Reflection

It’s coming time to see all my people at the holidaze then hibernate for the winter with a few good projects. It’s time to look back at the year, remember what happened, and process it. Here goes:

LUNAR CLOCK, DEC 2013. This time last year I was finishing up a lunar clock that KR helped me with. This was a project that combined interesting media theory (a bit from Douglas Rushkoff’s Present Shock) with cool technology (laser cutter, arduino, and eagle). I enjoyed turning theory into a designed object–something I could hold in my hands. That’s me in a nutshell. In order to understand something, I have to build it and hold it.

GAME COURSE, JAN 2014. This year started with teaching a pilot course at Ithaca College called “Designing Games for Sustainability.” The class was small but we busted out two cool games. One was an arduino powered waste-sorting game and the other was a laser cut variation of Settlers of Catan called Wasteland. It was amazing to come up with cool ideas and then be able to manufacture and test them. Ideas into reality.

SUSTAINABILITY, MAY 2014. When the semester ended in May, I joined my ASU Sustainability crew at ISSST in Oakland for a great conference. And again in July for a desert retreat. Both gatherings were fun and enlightening in different ways. The former was in an urban setting and academic. The latter was in the desert and spiritual. What I love about these folks is that they value all of it. These people feel like home to me.

MIT >> POP UP DESIGN STUDIO, AUG 2014. In August I traveled with JC to MIT for a Scratch conference. There we met amazing people in the Harvard Grad School of Edu and were so inspired by their work that we came back to our makerspace and implemented a new project called “Pop Up Design Studio.” On the first friday of each month, we open our doors to the public and invite them to make art on the laser cutter. The combination of generosity on the volunteer side with creativity on the public side has been joy to be a part of.

TEACHING, SEP 2014. This fall I’ve been teaching 4 classes in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Ithaca College and loving every minute of it. As an introvert, teaching 80 students is intense, but there’s nothing I’d rather spend my energy on. The program and the students have this great mix of business and creative thinking going on. It’s a pleasure and a challenge integrating the two – the practical with the wild dreams!

UPCOMING, DEC 2014. In ten days or so I see my family for the holidays. When I get back, I dig into some juicy projects for the winter: product design, electronic music, and a few workshop gigs I’ve got cooking. Winter is a great time for projects. Then when the sun comes out in May, there’s time for being outside with nature and friends. I like seasons and the structure they bring to my year.

LOCAL FOOD. On the local food side of life, I enjoyed a farm share at Sweet Land Farm this past summer and am now a week or so into a winter share from Full Plate Collective. These things keep me connected to the soil, the water, and the air. I’m grateful to the farmers who put it all together.

Let me know how 2014 treated you and what you’re up to this winter.

XO

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Who Is Best at Predicting the Future?

I’ve come across an interesting study about a correlation between cognitive styles and accuracy in predicting the future. The study is from Philip Tetlock, Professor of Leadership at UC Berkeley who built on Isaiah Berlin’s theory about foxes and hedgehogs. Put simply, foxes are lateral thinkers,  hedgehogs are linear thinkers, and it is foxes who are better at predicting the future.

Tetlock contends that the fox–the thinker who knows many little things, draws from an eclectic array of traditions, and is better able to improvise in response to changing events–is more successful in predicting the future than the hedgehog, who knows one big thing, toils devotedly within one tradition, and imposes formulaic solutions on ill-defined problems.

This insight makes sense, that foxes with their ability to hold multiple points of view are better positioned to see the future. But there’s a twist. Hedgehogs, with their certainty, tend to be more confident and thus convincing to a crowd. And foxes, with all of their “It could be this way or it could be that way” internal debate, tend to express less confidence and are less convincing to a crowd. Stewart Brand sums this up nicely here:

Bottom line… The political expert who bores you with a cloud of “howevers” is probably right about what’s going to happen. The charismatic expert who exudes confidence and has a great story to tell is probably wrong.

As you may know, I’m interested in “unlikely leaders” and foxes  fall into that slot. They express doubt while the hedgehogs express confidence. So my question for all of us is this: How might we train ourselves to listen to foxes, to embrace their expressions of doubt so that we can better understand where we’re going.

read more here:

http://longnow.org/seminars/02007/jan/26/why-foxes-are-better-forecasters-than-hedgehogs/

http://www.overcomingbias.com/2006/11/quiz_fox_or_hed.html

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7959.html

http://www.chforum.org/library/choice12.shtml

After the Brainstorm

Brainstorms can be a lot of fun. But how often have you had a great brainstorm, spent all of this creative energy coming up with great ideas, and then did nothing with them? Too many times, right?

Here’s a worksheet that can help you capture the brainstorm and move forward.

1. THE PROBLEM IS _______.

Hopefully you were brainstorming on some type of problem. Restate it in an 8-10 word sentence. This is actually quite hard to do, just take it from A.E. who said:

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask.

2. WE GENERATED [insert number] IDEAS.

The more the better, right? When a photographer gets assigned the front page of the NYTs, she doesn’t  go out and shoot one picture. She shoots dozens or hundreds, each one increasing the chances of finding that killer shot.

3. WE USED THESE TWO SETS OF OBJECTIVE CRITERIA TO ASSESS THE IDEAS:

1. _____ and _____

2. _____ and _____

Criteria sets can be stuff like “Safe ideas & Wild ideas,” “Expensive ideas & Inexpensive ideas,” “High tech ideas & Low tech ideas.”

NOTE – “This will work & This won’t work” is not an objective criteria set. And if you already know what’s gonna work, you don’t need to brainstorm.

4. WE CHOSE THESE TWO IDEAS TO PROTOTYPE:

1. _____

2. _____

Chose two ideas because if you chose only one, you’ll go with the safe one. And if you’re gonna go with the safe one, then again, why are you brainstorming??

On prototyping: You can and should prototype ideas in a simple way at first. If you have an idea for a phone app, draw a few screen shots with pencil and paper. This is a prop that you can use for gathering valuable feedback when you test it. (Designers like myself love props).

5. WE HAVE A HYPOTHESIS FOR EACH PROTOTYPE:

1. If _____, then _____.

2. If _____, then _____.

A hypothesis is an “if, then” statement. For example, “If we introduce prototype A, then X won’t be a problem.” It’s very important that you refer back to the problem statement in your hypothesis. If your hypothesis and problem statement don’t match up, then you have some revising to do.

related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1h5L_0rFz8

http://www.inc.com/the-build-network/brainstorming-is-dead.html

 

Work “Back and Forth”

When I was developing design concepts in grad school, my advisor David Morgan encouraged me to work “back and forth” between drawing and building physical models. The big challenge in creativity is to stay fluid, to not get stuck or hung up on one idea. Moving back and forth between 2D drawing and 3D building encourages fluidity. Continue reading “Work “Back and Forth””

Games that Promote Sharing

game

Im taking a board game design class at Ithaca Generator these days. I’m using the opportunity to explore concepts from my sustainability research, stuff that I normally read and write about.

The prototype here is for a cooperative game called “Grow.” The setting for the game is a Community Supported Farm. In the game there are six players – three farmers and three members (though in reality the ratio is more like 1 farmer to 75 members). The objective of the game is to harness the trust built into this network to exchange value. The meta objective is to inspire players to do this in real life. Continue reading “Games that Promote Sharing”