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The Lucas Plan
In the 1970s workers at the Lucas Aerospace Company in Britain set out to defeat the bosses plans to axe jobs. They produced their own alternative "Corporate Plan" for the company's future. In doing so they attacked some of the underlying priorities of capitalism. Their proposals were radical, arguing for an end to the wasteful production of military goods and for people’s needs to be put before the owners’ profits. Plans for socially useful items were drawn up by the workers, and included cutting edge green technologies such as wind turbines and hybrid power packs. Emphasis was also to be put on the way the products were to be made, making sure that workers were not to be deskilled in the process of producing them. 150 product ideas were put forward by the workforce. From them, products were selected to fall into six categories: medical equipment, transport vehicles, improved braking systems, energy conservation, oceanics, and telechiric machines. Specific proposals included, in the medical sector, an expansion of 40% in the production of kidney dialysis machines, which at that time were being manufactured on one of the L.A. sites. The Combine ‘regarded it was scandalous that people could be dying for the want of a kidney machine when those who could be producing them are facing the prospect of redundancy’. In the energy sector, proposals included the development of heat pumps, solar cell technology, wind turbines and fuel cell technology. In transport, a new hybrid power pack for motor vehicles and road-rail vehicles. Later, the Combine produced a road-rail bus, which toured the country. The proposals were rejected out of hand by L.A. management, indicating they would not diversify from aerospace work, even though they had clearly indicated that aerospace work was in decline, and the existence of marginal industrial and medical equipment already being carried out on some of the sites, which could have been built upon. Ultimately, the Labour government and the unions were unable to put enough pressure on the company management, and despite the depth of the plans created by the workers they were never implemented.
As the poster explains, there was a precedent for this type of diversification in production: “It is technically possible for factories to change from making armaments to socially useful production. After the Second World War factories changed from making guns and tanks to manufacturing household goods and modern machine tools for the post war industries.”
But there was more to the politics of this than just protecting jobs. Everyone in the company understood that the arms race of the previous decade meant on the one hand the mutually assured destruction if the cold war ever moved beyond a skirmish, and on the other hand the perpetuated the violent and hegemonic dominance of those countries that were richest. The attempts to shift production at Lucas brought workers there into conversation with international movements for peace and anti-militarism. Meanwhile, the economic crisis had exposed the perverse fact that it had become profitable to make killing machines but that there would never be such profit in creating machines to keep people alive.
Regardless of profitability, the workers understood that the matter was in fact a question of government priorities: “The Government, in one form or another, is the customer of both. It therefore has a lot of power in deciding what is profitable and what is not. The greater profitability of armaments over medical equipment is being decided by people, not by invisible market forces” This sentiment rings all too true today, as after a decade of austerity in which murderous politicians claimed that “there is no alternative” as they exculpated themselves. Today companies are frantically trying to convert production: high end fashion labels attempt to make personal protective equipment for the NHS, while Formula 1 teams are trying to produce ventilators. Although the Lucas Plan would ultimately fail, one of the few products that eventually went into production at the aerospace plants was kidney machines.
This poster is drawn from a set called ‘The Socially Useful Show,’ which was created as an exhibition to teach others about what the workers had planned at Lucas. The posters were designed by a number of radical political artists: this one includes photomontages by Peter Kennard. Kennard’s work draws on the tradition of radical photomontage, which started in the 1920s with the likes of John Heartfield and Sacha Stone. He has long been associated with creating art for anti-militarist causes, and during the 1970s and 1980s worked closely with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Here his images reinterpret the image from the Book of Isaiah of “beating swords into plowshares” for the machine age, as a tank is transformed into a tractor.
