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?

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“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

I apologize, this post is longer than most. But its good, I promise 🙂

So, today I sat through a marvelous lecture on Life Cycle Assessments by my Professor Cameron Tonkinwise at Parsons.(Its a long lecture but worth it, Cameron is one of the most entertaining speakers anywhere. I mean, he made LCA an inherently boring thing, extremely interesting) Here he was explaining some of the theory behind LCA’s and how they are not the answer to sustainability that we were all looking for. LCA’s are highly politically charged and biased and there are a lot of constraints behind what they actually say.

This is not at all to say that they shouldn’t be done, because they should, but as with everything, one has to take it with a grain of salt.

The biggest take away was that LCA’s teach you to never think of products as simply a product, but that one has to think of products as ecologies. Both living and existing in time and an ecology that has a relationship to many other products and materials.

But more importantly, Product Ecologies don’t even go as far as we need them to go. What we really need to start thinking about are Practice Ecologies and running LCA’s on lifestyle associated with two different products (practice) rather than simply the two other products.

And it also becomes important to think about the notion that, when one buys a particular product, he needs to fit that product into his life. This often means adopting practices around the objects that we have. One needs to learn to read on a laptop to make use of its reading capabilities, and I for instance have massively adopted new behaviours and practices in order to teach myself online reading.

So then here is the question. Today I had my mother buy me a graduation gift (she has no idea that she bought it for me, yet!!) it was a laptop bag that allows me to attach it to the handlebars of my bike.

For the longest time I have told myself that the main reason why I do not bike to school ( a 1 hour bike ride) is because I have no convenient way of carrying my laptop, safely.

I do not like to bike with a backpack because I sweat as it is, with a bag not letting air escape, I would be drenched. Clearly this won’t do.

I have been pondering this problem for a while, not actively attempting to resolve it. When all of a sudden today, bam!! here is a bag that is meant to solve that problem, just for me. And its not as awful as a panier (those things are just not cool looking).

I went on an all day search and finally with the assistance of a friend I found it. It was $208. Aside from my cheap bike $350 and technology, I have never paid that much for any “thing.” But I really wanted to change my lifestyle, I wanted to leave myself with no more excuses.

Now I am facing a dilemma, I will need to radically change my lifestyle, as it is no longer a product that is holding me back. I am moving now into a realm of practice. I have a certain way of working now, a certain amount of things I carry: laptop, sketchbook, markers, cellphone, books, food. Ideally this bag fits into my existing lifestyle, if not I am worried that I will have to now change my lifestyle to fit this bag. And even worse, hopefully it fits my bike in the first place, otherwise this will all be meaningless.

I will probably end up buying a new bike to fit my bag (I really don’t like my bike, I’ve been meaning to save up and replace it for a while, now I may have no choice)

So this brings me to the question. What is easier when attempting to enter into a new practice. Is it easier to change yourself or is it easier to change the objects in your lifestyle? All I want to do is bike, did I choose the best option, were there other unexplored directions?

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?

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?