Just finished this book
The 4 year Industrial Design Program is a progression in 3 stages: The Lower Pool, The Upper Pool and the Premajor/Major.
The Lower Pool: The first stage lasts for three semesters. In this period the student leaves behind the ways of the school- chiefly strategic learning, or learning by guessing what the teacher wants – and begins the process of developing her/his creativity and problem solving skills. And also the crucial skills of communication and realising their thinking in material form. Students in this phase talk of the idea of design they came into uni with – and how it had all changed. In this phase design studies takes you through the realms of: Cultural Amplification, then Networks-Rhizomes-Communities and finally with Sustainability. In this phase Chijoff got to make his now famous car in semester two CAD – and he went on to win the 6K prize for best model from VACC. Students leave this stage competent – and eager to challenge themselves in the hurly burly of the upper pool studios.
The Upper Pool: The second stage lasts three semesters. Uni assumes the student is accomplished and ready to take the plunge into a host of design situations. In this stage the student faces options – many studios, many electives and then the opportunity to study abroad. This is unique to RMIT Industrial Design – and demonstrates that the uni has faith in the student and trusts her/him to construct their own meaning of design. A meaning that is unique- and that may include studios in Architecture, Interior, Landscape Arch or Fashion. William Golding pushed himself to do do an Interior design studio then a SIAL studio and then took himself off on an RMIT-Japan stint. This semester we have added ‘invitational’ studios in this stage: Catalyst is doing the Knog studio – and by all accounts students are getting a taste of ‘product design’ and being pushed for it; also Cobalt Niche is doing the Tram Elective – and that has its own excited students’ cohort. Students in this phase talk of being wise with their choice of three studios; and Rob talked of how Mick’s studio changed everything for him. And how he knows & is clear he does not want to do designs of things. This is a stage of self discovery above all – who am I and what am I excited about in the world of design. At the end of this stage students are ready to leave behind their search and exploration of the different kinds of pathways that exist for the practice of design. They are willing to embark on their own and unique construction of the meaning of design, and what they will continue as their unique contribution to the profession. This sounds hugely arrogant – but then that is the uniqueness of the RMIT program. Its about you in a fundamental way and everything else is second.
The PreMajor/ Major: The last stage is of two semesters. This is the stage of Mastery, this is the stage where the student leaves behind their groping for meanings and reliance on the tutor to tell them what to do. Where they leave behind their role playing as ‘I am at Uni, and its not my responsibility’ to move on to ‘if I am given one chance to show off my capability here is what I will do’. This stage is crucially about Individual Self Reliance and the ability of each individual to get totally excited about a project they have dreamed up. In that sense this is also the stage at which the student has to address issues of core competencies and their ability to perform as independent designers. Where they are not REACTIVE but fundamentally CREATIVE. Where they do not wait to be told what to do but have a contribution to make – because they know how things ought to be, or are irritated by the way things are and wish to make a change. Seen from the outside the students in this stage look driven, excited and hungering for a chance for making radical innovations. They propose, they reflect, and they execute systematically. They have taken in this way a shot at seeing themselves function as leaders. They have realised their true potential and become ready to put their design education behind.
I am pushing you to look back – to see the different stages in your evolution, in your education in the program. I am asking for you to reflect, for you to cut free and be true to yourself. I am asking you to take charge. I am asking you to see the uni as that forrest, that wave, that city and that terrain; upon which you explore; upon which you test yourself, where you find yourself; and ultimately which makes you uniquely robust, clear and motivated. I am asking you to see the topology of the program in this way – three stages – and in that way I am asking you to see your growth thru the program as containing these three stages.
And in this will be a tremendous validation of your self worth. So be true, be honest and give it your all.
(Posted 5th May 2006, in the PreMajor Blog)
I have come to the stage of the book where Jiang Qing suspects Mao of having syphillis. I am also keen to know what really happened to her and so have checked up on events till 1991 when she commits suicide. I have also seen pics of her and the single/ lone poster she appears in. Such a tragic life I am tempted to say – but then I retract and say ‘such a costly life’. Is’nt this the way of all who seek unbridled power.
On another point: Mao and the inner circle move into the Forbidden City and occupy the palaces of the Emperors. This is the same as 1947 in India when the politicians move into the colonial mansions. This simple act transforms the possibility of change- and dialogue. The space, the very symbolism of the act of occupying the space vacated, transforms the occupier and pushes for continuity. No radical break is possible. The old reclaims its loss and exerts a subtle pull. And the new emperor is created.
I have seen these books in the book shops and have been tempted to delve into them. But have drawn back after reading just the blurbs. The time was not right. I am now beginning my reading. First contemporary works:
Revisiting the 30s
I started yesterday. First I learned to count from 1 to 10. And now a day later I can recite the numbers one to ten, though I keep tripping up with Japanese: ichi, nee, san.
Chinese I wrote: ee, aaa, san, sir, ooo, neui, chee, ba, joe, shur
I then found all these audio books on line: And ahve now 23 lessons from Serge on conversational Chinese.
I also listened to Mandarin Radio. This is my immersion, I also need to watch mandarin movies and get familiar with the sounds.
I am finding the intonation slightly embarassing. Classic probelm that I had with my Japanese.
By September I should be comfortable with functional Chinese.
The project will be to get all this at a basic level:
2. Basic Kanji characters
3. Food terms
5. Basic PC
And then continue my readings of books on China.
I have reached the point where Omar Khayyam has died and the chronichler emerges. And this is just halfway through the book. The culture that Amin amplifies have interesting resonances – both in the way popular myths emerge and in the way histrinas can pick up on dominant themes. And so AM goes – The Manuscript concludes, ” When the times of hardship came to pass, none could stop his course, none could run away from him, some were able to take advantage (of this chaos).”
From an online review:
What about the manuscript of Samarkand, Omar’s “secret” Rubaiyat? They will accompany Persia in its long journey to find itself, a journey that will span both space and time. It will accompany Omar along his soul searching in the old East. Vartan, the Armenian Nizami who arranged for Omar’s flight to safety, will record the circumstances of its writing. It will be taken to Alamout to be preserved for the next century or so in Hasan Sabah most private quarter, only to emerge with the coming of the “Mahdi”, the Messiah, a great grand son of Hasan that will grant his followers the “promised paradise” and quit once and for all his grand father’s ways.
