Archives for category: Business related questions

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?

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?

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?

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

My problem with keeping too many tabs open in my browser has become so bad that I am actually developing a fear of links.

Because I worry I will find more interesting information, and it will be another tab, and more things getting delayed, and more information to process, when I already had so many open interesting things to read.

Sometimes I give up and solve the problem by creating bookmarks. But thats not a valid solution because those bookmarks also get unmanageable and inevitably I ignore the bookmarks because they are out of sight and open up more tabs.

Firefox in its beta version, maybe its new version, Havent used it, introduced a way to organize and group tabs by themes. This was good for a while, but it didn’t quite solve the problem.

But all of this brings up a different issue as well. Many times I keep tabs open because they are relevant to a project I am working on, or a post I am writing or something. And to close it, means that I won’t find it again. The information is not crucial enough to take up important space in my bookmark bar, so it never makes it there.

There needs to be a way to navigate and recall the information that i go through on the web.

I initially thought that I would be using twitter to keep an archive of information I found relevant, but I have increasingly discovered that it is not a valid tool for that, it has no built in search feature, no way of organizing data to other relevant data, no topics architecture, etc.

What I feel I need is the digital equivalent of a library or a bookshelf. A way to organize and archive my links and tabs, by topics, by author, by blog. With a dewey decimal system, or a dating system, and built in search. Its like my bookshelf but digital, so that I can come back to it, and glance over it.

Kindles are great and all, but the bookshelf in my apartment lets me glance at it and find many books relevant to what I am working on, and I can pull them all out. Kind of like opening a bunch of tabs.

Clearly, this would also need a section that organizes things that are most recent, that I didn’t get a chance to read yet, or perhaps that I haven’t organized yet. All of those open tabs are like a bunch of books on my coffee table that haven’t been put on their proper spot in the bookshelf.

I’m sure theres something that exists for this, somewhere, right? #milliondollaridea!!!

So the final question really is 2 questions.

1. How do we navigate through transient data (tabs that aren’t destined for bookmarking)?

2. How do we remember on the web?

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

There have been many many depressing articles about post college life for students. I don’t think i need to share them, im positive everyone has read them.

They’re bleak

There doesn’t seem to be many choices. In fact GEN Y, I think, is already slated to be the most educated generation ever, because there isn’t much choice but to go back to school.

So this begs the question “what is the alternative?”

Sometime next year, The New School in partnerships with Shareable.net are working on a “workshop”, “event”, something that is meant to invite graduating design students to participate and imagine a lifestyle where they can achieve this.

This looks like it will be really cool, partially because it begins to address a lot of my concerns, not about life post college, but about having students do something, disrupt (my favorite word recently).

So in preparation for this, i am attempting to begin to imagine a resource tool kit for what the graduating (graduated) students could arrange in ways to begin to design a new way of life for them. I am not positive how to approach this but my idea is to first understand what are my basic needs in NYC on a daily basis and what resources exist for me to begin to meet those needs?

I can imagine that i need

– Food

– Transport

– Free time to be creative (in whatever practice I studied)

– Housing

-Communication (phone, internet, snailmail)

These are seeming really obvious, as they would in beginning to formulate a research question.

I want to begin to collect services, objects, apps, anything that begins to support a student in those categories.

Clearly i also need to make those categories more refined. Good design researchers would tell me to chronicle everything that i do, or go out and follow graduated students to base what their needs are. (im just finishing university now so an abundance of free time doesn’t exist)?

1. Does anyone have any research that might assist in this? Perhaps an artist followed people for a day? Something of that sort?

2. What do we need to go through our days?

3. Can you recount to me everything you did yesterday?