Archives for category: Open Forum Questions
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. )

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?

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?

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?

With all the access to information, new age movements, return to basics, religions, spiritualities and what not, are we as a society any closer to so called enlightenment?  It is probably hard to say for people of my generation, we weren’t around before, but lets think about it for a second.

We always hear various manifestos on how to live, I am sure that we have all had a eureka moment or two, but how much of that actually sticks?  Is there a way to actually make it stick?

I will make the assumption that as humans we are doing something wrong, not that being human is wrong, but that something in this world is not quite right, and its probably our fault.  Should we approach it as a gradual thing, that is should we systematically modify our behavior, or should we wait for some moment of great realization.  Up till now it seems that the process has been gradual, but not much has changed.  What are we waiting for?

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

Recently, I have had a bit of an obsession with process, it seems to me so much more important, more powerful, erotic even than the result of the process, the product.

Another way to say it is that the act of creating resonates so much more with me than the creation.

As a public performer, I may be biased because it is always about the act of creation, not the final product, creating is ephemeral, it is empathic.

In thinking even of failure, it seems the only way to truly value failure, is to understand the value of the process. Failure is critically valuable if the process was something we could learn from. And failure in and of itself is not so bad if the process was enlightening.

Theres something about process that allows it to be shared, shared in a way that really allows for creation.

Elaine Scarry talks about the third site of beauty being creation, in that, when we encounter beautiful things, we ourselves want to make beautiful things.

In this respect, I think process is even more empowering, because when we encounter a beautiful process, we are not only incited to create, we are also given the tools how.

In her talk at Parsons on Designing Big Society, Lucy Kimbell talked about how she and her husband built their home while living in it. It seemed to me that she was living the design process, inhabiting an unfinished space, making decisions on the fly, constructing from the inside, and working on a team with the neighbors and construction workers and handymen to make this happen.

I was most intrigued with the thought, that the neighbors, city officials and construction workers were exposed to a living, breathing design process, a way of living and of thinking, and I wonder, how much they empathized with it. How much of it bled over into their lives, their manner of thinking, their ways of making and doing.

Process just seems much more beautiful than its outcomes. Because it can be shared, because it can be adopted, reused and even recycled.

Earlier today I read a blog post by Frank Chimero called Designer’s Poison. In it he talked about what he felt some of the most crucial challenges for design, as we move forward. One particularly resonated with me. It was about a shift from teaching and valuing design as a noun and moving towards design as a verb.
And it seems the biggest debates in design and business right now center around this very notion.

We need to learn to love and embody process, not necessarily its outcomes.

How do we do it? Should we do it?

Something that I have been thinking about a lot recently is that question above.

In my own experience, I am never as creative as when i’m hurt. I start to write poems, and write letters, and draw things. I blast music really loud and start dancing, making up rhythm and motion, creating a dance.

I wonder where this urge comes from, to make, to create?

Maybe it has a lot to do with going back to being human. – all that Heideggerian stuff — Man is as Man Dwells thus Man is as Man Makes.

And that when we feel hurt, we do the only thing we can which is create, bring things to life, love. We do that which is the most human thing we can do, we try to feel like we are a part of something, a part of humanity, a part of culture?

Maybe its like the argument Elaine Scarry makes on beauty and that it unselfs you and makes you want to protect?

We try to make beautiful things to step outside of ourselves, to then see that beauty.

Or her argument in “Body in Pain” where creation is the act of taking away someones pain?

Worldmaking?

Is creation a healing process?

Am I the only one who creates after heartbreak?

 

The renaissance (“re-birth”) was so glorious because it went back to the classical period; tried to revive what was before the medieval age. It explored the pre-christian era and the revival of this classical age bounded them forward in arts, literature, intellect, science and the humanities.

Is that what society needs now? To return to our old morals, values and ways to re-explore the good in them with the intent to revive them? Bring back the good to help remove the bad of the future?

-MM