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Research and learning. March 16, 2013

Posted by @Karen_Fu in design, Design thinking, education, research.
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Just posted a very short and simple post to PhD design list. I always feel the notion of play and fun should never be underestimated. Unfortunately, this sub post stemmed out from a pretty nasty thread. It led to a seasoned researcher to choose leaving the list altogether. I read on and thought I’d just post a short note. My posts aren’t that valued by certain people though there are some who thought they had some good contribution. At one point, I was angry. As I read on the list and ponder the different characters, I decided it was not worth the pain to fume. Research and learning is about being very open. How open is the list is anyone’s guess but I could use many different views to seeing it. I think it needs a great quote off a great mind to convince. I’m no Einstein. Neither am I a world leader, but I always know the value of play. I was actually elated to come across Einstein’s quote on play:

Play is the highest form of research.’ quote by Albert Einstein, on a wall in the Tech Museum, San Jose, California

Surely, no play makes anyone dull. But I doubt the list will be truly receptive. It just drove one seasoned researcher away with quite a few people fuming. The entire list is like a war zone. I wonder if anyone will appreciate the short note (frankly speaking, not many) but I think over analyzing can be a poison. And I often wonder of people actually realize they do that most of the time. As we seem to grow older, and read into things too much; the tendency is for us to think we are so right about everything. Wouldn’t it be a curse for learning?

Quote myself:’some of best play could well be the overlooked as ‘fat chewing’. Don’t know about naval gazing. You’d take a mad person to over analyze certain objects to that point, but I think learning to relax is very important. Patience is another. Tolerance and perseverance is key.
What list is this? I don’t really care anymore. But I suppose there are different characters to take in. I am learning to cool… I don’t want grey hairs this soon. I still wanna play to learn.’

I admit this post could prick on some people. But If I care too much, I doubt I could even live properly. Learn to take soup cans and tomato cans. Including the rubbish cans. If you can’t, you don’t learn. A child takes in the crap and the condescending look, but they continue to play around and explore. A child is always open to the world. That’s why they learn the most without much formalities. Do I make sense? Ah, I remember why I gave up on many things. I need to take care of my health and sanity! – Karen Fu

Learning from Faust. February 28, 2012

Posted by @Karen_Fu in change, education, human quality, life challenges, real power, research.
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Come across Levity.com by accident as I was looking for more works from
Faust. Instead I found one poem that was logged under humour. But it does tell us of the irony in higher education. Should we change our education system from being book smart to being street smart? It is a problem that happens. And for the lot of us, success in education was a supposed way to wealth and sever away poverty. For a start, this thought is not correct. Learning is about experience. And experience pays well for a happy life that is enriched. But often we take education many ways around. Sharing this poetry for some thoughts. Learning is far more than we think and for people who blindly do theirs, this should be a wake up call. Enjoy!

Extracted from:
Der Tragödie erster
Night. In a high-vaulted, narrow Gothic chamber FAUST, restless in his chair by his desk.

Faust. I’ve studied now Philosophy
And Jurisprudence, Medicine,
And even, alas! Theology
All through and through with ardour keen!
Here now I stand, poor fool, and see
I’m just as wise as formerly.
Am called a Master, even Doctor too,
And now I’ve nearly ten years through
Pulled my students by their noses to and fro
And up and down, across, about,
And see there’s nothing we can know!
That all but burns my heart right out.
True, I am more clever than all the vain creatures,
The Doctors and Masters, Writers and Preachers;
No doubts plague me, nor scruples as well.
I’m not afraid of devil or hell.
To offset that, all joy is rent from me.
I do not imagine I know aught that’s right;
I do not imagine I could teach what might
Convert and improve humanity.
Nor have I gold or things of worth,
Or honours, splendours of the earth.
No dog could live thus any more!
So I have turned to magic lore,
To see if through the spirit’s power and speech
Perchance full many a secret I may reach,
So that no more with bitter sweat
I need to talk of what I don’t know yet,
So that I may perceive whatever holds
The world together in its inmost folds,
See all its seeds, its working power,
And cease word-threshing from this hour.
Oh, that, full moon, thou didst but glow
Now for the last time on my woe,
Whom I beside this desk so oft
Have watched at midnight climb aloft.
Then over books and paper here
To me, sad friend, thou didst appear!
Ah! could I but on mountain height
Go onward in thy lovely light,
With spirits hover round mountain caves,
Weave over meadows thy twilight laves,
Discharged of all of Learning’s fumes, anew
Bathe me to health in thy healing dew.
Woe! am I stuck and forced to dwell
Still in this musty, cursed cell?
Where even heaven’s dear light strains
But dimly through the painted panes!
Hemmed in by all this heap of books,
Their gnawing worms, amid their dust,
While to the arches, in all the nooks,
Are smoke-stained papers midst them thrust,
Boxes and glasses round me crammed,
And instruments in cases hurled,
Ancestral stuff around me jammed-
That is your world! That’s called a world!
And still you question why your heart
Is cramped and anxious in your breast?
Why each impulse to live has been repressed
In you by some vague, unexplained smart?
Instead of Nature’s living sphere
In which God made mankind, you have alone,
In smoke and mould around you here,
Beasts’ skeletons and dead men’s bone.
Up! Flee! Out into broad and open land!
And this book full of mystery,
From Nostradamus’ very hand,
Is it not ample company?
The stars’ course then you’ll understand
And Nature, teaching, will expand
The power of your soul, as when
One spirit to another speaks. ‘Tis vain
To think that arid brooding will explain
The sacred symbols to your ken.
Ye spirits, ye are hovering near;
Oh, answer me if ye can hear!

[He opens the book and perceives the sign of the Macrocosm.]

What rapture, ah! at once is flowing
Through all my senses at the sight of this!
I feel a youthful life, its holy bliss,
Through nerve and vein run on, new-glowing.
Was it a god who wrote these signs that still
My inner tumult and that fill
My wretched heart with ecstasy?
Unveiling with mysterious potency
The powers of Nature round about me here?
Am I a god? All grows so clear to me!
In these pure lineaments I see
Creative Nature’s self before my soul appear.
Now first I understand what he, the sage, has said:
“The world of spirits is not shut away;
Thy sense is closed, thy heart is dead!
Up, Student! bathe without dismay
Thy earthly breast in morning-red!”

[He contemplates the sign.]

Into the whole how all things blend,
Each in the other working, living!
How heavenly powers ascend, descend,
Each unto each the golden vessels giving!
On pinions fragrant blessings bringing,
From Heaven through Earth all onward winging,
Through all the All harmonious ringing!
What pageantry! Yet, ah, mere pageantry!
Where shall I, endless Nature, seize on thee?
Thy breasts are – where? Ye, of all life the spring,
To whom both Earth and Heaven cling,
Toward whom the withering breast doth strain-
Ye gush, ye suckle, and shall I pine thus in vain?

[He turns the book over impatiently and perceives the sign of the EARTH-SPIRIT.]

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