On Solving Homelessness

Yesterday (8 August) I spoke to a studio group looking at the population of the homeless to construct a project. Below is a list of links and references – aspects I touched upon in my talk.

Homefulness

I choose to list three ‘place-making’ initiatives. These are not programs (funding+Project+Goal-Delivery) – but are best viewed as long lasting sites for a special kind of people.

Oakland, California: A sweat equity, permanent co-housing, education, arts, micro-business and social change project for landless/houseless and formerly houseless families and individuals. (http://www.poormagazine.org/homefulness)

As an act of resistance to the hierarchal and unjust distribution of wealth and resources locally and globally, POOR Magazine is formerly calling the fundraising effort for HOMEFULNESS, an Equity Campaign, instead of a Capital Campaign, as through equity sharing, not tied to financial resources, we will be creating permanent and lasting solutions to houselessness for families in poverty who have been displaced, evicted, gentrified and destabilized out of their indigenous lands and communities.

Washington DC: I’m actually not sure that it is a word yet, but what a great idea! “Homefulness” instead of “homelessness.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeanmichel-giraud/homefulness-not-homelessness_b_1537688.html)

Twenty-one years into it, Friendship Place is leading with solutions that are simple and applied, and are developed by listening to our program participants.

Victoria B>C rtf-at-greenfields-greenhouse(Canada): Street life can reduce an individual to a reality of perceived meaninglessness and purposelessness. Beyond attending to his/her immediate needs, there are little or no positive goals and aspirations. Woodwynn farm life unyieldingly commands meaning and purpose. Every contribution, every day, from every individual matters to the operations of the farm community. And it quickly becomes obvious to the individual that they matter and are valued.  New participants are given the mantra, “How can I help?” Farm chores must be done. Laundry and dishes must be done. (https://www.woodwynnfarms.org/our-woodwynn-program/)

The Homeless Solved their Problem

I proposed the notion that by ‘occupying’ the cities of Australia the Homeless has shown us a ground up solution – the tent city!

He agreed at the February 7 meeting to consider a drop-in centre, safe spaces, and lockers for the homeless. A new by-law, which will extend the definition of “camping” and ban people from leaving items unattended in public places, was approved 5-4 and supported by all Team Doyle members. (http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/protesters-abuse-neighbours-litter-street-outside-lord-mayors-house/news-story/eda13b1cc115180cd16d3f00426d0651)

On Tuesday afternoon, at least 40 tents, a thriving kitchen and library remained in place on the iconic pedestrianised street just a stone’s throw from the NSW Parliament. (http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/sydney-tent-city-leader-says-forcibly-breaking-up-camp-could-lead-to-homeless-people-to-be-attacked-raped/news-story/d7626ccd61dad9a45a4912946f498da0)

Human Waste

The Homeless are “Human Waste”. I amped this up yesterday by speaking of the “rich” who viscerally dislike the dirty, smelly and mis-shapen (ugly) in human kind. I cited Clive Hamilton (His book Affluenza) to raise the issue of there being one right, correct and ‘natural’ way to be in Australia: which to work, make money and become wealthy. Those that are not seen to ‘contribute to society’ and the phrase ‘dole bludgers’ has been part of public discourse (https://newmatilda.com/2016/11/20/how-malcolm-turnbull-keeps-the-dole-bludger-boogeyman-alive/).

It is important to heed this provocation – for the assumptions of ‘the right way’ equally define ‘transgressions’ such as not working, not paying taxes and doing their fair share. The nuances of this construct are carefully teased out by Bauman. “I first read Zygmunt Bauman at university”. (https://theguiridispatches.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/reading-list-wasted-lives-by-zygmunt-bauman/)

The production of ‘human waste’ – or more precisely, wasted lives, the ‘superfluous’ populations of migrants, refugees and other outcasts – is an inevitable outcome of modernization. It is an unavoidable side-effect of economic progress and the quest for order which is characteristic of modernity. (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46818.Wasted_Lives)

Book: Wasted Lives: Modernity and Its Outcasts by Zygmunt Bauman

NOTE: For the Three of you who also did Nomadic Affordances – how is this studio different from that one? ( http://prezi.com/ap13iypar5v_/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share)

Portugal Policy on Drugs

After-care and social re-integration of drug users in Portugal is organised through three major programmes targeting different regions in Portugal (Programa Vida Emprego, Programa Quadro Reinserir and the PIDDAC incentives for re-integration). All three programmes finance different initiatives and projects supporting drug users through training opportunities, employment support, and/or housing. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_policy_of_Portugal)

 

Outdoor Piece by Tehching Hsieh

In 1981, Taiwanese endurance artist Tehching Hsieh ventured out into the streets of New York City and proceeded to live outdoors for a full year, ending the piece (aptly titled Outdoor Piece) in 1982. In this yearlong derive of sorts, Hsieh essentially takes on the identity of a homeless individual—although “houseless” would be a more apt description of his type of purposeful displacement—calling into question tensions between public and private spaces and their impact on our everyday lives, as well as the way in which public spaces are navigated on a daily basis. (https://dca.ue.ucsc.edu/dca/winners/2016/796).

Way Forward?

Its possible the underlying paternalism of help – such as charity focussed upon less privileged is a valid tithe for the well meaning. Doing something for the homeless is also a a way to realize meaning for many. Its possibly a very useful impulse that keeps charities doing soup kitchens. However its possible something is changing – the very nature and form of homelessness is transforming before our eyes. I offer up Hsieh as a provocation to still the mind of the sanctimonious designer – your “lets clean if up” and “solve this once and for all” efforts are not needed.

Its better to imagine homelessness as a necessary condition of modern society. We need it. We need to care for it. It is a public performance of our humanity. It is a test put there to force us to confront our humanity.

The homeless are victims of violence. Often inflicting pain on the unfortunate is a sport. This needs attention!

What would constitute a disruption – such as a new way of thinking about this issue?

Would handing over the solution seeking to the population of homeless – such as the contemporary assertiveness of the homeless and their occupation of the cities of Australia – be pointing a way to the solution?

What would an app for the homeless look like? This of course needed to be said.

Part 2: On Solving Homelessness

While the last post was a deep dive into texts and the condition – this post is a look at Design Projects that have dealt with Homelessness. The understanding of of the condition is necessarily opportunistic – to realize a project. So the meaning accords with ‘the absence of home’ – and the person in this narrative is an idealized individual – you will find that there is not much depth in the construction of persona. Therefore for the current engagement and focus upon the ‘youth’ these projects are not very helpful. The LEARNING for design students here is in the clarity with which you can see that ‘normal design’ projects differ from social impact design projects.

For example the normal in design is focussed upon consumption and thus upon treating the people impacted by the design as this heterogeneous melange that can still be targeted with specific solutions. And this works in tech or materially embodied constructions – i.e. anyone can stand underneath a shelter and be protected from the rain.

More importantly it will be unusual to expect a design project that focusses upon providing a digital health record for this category of people.

I am therefore posting some projects – as the problem that design has in its inability to ‘disrupt’ mainstream ways of thinking.

How Might We Design Out Homelessness?

Raffaele identified two major factors affecting homelessness–not enough accommodation and not enough capital to support services to the multi-disadvantaged. He believes systems design is the best way to address these issues and looked to nature through biomimicry to come up with potential solutions.

http://designonline.org.au/how-might-we-design-out-homelessness/

Defensive architecture: designing the homeless out of cities

On any one night in London, there around 700 people sleeping in the city’s streets. Rough sleeping is a risky decision – and almost always the choice of the most desperate. Yet the response of the state – and our society – is surprisingly hostile.
Rough sleeping – and homelessness more generally – are on the rise. But austerity measures have made things worse, by cutting funds to vital support services. On top of this, rough sleepers have good reason to fear abusive behaviour from passers-by. Shockingly, this has even included physical attacks, resulting in documented deaths.

http://theconversation.com/defensive-architecture-designing-the-homeless-out-of-cities-52399

Design Resources for Homelessness

Design Resources for Homelessness is a knowledge resource that shares information about practical research, best practices and related content on the design of environments for persons that are homeless. It addresses emergency, transitional and permanent supportive housing types, housing first projects, and also day centers, clinics, and service outreach facilities. It is a non-profit initiative funded by donations and grants. Its information is provided without charge.

http://designresourcesforhomelessness.org/

Making Space for the Homeless

On a recent afternoon, at Parsons School of Design, on Thirteenth Street, the artist and interior designer Kevin Walz greeted a handful of guests in a large, long studio space that had high, old-fashioned embossed-metal ceilings and work spaces crowded with scraps and tools and models. He wore a shirt sewn to look like two layered button-up shirts, each with a different stripe, and had a punkish smile and a knot of gray hair perched above the closely shaved sides of his broad head. He offered people bottled water as they entered—Evian and Fiji—from a green plastic bodega bag.

Perhaps it’s fanciful to be discussing beautiful design in the face of horror stories about the city’s neglected, dilapidated shelters. Or perhaps the project of reconceptualizing what it means to house the homeless goes hand in hand with the project of finding sustainable approaches to homelessness. (In an area where the best practices seem wholly inadequate to the problem at hand, and where departures from orthodoxy—such as a Utah experiment that simply gave homeless people houses—can be notably fruitful, the idea of radical reconceptualization is particularly attractive.) But the ability to conceive of and implement beautiful design with scarce resources is a great test of skill and talent, and it’s worth wondering whether top-tier designers would even be interested in these tight-budget contracts. (“My passion still goes to high-end residential spaces,” which allow for extensive customization, one student said.) But from the working designer’s point of view, designing for a low-income demographic might offer another kind of freedom. Walz said that he’s observed a growing discontent among interior designers with some of the changes that economic trends have wrought on their profession. “Everybody has sort of had it with the sense of entitlement in certain parts of the population,” he said. “But nobody wants to talk about it—you don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you.”

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/making-space-for-the-homeless

Homeless­ness Is Bad Design

Homelessness is what happens when people fall through the cracks of different systems, so if we’re to put an end to it, we need to create integrated teams—the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the mayor’s office, the nonprofits, the housing authority. It’s only when you get everyone together in the same room that you can construct a well-performing housing placement system that isn’t sending vulnerable people down all sorts of dead ends.

https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-design/a/rosanne-haggerty/

Housing for the Homeless: 14 Smart & Sensitive Solutions

City officials spend a lot of time and energy worrying about how to keep homeless people off public furniture and out of certain common areas, when they should be considering how to better manage the issue of homelessness in general. One area of focus is homeless housing, whether simply meeting the immediate needs of people who live on the streets or providing a more long-term, forward-thinking transitional living spaces. These 14 designs for homeless housing provoke thought as to how we can meet the needs of disadvantaged people living in our own communities, and ensure that the situation is only temporary.

weburbanist.com/2012/03/19/housing-for-the-homeless-14-smart-sensitive-solutions/

A Story about Death – Steve Jobs

The following is a quote from Steve Jobs’ (CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios) commencement address, delivered at Stanford on June 12, 2005. Full text here.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: It was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

I am preparing my lecture – to deliver at the Grand Round at Austin Hospital on Monday 6th March. So as I collect my thoughts work on my presentation I am also revisiting text such as these. Texts written in the first person. Texts that help me channel the voice of the dying person. Texts that are not about asking for sympathy or for me to be sanctimonious about death. But texts that face up and say beautiful things like:

Death is very likely the single best invention of Life!

What is Design Integration

Design Integration has been used (UK, NZ, Aus) as a phrase within the specific context of connecting the sectors of ‘product design’ with ‘manufacturing Industry’ to improve the design of the products made by industry. In the past this form of ‘program’ has had different names. Art in Industry was one.

The South Kensington Initiative of 1851 was an early initiative. Focussed upon the theme of “Art in Industry” the program responded to critics (Morris and Ruskin) of the design of early industrial equipment by proposing a ‘capacity development’ initiative.

