30 January 2009

Presenting my work

The design stream took a trip to Portland to experience some "industry connections" (and of course, have a little bit of fun!). I had the opportunity to present my research at Ziba, which was a great experience of sharing work with those who do and value design research.

More photos here

And in a completely different environment, after presenting my work to those in my program today, I found these images (they actually felt inclined to engage with the activities - the notepad specifically). What can I learn from this?

The reason I do my research

28 January 2009

Kit Connection

The kits have made it to Rwanda! My colleague, who is assisting me in the field, had a conversation with me today to clarify the process. It will be really interesting to both hear of his process as well as hear from the women via their images. It's a curious, curious place to be as a designer.

27 January 2009

"In order to understand the meaning of dialogical practice, we have to put aside the simplistic understanding of dialogue as a mere technique. Dialogue does not represent a somewhat false path that I attempt to elaborate on and realize in the sense of involving the ingenuity of the other. On the contrary, dialogue characterizes an epistemological relationship. Thus, in this sense, dialogue is a way of knowing and should never be viewed as a mere tactic to involve students in a particular task. We have to make this point very clear. I engage in dialogue not necessarily because I like the other person. I engage in dialogue because I recognize the social and not merely the individualistic character of the process of knowing. In this sense, dialogue presents itself as an indispensable component of the process of both learning and knowing."
Paulo Freire

"Our advanced technological society is rapidly making objects of most of us and subtly programming us into conformity to the logic of its system. To the degree that this happens, we are also becoming submerged in a new "culture of silence"."
Donald Macedo

This book is rocking me (and giving me language to share my reasons for research). In the best possible way.

26 January 2009

"Even at the purely semantic level, the term 'development' is difficult to replace. If you dislike it and its derivatives - 'developing', 'developed' - and try to avoid using them, nothing else quite works. To understand that development is an artificial construct and has earned much discredit does not help get rid of it. The concept has become ingrained in economic language and philanthropic endeavor. In default of some better terminological alternative, we will probably go on using the one we have. It would be helpful, however, if it was more used with greater care, and not assumed to be invariably beneficent and politically clean."

Maggie Black
The No-Nonsense Guide to International Development

19 January 2009

(illustration of Freire by Sérgio G. Brito)

Conscientização: learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality.

"...every human being, no matter how "ignorant" or submerged in the "culture of silence" he or she may be, is capable of looking critically at the world in a dialogical encounter with others. Provided the proper tools for such encounter, the individual can gradually perceive personal and societal reality as well as the contradictions in it, become conscious of his or her own perception of that reality, and deal critically with it."

"We simply cannot go to the laborers - urban or peasant - in the banking style, to give them "knowledge" or to impose upon them the model of the "good man" contained in a program whose content we have ourselves organized. Many political and educational plans have failed because their authors designed them according to their own personal views of reality, never once taking into account (except as mere objects of their actions) the men-in-a-situation to whom their program was ostensibly directed."

"To investigate the generative theme is to investigate people's thinking about reality and people's action upon reality, which is their praxis. For precisely this reason, the methodology proposed requires that the investigators and the people (who would normally be considered objects of that investigation) should act as co-investigators. The more active an attitude men and women take in regard to their exploration of their thematics, the more they deepen their critical awareness of reality and, in spelling out those thematics, take possession of that reality."

"Revolutionary leaders commit many errors and miscalculations by not taking into account something so real as the people's view of the world: a view which explicitly and implicitly contains their concerns, their doubts, their hopes, their way of seeing the leaders, their perceptions of themselves and of the oppressors, their religious beliefs (almost always syncretic), their fatalism, their rebellious reactions. None of these can be seen separately, for in interaction all of them compose a totality."

Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed

My random thoughts on reading this book: Does design, like education or political action, have a history of "depositing" itself using the banking style Freire references?

14 January 2009

Definitions to inform a thesis

For my studio class this semester, I have to come up with at least 10 definitions of words that are appropriate to my research (to help those who are viewing it gain a better understanding). Here's my list so far:

A general note of introduction:
An overarching reality of my work is that I am looking at it through the lens of limited (or no technology) and have had to work as a communication designer who lacks a shared language (as experienced in Rwanda). These are a few words that cover concepts I am considering in the work that step beyond the more obvious areas of technology and language.

