Should Twitter Win the Nobel Peace Prize?

Mark Pfeifle, a former U.S. national-security adviser thinks Twitter’s role in helping students in Tehran organize a protest against the Iranian government deserves the prestigious award.  Are we moving into an age where social change and activism begin with a tweet?

Malcolm Gladwell in his New Yorker article “Small Change”, shuns this notion because of the inherently weak social ties found online.  He writes, “Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with.”

Gladwell believes that historically, activism is based on strong relationships with fellow revolutionists, a facet not usually present online.  Real social change, like the kind of change that happened during civil rights movement, requires deep, personal relationships that just can’t be formed online.

Social media, however, does offer a positive contribution to social change.  Mark Granovetter observes; “Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information, and is…  Social media is “terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions…”  The idea for the next revolution, just might be in one’s digital network.

Gladwell summarizes by writing, “[Social media] shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact.”

As AC4D works to create social change, and maybe even a design revolution, focusing on building a social media network is important for cultivating new ideas and finding out what other  social innovators are doing. But if we’re looking for a real revolution, we’re not going to find it in a retweet.

Resource: 5 simple steps for grids&5 for typography

For our pitching practice on Saturday, I got some points for having pretty slides. Visual aesthetics do matter—and most fundamentally so that there is hierarchy to your information, which makes it easier for someone else to ingest.

For those new to thinking about visual design, those who want a refresher crash course, or those who have ever wondered what the heck “golden section” actually means, I will refer you to Mark Boulton, who writes a great “Five Simple Steps” series.

Five Simple Steps to Designing Grid Systems

Five Simple Steps to Better Typography (fundamentals geared toward improving type on the web in general).

I expect similar assistance finding useful and accessible “get your head in the game” type resources when we start to talk about learning code.

Sample Design Research Work Models

Wheeeee, we’re reached the messy, fraught process of design research where we have to take all our data and synthesize it. Data into insights. One method: modeling: not catwalk modeling, data modeling. Taking contextual inquiry transcripts line by line and drawing it out—to figure out the relationships between people and other people, people and objects, people and organizations, etc.

Kristine and I dove in Sunday.

I also like looking at examples while I work. So here are other people’s design research models I’ve found online.


From International Journal of Design article about “Social Interaction Design in Cultural Contexts.” They studied tea-drinking:

From Peepal Design’s (UX Design and Research) tools and methods about page:

From article by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt in International Journal of Design (not the prettiest):

CULTURAL MODELSThese are weird, eh? There are some “bad” ones in our textbook–as in they look too complex for me to even try to figure out what they mean. Some prettier ones:

From same Tea article in IJD:

What happens when 5 CMU HCI masters students volunteer to conduct user research for Bugzilla (for credit in Usability Methods class):

Hope they are helpful during these trying times of design synthesis.

Want to follow the progress of our students?

We’re more than halfway through our first quarter, and our students are thriving. You can follow their individual blogs to see a bit about the work we’re covering, and to look at some of their research, watch them learn to pitch, and get a feeling for the type of culture at AC4D. Design education isn’t just about knowledge acquisition, though; emotional growth and a deep reflection on cultural significance is critical to learning how to think and act like a designer. To formalize this reflection, we ask our students to answer two questions each week: What did you learn? How do you feel?

You can view some of the most recent answers here:

(And yeah, I did one too 😛 You can watch it here.)

I'm Chap. I start businesses. Let's get together.

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Reframing"Luddite"&"elitist"charges against foodies

Just a couple links to think about in relation to our current food systems and the foodies out there, and I would argue you could probably replace the word “food” with “technology” and other things as well. I fall into these traps of thinking or labeling or prejudging sometimes, and often it’s helpful to check myself and my thinking.

illustration by Victo Ngai


It’s pretty easy to consider those who have the means to shell out money for good organic food a foodie, and worse a foodie elitist. Let’s reframe that. These foodies are leading the way, showing how things can be if we stop buying processed food, start eating real food again. I don’t agree with the author’s point about CSA subscribers also chipping in to pay for extra subscriptions for low-income families as a solution to getting organic food into our communities. But I do agree that we shouldn’t make people feel guilty for paying “more” for better food if they can afford it.

To suggest that advocating for such a change makes me an elitist is to disparage positive decision making and behavior…The victim mentality our culture encourages actually induces guilt among people making progress. That’s crazy. We should applaud positive behavior and encourage others to follow suit, not demonize and discourage it. Would it be better to applaud people who buy amalgamated, reconstituted, fumigated, irradiated, genetically modified industrial garbage?


At the same time, some people (including myself) are guilty of romanticizing the past “when we all had time to cook” or “when we didn’t have all these internet distractions.” It’s good to get a reality check sometimes and realize that in many ways, we are much better off now with our industrialized food than we were “back then.” It’s just an evolution of the processes in our lives, and while the core messages of the Slow Food movement may be applauded, it’s actually counterproductive to automatically malign certain technological advances that have given us fast food and mass production and whatever else. Let’s look forward instead of looking backward, says Rachel Laudan for Utne Reader.

Culinary Luddites are right, though, about two important things: We need to know how to prepare good food, and we need a culinary ethos. As far as good food goes, they’ve done us all a service by teaching us how to use the bounty delivered to us by (ironically) the global economy. Their ethos, though, is another matter. Were we able to turn back the clock, as they urge, most of us would be toiling all day in the fields or the kitchen; many of us would be starving.

Nostalgia is not what we need. What we need is an ethos that comes to terms with contemporary, industrialized food, not one that dismisses it; an ethos that opens choices for everyone, not one that closes them for many so that a few may enjoy their labor; and an ethos that does not prejudge, but decides case by case when natural is preferable to processed, fresh to preserved, old to new, slow to fast, artisanal to industrial. Such an ethos, and not a timorous Luddism, is what will impel us to create the matchless modern cuisines appropriate to our time.

Chew on that bit of nuance for awhile.