Reflections

Reflection, Sunday Dec. 4th

What did you learn this week?

This week in futures I continued to explore Wasserman’s scenario of free education, analyzing its components through various lenses. We looked at the RSA Animate video, which delves into the current issues with our education system, specifically how the structure was built for a previous time and does not serve our current societal thinking on education. We used the CLA model to try and understand the complexities of our own education and how these pieces could potentially work together to create a new education model, or at least uncover some of the current issues. I did more work with benchmark goals and trying to understand ways in which we could achieve the somewhat radical notions that Wasserman discusses in his scenario. Finally, I learned about future forecasts, and the assumptions and biases that may go along with these forecasts. We used these to understand Adam Gordon’s work and ideas in relation to Wasserman’s free education normative scenario. 

How might you apply what you’ve learned to a current or past project or your life? 

I think I can apply the idea of viewing someone’s work through a particular lens (i.e. Adam Gordon’s perspectives applied to Wasserman’s scenario). As a designer, it’s really important to be able to understand other perspectives and be able to apply these perspectives to your own work. Currently in my environments project, I am trying to go back to the idea that what I’m creating isn’t just for me, but it needs to reflect a stance that will benefit the right people and connect to my overall goal, which is to bring together the Carrie Furnaces site and the greater community. So I need to consider what neighboring towns will think of my different interventions, what visitors of Carrie Furnaces will appreciate and not appreciate, etc.  

How can I apply this to my future design practice?

As we discussed on Friday this week, it’s really important to try and think of an intervention or scenario that is, at first glance, a bit ridiculous, and then try and figure out what pieces of it you can salvage or deem feasible and which pieces don’t really apply. I will try and use this strategy going forward with my design work. 

Reflection, Sunday Nov. 27th

What did you learn this week?

This week in futures I broke down the system of free education and how to achieve it through several different models and maps. The inputs, processes, and outputs model allowed my partner and me to consider the different sources of funding of education for James’ case study and understand various ways to make education “free.” The steep forces model allowed my partner and me to consider what forces are at play for education now and what forces would be at play if education were to become free in the future. We also had to consider what needed to happen during this transition period. The final model was the business model, in which we considered key partners, activities, resources, and other factors that contribute to a free education. My partner and I looked at SketchUp, a free CAD modeling software, as a case study for something “free,” and tried to relate this model to a free education model.  

How might you apply what you’ve learned to a current or past project or your life? 

The business model diagram is very applicable to a past project we did in Systems class last year. We used this model to try and understand the different components of service and service design. We looked at a restaurant model and how it operates, both behind the scenes and with the people actively participating in this system. I think looking at various facets of a service or business through the business model diagram is a really good way of understanding various aspects of a problem, so that when you have to design for it, you understand everything that goes into it. 

How can I apply this to my future design practice?

I think working with a partner on these small modeling and mapping activities was a really good way to brainstorm various aspects of a thing so that you can change or modify it in a more informed way. I will take this form of rapid iteration and collaborative mapping and apply it to my future projects. I think this skill will be especially helpful during senior year when we are all collaborating on service design projects. 

Reflection, Sunday Nov. 20th

What did you learn this week?

This week in futures I learned about different scenarios of education funding. We looked into the college situation of James, an air force veteran now having difficulty funding his education. We talked about the different ways in which his education could be subsidized and how he is currently paying for it. I learned about the GI bill, a way that the government helps to fund the education of veterans once they’ve returned to the states and have not saved up a lot of money, because they’ve been in service. We also discussed Arnold Wasserman’s normative scenarios for the future of education. It was really interesting to consider different “free” amenities or services we experience daily, and try to understand why they are free for us, who’s paying for them, how these people benefit from paying for them, and if this idea could be translated over to free education.

How might you apply what you’ve learned to a current or past project or your life?

After looking into the material of this week, I’ve come to realize that I’m not sure if I agree with the “free education for all” model that Wasserman is proposing for 2050. I think it’s important that everyone is capable of receiving a higher education, or education in general, if they want to, but I think people with adequate finances should be obliged to contribute, at least in a small way, to the funding of the education system. Right now, an investment in education can be equivalent to an investment in purchasing a house. I think education is the most valuable thing someone receives in their lifetime, and for that reason I think it should be an achievable goal for everyone as well, and not one of the biggest financial investments in someone’s life. I’m incredibly grateful my parents were able to subsidize my education, but I also believe that their trust in education should encourage them to invest in the system as a whole as well. This may not answer the question very well, but I felt the need to talk about it.