1. Human-centered design (IDEO)
“Human-Centered Design (HCD) is a process and a set of techniques used to create new solutions for the world. When we say solutions, we mean products, services, environments, organizations, and modes of interaction.
The reason this process is called “human-centered” is because it starts with the people we are designing for. The starting point of the HCD process is to examine the needs, dreams, and behaviors of the people we want to affect with our solutions. We seek to listen to and understand what they want. We call this the Desirability lens. It is the lens through which we view the world through the entire design process.”
User-centred graphic design

2. Design for social impact
“Design as a tool to address such global social issues as poverty, health, water, economic empowerment, environmental activism, and the need for basic services. Design for social impact seeks to incite transformational change in underserved, underrepresented, and disadvantaged communities.”

3. Co-creation/Co-design
Co-creation is the practice of product or service development that is collaboratively executed by developers and stakeholders together. Co-creation could be seen as creating great work by standing together with those for whom the project is intended.”

Liz Sanders is someone who employs and writes about this methodology.
CK Prahalad (Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid) popularized this term in the business arena.

“In co-design there is an understanding that all human artifacts are designed and with a purpose. In co-design one tries to include those perspectives that are related to the design in the process. It is generally recognized that the quality of design increases if the stakeholder’s interests are considered in the design process. Co-design is a development of systems thinking, which according to C. West Churchman ‘begins when first you view the world through the eyes of another’.”

4. Cultural Probes
ACM Article
“The probes were part of a strategy of pursuing experimental design in a responsive way. They address a common dilemma in developing projects for unfamiliar groups. Understanding the local cultures was necessary so that our designs wouldn’t seem irrelevant or arrogant, but we didn’t want the groups to constrain our designs unduly by focusing on needs or desires they already understood. We wanted to lead a discussion with the groups toward unexpected ideas, but we didn’t want to dominate it.” (Gaver 22)
Probe Pack

5. Public sphere
“The public sphere is an area in social life where people can get together and freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action. It is a discursive space in which individuals and groups congregate to discuss matters of mutual interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgment. The public sphere can be seen as a theater in modern societies in which political participation is enacted through the medium of talk and "a realm of social life in which public opinion can be formed… The study of the public sphere centers on the idea of participatory democracy, and how public opinion becomes political action.”
Example of an application of this:

6. Collective creativity

“Collective creativity occurs when bisociation is shared by two or more people.
We are beginning to see that collective creativity can be very powerful and can lead to more culturally relevant results than individual creativity does. This is what happens with really good collaboration based on teamwork.”

7. Bricolage
“A French term for improvisation or a piece of makeshift handiwork. It is sometimes applied to artistic works in a sense similar to collage; an assemblage improvised from materials ready to hand, or the practice of transforming ‘found’ materials by incorporating them in a new work.”

(This plays out in my work that is investigating materials that are sourced in Rwanda as well as the need to shift away from high technologies to low to no technology access)

8. Critical design

“Critical design, popularized by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, uses designed artifacts as an embodied critique or commentary on consumer culture. Both the designed artifact (and subsequent use) and the process of designing such an artifact causes reflection on existing values, mores, and practices in a culture.
A critical design will often challenge its audience's preconceptions and expectations thereby provoking new ways of thinking about the object, its use, and the surrounding environment.”
Dunne and Raby are notable figures in the field of critical design

9. Design for the periphery, the other 90%, or the majority, base of the pyramid*
There are various words that could be used to describe those who live in abject poverty. These are a few I have found most often used in identifying the group I am seeking to work with and understand better:

Periphery: “The term refers to countries which have a marginal role in the world economy, and are thus dependent on societies in a ‘core area’ producing materials for trading relationships.”

“…the four billion people who live on less than $2 per day, typically in developing countries. The phrase “bottom of the pyramid” is used in particular by people developing new models of doing business that deliberately target that demographic, often using new technology.”

