the troth, back and forth, the flow and ebb of tides, natural time and cycles and rhythms. digital time is reversed in so far as it is a no wait state of progressive chip speed increases waiting for the warm-blooded primate to escape natural rhythm and cycles and get into some giddy, frantic, digital squirrel wheel with an ironic plastic object that has no feelings.

j - testify, wow.

r - that's it. and then you add poor design to the digital interface and now you've got an even bigger mess.

or this in the midst of such an intense burst of codified thought:

so once you understand space as best you can, which is two and three dimensional art, and understand time as best you can, which in its pure abstract form is music, then you can very easily have the time/spacial framework to understand a fellow human who's troubled and teach that person, since doctor means teacher in medieval french, medieval latin, and middle english, teacher, teach a person to understand their trouble and hopefully to get out of it. And so that, my job really is to use the very positive frames of musical time and artistic space to get a patient to, at the very best, coexist with trouble, but more likely get out of trouble. I can balance the negative decay time frame and spacial disarray of medicine with my positive musical time and artistic space anytime...

...now in the latter 20th century we still don't have the two tenants of industrial design which are choice and or adjustability for keyboards and the whole setup and everything else. we're willing to enslave the most broadly represented body part on the brain, the human hand, to a cursor pointing device. i mean, when Elias Howell was working in the sewing maching in the 1860s he said, let's have a foot treadle so that we don't wear out the upper limbs making black fabric, with a foot treadle. when the automobile was invented it could go plenty fast, with a foot pedal. and so we haven't even done things that would be appropriate for the end user. we're not even thinking about it, it comes from bits and pieces from small entity inventors,

- from on computers/interface issues

but the way the words just tripped off his tongue as he showed us around his office, it was an astonishing sequence of sentiments. read the full thang.

my thanks to becky who was paid to sacrifice her hands typing up the tape of this for weeks and months mid-1997. this interview was originally intended for electric minds, but they probably would have edited it. what a tragedy that would have been!

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