This early program had three components:

  1. Program: Placing artists within Manufacturing Enterprises.
  2. Institute: The Institutes of Art in Industry were set up to provide a location for exhibiting works, holding lectures, connecting industry owners with artists. These institutes documented works and published articles on topics focussed upon the “good” in taste and design.
  3. Training: State funding was provided for training the new ‘artist in industry’. The Glasgow School of Art has its roots within the South Kensington support ecosystem.
Glasgow School of Art

Glasgow School of Art

All State programs – including the very robust programs in Japan and South Korea – have these three components. In modern parlance its usual to see terminologies such as these:

  1. Demonstration Projects: Cofunding programs where the state pays part of the design fee for SMEs to hire product designers.
  2. Promotion: Chambers of Industry organised Industry+Design professional networking events.
  3. Professional Development: Workshops and lectures for industry leaders/ employees about ‘new product development’.

Replacing Program, Institute and Training with Demonstration Projects, Promotion, and Professional Development aligns the same motivations of the state with the contemporary categories of activating and facilitating change.

Art in Industry is an early precursor of the discipline of Product Design. These days due to the influence of American nomenclature many Product Design Courses are named Industrial Design. The post hoc explanation of the discipline often describes a generalist or diverse discipline. The method and content are still closely aligned to the South Kensington curriculum: art(aesthetics) plus manufacture (engineering). 

What do Governments look for?

While the early motivations (late industrial revolution period) may have been to do with emerging modernism (the look of Industrial equipment), the mandate was very soon eclipsed by the state imperative focussed upon manufacturing competitiveness. The Crystal Palace Exhibition (1951) was an ‘exhibition’ to showcase the producer-side competencies of Britain (Imperial Britain). The State of Design Festivals funded in the past by the Victorian Governments (Australia) were largely intended as a showcase to connect designers to Industry. The state mandate wasn’t always understood by the organisers – this frustrated the department functionaries, many of these people are still working in VicGov, who have been custodians of Design Capacity Development in Victorian Industry through many governments in Victoria. I imagine this then lead to endless arguments between the staff of ministers and bureaucrats within the government. In one way these festival spends were never meant to be towards a celebration of ‘urban works’ or craft artefacts made by designers for elite consumption. Such monies were set aside by governments to boost the economy – significantly the manufacturing economy and the innovation ecosystem in Victoria.

These festivals were also not funded to showcase urban scale works. There is a separate ministry for that. In fact the naming of ministries by successive governments (who always change the names of ministers portfolios) has tended to keep industry and the arts separate. In the current incarnation we have two ministries connected to the ‘design for manufacture’ discourse.

Industry and Employment: Funding is also available for business capability development activities – including assistance with management skills, sales and marketing strategies, financial management, new product development, business development and marketing opportunities.

Creative Industries: The Andrews Labor Government has teamed up with the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) to deliver a new dedicated program to celebrate, promote and strengthen Victorian design.

Of these Industry and Employment has a capacity gap around New Product Development. When a consultant presented the last draft report at the consultation meeting (years ago now) I spoke up and said that he was probably too focussed on only ‘product design’. This is normal in Scandinavia, UK, Germany and the US – where State programs connecting Manufacturing and Industry are focussed upon ‘new product development’. I was referring to the fact that the audience at the consultation workshop had only one product designer – me – and the rest were from the creative industries, which require a different narrative of state support.

NOTE: Let us say the issue of Design Integration in Victoria is in the category of an intractable problem. UTS (Sydney) probably is having a bit more success. This is the link to Powerhouse post on this topic.

Case Study: New Zealand

New Zealand is commended for their Program of Integrating their design community with their manufacturing enterprises.

Excerpt from: http://www.designforeurope.eu/case-study/design-integration-programme

In 2006 Better by Design introduced the Design Integration Programme, a six stage process to help companies use design to become more innovative, efficient and internationally competitive.

The programme helps businesses use design to create more desirable products and services, faster growth, a better workplace culture and loyal customers.

The coaching is delivered inside companies and works on the specific problems and opportunities they face. It’s a hands-on collaborative approach to learning that focuses on addressing the firm’s current challenges.

Design Integration coaches are carefully chosen for each company, these coaches are generally private sector practitioners with expertise and experience in both design and business. They support the CEO and their team, sharing knowledge and skills, breaking down some of the traditional divisions within companies that block innovation. As the confidence and design capability of the employees increases, coaches will support them in taking on increasingly complex challenges.

The initial phase of coaching is 100% funded by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise – after which costs are split 50:50 with the company. The structure of the support reflects the fact that integrating design within a business is a journey, and the Design Integration Programme provides coaching that is tailored to the needs of each firm as it progresses through the six stage programme. This support is delivered in a way that is reflects the speed with which the company wants to progress, and exactly what they want to get out of the programme.

  1. Enrolment

Better by Design look for CEOs who see value in design and want to know more about how it could help their business.

  1. Design thinking experience

A day-long ‘Design Thinking Experience’ workshop provides an intensive introduction to the design process that’s customised to address the current challenges of each company.

  1. Discover, define, design

This is a three month co-discovery process including two workshops and a series of practical activities that help companies look at the way they work through a design lens. The outcome of this is a shared understanding between the company and the coach of key commercial objectives.

  1. Design activities

A series of activities help cross-functional teams within the company learn to apply design to specific challenges. Proven techniques are used to tease out and resolve real issues faced by the business.

  1. Evaluation

This is an opportunity to share learning and assess progress. Teams within the company work together testing out new forms of collaboration as design behaviours become embedded at every level of the organisation.

  1. Completion

Companies may spend up to two years being coached and building design skills before they graduate from the programme. At this point they will feel competent to move forward as an effective, design-led organisation. Grad companies become part of Better by Design’s learning community with continued access to events and resources.

(Detail Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne. Source)

The Codesign Initiative

I have for years been working on a project, with colleagues, within this space of design integration. I discuss that project using the language of Capacity Development – and this has been a useful exercise for me.

How is the Codesign Program akin to state development/ support for of industry transformation? The Codesign Initiative can be articulated a aligned to the spirit of developing ‘industry’. The key principles employed are similar to those in the state mandate for their programs:

  1. Recognizing industry employee careers:
    1. Embedding design within the organization
    2. Collaboration to last a long-period of time with Ongoing Mentorship
    3. Staff Professional Development
  2. Need Identification
  3. New Product Development

Capacity Development

The Codesign Initiative has been working with Industry in the following dimensions/ WAYS:

  1. Developing in-house design capability: Setting up design studios within the organisations, employing design graduates
  2. Mentoring in-house design staff, and leadership
  3. Industry Placements
    1. Embedding PhDs within the organisations
    2. Embedding Honours (UG) students within the organisations
    3. Proving Student Placements: Undergraduate Industrial and Interior Design Students
    4. Embedding RMIT academic staff within organisations: Three staff are Hon Senior Lecturers at Austin Health.

New Product Development

I am working on Design (Research) projects to develop Products and Services for commercialization and wide adoption. Two of the projects I am able to share are:

  1. VCCC/ Pancare: Funded by Cancer Australia (2017-2019) to develop an App to support (especially rural) people with Pancreatic Cancer.
  2. State Govt (VicGov): ARC Linkage in development focussed upon developing a new framework for crime/theft, and vehicle identification.

Industry (Design Integration Partners)

The Industry-Partners I work with are:

  1. Olivia Newton John Cancer and Wellness Centre/ Austin Hospital
  2. Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre ( and VCCC)
  3. VicRoads
  4. Victoria Legal Aid
  5. CoHealth
  6. Royal Dental Hospital
  7. Alfred Hospital
  8. Jayco

The ways we can engage with organisations

In our work with agencies and organisations we have typically begun from a low base and focussed upon listening and doing codesign projects to build the ‘need identification‘ matrix and framework. This work then is owned by the organisation and is core to their enthusiasm and commitment to investing in design capability and mentorship of senior leadership within the organization. Then we have stayed the course and over a period of 3 to 5 years embedded a robust design culture – Case Study: The work with VicRoads(VR) began in Dec 2012. In 2015 Dec they funded positions to set up an inhouse design studio employing 3 RMIT Industrial Design Graduates. In Dec 2016 they increased the funding and restructured the design studio to be more visible with the organisation. The studio employs now 3 of our graduates and has made a commitment to spend upwards of 750,000$ over the next 4 years, plus is very enthusiastic about joining an ARC Linkage application. My role with this organisation has been as the mentor, and supervisor of staff – plus to build a ‘research culture’ – such as drafting the current ARC Linkage Application.

In addition to the above 6 WAYS – we can undertake to do work with organisations on a few specific fronts (below). This could be aspects additional to the process we have followed in working with the 8 organisations listed above.

  1. Product and development-process Audits/ and recommendations for action
  2. New Product Development/ focussed upon radical innovation
  3. Capacity Development through demonstration projects
  4. Capacity Development through training workshops

What Disruption is not

BRIEF: I have been invited to a conclave of the Society of Indian Automotive Manufacturers (SIAM) in Goa. To run a workshop – and “shake things up”. The session length is 90 minutes, and the target audience is car designers within large Indian auto manufacturing companies. The question is what value can I provide to highly capable designers, with a long track record (experience), capable of working within complex engineering organisations?

Designing the Workshop

I had a few things I could potentially do. Here were my options:

  1. I could run a session on ‘how to come up with a design that goes viral on the internet’. This would draw upon my experience of teaching car design since 1994, with specific emphasis upon the message of this blog – how to do a campaign project.
  2. I could run a session on ‘how to feed the inner artist’. For the design job could prove to be a joy killer.
  3. I could run a session on ‘cultural capital’ as a way to reimagine who to design for.

On the topic of design jobs being a joy killer – or boring – here is a blog post that addresses this issue through the comments section – priceless. Titled the ‘in house designer’ the discussion centres around the downsides of working in house. Here are some comments:

I find that I spend the majority of my time trying to sell an idea or ideas to the internal team rather than working directly with the client to find that new and exciting idea we both can be inspired by.

You don’t have as much freedom to express your own ideas in a larger organization… at least not without convincing 3 different committees and submitting several forms/documents. Even if you do that, your own ideas could get squashed by another manager in another department who has seniority and doesn’t like or fully grasp your idea (or just doesn’t like you or your department for that matter).

Familiar? Its possible it doesn’t have to be this way.

Disruption theory is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success

Most people in leadership within car companies are familiar with the notion of Disruption. Now even managers can do disruptive thinking – having read Clayton Christensen they can play experts. However its possible their understanding of disruption is incorrect – as is that in much writing (click here to read the article that explains this)

“Disruption” describes a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses. Specifically, as incumbents focus on improving their products and services for their most demanding (and usually most profitable) customers, they exceed the needs of some segments and ignore the needs of others. Entrants that prove disruptive begin by successfully targeting those overlooked segments, gaining a foothold by delivering more-suitable functionality—frequently at a lower price. Incumbents, chasing higher profitability in more-demanding segments, tend not to respond vigorously. Entrants then move upmarket, delivering the performance that incumbents’ mainstream customers require, while preserving the advantages that drove their early success. When mainstream customers start adopting the entrants’ offerings in volume, disruption has occurred.

  • incumbents focus on improving their products and services for their most profitable customers

  • ignore the needs of some segments

  • successfully targeting those overlooked segments

Importantly in this article you will encounter the question: is UBER an example of disruption? “According to the theory, the answer is no.”

Then to continue on my options: I could run a session on disruption.

For Disruption is an explanation by Christensen that is part “a posteriori” and part a “post hoc” proposition. What is questionable is whether disruption can infact be designed and implemented at all. By the same measure any paradigm shift can be re-explained as a disruption. Lionising disruption also marginalises maintenance – read “tradition” and the collectivised ways of doing things. If we take food as an example we can ask the question: Does food need to be disrupted? The answer is no – for some of us. So the balance between maintaining current ways and coming up with new ways (innovation) is a fine one. It just so happens that we are in a period where ‘innovation’ is riding a high.