5 Ds of BoP Marketing

*While these words are in no way ideal or finite, they are common terms used in various spheres who are seeking to assist those who have limited access to health care, clean water, education and other basic needs. Rwanda specifically has some objectives that even exceed these in the pillars of its Vision 2020 objectives.

10. Sustainable development
"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
-the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
-the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs."
(from the Brundtland Report, 1987)

“The word “sustainable,” however, conceals as much as it reveals. Hidden beneath the rhetoric are assumptions about growth, technology, democracy, public participation, and human values.”
(David Orr in Ecological Literacy)

11. Persuasive Design
While typically used to discuss people’s relationships with technology (capatology), my interpretation of this word gets slighted adjusted when technology isn’t actually available. How can a lo-tech product or activity persuade a new behaviour?

12. Narrative Inquiry
“Narrative inquiry is the process of gathering information for the purpose of research through storytelling.”

13. Appropriate Technology

“Appropriate technology (AT) is technology that is designed with special consideration to the environmental, ethical, cultural, social and economical aspects of the community it is intended for. With these goals in mind, AT typically requires fewer resources, is easier to maintain, has a lower overall cost and less of an impact on the environment compared to industrialized practices.”

14. Democratization of knowledge

“…can be used to describe the rather recent advancement in the way knowledge is constructed, most notably influenced by the internet… Democracy is "Government by the people; that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole...," applied to the concept of knowledge, implies a body of public knowledge that can be manipulated by the people, not necessarily experts.”

In Design Research Now, Beat Schneider references this idea as a important field of activity in the future of design: “ Visual design plays a vital role in the democratization of knowledge. Designers are therefore urgently called upon to help make orientation in information networks transparent…What significance should be attached to visual knowledge (alongside traditional knowledge imparted via spoken language)? What role can it play in the acquisition of knowledge and in fostering communication between holders of knowledge?” (page 209)

This applies in my research when I consider issues of good governance as a designer who has worked in the developing world where communication at the best of times is problematic (never mind issues of demographic or language).

15. Transformation design
Applies broader design thinking to new contexts. Builds on design skills to address social and economic issues. Uses the design process as a means to enable a wide range of disciplines and stakeholders, an approach that places the individual at the heart of new solutions and builds the capacity to innovate into organizations and institutions. Often doesn’t look or feel like design in the traditional sense. Doesn’t fit with the paradigm of master designer.

13 January 2009

On making a milestone

The visual guidebook: This essentially shows how to use the kit with images only (minor text was added for the title and the final two pictures that suggest what the user can keep and what I'm asking them to return).

I can hardly believe it. The kits are done, packed up and will be picked up by FedEx tomorrow (to be taken to a team of people who are heading to Rwanda on Monday).
I am both elated and a tad freaked out (letting your labours go without being able to follow their process is a strange feeling, to say the least).

Now I wait (and focus on my writing!). What will become of all this? Hmmm.

11 January 2009


The translations are done! The kits are ready!
All I need to do is take my ideas for the instruction manual and photograph that process to create a non-textual guide. Countdown to courier: T minus 4 days. Zoinks.

07 January 2009

06 January 2009

Tomfoolery. But what if it happened?

Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard
This is The Onion at its best. And while it's all gimmick, I wonder if on some level, this could ever be predictive of a future where symbols spoke more than words? For all of you who hated (or still hate) typing...

04 January 2009

The iteration known as Nearly Complete

It started here.
It moved through various stages to get to this.
And now you have the "nearly complete" kit ready to go.

Things I still need to get on:
1. Not happy with the way it hangs when sitting around the waist. Think some sort of attachment detail to hold the bag properly when filled might be in order. It may simply be that the back loops are not stitched in the right place. Harumph.
2. Translations are being worked on. This will affect the layout of the designed camera casing among other items inside. Finalizing these will be next week's focus.

Things that are getting sorted (thankfully):
There is a team heading to Rwanda sometime in January, which means I may have a very affordable way to get them there (and possibly back!). Hooray!

02 January 2009

Communicating through sketching

This clip comes from a longer piece. I appreciated the way this illustrator used his sketching as a means of communicating with people when language was not shared. And a book to help you travel isn't a bad idea!