How can I apply this to my future design practice?

One thing I will take away from this week is the concept of the “what is free?” exercise we did in the OLI module for Friday. This idea of thinking about other “free” things in the world and asking the why and how questions I think is something that could be applied to lots of projects I will be working on in the future. It was a really useful tool for considering things that didn’t initially come to mind.

Reflection, Sunday Nov. 13th

What did you learn this week?

This week in futures I related my understanding of designing for the future with the results of this week’s election. There are always going to be surprising outcomes to things, but I think there are also ways to be more prepared or at least have been honest and open about other possibilities. Many of us live in liberal bubbles, where we only surround ourselves with the people who share similar views to our own. While, in the moment, this may be comforting, it makes change and alternative scenarios incredibly difficult to foresee and therefore deal with. One of the things that Peter stated in class on Friday was “To live is to change and hold onto what is valuable to you.” This idea really resonated with me, in that we as humans should constantly be engaged with and exposed to different questions and different ideas. That is what it means to be alive and to be a human. If we as designers only engage in critique and questioning from peers or teachers who only give us positive feedback, we will never grow and we will probably make a really shitty thing that won’t help many people. It was really useful to engage with the different philosophers this week, because they raise such fundamental questions about meaning and about engaging with things and people. We should constantly be questioning the systems in which we are engaged, whether that is advertising and marketing, political views, or anything else. Questioning will make us better and more informed designers and people.

How might you apply what you’ve learned to a current or past project or your life?

I think this whole week has made me realize just how oblivious most of us are to the things we don’t feel or see on a daily basis. What I mean by this is that it was a real wake up call for a lot of people that this is the state in which we live, and our country has chosen to put a man with very socially oppressive views into power. While most of my peers don’t constantly feel the oppression that has been around forever, such as racial, classist, and other forms of discrimination, more people are starting to realize the gravity of these issues that have come up during this election. Gender inequality has been around for thousands of years, yet some people are just now realizing that this is an issue we need to address, mostly because they are now seeing how this new leader could potentially affect some of their rights. While these realizations should have happened sooner, it’s important that they are happening now and that they have the potential to unite people and bring them to the conclusion that we can’t all live in a bubble, unexposed to outside issues. We have to be willing to face them and tackle them together for the good of the nation as a whole.

How can I apply this to my future design practice?

I think the biggest takeaway I’ve gotten from this week is that I can’t just design for the sake of making something I like, or at least I don’t want to. I want to be able to positively impact the lives of others. For me, this doesn’t necessarily mean solving world hunger and poverty. It may mean creating something that kids in school can actively engage with; something that may encourage them to explore more deeply and question. Something that can bring joy and excitement as well as curiosity that could spark interest in learning, whether it relates to art, science, technology, set design, or anything else. Personal fulfillment is incredibly important to me, as is maintaining one’s own set of values and being respectful to other people’s as well. I will try to always consider my values as a person and as a designer, as well as understand how I can positively impact the lives of others, even if the scale of impact may not seem very big.

Reflection, Sunday Nov. 6th

What did you learn this week? 

This week in futures I learned about how gender is crucial to establishing equality in the workplace, in the home, and in life in general. In Sheryl Wudunn’s talk on gender equality within education, it was clear that giving women equal opportunities in education, particularly in third world countries, there was great economic, social, and political growth and development. In Michael Kimmel’s Ted Talk, he emphasized the fact that the overall happiness of individuals within the home was heightened as a result of a more equal distribution of responsibilities in the home such as taking care of the kids, doing dishes, and cleaning the house. I also learned about Arnold Wasserman’s future scenario of education and how we choose to structure learning could have a huge impact on the system of education as a whole. For example, he sees the principle of learning occurring outside of the classroom so that education isn’t something that just happens 8-3, Monday to Friday as a crucial one to the future of education. Involving the community in education and making subject matter more applicable to the real world are two things that were part of Wasserman’s scenario for the future of education as well.