Architect or Bee
“In the construction of its cells, a bee puts to shame many an architect. But what distinguishes the worst of architects from the best of bees is namely this: the architect constructs in his imagination that which he will ultimately erect in reality.” - Karl Marx “Either we will have a future in which human beings are reduced to a sort of bee-like behavior, reacting to the systems and equipment specified for them; or we will have a future in which masses of people, conscious of their skills and abilities in both a political and technical sense, decide that they are going to be architects of a new form of technological development which will enhance human creativity and mean more freedom of choice and expression rather than less.” - Mike Cooley
Architect or Bee is an examination of the ‘Taylorisation’ of intellectual work. The scientific management which arose from Frederick Taylor’s time and motion studies of manual work at the turn of the century aimed to fragment labor processes into the narrow alienating tasks which later characterized mass production. The interdependent objectives this furthered were gains in productivity and management control of labor processes. The nineteenth century craft worker controlled the pace of their labor and retained the tacit craft knowledge upon which production depended. In Taylor’s system, control passed to management, and through a process of deskilling, knowledge passed into new technologies and processes of production.
Cooley regarded the computer as the Trojan Horse that was bringing Taylorisation into intellectual work such as design. He argued that CAD was sold to the engineering designers on the basis that human creativity was complimented perfectly by machine-based reliability and speed. “However, it is not true that design methodology can be separated into two disconnected elements which can then be combined at some particular point like a chemical compound. The process by which these two dialectical opposites are united by the designer to produce a new whole is a complex, and as yet ill defined and researched area.”
The reality of CAD presented by Cooley was of design processes being increasingly fragmented and speeded up, with a consequent increase in work-related stress. The growing rate of knowledge obsolescence that the ever-changing technology of CAD systems involves together with the high pressure demands of a quickening pace of work, make workers in turn ‘obsolescent’ by the time they reach their mid-thirties. Far from presenting designers with a ‘creative tool,’ CAD undermines creativity, fragments skill and leads to “a loss of the panoramic view of the design activity itself.”
A depressing scenario was presented on the future of design work. But what marks Architect or Bee out from any other critique of capitalist technology is that Cooley’s ideas helped to form a radical alternative fought for by rank-and-file trade unionists. Mike Cooley was one of the architects of the Lucas Plan. The Lucas Plan was a visionary and practical proposition for a zero carbon, peaceful and socially useful economy that placed the control of design and innovation within communities.
The argument at the heart of Architect or Bee politicizes both technology and design. Technology, he argues, is fundamentally a tool of political control in work and culture. For democracy, social progress and liberating work to be furthered, we need radically new technologies wedded to a radically new politics. Designers and technologists must play their active part in this in alliance with other progressive forces for social change. As the Lucas Plan demonstrated, designers can apply their vision and creativity to give form to the technologies of a new politics. The Financial Times described the Lucas Plan as, ‘one of the most radical alternative plans ever drawn up by workers for their company.’ It was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
If human centered design means anything, it means putting people at the center of a design process where they are encouraged to use their skills, abilities and talents. This same thinking is evident in the Scottish Approach to Service Design which “is that the people of Scotland are supported and empowered to actively participate in the definition, design and delivery of their public services.” All people should be supported and encouraged to be architects of their own futures.
The discovery that the visual world of insects is different from our own, by virtue of the insects’ sensitivity to ultraviolet light, was quite literally an eye opener. Thanks to this work beginning in the 1880s we know that there is a “color wheel” in the world of the honey-bee, in which three domains yellow, blue, and ultraviolet are the primaries. We know further that the honeybee perceives the sum of any two primaries as a new color, different from the two colors that were summed. Terms have been coined to denote such mixed colors, which if they include ultraviolet may be seen as “new” by the insect but not by us. The addition of yellow and ultraviolet, for instance, which we see as yellow because of our blindness to ultraviolet, is perceived as neither yellow nor ultraviolet by the honey-bee but as a new color that has been termed “bee purple.”
Daumer showed that by photographing a flower through yellow, blue and ultraviolet filters, one can analyze how the flower appears in the three primary colors of the bee’s eye, and deduce how these images sum to generate the composite floral Gestalt seen by the pollinator. If, for example, one photographs the black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) through yellow and ultraviolet filters (one can omit the blue filter since the black-eyes Susan reflects no blue), one obtains two images depicting, respectively, the pattern of reflection of yellow by the flower (a pattern also seen by us) and the pattern of ultraviolet reflection (which is invisible to us).
