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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

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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

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.