How might you apply what you’ve learned to a current or past project or your life? 

I think the future of education is something that’s very applicable to my life in general. As a design student and someone who took extra art classes in high school and middle school, I firmly believe in the fact that education should become more focused on incorporating creativity into all subjects and constantly relating them back to real life situations. In my high school, the principal of my school stressed the fact that he believed math and science to be the viable paths in college that would get you a good job. From his perspective, being an English major or an art major wasn’t a practical choice. For a lot of the students at my school, going to college was a privilege and most of them couldn’t afford to go if they didn’t have something that set them apart like grades, extra-curriculars, or creative outlets. The fact that my principal in no way tried to encourage the pursuit of art in college, or even in high school, makes it difficult for kids to see the importance in having a creative outlet. I think a lot of students felt pressure to go into areas that maybe weren’t their strong suit or their greatest point of interest, mostly based on the encouragement of the principal and other teachers. After experiencing the value in my arts education in high school and finding great ways of applying these skills and passions to my college career and eventually my professional one too, I’m realizing how important it is for students to understand that it is possible to do something with an arts education. I hope I can become a more active advocate for this path in the future.

How can I apply this to my future design practice?

I think I can apply the idea of having a continuously flowing education to my design practice. As stated in Wasserman’s scenario for the 2050 education model, learning shouldn’t just take place in the classroom, it should be something experienced and built upon at home an in the community. I think my learning and practice of design should be something not only present in the projects I work on but also in my everyday life. Iteration, prototyping, and creating systems of objects and pieces of communication are things I do in my everyday design practice, and I think they could also be applicable to life practices as well.

Reflection, Sunday Oct. 30th

What did you learn this week? 

This week in futures I learned about the different lifestyles related to minimalism. These include the zero waste family home lifestyle, the young urban minimalist lifestyle, the zero waste lifestyle startup, and the ten item wardrobe lifestyle. I found all of the approaches incredibly progressive and forward thinking. In another sense however, they are practicing what many people practiced prior to the industrial revolution or the huge growth in the exported manufacturing industry. There seems to be a lot of self satisfaction that is gained from practicing these kinds of lifestyles, at least for the people who spoke about each of them. I found Jennifer Scott’s ten item wardrobe talk to be the most approachable, at least for someone just getting started in a minimalist and sustainable lifestyle approach. I also thought Lauren Singer’s practices of making her own things rather than purchasing them was an interesting idea. 

How might you apply what you’ve learned to a current or past project? 

What I’ve learned from this week I think could be applied to a booklet that I’m making for my environments project this semester. When I first began to figure out how I was going to put the booklet together, I realized I didn’t know much about printing or about bookmaking. So I decided to just try printing the first time and see how it goes and then do it again if the first one doesn’t come out right. I printed and realized the pages weren’t in the right order; I printed in a setting that was for another kind of assembly. The second time I printed it did the exact same thing, though I thought I had selected a different printing setting. Needless to say, I used about four times as much paper as I really should have. This to me is very frustrating because although I can recycle the paper, I’m still going through it at an incredibly rapid rate, so that more and more trees are cut down because of my (and my colleagues) gross consumption of paper and ink. If I were to try and apply the practices I’ve gathered from this week to this project, I might stop and figure things out carefully so that I’m not carelessly going through tons of paper. 

How can I apply this to my future design practice? 

As a student in high school, I had a great interest for environmental sciences and sustainability. Although I didn’t choose to pursue it in college, I still hope to incorporate my knowledge and passion for it in my everyday practice. I think one thing that this week has made me realize is that my values and my practices don’t align very well. If I care so much about sustainability and the environment, why am I not incorporating those values into my life more routinely? One thing I will try and do is, when the opportunity to incorporate sustainability and minimalism into a project or prompt arises, I will take the opportunity and do what I can to promote awareness of healthy and environmentally conscious practices. 

Reflection, Sunday Oct. 24th

What did you learn this week? 

