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Month November 2012

Friday Link Fest {November 23-30, 2012}

 

ARTICLES

How to Disrupt Yourself ~ To create a disruptive future, we must often walk away from a comfortable present. via Innovation Excellence, published November 21, 2012.

d.School Advice to Obama: Start With 100 Days of Prototyping ~ The administration should start the next term with 100 days of prototyping, said Stanford’s d.school in part of a memo written to the president just prior to the election. With rapid prototyping—quickly testing ideas with simple, cheap materials in real settings—government leaders can see what works and what doesn’t without investing in full-fledged pilot programs. via GOOD, published November 27, 2012.

Sandcastles Solidified Into Permanent Housing, With The Help Of Bacteria ~ By repurposing a process developed for construction, a team of designers discovered how to build a sandcastle that won’t wash away. via FastCo.Design, published November 20, 2012.

Introducing 200 Free Educational Resources for K-12 Students ~ Right now the collection features 200 helpful resources, including free video lessons/tutorialsfree mobile appsfree audiobooks, ebooks and textbooksquality YouTube channelsfree foreign language lessonstest prep materials; and free web resources in academic subjects such as literature, history, science and computing. via Open Culture, published November 26, 2012.

A Fixed Thing Is a Beautiful Thing: The Fixer’s Manifesto ~ From Sugru: Fixing is the unsung hero of creativity. And it really shouldn’t be. It’s the most common, humble and beautiful form of creativity. Let’s wear that belief proudly. Let’s notice and celebrate these little everyday triumphs, and help others see their value. We made this to fuel the conversation about why a culture of fixing is so important. via Core77, published November 26, 2012.

VIDEOS

For Muji’s Unsung Designers, Imperfection Breeds Good Design ~ In a new short produced by Herman Miller, the design duo behind hundred of Muji’s no-brand products speaks to why and how they work. via FastCo.Design, published November 26, 2012.

 

Museum interviews 9-year-old for head curator job ~ via 9News , published November 27, 2012.

 

The First Ever Music Video Filmed Entirely Using Instagram ~ via Petapixel, published November 27, 2012.

(Invasión – The Plastics Revolution (Video oficial/Official Music Video) from The Plastics Revolution on Vimeo.)

Woody Allen Answers 12 Unconventional Questions He Has Never Been Asked Before ~ via Open Culture, published November 28, 2012.

IMAGES

Hydro-Monuments of Rajasthan ~ These are extraordinary buildings, in purpose, structure, and ornamentation. Framing the everyday act of water-collection in such otherworldly architectural circumstances is a work of extravagant genius, yet seemingly one of a piece with the grandeur given to waterworks elsewhere. via BLDG BLOG, published November 22, 2012.

Aerial Images Capture the Hindu Color Festival by Katrin Korfmann ~ via Design Boom, published November 22, 2012.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Photog Spends Eight Years Capturing the 39 Birds of Paradise ~ Tim Laman spent a whopping eight years photographing all 39 birds-of-paradise species in the rainforests of New Guinea — the first time it has ever been done. via Petapixel, published November 23, 2012.

 Anamorphic sculptures by Bernard PrasBernard Pras uses objects and materials he finds in landfills to create his incredible anamorphic sculptures. His sculptures are often recreations of famous works of art, but he puts his own unique spin on these classics with his amazing optical illusion stacking technique. via Lost at E Minor, published November 26, 2012.

A Font Made Of Leaves ~ Kuala Lumpur-based designer Mei Linn Chan has created a hand-made type series using leaves. via DesignTaxi, published November 28, 2012.

 

Design Thinking & The Individual ~ Reflections…*

Disclaimer: the views expressed below are my own and are not representative of Rethinked…* as an organization or of the other team members.

It seems hard to believe that three months have passed since I first set out on my quest to integrate the tools and resources of Design Thinking into my everyday life. Yet here we are in the reflection phase of the challenge. The past three months comprised a steep learning curve and I feel I come away from the experience with tangible benefits and a positive new mind frame. I’m also very ready to change the conversation. Here’s why.

 

+

 

EMBRACING  VULNERABILITY & THE UNFINISHED

I am allergic to mediocrity and have spent most of my life holding on to the highly unhelpful belief that if something cannot be done perfectly, there is no point in attempting to do it at all. The emphasis on quick and cheap prototypes that is a cornerstone of design thinking has proved immensely helpful in beginning to change that paradigm for me. I have witnessed and experienced first hand the value of process and ‘unfinishedness’, and I have realized that putting things out of my head and into the world, in their flawed and unfinished form, helped me achieve an end result that was usually stronger and better than if I had hoarded the ideas in my head until I felt that they were ready to be shared.

 

NEW SENSE OF AGENCY

My three months of design thinking have also helped me feel much more empowered to address and change issues and problems that arise in my daily life. If you’ve been keeping up with the rethinked*annex project, you will be aware that I have been using design thinking to rethink…* my eating/cooking experience and reframe my perception and experience of winter. These two areas of my life are both incredibly complex because they operate on so many different levels (emotional, physiological, mental, etc.). I’ve always hated winter and had just come to accept that I will be cold, wet and miserable for four months out of the year. Design thinking is a very empowering tool, which gave me the push I needed to take charge and realize that I can rethink and redesign experiences for myself. Just because I cannot control the weather, doesn’t mean I can’t design my experience and response to it.  I had bought one of those ‘happy lamps’ for people affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, and after sitting under it twice, had decided it didn’t work and resolved to give up once and for all on winter. Design thinking made me realize that addressing my issues with winter were not about getting more light (although, that would help) or about wearing thicker, waterproof clothing, it was about rethinking…* and redesigning an entire ecosystem of experiences. Rather than seeing this as a barrier to change and being overwhelmed by the enormity of the undertaking, my exposure to design thinking helped me to feel not only up to the task but also excited about the challenge.

