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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..

My Frustration with Design Research March 31, 2011

Posted by @Karen_Fu in change, creativity, Innovation, Product Design, research.
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I have been reading design research posts to the point I am getting bogged down. I do not oppose research, else I wouldn’t be on the list and join the Design Research Society. I am a staunch believer of methodology, simply because without a sound and effective method of thinking, I cannot get my answers to existing problems.

People have several definitions to research. Design to many people means different things. Design to me is a specific term to a profession that looks into planning of given factors to form a solution. You could jolly call that Strategy, Plan, Architecture,Engineering etc. It basically means the same thing — systems orgainising and execution to form an finalised solution. It could be a policy, it could be a 2 dimensional product or it could be solid 3D form. It’s just that the dimension of the components are different. Different people are playing given factors to a problem differently. Hence the various sayings and arguements. At least that’s how I see it.

I usually do not take on to one theory that seriously. But I do view them as opinions mainly because different cultures sort problems differently. And I value and respect that seriously. They need to do so because that’s their way of living, seeing things in their own individual perspectives. People love to mention Rittel. Then they would also skew in Tim Brown, then John Chris Jones…or someone who can be recently become controversial as Don Norman ; and before you know it, people will start to debate about who failed to understand what and where it went wrong. Honestly, I don’t see that as important as to go down to earth and see the nature of the changing climate. What is crucial and neck cutting is to understand the different sets of problems. An effective design research is one that fully understands the nature of the problem. Once you’ve understood it, it applies to all different kinds of problems. That makes you a whole rounded poblem solver. Hence, to me, someone who cannot sort out social problems cannot be a true problem solver for a product which is going to be used by people. Products, in my eyes, are to be used by a living being. If we fail to understand the living interaction between a living being and the product, there is no point of desigining, and nevermind the innovation. People may dispute this, but I personally find it a good tool to coming up with ideas to solve problems quickly. We can fly to the edges of the universe, but we must always come back to the concept that we must solve problems permanently and not skirting around it in different fashions.

I often wonder when we can get out of the tangle. Perhaps taking the words out and place in pictures could solve part of the problem. Dan Roam and many others offer some cues to visual thinking. Or at some point, take away all the books and make people really brainstorm for a new way of seeing solutions. Then you will understand why I don’t appear to read too much into those books anymore. Not that I don’t respect them, but I won’t drool over them to the point of hanging there for ages. It sometimes gets you addicted, which is not that healthy for design research. To be able to do research, you must be free spirtited, sharp and quick to act on the materials given. Time is important and hence the aptness of mind to sort problems out outweighs stepping over the same areas again.– Karen Fu

human resource as a fundamental capital to prosperity, peace and sustainability January 6, 2009

Posted by @Karen_Fu in research, talent.
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Some time back I was wondering about human talent  and was reading an article in the Straits Times about how scholars are chosen. So I posted on a topic asking LinkedIners what talent is .

Singapore has virtually nothing given but human beings who emmigrated to this used to be a Malay fishing village – an island that was first founded by the British East India Company back in 1819. Since its inception as a British port to today’s diversified economy that includes oil refinery, biotechnology, enbironment technology, finance and others; the country’s sole reliance has been on human talent.

Talent is a fundamental capital not only to prosperity but to survival. But how does one define talent ?  Are scholars the only talent ? Who should govern and improve the nation’s / world’s condition ?

They are hard questions to ask and probably require daring souls to answer and implement them.

Talent isn’t confined to just scholars from Ivy leagues who would go on to take on political roles as they are only part of the solution. A creative sociey would have to include people who are talented in other areas. But most societies often  overemphasized on academic performance, which mainly focuses on language prowess to deliever knowledge and ideas. Should we focus on this to research and discovery ? One list I am on had discussed on this area (PhD-design at jiscmail) and has discussed on the prime areas of research in other media. However, we must take care that such forms will result in an objective response and not a full egoistical circle where the pure and earnest sharing and passing on of knowledge is eluded.

We have to nose into issues like ROI from these scholars we put our tax money in. Issues like whether they will serve the board of commoners earnestly.