October 2012
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Month October 2012

Rethinking…* assumptions ~ Duck! Rabbit!

“One doesn’t ‘take’ what one knows as the cutlery at a meal for
cutlery; any more than one ordinarily tries to move one’s mouth as
one eats, or aims at moving it.” -Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations


Duck! Rabbit! is a lovely little book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld portraying a delightful take on the visual puzzle first developed by J. Jastrow in 1990 and taken up by Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations. As delightful for adults as it is for children, this book provides a great opportunity to discuss assumptions, perception and reality with the little ones in your life.


I see two pictures, with the duck-rabbit surrounded by rabbits in
one, by ducks in the other. I do not notice that they are the same.
Does it follow from this that I see something different in the two cases?— Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations



Bartholomäus Traubeck Rethinks…* the Record Player in a Glorious & Whimsical Way

 In 2011, German artist Bartholomäus Traubeck designed “a record player that plays slices of wood.” Named Years, the rethought turn-table translates year ring data into music. We are in a flutter of …* over this elegant, whimsical and wondrous idea/object.

Enjoy (you will) this 2 minute video of YEARS playing tree ring records:

(Source: Bartholomäus Traubeck via Vimeo.com, published a year ago)

Of his process, Traubeck writes:

“A tree’s year rings are analysed for their strength, thickness and rate of growth. This data serves as basis for a generative process that outputs piano music. It is mapped to a scale which is again defined by the overall appearance of the wood (ranging from dark to light and from strong texture to light texture).The foundation for the music is certainly found in the defined ruleset of programming and hardware setup, but the data acquired from every tree interprets this ruleset very differently.” (Traubeck.com)


Rethinked* Annex: Dinners From Around The World Prototype 1.0

Those of you who read my update on rethinked*annex from last week will be aware that I have fully embraced my inner nerd and have come up with a Dinner from Around the World solution to my Rethinking…* the eating experience design thinking challenge. The idea behind this is based on one of the themes that I identified from my observations of the aspects of eating and cooking that are meaningful, enjoyable and important to me. The theme is tradition: I noticed that many of my most memorable eating experiences were embedded in tradition- Christmas feasts, my mother’s crepes for the Chandeleur, my father’s cacio e peppe at the first real chill of fall— but all come from my childhood and I haven’t experienced many of them in a long time.

One Potential Solution that I articulated last week for this theme was to start a dinner from around the world night. This is something that I wanted to do as a kid, when I used to daydream about “grown-up me”. Each week pick a different country, find traditional recipes from that country and make a dinner around it. Matt and I could each do a little research on something intriguing from that country (artists, writers, cultural phenomena etc.) We could then share and discuss our findings with each other over the meal.

I made a very basic prototype of this experience last night. We ordered Sushi that we ate while watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, David Gelb’s documentary on Jiro Ono, owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant and considered one of, if not the best, sushi chefs in the world. (Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is a terrific documentary and highly recommended for anyone interested in notions of craftsmanship, transmission within families, work ethic, food and the quest to reach the ‘next level’.)


Given that the whole point of my redesign is to NOT eat distractedly out of plastic containers hunched over on the couch while watching movies…the part of the prototype that did just that needs to be reworked. Next time if we want to watch a movie for our Dinners From Around the World, we should screen it before dinner and then discuss it sitting down for our meal.

It was a good way to test the idea as a whole. Setting up these weekly dinners seems like a fun idea in theory but would it translate in praxis? It would seem so as both Matt and I enjoyed the experience and had an interesting conversation.

I think the experience could have used a little integrative thinking. While the documentary by itself was great and led to us having an enjoyable and intriguing conversation, I wish we had had another aspect of Japanese culture to integrate with the documentary. That’s why I like the idea of both Matt and I researching one thing each and then sharing over the course of the meal, it seems like it would create an even more fertile environment for fantastic conversation.

Re-Imagine Math

The rethinkED team has been rethinking the way we do math and in some ways it means we’re rethinking how we teach, well, everything. We have in no way been doing this alone. We have been exhaustively working with the math faculty at Riverdale Country School to reap the wisdom of how they face the quintessential disengaged frustrated math student and turn the student’s math experience around..

Through interviews with math teachers and research, the rethinkED team has been uncovering the challenges and set backs of learning and teaching math in schools. We identified many of the hopes and dreams for what math class could look like for teachers.