 

GRADUATING TO THE REAL WORLD

Three months after my college graduation, I started missing school desperately. My passion for reading, writing and thinking (usually very slowly) were not translating to the business world. When speaking with some of my friends who had decided to go straight to graduate school from undergrad, and hearing them talk about all of the reading and papers they had to turn in, I felt a strange pang of jealousy. I passionately love engaging with ideas but I had been taught only one way of engaging deeply and when I left the walls of academia, I realized that this one way did not necessarily translate in the ‘real’ world. Design thinking has given me a new approach to engage deeply with ideas; an approach that is much more urgent and relevant to the world outside of school than ‘academic thinking’.

 

 

I’M A HUMAN ~ COMPLEX, MESSY, ORGANIC, DECAYING & NEUROTIC
This is both a positive and a negative. One of the things that I most appreciate about design thinking is the holistic outlook on problems and systems inherent to the discipline. Whether using design thinking to rethink an entire organization or a hairbrush, the design{er/thinker} is always conscious of the many variables at play in a single experience or product. Design thinking is a profoundly human outlook on life; it is a conscious effort to place the human being at the center of our lives and experiences. And design thinking has been immensely helpful and successful in making businesses, products and services more empathetic and human-centered. The problem is that I, as a human being, am infinitely more complex than any objective system, be it an organization or service could ever be. Having to be the designer and the user adds myriad other moving parts to the equation. I struggled to define the challenges I wanted to address by using design thinking because these challenges operate on so many different human levels. It is incredibly difficult to pinpoint the deep issues in one’s life because of the many strategies we all have in place to avoid and ignore our own fears and dysfunctions. So while a designer can observe people’s behaviors and ‘thoughtless’ acts (all those little things we do to make things work for us, like the folded paper napkin under the wobbly table), it suddenly becomes a lot harder when the person under observation is your self. This disconnect was unsettling. At each of the design thinking workshops I attended, I had a blast. I learned a lot, witnessed some great ideas and got to use some very early prototypes, but the most memorable aspect of these workshops was the childlike joy I experienced throughout the process. Design thinking is fast and fun and sometimes silly but it leads to great ideas and effortless collaboration with complete strangers. However, once I started trying to apply the discipline to myself and my own life, a lot of the fun and joy were taken out of the process. The process started to feel stressful as I was forced to take an honest look at my behaviors and the underlying causes of the problems and dysfunctions of my every day.

 

LEARNING ABOUT DESIGN THINKING YIELDS DIMINISHING RETURNS OVER TIME

There once was a time when design thinking was nameless. Like breathing, it was taken for granted, it was designer’s worldviews and the way they thought about problems and solutions. But in the past decade or so design thinking has been exploding in the business world as leading management and innovation experts like Roger Martin and legendary design firm Ideo, have been extoling the value of applying the design studio methodology to the design and creation of not only products and services but also businesses and organizations. This push to bring design thinking to the boardroom has been highly positive in many ways. I have spent enough time researching the discipline and its outcomes to believe that the design process and mindset add tangible value on a host of levels (emotional, mental, physical) to a wide range of solutions. The problem comes at the individual level. When I set off on my design thinking cycle, if I had been asked if I considered myself a designer, I would have laughed at the thought and answered, no. Participating in several design thinking workshops with Ideo and the Parson’s New School of Design was tremendously helpful in helping me realize that we are all designers and that design thinking is just another form of human thinking. I learned about the process–discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation, evolution—and I learned a lot of new terms, concepts and methodologies such as (Ideo’s brainstorming rules) that were immensely valuable, but I feel that after a certain point, trying to learn more about design thinking (through reading about it) proved to be alienating. Which leads me to my next point…

 

THE DESIGN THINKING CONVERSATION IS TOO NAROW

I did not find a single book with Design Thinking in the title that was not explicitly about business or leadership and management. Reading about design thinking became boring after a while because it was all the same: case study after case study of how the discipline had revolutionized businesses and organizations, services and products. To learn more about design thinking as it applies to the human individual in the everyday, I had to broaden my search and read about design. I read Kenya Hara’s Designing Design (which I cannot recommend enough), and Imagine, Design, Create: How Designers, Architects and Engineers Are Changing our World, and it was through those books that I really learned about the power of design to optimize human experience at the individual level. I think it is a shame that the mainstream conversation about design thinking is so heavily centered on businesses rather than people. Design and design thinking are profoundly human; to engage in design thinking is to think as a human and to place the human at the center of experience. I found the fact that most of the conversations about design thinking center around businesses and organizations to be alienating. This is not to say that there isn’t anything written about design thinking and the individual, there is. In Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations And Inspires Innovation,Tim Brown observes that we are all involved in designing our own lives:

Above all, think of life as a prototype. We can conduct experiments, make discoveries, and change our perspectives. We can look for opportunities to turn processes into projects that have tangible outcomes. We can learn how to take joy in the things we create whether they take the form of a fleeting experience or an heirloom that will last for generations. We can learn that reward comes in creation and re-creation, not just in the consumption of the world around us. Active participation in the process of creation is our right and our privilege. We can learn to measure the success of our ideas not by our bank accounts but by their impact on the world. (241)

My issue is that I find that there is not enough on this specifically; that in the face of all the talk about design thinking and business, we need to hear more about how the discipline applies to communities and individuals.

