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‘You’ve Been Nominated to join the Blog Award’ & I’ve Missed Reading My Email! October 17, 2011

Posted by @Karen_Fu in Singapore.
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Dear blogger, You have been nominated by ….  to join the Singapore Blog Awards 2011, because … thinks that your blog has the x-factor. The Singapore Blog Awards, organised by Singapore’s leading bilingual news and entertainment portal, …, has been giving recognition to outstanding blogs in Singapore since 2008. Other than the widespread publicity and recognition that comes with winning the prestigious award, the winners in the 10 main award categories will walk away with a total of ……. (snipped) ‘

(Nominator’s identity, whose blog I’ve just realised was named one of the best,  is hidden; as I haven’t asked him if I could disclose his identity.)

Nevermind the prize/ the trophy designed by the cultural icon, I think this first paragraph of the email is good enough to make me jump. I am 5 months late. Well I tried logging into the system but since it was so badly overdued, I couldn’t do anything. Well, who asked me to have forgotten to read this InBox. I’ve just emailed a very late thank you note to the nominator. He replied in a encouraging way almost immediately. I supposed some people do read my stuff. I have, also within the next fleeting 10 minutes, discovered I had also missed a Photo commendation and a deadline wrongly read, just because I never really manage my online tasks properly.  A couple of weeks ago, I submitted an online Photography contest before  realising the deadline. I slapped my forehead when I did, but I had thought I didn’t see it on the real physical site.  The organizer nonetheless commended on the work.  All these should have sat me up.  I do all my online stuff in pockets of spare time and I type at one go. So I get pockets of shock now.  Sometimes I typo too over Twitter etc, that I kept trying to correct them site after site as it autosends everything.  Naturally when time is short, you can’t do it. So I try to make sure the typos are corrected on the main pages where people usually read. I hurriedly submitted another poetry contest several weeks ago. As I was rushing off then, I thought the identification number would suffice since the system would check it all. Most of the systems here do it anyway. Then I realised that it was not enough. But I got commended later too. What else have I missed in other Inboxes, I have yet to see.  For now, I have to run off.

Fun way to have a day before the next half of the day. I suppose no one’s like me alright! — Karen Fu

Are PhDs a threat to design education? Are PhDs a threat to all kinds of education? October 14, 2011

Posted by @Karen_Fu in education, Innovation, research.
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I am following up, albeit in a very fast eye dotting manner on the thread which Don Norman had started from ‘Brilliance without substance‘. I have plenty to say. As so much time is allowed for me, I think I will just candidly write from my personal perspective. I think Gunar Swanson had hit a lot of points that design research need not come from only PhDs ( see his post on PhD design) . That is a crux of the matter. Research should not be done by only people who hold PhDs. Its a fallacy to assume that all PhDs could do fine  intelligent research. It’s an insult to those who are able but choose not to do a postgraduate education because of the opportunity costs concerned. Research is the process of using keen observation to do innovative investigation, whereby different skills and knowledge are put into use to find the solutions to problems. It has to be done by intelligent people. No doubt about it. But it may not always be done by PhD holders. It can be seen as rude to think so.

I don’t hold a postgraduate degree though I had gotten in to a good number in various fields. I had the wish to a postgrad and onwards to a PhD. But circumstances at home did not allow me to do it. It still is actually. Despite so, I still applied in the slim hope that someone out there would offer me the full cash to cover the costs I would have to forgo. I wanted to be a college professor. I love academic environment because of ONE damned reason : its a learning haven where dreams  could be realized without the politics. Top colleges could do that with their kind of financial base with companies and their network to research materials.  I was dreaming away and to be not able to attend one postgraduate course was a nightmare, especially to someone who really loves to learn and teach.

Now this motivation to do a postgrad has dwindled down rapidly as I read off minds who are not opened. To me, receptiveness is very important as much as intellectual integrity. One cannot be too intelligent and wise to ignore what others out of our clique could offer. Everyone has their experience, and their cleverness for us to learn. It adds up to a wholesome mind that knows no boundaries. PhDs can be a threat if it blocks this freedom to investigate and problem solve in different ways. If words and tons of words are the sole way of doing research, then we are in dire trouble.

From my clique from Senior High, whom many are holding top posts in the country, I know PhDs are not a must. However, intelligence is a must. The mind must able to see beyond context and be able to interpret different information at a sound level. A good number of my ex-college mates only hold a bachelors, some at Masters level but they hold billion dollar assets excellently. I have only come across 1 PhD graduate from my Senior High clique who is holding a vice director post. I was surprised that not a lot of people had done their PhDs given the fact that most of my senior high friends were high flyers in academia. The reason? They don’t see the point of doing a PhD. Apart from those who did a medical degree, where many of them are researchers in different areas of medicine, I hardly see like even a third of them holding PhDs.  Oh yes, another one did hers for journalism. But I don’t think it really helped her much in the end because she was already at her pinnacle of her career. Many had done important work in serving the people. The essence of this success is their openness to learn and to solve problems actively in great precision and efficiency in the best possible method for their pending problems. 

