Weeknote 2.0

Conversations and Triangulation

My fourth and final semester began last week.

My first class was Leadership, Ethics and Professional Practice. In one exercise, the instructor asked our class to devise, within five minutes, a personal tagline and state three career goals we hope to achieve within five years. When he issued the task, I worried that five minutes wasn’t enough time; as I began to write, I was surprised how easily my response sprung forth.

Tagline: Actively shaping the field of interaction design

Five-year goals: write a book; organize a conference; chair a design department

Since the class Thesis Preparation over a year ago, I’ve been thinking about impact, how, I, as a design-student can create impacts, both narrow and wide. One approach to creating wide impact, is to use my thesis as the seed of an idea, that I fund beyond school, that grows into a product or service that impacts the lives of many. Another approach is to create narrow impacts, among designers, then go on to create wide impacts, either as an entrepreneur, an author, or department chair after school. Why spend time to create narrow impacts? I’m compelled to enter a dialogue with design peers, through work.

In a panel organized by the undergraduates of the CCA Graphic Design department in 2009, Eric Heiman, founder of Volume Design, spoke about the importance of designers submitting entries to national design competitions as to engage in nation-wide conversations with contemporaries. Of course, the notion of asynchronous and non-local conversations through work has roots that precede interaction and graphic design: architecture has a “long tradition of ‘ideas of competition’ whose entries are not usually intended to be built but to publicly disseminate radical ideas about how architecture, and possibly the life it accommodates, might be conceived differently”. (Dunne, 2008)

Designers I hope to have conversations with include Revital Cohen, Greg Tran and this team (PDF) from the MIT Media Lab.

I hope to talk about form with Cohen, identifying “critical imperatives” for our respective, but verging, disciplines with Tran and the manipulation of the physical characteristics of future materials with team MIT.

In this conversation, I would talk about Anthony Dunne’s work, Hertzian Tales, wherein he writes about the potential of objects to “change our our relationship to the world”; how, objects seldom have “solely practical significance, but also carry ritual and symbolic meaning”; how, he proposes an “aesthetic of use”, one that, “through the interactivity made possible by computing, seeks developing a more nuanced cooperation” between user and object; a cooperation that explores how devices might enrich people’s lives—consider, for a moment, how many devices do not enrich, rather, impoverish—; and how designers should be free to use fine art means: “provoking, making ambiguous, making strange”. (Dunne, 2008)

I would talk about my goals, to: bridge the virtual and real, the material and immaterial, the “electromagnetic”—the “ubiquitous, dematerialized, and intelligent artificial environment”—and the spatially inhabited.” (Dunne, 2008)

To this end, I created this sketch to triangulate my thesis and technical advisors:

A FitBit, a gas canister and vessel

  1. Dunne, Anthony. 2008. Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience, and Critical Design. Cambridge and London: The MIT Press.

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