Archives for category: Technology related 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:
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. )

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

Earlier this year around January, there was a Design Conference at Parsons with Koln International School of Design called the Critical Gift in Design.

One of the talks revolved around the notion of challenges that lie in communication and the group that I was in talked about the “Like” button.

One of my favorite Design writers/theorists  Clive Dilnot responded witha  very interesting thought. His words roughly were like so:

Communicating is a word of the past – its no longer communicate – it’s now understand – Comprehension. we can only like or not like

Are we now only capable of understanding, of liking or not liking, of being in 2 dimensions, or does like and not like go beyond 2 dimensions. Is understanding more valuable than communicating. Is communication reciprocal?

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?

Because learning and education are things that I think about a lot.

Because I am now 1 month away from being graduated.

Because of many other reasons as well, I have started to think about this question.

Being in a university, is a very safe experience. It is a lot like being spoon-fed, you have a traditional learning environment and teachers, and courses and majors and disciplines, and if you manage to get a very good advisor it is entirely possible to go through college without ever making any serious decisions about what you are learning.

This is not at all to say that decisions aren’t being made at all, but many times, we don’t questions certain things about our education. A graphic designer doesn’t ask why he has to take color theory, its already been decided. But a graphic designer also doesn’t ask why they aren’t taking calculus classes.

So essentially where I am headed is this idea that we get a spoon-fed education but in the end we don’t come out like gingerbread men out of a cookie cutter, we all have different skills and different competencies, even if we took the same classes.

Thats because we teach ourselves, somehow, somewhere. Some of us read, some of us write, some of us surf the web, etc. Theres more in depth discussion on how we learn here and here @ whataretheseideas. The second link discusses the differences between active learning and passive learning.

Now that I will no longer be a student, I will have to become way more active in my education, I won’t have the luxury of being spoon-fed anymore.

And so I have been thinking recently, that there are so many new innovative things happening related to education. MIT Open CourseWare, Khan Academy, Ted, Skillshare, Brooklyn Free School, etc.

The resources exist to teach yourself, how do we do it?

How does one remain an active learner after college?

Are there systems in place that can help one navigate new tools?

How do you learn?

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).

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 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?