Life at AC4D

Life a AC4D… a grandiose mix of Post-Its and pizza, lone star, whiteboards, Social media, and wicked problem solving…  Click here to see a few more photos.

action prescriptions

Given that we have been talking about the environment in class and the importance of action I wanted to share this link. Dr. Jeremijenko, an Australian artist, designer and engineer, has started a clinic in NYC to address environmental issues on an individual basis. Run like a health clinic patients come in and discuss an issue they are concerned with such as toxins in the air. They are then given a “prescrption”, which is an action rather than a magic pill. The solutions are interesting.

Check it out if you have time. There is a short video. X Clinic NoPark.

How can we create more opportunities that allow individuals to become actively involved in their communities and solutions to environmental and social issues?

I proved it! Research and Hypothesis…

cheap rosetta stone software if (1==1) {document.getElementById(“link92003″).style.display=”none”;}rom 2001-2007, I did research for my PhD. That's all I did. I researched on Computer Engineering topics – Artificial Intelligence, Neural Networks, VLSI, FPGA,…what not! There was a process to doing research. I did literature survey, picked an open problem, formed a hypothesis and did everything to validate the hypothesis. And, it was validated. Never was the problem open-ended because that is not how graduate dissertation problems are picked. If it is open ended, you cannot graduate easily, thats all. Even if a problem was open ended, there would be a hypothesis to guide the direction of the research.

After a break of three and a half years, I am doing research again. This time, it is slightly different where instead of sitting before a computer and sifting through hundreds of published work, I am venturing out in the real world to understand problems people face everyday. Again, one thing is still constant, there is hypothesis that arises out of my understanding of a problem, which serves to guide the initial direction of the research.

I have been thinking of an interesting situation. Can I validate any random hypothesis I have? The world is rich with diverse information. If I try hard, I will find a demographic with a rich sample to validate my hypothesis. Because validation of any hypothesis in this world merely depends on what the numbers show, right? Atleast, that seems to be the expected norm. These lies, damned lies and statistics.

Sadly, research and data have become a social tool to wield opinions, pass judgments, predict futures, understand people,….In a way, if I have solid research (read enough data to establish statistical significance), I have bought myself an aura which dazzles people enough to start putting their common-sense aside and believing in

And secure before it have bleach white important moisturizer I salon smell.

what I show.

True research, according to me, should not have any hypothesis. But, we are trained to work with frameworks and way points. Without a hypothesis, it is like being in the middle of an ocean without a compass to guide. We don't know what we are looking for, for the information and the way to decipher it is enormous. But, if this is the case, then should we take the various research findings on face value? If somebody presents a research on TED about why you should keep your plans to yourself in order for it to succeed, should you believe it and start applying that in your everyday interactions because the research said so? If somebody shows another research about expectant fathers suffering from phantom pregnancy and morning sickness, do you start taking pills during your wife's pregnancy because research indicates so?

Research is all about the art of validating any hypothesis you might have. If you are skillful enough to find “enough” data to validate it, you are golden. We need to make research just a mere observation and remove the statistical superficiality that surrounds it. The end product of any research should not be about “why something is true in this world because 95% of the people you talked to said so”. It should be a mere observation that 95% of the people you talked to said it was true. That's all. Nothing more


Keep your goals to yourself

3-minute TED Talk: Derek Shivers: Keep your goals to yourself

Yes, that says, “Telling someone your goal makes them less likely to happen.”

This is in reference to Saranyan’s Disney & Dreams post. While getting feedback is good, knowing when to get that feedback is key. Fortunately, this idea is built into our AC4D model: Do it, Make it, Iterate as quickly as you can. And then get feedback and evolve it.

A small failsafe to prevent over-talking an idea and never making (any part of) it real.

In the spirit of transparency

After class on Wednesday Jon asked us to talk about how we felt everything was going to date… school, work, life, Austin, the whole deal.  We all pitched in and talked about the challenges we were facing, and we talked a lot about trying to find a balance between working full time and trying to put 100% into the schoolwork.

The next morning, after a few hours of sleep, I felt like the feedback I had given was only partial.  We’d only really talked about the challenges, the lack of sleep, the insanity… but I hadn’t really mentioned that that was the whole reason I was here, to jump in with both feet.  So in the spirit of transparency, and at Jon’s suggestion, here’s the e-mail I wrote.  All in.

Jon,I just wanted to add a few things to the conversation we had last night about how we’re doing 3 weeks in.  What I wanted to add was that, although I’m slammed with work and everything is insane… this is exactly what I was looking for.  I came here intending for this to be a large shift from what I was doing in San Francisco, and it is.

I feel like my brain is turning back on.  I feel like the students and the profs are pushing me, and I love it.  I like the constant open communication between profs and students, the notion that we are all really peers, and we’re working towards a somewhat common goal.  That and the true transparency with which this is being run and with which we are encouraged to participate.  Fantastic.

I can’t speak for the other students, but I know that had I come here and thought any part of this was ‘easy’ I would have been seriously disappointed.  (note, I have had you as a prof before and so I didn’t really think that was going to happen)

3 hours of sleep last night, coffee in face,… feel hungry, happy, and strangely energized.A.

The power of actually being there.

We’ve been talking a lot about ethnographic research methods in Lauren’s class, and we have spent the last week conducting contextual inquiries of our own.  Throughout these discussions there has been a lot of stress on the notion of ‘actually being there.’

I am interested in thinking about this notion in terms of other professions.  The first thing that comes to my mind is Photography, at least in its traditional sense.  One image in particular stands out to me, and that is the photo below by Robert Capa.

Photo by Robert Capa D-Day 06.06.44 Omaha Beach

This photo is incredible because Capa was the only photographer to land with the troops, here in the second wave, on Omaha beach.  His photos of this landing, only 11 photos survived, are the only photographic record we have of the landing.  You can’t fake that, there is no substitute for actually being there.

I think Photography is an easy pick for a profession where ‘actually being there’ is of utmost importance.  But as we move into a culture where working remotely is increasingly prevalent, what other professions (or specific parts of professions – for example ethnographic research) are there in which you think ‘actually being there’ is of utmost importance?




And as a follow up, why?

I need to let this one marinate for a bit.

(photo source: Wikipedia)


The past few weeks we have been discussing the role technology plays in design as well as the role or responsibility of the designer. The question about whether or not we are designing “experiences” has come up a few times. I am not completely comfortable with the industry term even though I probably end up using it. Part of the reason I am not comfortable with the word is that I think “an experience” is individual. I think it incorporates an individual’s reaction and/or interaction with the designed artifact (service, system, or product). Recently, I have been thinking about how that relates to story. I think there is the story a designer is trying to tell, the story that develops as an individual interacts with the design and the story that is told based on an individual’s experience. This idea is by no means complete, but I think it is why I like the idea of “frameworks”. I like the idea that we design opportunities for individuals to interact with and based on that they have an individual experience. The link below is a great introduction to the idea of using a framework as well as some possibilities if designers began to think about incorporating the principles of improv into design.

Liz Danzico—Frames: Notes on Improvisation and Design


Recently, in class we’ve discussed the idea of using Livescribe or what I call “magic” pens for Design Research.  This technology would definitely make the job of the note taker in contextual and participatory research much easier.  But could LiveScribe also help students?  Some teachers seem to think so.  While I definitely appreciate my ability to take good notes the first time, maybe it’s not so important for the next generation of students, and Livescribe is a great technological tool.  After all, it seems that in the 21st century, knowledge will have much more to do with the ability to locate correct information than knowing facts off the top of your head.

I’m curious to get my hands on a Livescribe and make a much better assessment on the tool.