 

THINGS I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY

To be fair, some of the issues that I encountered with design thinking were of my own doing. I have some regrets, best summarized as—I avoided discomfort too much.

 

EXCHANGE

My attempts to translate design thinking to the everyday were based exclusively on my own experience, which is how I had planned the project, but I do think I should have talked about this with more people and been more proactive in seeking out different perspectives on the notions underlying design thinking. I should have talked with more people, gotten their feedback on what I was doing, and seen how we might have helped each other refine our thinking about the discipline. My boyfriend was a trooper and happily went along with the design thinking dates I planned, and the myriad post-its that took over our apartment these past three months, but other than him, I feel I did not really engage in any meaningful one on one conversations about design thinking. I wish I had been more proactive about nurturing that conversation.

 

DO vs THINK {DON’T FREEZE}

I wanted to make cheat sheets and break down the main things I have learned along each phase of the project but found myself distracted by the constant tension I felt between thinking and doing. As I mentioned above, I have a very difficult time doing until I feel I have reached a certain level with my thinking. I know that I did not make the prototypes as quickly as I should have. A lot of thought went into most of them. A few weeks ago, Dominic expressed his concern that I was spending too much time thinking rather than doing and he was right. That has always been one of my weaknesses and I think I didn’t push myself as much as I should have in terms of doing quickly, and without too much thinking. I was aware of this tension and it was the cause of some anxiety and a great deal of paralysis in terms of doing.

 

SO…*

I believe design thinking has tremendous value in the business world as well as in the world of the individual’s everyday. I think there is a real need to broaden the conversation about design thinking. Too much is made of design thinking’s potential for businesses and organizations and not enough of its benefits to the individual. This is an exciting time for design thinking as some people swear it is the thing to revolutionize 21st century living, while others deride it or claim its imminent demise. The moment is ripe with possibility to broaden the scope and depth of the conversation and there are people trying to make it more about individuals and communities. I was pleased to see Frog Design’s Collective Action Toolkit published November 15th.

The Collective Action Toolkit (CAT) is a package of resources and activities that enable groups of people anywhere to organize, build trust, and collaboratively create solutions for problems impacting their community. The toolkit provides a dynamic framework that integrates knowledge and action to solve challenges. Designed to harness the benefits of group action and the power of open sharing, the activities draw on each participant’s strengths and perspectives as the group works to accomplish a common goal.

The toolkit brilliantly broadens the scope and reach of the design thinking conversation and gives people the tools of the discipline in layman’s terms. I hope to see more of this.

On Poetry & Business: Integrative Thinking, Creativity & Empathy

 

Not that I need an excuse to read poetry, but an article published yesterday in the Harvard Business Review, entitled The Benefits of Poetry for Professionals by John Coleman provides a welcome reminder of how ‘useful’ and beneficial reading and writing poems can be. Coleman highlights four virtues related to engaging with poetry:

-poetry teaches us to wrestle with and simplify complexity.

-Poetry can also help users develop a more acute sense of empathy.

-Reading and writing poetry also develops creativity.

-poetry can teach us to infuse life with beauty and meaning

Coleman concludes that “to those open to it, reading and writing poetry can be a valuable component of leadership development”. So without further ado, get your fix of empathy, creativity, beauty and meaning with this glorious poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti:

CONSTANTLY RISKING ABSURDITY (1958) via PoetryFoundation.org

Constantly risking absurdity
                                             and death
            whenever he performs
                                        above the heads
                                                            of his audience
   the poet like an acrobat
                                 climbs on rime
                                          to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
                                     above a sea of faces
             paces his way
                               to the other side of day
    performing entrechats
                               and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
                               and all without mistaking
                     any thing
                               for what it may not be

 

       For he’s the super realist
                                     who must perforce perceive
                   taut truth
                                 before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
                                  toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
                                     with gravity
                                                to start her death-defying leap

 

      And he
             a little charleychaplin man
                                           who may or may not catch
               her fair eternal form
                                     spreadeagled in the empty air
                  of existence

 

rethinkED moving forward

rethinkED

HIGH-IMPACT MOBILE CREW

We are not just any dispatched squad. We are a team committed to affirming permission to fail, harnessing creativity, and building character. We work with teachers by coming to them, building solutions out of their ideas and our shared brainstorming. We draw on philosophy, design science, engineering, technology, and–oh yes–the elusive imagination.

Why the need for the team?

In an age of standardized testing, the burgeoning sense of failure, and the need to control teachers instead of enabling them and the creative insight of their work, we are a cross boundary relief squad, parachuted in to unify, stabilize, and re-invigorate.

CHARACTER CREATIVITY CHANGE

The pace of change today is momentous. Between Wolfram Alpha and Aurasma, NoTosh and Nueva School, the models and possibilities are limitless–from high-touch to high-tech, from start-ups in high school to robotics in kindergarten. Building long-term memory, using iPads for world languages, incorporating e-portfolios, metacognition through self-evaluation, seeing character as the foundation for education reform, implementing visual thinking strategies–we draw on design thinking, integrative thinking, mindset research, and character development, to name just a few of the tool kits we pull from. The landscape is changing, the mountain of discovery looms vast and high, and yet we show the footholds are the same. We need to trust ourselves, breathe deep, and embrace the multiplicity.