Writing to this point, I must clarify that I am not against PhDs. But I do punch out to those who have restrictive dogmatic minds of whom, what and how to do research. It spells discrimination and a poor sense of foresight and even hindsight.

Research is not about prescribed formulas. Its about looking at the problem in a very holistic and sensitive way with respect to people and the environment. It is about the process of creative innovation where methods itself could be even invented. Sure you need a rule to keep things in order and an efficient system for all to relate to. But not to the point of confinement.

Certain cliches for being a PhD graduate appears to be evident. Perhaps it stems out from the idea that to reach the top of the academic pinnacle is an accomplishment. It is, provided that the PhD education has taught one to be truly democratic and open to different people, creed and culture in a respectful way. This is indeed a highly sensitive topic. But I suppose if anyone is genuinely interested in research and to see how it goes, I bet you people will speak up. — Karen Fu

My other relevant blog post reference:

1. Postgrad or not- the value of education to answer real problems. 

2. Substance Over Brilliance

3. Scholarship, Research and Design – its relevancy to both human society & nature

Scholarship, research and design – its relevancy to both human society & nature October 12, 2011

Posted by @Karen_Fu in change, design, education, Innovation, research.
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I have been skimming through the threads on PhDs, education, design and about substance without brilliance. To be honest, I really feel like ‘crying’. So were the few who had read them over my shoulders. First off to clear out the verbose clot, we need to question the basics of education if we are delivering the right skills to students of the right calibre. Next off, we need to ask if we are teaching the right ethics and ideas about what design should be. This includes not only in the area of the arts but in other fields of engineering design, service design, social innovation etc. They are, in my opinion, linked. For without a sound mind of thought and knowledge in a sharp logical way, clear creative thinking cannot be formed. It is as simple as that. We need to also ask if we have been designing for the sake of designing. Or are we chanting the mantra without asking why we need to use a certain technology.  At times advance technologies may be harmful. We need not use ‘progressive’ technologies in certain areas; but we must have a progressive mind to know what is good, and what is bad. Then we are talking about the true usefulness of scholarship, research and design. Many times, we are creating more problems to the problems. Do we really need a microchip to push out the water from the sprout? Does a cup of coffee taste best using a US$3500 machine when someone with the right hand tools would suffice. At some levels, ego seems to be eating us up. Our environment is damaged because we have lost touch with the ground. What is the point of PhDs when you’ve loose the fundamentals? I seem to have been reading a chunk of many words on forums at PhD-Design. Surely the type of words show power and we do need words to communicate over the internet. Its fast & it’s damn quicker to run the keyboards than to even draw or make models.

But at several points, I seem to feel we are students studying English Literature;
while in reality we need to learn design literature, social economics literature, engineering literature, politics etc..Words are there to portray thoughts but words can never display full ideas.  They are definitely valueless if they are always being repeated several times.

Should words be used to create ‘class disparities’ ? Definitely not. But it does appear that certain cultures have to be dogmatically followed. That itself stifles that idea of thought. I think there are some ideas about what design education should be; and what research should be. I really love to study and research on design issues. — its basically about life quality in terms of design. But at times, when I read some research views or work; I would start to question about the methods and the ideas behind it. Do we really understand what is research and how to teach research ? What kinds of mindsets and attitudes should we bear in mind ? Sometimes, I find them ‘funny’. At times I find it frustrating. At rare points, reading them makes you wanna ‘cry’.

Taking up a postgrad isn’t that attractive now as I seem to be seeing more problems than solutions. It’s probably the ‘horror’ I read off from certain people on the forum and also the people whom I met. They seem to sound so rigid at times. But I still like to think I could do a postgrad because of 1 reason: teaching. Colleges don’t hire people without a postgrad qualification to teach unless it were to mean guest lecturing. I am studying on my own and seem to be very happy with it. I’ve also come to realize that in higher education, people tend to despise non-postgrad or non PhD graduates. A certain egoistical pride in the way some people view their post grad degrees. That’s also one of the reasons I keep away from the degree. Then again, people can still say I am not good enough to study for one. I have got a different style in expressing myself in which everyone can understand me. No profound words, no ‘profound’ looks. Plain and simple. Maybe that’s why some people don’t really like my style.
I think life isn’t that complex if we chose not to. We live in a oddball world where many people do not die from the disease that they got in the first place. They often die from the side diseases that they contracted later. Advancement in technologies may curing diseases, but if we fail to understand what is the root of the problem, then we are not eradicating problems.Take some breathing space to ponder about how we live. Then you will understand where I come from.  It would certainly be a question of character if one does something awfully different from what they preach. That’s a shame on design integrity.– Karen Fu, before late bed time snooze..