For design a better word (rather than using disruption) is project. Within the notion of the project pre-exists paradigms of ‘listening’, ‘provoking’, ‘nudging’ and simply taking risks. The pre-existence is very old and established. The problem within ‘corporate’ ecosystems is the issue of ‘justification’. The project to the corporate administrator (a bureaucrat who is referred to as the ‘executive‘) is always about getting it ‘right’ – in the dart board analogy thats about getting a bulls eye – hitting the target. The project – some very successful ones and the theory of Christensen argues for this – is often focussed upon a marginal and neglected area. One that is not profitable – or considered to be of value. Radical design often focus away from the centre and pick up themes from the periphery.

The question then is how does a designer within a large enterprise focus away from the target, and make a case for privileging? With difficulty I guess. But I have some ideas.

The Designer as Creative Practitioner

Within the PhD space in my place of work – we have a focus upon privileging the “creative practitioner”. If I were to treat the designer within the car company as a creative practitioner – then I would be able to open a line of discussion around the ‘work’ – the oeuvre – of the designer (artist). What this could do is to focus the work of the designer upon a inner ‘boss’ quite different from the external corporate ‘boss’. This designer wouldn’t need to do what the superior or employee in the organisation with a higher pay says, or what the ‘customer’ survey says. The designer can simply choose to take a risky path – design by designer – in opposition to the “design by designer influenced by many superiors and loud people”.

However the sub-ordinate position of the designer is a problem. Its an issue that has dogged designers for ever.

It is at this point that I have a solution. I may come back and upload – how I did it. Watch this space.

For now I will share a teaser from a video mashup I am working on.

 

 

 

Was Jesus a black man?

Or brown certainly. Most definitely not a white man. Its actually great that the European and American god is a Brown Man. Like me.

“Jesus was a white man, too,” Kelly said, launching a national discussion about history, tradition and just how white Christmas should be.

Wrote Jonathan Merritt in The Atlantic: “If he were taking the red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York today, Jesus might be profiled for additional security screening.”

Source – http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/what-race-was-jesus-no-one-knows-for-sure/

Of Course Jesus like some Palestinians could have been dark. Since the color/ethnic identity of Jesus’ gentic makeup ie Y-Chromosome is not known – we can even speculate that Jesus could have an African ancestry. Like the Eritreans in Levinsky Park, Tel Aviv (below).

Source – http://only-connect.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/breaking-into-israel-my-eritrean-hero.html

The colour of Jesus’ skin is important. If only because the notion of white-Jesus is improbable.

After one of my recent lectures, a Christian college student approached me and asked if black people are uncomfortable with the fact that Jesus is white. I responded, “Jesus is not white. The Jesus of history likely looked more like me, a black woman, than you, a white woman.”

I wasn’t shocked by this student’s assumption that Jesus was of European descent, or the certitude with which she stated it. When I am in US Christian spaces, I encounter this assumption so often that I’ve come to believe it is the default assumption about Jesus’ appearance. Indeed, white Jesus is everywhere: a 30-foot-tall white Savior stands at the center of Biola University’s campus; white Jesus is featured on most Christmas cards; and the recent History Channel mini-series The Bible dramatically introduced a white Jesus to more than 100 million viewers. In most of the Western world, Jesus is white.

More

Wikipedia on Arab Christians.

The Econocracy

After Piketty and Sachs – come another critical work that I am now reading.

As members of Rethinking Economics, an international student movement seeking to reform the discipline of economics, we are campaigning for a more pluralist, critical and participatory approach. We conduct workshops in schools, run evening crash courses for adults, and this year launched Economy, a website providing accessible economic analysis of current affairs and a platform for lively public debate. We want economists and citizens to join us in our mission to democratise economics.

econocracy

What is important in this book is the ‘expert’ voice in my profession – Design – is incrediby out of touch with the everyday voices of people. We educate people to the new ‘technical’ words, jargon, we use as an essential condition for appreciating Design (and art of course).

We have also seen the economisation of daily life, so that parts of society as diverse as the arts and healthcare now justify their value in terms of their contribution to the economy. But in this process economists have largely ignored citizens and failed to consider their right to participate in discussion and decision-making.

I am reading about economics – as someone who critiques Design as focussed upon ‘expensive stuff for rich people’ – and alongside this pondering the Designocracy that we witness now.

lamented that economists had “failed to communicate basic economic concepts to politicians, journalists and businesspeople, never mind the public

The text – quotes – are from this book-review in the Guardian.

 

Remote Rural Poor Women

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(Image Source)

Narrative Text for a project on Maternal Mortality – (Text from ARC Discovery Submission 2012)

This project is based upon the proposition that current practice of service design fails when used to develop services for poor and marginalized communities. Service design is currently centered around urban and affluent contexts. I wish to expand the practice of service design to take into account services for the rural poor. My case study is maternal health in India.

Current global practices in service design use a mix of methods added on to conventional system design practices (Manzini, Vezzoli et al. 2001; Morelli 2002). These new tools and methods are in the main drawn from contemporary software development practices in the field of interaction design(Manzini January 2009). By becoming significantly integrated into retail business practice discourses, service design has had a significant and visible impact upon society (Cottam and Leadbeater 2004). The goal of this form of design is to improve ‘ease’ of customers’ access to services, improvement of ‘customer experience’ by the innovative use of internet and telecommunications infrastructure that is common in urban contexts (Hollins and Hollins 1991; Varadarajan 2009). This project is based upon the proposition that current practice of service design fails when used to develop services for poor and marginalized communities(Varadarajan and Fennessy 2007). Further arguing that:

  • Emerging service design theory is intimately bound by service design practice and
  • A project of re-conceptualization cannot be a theoretical discussion of service design and needs to have a case study to underpin the theory development.

Service Design projects in health service delivery have validated inclusive practices such as ‘co-creation’, through examples such as the RED project of the Design Council UK (Cottam and Leadbeater 2004). RED and other milestone projects in service design have been urban projects. The rural poor have not been the subject of a case study thus the practice, and theory, of service design has had little impact beyond the urban(Varadarajan 2009). Elsewhere within conventional service delivery, the preamble to the Indian National Rural Health Mission document amplifies the need to focus upon the rural and mentions the need for an ‘architectural correction’ of the health care services in India(Bajpai, Sachs et al. October 2009). The problem of government health service provision in India being focussed upon urban populations has meant that health indicators for rural populations have been consistently poor and this is manifested in the high incidence of maternal deaths(Padmanaban, Sankara Raman et al. April 2009). Maternal deaths, considered a key indicator for the development status of communities and of the quality of health care services and medical infrastructure of a country, are among the highest in India. With four more years to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals it is expected that the project of maternal mortality reduction would continue to be a location for intense scrutiny of service delivery(Mavalankar, Vora et al. April 2008). This sets up a location for a case study and lends urgency to a peripheral discourse in mainstream design practice, that of services for the poor and rural.

I commenced work on this case study in late 2009. This was a pilot project supported with seed funding from the Design Research Institute at RMIT to trial the project and methodology on a small scale. The research in the pilot project began with a literature review, a mapping of the stakeholder network followed by a field-study phase. The field-study was undertaken in two stages; the first being interviews with key agencies that were either doing research on maternal health or were actively involved in projects at the grass roots level. The second stage was interviews in one specific location, the state of Assam in India, with rural families and key stakeholders in the maternal health system in Assam. The information gleaned from the analysis of the interviews was compared with what I was reading in the literature. The outcome was the formulation of a theoretical strategy as themes for engagement, similar to a set of design concerns that contained both universal elements that applied to other contexts and specific elements that were particular to the local context I had studied. The pilot project concluded that services for marginalized and remote communities are indeed a separate category of services. A methodology of service design practice in such contexts would need to be; one, inclusive and account for traditions and deep rooted community practices; and two, decentralized, to account for both the need to support and stimulate local economy and to build self reliance as a way to tackle potential marginalizations(Gupta 2007). In effect such a practice of service design would do well to be situated in opposition to mainstream service design practice that privileges centralization, use of sophisticated technologies and assumes urban consumption practices. This preliminary hypothesis of ‘service design for the unserved’ was written up and presented at a conference in Assam (Addressing Maternal Mortality in Assam, Dec 2010) and at a public lecture (Bangalore, Jan. 2011).

Gap

The project fills a major gap in the theory of service design. Service design theory has evolved with a focus upon privileging expert discourses in a predominantly urban context (Shostack 1982; Normann 2000; Leadbeater and Cottam 2008) This form of practice is focused upon redesigning existing services to either reduce cost, or improve customer experience and is predominantly targeted at urban, educated and affluent consumers of services(Glaeser, Kolko et al. 2001; Frug April, 1998). In instances where projects in health care services have been visualized the significant beneficiary is the client often the publicly owned service(Cottam and Leadbeater 2004). Extending such a paradigm of practice carries the danger of producer side thinking into disadvantaged communities and often the situation turns exploitative(Whitehead, Dahlgren et al. 2001; Wagstaff 2002; Goodman Jan 1968). The current project fills the gap by proposing an inclusive approach; where health indicators take precedence over economics; where people are central beneficiaries and where marginalized communities are supported to become self reliant and responsible for their quality of life outcomes(Yunus and Jolis 1999). This project offers a contribution to a long-standing debate on user side thinking in service design theory.

The project makes a major contribution to current service provisions targeted at rural, remote and tribal communities. Access to service in regional communities, communities distant from economic hubs, is a crucial problem in India. For tribal communities this shows up as a life expectancy gap between urban and regional populations. The conventional approach has been to push services and infrastructure designed for urban population concentrations into regional areas, followed by education to get compliance on proper usage. This project is significant because it opens up a theoretical promise of amplifying notions of alternative forms of development and realizing valuable goals through innovative inclusive designs of services. An inclusive model of service design will impact upon aspects other than just maternal health. In this way the project offers a major contribution to the long standing debate about approaches in service delivery for poor and marginalized people(Wearing).

Innovation

The project is thematically innovative as it extends a service design research framework to apply to marginalized communities. To do this the project eliminates the commercial client and sets up a research project along the lines of a large action research service design project(Soumitri and Chaudhuri 2001). Such a transformation is crucial for the reformulation of practice as historically service design has evolved from an interest in the design of user experiences. While user experience design is about improving the quality of the event when individuals interact with a service the practice has in the main been about a better design of the graphical user interface (GUI) and about the potential for tangible interfaces in allowing for alternative modes of interacting with service delivery points(Bruseberg and McDonagh-Philp 2001). While service design theory itself has two main themes, that of affordances and technologies of interaction and of increasing ease of access to services, historically a greater focus upon technology has suppressed the discourse of access(Candi 2007). The project design in setting up a problem location where access is restored as a central theme amplifies two key agendas in design discourse: a political agenda, focus upon marginalized communities, and a theoretical agenda, deriving a new model of service design practice.

The project is innovative in its method as it locates the field study in a remote rural context thereby challenging contemporary design ethnography practices. By its choice of location of field work the project changes the form of ethnography that is to be conducted to inform the project. Design ethnography in the service of a client project (Segelström, Raijmakers et al. 2009) is often strategic in its intent and privileges the clients’ intentions at the cost of the genuine needs of the community. Additionally the practice of design ethnography accepts small and sporadic events of immersion, privileging thereby certain categories of information that would be useful for design. A deep and prolonged field study, as has been visualized for this project, suspends judgment till after the research field-study has been completed. The theoretical implication of working in rural, rather than urban areas, therefore has the potential to change the nature of inquiry and the outcomes of research. Further focussing upon just the rural poor allows service design thinking then not to be only about technology, such as internet enabled delivery of services.

The project is conceptually innovative as it keeps the issue of ownership open and unresolved by problematizing the client-designer duopoly as a necessary relationship in the formulation of service design solutions. The removal of a commercial client opens up the potential for service provision, potentially by governments, to be owned in three discrete ways; by community, by service provider and jointly owned by service provider and community, which then mirrors emerges approaches to governance (ref pluralism). In fact approaches to sustainbility outcomes would assume collaborative ownership and community oversight leads to better outcomes(ref). The conceptual framework thus sets up a problem, the theoretical implications of which can be tested in the case study of maternal health for remote poor communities.