The manuscript will disappear with the Tatar invasions and desctruction of Alamout’s fort. It will re-appear in the nineteenth century, first accompagning Afghani and later in the hands of a Persian Princess and her American lover. The book will drown with the Titanic. Is this sound history or mere fiction?
Is Maalouf trying, in metaphoric manner, to show three possible pictures of Islam: “Official”, “Secular”, “Religious-Extreme”? Can the parallels stand knowing the backgrounds of Nizam, Omar, and Hasan?
If there has to be growth, then there has to be production and commerce. Consumption is a consequence of growth, a manifestation. If people have to buy, acknowledging thereby the social nature of consumption, then the options do come in. However the spectrum has to be sketched out. And these are choices – so “from renunciation to gluttony”. Am I then saying that to work on consumption we need to look at gluttony? Yes, and the tinkering with ‘lifestyle’ choices is quite irrelevant. That part of the discourse is fat and overpopulated.
The environmentalist’s take on sustainability is reactive to current policy – and accepting of the way we live in cities.
If there were no cities then we wouldn’t have an urban discourse of consumption and we wouldnt have the centralized voyeuristic practicesof reaching out for yet another thing. And we also wouldn’t have the discourse of design that is things for high street.
If we all renounce? Will we have food for everyone? Probably not. There probably is not enough space – and so we do need congested cities. And the heightened frenzy of night life, and sugar hits.
Edited by Tim Jackson, University of Surrey, UK
NOT YET PUBLISHED – Pre-order your copy today!
• A highly accessible yet comprehensive collection of writings from the world’s foremost thinkers on the subject
• Sustainable Consumption is a topical, multidisciplinary field and a vital component of current debates about sustainable development
• A topic with rapidly growing institutional and academic interest
Politically, intellectually and socially, sustainable consumption is a controversial concept. Consumption drives our economies and defines our lives: making it sustainable is an enormous and essential challenge. It was a key subject covered at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, which set in place a 10-year programme of effort by national governments to develop strategies for sustainable consumption and production. The problem of how to influence consumer behaviour in the direction of more sustainable choices continues to challenge both opinion formers and policy makers alike.
This book provides a coherent synthesis of key contributions to the literature on consumption and sustainability, comprising a substantive collection of selected papers and extracts from books, journals and institutional publications. Presented with a comprehensive introductory overview written by the editor, the Reader also provides an invaluable ‘route map’ through the complex intellectual terrain relevant to the pursuit of sustainable consumption.
Tim Jackson is Professor of Sustainable Development at the Centre for Environmental Strategy (CES) in the University of Surrey. He has provided input and advice on sustainable consumption to a wide variety of UK government departments, policy makers, opinion formers and NGOs.
Part One: Framing Sustainable Consumption Part Two: Resisting Consumerism Part Three: Understanding Consumers Part Four: Re-Framing Sustainable Consumption
Pb £22.95 ISBN 1844071642
Hb £80.00 ISBN 1844071650
Publication date July 2006
You will receive an email confirming your pre-order which you can amend or cancel at any time, payment will be taken once the book is published and dispatched. Publication dates are subject to change.
368 pages; 234 x 156mm; Tables, figures
Years ago the sheel scenario thinking approach spawned many specific ways of going into complex problem solving. And this migrated into the business theory area. First Back Casting by Philip V, and then the method_U by Generon/ Kahane. These methods have now got codified and have case studies explaining the way. The entry into this territory has become possible. Scenario Planning Resources (link above) is a very good resource into this area.
The Death of Environmentalism: Global warming politics in a post-environmental world By Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus (2005 report)
Why, for instance, is a human-made phenomenon like global warming — which may kill hundreds of millions of human beings over the next century — considered “environmental”? Why are poverty and war not considered environmental problems while global warming is? What are the implications of framing global warming as an environmental problem – and handing off the responsibility for dealing with it to “environmentalists”?
Some believe that this framing is a political, and not just conceptual, problem. “When we use the term ‘environment’ it makes it seem as if the problem is ‘out there’ and we need to ‘fix it,’” said Susan Clark, Executive Director of the Columbia Foundation, who believes the Environmental Grantmakers Association should change its name. “The problem is not external to us; it’s us. It’s a human problem having to do with how we organize our society. This old way of thinking isn’t anyone’s fault, but it is all of our responsibility to change.”
Environmentalism emerges as a people sided discourse:
But what are the obstacles to removing carbon from the atmosphere?
Consider what would happen if we identified the obstacles as:
1. The radical right’s control of all three branches of the US government.
2. Trade policies that undermine environmental protections.
3. Our failure to articulate an inspiring and positive vision.
5. The influence of money in American politics.
6. Our inability to craft legislative proposals that shape the debate around core American values.
8. Old assumptions about what the problem is and what it isn’t
The Book was quite an eyeopener on the contruct of the ‘durbar’. The durbar idea gets exported and forms the basis of the governence model in the middle east, Australia and Canada.
1. At the same time, there developed among sections of the elite a more romantic attachment to Empire as the last repository of the kinds of traditional hierarchies that were disappearing at home. For many within the ruling class, Cannadine observes, society overseas was ‘actually better’ than that at home – ‘purer, more stable, more paternal, less corrupted’.
2. How ironic, Nehru once observed, that the representatives of the dynamic, progressive West should ally themselves with the most conservative and oppressive elements of the backward East.
1. David Cannadine chronicled the rise and fall of the British hierarchal system. According to him, the system was as its height between 1850 and 1950. Though mostly internal, the system became visible through ornamentalism meaning primarily that those at the top of the hierarchy were celebrated with grand titles, parades, celebrations, etc.
The Things People Own project for the first year students is a Studies/ H&T project called the SPENDING HABITS STUDY.
It has the following parts:
1. Theoretical exploration of Sustainable Consumption. Lectures, handouts, and simulation/ group dicussions.
2. SC reader/ UNESCO Sus Con 4 kids to be made available to the students.
3. The Course Plan:
Part 1 (Provocation),
Part 2 (Spending habits field study, ending in an object catalog),
Part 3 (Spending Habits Board Game)
“We have won China and have moved into the forbidden city’
Children and indigenous populations have a significant role to play in forming new ways for the community to appreciate city localities and suburbs.
They both offer approaches for relating in emotional and intense ways to their surroundings. These ‘ways’ are significant for one approach towards a sustainable way of life.