How does a honeybee see such a flower? It sees the central disk as we do, in black, because the disc absorbs all light. Surrounding the disk is a zone, comprising the basal portion of the petals, that is intensely dark in the ultraviolet, signifying that it is ultraviolet-absorbent. That area reflects yellow, therefore it is visible to the insect as yellow. Beyond this basal zone the petals reflect both yellow and ultra- violet (note that the petal tips are bright in the ultraviolet picture). The insect therefore sees the petal tips as the sum of yellow and ultraviolet, in other words as “bee purple.”
In picturing the black-eyed Susan in the wild, beckoning to the pollinator, it should be imagined in its green surroundings. Foliage, it should be noted, reflects moderately in the honeybee’s three primary colors, meaning that to the honeybee foliage appears in the equivalent of our gray. Against such a drab background, the multicolored floral head of the black-eyed Susan must have the projecting power of a beacon.
Charles Henry Turner (1867–1923) performed numerous experiments on sensory perception, orientation, and mating of solitary and social bees, most of which have been unjustly forgotten despite the fact that they anticipated fundamental concepts of animal cognition.
Turner refused to see bees and other insects as simple reflex machines driven by spontaneous reactions to environmental stimuli. For him, behind the insects’ decisions, there was learning, memory, and individual variability. His cognitive perspectives on animal behavior, infrequent at his time and scientific environment dominated by behaviorist views, underline his unicity and talent, and how advanced he was to his time.
Turner was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1867, and studied biology at the University of Cincinnati. After earning his B.S. degree in 1892, and being the first African American to receive a graduate degree from this University, he published several studies (including a synthesis of his B.S. thesis in Science, followed by another publication in the same year in the same journal. Despite this remarkable success, all his attempts to obtain a position in academic institutions were unsuccessful. He managed, nevertheless, to earn a PhD in Zoology from the University of Chicago in 1907, being probably the first African American receiving a PhD degree from this institution.
Remarkably, and despite the recurrent frustrations he experienced throughout his life, he was able to perform dozens of experiments in the fields of animal behavior and entomology, producing important contributions that anticipated modern visions and concepts to various extents. He published 71 papers and made fundamental discoveries on animal behavior. Some of them were on social insects, particularly bees, wasps, and ants, which were some of his favorite and most investigated animals.
He addressed topics such as comparative neuroanatomy in both vertebrates and invertebrates, arthropod taxonomy, insect behavior—with a particular focus on insect navigation—insect learning, spider behavior, audition in moths, leaf morphology in grapevines, and even civil rights.
Many of his studies focused on the behavior of social insects as he was deeply attracted by their social organization, division of labor, and collective intelligence. This occurred at a time in which dominant science tended to view and describe insects as rudimentary creatures with limited senses and capacities. Terms such as “taxis” (the innate movement of an organism towards or against a stimulus such as light) and “tropism” (the orientation—without necessarily a movement—towards or against a stimulus) (Franck 1985) were commonly used to describe entirely the behavior of insects. In other words, insects (and social insects among them) were viewed as primitive creatures, reacting only instinctively to external stimuli, without any other remarkable capacity.
Turner, a careful observer of social insects in their natural context, rejected this preconception. A leading idea in many of his works was that insects do not behave purely based on taxia or tropisms but that they exhibit “intelligent behavior,” which he tried to analyze using different experimental paradigms for studying problem solving. In this way, he pioneered, without being necessarily credited for that, current cognitive views on insect behavior, which emerged many years later. Indeed, thanks to intensive research performed since the nineties, which introduced a “cognitive revolution” in the field of studies on insect behavior, we have understood that insects, in particular Hymenoptera, are endowed with remarkable learning and memory capacities, going well beyond simple associative learning. Bees, for instance, categorize visual images, learn to solve problems based on concepts, have a sense of number, and can even perform basic addition and subtraction .