Why the journey terms?

Education is a journey of discovery. And our compasses as educators guide us as we find new tools to instruct and teach our students. The rethinkED team is part-explorer, pioneering the edges of the abyss, part-Bernese Mountain Dog, helping others along with us. We are boundary crossers, a mountain rescue team on a mission to find, reinvigorate and sustain human learning in its most robust forms. Along the way we draw on tools, unearth the research to back them, the ability to manipulate them, and the time to play and lead the way.

RESEARCH INTERDISCIPLINARY PARTNERSHIP

The rethinkED team is a pilot, a first year model, i.e. we’re getting down, dirty, messy, testing the waters, experimenting. Coupled with that, we hold ourselves to a high level of accountability to the teachers we work with to finish a job, make it a job well done, and present all promised deliverables into re-usable finished products. Why? The rethinkED team is in the build-out phase of a public-private model that brings together top-tier education research institutions with surrounding public and private schools through a mobile team. For the long term: create reusable case studies, road maps, resource sites, dialogue platforms, and spaces for experimentation that cross disciplines and boundaries to catalyze educators into the future.

Who are we?

We are graduate students in one of the top-ranked schools of education in the world. We are people going deep, very deep, into a field of study, who have experience teaching and advising students as well as teaching teachers. We work across languages, and our backgrounds cross international waters. We are, as Tim Brown termed it, T people: we go deep into specialties and wide across disciplines. We are not engineers, scientists, designers, business executives, or economists. We are educators. But our expertise and understanding runs far and wide and we are able to access the knowledge bases of these many sectors, and leverage, as educators, the knowledge to create. something. great.

LEARNING.

rethinked, rethought.

join us.

Twitter, Functional Fixedness, and MacGyver

In December 2009 I swore off social media. In a blaze of quasi-Luddite glory I defriended all my Facebook friends, untagged every photo, deleted all my information, and deactivated my account. I didn’t just leave–I left nothing to return to. I was free from Facebook, and my achievement was met with approving nods and impressed gasps of disbelief from family and friends who just couldn’t pull the plugs on their own accounts, even if they really wanted to.

Facebook was the only social media I had been on at the time. I knew of Twitter, but I’d never used it. I knew that people used it to give AIM-esque status updates–boring sentences describing the basic events of their day. I dismissed Twitter as frivolous, and I continued to stay off social media for about three years afterwards.

Last June I opened a Twitter account (@jshurd4). I’m not sure exactly why, but I think that joining the rethinkED team was the main motivator. I started by following the same people that @rethinkedteam was following, and eventually began thinking of others to follow. Friends, companies, and figures who I thought might guide me to great articles. Today, I find the best articles I read by looking on Twitter. I’ll read anything that education writer Daniel Willingham (@DTWillingham) posts, anything that Annie Murphy Paul (@anniemurphypaul) writes, anything that Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) blogs about. Twitter might make me a bit less discerning about some things, but it’s certainly made me better informed about education, politics, and lots of other stuff going on around the world.

But this post isn’t meant to be an encomium of Twitter. I don’t think the service needs my endorsement (I only have 60 followers, after all). My point here is that I had for a long time dismissed Twitter, not because of what it was so much as because of how I thought people used it. I never stopped and asked myself, “What is Twitter? What could it enable me to do?” Instead, I just thought that it was a frivolous way to keep others updated about the minutiae of your daily life. That’s what I’d heard, and that was my judgment.

So often we miss things that are staring us right in the face because we never really look very closely or think very hard about what we encounter. Our expectations cloud our perception, and we develop what psychologists call “functional fixedness.” If we want to see new uses for things and create new ways of seeing the world, we have to look at things for what they are, see the component parts, and not pass a fixed judgment on all the little details we uncover. Tony McCaffrey, of UMass – Amherst, has developed a “generic-parts technique” to help people overcome functional fixedness when solving problems. For example, if we call the string in a candle a “wick,” we are giving it a fixed function. If, however, we see it as “string,” then we might see uses for it that we would otherwise have passed right over. You know one guy who always rose above functional fixedness? MacGyver.

When we’re in a rush to solve a problem, the last thing we might want to do is take extra time to stop, slow down our minds, and take in all the little details one by one. But isn’t that worth it if it helps us reach a better solution? This all goes back to my current interest in uncovering assumptions. There’s always value in asking ourselves what we might be missing. If a solution seems too easy, then it probably is, and there’s probably a better one to be found.

Oh, yeah. And I haven’t gone crawling back to Facebook. At least not yet.