The maps, by highlighting the ecological, cultural, emotional and empathetic aspects of sites in localities can transform how people lead their lives and the choices they make.
The maps provide others ways for people to connect with their surroundings and from this, they can build choices of how to spend their time and money in sustainable ways into their lives.
The main goals of the project are to develop 11 green maps which make obvious the available choices for sustainable practice and living. Development of the Green Maps will involve 11 city councils and various community organizations.
Each map will be developed in collaboration with groups and stakeholders drawn from local communities. A particular focus will be to involve schools by conducting classroom workshops with children.
The key aims of the project are to share knowledge about sustainable approaches and consumption practices, and to promote the sustainable features and resources of individual localities to the community.
The benefits of the project will be to:
• Help citizens of all ages identify, promote and link to their communities ecological and cultural resources
• Build inclusive networks that encourage civic participation and accelerate progress towards individual sustainable practices
• Promote modern greening efforts underway across the globe and in Melbourne
• Celebrate the beauty, brilliance and diversity of nature, while making our hometowns better and healthier places.
• Offer a fresh perspective in viewing the local area by encouraging the discovery, personal involvement and greener everyday choices provided in the shared visual language of green map icons in each ‘locally created’ green map
It is two years today from my taking over as Program Director. In this period I have worked with a view to make the program and the program community truly world class. My first task was to demonstrate leadership and quality in the local Australian context. The next task will be to demonstrate that the program is truly unique and at the forefront of academics in Industrial Design. This task requires that the unique contributions of all members of the community come together to form a whole that is startlingly innovative as a take on contemporary design challenges. You have done quite a bit in the recent past and I have carried your work, in that by now famous pathways presentation, to many audiences and made claims to excellence. I have seen audiences respond with admiration of the work being done by you and your students. I have seen respect in their eyes and in a recent forum, amazement at the capabilities of the students to challenge reigning paradigms in sustain-ability. I see the work, the agency and the performance and I am proud to belong to such a community of academics. Good on you all.
But like in every community it never ends. A lot more needs to be done, both in the short term and for a robust sustainable future. A significant and crucial aspect that has contributed to the change and improvement in the culture and practice of Industrial Design here is trust. I have been able to do a lot because I have your trust, and you have often showed me that you had faith in what I was doing. When I look around today I see that many of you have faith that I am working with your best interests at heart. So I am emboldened and would like to take this opportunity to place before you some of the critical challenges facing academics and the program today.
You asked me Denis for the vision and I said I did not have one. What I was saying was two things; (a) I have to silence my vision for the vision (read arrogance) of each of you to grow and flourish and (b) that as PD I was the gardener, the collector of visions, and the dreamer. I may shy away from articulating one strategic vision – but I have worked to give you something else: an honest realization of the nature of the context in which we operate, a discussion of the spirit of the academic that society today values, and a way towards a broader, more inclusive and accepting, meaning of both what we do and the community of practice we represent.
You are a teacher
As you know the program has received a T&L award for the learner centred project. This award is significant as it says that what we are doing with our students is excellent. It is in a sense a validation of what I will label here excellence in T&L practices. We are now being asked to consider propagating these practices and to train other programs and other portfolios in these practices. We will be doing this – infecting the external community with our realizations and discoveries – during the next year.
A crucial aspect of learner centredness that strongly influences the academic climate of the program is the practice of ‘letting go’ as teacher. As a teacher, when you ‘let go’ of your students, they can better gain independence and honesty in their learning endeavours. You can then see yourself as not just a ‘teacher of UG students’ but as an intellectual and academic in a university. This marks a big shift in a climate where design academies are still tied to the paradigm of training that was the norm in the last century.
I am not an advocate of education as training or one to see our task at university as that of preparing students for a work force. It will be 20 years this January from the time I first began my teaching career. In those days I was obsessed with Neil Postman, the Berkeley riots of 68, SDS and Kishore Bharati. Education was not about content – as Agehananda Bharati said in the Ochre Robe. And I practiced it – the focus upon the growth of each individual student; 65 students and just me in the class in those days. The rewards were quite heart warming and I still believe in each individual student. As Makarand (graduate from 1997) said after the lecture in Delhi two weeks ago; ‘you know, you haven’t changed at all’.
Academics do not work for money; they work for more; for awards and commendation. As people who can influence the minds of many, they have a potential power that may not be overt. Recognition of the responsibilities that accompany this power is humbling for any academic because with this recognition comes the knowledge that you have to be careful not to convert student awe into ridicule. You have a duty to protect their awe and direct it so that as students and learners they can utilize the energy for their growth. There is one constant in the life of an academic– disappointment – and you will be sorely tested for your ability to handle disappointment. In addition, your ability to sense disappointment in your students’ eyes will help you make each student’s learning experience valuable.
The ‘Three things’
Late last year I received my promotion to A/Prof from Senior Lecturer (It is another matter that I have been A/Prof from 1994-2003 in IIT Delhi). The process of applying for promotion required me to write my portfolio. The portfolio has three significant parts: the T&L portfolio, the Research Portfolio and the Leadership portfolio. In my portfolio when I had to give a relative weighting to these three areas of activity. I chose an almost equal split, that is T&L; 30 %, Research; 30% and Leadership; 40% (check this). Had I seen myself primarily as a teacher (my proportions would have read teaching; 80%, R; 10%, leadership; 10%) or as a PD (T&L; 10%, R; 10% and L; 80%) I would not have been able to get very far with the portfolio. The accepted proportion is an almost equal split between the three.
See this site (http://users.tce.rmit.edu.au/Soumitri.Varadarajan/index.htm) for the extracts from my portfolio: After a number of attempts, I chose to just do the portfolio in a way I was comfortable with. My portfolio is an unorthodox one and it was a risk not to take a more acceptable approach of claims and enumeration. I am willing to show you my portfolio for your reading and to help you with keeping your career goals aligned to the accepted notions of excellence within academia the world over.