Turner was a passionate observer of bee behavior. He wrote contributions on solitary bees, parasitic bees, and, of course, honey bees. He described for the first time the nuptial flight of long-horned Bees Melissodes sp. (e.g., Melissodes communis), a solitary bee species with a generalist diet that ranges across the eastern and southern US and that nests in burrows on the ground. Females emerge in mid-to late September and provision burrows with pollen until the first cold days of October or early November. Mating occurs in the nesting area, with males chasing females in complex flight maneuvers, grasping them either in flight or at the ground level and rolling with them repeated times in what Turner described as a “dance” in an article full of poetic impressions: “No skilled musician plays entrancing tunes, but as they dance, each bee makes music with its wings.” After describing this complex parade, Turner concludes that this behavior is a “nuptial ambuscade since it is a device, which promotes sexual union.” This could be obvious today, but at a time in which this behavior had neither been described, nor analyzed, the eye of a scientist was required to make the correct conclusion.
Another important work with historic implications (despite the fact that it remained ignored by scientists working in insect navigation) is Turner’s study on the homing and spatial orientation of these Melissodes bees. Again, it is important to place the study in its appropriate historical context, even if such a framework appears outdated today. The dominant idea prevailing at Turner’s time—and this is precisely the starting point of his article—was that the flights of insects were mainly guided by anemotropism (orientation with respect to the wind direction) and phototropism (orientation with respect to the sunlight). This appeared insufficient to Turner, who spent hours observing the flight behavior of Melissodes bees around their nest burrows.
His results were conclusive, yet ignored for several years: the bees learned the nest location relative to that of the surrounding landmarks so that when these were displaced, the bees searched at the wrong location, but at the position at which the burrow would be expected relative to the landmark. Turner’s results thus showed the presence of associative learning (bees learning to associate the nest with specific visual cues provided by landmarks) and of visual memories as this information was used after returning to the nest. The search behavior of bees could only be explained if the animal retrieved from a memory store the information that guided its decision. Turner concludes, “By a process of elimination, the most consistent explanation of the above behavior is the assumption that burrowing bees utilize memory in finding the way home, and that they examine carefully the neighborhood of the nest for the purpose of forming pictures of the topographical environment of the burrow.” He even specified that the process of forming these memory pictures occurs upon departure from the nest, in particular if modifications of the surrounding landmarks were introduced experimentally.
An important and repeated claim concerning Turner’s work is that he may have discovered honey bee color vision, which would be attributed incorrectly to the Austrian physiologist and Nobel-Prize winner Karl von Frisch. Turner published a series of experiments on the capacity of bees to see colors in 1910, while von Frisch’s classical paper on this topic was published 4 years later. Before this publication, von Frisch advertised his findings in short communications but without providing a precise account of his experiments, which were described in detail for the first time in 1914.
Recognition of C.H. Turner should go beyond his experimental work and publications, as what impresses in him is the dedication devoted to his many investigations in an environment that was definitely adverse for his creativity and productivity as a scientist.
The honey bee is the only animal that "tells you where it has been."
A honey bee tackles different jobs over her short lifetime: she cleans the hive, babysits larvae, helps build and guard the nest, serves as scout and harvests food.
A small percentage of older bees will act as scouts and search for new flowers. When she finds a good source of nectar or pollen she'll return to the hive and inform her hive mates where the source is by doing the Waggle Dance to recruit foragers to go and collect this food. At the hive there will always be a reserve of forager bees that are waiting for this call to duty. Some people have said their bees are lazy because they're sitting around doing nothing but that's not the case. They're waiting for the scouts to come back and dance.
For food sources farther away, the scouts use the sun as a compass and they will do the Waggle Dance. The dance floor is actually chemically signposted by the bees. She stands on the comb and shakes her body side to side at a rate of about 15 times a second. Then she does a Waggle Run in a circle back to the point where she started waggling. She repeats the waggle phase and again runs a full circle, but this time in the opposite direction to the starting point. The two paths together approximate a figure eight lying on its side.
