While we all read and speak linearly, from the first word to the next, in a line, our thought processes work more like a cloud, with ideas branching off in many directions, often simultaneously. I think this is an important organizational problem, this disconnect in the way we think to the way we present ideas.
Traditional research in presented as papers with a set structure and logic because the research underlying it is often used to propel an argument. The logical path of a paper is then to focus a bunch of data or points of info to lead the reader to the same conclusion the writer had. However, as one of my former professors told me, to objectively read such a report,you need to  block out all the writer’s arguments, and make your own deductions from the data.
Why can’t we have a new model for aggregating and presenting information and research? Enter a useful tool called mind-mapping. Mind maps attack this disconnect between thought and presentation by letting you organize your work in the same way you think it: by starting with a central topic (for example, “education”), you can attach a number of other points around it (“classroom”, “content”, “teacher”, “test”), and branch further from each of those points (“tests” can lead to “sat” “quiz”, “open-answer”, etc), as far down as you want. Below is an example:
 http://www.mind-mapping.co.uk/mind-maps-examples.htm
There are a number of benefits to presenting research this way. First, it makes it more organizationally navigable: especially if the research covers a lot of ground, it becomes easier to zero in on where in the argument this information comes from (which in my opinion, is also a lot more navigable than browsing through tags or categories or nested threads). Second, it makes research more open source: while it may be hard for a lot of people to submit and organize their own research within a collection, a map allows them to create and nest subtopics, putting their research in direct conversation with others in the specific topic. It also lets you quickly see which aspects of a topic have a lot of content, and which don’t. Last, it makes using the research easier as well: as opposed to reading one paper with one particular bias, a map allows you to access an infinitely specific question of topic and simultaneously see every other point of research in direct conversation with it.
 
Mind maps network and (obviously) map research to make it more accessible on every level. So then, can we create a platform for using these maps not as individuals, but as an open community? Should this be the future interface of Wikipedia, 2.0? Lets talk.
(My own example of a mindmap for a project (still incomplete) can be found here. )

For the past few months I have been in a bit of a reverie. A lot of major events culminated in my life in one major intellectual meltdown. These were the end of a long arduous process of living and coping with a sick father and a long arduous process of living and coping with the fact that I was a student.

Well, my father passed away and I graduated.

These happened within a month of one another. It was a major turning point in my life. And one of the major changes was that my brain just turned off. As if there was a switch and it had been flipped. I couldn’t bring myself to follow my twitter feed, to read articles and do research, not even to write a blogpost. I was seemingly all burnt out after 5 years of college and a long process of being an emotional pillar for my family.

So instead of thinking, I pursued forgotten romances. Mainly reading fiction, drawing and painting and sitting on stoops doing nothing but watching people go by.

And then reality hit me and I realized I was nearing the end of my savings. It was time to do something. But I still couldn’t quite turn the brain on. It refused to listen to my plea.

Until recently. It just happened. Boom, we were back online.

It felt amazing. Thinking, feels amazing. But so did the rest of my summer, so did not thinking, so did reading and painting and people watching. Today I started reading a book I bought a few months back called “The Creative Economy: How People Make Money Off Ideas” by John Howkins and it mentioned that creatives go through four different processes. One of these is incubation. Its a process of letting ideas germinate, of relaxing and just giving yourself the opportunity to feel.

I think that that’s where I was these past few months. I was incubating giving myself the chance to understand the intense research and actions of the past few years. I realized just how important incubation is. But I don’t think that incubation is valued and understood, at least not in our current economy. It seems like lost, wasted and unproductive time.

How can we change that perception. Is that actually how we perceive incubation or is it just the way I think it is perceived. And finally, if it’s more than my own biased perceptions, how can we begin to reimagine the systems in place to allow for incubation?

Recently, I’ve been questioning the role of philosophy as a discipline in our world. I’ve got three big questions about it:

1. Karl Popper argues for refutability (better known as falsifiability) in sciences, which is ” the logical possibility that an assertion can be contradicted by an observation or the outcome of a physical experiment”. This is to the point that any statement that can’t be tested is meaningless, cause you’re never know if it is right or wrong. Since most philosophy is arguments about things that can’t be proven either way, does this mean that all philosophy is bogus? Or is there another point to philosophic arguments?

2. Philosophy, so much as it has been created by people, is inherently anthropocentric. That means, the people-centered bias is in everything philosophy touches. However, philosophy (in various disguises) often extends itself outside the realm of people: ‘animal rights’ are an example of this. The question is then, because human-decision and distinction-making are at the heart of every philosophic conclusion, does philosophy become meaningless when applied to something that cannot make a decision or make a categorical distinction? Like a jaguar hunting, or a tree, or a rock. And if philosophy is so irrelevant to anything outside of human-decision making matters, is there an inherent bias that we can fix in philosophy to make it more applicable to things outside ourselves?

3. How does philosophy work, if it is so flawed? Or, if I am wrong, still: how does philosophy work?

That’s it. The subject is, does philosophy matter, at the end of the day, if it is so inherently flawed?

I am currently reading Slavoj Zizek’s “Violence”, and having barely finished the second chapter, I am running into a massive question (which I don’t know if he will answer later on or not)…

Zizek claims that “liberal communists” (people with a liberal/sociolist ideological slant that embrace capitalism as a means to achieve goals) are the core of “systemic violence” (violence, oppression, and exploitation that are inherent in any system), which means that the good capitalists and philanthropists we all respect (like George Soros or Bill Gates) are perpetrators of the system whose ills they claim to try to eliminate. The paradox of the ‘good capitalist’ is that they are more evil than the site-specific evils (say, terrorism) in that those ‘good capitalists’ hide and further perpetrate systemic-violence. Wolves in sheep’s clothing (as opposed to the plain ole’ wolves).

