Archives for posts with tag: politics

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?


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?

There will be a series of posts on this topic moving on as I am currently reading The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque.

So far, its mouthwateringly exciting. And I have only read the introduction by Gary Hamel.

But there is already room for discussion. Hamel gives us some new facets that the businesses of old capitalism will have to re-think.

One of these, is the idea that businesses will have to start thinking about customers as more than just the people who purchase their products but as all the people who are influenced by them and their products.

This is certainly revolutionary, or maybe its not so revolutionary in that we are slowly realizing that you cannot ignore the people around you, thats just bad for business.

So what does that mean? Who are the customers now?

What are they buying if not only the products?

How do we understand the currency that is influence?

what does that mean for corporate fairplay?

And what does this mean from a service perspective?

I am sure that many of these questions will be addressed as I progress into the book, and many more will come to mind.

But lets start with these no?

I was talking to a friend today and he went on a rant about a conference at Columbia about business in china. The talk he was angry about was the talk on green tech and alternative energy.

He was angry about the fact that the extent of the problem solving going on was technological i.e. replace polluting cars with electric cars.

They gave no consideration to service design and tackling the problem non linearly. i.e don’t rethink the car, rethink moving.

Why do our corporations and businesses have such a hard time thinking non linearly?

How do you think laterally?

How do you think multi-dimensionally/(circumferentially)?/(circularly)?

“we’ll need to move beyond a use of design to handle aesthetic problems and tap into the power of design to solve for meaning.”

A quote from a great piece at Fast Company about how design thinking can help prevent another mortgage bubble.

The really great article above talks about continuums process of moving into a problem that was initially a graphic design problem and realizing that what they had was actually “a service design problem posing as a graphic design problem.”

I think that this is extremely crucial in looking at how design is changing. There was a really great interview with Hugh Dubberly where Dubberly talked about the nature of design needing to change, and that design practice was not growing. Part of this was because we needed to move design out of the art school and put it next to business, law, medicine, science. Its a really great read.

But this brings back this really interesting challenge of how do we actually understand the problems that we are working with. There was a great discussion happening in an earlier post where I asked the question “are we designing away designers?” Because it seemed to me that as service and social designers began to work with more organizations outside of design, the tools were being re-appropriated and designers were becoming obsolete. However, the comments were rather hopeful, in that there was an urge that the tools would spread because this would democratize design and lead to better problem solving all around.

That scenario also lead to the idea that perhaps once the tools of design were used, designers would be left with the choice to work on the more difficult problems of society.

The article at Fast Company, begins to hint at the fact that we already have the chance to start tackling these more difficult problems if we simply start to rethink the questions that we are asking. The case study shows a great example in which the graphic design problem was just a surface level problem and that reframing the question allowed the designers to really begin to look at the larger deeper causes behind home purchasing and the problems therein.

What I wonder is how do we do that consistently. I have recently been on a website where people can help nonprofits from home in their spare time, and I look at many of the problems that these Nonprofits have and it seems to me that i am more often questioning the assumptions they made in order to get to the problem that they posed. We could have many service design problems posing under graphic design problems.

How do we uncover them?

Is part of the solution, the accelerated spread of design tools to other disciplines so that at least the companies that come to us for help, have a better understanding of the problem?

On another blog of mine I wrote a long paper outlining an idea that in order to begin to ensure a future for ourselves, we have to abolish the notion of safety and comfort. Because, real design, real making, carries within it the idea of taking away someone elses pain; and this is something that design no longer seems to do.

Rethinking the Artificial (it’s long and dense so I wouldn’t bother, but hey, why not)

I read an article in the NYT today : Newly Homeless in Japan Re-Establish Order Amid Chaos

This article was moving in many ways. In it you will read how people are naturally creating order for themselves, and envisioning services in order to make their stay more meaningful. In order to cure each other of their pain in the aftermath of the disaster that has happened.

Are we really incapable of truly making when we are not in crisis? It seems like the fastest way to save the world is to accelerate its demise. To allow everyone to feel pain, so that everyone can begin to make in order to relieve.