On setting up research
The Industrial Design (ID) program group at RMIT has the academic responsibility of uniquely defining the meaning of research. This is a responsibility to the larger pool of ID. Historically many groups and universities have accepted a modified version of the science wallahs privileging of research. An adapted/ adopted form of this carried the name/ sobriquet Practice Based Research (quite a strong tendency in Nursing and patient care). This option is available to you, as is the straight scientific paradigm of research. What I would like you to consider here is what I spoke for in the CHASS committee. Industrial Design is a pluralistic profession – and some contexts of practice look like technology/science/SET, some look like business (Design for Industry – DFI), some look like humanities (ethnography in social science) and often the practice of our graduates and ourselves is akin to the professional/practitioner of art, for example, music/ painting. I have argued for the privileging of multiple meanings and paradigms. It is in pursuance of this goal that I have asked you – eg in your recent workplan coaching – to consider DEST (classical meaning), but to be more reflective and see what is natural within the practice of ID. Industrial consultancy is big as well as the scope of exhibitions and seminars/conferences. Involvement in these areas is activity you can do. But you can do also conference papers if you are so inclined. CHASS picks up your larger contribution to the community, the impact, if you define the meaning of your practices being community work. I urge you therefore to align the focus of your work so that it displays excellence and is something you believe in. It doesn’t have to be something you do because it is required. As an academic, you have to write – there is no getting away from it. I am offering to join and support you in writing your first papers, and today have many such collaborative papers underway.
Historically we have cross-subsidized research (masters, PG supervision) by allowing staff to reduce their UG teaching loads and getting sessionals to teaching our UG students. This is a workable model and is how senior staff members in architecture manage to do grants based research. In the short term we are not to be permitted this luxury – this may be an oversight/mistake in the budget planing process – or may be a genuine situation of an inability to support a research culture financially. My response to this situation at the local level is to re-emphasise the importance of your pathway based existence in the program. In this, I recognise that I have urged that you do a minimum of 12 hrs of undergraduate teaching but alongside that asked for a healthy RQF showing in your workplace , for example through exhibitions, seminars, conference, consultancy, grant applications in process, publication profile.
My advice to you is that if you attempt to do all these research activities separately from your UG teaching, you will be over extended. Therefore you need to make a clever and clean plan for integrating research outcomes with your UG teaching delivery. Many of you are doing this, the Zoo project being a most recent example. If, collectively your workplans can look good from this integrated perspective, do be aware that I am prepared to take the conversation to the appropriate people to make them aware of the implication of not supporting non-subsidized masters and PhD supervision. But that is another discussion.
I have worked for two years to set up an approach of research orientated teaching. We refer to this as staff research pathways. This model is my response to the crucial fact that most international undergraduate-dominated programs do not do research. Even within our local community you will notice that research is a luxury that only senior academics indulge in where they can give up big UG teaching loads and may do just a few hours a week of project based tutoring. Senior academics are in short supply in the program. So the challenge before us is to get the whole staff group research active.
The construction of a personal research trajectory is an interesting proposition, and in the early years involves an understanding of research culture, and only then comes a desire to be research active. At this stage there is not an ID specific active research culture in the local context. Often ID research culture has seen fit to emulate the S&T or other paradigms. But for those of you keen on your design practice being the centre of you idea of research – this may not be an option. It wasn’t an option for me. I therefore do not have a very strong publication record. My publications have tended to be reporting on projects – except for the recent public lectures and invited papers in Australia in the past two years. I can certainly help you if you want to construct projects (which could then constitute research projects) that are tailored both to your passions and practice as an academic in our undergraduate focussed program. I am collaborating with three of you in writing grant applications, and am open to more joint applications.
I have for years believed that the taking of intellectual risks is a worthwhile activity. I have also believed that the university, as described by R. B. Fuller, is an ideal place for people for who crave the rush of risk and the absolute panic about the uncertainty and acceptance of outcomes. This then becomes the strength of the designer practitioner within the university where she becomes the antithesis and is the polar opposite of the practitioner in the field who is required by social inertia to be conservative and a designer of incremental change.
As an academic, three things are important: your teaching, your research and your demonstration of leadership. You have achieved well in teaching. I am now seeking your participation in a similar performance in our research and leadership front.
I am 4 months away from the completion of my term as PD. There is so little time and so much to do. In 2004 I set out a list of things I will accomplish and I am rushing to finish them. In this letter I have attempted to give shape to and emphasize the form and shape of the academic valued in the university work context today. I hope you will take this seriously and develop a workplan that is professionally strategic, balanced in emphasis and strong in commitments.
I wish you all the best for 2006.
Soumitri Varadarajan Program Director – Industrial Design
We are coming to the end of another semester, and it is time to look back with pleasure on yet another four-month engagement with students. We are at the same time all looking into the next semester, planning and preparing for another round of courses and teaching.
For the second year students in our program the second semester is very different from the first semester. They will be going into the upper pool studios, and there is a complete transformation of their whole educational experience. They will suddenly be free and have very few days and hours of uni. For some it is magical and for others it is confronting – but for both it is a completely different experience from the first three semesters (see ‘3+3+2’ elsewhere).
The second semester is also different for many of the sessional staff – as some of the courses for the second years like studio and modelling disappear. The program in-fact runs with far fewer sessional staff in the even semester. This is the culture of the program. The streams of Communication, Technology, and Studies though continue pretty much like in the odd semesters.
I write now to thank you for your participation and involvement in the BDes Industrial Design Program. I would like to reiterate that your involvement is of crucial importance to the program, the community and to individual students who have bonded with you. You have made a crucial difference to individuals. For those of you in our sessional community who haven’t taught this semester – you continue to be a valued member of our community.
I also write to inform you about a few things and a few ways we now have of going about business in the program. The following staff members look after and coordinate the separate course streams in the BDes Industrial Design Program:
Technology: Deanne and Simon
Studio: Mick and Denis
Electives: Denis and Soumitri
Each staff member/ each coordinator has the independent responsibility to invite sessional staff to come in to teach in the program. This happens at the beginning of each semester – and we are working to do this in advance so that you have adequate notice to prepare your working life accordingly. It is a good time now to speak to the coordinators about your interest in teaching in a specific course.
In the past year and a half you may have heard mention of the Learner Centred Project. This is a project where we are transforming pedagogic practices so that we have an academic culture that privileges all manner of students with all manner of achievement goals. We are also moving towards instituting Learning Contracts and student centred evaluation across the courses in the program – this is significantly a situation where we award grades at the beginning and not end of the semester. It is important for our success that all staff who teach or wish to teach in the program be conversant with these pedagogic practices. For this we have workshops and/or debrief sessions twice a year. Do come and attend these sessions to both learn and contribute.
