Definitions to Perspectives: Resourceful and Artifact

11/11/2009 § Leave a comment

I am studying a lot of vocabulary for the GRE and have subscribed to a vocabulary podcast to listen to while on the way to work. On Monday, the word ‘resourceful’ popped up. Listening to the definition and example sentences made me look back at how resourceful I’ve been throughout my life, and how valuable this quality is. The SAT was one memory revisited, already speaking about standardized tests. The day I took the SAT, I arrived just before the test started, and had to sit at a wobbly table. I used one of my extra pencils as a shim for the shorter leg, stabilizing the table. It didn’t give me an awesome score, but it likely prevented me from annoying the shit out of pretty much everyone, including myself. It also felt so cool doing it. “Oh this is a wobbly table, hmm, no problem… where’s the test?”

I’ve looked at several definitions since hearing the podcast as most definitions prize skill, effectiveness, and imagination, but disregard one’s ability with a resource when citing the characteristics of one who is resourceful. To say the least, I’m most attracted to Merriam-Webster’s:

resourceful: able to meet situations; capable of devising ways and means.

When I think about the new technologies and designs that are constantly appearing on Treehugger or Inhabitat, I get a sense that engineers, architects, designers, and planners understand the success of their work will be measured by how resourceful it is. And ‘resourceful’ as in devising, creating within limitations. I think my generation’s artifacts and approaches will attempt to meet many needs/work towards many goals at one time, similar to Manfred Max-Neef’s ‘synergistic satisfier’. Green architecture now, for example, creates buildings that suit their purpose but fit creatively into their economic, ecological, and aesthetic contexts.

I’d like to think there’s another sense of the word ‘resourceful.’ We’d separate re- from -sourceful and, like redo or rethink; ‘resourceful’ can turn into a term embodying the idea of going back and creating new sources. Repurposing soda and water bottles for greenhouses, reclaiming wood for construction, and the awesomeness of biomimicry can all be good examples of new sources we’ve found. One kid at my high school bus-stop could turn an apple or a to-go cup into a bong in under three minutes. Desire and/or necessity spark creativity; the creative use resources wisely, and thus innovation results. So, check out the PEG and the FreeCharge. Amazing and small devices that create energy while you walk/bike:

A book that I’m currently reading, The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, defines ‘artifact’ in a fascinating way when clarifying Charles Darwin’s approach to artificial selection:

artifact: a thing reflecting human will (xxii)

I think looking at our emerging green products, buildings, and programs as artifacts in this sense can reveal what we value as well as infuse humanity into our work: Our sustainable designs reflect our willingness to act mindfully of/within our ecosystem, they show we wish to hold on to our varying traditions, and they emphasize our commitments to social and personal health.

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