Approach And Method

There are two significant phenomena relevant to the current application. One, is a situation of heightened awareness in the Australia to issues of social engagement and service design, where both universities and government agencies have watched events unfold in the United Kingdom’s House of Commons debates and transformation of public services (2008). There is in fact an emerging openness to propositions of service design within local, Australian and Victorian, service delivery practices(Dawes 2009). Two, is a unique situation of rethink and reformulation of rural health services underway in India brought on by its commitment to meet the Millennium Development Goals(Mavalankar, Vora et al. April 2008). This commitment has created a condition of unprecedented openness to innovation among government agencies dealing with rural health. Together the two situations create a space and a need for a robust case study on service design for rural and remote delivery.

The theoretical context of service design for the unserved is set out here. Service design for poor, hence marginalized communities, is a unique field characterized by neglect and poor performance of public services(Sainath 1992; Louis 2007; Mavalankar, Vora et al. April 2009). Approaches to the poor and marginalized in design have been characterized by a discourse of social engagement and social entrepreneurship(Jegou and Manzini 2008). While a focus upon the remote and poor(Papanek 1985) has found form as the practice of social design(Margolin and Margolin 2002) with a strong focus upon artifacts(Rawsthorn 2007) the main paradigm is still one of pushing from the centre to the periphery(Er 2001). Interestingly if we were to pick up the counter current of documenting practices of the poor or old and traditional(Gennep, Vizedom et al. 1960; Varadarajan Jun-2009) and amplify the essential paradigm that characterizes them we see similarities with social design projects in their approach of focussing upon self reliance. Service design thinking in health, universally viewed as a state subject has two key problems; one is the focus upon increasing access to and compliance with state services in remote areas(Humphery, Weeramanthri et al. 2001) and two is that “provider pluralism”, where different forms of service providers are allowed to operate, often goes unrecognized and is marginalized in state plans (2005). Provider pluralism (Chernichovsky 2002; Sheehan Jul-Sep 2009), actively encouraged in urban areas is mirrored by self reliance in remote areas. With more regulation in rural contexts such pluralism often gets ‘written out’ and becomes illegal(Jeffery, Jeffery et al. 1984 Jul-Sep; Ram 2001). To summarise service provision for the rural poor is a complex context for design which demands that service design theory needs to move beyond: one, the urban context and reliance on infrastructure to become more widely applicable, and two, privileging the client’s needs and ‘work creatively with messy and sometimes contradictory realities to achieve better outcomes’ (ref).

The project field work has been deliberately located in a place, the river islands of Brahmaputra in Assam, where the state has failed to and will not provide services(Hazarika 2003) and instead expects the non-governmental sector to be the service provider. While this is a situation that satisfies the current goal of universal coverage of health care the long term prospects of such avoidance of service provision come unstuck especially when seen in the framework of the charter of ‘rights’(ref). The theoretical underpinnings of this inquiry have two components that are crucial; one, is a field study (Wasson 2000; Sanders 2008) to observe and study maternal health in the community and two, will be the definition of the network of actors (Callon, Law et al. 1986; Akrich and Latour 1992; Law and Mol June, 2004) to reconstruct the condition in abstraction. It is the discourse of the actors that will constitute the description of the maternal health condition in the char areas of Assam. The project approach is therefore an inquiry in the reconceptualizing of service design for the unserved that has an agenda of inclusivity(Smith and Fischbacher 2005; Varadarajan, Fennessy et al. 2007; Adler and Kwon January 2002) encompassing the key themes of distance(Tudor Hart 1971; Young 2006), “provider pluralism”, and self reliance.

Method

The method for the project contains three key aspects: an extended field study, a stage of exploring practice that involves reconceptualizing practice by undertaking research through design and a synthesis of the research findings into a specific framework for service design.

Stage 1 – Field Study

The first activity is one of planning the project: this will include recruiting the research assistant (RA) through a limited advertisement and organizing the field trip. Ethics approval will be sought prior to the field study with the submission of the questionnaire and a statement of methodology describing the photography and video recordings that will be done. The ethics clearance is expected to be a more than moderate risk level due to interviews of affected families. On completion of planning and getting the ethics approval I will undertake two field-study trips, of three months each, separated by a gap of about three months to avoid the monsoon season in India. The field study will be undertaken in the river islands of the Brahmaputra, the Char areas of Assam state, where health services for the population are being organized by an NGO, Centre for North East Studies (CNES), and delivered by boat(Hazarika 2010). The field study will involve interviews of three stakeholder groups; the rural remote community, the government health service NRHM staff and the non government organizations (NGOs) working in the community. The community interviews will use a modified version of the ‘verbal autopsy'(Soleman, Chandramohan et al. 2006) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the maternal death in the community (interviews structured like a verbal autopsy were used in the pilot project). The event of the community interview would be photographed to establish the context for design visualizations. The interviews with the government staff and NGOs will be recorded both in audio and video format.

The field study will generate two kinds of raw data – one will be the questionnaire data and interview recordings and the other will be the information from participant observation, video and still photography. This data will be analysed though year 2. The analysis will produce a theoretical account of the condition of maternal health in a remote community.

Stage 2 – Exploring Practice

The field study and analysis will be followed by the activity of ‘research through design’ (quote Cross- and designerly ways of knowing, and Peter Downton – PD in group of experts) which will comprise the two activities of Modelling, and Testing.

  1. Modelling: The activity of modeling will use the sociology of technology framework of actor network theory (which I used in my PhD and in the Diabetes research) to develop a graphical model of actors, and a narrative of the agency contained in each of the actors. This is a variant of the analytical activity undertaken as part of ‘design ethnography’ (Sanders 2008). The key outcome of this stage is a complex portrayal of the system studied in the field.
  2. Testing: The abstract model will be tested in two stages:
    1. Testing Stage 1 – Backcasting and Action Planning: The first stage of testing will involve the use of Vergragt’s (Vergragt 2001) methodology of reconciling future goals with the model of a current condition. The outcome of this activity is both a road map, referred to as action planning, and a map of lesser goals which can be set up as targets. These outcomes are tested through a process of review by a panel of ‘subject experts’ (the subject experts are detailed in the ‘role of personnel’ section of this application). The backcasting activity will produce a set of graphical and outcomes that can be taken forward to further testing in the field.
    2. Testing Stage 2 – Service Design CoCreation: The activity of testing outcomes in the field will be undertaken in year 2 and 3. It will involve testing the outcomes of Action Planning by engaging in Co-Creation with the stakeholders in Assam. This will follow; one, the methodology of community engaged practiced by Cottam (Cottam and Leadbeater 2004) in the RED project, and two; the framework of participatory planning advocated by Chambers (Chambers 1997). The activity of co-creation will focus on two clear community goals for service delivery that were defined through the pilot project: that of ‘safe motherhood’ (SM) and that of ‘emergency obsteteric care’ (EmOC). CI Varadarajan will conduct the co-creation sessions in the community.

Stage 3 – Articulating the Service Design Framework

While the two notions of social design (Margolin and Margolin 2002) and inclusive design(Goodman, Langdon et al. 2006) provide the basis for the construction of the theoretical framework, the goal in this research project will be to: one, establish a specific category of practice that privileges the theoretical discourse set out in the approach and two, set out a theoretical framework for research and practice in service design.

Outcomes

The project sets out to offer a novel approach to service design by focusing upon a case study of an unserved populations (view service provision from the perspective of remote communities) for purposes of developing new process models and guidelines and new results (theoretical frameworks) for the benefit of service users. While the project uses established processes in design research – the artefact outcomes that will be privileged by the way the project is constructed will be different. It is in this context that the following outcomes are visualized. Outcomes that have the potential in this emerging field to become widely disseminated and adopted within an ongoing program of work within the field of Service Design theory and the development of Service Design practice.

  1. An analytical articulation on current practices in service design showing their urban-context embeddedness.
  2. A service design thesis of practice that separates technological affordances from service design.
  3. The first service design research project informed by deep case study grounded in an off the grid context.
  4. New ways of constructing goals, new methods of community engaged service creation.
  5. Improved procedures and techniques in designing and in managing design.
  6. The findings will be published in a book form.

Benefit

The project would contribute a valuable case study to convince [Australian?] governments of the value of service design. While case studies of improvements in specific sectors of service delivery in Europe have had an impact upon government thinking in Australia, service delivery Australia presents a unique geographic challenge for service designers. Contemporary service design practice, with its combination of communication and interaction design, is almost completely focussed upon urban internet users and the profits of service providers relies on heavy urban concentrations of consumers. While a combination of social innovation and service design is emerging as a practice in pockets in Australia, the focus is still urban. In effect the problem of few urban concentrations, situated amidst a sparsely populated but vast regional landmass, confounds existing capabilities in service design discourse. The project thus picks up a marginal theme in mainstream service design discourse, the focus upon distant and potentially poor regional populations, and amplifies it as a key theme for inquiry. The project has therefore the potential to present new approaches and methods for service design for regional contexts, which can impact upon the social and economic fabric of disadvantaged populations.

Clinton will win by a Landslide

I said this on Oct 7, one month ago, that Clinton will win by a landslide. This was my post.

I tweeted this today:

2560

End this misogynistic horror show. Put Hillary Clinton in the White House

Why do I think that Clinton will win by a landslide? My answer to people was that I believe in the fundamental decency of people. The alternative is not an option.

Its a day & 2 hrs and 32 minutes to the polling. After which I will have to change by ‘feeds’. I will now wait till wednesday (Melbourne) midday for news.

Have you seen a dead person, been with them?

In 2016 there is a national conversation (in Australia) about voluntary euthanasia, as some refer to it, or assisted suicide, another phrase for a voluntary end to ones life. I have listened to the Andrew Denton PodCast series “Better of Dead”. I was listening intently, hunched up and very much interested and fascinated by the journey the podcast took. This was a new dimension to death and I was eager to learn all I could. The campaign to change Australian legislation to make euthanasia, or the practice of choosing to end ones life, legal has been waged for two decades and a bit. It looks like 2016 would be a significant milestone in the campaign. I would hear something similar voiced by the people and campaigners I spoke with. Inspired by the campaign I found myself in Portland, Oregon, to see and hear for myself how a place that has legalised assisted suicide imagines the rights of humans. A full 8 months later reflecting upon my journey I realise this campaign has given me a deeper understanding of the collective navigation towards a shared understanding of death.

For we don’t understand death. We ignore it. We shush people who raise the topic. We would rather death was not brought into the conversation. We are happy for death to be dealt with by experts in technical environments, such as hospitals and funeral parlours. The contemporary period is defined by the removal of death from our lives. Death has become hidden, and unfamiliar. If life is sacred, then death is profane.

Death however happens to us. It exists always as a future event in each individual person’s life. Death therefore ought to be planned for and prepared for. Within the continuum of death Voluntary Euthanasia constitutes one component; the death of a legal entity, a citizen, a tax payer and a law abiding individual. While the material apparatus and practice of taking one’s life is within the ability of an individual the law treats this as a form of crime – the taking of life is a crime. However in exceptional circumstances, such as extreme pain and suffering, it ought to be permissible for society to permit the individual to choose a form of exit and end to the pain and suffering. Those objecting to a law permitting voluntary euthanasia point to the possibility of the exploitation of this option and use the argument of the ‘slippery slope’. The ability of the state to allow for the voluntary Legal Death of a citizen is thus not a straight forward discussion in Australia.

Another component of the continuum of death is what is being referred to as ‘good death’. Chiefly a terminology popular within ‘end of life’ choices within the medical, hospital, ecosystem this phrase refers to the notion that death is largely cast in medical terms. Medical death also largely occurs in hospital where contemporary medicine is confronting the impacts of its practice of aggressively attacking the body to prolong life. Advocates raising the notion of good life are campaigning for doctors, patients and family to have a conversation before undertaking aggressive interventions that would not significantly prolong life but could instead render the person unable to lead a life outside of hospital, fed through tubes and connected to life support apparatus. The notion of good death is thus a way to reimagine the medical death of the person.

Framing the notions of Legal and Medical Death allows me to frame the category of the death of the person: where the death is the end of the social individual, the cultural practice of life. Thus in an individual’s death many things come to an end: the legal entity, the functioning body and the performing individual in society.