Making the Ordinary Unknown: On ‘Knowledge’ & Its Opposite…*

The source of our concept ‘knowledge’.—I take this explanation from the street; I heard someone of the people say ‘he knew me’— : I asked myself: what does the people really understand by knowledge? What does it mean when it wants ‘knowledge’? Nothing more than this: something strange shall be traced back to something familiar. And we philosophers—have we really understood anything more by knowledge? The familiar, that is to say: that to which we are accustomed, so that we are no longer surprised at it, the everyday, some rule or other to which we stick, each and every thing with which we feel ourselves at home. What? Is our need to know not precisely this—need for the familiar, the will to discover among all that is strange, unaccustomed, questionable, something which no longer disturbs us? Is it not the instinct of fear which bids us know? Is the rejoicing of the man of knowledge not precisely the rejoicing of the feeling of security re-attained? … This philosopher supposed the world ‘known’ when he had traced it back to the ‘idea’: was it not, alas, because the ‘idea’ was so familiar to him, because he was so accustomed to it and now had so little to fear from the ‘idea’? –Oh this complacency of men of knowledge! Just consider their principia and their solutions of the universal enigma in this light! Whenever they re-discover something in things, under things, behind things which is unfortunately very familiar to us, for example our one-times table or our logic or our willing and desiring, how happy they immediately are! For ‘what is familiar is known.’ : over that they are of one accord. Even the most cautious among them think at any rate that the familiar is easier to know than the strange; it is, for example, a law of method to start out from the ‘inner world’, from the ‘facts of consciousness’, because they are the world more familiar to us! Error of errors! The familiar is that to which we are accustomed; and that to which we are accustomed is hardest to ‘know’, that is to see as a problem, that is to see as strange, as distant, as ‘outside us’…The great assurance of the natural sciences in comparison with psychology and critique of the elements of consciousness—unnatural sciences, one might almost say—rests precisely on the fact that they take the strange as their object: while it is something almost contradictory and contrary to sense to want to take the non-strange as object at all…  – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1887)

 

 

Friday Link Fest {November 17-23, 2012}

Rethinking…* the Pietà for modern times

ARTICLES

Tom Kelley and David Kelley on Reclaiming Your Creative Confidence ~ Most people are born creative. As children, we revel in imaginary play, ask outlandish questions, draw blobs and call them dinosaurs. But over time, because of socialization and formal education, a lot of us start to stifle those impulses. We learn to be warier of judgment, more cautious, more analytical. The world seems to divide into “creatives” and “noncreatives,” and too many people consciously or unconsciously resign themselves to the latter category. via Harvard Business Review, published in the December 2012 issue.

Groups Make Change: Creating frog’s Collective Action Toolkit ~ We jumped at the opportunity to place a team of frog designers in an environment in which design has no meaning at all, a collaboration with the Girl Effect to improve the lives of adolescent girls. This collaboration revealed a new purpose for design as an essential set of skills to help communities to solve their own problems—and the Collective Action Toolkit was born. What follows is the path we took from our collaboration to creating and releasing this toolkit, which is available to download for free from frog. via Frog Design, published November 19, 2012.

The Neuroanatomy of Freestyle Rap ~ Mapping the fugue state that allows rappers to freestyle, jazz musicians to improvise, and artists turn off their self-edit. via The Atlantic, published November 19, 2012.

100 Urban Trends That You Should Know About ~ The BMW Guggenheim Lab Berlin has done us all a huge favor by rounding up 100 of what it calls “the most talked-about trends in urban thinking.” This is by no means a definitive list, but it is a snapshot of what people were talking about in Berlin during the Summer of 2012 (when the traveling city-focused Guggenheim Lab was in the area). via FastCoExist, published November 20, 2012.

Using Just 10% of Your Brain? Think Again ~ Popular ‘neuromyths’ about how we learn are creating confusion in the classroom. via The Wall Street Journal, published November 16, 2012.

Architects Propose ‘Soft Waterfront Infrastructure’ to Protect NYC From the Next Big Storm ~ “soft infrastructure,” a design concept based on priming the city to “deal with storms instead of fortify itself against them” by using natural resources like coastal marshlands and building more sustainable infrastructure like green roofs. via Inhabitat, published November 18, 2012.

Biomimicry Creates New Education Models For Learning From Nature ~ We can learn a lot from nature, but first we have to learn how to do that. A whole host of programs–from grade school to graduate school–are now teaching the art of biomimicry. via FastCoExist, published November 16, 2012.

Popcorn Maker: A Dead-Simple Drag-and-Drop App For Remixing Web Videos ~ The Mozilla Foundation’s latest project aims to bring interactive multimedia remixing to the masses. via FastCoDesign, published November 14, 2012.

 

VIDEOS & TALKS

Pop-up Lego Architecture ~ A Japanese Lego builder going by the YouTube handle “talapz” has rendered both Todai-ji and Kinkaku-ji, two World Heritage sites and famous Japanese temples in Nara and Kyoto, respectively, in Lego. But the crazy part is he designed the structures to be collapsible, like a pop-up book. via Core77, published November 19, 2012.

(via  on YouTube, published June 13, 2009)

(via  on YouTube, published Nov 13, 2012)

 

A House For All Seasons: D*Dynamic’s Home Adapts To Its Changing Surroundings ~ David Ben Grünberg and Daniel Woolfson of D*Haus Company have created a truly transformational home inspired by mathematician Henry Dudeney that can respond to its environment by adapting to seasonal, meteorological, and astronomical conditions. Based on Dudeney’s solving of “The Haberdasher’s Puzzle,” which allows a square to transform into an equilateral triangle, D*Dynamic can transform itself into a series of eight configurations. The external walls have the ability to unfold, forming internal walls and allowing glass interior walls to become the façade for those sunny days when you want a naturally lit abode. The open interior layout, consisting of two bedrooms, a living room, and a bathroom can adapt to various situations, such as family size, as the house transforms not only seasonally but also daily. via Architizer, published November 15, 2012.

