Monday, February 04, 2008

Torture Architecture

Flaco sent this Guardian piece by email.
An architectural school was at the centre of a row last night after it emerged that students were required to design a fully operational torture device.

The project, part of a masters course aimed at first-year students of the University of Kent's School of Architecture, was described as "sick". One student has lodged a complaint on the grounds that he was uncomfortable about carrying out the brief. Illustrated by a skull and a view of a Gestapo electric torture chamber, the brief handed to a class of students at the school was to "design, construct and draw a fully operational prototype torture device based on ergonomic principles".

The pedagogical value is obviously suspect, perhaps especially as the article ends with this: "The two-week project was designed by course tutor Mike Richards, in advance of a project to design a new headquarters for Amnesty International." But it's perfectly consistent with a Bush-Cheney program of institutionalized torture. They would need lawyers, data analysts, and janitors too.


jenhargis said...

I find it strange that the "forward-thinking" brits would come up with such an assignment, given their constant beratement of the American people for the violence supposedly inherent in our culture. Perhaps they are trying to weed out the loonies.

MT said...

Conceivable one pedagogical value to it might be that in forced citizens to think more realistically about what their government does or may do under their authority. Maybe a James Bond flick accomplishes the same though. As education rather than as a social psychology experiment ala Milgram I suppose you'd need active facilitation toward the theoretical positive outcome. Tough love is central to public education, and actually torture itself doesn't look so out of place in that context. I imagine the teacher had something like that in mind: Self deprecation of his power over the students with an assignment that was supposed to make them feel "in on the joke."

MT said...

I blame "The Office" TV show.

helmut said...

I suppose it's got real pedagogical value when the students decide late at night after a few beers to test it.