Next we tackled the research out there on learning math that could help pave the way for a better future in mathematics instruction. In our reading through articles we found questions about whether we should teach algebra at all. And we found vociferous yeses that we should.

We watched inspired math teachers and thinkers talk. Math teacher and blogger Dan Meyer opens his Ted talk saying,“I teach high school math. I sell a product to a market that doesn’t want it, but is forced by law to buy it.” He goes on to expound how students need to learn to build the math problems and that math learning needs to be based on intuition. In essence, the students need to be building the math models in order to use and apply them. He ends his talk saying, “We need more patient problem solvers.”

Similarly, Conrad Wolfram, brother of Steve Wolfram of Wolfram Alpha, in his ted talk speaks passionately about the need to use computers to teach math. He bemoans the fact that all of math education is around simply learning to calculate instead of allowing computers to do the calculations and having students think more creatively. He said students need to learn to ask the right questions, use real world problems, create math problems and see if they work back into the real world. “Math has been liberated from calculating” Conrad says, just the education world doesn’t realize it. What we want, he says, are “people who can feel math intuitively.” Through his presentation he shows how this can be done and why he thinks this must be done.

How do we help students build patience, reflective thinking, a metacognitive sense of their own learning? These questions tie in with some of our other projects as well.

Coming up we are working on organizing a one day workshop for the math faculty at RCS.  Stay tuned for more!

Italo Calvino on rethinking the same things with other words, perhaps ending up on strange ground, far from safe paths

Looks like October 15th is a good day to be born for rethinkers…* Along with Friedrich Nietzsche (1844) & Michel Foucault (1926), the Cuban born Italian writer, Italo Calvino, was born today in 1923. Celebrate with an excerpt from his glorious novel, Mr. Palomar, before heading over to The Guardian to listen to Jeannette Winterson‘s superb reading of Calvino’s short story Night Driver.


The fact is that he would like not so much to affirm a truth of his own as to ask questions, and he realizes that no one wants to abandon the train of his own discourse to answer questions that, coming from another discourse, would necessitate rethinking the same things with other words, perhaps ending up on strange ground, far from safe paths. Or else he would like others to ask him questions; but he, too, would want only certain questions and not others: the ones he would answer by saying the things he feels he can say but could say only if someone asked him to say them.

Source: Calvino, Italo. Mr Palomar. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1983. Print.

Friedrich Nietzsche on Man as the Appraising Animal in Itself…*

A great follow-up to yesterday’s quote from Raymond Williams’ essay, Advertising: The Magic System, from Friedrich Nietzsche–who was born on this day in 1844. Enjoy and rethink…*

The feeling of guilt, of personal obligation–to take up the train of our investigation again–had its origin, as we have seen, in the oldest and most primitive relationship among persons there is, in the relationship between buyer and seller, creditor and debtor: here for the first time person stepped up against person, here for the first time a person measured himself by another person. No degree of civilization however low has yet been discovered in which something of this relationship was not already noticeable. Making prices,  gauging values, thinking out equivalents, exchanging–this preoccupied man’s very first thinking to such an extent that it is in a certain sense thinking itself: here that oldest kind of acumen was bread, here likewise we may suspect the first beginnings of human pride, man’s feeling of pre-eminence with respect to other creatures. Perhaps our word “man” (manas) still expresses precisely something of this self-esteem: man designated himself as the being who measures values, who values and measures, as the “appraising animal in itself.” –Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality

Source: Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morality. Trans. Clark, Maudelaire and Alan J., Swensen. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc, 1998. Print. 45.

Raymond Williams Rethinking Materialism…*

It is often said that our society is too materialist, and that advertising reflects this. We are in the phase of a relatively rapid distribution of what are called ‘consumer goods’, and advertising, with its emphasis on ‘bringing the good things of life’, is taken as central for this reason. But it seems to me that in this respect our society is quite evidently not materialist enough, and that this, paradoxically is the result of a failure in social meaning, values and ideals.

