Archives for category: Sociological 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?

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?

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?

“Take your dreams seriously, Work is not a job”

Manifesto’s are really important, and powerful. I think we need to be writing manifestos daily, I really do.

5 must read manifestos from Brainpickings.org

The 5 above are simply amazing

One that really resonated with the way that I try to live my life is by written by Catharina Bruns, the German-born designer and illustrator thats the one this post started with.

I have also been a big fan of NIKE: Just Do It

Are manifestos important? Do you have any yourself? What manifesto do we need now?

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

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?

I’ve been pondering this question a lot recently. It seems to me that most people run away from theory, they think its for the educated, that its excessively smart, beyond them, browbeating. There seems to be a hate and distrust for critical theory, philosophy, thought.

It seems to me that philosophy and theory are empowering, they are not ways in which we are told that we are too dumb, but rather i feel its one of our only defenses against the world.

We are fragile, and small, so small in fact that most of the time, it feels like the world may just overwhelm us, that things just seem to be so far out of our control that its easy to throw our hands up and hide our heads in the ground. Critical thought is a way to give our actions meaning, it allows us to think that we fit into some kind of framework, that somehow it all makes sense.

We look for meaning because meaning lets us feel powerful, its like saying “HA WORLD, I put you into my little thought box!” Its bringing order to nothing, its enclosing meaninglessness, and meaninglessness is frightening.

But it seems that most people don’t realize this, they think its just a bunch of educated people writing senseless things to make them feel stupid and dumb.

Or they just don’t need it.

Am I the only one that feels powerless and insecure? So insecure that I thirst for thought, to put the world in a box?

Not going to lie, this is not my question. I blatantly stole it from Nikil Saval in his article on slate.  Please read, its amazing.

In it he summarizes that in the 20th century there were 2 attempts to connect music and society.

The first was by Theodor Adorno and the second by Pierre Bourdieu.

Adorno’s belief was that the music produced by a society presented that societies conflicts and aspirations in a mediated form.

Bourdieu believed that music carried within it nothing at all. “it says nothing and it has nothing to say” Bourdieu says in his book “Distinction.” And that music was simply a tool for class hierarchies and distinctions.

From the Saval article:

“We can agree with Adorno that music has immanent, formal properties that are connected, somehow, to large-scale historical forces. And we can agree with Bourdieu that musical taste is an instrument in the legitimation of class hierarchies.”

So the larger question as Saval pointed out is that music exists in use, music in and of itself is a tool for action in certain situations, and that we rely on it in order to go through our daily lives.

So we come to the idea that there are different levels of interaction with music that we experience, and thus it communicates with us in different ways.

What and how does it communicate? as well as when?