Archives for posts with tag: technology

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?

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 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).

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?

Having broken my cell phone recently i have been debating the idea of living cell phone less.

I have been coming up with many ideas for what that would entail.

My favorite was telling people to send me snail mail, I would of course respond, in my own artistic way. This was fun.

(2234 ocean ave apt d3, brooklyn ny 11229 … in case anyone is interested)

But on a more serious note, i wonder if it is at all possible now to live without a cellphone. This is not about a cellphone perse (per se?)  but rather what the cell phone represents. As a culture, we have become used to speed. Both of news and information but as well as speed in the everyday. We take work home and email on the go, and are required to be on call whenever someone calls. This speed, and the technology that supports it seems to have changed social expectations and norms. People expect you to have a cell phone now. People get angry and irritated when you don’t pick up a cell phone, and even when you don’t respond to a text message.

With social norms having changed to the point where speed is a necessity for the everyday, how or can one live without a cellphone?

Short of living off of free wifi signals and calling via google talk or skype, would that even be accepted?

Can you all live without immediacy?

In a great post on frog, that posed the question how smart should smart devices be?

There was the painted scenario of a more human smart device, that knew when to lie, when to be quiet, when to tell the blatant truth.

I wonder what that would look like. Many times i have been annoyed by the fact that my phone would go off while i am in class. Its embarrassing when you are in a lecture and your phone starts going off in front of the whole auditorium.

You get mad at your phone thinking how stupid it is and shouldnt it know to shut up?

Would the answer be coded geolocations?

There exist apps that change your phones ringer settings depending on where the gps signal is coming from. But is that the extent of the capabilities?

What would an empathetic phone be like?

Is empathy possible in machines?