To be a new sessional staff member in the program can be a confronting experience and this is a feeling shared by all sessional staff across the portfolio. While it is assumed the specific RMIT staff member you deal with will help and mentor you in this process this may some times not be enough or missing in crucial bits. The portfolio has therefore prepared a FAQ site to help you: http://www.rmit.edu.au/dsc/as/sessional. Do visit the site and if you have any issues not addressed there do speak to me.
We have a catch up scheduled for Friday evening at the workshop and I hope to see you there.
Soumitri Varadarajan, Program Director – Industrial Design, May 23rd 2006
20th May 2005
These past few weeks we have seen a considerable amount of interaction between staff and students. Many of you have said this has been unnerving though an even larger number have said you are enjoying the climate of dialogue and dissent. Those of you in second year are also seeing in Studies that dissent is a constructive agency for change and transformation. This semester we have seen unprecedented student responses for change on many fronts – as you may have seen with the red walls.
Now as yet another semester moves towards its end I am taking this opportunity to draw your attention to some significant achievements and aspects about the Industrial Design program.
Learner Centred Project
We have the support and commendation of the Teaching and Learning section of the University for our Learner Centred Project (LCP). The project was initiated last year and has very large aims, which are basically to encourage a community where learners make the learner community enthusiastic, eager and self-motivated and not focused solely on passing or failing courses.
We have come to realize through our work in the past year that this project is a long term commitment as there are many traditional, longstanding views and practices that need to be questioned and reframed. The main focus of the present phase of change is the dissolving of anxiety and building of confidence within the community so you can freely perform in a self-motivational environment.
At the risk of being repetitive, but highlighting results and lessons learnt in the project, CAD last semester showed the current second years what they could achieve when they were free from the worry of failing, and could explore their own interests.
The idea of motivated learners succeeding in an anxiety free environment is proven and has made a significant difference to some of you. However – here it is – the Learner Centred Project requires you to be committed and enthusiastic about your life as a student and an active learner. This is a deeply fulfilling approach if you are highly motivated and certainly beneficial if you are not so keen on giving uni everything you have got. It is important to note that the LCP flourishes in a climate of trust and the program team has certainly made significant strides forward in the direction of trusting students. You will see this again and again in the practice of ‘letting go’ that teachers are actively engaging in. As a learner, you choose, you determine and you receive the results. I encourage you to take charge of your education and make something deeply meaningful of it for you.
Industrial Design Website
Thankyou for expressing your appreciation of the development of the program website. The website is part of our initiative to ensure information about the program is more easily accessible to you; to keep you informed, up to date and confident about the many aspects of your experience in the program. If you have a question for a staff member, just email them, or use the ‘Ask Brian’ facility on our website. ‘Ask Brian’ gives you the freedom of finding things out online without physically having to come to Brian or the program space. I encourage you to explore the website and its extensive range of resources and information.
I am writing to draw your attention to the idea of mentorship. By this I am meaning a model of engagement where staff are available for you as advisors, colleagues and support. This model is something you may have encountered in the recent meeting with your year coordinator where you would have been briefed that their role in the Industrial Design Community is to be your friend and someone you can go to in moments of distress, or just for a chat. You may also take to them any concerns about your performance, and the courses you are studying. You can chat and seek advice about matters, which you think are affecting your work or life, or talk to them about things you would like to do to improve the community.
Supporting You for Excellence
As a program team we are committed to excellence. We aim to support you in your all efforts to excel in your education as a designer and in your future practice as a designer. In our quest for excellence we are aware of our history of practice and of our responsibility to apprehend the future and realize its possibilities in the university. We take this approach so that you have a chance to take control of your role in the future workplace. We are therefore aiming for the highest standards when we actively engage in supporting your achievements and realize your potential as a thinking human being. This means that we stand behind you and do not ‘spoon-feed’ you so you can find your way. We may in fact come close to being like sports coaches or Karate sensei (as Simon said!). Remember what you did for yourselves when you went for it in CAD.
What Does it Mean to be at University?
We are, above all, a university. We see ourselves as being distinct from a training college where the prime focus is on skilling students for the workplace. As a university this is the place where you can speculate upon ideals and work upon projects that may not have immediate relevance to the world. As designers, the university is the location of creativity and innovation which requires you to imagine fearlessly and to propose future scenarios that are going to make significant improvements to the world we live in. Consider the projects proposed in the Upper Pool Studios in the past year and a half, and you will see that we are embodying the best practices in the truly creative industries. For example, visitors to the university have applauded the work done in these studios as brave departures from the standard approaches of design education. Other universities in this country have asked us for information about the model of design education we practice. You are a part of this unique enterprise of learning. Together we are engaged in making and shaping you to be the thinkers and leaders of tomorrow.
The Design Industry
You may have come into design education thinking that design is what you see and hear about in the popular press. This assumption may lead you to one conclusion or understanding that design is all about objects for homes – such as another edition of kitchen appliances or living room objects. But consider the total dimension of the international design industry. The popular design sector constitutes a minor area of the industry and is not a significant employer of design talent. Popular or consumerist design relies on the consumption practices of the rich living in a few cities of the world. The areas we refer to, in the program, as ‘pathways’ (see and explore ‘pathways’ in the web site) are in fact vibrant sectors of the industry. For example, the Philips Studio of 04 in Connected Futures was the gateway to the world of those design studios that determine the nature of digital devices on this planet.
Discovering your Way of Designing
I am ideologically committed to freethinking and to your making a significant contribution to society. I believe that as designers, we need to embody the best practices in our design work and strive to address the ills in society. This may mean taking a shot at addressing run away consumption, sometimes made more complicated as we realise we belong to and constitute part of the problem.
The Industrial Design program aims to provide you with a range of directions (pathways) to assist you in finding your personal approach and philosophy of designing. I encourage you to take these opportunities to discover yourself and make use of the resources offered by the program and university to develop your interests in design and the world you live in. For example, there is a robust sustainability pathway in the program. You will encounter this pathway in many different ways through the program and you will have the choice to be a part of it or not. This can happen through a Design Studies course on sustainability, electives and upper pool studios, or you could also be supported to get sustainability orientated work placements and study abroad opportunities.
Take this opportunity of your time at University to find your self; your meaning and truth for living, working and designing.