Do we really need crisis and destruction to begin making?

Everyday I go to my twitter feed and I read the latest developments in environmental politics. I follow the talks about sustainability and climate change, I read about the republicans denying rules of gravity and about CO2 related asthma. And I think to myself the simple question of why are we just not allowed to believe in a different future?

Earlier I made a post on this blog that asked the question posed by Cameron Tonkinwise in a lecture: “how do you want to live?”

And I think to myself, I do not care about your political schemes and i do not care to question or doubt. You can have your science, you can make your lies, but sustainability to me is an imagination. Its a belief that I can live differently. It doesnt matter to me that you will spend hours upon hours fighting over scientific formula or breaking into email accounts to attempt to find some sort of conspiracy. I simply choose to believe in it because it also lets me imagine an alternative future.

It gives me the chance to believe that people can create change, that communities are not dead, that I can knock on my neighbors door and ask for a hammer, that cities can become more walkable, that air can become more breathable. That I will never have to worry that my children will never see trees, that I can spend my summer without an airconditioner, that I can someday swim in the Gowanus, that 30 years from now Polar bears wont be the equivalent of a Dodo.

Don’t take from me my imagination, its not a fantasy, its a possibility. You had the chance to mold the world to fit your life, now give me the right to believe in mine.

Am I not allowed to imagine a world like this?

I had the pleasure of being present today at a lecture by Lucy Kimbell on Designing Services and Designing Societies.

In the lecture she talked about the ways in which design is being used at the level of Govn’t and societies and that what that means is that designers at that scale are moving away from designing artifacts to designing processes. It is less about design as problem solving but more about design as problem finding/framing/constructing.

What that means on simple scale, is that the problems that are currently being tackled by communities and governments (particularly by David Cameron and the Big Society) are very similar to the process of design thinking and the ways in which design thinkers go through their problems.

e.g. There were a a group of organizations that were involved in working with various different families. These were social workers, police, community boards, food kitchens, churches, etc.

Seating these people around one table to attempt to design some sort of policy is easy. Its not easy to get them to communicate effectively. This is where design comes in. In the example used by Lucy Kimbell, they developed a persona about a family and made it open enough that everyone of the involved parties could offer feedback on how they would approach that problem. This allowed for conversation to move to a level where everyone could understand the others approach. The rest of the workshop utilized other design tools to frame the problem. Here the designers weren’t designing artifacts but were designing the conversation amongst non designers, using design tools.

The take away here is that the persona is a very powerful tool to allow different people to look at one problem and approach it in a way that everyone can participate. Design, is clearly very useful at this level of conversation and policy making. Designers are experts at framing problems.

What becomes worrying for me however, is that the designers seem to be making themselves obsolete. Once the community has experienced the design tools and acknowledged them as being important, whats to keep them from using it themselves? Why would they call in the designers again next time? Especially, if the designers are charging for a process/service and not an artifact?

We have already seen design reappropriated for business and management via Design Thinking and Consultancy.

Designers are no longer necessary there.

Now we are seeing design being used on governmental and policy scales.

Soon they won’t be necessary there either.

Are designers designing themselves away and assimilating into other disciplines?

Or will design have to return to being linked to an artifact?

At a guest lecture today at the New School by Peder Anker who is currently curating Global Design NYU (an exhibit that is meant to rethink the view of the global from the perspective of the individual), Peder talked briefly about the history of the environmental movement and the concept of spaceship earth.

In short, the environmental movement started in part when we saw the fragility of the earth when viewed from space. We adopted the perspective of a single astronaut, looking down on the earth as a small entity floating in space. This was the major vision driving environmental politics. For the first time, the earth was so small. And although this spawned a lot of biocentric thinking, it was still from an individual perspective, we still saw the earth through the lens of a single astronaut.

At around the 90’s with the increased technological advancement of personal computers we began to look at the world and perceive it through the lens of the computer (simcity, simearth, GIS, etc).

This shift, was one of moving from the viewpoint of the astronaut, to each of us individually becoming the astronaut.

Were we ever capable of non-individual perception of the environment or the world?

What would that look like?