(D*Haus Dynamic from The D*Haus Company Ltd on Vimeo.)

Amazing Time-Lapse Video Features Ever-Changing Earth and Sky ~“Within Two Worlds” was created by photographer Brad Goldpaint. The film features shooting comets, a giant tilting Milky Way, and glowing purple and pink auroras peeking over the horizon. Stunning sequences watch day turn to night and night to day, as overhead stars shine their beautiful light above mountains, forests, and waterfalls. via Wired, published November 18, 2012.

(Within Two Worlds from Goldpaint Photography on Vimeo.)

 

Book-Vending Machine Dispenses Suspense~ Earlier this year, Stephen Fowler, owner of The Monkey’s Paw used-book store in Toronto, had an idea. He wanted a creative way to offload his more ill-favored books — “old and unusual” all, as the store’s motto goes — that went further than a $1 bin by the register. It came in a conversation with his wife: a vending machine. via NPR, published November 18, 2012.

(The BIBLIO-MAT from Craig Small on Vimeo.)

 

 Martin Scorsese on the Importance of Visual Literacy ~ via Edutopia, published June 15, 2012.

 

IMAGES

Tableware as Sensorial Stimuli cutlery by Jinhyun Jeon ~ The project was inspired by the phenomenon of synesthesia, a neurological condition in which stimuli like taste, colour and hearing are affected and triggered by each other. People with synesthesia often report seeing a certain colour when they hear a particular word, for example. via Dezeen, published November 18, 2012.

Sony Holds the World’s First Real-Time Digital Photography Exhibition ~ Imagine a photography exhibition in which all the photographs on the walls are being captured by their respective photographers in real-time around the world. That’s the kind of show Sony put on this past Thursday in London: the world’s first real-time digital photography exhibition. via PetaPixel, published November 17, 2012.

Storm-Battered Photos Become Public Flotsam ~ Images of one moment redefined by another. Hurricane Sandy turned cherished snapshots into an open-air exhibition of people’s lives. The photographs below were collected on Staten Island. via The New York Times.

Is This the Most Distant Object Ever Seen? ~  A weird proto-galaxy spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope may have broken the record for the most distant object ever seen. And—if it pans out—it didn’t just break the record, it smashed it. via Slate, published November 16, 2012.

Photos of the 37 Ingredients That Go Into Making a Twinkie ~ Photographer Dwight Eschliman based the project on the 37 individual ingredients listed by author Steve Ettlinger in his book, “Twinkie, Deconstructed.” The photographer collected a sample of each one, and then photographed it on a glass dish to show Twinkie fans what they’re eating every time they pop one of the cream-filled snacks in their mouth. via PetaPixel, published November 19, 2012.

Bite-Size Bits Of Design Wisdom, Made In Just 5 Minutes ~ Base Design’s Thierry Brunfaut gives himself 300 seconds to get to the point. via FastCoDesign, published November 14, 2012.

A Photo Showing the Energy Contained in a Single Orange ~ Photographer Caleb Charland is well known for his projects that mix science and photography. Recently he has been working on photos showing “alternative batteries,” or using things like fruits and coins to power lights. via PetaPixel, published November 16, 2012.

Walter Murch on the Human Need To Render Visual Reality Discontinuous…*

At any rate, I believe “filmic” juxtapositions {the cut} are taking place in the real world not only when we dream but also when we are awake. And, in fact, I would go so far as to say that these juxtapositions are not accidental mental artifacts but part of the method we use to make sense of the world: We must render visual reality discontinuous otherwise perceived reality would resemble an almost incomprehensible string of letters without word separation or punctuation. When we sit in the dark theater, then we find edited film a (surprisingly) familiar experience. “More like thought than anything else, in Huston’s words.” – Walter Murch, In the Blink Of An Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing 

How Wonderful Life is While You’re In the World…*

You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. You always take the time to express your thanks. Gratitude is an appreciation of someone else’s excellence in moral character. An as emotion, it is a sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life itself. We are grateful when people do well by us, but we can also be more generally grateful for good acts and good people (“How wonderful life is while you’re in the world”.) Gratitude can also be directed toward impersonal and nonhuman sources—God, nature, animals—but it cannot be directed toward the self. When in doubt, remember that the word comes from the Latin, gratia, which means grace. -Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness

Growing evidence points to significant links between a strong personal attitude of gratitude and increased happiness as well as a host of other mental, emotional and physical benefits. With Thanksgiving a mere two days away, I thought now might be a good time to round up some of the science behind gratitude and share several useful and intriguing thank-you themed links.

*

From Martin Seligman’Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment:

The Gratitude Survey: developed by Michael McCullough and Robert Emmons.

Using the scale below as a guide, write a number beside each statement to indicate how much you agree with it.

1=Strongly Agree
2= Disagree
3= Slightly Agree
4= Neutral
5=Slightly Agree
6 =Agree
7= Strongly Agree

_____1. I have so much in life to be thankful for.

_____2. If I had to list everything that I felt grateful for, it would be a very long list.
_____3. When I look at the world, I don’t see much to be grateful for.
_____4. I am grateful to a wide variety of people.
_____5. As I get older, I find myself more able to appreciate the people, events, and situations that have been part of my life history.
_____6.Long amounts of time can go by before I feel grateful to something or someone.