Have a good day,
Program Director – Industrial Design
I sit at night and I slog. I am on the tram and I am writing. This bit of text, they said your deadline is over. It is on Thursday. I said I cant do it on Thursday. Give me till Friday. I sat and wrote the text. I said I have written it, sent it to the HOS and give me a feed back and she gave me the feedback that it was a fantastic text and all the other texts were crap and this is really the way to go and I want to show this text to everybody else. I said don’t do that – this is our text and nobody else should copy it. Then she said ok. I said I will clean it up and give it to the publisher. I took 10 days after that and they waited. I said I am carrying it around in my bag. I didn’t change it, I didn’t do anything to it. I showed it to you, I showed it to my students, I showed it to the staff – everybody I met I got them to read it, I got them to give me feedback. I made huge amount of changes in it. Lots of changes that people suggested but I kept it with me till one day they finally said ; ME called me up and said ”everybody now says that you are walking around with the text and you refuse to give it. I said ya its like wine it is still maturing. She said ok can I see it – then she called me, pinned me down and sat me and then I had to read the text to her and she read through the whole thing and said it is fantastic, can I take it. So I said not now, I will mail it to you. I eventually gave it up.
Phaedrus: Its been a while. And I see you have been attacked and mauled. But that is another story I guess. So tell me how will you respond to Ben’s impassioned prose.
S: I guess that is my reward – the pain, the angst, and the proof of the engagement. Its taken 6 weeks for the cry to emerge – but when it did it came from the heart. Anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance and wisdom ( this is that quote from ‘all that jazz’ – with the last word changed from Death). I guess we are still only getting past denial here. But let me tell you something that is interesting about B’s post.
P: Tell me?
S: B mentions the class as equally trying to understand Soumitri’s mind. So that makes two of us – because I am trying to understand the students’ mind – though not as a collective. And it has been so hard – more so than in many occasions in the past. Maybe I am growing old fast and have less and less stamina for the questioning process. I saw some of them, covertly watched their faces, on sunday and the engrossment was reward itself. 4 o’clock came too swiftly, too quickly. And I had to hold bcak from saying – see wasn’t it fun? This my dear friends is the joy of design. But I cant say that – because they would have said ‘what’ – and that would have destroyed the magic. The value of that experience has to stay like that hard lump of sorrow and has to be recreated each time – ‘let me get into a sorrowful state’ – and more importantly has to be felt like a longing. ‘I want to get into that state’. And it will take years for each of them to make space for that kind of meditative practice – and most will probably put it away as that sunday!
But B does say that it is about process and not product. So the mind does understand. But does it have faith that this is the ‘right way’? Can beautiful things emerge from the often trivial and jocular game? Or does it have to be a ‘rational and varbal sequence of events’. Years ago – in the Denon design studios in Shirakawa in central japan – I had a music sysstem mockup readied for presentation. I stood in front of the design team and got ready to present. Kitagawa-san motioned for me to sit down. And the team spent the next ten minutes studying the mockup – what can be seen need not be explained. It was astounding. Never again I was to tell myself will I use my mouth when the eyes will do the job better.
And so it was lst sunday – quiet absorption, and that inner joy like that of an engrossed child making a sand castle. And like the sand castle what we make must be swept away, broken, set aside, and touvhed but not spoken about.
P: Is it time to talk about the paper lamps?
S: It may be. The paper lamp is a trick exercise. It is simple – just paper and wire. But it is a craft object, and an object which makes significant the play of light on paper important. It is to be feast for the eyes – and so has to be subtle and refined. But the trick is in the realisation that you cannot design this by using the ‘way’ the students have adopted – that of thinking through and executing. It demands exploration, trials and a realisation of the value of light as an actor in the final result. Then there is paper which demands exploration. This is an exercise that rewards one who can keep doing this again and again. It is a project that hurts if the student cannot spare time. This cannot be rushed. And through this the realization of the true nature of design dawns. Sunday saw the students spending 6 hours on this. And at the end all they had was a feel for the paper and a knowledge of possibilities – so how many more six hours are needed before a lamp can be made? But let me put it another way – the more six hour slots that are deployed the more awesome the result will be. And in that will be a mature practice of design that will blow away the opposition. And there are no short cuts possible.
We have come a long way from that fateful day when I said; ‘so ready to start work on the paper lamp’ and they said they knew how to do it and were going to go away, I said for 20 minutes, to make something. And I said then – that is not it my friends, that is not it at all. (TS Eliot)
“In the room the women come and go talking of Michaelangelo’ (TSE again)
P: So you want to talk about the journey? Are you hurting less?
S: I could. Yes early in july the mouths used to curl wryly, and it was awful to go into class. Just me alone and 20 strangers – each with an expressions saying ‘yeah whatever’. It was hard and it is at this point that the authritarian teacher is created – for you want to wipe that awful slouch and negativity off their face. And what better way to do it that to slam into them with a nasty assignment with a harsh deadline. But having never done that – I can only say, yes I understand. Also having walked into classrooms filled with strangers in different parts of the world it should’ne matter. But it does – because I am human, and because it is also so un-necessary. Why do they fight learning, why do they fight in letting go of their ways which may be quite unsuitable for practicing design. In 99 in Jerusalem they were angry but couldn’t walk away. In 87 in Delhi I said I was going home and did not want to continue teaching – and we stepped out for a basketball game to sort the energies out.
Here they dont do that – they just go into the shell. But to be fair Brandon smiled from the first day, and so did Ben. They were eager for the journey. But it only takes one curly lip to suck your energies out. I then count till ten to calm down, but more importantly become impasssioned again.
Minds are incredibly resilient things, but amazingly tough too. But that was then,july and the start of the course.
Things are different now. I am now getting waves of affcetion floating my way. Some of the students are accepting that they are changing – they are usually easy to spot – like they wear the suit, or tie, or just office clothes. And ridiculous though it may seem it is a gesture of support. They have started doing little things – small signs that on a one to one basis I have their trust. But they still will not come out openly, still the distancing. ‘I then want to say – A its okay to belong to a group – let go of your identity, dont sit apart’. ‘just become learners’. But I dont- I have to say very little as Schmier used to say to me. Let them speak – they will learn by that. He also used to say – what they learn does not matter – what is important is they take charge of their learning.
And this they are beginning to do. I will volunteer to do and thru this I will learn.
P: Is it over then?