It is impossible to look at modern advertising without realizing that the material object being sold is never enough: this indeed is the crucial cultural quality of its modern forms. If we were sensibly materialist, in that part of our living in which we use things, we should find most advertising to be of an insane irrelevance. Beer would be enough for us, without the additional promise that in drinking it we show ourselves to be manly, young in heart, or neighborly. A washing-machine would be a useful machine to wash clothes, rather than an indication that we are forward-looking or an object of envy to our neighbors. But if these associations sell beer and washing-machines, as some of the evidence suggests, it is clear that we have a cultural pattern in which the objects are not enough but must be validated, if only in fantasy, by association with social and personal meanings which in a different cultural pattern might be more directly available. The short description of the pattern we have is magic: a highly organized and professional system of magical inducements and satisfactions, functionally very similar to magical systems in simpler societies, but rather strangely coexistant with a highly developed scientific technology.

-Raymond Williams, Advertising: The Magic System


Source: Williams, Raymond. “Advertising: The Magic System”. The Advertising and Consumer Culture Reader. Eds. McAllister, Matthew P., and Joseph Turow. New York: Routledge, 2009. 13-24. Print.

Migration Routes: Rethinked’s Editorial Calendar

“I have a compulsion to wander and a compulsion to return—a homing instinct like a migrating bird. True nomads have no fixed home as such; they compensate for this by following unalterable paths of migration.” –Bruce Chatwin, The Nomadic Alternative

{k}no{w}mad is a concept at the core of our identity. We have no offices or contained spaces; we seek to inhabit the moment, finding shelter in ideas, other people and the wonder all around us. As true nomads, our paths of migration, wherever they may take us, always lead us through similar terrains: design, learning, aesthetics, ethics and creativity to name a few. This is why we have established several recurring editorial columns: to highlight new discoveries along our ongoing journeys through various, continually evolving but unalterable obsessions.

…* Daily  (Every day)

Daily rethinking inspiration: Quotes, images, videos or articles that inspired us to question assumptions and experience the ordinary in a slightly different way.

Friday Link Fest (Every Friday)

Your weekly dose of whimsy, inspiration and rethinking material: we bring you the most Rethinked…* worthy articles, talks, videos and images that we shared across our social media platforms during the week.

Rethinked*annex (Every Thursday)

Updates on Elsa Fridman’s adventures and discoveries as she attempts to live out and integrate ideas from design thinking, positive psychology & integrative thinking into her every day.

RethinkED: (Once a week)

Updates on Rethinked’s…* work with the Riverdale Country School.

Teachers & Design: (Every other Wednesday)

Carmen James examines various ways in which to develop creative confidence and accountability through discovery.

Friday Link Fest (October 5-12, 2012)



Digital Darkroom: Printing iPhone Photos Using Traditional Chemical Processes ~ Glorious…* Lincoln, UK-based photographer Adam Rhoades came up with an interesting way of printing digital photographs using analog darkroom processes. By mounting his iPhone (displaying a photo) onto a 35mm enlarger, he’s able to enlarge and focus his digital photograph on photo paper as if it were a negative being projected. via PetaPixel, published Oct 07, 2012.

The Patent, Used as a Sword ~ On how we went from protecting innovation to inhibiting it ~Alongside the impressive technological advances of the last two decades, a pall has descended: the marketplace for new ideas has been corrupted by software patents used as destructive weapons. via The New York Times, published October 7, 2012.

15 New Design Projects Helping Improve Life In NYC ~ Recharging Communities is the current exhibition by New York City based nonprofit, desigNYC. Now three years old, desigNYC has served as a matchmaker for NYC nonprofit organizations with community-focused design needs and creative firms looking to donate their services. The work is presented in two categories, Communications Design and Built Environment Design. The collaboration solutions draw from a wide range of design disciplines including UX, print, environmental graphics, interior design, architecture, and urban planning. The overall goal with each is to improve the lives of residents and visitors to New York City through community responsive design.via PSFK, published October 9, 2012.

The No. 1 Enemy of Creativity: Fear of Failure ~ Entrepreneurs and designers think of failure the way most people think of learning. via Harvard Business Review, published October 5, 2012.


Tiny Cameras Mounted to Birds Capture What Life is Like With Wings ~For nearly half a decade now, filmmaker John Downer has been pioneering the use of tiny cameras to capture photographs and videos from a bird’s-eye view — literally. He attaches extremely small and light HD cameras to the backs of birds in order to capture incredible point-of-view imagery of the animals going about their day-to-day lives. via PetaPixel.com, published Oct 07, 2012.