Scoring Instructions:

  1. Add up your scores for items 1, 2, 4 and 5.
  2. Reverse your scores for items 3 and 6. That is, if you scored a “7,” give yourself a 1, if you scored a “6,” give yourself a “2,”etc.
  3. Add the reversed scores for items 3 and 6 to the total from step 1. This is your total GQ-6 score. This number should be between 6 and 42.

Based on a sample of 1,224 adults who recently took this survey as part of a feature on the Spirituality and Health website, here are some benchmarks for making sense of your score.

If you scored 35 or below, then you are in the bottom one-fourth of the sample in terms of gratitude. If you scored between 36 and 38, you are in the bottom one-half of people who took the survey. If you scored between 39 and 41, you are in the top one-fourth, and if you scored 42, you are in the top one-eights. Women score slightly higher than men, and older people score higher than younger people.

 

TIPS FOR CULTIVATING GRATITUDE NOW

From Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment:

GRATITUDE DATES

Select one important person from your past who has made a major positive difference in your life and to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks. (Do not confound this selection with new romantic love, or with the possibility of future gain.) Write a testimonial just long enough to cover one laminated page. Take your time composing this; my students and I found ourselves taking several weeks, composing on buses and as we fell asleep at night. Invite that person to your home, or travel to that person’s home. It is important you do this face to face, not just in writing or on the phone. Do not tell the person the purpose of the visit in advance; a simple “I just want to see you” will suffice. Wine and cheese do not matter, but bring a laminated version of your testimonial with you as a gift. When all settles down, read your testimonial aloud slowly, with expression, and with eye contact. Then let the other person react unhurriedly. Reminisce together about the concrete events that make this person so important to you.

From Tal Ben-Shahar’s Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment:

DAILY GRATITUDE JOURNAL

In research done by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, those who kept a daily gratitude journal –writing down at least five things for which they were grateful—enjoyed higher levels of emotional and physical well-being.

Each night before going to sleep, write down at least five things that made or make you happy—things for which you are grateful. These can be little or big: from a meal that you enjoyed to a meaningful conversation you had with a friend, form a project at work to God.

If you do this exercise regularly, you will naturally repeat yourself, which is perfectly fine. The key is, despite the repetition, to keep the emotions fresh; imagine what each item means to you as you write it down, and experience the feeling associated with it. Doing this exercise regularly can help you to appreciate the positive in your life rather than take it for granted.

You can do this exercise on your own or with a loved one: a partner, child, parent, sibling, close friend. Expressing gratitude  together can contribute in a meaningful way to the relationship.

 GRATITUDE LETTERS

A gratitude letter is not just a thank-you note. It is a thoughtful examination of the meaning and pleasure that you derive from the relationship; it describes particular experiences and shared dreams, and whatever else in the relationship is a source of joy.

Relationship expert John Gottman is able to predict the success of a relationship based on how partners describe their past. If partners focus on the happy aspects of their time together, if they remember the past fondly, the relationship is much more likely to thrive. Focusing on meaningful and pleasurable experiences—in the past and the present—fortifies the connection and improves the relationship overall. A gratitude letter highlights the positive elements of the relationship—past, present, and future—and thereby accentuates them.

Make it a ritual to write at least one or two gratitude letters a month to people you care about—a lover, a family member, a dear friend.

 

GRATITUDE LINK FEST

 

Thank You. No, Thank You ~ A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being. Via The Wall Street Journal, published November 23, 2010.

Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life ~ by Robert A. Emmons & Michael E. McCullough. The effect of a grateful outlook on psychological and physical well-being was examined. In Studies 1 and 2, participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental conditions (hassles, gratitude listing, and either neutral life events or social comparison); they then kept weekly (Study 1) or daily (Study 2) records of their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms, and overall life appraisals. In a 3rd study, persons with neuromuscular disease were randomly assigned to either the gratitude condition or to a control condition. The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits. via Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003, Vol. 84, No. 2, 377–389.

An Adaptation for Altruism? The Social Causes, Social Effects, and Social Evolution of Gratitude ~ by Michael E. McCullough, Marcia B. Kimeldorf, and Adam D. Cohen. People feel grateful when they have benefited from someone’s costly, intentional, voluntary effort on their behalf. Experiencing gratitude motivates beneficiaries to repay their benefactors and to extend generosity to third parties. Expressions of gratitude also reinforce benefactors for their generosity. These social features distinguish gratitude from related emotions such as happiness and feelings of indebtedness. Evolutionary theories propose that gratitude is an adaptation for reciprocal altruism (the sequential exchange of costly benefits between nonrelatives) and, perhaps, upstream reciprocity (a pay it-forward style distribution of an unearned benefit to a third party after one has received a benefit from another benefactor). Gratitude therefore may have played a unique role in human social evolution. via Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2008, vol 17, 281-284.

Is Gratitude An Alternative to Materialism? ~ by Emily L. Polak & Michael E. McCullough. Materialistic strivings have been implicated as a cause of unhappiness. Gratitude, on the other hand – both in its manifestations as a chronic affective trait and as a more temporary emotional experience – may be a cause of happiness. In the present paper we review the empirical research on the relationships among materialism, gratitude, and well-being. We present new correlational data on the gratitude–materialism relationship and propose that gratitude may have the potential to reduce materialistic strivings and consequently diminish the negative effects of materialistic strivings on psychological well-being. We conclude with some recommendations for future research on the relationships among gratitude, materialism, and well-being. via Journal of Happiness Studies, 2006, 7, 343-360.