In coming to the construction of a location for a project involving students and colleagues I arrived then at the lack and thus the need that we have in society to reframe death. As designers we can do something about a lack – we can populate it with practice, services, products and a discourse. Developing a cultural discourse, we can invite people to enter into an engagement with the notions of death in cultural ways; with amusement, awe and laughter.

Death is a space that is the last event in the journey of life. It then has its own rites of passage, and traditional cultures have many sophisticated, curious and wonderful ways to engage with death. Death thus ought to be designed. Death as this designed practice ought to be framed as a discourse of desirable ways to proceed towards death and constitute the universe of possibilities to reimagine ways of dying. The celebration surrounding the last phase of a life can be so much more than a consumption event, such as the bucket list. It can be the end of consumption too and a repudiation of the mean and the meaningless in the shallows of life.

The proscription of death, and the consignment of the journey towards death, the experience of dying, to a technical facility such as the hospital, a body repair shop, robs society of its past, its ability to enrich social discourse and its ability to build resilience. The banishment of dying from our homes has some horrific consequences in that most people die unhappy and away from their loves ones. People die in horrible ways. We can change this.

ingmar_bergman_seventh_seal_2a_4

(Knight Meets Death, in Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman)

The End studio took a group of design students and teachers on a journey to dismantle death and to put it back together in interesting ways. The goal in this enterprise has always been to be able to take the design outcomes to others who deal with people and families navigating mortality and death. It had been possible of us to construct the studio so that it was embedded within the medical facilities to include experts who deal with keeping people alive. We chose to stay outside of this ecosystem – for a while – so we could create a space that was not about life, where death is the unacceptable, but about dying as a desirable and normal practice.

We constructed dying as a long period. Not just the moments, days and weeks before death and after death. But as a phase that occurs after the end of the working life. So in our view dying commences when you stop working and may extend to decades. Dying in this ways is reframed as something that can be made meaningful and full, rather than empty. We imagine we can speak about death not just with those dying soon, but also with people, such as children, who will die eventually. We can speak of dying as a place where we do things differently, to imagine our lives in ways different from the way we imagined it before we entered the world of work. We can recast dying as the place where we savour. Where we pause to taste, smell and touch. Where we don’t take, but give. Its the location of the poetic phase of our lives.

To enrich ways of dealing with this tremendously important aspect of being alive we imagine we focus not about how we look but upon how funny we are. The attractive person is one who is generous, kind and amusing. We become children and in this we close the loop. Gently and with grace.

Finally.

We make time to be with a dying person in our homes. We hold them, get them to hold our beer as we munch the pizza, stroke their skin and make them normal. We will have seen many dead people and would be richer for it.

Links

Acknowledging others who came along on this journey.

  1. Haley West: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-28/hearse-stolen-with-body-inside-nsw-blue-mountains/5924708
  2. Libby Molony: http://www.theswitchreport.com.au/people/natural-approach-death-interview-libby-moloney-natural-grace/
  3. Rebecca Bartel: http://www.achr.org.au
  4. Tony Yap: http://www.tonyyapcompany.com
  5. Swathi Madike
  6. Ian Gray: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/retiring-coroner-ian-gray-says-victorian-coroners-court-should-be-more-transparent/news-story/9939a32cc1d788576533562d02d471e1

#clintonlandslide

This is a great piece. I am looking at this as – the tide is turning folks. I am looking to achieve my prediction of a Clinton landslide. #clintonlandslide

Opinion | I don’t like Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party. I’m voting for them anyway. – The Washington Post

https://apple.news/AyvMz8xSlRRWri4XZLOM49w

How much should education cost

Walgett spends $44,692 per student, with $43,501 coming from the federal and state government to support the school’s extra needs. By comparison, elite Sydney Grammar spends $40,982 per student, with $3617 coming from public funding. – source: Liberals trigger storm over private school funding, Australian, STEFANIE BALOGH, 12:00AM September 28, 2016

On Monday on #QandA the Education Minister was precise and stated the problem facing every education minister in this country. As the Australian put it:

Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s concession that some of the nation’s wealthiest private schools are “over-funded” and could lose money has ignited a fresh front in the decades-old ­political firestorm over education spending.

In the same Australian article the Grattan Institute’s Peter Goss said it well:

The Grattan Institute’s school education program director Peter Goss said Senator Birmingham “is to be absolutely commended for calling out the fact that some schools are over-funded relative to their need. That means we are spending dollars and extra dollars each year in places that don’t need it, and that is preventing us from spending it in places that do need it’’. “This must change,’’ he said. “This is about the principles of needs-based funding — arguments about hit lists of private schools are purely self-serving.’’

“This has been a no-go area for far too long. It is fantastic that Minister Birmingham is showing signs of taking it on.’’

School Funding has for years been portrayed as an intractable problem. So the Education Minister is keen to do something about it.

Senator Birmingham said he would not buckle in the face of “scaremongering” from Labor about a schools “hit list” and that he was determined to end the inequalities between states and school sectors. – Revealed: the nation’s most ‘over-funded’ schools, Matthew Knott, SEPTEMBER 28 2016 – 8:38PM, The Sydney Morning Herald

Here is a great Video about the Gonski model that proposed a way forward to resolve this problem.

I was listening to RN (@patskarvelas) and the topic of schools funding came up. Stimulated and curious I decided to have a look.

What is the current situation with schools funding?

First I read the two articles that deal with the comments made on Q&A. I then did a bit of rough research. This involved:

  1. Selecting a set of schools to study. I decided to take up two schools from the newspaper article and added three others – two schools I was familiar with and one school in Melbourne that has a reputation for academic excellence ( and for raising house prices in its school zone)
  2. I then downloaded the annual reports for these 5 schools. And extracted two figures from the report: Income (Government and other) and number of students.
  3. I have also used the figures mentioned in the newspaper article (for Sydney Grammar and Walgett) – expenditure by school per student. There was a discrepancy in the figures for Walgett – so I made two lines and thus kept both figures. The ones quoted in the newspaper and the ones in the annual report. I was using the K-12 figures – both primary and high school.
  4. I then made a simple excel spreadsheet you see below.

schools-funding

 

Note: The dataI used for the Walgett School is the one mentioned in this newspaper article. Its possible this is a unique school and potentially a special instance of funding.

Its possible that such a spread sheet can be made up – with more accurate figures. It is entirely possible that research such as this may have been conducted by Gonski/ The Grattan Institute and even by the Education Minister’s office. Purely in terms of Government expenditure – which the Minister seemed to be pointing at – it costs roughly 10 to 12 thousand $ a year to educate a single student in the Public-Ecosystem. On the other side the Federal government has to spend 2.1 billion a year on funding private schools.

This simple chart can be used alongside some key findings of educational research. It can also be used alongside key tropes to verify their validity.  That said a few aspects of the current debate are listed below.

  1. School academic performance is linked to postcodes.
  2. Future Employment outcomes are determined by the school the student graduated from.
  3. The Government should fund all students independent of their economic status.

Some aspects of the current debate are unique to the Australian context – such as preserving state funding for Private schools. Its quite common for state funding outside of Australia to be focussed only upon state schools.

How Much Does Education in Australia Cost?

To look at this next question I started with the ABS data on school going population in Australia.

Overall, government schools continued to be the major provider of school education in Australia in 2015, with 2,445,130 students (65.2% of all students) attending, while 1,305,843, students (34.8% of all students) attended non-government schools. Source Australian Bureau of Statistics (http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4221.0)

From my previous table and text I have two figures: The federal Government spends 2.1 Billion on education, and the rough cost of per student education in a public school is 12,000 $/year. Here is what I came up with:

  • Current State Funding Total 29,341,560,000
  • Federal Funding to Private Schools Total 2,100,000,000
  • Total Government Funding (State plus Federal) 31,441,560,000

The Federal Government is not a big player in the schools funding/ economic ecosystem. If they were to pull the money they spend on private schools and put that into the state system each student would get an additional 900$ – making the individual student spend 12900. For Balwyn High School this would mean an additional income of 1.8 million. This would come at a loss of 4 million to Sydney Grammar.

Note: Using the Federal Funding of 2.1 billion for private schools, for a student population of 1,305,843 – we arrive at an average figure (all students receiving the same level of funding)of Federal Government Funding of 1608$. This is half the quoted figure for Sydney Grammar – and its possible there is a formula that the Government uses to determine variable funding for different private schools.

How to think about Funding

This was an article in the Age today: “More than 150 private schools over-funded by hundreds of millions of dollars each year” by Matthew Knott and Fergus Hunter LINK.

An earlier article has a list of schools overfunded: Revealed: the nation’s most ‘over-funded’ schools, by Matthew Knott

There are a few issues at stake here, some questions and some narratives:

  1. How is the funding for an individual school determined? Therefore how have some of these schools ended up with such high levels of funding.
  2. My earlier analysis was focussed upon ‘taxpayer’s children’ – that is the government money is the portion of tax paid by the individual. This is the hypothesis that the way to fund private schools could use a rule that specified a ‘rate of funding’ attached to a student – such as 12,000$ per year. This funding then would move with the student to any school they wished to go to – a form of portable funding. So a fee of 32,000$ a year in a school could be imagined to comprise two components – the state fee support of  12,000 and a direct school fee for the balance owed – which would be 20,000 in this example.
  3. Re the phrase “No school worse off”: This rule could be interpreted as a notion of equity – currently some schools are worse off and this needs to be fixed. That all schools get funded by the Government to the same amount.
  4. Re How do elite private schools maximise their income from their three sources of funding – fees, Government subsidies, philanthropy/ endowments? There exists a form of private school funding – such as in the US – that has an established mechanism to draw large amounts of funding to exclusive schools. Australian Private schools that adopt these practices would be modernising their income portfolios and moving to become more resilient and potentially even more well funded. Government funding is easy money and holds back innovation.
  5. Is it correct that federal funding go to private schools and state funding look after public schools? This is a historical anomaly – and needs to be revisited. For income tax that individuals pay is collected by the federal government and no portion of this comes back to benefit the family that sends their child to a public school.
  6. How can an education minister change an entrenched system? The solutions are clear but the political path to an equitable future faces many hurdles.
  7. Public Schools adhere to the principle that schooling is a human right – like the air we breathe its free. Should all schooling be free – and paid for from the tax income, plus the tax on the “high net individuals” and corporations that are not paying any tax?
  8. Should a sovereign fund be established to provide for free schooling?

Till the recent voicing of the notion of ‘over-funding’ it has not been possible to have a national conversation about the future of schools funding.

Correction

I have used an old figure of 2.1 Billion – as what the federal government spends on private schools. Recent articles have used much higher figures – I am planning to speak with school principals to correct my figures in the coming weeks and months.

Further Reading

Gonski Report – Download here.

Commentary here.

What is the Gonski Report.

Declaration

My children went to/is in state schools. I am very happy with their schooling experience. I was prompted to write this – to have this conversation with them – partly to explain how government works in this case in dealing with service provision for its citizens. This information would be useful to them in the event one of them becomes the premier or prime minister.

I write this post – and will keep making additions and edits over the course of time – as a primer for people who may want to read a discussion about school funding.

 

 

Loved the Rosie Project

I finished the Rosie Project last night. It was 10.44 PM when I got up from the yellow Ikea reading chair. I had begun the read at 4.30 AM after downloading it on Borrow Box using my local Darebin library membership. I had chosen to download the e-AudioBook version of the book. At the back of my mind was the project – stuff my brain with specific diction – which I researched and did not follow up. This was a project to extend my diction in many different directions. I can Speak English in a few differed ways – multiple Indian ways, but also can do a smattering of Japanese-English, Singlish. Listening to an eAudio book would insert a substantial amount of audio content into my brain – and would be stored there till I accessed it. This book would no doubt be spoken of in the Melbourne-Educated voice. This is a form of hybrid intonation that would contain both the Urban-metropolitan Australian nuances, plus the standard university educated minimisation of local intonations. This voice would be fitting in to a standard-english mode stripped off the colloquial local and socialised intonations. Not posh – just stripped back and pickled. With delicious overtones of the American ‘a’ intoned sporadically for effect, and the conscious attempt at the rounded ‘o’ to denote every so often – responding to the need to have a confusing impact upon the listener.