S: Pretty much. Some have reached the top of the hill, the others will look at them and follow. Now its the ‘down hill run’ (CSNY), and they can do this unaided. They have produced some amazing stuff – that should rightfully be patented. But they will take time realizing the value of it. Some have come through as leaders – and have contributed to peer learning.
The magic is over. We may be getting past the denial stage. And time for me to sit back and watch things unfold.
Jai hind (Stafford Beer)
You asked about the three categories: The Corporation, The Dissenters and the Designers. And you asked if you were still to be in these categories. You asked – what is the game.
And here is the answer:
1. On 11th July (seems like such a long time ago) we did a little thinking about these categories. Soumitri needed to demonstrate the existence of these categories – which is one more category than the conventional us (designer) and them (client). He also needed you to keep three categories. By the end of july the class was comfortable keeping up to 8 categories in their heads. Meaning was becoming complex. And complexity was becoming something to enjoy.
2. On 18th July the idea of the ‘enlightened corporation’ was proposed. This was done by frontally attacking the design Consultancy as a poor location for intellectual activity. This was also to show you that there exist ‘rogue corporations’ but these kinds of firms do not tend to make products. They usually are oil firms or arms manufacturers, or of course are in the food business. Maybe the corporations designers work with are truly ‘enlightened’.
3. Also in such corporations the designer is expected to have a real robust and resilient problem solving head. So how do you take a bunch of 20 first year studentsa nd make their heads ‘resilient’. Maybe by giving them techniques and tools for thinking. Maybe by opening their eyes (like clockwork orange by holding their eyes open with match sticks),a dn thei minds. Byt taking them away from mind numbing cinema (to thinking cinema). And so on. But basically by making them capable of handling ‘tough problems’. And this began to happen. We are into August now.
I apologise for not setting up one project that you could do through the semester. But then you may not have learnet anything in that way that would have been of value in the Corporation setting. But do remember I am HR and I have a stake in developing your capability, your abilities and your intellectual equipment, and that is my job. And if I goof up on that I will get sacked. And in this the Kinglake West Adventure Camp come alive.
And that is the game. The game is also in the SUITS! Because you need to play – to be a lateral thinker. And to be a good lateral thinker you need to give up your prejudices and your ‘ways’ which may not really be all that useful in the context of pure thinking.
The game also comes alive in the ‘games’. And in all this it is a bit like the swimming pool: do not walk on the pool side looking in. You have to jump in to learn.
See Ben’s Blog (he agonises about ‘what is going on’ and is a fantastic bit of rpose), and also see Carl’s blog (Carl is in Problem Kya Hai – and has written some beautiful stuff in recent days). And these are in your ‘your speak’ – and may be better ways of saying the same thing.
But again I am the last person who will insist you need to get a 110% out of the course. For the university is a place to grow up and we can all take it in our own ways. If you have other things on your mind, if you have other things to do – its okay. And in fact – so be it!!
P: It was warm yesterday, and the days are longer. How goes your season of discontent.
S: It rages. Yesterday was yet another session that ended with a not so good taste. I sat down and counted how many in class hate me.
P: And is that a majority? Like halfway through in Israel?
S: No nothing like that. This is mild stuff; its hate but mild and only as a sort of disengagement. I am ok, and you (S) are not ok. And for this reason of low intensity. Its an unwillingness to spare time. Israel was ‘show us where we are going’ and the anger was associated with that. Of 35 a cool 20 were angry, and they were the ones who got the most out of it. But that was an anger of engagement – not one of withdrawal. And the 15 who didn’t get angry passed through the course – just passing thru – and didn’t get much from it. Nice people, still friends with them- but they didn’t get a lot. Or didn’t get it!
P: A bit like Pound’s heliodiplodocus story. And Prisig’s quality essay. And Koestler’s “ah!” is delayed in coming. But this is the way things have to be. If you got an enthusiastic student group that started working on themselves actively it would be catastrophic. It will seem like cynicism has died. And that would be fascism.
S: Thanks P. Letting me off the hook I see.
P: No privileging excellence and perfection. The Zen master will not stoop to mediocrity, neither will the poet – so why must you entertain it. But you are neither of those so it would be wrong for you to assume you have people in your class because they have come to get something from you, let alone transform themselves. I note that you gave out the ‘personal transformation’ stuff at the beginning – and have kept quiet about it. So let us say: ‘education’ is not about learning or capability development – as it ought to be – but about getting something extra. A little bit more- like a new shirt. You don’t need to have surgery, or do meditation to wear a shirt. So why do you have to give up all that you have learnt – what you(s) refer to as bad thinking habits – just because some teacher thinks so. It should be possible to design a lantern by just doing up a sketch, and executing it. But you don’t allow that – and so you cleave the class into those who can engage, and those who cannot. Have you spoken of Itten?
S: No, no I haven’t. As though the lantern is not bad enough. Anyway getting back to the hate climate, nay dislike, I am wondering how to reach out. To bring back into the fold the discontented – to talk to those who say ‘this is boring stuff’.
P: I have an idea. Rotate the peer evaluation and get a conversation going. The contented will speak to the discontented. Or better still ignore it. Just like a normal teacher – do your job and move on, play the game “I (s) am ok, you are not”. But you can’t and this is eating you up. Right, so look at it like this. You make four scenarios and choose from that. (a) You could have all the class feeling unhappy and hiding it from you. (b) You have a 50:50 split in happy versus unhappy. (c) You have a 30:70, or 40:60 split either way or both ways. (d) You have the whole class fully happy. Well you can’t have (d) because you are not teaching Karate and you don’t have (a). So take your pick. Why don’t you have a stakeholder session – participative democracy – get the class to engage and solve this problem. As problems go ‘soumitri’s unhappiness’ is a good one to work on. So what do you say?
S: Ummm. I will first blog this conversation. Then unload my anxieties – onto someone.
P: Tell me about your anxieties.
S: Nothing to tell. Just the usual. Am I doing a good job. Am I being effective. Am I setting up an effective learning context. Am I being too authoritative ( I am a bit authoritative, but over stepping the limits?). Am I alienating some because I am focused on other. Am I causing anxieties – and leading to disengagement of some from their work. Am I being too soft. Am I being too hard.
P: You will never know any of this. So why not step back.
S: Or stop wearing suits.
