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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:
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. )

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?

Or, more accurately, “How do you build a community of strangers?” That’s right, you.

I’m involved in a lot of different and potentially far reaching and ambitious projects — “The Committee To Address the Future”, various art projects, social projects, interests in developing philosophic, political and economic theories, a general love of exploration and parkour/free-running, making ideas real, music, etc etc. Of course, community is a huge stimulus in getting things done, in getting word around, building things that last, learning, and so forth. Unfortunately for most of us, once we leave school we lose most of the community that supports our real interests. Most of us get jobs that are not in our field of immediate interests. Most of us will end up dropping a lot of pursuits, turning them into hobbies, having them eventually dissapear. This isn’t pessimism, this is what most people have gone through or will go through.

But with the immediacy and range of communication, communities can form everywhere. Indeed, the greatest communities (known as “Nations”) are sometimes refereed to as “Imagined Communities“… modern communities are formed around mutual interests, not mutual survival.

So how do you create communities out of strangers, around common interests? Friends and referral networks are the first and most comfortable stranger-community tools most of us are exposed to. The NYC-Global Service Jam was a great attempt at uniting a corner or a global service design community, despite its poor organization. I’ve been refereed to MeetUp a bunch of times, so I think I’ll try to create something out of that once summer starts. But what other methods of creating communities does everyone use? How do you keep a community of interests going, once the interest ceases to be the breadwinner/active full-time pursuit?    RK

The longer question is, “Can we reframe economic growth & jobs/work in a way representative of the complex realities of the 21century?” Because, old models of ‘success’ aren’t showing us what is meaningful.

For example: sure, China and India are poised for 9, 10% GDP growth yearly, which is pretty phenomenal with its consistency in the international community, but how much of that growth is self-destructive? Graduates from India aren’t going to take over America if the reason they can’t get a job in India is because they are under-qualified… (the college graduation certificates they are getting are not representative of their competitiveness in the marketplace, so the ‘success’ of  millions of graduates and full education is not real success).

The problems lie somewhat in that countries are expected to maintain growth, but in the long term, that is unreasonable to ask for– you cannot keep expanding with finite resources in a highly competitive environment and zero-sum economy without the cost of growth (as measured in costs from competition and effects on society) eventually becoming higher than growth itself, thus the self-destructive nature.

But this conception of growth stems from archaic industrial-complex ideas… where tangible products being produced or consumed or traded was a sign of prowess. However, in today’s environment, this means much less than it did before… with trillions of dollars being traded by automated machines playing at a stock market daily (I’m talking about high-volume or algorithmic trading), does the movement of money still mean the same as it did before? Money no longer denotes value in the same way that it used to. Currency values are manipulated and fought over but their actual value and the growth they denote are more and more tied to concepts that are not representative of the new and complex realities of 21st century markets.

So obviously, we’ve got to examine, what are the new and complex realities of the 21st century markets? How have (if at all) technology and time changed the way we interact and do business? What is successful growth, nowadays? My argument is (as I’ve asked about here before) that value needed to be reframed first — what is value? How do we best measure it? And I don’t mean just a simple reframing of good-feeling or long-lasting types of values. I am referring to ‘value’ as a soft power, much as the hard power and the military-industrial complex is losing against the soft power of diplomacy (even Sec. of State Robert Gates is asking for more soft-power and less military spending). But how do we measure growth in soft power? How do you quantify the value of R+D, of diplomatic/economic influence, of the ability to do thing, as opposed to the easy to measure and current status-quo of measuring growth by tangible production/consumption? Because after countries leave the industrialization stage of development, they more on to a service based economy… and right now, we are still measuring services as tangible products. But that must change, because the nature of services, and the next step– knowledge and idea production and realization, cannot be measured as products, just as ‘education’ cannot be valued in college graduation rates, as in India has shown us.      RK

As everyone is well aware, print media is facing a readership crisis, one-upped by the internet and the powers of aggregation that be, and then again by gadgets like the iPhone and iPad. Tangibility arguments aside (see the joys of holding a a physical book in your hands), physical artifacts are often useful because they are complete in and of themselves and have a much longer life0span than digital media (books have been preserved for thousands of years intact, but how long does your twitter feed last before posts end up being deleted?), how can we radically rethink print media and integrate it into much more efficient methods of aggregation?

Reading an article about the web wunderkids of the Washington Post, I realised that technology has already stepped out of a purely digital realm, and it is super useful. From translation apps to bar codes on your product, or QR codes on the street? How about this?:

Well, can we rethink the way we integrate technology into the real world? What if newspapers and magazines were really just maps, “hotlinks” or “information maps”, where you see a title and a short description, followed by a QR code which you scan to see the actual article? You keep the tangible artifact of the paper and the crispness and detail of printed pictures and archivability/manipulatability of print with the up-to-date connections of technology and cutting the cost/waste of paper. In a sense, you have made booklinks and hyperlinks physical artifacts. Combine that with dedicated servers to store information…

What are the other intersections of technology and the real world? This sort of ‘augmented reality’, what potential can it offer us?     RK

What is value? Economics seems to be collapsing in on itself because it does not know what it is actually representing. The basic units of economics, ‘capital and supply and demand and profit’, have gradually evolved into additional ideas of ‘labour’ and ‘productivity/health’ and ‘knowledge/technology’, among other things. These are measurable, but not complete in describing what the ‘value’ of something is.