The usage of the word ‘bastard’ is a case in example. It can be deployed in multiple ways. Its a great word that can be used as a ‘boy hug’ – “you bastard” slowly issuing from the mouth of a colleague is a great way to say “I fucking love you mate”. The ‘a’ in affection is rounded – the flattened ‘a’ in this word would confuse the listener: is this is a quote from a film? For effect the ‘b’ can be used as a projectile, with popping lips.

I am Soumitri of South Indian Extraction, height 167 and BMI 23.7. Average on all scores and statistically normal. No special distinguishing features. Balding, occasionally vegetarian, non-smoker, monogamous, Sporadic quantified-selfer, User of multiple scheduling apps (desultorily). Intellectually I am prone to binge projects – learn hebrew (not all that well), run (reasonably well – though not pushing the limit, desultory). I checked a few times, doing a mental assessment, to see if I figured on the Autism scale. I am hopeless in social gatherings. I can get worked up after social events. I like to work alone. I do not want to play the academic grants game. I would rather do interesting research that is not beholden to money making. Am I like Don (the main chracter in the book). There is a lot to like in Don.

the-rosie-project

Very early into the reading of the book (I should have said into the listening) I had an impulse that I have had often with authors – my particular and very special favourites being Andrea Camilleri and Shane Maloney. I would love to have coffee with this author. I stopped the audio just as Don was putting the lobster into the freezer. I went and had a look at Graeme Simsion. Then I had a read of a few reviews. There was a lot to like (“Warm-hearted and perfectly pitched, with profound themes that are worn lightly, this very enjoyable read promises to put Don Tillman on the comic literary map somewhere between Mr Pooter and Adrian Mole. Through his battles to understand and empathise with other humans, Don teaches us to see the funny side of our own often incomprehensible behaviour – and to embrace the differently abled.”) and not like (“The Rosie Project is 1930s screwball comedy updated for 2013.”) in the reviews.

I am prone to preferring the notion of affection in my engagement with literary charatecres of this genre.

I loved the book. I cried at many points. I stayed with the book. I stand with the voice of the narrator. I finished the book in a day.

If you want your treat in audio this is a gorgeous morsel.

I am next going to have a look at/ a listen of:

“The Rosie Effect – the book’s sequel, released last September, about the birth of the professor’s child with Rosie – was recently named by Bill Gates as one of his five favourite reads of 2014.”
http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/literary-double-act-anne-buist-and-graeme-simsion-20150112-12mbhh.html

Ray Matthews, 75, runs 75 marathons in 75 days.

So I am a failure. My app says I have to run 10.5 kms today. It’s 8 AM and I am off to work. Have not run yet. But now that I am thoroughly shamed -I aim to do better and run this evening:

http://flip.it/UUaopS

http://flip.it/UUaopS

Adorables or Deplorables?

I listened to NPR politics (yes a fan) podcast on my way to work today. Clinton’s use of the phrase – Basket of Deplorables was discussed and that it was now viral as #basketofdeplorables. What prompted this post was a comment by @domenicoNPR that he had posted a basket of puppies as #basketofadorables. So I headed off to twitter to check this out. I saw the basket of puppies – but then I came across a conspiracy theory that twitter was forcefully converting #basketofdeplorables into #basketofadorables – but isn’t this just autocorrect? Just saying.

#nprpolitics @samsanders

The other issue was the discussion around the #plebiscite. I have been tracking on this – and its already begun the polarisation and the hate speech – and then the phrases and contexts got conflated. #basketofdeplorables?

Signing off with a #basketofadorables

Cool Things in Dangerous Places

Today I encountered a description of this company – that is a business but with an engaging story of social innovation.

combat-flipflops-evaluation-2

This is someone who uses the flipflops and lives to write about them.

It is a vetrepreneurial company formed by 2 Army Rangers and a designer with the intention of helping to build a no-bullshit sustainable economy in Afghanistan. CFF reckons that one way to contribute to stability on the ground there is with a robust economy and gainfully employed Afghans. That effort has gone sideways for a number of reasons but should hopefully begin again in the near future with the deployment of Expeditionary Production Facilities. Is it a quixotic mission? Probably, but that doesn’t make it any less worth supporting.  The entire CFF crew is as passionate about their “business not bullets” ethos as they are about helping veterans. To describe them as merely patriotic would be to damn them with faint praise.

I love my CFF AK47s and I wasn’t kidding when I said I was about to buy my 4th pair – I already have one pair for myself and I’ve purchased one each for Household-6 and my spawn. Are they pricey? Yes, certainly, especially when compared to cheap ass Walmart flip flops or other flimsy sandals. Personally I think they’re worth it, and certainly not just because the long term goal will contribute to a less Taliban- and drug-centric Afghanistan. Combat Flip Flops are a long lasting, well built lifestyle brand that happen to have a great underlying mission.

Even if they are bad for fighting and worse for running.

Read more: http://www.recoilweb.com/a-brutally-candid-look-at-combat-flip-flops-44277.html#ixzz4F4WQ4MCA

This is the founder doing a TED Talk.

The language on their site is full of great phrases:

Business, not bullets!

The Peacemaker Bangle and Coinwrap are sent to us straight from artisans in Laos – and they’re made from bombs. Each bracelet sold clears 3 square meters of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) from a region rocked by long-term war – saving lives and providing economic opportunity.

And then:

UNAPOLOGETICALLY, WE MAKE COOL STUFF IN DANGEROUS PLACES.

We do this because it’s our job to show others what’s possible, then encourage them to join us.
WELCOME TO THE UNARMED FORCES.

Take a look and pass the word on.

Design in the West Coast

I am currently doing a study of design in the US through a research field trip. My area of focus is entered around the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Seattle.

The East was simply breathtaking

kurosawa-sanshiro

This region has not occupied my interest in nearly 26 years – to be precise since 1991 when I worked in the design studios at Hitachi in Kokubunji in Tokyo, Japan. Its safe to say the years preceding and following my stint at Hitachi were filled with a deep passion for Japanese aesthetic production – from Literature, Cinema, Poetry, art and Design. I had encountered Penny Sparke’s Japanese Design in the 1980s, and I have had no reason to go back to that work in the past 3 decades. I was to changed quite significantly by my Japan exposure, and my deep immersion into the Japanese Design Ecosystem provided me with access to a practice that provided an alternative narrative to the functional-utilitarian discourse I was inculcated in at Design School in the early 1980s. I arrived in Japan with all my senses open and suspended – with an excessive passion for Kurosawa, Kawabata and Ozu. It was a territory I was owning for myself. It helped that I was surrounded by others equally passionate in the material culture of Japan. Japan however is not important in this post. What is significant is that the project to undertake an immersion and a scholarship of the material culture of a people changed both my approach to valuing design and to the ‘good looking’ in design. This immersion was a precursor to my engagement with design in Asia and to the diversity of contextual constructions of design.

That Old (Traditional) view of American Design

Before I had begun my preoccupation with the East I was fortunate to be exposed extensively to American designers and design projects. An exposure that lasted till the late 1980s. This exposure was the stuff of lore – Wright, Herman Miller, Saarinen, Eames and Propst. I even sat behind Paolo Soleri at a concert in Ahmedabad.

The bridge between matter and spirit is matter becoming spirit.

I knew people who had worked with Fuller and Kahn. I was of course of the generation of the 80s – The Whole Earth Catalog occupied us, I can recite verbatim from Fuller:

I have foreseen for one-third of a century, that the opportunity existed for a new professional architectural scientist to seize the initiative, independent of client prerogatives, in dealing anticipatory with the external organics of industrial man.

I have loved my well thumbed copy of Wholly Round by Rasa Gustaitis, and Cosmic Fishing by Applewhite. We were at this time taking the Stewart Brand Whole Earth Catalog to heart – and were focussed upon solving the worlds problems – in geodesic ways. I have built a few three frequency domes in my life, built solar cookers and have re-paired windmills. The repair opportunity arose as I was in conversation with Marjorie Sykes at Rasulia, the Quaker Farm I was volunteering at, and going on about VITA and the appropriate tech movement.

My continuing pursuit of american production was to be in the field of alternative education. Ivan Illich (Deschooling Society), Rules for Radicals (Saul Alinsky), John Holt, Neil Postman (Teaching as a subversive activity) and John Seeley Brown (Learning in the Digital Age) guided me as I developed my teaching practice.

American Design meant something completely different then. I had potentially been distancing myself from the designer who suffered from hubris – external organics of industrial man – and has shifted to a contemplative, and collaborative mode. Being immersed in the context and listening deeply to the words – and keeping what I was hearing local, pertinent to the context of the speaker, is giving me new insights.

Soon after I wrote the above line I was to spend time with a university science and technology academic. I heard a position articulated – that science in a famous university would produce the solution for a sustainable planet – and had a momentary exposure to the hubristic voice.

Design in the West Coast

So it is only this year that I have begun a program to research contemporary Design in the US of A. In the first instance I am looking closely at Design in the West Coast.I have begun to read Barry Katz’s book Make it now and am now gaining an appreciation of design in the west coast. A lot of what I have been hearing in my interviews, Stanford is an amazing laboratory of innovation, is now making sense.

My interest in Design in the West Coast is in three parts. My Research looks at:

  1. Contemporary crafts and art production. I have a set of links to Pinterest Boards to Furniture Designer-Makers listed at the end of this post.
  2. The history and development of contemporary design in the bay area.
  3. Design Institutions and Educational ecosystems.
  4. Entrepreneurship ecosystems in Design

This is the first in a series on Design in the West Coast.

The research program will produce some artefacts that I will post here: a narrative, some drawings, enumerations and a glossary.

Further Readings

Pinterest Boards: Sam Malouf, George nakashima

Barry Katz, Make it New (Book), Link.

Richard Florida, America’s Leading Design Cities, Link.

Nathan Shedroff & Christopher Noessel, Make It So, Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction, Link.

Cosmic Fishing, by E.J. Applewhite, LinkThis is a wondefull book about E.J Applewhite’s collaboration with Buckminster Fuller on Bucky’s epic “Synergetics” Applewhite writes about the process of intimately working with Fuller….the quirks,calamities, frustrations and ecstacies. I have bought it for friends as it is a good, concise guide to Bucky’s principles and way of thinking. As in “Synergetics” Applewhite gets to the basics. As he would say, “He confronts Fuller with himself” Applewhite shows himself to be a elegant writer and dry wit. I can see why he complimented Bucky so well.

Wholly Round by Rasa Gustaitis

The text of the Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth is available, for those wishing to download the PDF, here.

John Seeley Brown’s text (PDF) Learning in the Digital Age here.

So I learnt Hebrew over the weekend

I am a recent listener to Tim Ferriss’ pod casts. In fact I heard my first Ferriss podcast last week. One of the things that Ferriss is famous for is “How to learn a language in an hour”. You can read about that in this article.

Coincidently a few things were happening in my life at about this time:

  1. I had updated my linkedIn profile and removed all references to the languages I spoke. ( I used to list 9 in that profile, but then I also listed my main occupation as Basket Ball Manager then.)
  2. I had recently spent some intensive-time (10 days, all day) with an Israeli academic-friend from a few decades ago. And had realised that I was collaborating with or was in the vicinity of 4 Hebrew speakers.

Somehow the two facts collided and I found myself setting a challenge to myself on Friday night that I would learn Hebrew by Sunday night. Its 8 PM on Sunday and I have learnt Hebrew! Here is what I have learnt:

  1. I know the Hebrew Alphabet, and can read simple words.
  2. I have a vocabulary of 200+words.
  3. I can pronounce ‘kh’ reasonably well.
  4. I am learning some of the words to 23 hebrew songs.

In short Tim Ferriss is right. The language deconstruction does take very little time, and the memorising of alphabets, words and phrases can be equally quickly accomplished.

Here is what I did.