Last week in futures I learned about Sohail Inayatulla’s six pillars and the different elements that make up each pillar. I found the futures triangle especially helpful in terms of mapping futures. Understanding how history, current pushes, and future possibilities play into one’s mapping of the future was an interesting way of framing my futures studies. I also found the scenarios aspect of the creating alternatives pillar to be very relevant and applicable to the previous classes and lectures we’ve had. I’m starting to see the connections between how futurists think about the future and how I can take their theories and tools to create my own vision for the future. 

How can you apply what you’ve learned to a project you are/have been working on? 

I found Inayatulla’s first pillar explanation to be very relevant to a project I worked on last year in How People Work. As I mentioned in my OLI exercise, I worked on a redesign of the CaPS website and the overall web experience for users. In our redesign we had to consider the history of what we’re working on (i.e. consider what has changed, if people changed themselves to fit a particular model that was given, if there were previous iterations on this product/experience, etc.) and what assumptions we made about the product (i.e. what we design will be just as intuitive to us as it is for the users, that all users would find the previous design of the website difficult to use, that the one design that we created for the website would be the right design to go with, etc.) It was very interesting to go back and see what tactics we used that related to Inayatulla’s pillars, what we did differently, and what the results were. 

How can I apply this to my future design practice? 

I think the biggest takeaway from this week and last week was thinking about alternative scenarios. It was really helpful to lay out and clarify the CLA incasing model so that we could see how it applied to different situations and different perspectives on one situation. I will try to, in the future, apply the different levels (litany, systemic, worldview, and metaphor) of CLA whenever I begin to work on a project. 

Reflection, Sunday Oct. 9th

This week in futures I gained a few new insights into the concept of scenario creation. Though I had trouble instilling trust in companies such as Shell, who have agendas of oil extraction until the resources are depleted and removed completely, I was able to see how their futures thinking methodology could actually be applied to other situations. For example, I really appreciated Adam Kahane’s importation of Shell’s future scenarios thinking to Colombia, a country who was in and continues to be in need of new ways of approaching social, political, and economic challenges. Although it took many years and many different forms of leadership and implementation of policies, we could clearly see the progress being made in Colombia in terms of its drug and violence issues, it’s social and political divergence and unrest, and many other areas as well. I’ve also gotten more comfortable with creating multiple scenarios from different perspectives for a different problem. Considering situations from two axes definitely helped me to visualize more possibilities than I had initially seen. 

I think I can apply the idea the four generic futures concept to a current project I’m working on in my environments studio. Although these concepts can be applied at a very large scale and require broader thinking, I think they can still be applied to the Carrie Furnaces project. For example, seeing the transition over time of this site being a functioning steel mill to becoming a historic site or park is interesting to consider through the four scenarios lens. The steel industry completely remodeled itself over the decades to a future that most people could not have foreseen. The working conditions underwent major transformations as well with the help of unions and strikes. It’s interesting to observe this change over time through the four lenses. 

In terms of bringing these concepts to my design practice, I think I will continue to try and create at least four scenarios for any project I undertake in the future. I found it really useful to visualize potential futures on two axes and, from there, derive possible future scenarios. 

Reflection, Sunday Oct. 2nd

What did I learn this week? 

This week in futures I learned about several different theories of futures thinking and how foresight ties into futures thinking. While many futurists understand foresight in terms of patterns and connections that can be made between the stages of change, the actions we take, and the yielded results, people who are not futurists might understand futures thinking in a very different way. For example, we were able to see these discrepancies when comparing the vocabulary that we used when thinking about our hopes and fears for the future with the words that futurists used. I think when we as regular people think about the future we are still thinking very short term. Although it would be terrible for Donald Trump to be president, I think if we consider the impact that his four years has on the world maybe 60 or 70 years out, we may not see huge change in the world (however we may also considering his irrationality). This week I also learned about how understanding different models of futures thinking can reflect our own ways of thinking about either our or someone else’s future. This idea was definitely explored in the assignment that we completed for Sunday, which we started in Friday’s class.

How does it apply to a project you are working on, worked on in the past, or would like to work on in the future? 

