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Day 21/02/2013

Go on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection

This is the second post in a series of articles synthesizing my insights gathered over the past three months, which I spent attempting to assimilate integrative thinking into my everyday life for the rethinked*annex project. I had a different post prepared for today, but as an experience I had earlier this week helped me rethink and broaden some of the connections between these insights, I decided to write about this experience instead. Nimble and adaptive, rethinked…* style!

Go on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection

DESIGN THINKING FOR EDUCATORS

This past Tuesday I was delighted to attend the design thinking for educators {DT4E} workshop led by IDEO and the Riverdale Country School on their beautiful campus in the Bronx. The workshop was deeply informative and helped me continue to refine my thinking about design thinking and its wide applicability, but what I would like to focus on today is the Reflection Studio that Lisa Grocott of Parsons The New School for Design and her students in the transdisciplinary design program had prepared for the workshop. The Reflection Studio provided a physical and mental space where participants could remove themselves from the frenzy of the design thinking process and reflect on the experience as the workshop was in progress.

 

Go on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection

THE REFLECTION STUDIO

In a welcoming, sun drenched room off to the side of the cafeteria where the workshop was being held, the Parsons folks set up a self-guided, reflective journey, which the workshop’s participants were encouraged to visit at their convenience throughout the day. The room was filled with materials and artifacts such as Playmobils, books (which I later found out were fictitious and had been designed by the Parsons students), Scrabble tiles, Post-its, various diagrams and plenty of Sharpies along with blank pages, which were loosely grouped around a series of written prompts spread out across the room. The prompts, which were meant to aid the reflection process, ranged from “What does design thinking look like to you?” to “Choose your design thinking spirit animal.” Participants were encouraged to select and create various props to curate a tangible physical frame of their reflections on the design thinking workshop.

 

THE PHYSICALITY OF REFLECTION

What instantly stood out upon entering the Reflection Studio was the degree of physicality around which the reflection process had been structured. The room was filled with materials, diagrams and objects awaiting manipulation and tinkering. The physicality of the experience was pushed even further as the various physical elements meant to guide the reflection process were placed in such a way as to promote physical movement around the room. The process was dynamic; we were encouraged to move physically along with our thinking.

Going around the room, I felt incredibly engaged and also, incredibly outside of my comfort zone. Reflecting is something that I generally do sitting down, alone, with pen and paper and after having given myself ample “digestion” time to process the newly experienced stimuli. I have always understood the act of reflection as an intensely personal and intimate moment. I feel as if, to some degree, it is a part of my being that is up for consideration when I reflect on things. The act of reflection is similar to cutting and editing in film. It is a moment when the subject goes through the whole of an experience and parcels it into digestible bits that are rearranged into a coherent narrative for the self. It is in these moments of mental restructuring that our complexity is most tangible, it is then that our assumptions rear their pesky heads most forcefully and it made me feel incredibly vulnerable to reflect extemporaneously and display the results of this on the spot reflection publicly.

At the same time, I was very intrigued by this notion of a reflection/thinking safari. I loved having the opportunity to move physically along with my thinking and I could see the value of apprehending reflection as a hybrid intellectual and physical act. It made me wonder how I might go about creating and curating thinking artifacts for myself, which like the ones devised by the Parsons students would enable me to engage more fully and dynamically with my ideas and thinking processes. The key it seemed was to focus on inherently ‘tinkerable’ artifacts, objects that would be defined enough to push thinking in a certain direction while fluid and adaptive enough to allow for a wide range of interpretations.

Go on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection

Go on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection

 

THE SENSORIAL ELEMENT OF IDEAS & THINKING PROCESSESGo on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection

One of the reflection prompts that I found particularly interesting was being asked to reflect on how the design thinking process made me feel. Anytime I have had the opportunity to discuss design thinking with designers, I have always been struck by how aware they are of how various modes of thinking, trigger different feelings. I appreciated how the Reflection Studio brought back this critical element of design thinking, this expression of empathy, which is so crucial to design and its primary focus on human-centered solutions, into the process of reflecting about design thinking. The fact that different modes and processes of thinking trigger different emotions is something that I can understand on a superficial level, but when I am actually engaging in various thinking processes I am rarely, if ever, aware that the feelings I may be experiencing at the time are related to the nature of the cognitive process in which I am engaged. This seems a crucial element to the idea of embodied curiosity, to feel in the body the vibrations and rhythm of the mind and it is something that I want to think about more as I continue iterating different versions of embodied curiosity in the everyday.

 

INTEGRATIVE THINKING & DESIGN THINKING

Last Thursday, in my first post on the series about integrative thinking, I wrote about piecing together and working out a process to creaGo on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection te a frame or entry point through which to explore integrative thinking. This frame was: How Might I Create a Framework for Embodied Curiosity in my Everyday Life? The Parsons reflection room helped me broaden my understanding of embodied curiosity by drastically opening up the landscape of reflection–what it is, what it could be, how it feels, etc. Being confronted and able to engage with such a drastically different framing of the act of reflection than the one that I have used my entire life, provided me with an exciting, new and broader platform for inquiry regarding the notion of embodied curiosity.

 

Go on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection Go on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection Go on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection Go on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection Go on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection Go on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection Go on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection Go on a Thinking Safari…* or The Physicality of Reflection

 

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