First I set up the goal to learn the alphabet, a mistake in my Japanese language learning which I need to rectify. This is relatively easy – I used the online platform Memrise and found a Hebrew course on it. I have used Memrise in the past to learn Bahasa and its a brilliant way to just memorise a list of alphabets, words, or phrases.

I then looked at Youtube to find a bunch of video toturials. For this I went back to Innovative Language and their 101 series: Learn Hebrew with Hebrew Pod 101. They have a great set for vocabulary – which I used to get some words into my head. They also have an alphabet series – which I aim to get to when I feel the need to polish my alphabet learning.

Finally the most useful resource – which I completely plundered to get a lot of Hebrew learning happening was this site: www.teachmehebrew.com (TMH). The things I did on this site:

  1. I looked at the Tim Ferriss-like breakdown of Hebrew. Brilliant. Take a look here. I read this out into my phone, ripped the recording to mp3 and put in into my iTunes to listen to.
  2. I listened to the AlefBet song repeatedly (till the house banned me from playing it aloud). Memorising the names of the alphabets was quite quick, and I lay in bed this morning reviewing it in my mind.
  3. I went into Memrise and memorised the alphabet forms. The started doing simple words.
  4. I began listening to the 23 songs in the TMH site. I spent 2 hours doing this. These sounds are embedded in my brain. I plan to go to the TMH site and scan the lyrics on screen as I listen to the songs – sometime in the future.
  5. I played the 100 words on TMH – so I am familiar with the sounds. Will go and put this into my memory later, in the future. Will do the same with Phrases, Verbs and other bits on this site.

Then I went looking for Apps – so I can have a learn+quiz format to keep learning.

  1. I found this brilliant app by RBBell – to learn the alphabet. You can all his other apps here. By 6 PM today I had a B+ in the hebrew alphabet. You learn the alphabet and then you test yourself and you can keep repeating this cycle till you get perfection.
  2. Another App I downloaded (iTunes) is Nemo Hebrew. This is for words. I am yet to play with this.

Last words from Ferriss:

In all cases, treat language as sport.

Learn the rules first, determine if it’s worth the investment of time (will you, at best, become mediocre?), then focus on the training. Picking your target is often more important than your method.

Lehitra’ot!

CoDesign: Some useful text for my project collaborators

Co-design is about engaging consumers and users of products and services in the design process, with the idea that this will ultimately lead to improvements and innovation. In Co-design those impacted by the proposed design are actively involved as partners in the design process. Co-design is being used in government, community and health sectors to extend traditional consultation methods and increase program reach and impact. Co-design approaches are also being used by corporates to engage internal stakeholders and customers, identify new service opportunities and improve existing ones.

  1. Co-design is person-centred, using ethnographic methods to understand the experience of a service from the clients point of view.
  2. Co-design asks service providers and service users to walk in the shoes of each other and to use these experiences as the basis of designing changes.
  3. Co-design starts with a desired end rather than with what is wrong with the present service. In the process we look for ways to build backwards from the outcomes we are seeking. This not only stops us from getting bogged down in what is wrong, it also potentially leads to realisations that the problems we thought we were facing were not the real problems!
  4. Co-design is focussed on developing practical, real-world solutions to issues facing individuals, families and communities. In co-design processes, prototyping is a method of testing whether ideas work in practice, and then refining ideas until solutions that work for service users and providers alike are developed.
  5. Co-design makes ideas, experiences and possibilities visible and tangible using a variety of media, graphic, kinesthetic and experiential methods. This helps to make solutions tangible and to make complex systems accessible across a range of people who may have different perspectives and knowledges about the system.
  6. Co-design processes are inclusive and draw on many perspectives, people, experts, disciplines and sectors. The idea is to find real, workable solutions to complex issues, so it is important to draw on many perspectives, to challenge orthodoxies, to question assumptions, and to draw in other possibilities.
  7. Co-design processes thrive when boundaries are flexible and silos are broken down, when real listening and dialogue can occur across unlikely alliances.

When ‘doing’ co-design, the role of the designer becomes one of facilitator: enabling participation, designing the right triggers, questions and scaffolds in which meaningful and effective participation can occur.

A typical co-design workshop has at least two different parts, one where the participant is instigated to speak about current experiences in order to start the conversation, and one where hands-on co-design exercises take place. The workshops generally involve a collection of materials, instructions for the co-design exercises, and considerable amounts of many people’s time. The data obtained from co-design sessions is generally visual and tangible. It can aid in presenting research findings in direct connection with users’ ideas and feelings in more engaging and understandable forms. The results of each session are debriefed with the team that was part of the process or that observed the sessions. The researcher captures everyone’s ideas on sticky notes and collects them on a board dedicated to each participant. Once the research cycle is finalized, the qualitative nature of the data allows the results of co-design processes to be analyzed with methods such as affinity diagramming or parallel clustering.

Links: See also these texts.

  1. UX Australia in 2013 – useful text here.
  2. Also see – Co-designing for social good Part I: The role of citizens in designing and delivering social service by Ingrid Burkett
  3. Also linking CoDesign to Participatory Design

Further Resources

  1. What is co-design?
  2. Codesign in Health at RMIT – site here.
  3. PROUD – a network of Codesigners.
  4. On Codesign and creating better public services
  5. On Codesign, CoProduction
  6. Service Design Network – about service design.
  7. Participle

Useful Resource People – people working in this field

  1. Jennie Winhall, Design Strategy and Service (LinkedIn)
  2. Sarah Drummond, SNOOK
  3. Lauren Currie, Twitter, SNOOK, Redjotter on wordpress.
  4. Brigit Mager, On SDN, On Adaptive Path.

Orange Sky Laundry

I heard about Orange Sky Laundry this morning on the Radio. It made my day!

This is the Site. The article in The Age.

This is a social innovation that provides a service – clean clothes – that is crucial to an individual’s self respect. What the founders of this enterprise speak about is – how their idea of the mobile laundry has changed their thinking – about how they had initially visualized the ‘need’. While the project had been about clean clothes, what they were hearing from the homeless was how the project was providing for conversation. “I have not spoken to a single person in three days” said one of the people they were talking to.

Thats a crucial difference for me between social and technical innovation. You make a thing – people and buy and use it. You make a social ‘thing’ – people are transformed by their own humanity.

For more on Social Innovation – Take a look at this RESOURCE PAGE in this site (circa 2008).

When you have done that – if you have an idea, of a social artefact that you would like to construct, I would love to hear from you.

And for some great music and a build – as you sip your coffee. Take a look at this.

Ah the Bern: Notes on unpacking the feeling

I have been feeling the Bern for some time now. It has fuelled an idealism that has been nourishing. There has been this rush every morning to reach out to my Flipboard tile labelled Bernie Sanders. To catch up on the latest news and analysis – then to reread articles for the second or third time invoking my Tamil past when I memorised lines and texts.

d29789bd0e28a75e3366d3e429889fa3

I also realise that I am not a great Bernie watcher. I was an Obama watcher – he was poetically articulate and it was treat to watch him. I cried during his Inauguration speech. But hey I was only shedding a tear that the ‘yes we can’ ring tone that I made – and posted to my blog – wasn’t exactly a mega success. Well I was its only known user. I made a youtube mashup of “yes we can” within a course pitch on World Changing. I was gushing silently and internally, not that anyone wanted to discuss Obama where I live. Bernie is different. I took his authenticity and then left him alone. The Bern I was feeling meant that I had to watch a lot of youtube discussions and analysis.

Then a few weeks ago after the New York results came in, which I was dreading, I deleted the Sanders tile in my Flipboard. From this point if I wanted to check up on Sanders I would have to type in his name. The Bern was becoming tinged with a sense of loss. A loss that the pragmatists, and the elite, had begun to triumph. It was not meant to be this way.

Looking back on this journey I began to understand my journey, my experience, of/through the Sanders phenomenon. I was getting a sense of what the feeling was – what an individual journey of “berning away” could be.

The berning drove me to hear-watch some of his speeches. He said a few things that resonated. But I was watching a lot of other people talking about him: Cenk Uygur, Sarah Silverman and Rosario Dawn are three that stayed and I would keep going back to. I was listening to NPR Politics podcasts (brilliant to sustain the bern) and keeping up to date with the latest news about the primaries. I found I was switching off the podcats when the other candidates were starting to be discussed. I realise now that I was indulging in my own long dormant political idealism of occupying a space on the left. The labelling of the system as ‘rigged’, the calling out of the elite as a closed-entitled-self-serving-minority (my words), and the labelling of business-as-usual-politicians as ‘establishment’ was sweet to hear. Uygur, Silverman and Dawn were great to listen to – they stoked the bern gorgeously – for they articulated the need for a new fresh and honest redefinition of the purpose of government. Something we could see in the sum total of the ecosystem of thoughts, words and ideas that Bernie was pointing at.

I have probably been feeling my way around the notion of a just society. I had posted a note about a particular territory – Projects as Campaigns – and that systems in society are broken (see the text here) so something needs to be done. I would use my teaching practice to address this territory of the ‘broken’. What Bernie did was provide a channel, a place to stop and read, a direction in which to feel free to imagine a future society. This particular berning sensation was tremendously uplifting. I could begin my mental conversations with – ‘imagine if …’.

Obama had begun something in 2007. But his reasonableness was too comfortable. It didn’t have the spirit of the ‘revolution’ – Bernie was serving better as the lightening rod for a great provocation. The Bern was the tension, the tautness of the far left and of the ‘establishment’ centrists being pulled leftwards. So enjoyable to see the squirming.

For more on: YoungTurks/ Cenk UygurSarah SilvermanRosario Dawn (amazing).

And VOX too fuels the Bern:

Whether the first Sanders-style nominee is Sanders himself or Elizabeth Warren or someone like a Tammy Baldwin or a Keith Ellison doesn’t matter. What’s clear is that there’s robust demand among Democrats — especially the next generation of Democrats — to remake the party along more ideological, more social democratic lines, and party leaders are going to have to answer that demand or get steamrolled.

To fuel the Bern I was reading. I would have Picketty, Warren and Comrade Corbyn “open in my kindle” (to use a metaphor of simultaneity) as I dipped in and out of these books. I did read Warren through. That was powerful stuff. Indeed the kernel of a pure rational and humane society is revealed by Warren. She is brutal and plaintive in the way she describes the two polar opposites she deals with in her bankruptcy reform campaign. At one end are the organised-gangs-of-robber-capitalists joining forces and at the other end are the isolated bankrupt individuals living in the homes of their parents – still being pursued by the gangs. An acutely tribal and very violent society. How did we let it get this way? she ask plaintively. We have lost out moral compass. And the bern is the feeling of anger at this state of affairs.
A fighting chance by Elizabeth Warren

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved the goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory…. Now look, you built the factory and it turned into something terrific, or great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid that comes along. (from this review)

Capital by Thomas Piketty

Three-quarters of Australians tell survey researchers that “differences in income are too large”. About the same proportion believe that government has a role in redistributing income “towards ordinary working people”. (from this review)

Comrade Corbyn by Rosa Prince

Jeremy Corbyn’s emergence is a strange phenomenon. A man well into his sixties, his political appeal to the under-25s more than any other age group, who has taken on the worst job in politics after 32 years contentedly avoiding responsibility of any kind. In theory, he is due to go to the country a few days before his 71st birthday to ask them to choose him as their Prime Minister. (from this review)

Then last night I encountered a young university student around a campfire – wearing a Bernie TShirt. The fireside chat was where we felt a kinship for we were both feeling the bern. Where I promised to post some readings.

Of course tax cuts for corporations and high income earners, in the new Australian budget, is not okay. Here is what Warren has to say about that.

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This is in the Atlantic – an article from 1985: “…and he grins. It’s the mischievous grin of a deliberate non-conformist, a kid who refuses to join cliques.”

How to make a music list for a Bollywood dance party

This is a Life Hack Post.

I was at a Bollywood dance party last night. The play list for the dance party had to have a diverse list of songs catering to the different people at the event: Older Aussie-Indians, more authentic Indians, Firangis (Kiwi-Aussies), young Aussie-Indians, young Indians. North Indians (mostly) with a few south Indians.