Jargon aside, it seems that this sort of argument is really a criticism of inescapable power relations– so to what degree is it justifiable to ‘profit’ from the system in effort to try to combat the side effects of your profit? Consider what is achievable if you are powerless, versus what you are fighting against if you achieve power? To what extant can power-structures be justified, and can we imagine a world without them (Anarchy and Communism being considered failures)? Which of our actions are justifiable and which are not– what do we do in our lives that we mentally block out the implicit ‘violence’ of?

If man hopes and genius creates (Emerson), then how do we become “genius”?

Now that I am done with school there’s a question that has been running through my mind. This question of professionalism.

According to Richard Sennett we can think of it in the same vein as being a craftsman, and to be a craftsman one needed to put in 10000 hours into your craft. Is that what makes a professional? When you are a craftsman?

Or is it when you beat resistance and make sure that you show up to work everyday? Is it when you do the work? As suggested by Steven Pressfield.

I recently added a signature to all if my emails and asked if that meant I was now a professional? A friend jokingly answered “no, it just makes you slightly more efficient.” Which is true.

My grandfather recently gave me a graduation gift and told me that now that I’m done, I need to go buy a suit, because when he was leaving the army his commander bought him a suit as a gift and said he was now ready for the world. Is a suit what I need, will that make me a professional?

A professional is not an amateur. So what exactly makes one no longer an amateur?

Going through university, even a design university we often write papers. I in particular because of my self-directed curriculum wrote a lot of papers for the various non design courses that I took.

I loved it, writing that is.

But I never saw myself as a writer. It’s absurd to be greedy with passions, isnt it?

I even dared to write a fiction story once, it was no good I’m sure, but I certainly enjoyed it. And even now, I write consistently. My thoughts are always in words, my notes are always written, my sketchbooks betray my calling.

Writing is important to designers as well. Everytime I imagine a persona, I turn to fiction, I write the story, the full story, with all the tiny little bits that make my characters live. But then that gets taken away, it becomes a storyboard, or even, storytelling, to an audience, that has little patience, that wants only the important parts.

So yes, I write, but is that writing?What is real writing?

I’ve been told recently, and before that as well, that I am a good writer, and that I should do more of it. But I’m a designer. Isn’t it greedy to want more? Wouldn’t I be diverting my own energy?

But if I did try, how would I? What does one need to do to become a writer? Is simply writing just enough?

What makes a writer a writer?

Am I allowed an alter-ego, one that writes, perhaps secretly?

Procrastination seems ubiquitous in people these days.  Perhaps it was before too, but I am only here now, and can only account for what I know.  But anyway it seems so universal, such a big part of human nature, yet so un-useful, at least it seems to be so to me, from an evolutionary perspective.  So why do we do it?  What purpose, if any, does it serve?

I’m currently reading a book about learning nationalism at the El Paso – Juarez Border and I was struck by the holistic approach that the authors Susan J. Rippberger and Kathleen A. Staudt have in describing education on both sides of the US – Mexico Border.

Of particular amusement to me was the stress in part of the book on the differences of personal space in Mexico and in the US and the ways in which this plays out in the physical structure and layout of the classroom.

Upon showing a video recording of a classroom in Juarez (which by its description, seemed very constructivist in its approach) to students in a Graduate Seminar on Education, a student commented on the difference between the Mexican classroom dynamic and the US dynamic by highlighting the similarity between individual desks and cubicles, essentially equating the stress on individual student desks as preparation for a capitalist mindset in which you are just a cog in the machine, a single employee in his cubicle.

I couldn’t help but repeatedly highlight that passage, it struck me as being one of the most hauntingly accurate critiques of American classroom layouts.

At a time when businesses everywhere are realizing the importance of workplace environment and removing cubicles as they attempt to create more collaborative work spaces, I can’t help but wonder how much of this collaboration is permeating to our schools, to our kids.

Any hope at a collaborative structure in the workplace seems like it should start by creating a collaborative work structure in the classroom.

How do we create collaborative work spaces? Is it enough to just have children sitting in small groups? Should we be sharing materials as well? How much of a role does the physical environment play in teaching and developing collaboration and creativity in our classrooms? Especially when those are the skills our businesses are seeking so passionately now.

In a very provocative final lecture by Cameron Tonkinwise in his course Rethinking Sustainable Design, Cameron summarized the course and then led us into a new discussion on sustainability as presented by Allan Stoekl in his book “Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion and Postsustainability” .

In many ways this was also Camerons answer to the question he posed earlier of “How do we want to live?” because if Sustainability is a question, and not a simple one then we know that every question has many potential answers. Likewise, one of the biggest problems with sustainability are the various ways in which it plays out to be a survivalist rhetoric. Sustainability is presented as an end point, a type of Cosmopolitan Utopia, where humans are pleasantly different together. But the biggest flaw with this line of thought is that it strips from humans all of their messiness, emotion, desire and eroticism. It is not the answer to Cosmopolitanism as a challenge that Kwame Appiah sought, because in this dialogue it was not a choice. It is a reactionary move on humans in response to the environment. Its a homeostasis that takes from us our ability to innovate and create and make decisions and to live with emotion and reduces us simply to animals that co-inhabit and survive.

In this Cosmopolitan sustainable future, it is a boring “Utopia”. I put Utopia in quotations because it is a false Utopia, a Utopia stripped of movement and motion.

If the question is “How do we want to live?” then the follow up question is do we want to live in stasis, do we want to end up in a perpetuated pattern of living in accordance with the environment, playing out the same story again and again?

Or do we want to imagine something different, we know that currently the imagination that has culminated in the neo-liberal capitalist state has left us “de-futured” in Clive Dilnots words; So how can we proceed?

Can we have our future imagine a future? What is sustainability in motion?