I think that the “socio-ecological model” that we explored in class on Friday when discussing the Fitwits project relates greatly to the current project I’m working on in Environments studio right now. The project involves curating an experience for someone going to Carrie Furnaces; one of the last standing steel-making sites in the Pittsburgh area. When thinking about how we are going to tackle the whole experience, we sometimes break it up into multiple levels; what will the individual feel? How will or could they experience it with others? How will the experience they have influence the programs and organizations put in place? Is it not just about Carrie but is it about other places that relate to it like other heritage sites or steel towns? Are the social, cultural, political, and environmental issues they are taking on make an impact in policy? In this sense, I think continuing to think about the project on these various levels will aid the creation of a more complete, informative, and impactful experience for people coming to Carrie.

How might you apply it in your design practice? 

I think I can apply thinking about futures from different perspectives to my design practice. I need to remind myself why I’m seeing something play out the way it does, if I’m thinking about alternatives, what I’m missing from the picture and if that matters, and many other considerations. I think if I do this for the projects I am working on and will work on in the future, then I will probably have a more informed solution to the problem and may even account for other unforeseen issues in the future.

Reflection, Sunday Sept. 25th

This week in futures I learned a lot about how social, economic, and political events can shape the structure of a family, how they interact with each other, and how their lives may play out in the future. I think many of us, not only as designers but also as people, don’t make connections between things that are actually going on in the world and the ways in which people and their positions change, develop, or digress. We also may not think about our user in the most well-rounded way possible when we are designing something. There is great value in being able to develop a clear and focused persona when one is creating something; an interaction cannot happen without the user, so we must understand who that user is and how we incorporate these findings and pieces of information into our work. 

I think this week’s material can be connected to the current environments studio project that I’m working on. The overall goal of the project is to curate an experience at the Carrie Furnaces site so that it functions as an industrial park or a sort of gallery space. As designers, we must account for who is coming to this space, why they are coming, what the possible kinds of experiences they may want to have are, and many other considerations. If we do not understand what these visitors and users may want to gain or experience, then we are creating things merely because we can. I think it will be very valuable for me if I spend some time considering why the things I am creating for this experience will matter or be relevant to the people coming to Carrie. 

I think the most valuable takeaway of this week for me was visualizing information in different formats, specifically during the exercise we completed after Friday’s session. I’ve never actually laid out a timeline of events and tried to visualize multiple levels at the same time, over a period of time. I think this exercise was really useful to me in that I’m not simply considering the obvious information, but rather I’m getting a more well-rounded view of how different global, local, and familial events actually tie together in many direct ways. I hope to be able to implement this kind of multi-level visualization into my future design practice. 

Reflection, Sunday Sept. 18th

This week in futures I learned about anticipating futures, not being able to anticipate futures, and the difficulties of trying to impose new systems of technology onto old ones and the users involved in those systems. Peter Schwartz’ talks on future scenarios and situations were enlightening in that they actually made me think about the mental maps I was creating subconsciously through each project or assignment I had been completing since the beginning of college. As I had mentioned in my Wednesday in-class written activity, I later realized that I had based all of my reworked Masdar scenarios on ideas and perspectives that were uniquely mine without considering other cultural and ideological lenses and views. That is not to say it is unusual to do this; I think we as designers naturally create things that are of value and importance to us, otherwise we would be making things that we have no real connection to and would probably therefore be not as impactful or enjoyable to use. 

After learning about blockchain technology and its ability to completely change the way currency and transactions work, I started thinking about this in relationship to the environments project I am currently working on. As our project involves developing the Carrie Furnaces steel mill site into a historic industrial park, I am constantly considering the different ways in which I could display information, guide people through the park, and create an enjoyable and interactive experience that does not inhibit people from using the space in any way but offers various guiding tools and resources. As a designer, I do not want to create experiences that completely change the way people move through space or interact with information, but rather I am trying to think of new and interesting ways to tell different stories about the furnaces. I also want to be as sympathetic with the current feel and structure of the site, as incorporating too much new technology could potentially change the experience of being at Carrie for the worse. 

Overall, I think I can most apply the concepts of mental maps and blockchain systems to my design practice. During my design process I will try to more actively think about the reasons as to why I am creating something (i.e. if it would benefit or intrigue someone like me or someone else) and if this design would change a system on a larger scale than I may initially realize. I might try to make some sort of diagram or guide that looks at the problem I am tackling not solely from the perspective I may choose to focus on but also from various other perspectives such as one or multiple STEEP concepts. It is possible that these different perspectives might be more informative and constructive than simply looking through the lens I initially chose to work with. 

