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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.]

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