Gratitude in Intermediate Affective Terrain: Links of Grateful Moods to
Individual Differences and Daily Emotional Experience ~ by Michael E. McCullough & Jo-Ann Tsang. Two studies were conducted to explore gratitude in daily mood and the relationships among various affective manifestations of gratitude. In Study 1, spiritual transcendence and a variety of positive affective traits were related to higher mean levels of gratitude across 21 days. Study 2 replicated these findings and revealed that on days when people had more grateful moods than was typical for them, they also reported more frequent daily episodes of grateful emotions, more intense gratitude per episode, and more people to whom they were grateful than was typical for them. In addition, gratitude as an affective trait appeared to render participants’ grateful moods somewhat resistant to the effects of discrete emotional episodes of gratitude. via Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published 2004.

The Grateful Disposition: A Conceptual and Empirical Topography ~ by Michael E. McCullough, Robert A. Emmons & Jo-Ann Tsang. In four studies, the authors examined the correlates of the disposition toward gratitude. Study 1 revealed that self-ratings and observer ratings of the grateful disposition are associated with positive affect and well-being, prosocial behaviors and traits, and religiousness/spirituality. Study 2 replicated these findings in a large nonstudent sample. Study 3 yielded similar results to Studies 1 and 2 and provided evidence that gratitude is negatively associated with envy and materialistic attitudes. Study 4 yielded evidence that these associations persist after controlling for Extraversion/positive affectivity, Neuroticism/negative affectivity, and Agreeableness. The development of the Gratitude Questionnaire, a unidimensional measure with good psychometric properties, is also described. via Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2002, Vol. 82, No. 1, 112–127.

thxthxthx: a thank you note a day~ There’s always something to be thankful for. From the important things like Songs You’re Embarrassed to Like, and Heavy Eyelids that Tell You When You Need to Sleep, to friends and family, love and loneliness, light and darkness, Leah Dieterich sets out to acknowledge them all. thxthxthx is her daily exercise in gratitude. And be sure to check out Leah’s book thxthxthx, inspired by the website.

Neil Pasricha: The 3 A’s of awesome ~ Neil Pasricha’s blog 1000 Awesome Things savors life’s simple pleasures, from free refills to clean sheets. In this heartfelt talk, he reveals the 3 secrets (all starting with A) to leading a life that’s truly awesome. via TEDxToronto2010, published January 2011.

 

Laura Trice suggests we all say thank you ~ In this deceptively simple 3-minute talk, Dr. Laura Trice muses on the power of the magic words “thank you” — to deepen a friendship, to repair a bond, to make sure another person knows what they mean to you. Try it. via TED2008, published September 2008.

 

Louie Schwarzberg: Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. ~ Nature’s beauty can be easily missed — but not through Louie Schwartzberg’s lens. His stunning time-lapse photography, accompanied by powerful words from Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, serves as a meditation on being grateful for every day. via TEDxSF, published November 2011

Hacking Onion Slicing with Post-Its, Sunglasses & a Little Design Thinking

 

CHALLENGE

I decided to make myself a lentil and chard ragout for lunch today (no judgment please, my hibernation season is in full swing). Within about 30 seconds of cutting the red onion that the recipe called for, my eyes were burning and tearing up. I grabbed a pair of sunglasses and resumed my chopping but, sadly, the sunglasses were no help. Within another 5 seconds my eyes were shut tight, tears pouring from them as I continued chopping with my eyes closed. Thankfully, it did not take too long for me to realize that this was a recipe for disaster, so I stepped away from my onion and dug into the three months of implementing design thinking into my everyday to see how I might resolve this challenge.

SOLUTION

It quickly became apparent that what I really needed were goggles, which I did not have. The onion fumes were pouring into my eyes from below and although I tried holding my face completely parallel to the cutting board, I had no way of keeping the stinging out. I decided to rethink my sunglasses by adding a Post-It note, cut in half and folded widthwise, to each of the lenses. I placed the sticky part of the Post-it on the inside of the sunglasses and voila…* I looked ridiculous with my inverted parasol-like eye gear (dare I say, armor), but it worked and I managed to stop crying and got the upper hand on that onion without losing a finger.

 

BONUS

Lentil & Chard Ragout Recipe from Crazy Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouthwatering Revolution by Kris Carr and Chef Chad Sarno

 

 

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup finely diced shallots or red onions
6 roasted garlic cloves or 3 raw cloves, minced
1 ½ cups beluga lentils
½ cup cooking sherry wine or marsala wine
3 cups vegetable stock, low sodium if available
4 cups well-cleaned and coarsely chopped chard
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 ½ tablespoons of nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
3 tablespoons lemon zest
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons minced thyme
½ tablespoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons butter

In a large saucepan on medium heat, add the oil, shallot, and garlic. Cook until shallots and garlic are translucent and golden.

Add lentils and sherry to deglaze the pan.

Add the vegetable stock and cover. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are fork tender.

Add chard, peas, nutritional yeast, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, parsley, thyme, and salt, and cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes on low heat

Finish with cracked pepper and 2 tablespoons of butter. Fold the mixture well to melt the butter, and serve.

Know of any good tricks for chopping onions without turning into an instant blubbering raccoon-like creature? Let me know.

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