Imprint Culture Lab 2008: Kenya Hara Keynote Address ~ Kenya Hara on meaning and emptiness. via YouTube, published Jan 5, 2009.


Infographic: Mapping The 70-Year Gestation Of Street Art~ Daniel Feral is the creator of the eponymous Feral Diagram, a map that revises the role of graffiti and street art in the canon of modern art. From Feral’s perspective, graffiti and street art have been critical drivers of the art world for well nigh 40 years now. Framing them as “outsider art” is not only lazy, but incorrect. As an alternative, Feral has literally redrawn art history, showing how 1960s graffiti and street art emerged from major mainstream movements, from Pop Art and the Situationists to 1940s Art Brut. By way of looping arrows and signs, he also demonstrates how street art evolved, conceptually, alongside the likes of Gordon Matta-Clark and Jenny Holzer. And thankfully, Feral also parses out the boilerplate-in-their-own-right terms, “graffiti and street art,” into specific groups and movements, like Wildstyle and Otaku-tinged Childstyle. via FastCo.Design, published October 3, 2012.

Curious Upside-Down Portraits Showing the Stress of Unemployment ~ Spanish photographer Marc Vicens wanted to capture the stress and pain of the ongoing economic crisis, so he found a bunch of unemployed people and asked them to hang upside-down for right-side-up portraits. His goal of the series, titled “Hanging,” was to creatively portray the feeling of anxiety that dominates the daily life of these individuals. via PetaPixel, published Oct 10, 2012.

1,664 Reused Yoghurt Pots + Bucket Loads of Creativity = Stunning Light Installation ~ Named the MilkyWave, Aidia Studios’ light installation might sound strange but you only have to take one look to see how – with a touch of creativity – truly beautiful yoghurt pots can in fact be. Finding inspiration from the ceramic yogurt pot as a quintessential part of Chinese life and focusing upon the beauty found in redefining the way you view an otherwise everyday object, to say that Aidia studio are a talented bunch would be somewhat of an understatement. via It’s Nice That, published October 10, 2012


The Silent History ~The Silent History is a novel, written and designed specially for iPad and iPhone, that uses serialization, exploration, and collaboration to tell the story of a generation of unusual children. 6 months of daily smart & intriguing entertainment for $8.99? Yes, please! via TheSilentHistory.com.

Phone Story ~ As clever as it is depressing, Phone Story is a game for smartphone devices that attempts to provoke a critical reflection on its own technological platform. Under the shiny surface of our electronic gadgets, behind its polished interface, hides the product of a troubling supply chain that stretches across the globe. All of the revenues raised go directly to workers’ organizations and other non-profits that are working to stop the horrors represented in the game. via PhoneStory.org.

Comme Des Garçons’ Rei Kawabuko on Creativity, Freedom & the Spirit of Defiance


In honor of Rei Kawabuko‘s birthday today, we have assembled some quotes of hers on art, creation, freedom and fashion. Enjoy & rethink…*

“The main pillar of my activity is making clothes, but this can never be the perfect and only vehicle of expression. I am always thinking of the total idea, and the context of everything. Fashion alone is so far from being the whole story. It seems that with fashion, as with art, things are getting easier in one sense, but at the same time it is getting harder to be stimulated about things or excite people. Without that impetus of creation, progress is not possible. All kinds of ways of expression are spreading out all over the place, information is overflowing, and it’s harder and harder to be excited about anything. In order to be stimulated or moved in the future, we probably have to go into space and look at our world from there.”

“What do I think is an unyielding spirit? It would be wonderful if everyone had it in equal measure. But it’s impossible. This defiant mentality can also be called the fight against absurdity and injustice and the power (authority) that thrives around it (that is rampant). One cannot fight the battle without freedom. I think the best way to fight that battle, which equals the unyielding spirit, is in the realm of creation. That’s exactly why freedom and the spirit of defiance is the source (fountainhead) of my energy.”

(Source for the two quotes listed above AnOther Magazine )

“Since we are in the business of fashion, deadlines are normal. I can’t say if they help or hinder me.”

“Creation takes things forward. Without anything new there is no progress. Creation equals new.”

“Feeling free inside oneself is being free.”

“Fashion is not art. The aims of fashion and art are different and there is no need to compare them.”

(Source for the four quotes listed above Interview Magazine)

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