Reflection, Saturday Sept. 10th

This week, I think the main takeaways I got from the class and the activities we did dealt with what good and bad future thinking may look like. I think all design ideas are valid in that they may lead to a solution even if they are not viable or realistic solutions themselves. However, I gained a lot of perspective through Cascio’s talk on bad futurism. Watching this video reminded me that people need to be given multiple scenarios when offered a design problem or solution. They also need to be given equally reasonable and unreasonable, and equally good and bad scenarios, not simply one good scenario, one okay scenario, and one bad scenario. We as designers and users are bound to encounter numerous flaws during our process and even after we have created something; there are always unexpected consequences and results that will only further our knowledge and understanding on the problem we are tackling.

One thing I related to during Cascio’s talk was the idea that design solutions should not be outlandish and crazy, though imagination is an important ingredient in the process. Something I struggled with during my first two years, and even now, as a designer at CMU is that I’ve always doubted my level of creativity. Some of the projects produced by my classmates inspire radical ways of thinking and living that I would have never truly considered and I think that’s a really important skill to possess. This in a way relates to the videos we watched created by Microsoft and Apple, which presented incredibly radical scenarios on living and being in a world filled with their concepts and technologies. However, my perspective changed after hearing Cascio talk about needing to be rational and practical with your design solutions so that your audience can better relate to it and believe it. Going forward with any project I am working on, and currently I am thinking about this in relation to the environments project we are tackling currently, I will consider the practicality and believability of my solution before automatically jumping to the conclusion that I’m not being imaginative or creative enough.

I think one of my biggest takeaways from this week is that we as designers cannot cover every aspect of presenting a good future that Cascio would approve of. In some ways it is impossible I think. However it’s important to consider the value and reasons behind what you are creating, why it matters to other people, and how it will impact people and situations that we may not even account for in our initial design. Considering potential issues for a design is something I think I can apply to every project I undertake, and, after the activities in and out of class that we completed this week I think I will have a better idea for how to go about doing this.

Reflection, Friday Sept. 2nd

In this unit of futures I learned several things. The first concept I learned was exactly what the goal of design futures is. As designers, we learn to see problems; however we must also consider design as a solution. The future of design has been and can be perceived in so many ways, yet it is important to consider the perspective, the historical context, and the ultimate goal one has before designing something for the future. One of the main things I learned during this unit is that the future of different locations, people, etc. can be and will be very different because they are all starting out on different levels and are subject to different predispositions economically, socially, politically, and so many other areas. While the futures may look different, we all still have many common goals, some being alternative energy sources, social and political equality, access to affordable and reliable healthcare, and access to well-rounded and complete education. As a designer, it is important for me to consider the things that I am interested in and passionate about while still considering what the future of this area may bring, what the constraints may be, and what possible obstacles I may encounter in the future.

I think futures can be related to many different projects I am working on. In my environments class we are currently considering the “future” of the Carrie Furnace, one of the last iron and steel producing furnaces in the Pittsburgh area. In order to design for its future, we are doing research into the area’s history (i.e. who it involved, why it was created, how it affected surrounding areas, etc.) and considering various “large picture” aspects of the Carrie Furnace (i.e. economic, social, political, technological issues relating to the furnace). Looking into these areas and creating rough plans, sketches, and laying out goals will help us to create a clearer picture of what the furnace should be used for in the future and why it will be helpful and crucial that we create this space in a particular way.

One of the major takeaways I got from this unit involved a section of the Masdar video we watched in class on Friday. While the Masdar city was being created, the designers took into account not only what the future of the city should be but also how the surrounding area and cultures could be seen as design opportunities, not obstacles. One of the most obvious examples of this is seen in the construction of the facilities using the sand of the desert engulfing the city as well as the intense sun for solar power. This encourages and excites me to apply this to our Carrie Furnace project in some way; to both take into account the materials and resources of the surrounding area and find aspects of the environment that are often overlooked that could be seen as opportunities.

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