Visualizing the latent emotional and bureaucratic labor in our material world


Originally published at:


Obligatory link to the best podcast devoted to this kind of stuff:


Yes, putting a switch on a cord is stupid. Put it on the friggen lamp.


Marital aid manufacturing companies have engineering departments.

I bet that looks good on your resume.


Holy shit, as if there aren’t enough bad things to worry about. Now I should feel guilty when I take a bite of food or play with my Boba Fetts in the tub?


The public library system my spouse works for has, for some reason known only to the superintendent, a 6-person marketing department. I imagine they spend about 95% of their time like this.


Not nearly enough cost discussions.


One time, a switch in my car failed. Knowing that I had to replace the switch anyway, I decided to disassemble it to see what was inside. It turned out that the plastic rocker actuated a little metal rocker inside, and the metal rocker had just fallen off its perch. I was able to reassemble the thing and put it back into service, where it did great duty for another several years, until I sold the car. I must have saved like six dollars by tearing down that switch.

But it blew my mind that somewhere there was a factory that produced the little metal rocker; that there was a machine that produced the part, that someone had built the machine, that there were people with the responsibility of designing and building the machines, and turtles all the way down. All for a little 2-gram piece of steel, punched out of a sheet and bent just the right amount.


Unless the lamp is placed at the far end of a large workspace, or above sitting height, or is used to illuminate an item that is not meant to be easily reached…


If your library manages to keep its funding while others don’t, then it’s because they’re doing their jobs. If your library still gets hit with cuts, but they keep their jobs, then they’re friends and relatives of important people given a sinecure.


The thing is that the company spent thousands of dollars and dozens of months of engineers’ time making sure that the dimensions of the little rocker were just ever so. And it still fell out of place! They clearly needed to spend one more week on it.


More likely, someone else built the little rocker thingy for something else, and the design was just copied and then copied again. In which case small errors might have been introduced.


an idea that’s… feeling increasingly likely with the passage of time.

Not to me it’s not. Nobody could force me to endure gigabytes of irrelevant information floating around my visual sensorium, and there’s no way in hell I would choose that hell for myself. Maybe it makes a neat graphic in a futurey movie, but who would endure such pointless overload?


Ok, there’s an image none of us need stuck in our heads on a Monday morning.


I’m going to bookmark this and whip it out anytime I am around someone who knows how a thing should be better and wonders why a thing os so poorly designed, and “Why didn’t they just…” Well this is why, it’s never as simple as “Just…”


Be careful, there are lots-o-folks who “accidentally” slip and fall on such things…


Uh yeah, total accident…


To the emergency room, and beyond!


Actually it was a Luke figure, and there was legitimate recreations involved.

Luke: There’s something not right here… I feel cold. Death.
Yoda:[points to a cave opening beneath a large tree]
That place… is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.
Luke:What’s in there?
Yoda:Only what you take with you.


Oh, engineering is used for all sorts of interesting things.