For feeding sites that are close by within 50 to 70 meters the bees will perform a Round Dance. This dance reveals only some info--mostly about where to look and that it's close by.
The waggle dance consists of one set of motions that is varied in specific ways to convey information to the other bees. When a bee returns from foraging to tell her hivemates about a patch of lavender she found, she crawls into the hive and lands on the vertical wall to begin her dance. The general pattern of the dance is always the same:
- She crawls up the wall, wiggling as she goes
- She loops back down and to the right
- She wiggles back up the wall
- She loops down and to the left
She will repeat this pattern over and over. The nuances of the dance communicate the direction, distance, and quality of the food source she found.
The amount of time she spends repeating the dance depends on the quality of the food source she found- a bee who has found a source of high quality nectar will dance for a long time, while a lower quality nectar source may merit only a few repetitions. She is dancing for other forager bees that are milling around inside the hive; the longer she dances, the more of them will see her dance and be “recruited” to her nectar source.
In addition to communicating nectar quality, the bee needs to give her hivemates directions to the nectar. Honeybees communicate distance in the wiggling part of the dance, called the waggle run. The longer they spend waggling, the farther away the nectar source is.
The third piece of information that the bee gives her hivemates is what direction to fly. The direction is coded into the angle of her waggle dance. On the vertical wall of the hive, the waggling portion of the dance is done at some angle to the vertical.
Working Beehive, Mystical Beehive
The case of Antonio Gaudí (1852–1926) is probably unique because he seems to present almost all the facets of the beehive metaphor: an interest in social insects, admiration for their ‘natural architecture’ and a sympathy for the new beehives with movable frames.
What particularly fascinated him with the parabolic arch was the elimination of a boundary between supporting and supported shapes, as nothing seemed so imperfect to him as the lack of continuity between the arch and the column that he perceived in tradi- tional architecture. He was also able to eliminate the pinnacles and buttresses of Gothic church architecture, witnessed in the Sagrada Familia, so that ‘all the opposing elements of the Temple are based on the shapes they produce.’
What was the ‘natural’ origin of this architectural invention? Where did Gaudí derive his inspiration for an arch whose shape is defined by the forces of gravity, allowing a fixed chain (or rope) to be suspended from both ends? The architect’s biographers have spoken about the rationality of this discovery and have pointed to precedents in remote architectural traditions, in popular housing and utopian proposals such as those of José J. Landerrer in his June 1883 article ‘The Pyramids of Spain.’ Without discarding these hypothetical sources out of hand I should like to describe the manner in which bees build. A group of workers, linked together by their legs, form a ‘chain’ suspended in the air that creates an initial parabolic arc. The honeycomb is built from top to bottom and is based on parabolic formations.
Antoni Gaudí was associated with the city of Mataró through the architect’s close ties with the local Cooperativa Obrera Mataronense (Mataró Workers’ Cooperative), where he designed houses for workers along with several buildings for the factory. Currently some of the sanitation installations and cotton bleaching buildings still stand, including a building known as Nau Gaudí, which is owned by the city.
The drawing Gaudí produced for the Cooperative’s standard represented two bees weaving at a loom and another bee, very rounded in shape, crowned the top of the flag pole. The only part of the original that still remains is the bee that topped the standard, a symbol of hard work and industry.
The symbolic significance of this insect was codified perfectly during the last decades of the nineteenth century. In an article published in El Eco del Litoral (The Coastal Echo) (the local newspaper of Mataró), there is an account of the fiesta held in the Co-operative on 28 July 1885, that states quite clearly: ‘It was impossible not to notice the flower pots with flowers of many colours surrounding the society’s resplendent and artistic standard which stood out from the centre and displayed, at the top of the flag-pole, not the burnished steel of the standards of old, but the delicate shape of a bee, the symbol of work and industry.’
There can be no doubt that for Gaudí and his clients, enlightened members of the working class, the beehive exemplified all the virtues of productive labor and solidarity. It was a secular republican symbol, something about which there could be no doubt, knowing the ideology of those who were advancing the idea of the first Spanish co-operative.