Something Liam said resonated with me as I was doing the Phaedrus chat. We had been talking about the Learner Centred Project and he said ‘it is the traditional HD students who seem to be having the most trouble with grades at the beginning of the course’. There was something in what he was saying. Maybe some of you who are turned off by me have been HD students before this. If this possibility exists then I need to do some home work. And here is what I threw up.
I went looking for how can someone consistently get high grades through school and college. And if the net can help. It of course took me into schools – where you get high grades for doing what you are told. So here goes:
1. I found this web site: “One of the biggest challenges of getting good grades is how to make the large amount of schoolwork more manageable, and one of the longest sections of this guide explains in detail how to do that”. So this was about work management. The paper lantern was the exact opposite – it said the more time you spend on this the more rewarding it will be. ummm…. “Getting good grades in college is a challenge that is best conquered using proven methods of studying and a particular framework of attitudes.”
2. This site said ” The goal of this course is to design champions”. And what does being a champion learner in design school mean. I wonder!
3. This is a bit less strategy orientated – so maybe not as useful in the tricks department. “Times change. The definition of “student” once was “one who studies something”. Today it can mean merely “one who attends a school, college or university”.” And then what happens when you attend – you run into teachers who teach stuff the meaning of which is not clear or valuable?
No tips I can give you yet …
4. “Time to Narrow Down Your Extracurricular Activities” Interesting
6. “Good grades in high school have ‘halo effect’ that protects against smoking”
So the HD gives you a “Halo effect” in school. WOW!! Also in uni? Maybe.
But if people are not keen to get good grades – but are going for the pass, and not because they are not good but because they have chosen to “downshift” or consume less or do less or stress less or whatever, then does the “halo effect”(HE) disappear.
Does anyone seriously work to get the HE? And is this a way to make a statement or be noticed in the community?
What happnes if the teacher says all my students are equal – all are as good. It is just that some of them are preoccupied with relationships or have personality issues – and this is the place to go thru all these changes and so why should anyone be penalised for falling in love. Just be honest – no can do, am obsessing about someone. And that is fine. Privilege life over work. Good stuff – right ho!
My conundrum still is with the complexity of negotiating university. Can we get away with doing little? Yes. can we get good grades by doing a little,and a burst at the end? umm doubtful. Very little learning in this – very little dialogue. So good grades tough on this route. Can we get good grades by doing stuff our way and getting it approved by the teacher? Possible in exceptional cases.But again the learning is negotiated – and you may do but not learn – you will have an output, but without any significant substance. Good output – good manufacturable design. But that may not be the point of the studio at all. And you will be using stuff you have learned before – but not what is involved in the course.
So you see. Its complex tough and just like people – cussed.
I said ‘don’t make the lamp, be good to yourself’. And I saw the color rise to your face. I had hurt you. And my first instinct was to sit down and write you a letter to say – that wasn’t what I meant. That wasn’t it at all. But as I had said come and see me Wednesday, I had to wait. Wednesday came and went and I didn’t see any of you from that table. So now I am feeling terrible. And so this letter.
But this isn’t the first time we have had a run in. Its happened once before in a similar fashion early in the semester. And there have been other small run ins. And it has just all added up. What is going on? So here goes – I will try and think through my hands.
You said early in the semester you will do the competitions – and I asked how. You said you had already started doing sea art and would continue in that vein. And you are right – anyone can do competitions. But the ‘way of work’ they deploy would be learned in different contexts. You can be an engineer, a CAD operator or an artist – and still be able to do the competition. You can also be a designer and do the competition. You can think, sketch, paint, model and make. And it would appear that these skills would allow you to do whatever you need to do. In your blog I have seen a display of awesome skills, especially your CAD – and have no doubt you can do anything you wish.
But on another side you opted to come into the Corporation Game. And at some stage came into design school too. Why, I ask myself, would someone so accomplished, wish to study design? There may be any number of reasons – but let me look at three: (a) to get accredited/ validated/ to get the certificate (but you are not one of those), (b) to learn about design to become a designer and (c) learn new ways of doing (thinking and solving problems). I think you may be right in your goal being (b). But this fraction of the 1st year studio was set up differently – it wasn’t about design or learning about design. That was the other fractions – restaurant and sports. This fraction has no content. This fraction is about ‘ways’ of doing. This fraction makes serious thinking a game. This fraction is about you – and your transformation, in eight different axes. This fraction is about RISK – it is about putting yourself out there and trying new things. This fraction is about letting go of your ways (just till the end of the semester, and then you can revert to old ways and say ‘this is not good enough’) just to try new ways.
But how do I say that to you? To any of you?
I am a teacher. I see you working – and I say try this. Years ago I saw a video on Navratilova training. She watched videos of herself playing – hour after hour. And worked with her coach to change her actions: her movements and strokes – constantly tweaking, improving, trying. And she was a champion. So are you. But you can do more – and you need to let me in.
The paper lantern is the supreme provocation. You cannot do it with your left brain. I have said this again and again. It is a project – and a pure one at that. It privileges experimentation. And the ability to do it again and again. It privileges the eye, the play of light, the texture, the technique. It privileges the development of technology: anara’s experimentation with layers, pieces – bens experimentation with stitching – and kellys waffle textures. And you need to do this – (and it is not too late) – to get your hands dirty, to get down and do – and silence your left brian. You need to set up the situation for magic to happen. And you need to court failure – you need to set up situations which will fail. You need to do so that you can destroy what you do. You need to forget aboutthe end – and slowly, slowly beging to enjoy the journey. ‘Where are you going?’ ‘Nowhere’. Then why? Because it is the journey, the way, LIFE, living and not the end (that is the epitaph).
You can do a fantastic lantern in CAD. But that is not the point. And so I said to you – ‘just leave it, don’t push yourself’. And that is what I was saying.
I was also saying ‘the learning is not in the object’ – it is in the process. And you have to let go of something – for a while – to be able to pick up the new.
Dumbledore in Harry Potter has a bowl into which he puts his thoughts. He has lived for many hundred years and needs to periodically empty his brain to make space for the new. I do not ask for you to empty anything. But I ask you to try another way. And look not at the end (that does not matter) but at the journey. This is the way of the backpacker: to privilege the journey and the long treks into the marginal and poorer areas. While the stereotypical Japanese/American tourist privileges the destination and the tourist hot spots, and the showing of videos and pics when hey get home.
Come and talk to me. And I am sorry. But it isn’t easy for me. I need all the help I can get.