In a successful Bollywood party people have to sing out the songs and so have to know the songs. Which means as the DJ making the list I had to make a list of song categories to work to. These four categories – (a must) – are: Danceable Film Hits, Item Numbers, Remix of Old (older the better) Songs, & Indi Pop Songs.

  1. Popular Film Songs: Major Hits that can be danced to. Plus songs that are Antakhsari Favourites.
    1. Older Songs – Timeless songs.
    2. Newer Songs –
  2. Item numbers: this had to have a selection of contemporary items numbers, some from the past decades, then a few of the evergreen item numbers – with at least two of them featuring Helen Ji. I had Chaiya Chaiya in this list
  3. Remix list: I made a remix list with songs going back to the 40s ( mere priya Gaye Rangoon).
    1. Really old Songs – 40s to 60s: Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon is an all time favourite to make the party smile.
    2. Not so old – 60s and 70s:
  4. Indi Pop songs: then I had these non film songs – Daler, Sukhbir, Stereonation plus “ludicrous Gujarat Di”.

So this was my list – roughly 70 songs. I was working towards a 3 to 4 hour list. I imagined some of the songs would be played more than once.

FILMI SONGS OLDER

  1. Piya Tu Ab To Aaja
  2. Chura liya hai
  3. Mehbooba Mehbooba
  4. Yeh Mera Dil
  5. Kajra Mohabat Wala
  6. Sharara Sharara
  7. Tanha Tanha
  8. Ek Pal Ka Jeena
  9. Radha Kaise Na Jale
  10. Chunari Chunari
  11. Raat Ko Aaoonga Mein
  12. Taal Se Taal Mila

FILMI SONGS NEW

  1. Mujhko Pehchaanlo Don 2
  2. Aaj Ki Raat Don 2
  3. Dhoom Machale Dhoom
  4. Barso Re
  5. Bhar Do Jholi Meri
  6. Lungi Dance
  7. Why This Kolaveri Di
  8. Selfie Le Le Re
  9. Khwaja Mere Khwaja
  10. Deewani Mastani

ITEM Numbers

  1. Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast
  2. Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai
  3. Crazy Kiya Re
  4. Nimbooda Nimbooda
  5. Chaiyya Chaiyya (Alt – Briptu Norman Kamaru)
  6. Kajra Re
  7. Munni Badnaam Hui
  8. Sheila Ki Jawani
  9. Chikni Chameli
  10. Pinga
  11. Radha

REMIX OLD Songs (40s to 60s)

  1. Mere piya gaye rangoon
  2. Leke pehela pehela pyar
  3. Saiyan Dil Mein Aana Re
  4. Hothon Pe Aisi Baat
  5. Mujhe buddha mila gaya
  6. Kabhi aar Kabhi paar
  7. Jadugar Saiyan
  8. Ek pardesi mera dil le geya
  9. Jhumka gira re
  10. Yeh hai reshmi

REMIX OLD Songs (60s to 70s)

  1. Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar Ke Charche
  2. Daiya re Daiya chad gayo papi Bichua
  3. Kaanta Laga
  4. Mere Naseeb Mein
  5. Aa Jaane Jaan
  6. Choti Si Umar
  7. Meri beri ke ber mat todo
  8. Hai Hai Yeh Majboori
  9. Dafliwale

Indi POP

  1. Ishq Tera Tadpave – Sukhbir
  2. Lift Karadey – Adnan Saami
  3. Tunak Tunak Tun – Daler Mehndi
  4. Kina Sona Tenu – Nusrat
  5. Made In India – Alisha Chinai
  6. Nashe Di ye Band Botle – Stereonation
  7. Oh Carol – Stereonation
  8. Nachange Saari Raat – Stereonation
  9. Dil le gayee kuri gujarat di – Jasbir Jassi
  10. Aafreen Aafreen – Nusrat
  11. Dama Dam Mast Kalandar – Mika Singh and Yo Yo Honey Singh

This list worked brilliantly. It excited people, made them laugh – made them jump and shake. Try it – pass it on. The categories work – the songs? Well you possibly have your favourites. And you may want to think of who will be at the party.

This below is Malhari – I have to add this to my next list. If you have suggestions to this list please post in the comments section.

This is for my dear jewish friend

Doing a reading from Urry (Mobilities) I opened with this ‘joke’ – that nails the notion of emplacement.

After months of negotiation, Avraham, a Jewish scholar from Odessa, was granted permission to visit Moscow.
He boarded the train and sat down. At the next stop a young man got on and sat next to him. Avraham looked at the young man and thought,

This fellow doesn’t look like a peasant, and if he isn’t a peasant he probably comes from this area. If he comes from this area, he must be Jewish because this is, after all, a Jewish area. On the other hand, if he is a Jew, where could he be going?
I’m the only one from our area to be allowed to travel to Moscow.
Wait – just outside Moscow there is a little village called Samvet, and you don’t need special permission to go there.
But why would he be going to Samvet? He’s probably going to visit one of the Jewish families there, but how many Jewish families are there in Samvet? Only two – the Bernsteins and the Steinbergs. The Bernsteins are a terrible family, so he must be visiting the Steinbergs.
But why is he going? The Steinbergs have only girls, so maybe he’s their son-in-law. But if he is, then which daughter did he marry?
Sarah married that nice lawyer from Budapest and Esther married a businessman from Zhadomir, so it must be Sarah’s husband. Which means that his name is Alexander Cohen, if I’m not mistaken. But if he comes from Budapest, with all the anti-Semitism they have there, he must have changed his name. What’s the Hungarian equivalent of Cohen? Kovacs. But if he changed his name he must have some special status.
What could it be? A doctorate from the University.

At this point Avraham turns to the young man and said, “How do you do, Dr Kovacs?”
“Very well, thank you, sir” answered the startled passenger. “But how is it that you know my name?”
“Oh,” replied Avraham, “it was obvious”.

Then there is this one. I laughed so much I couldn’t read out the joke. I laughed till my tears flowed freely.

This then was enough for me to post this – and a huge resource of other Jokes from the David Minkoff site.

Sadie tells Maurice, “You’re a schmuck! You always were a schmuck and you always will be a schmuck! You look, act and dress like a schmuck! You’ll be a schmuck until the day you die! And if they ran a world-wide competition for schmucks, you would be the world’s second biggest schmuck!”

“Why only second place?” Maurice asks.

“Because you’re a schmuck!” Sadie screams.

Then this one too is priceless.

Rabbi Rabinovitz  answers his phone.
“Hello?”
“Hello, is this Rabbi Rabinovitz?”
“It is.”
“This is the Inland Revenue. Can you help us?”
“I’ll try.”
“Do you know Sam Cohen?”
“I do.”
“Is he a member of your congregation?”
“He is.”
“Did he donate £10,000 to the synagogue rebuilding fund last year?”
“He will!”

Indeed He will!!

Here is the David Minkoff site – with huge thanks to Kim, domo arigatio!

And of course there is this …

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There are many Ways of Dying

I listened to the last episodes of Andrew Denton’s podcasts – Better off Dead – yesterday. Nitschke was on this episode and I found Andrew’s questions and comments a bit lacking in some crucial dimensions. I felt there was a strong push from Denton to move the conversation to privilege a legal narrative – lets make this legal. Just like it is in Netherlands, Belgium and the US. I appreciate what he is trying to do, I am blown away by what he is doing. Yet death is more than just a physical end of life – and the existential issue surrounding death is merely a category in these pod casts. There is the social dimension to death. It is the death of a social being – relationships, citizen, voice, father, husband. And death can be a social practice – death can be de-medicalized. Will he go there in his podcasts I wonder!

You can follow Andrew Denton’s Pod Casts here.

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And so I being writing.

Its been two years now since my participation in a Health Innovation forum organised by a group of doctors. One issue that we talked about at the event was captured in the title – last 18 months. This is a narrative in the medical profession and within the government where a significant proportion of the health care budget of a country are committed to the last 6 months of a person’s life. Its common to encounter statements such as “50% of healthcare costs are incurred in the last 6 months of life”. Posts such as this point to a rethink underway about the medical paradigm of end of life care. One dimension is certainly economic but there are also efforts focussed upon improved quality of life outcomes.

Following the thread of this narrative leads us into the economic problem and solution scenarios of a sustainable future. The direct extrapolation of current practices leads us to imagine that: People will live longer and more people will have dramatic and complicated hospitals deaths. This will cost the state a lot of money.

The recent announcement by the Australian Federal Government to reimagine chronic care as a portfolio solution or a systemic solution is potentially a step in the right direction and is also aiming to spend money wisely . Such thinking aligns well with the paradigm of patient centered health care and we can imagine that this model will in time make use of current and emerging IT solutions such as Health-kit to manage patient health.

Within the discourse of this territory of last 18 months is the work of Dr Angelo Volandes. The article from a few years ago in the Atlantic offers a great introduction to his alternative approach to end of life care. The following paragraph summarises his project – he wishes to show people that certain medical procedures near the end of life can lead to an undesirable hospital death.

On the very first night of his postgraduate medical internship, when he was working the graveyard shift at a hospital in Philadelphia, he found himself examining a woman dying of cancer. She was a bright woman, a retired English professor, but she seemed bewildered when he asked whether she wanted cardiopulmonary resuscitation if her heart stopped beating. So, on an impulse, he invited her to visit the intensive-care unit. By coincidence, she witnessed a “code blue,” an emergency administration of CPR. “When we got back to the room,” Volandes remembered, “she said, ‘I understood what you told me. I am a professor of English—I understood the words. I just didn’t know what you meant. It’s not what I had imagined. It’s not what I saw on TV.’ ” She decided to go home on hospice. Volandes realized that he could make a stronger, clearer impression on patients by showing them treatments than by trying to describe them.

To achieve his goals Volandes uses Videos. I have watched his videos and they are amazingly instructive. He now has a book out and this video.

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I began writing this piece to journal my work in the area of death and dying. I have been looking at ‘service design’ solutions at the end of life.

In short we are all going to die one day. And from a consumption and service design perspective we will have the ability to choose the kind of death we find appropriate. In this last sentence I have edited out the words desirable and acceptable – both design values. Yes it is possible to speculate that death too can be designed. And their may be consultants who will specialise in this field of practice. We do have the designed funeral. Funeral Celebrants transform the physical remains of the human (person) into an aesthetic experience to make the greiving process and the ceremony of death a commodity for consumption. The socially mediated nature of practices surrounding death have both a traditional and modern dimension.

Society in Australia though still struggles with an acceptable social practice of dying. On ones side are the campaigners who collectivise death as a collective moral discourse. Within this narrative the ‘taking of life’ is illegal. On another side are the campaigners who are attempting to push the discourse towards the individualisation of dying. That it is a singular act of volition and that there ought to be choice and freedom for the practices of taking ones own life. There is this global transformation of the discourse of dying and it is enriching the understanding that people have of their own choices. It is possible in the future we will look back at this moment in history for its challenge to society to elevate the discourse surrounding death. Its possible we will fail. Its possible the scare mongers win out.

It did not have to be this way.

The taking of ones own life is a supreme act, a pure act and historically even heroic act of the brave. This beautiful piece about Mishima signposts the social practice of taking ones life.

Mishima spoke increasingly of death and lamented the absence in modern times of “great causes” to die for. In his 1970 interview, he described the samurai notion of killing oneself as “brave harakiri,” in contrast to the Western view of suicide as “defeatist.” However, while he was exhorting the young soldiers to rise up against the established order, Mishima was booed and jeered with shouts of “Get down,” and “Go home.” Many Westerners might therefore regard his bloody deed as “defeatist suicide.” Whether the coup attempt was merely a pretext for killing himself is unclear. There is no doubt that it was planned, since he had prepared jisei no ku (traditional death poems) well in advance and made provision for his wife and children. However, did he really believe the soldiers would rally to his call? What is clear, though, is that Mishima considered his act “brave harakiri,” a fitting end for a proud samurai. “Harakiri makes you win,” he pronounced.

To be continued …

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