Because, ‘value’ is more than that– value is of course, all the objective capital elements of production, but value is also very subjective: ‘reusability’ and ‘ideals’ and ’emotional responces’ and ‘usefulness’ and ‘branding’ etc. A stainless steel water bottle will cost you $20 not because that is how much it costs to produce (factoring in distribution costs), but because there is also a profit markup, and because it is long lasting and you will not be buying 5 water bottles a day, just one that will last you for a good period of time.

Moreover, value is not measure completely in costs anymore; it is also measuring in savings: a florescent lightbulb will not only cost you $2, it will also save you $20 in energy costs over the course of a year.

So here are the questions:

1. How do we factor in other implicit costs? Should we start having labels that require companies to show what the ‘cost of damage to the environment’ was in creating the product?

2. How do you quantify the subjective? Can we be honest about the value of selling water as opposed to installing water fountains? How do you effectively communicate the ‘value’ of public goods such as light-posts on street, not just in terms of dollars, but in terms of security and beauty?

3. What is the cost versus value, of say, education? What is the price of copyright, aka, what is the cost to society of not letting ideas propagate?

4. How are our current business models of profit failing in a ‘knowledge/information economy’? — and how is the NYTimes paywall reflect this failing mentality? And then, what are the alternatives?

Are you getting “your money’s worth”? What is “money” even mean/worth nowadays?       RK

What do we do with the obsolete? Outdated technologies, old magazines, unrevised drafts, older editions? I mean, sure, in terms of archivist’s terms, all this is important to catalog and have off-hand to know exactly how history worked (Footnote 1).

On the other hand, what do I do with all my old CDs and DVDs? Or, my floppy disks? Digital files and programs can be updated, but the tangible artifacts can’t be.  What do I do with old cellphones? With things that no longer serve thier purpose, but are fully functioning. A typewriter can continue, however outdated it may be, in it’s function, but a 1990s computer, however well it works, is useless.

So then, 1. How do we re-appropriate old and outdated and obsolete technologies and various other artifacts?

and 2. Is this very different from the notion of ‘trash’?  These are things that are functionable, but are no longer useful. Or can we find other uses? Or rather, what do you do with trash that isn’t garbage?


Footnote 1 – (Errol Morris @ NYT has an interesting essay touching on the interpretation of history,  , in responce this idea of ‘not imparting on the past the views of the present’ aka the important of cataloging and seeing the past in terms of the past).

This comes a bit as a response to an earlier question of “Can you be a functioning member of society without a selfone?” Err.. cellphone. Because, the tools you use to interact with the world around you shape the way you understand the world.

I know three New Yorks– one by bike, one by public transportation, one by walking. Each one has different landmarks, different areas of interest, each one is a totally different city.

Likewise, every different medium you use to draw (or create anything) shapes your art differently. Charcoal has a grittiness and a texture that photoshop does not. Drawing by hand is a very physical and one-directional experience in time, as opposed to digital drawing where it is much more cerebral and focused on moving back and forth through the process.

Augemented reality is threatening to once again change the way we understand the world around us– everything from a GPS that has replaced navigational skills, to wifi that allows us to know anything about anything, any time, any where. A phone is one way of interacting with an extended community without having to be in thier presence. A smartphone goes further, and lets you be connected to the larger network of collected information. Even a washing machine can change the way we interact with a world, because it frees up a huge chunk of time for women (see Hans Rosling:

So heres the question: what other tools are in your life that change the way you live? How would your life be different if not for the smartphone,or the computer? If not for the subways or cars? If not for microwaves? What are the tools governing your interactions with the world? Can you deconstruct your life and figure out what makes you “you”, and how much of who you think “you” are is actually tools or media, or not you at all? At which point in this deconstruction do you become a different person?    RK

I have a lot of friends in a lot of different schools. The group is pretty diverse in what they do, but each one finds a fault somewhere in the education they are receiving.

Going to art or vocational school, the student learns techniques on how to do stuff. Going to a design oriented school, the student learns how to come up with new ideas, solutions. Going to a liberal arts school, the student learns to to think critically about issues. Going to a less-liberal arts school, a student learns to understand a field, and how it works, and to move around in it.

Each student comes out of school with a different result, but the purpose is to eventually become a well-functioning member of society. How is that best accomplished? And what does that mean, ‘a functioning member of society’?  In which way is each sort of education both valuable and limiting?     RK