Showing posts with label sharing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sharing. Show all posts

Monday, December 24, 2012

Toys toys toys

I'm developing a new project called Make Better Stuff, a series of toy-making workshops in which students design and build their own toys while learning social skills like teamwork, user interaction, and empathy. I've been thinking a lot about toys--about who designs them, who builds them (not elves), who plays with them, and how the design of a toy affects people in different ways.

Toys are designed by grown ups. Many of these designers work for firms who aim for high sales and low production costs. Then there are those who assemble toys, often foreign laborers who’ve moved away from their families to make money to send home, who might take a few night classes to try to move up in their careers. Then there are the recipients of these toys: kids who play with them. Different types of toys encourage different types of play.

A ball for example encourages a shared experience. It can be a competitive experience as in basketball, in which the goal of each player is to score for their own team and prevent the other team from scoring. Or it can be a collaborative experience, as in a game of catch, in which both parties want to toss the ball back and forth just because it feels good--that experience sounds and smells good too.

There are toys that encourage strict adhesion to the rules, such as a coloring book. And there are toys that encourage exploration and creativity, such as legos. (Even though they are marketed and sold in kits, they still end up in one big bin that kids make all kinds of fabulous creations with.)

But you know what there aren’t enough of? Toys designed by kids. So I look forward to exploring toy-design with kids. I’d like to know what they think about toys: the relationships that toys promote and how kids might create toys that make their own lives better. Sounds like fun, right?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cheese, Entrepreneurship, and 3D Printing

I've gotten pretty good at making cheese over the past month which makes me (and my friends) happy. I've been making bread and more recently gnocchi and I'm experimenting with alternatives to wheat for that. But really, the most exciting thing for me at the moment is that I'll be at the Finger Lakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute this weekend where we will use the Board of Innovation's "Business Model Canvas" to develop ideas for new businesses. I aim to explore a business based on managing volunteers or on collaborative consumption (sharing stuff). And then next week I'm speaking at the Design for Manufacturing Summit in NYC on how I've used rapid prototyping in the classroom. So yes, it's cheese, entrepreneurship, and 3D printing for me this month and I couldn't be happier.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What can you teach in an hour?

Yesterday my husband and I went to a cheese-making workshop at the first Fingerlakes Cheese Festival. Our teacher, Tom Pinello, did a fantastic job demystifying the cheese-making process. His delivery was calm and casual yet thorough. And he was open to questions throughout the workshop--we had many.

The most striking thing about this workshop was that it began with a room full of folks with little-to-no-knowledge of cheese-making and yet, 40 minutes later, we had made a ball of mozzarella cheese together.

This got me on a stream of thought about what I could teach other people to do in an hour. I could teach people how to run effective brainstorming sessions, how to analyze the sustainability of a product, how to use the elements of graphic design, or how to grill perfect pork chops.

Then I wondered what the people I know could teach other people to do in an hour. I have friends who could teach people how to use a sewing machine, how to conduct an interview, how to design a paper-based game, and how to grow garlic. I have friends who could teach people how to use commas, how to write poems, how to self-publish books, and how to edit video.

Then I started to think of creating a collection of one hour lessons. I'm aware of Freeskool and Ignite Talks and BarCamp and Khan Academy. I'm not sure if this project is different and I don't know if it has to be.

But here's the first step--what could you teach a small group of people to do in one hour?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer ends, EMBA begins

Back in June I wrote that I'd try to post a few pictures over the summer. Well, that didn't really happen. Though the summer had many lovely moments, though we picked a lot of fruit and made over a dozen cases of jam, though we got to see and spend time with our dear friends and family, there were too many difficult moments this summer. I'm happy to see the season come to an end.

This week I begin the orientation process for the Executive MBA (EMBA) program at RIT -- as a student! I'll continue to teach the design thinking course (sign up #0102-421-01) in Saunders College of Business and work on my research about rapid prototyping and local food economy, but this time with super EMBA knowledge informing it all. I'm excited. I expect to have many insights as I learn this new language and look forward to sharing them with you here.

pictured above: Ludlowville Falls in Lansing, NY on the left and an urban gardening scene in Ithaca, NY on the right

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Honoring Big Bill

Later today I'll travel downstate join my family in honoring Basil W. Matychak Sr. aka "Big Bill" who passed away on March 21. Big Bill was my grandfather, an engineer, and a farmer who inspired the maker / DIY spirit that I have today. Here he is riding around his yard with my brother Ezra, 4 years old, following close behind. Yes, he taught a 4 year old to drive a tractor. Gotta love that man. xoxoxo

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Urban Repurposing

I got excited the other day when I heard that Kodak, the company that built Rochester's economy in the early 20th century by bringing photography to the masses, is thinking about getting in to the solar cell business. I got excited because I’m gearing up to create a “Rochester 2020” map for the Imagine RIT Festival and I’ve been making a list of organizations in town who are engaged in repurposing. (To repurpose is transform the stuff that we already have instead of replace it with new stuff.) Sadly Kodak wasn’t on my list - boo! But now they are - yay! If this deal goes through, they will be repurposing their thin-film machines to bring another game-changing technology to the masses, this time solar cells. Go Kodak. Very cool.

I’m focusing on urban repurposing projects bc they are an elegant alternative to new building projects. Even though cities have a reputation for being environmental and social wastelands (thanks Charles Dickens), they are in fact ripe with potential for being some of the greenest and socially innovative places on the planet. As half of the world population now lives in urban settings, it’s important that we design these places thoughtfully and sustainably. 

There’s a ton of repurposing going on in this city, the city of #ROC. I’ve written a bit about Foodlink on this blog as they are already knee deep in urban repurposing and redistributing. They redistribute discarded food to organizations who feed hungry people. They repurpose food-waste into fuel. They repurpose school lunch programs and kitchens so they can serve locally grown food. And just recently they began refurbishing old electronics for people who can use them.

Add to this list the Rochester Active Transport Group . They are repurposing old bikes and old train paths to create a human-powered transport system. And then there are National repurposing organizations that have local sectors like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The ReStore gathers, fixes up, and then sells used household parts and appliances. And my very favorite repurposing initiative is called Park[ing] Day, a day in September when artists and activists reclaim urban parking spots by transforming them into mini parks, beach chairs and all.

If you have a favorite repurposing project or an idea for one, then I’d love to hear about it. Comment or tweet me @xanthm

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Irony of Diverse Teams

I've just completed my fourth academic quarter teaching a design-thinking course in a and I'm finally able to articulate an irony that's been nagging me for quite a while. The irony is that introverted students tend to have a lot of ideas, which go unarticulated, while the extroverts’ one or two ideas get indulged. In team settings, most design students are introverted, capable of generating dozens of ideas in a short amount of time, whereas business students tend to be extroverted and generate significantly fewer ideas than the design students. In team settings the leaders that emerge are likely to be extroverts; thus, it’s the one or two ideas of the business students that get pursued. This is precisely what often happens in my classes when the students are put into teams: the extroverts push their one or two ideas forward and the many ideas of the introverts get ignored.

Generating ideas is like taking pictures. A skilled photographer shoots hundreds of shots to increase his or her chances of capturing one stunning image. We idea generators should want to follow the same practice: the more ideas we have, the more likely it is that we'll find a remarkable one. And this ability that designers have to generate ideas fluently is not only useful at the front end of the project, but at every step of the way. Yet, their introversion prevents them from sharing their ideas, especially when their team is already excited about an earlier idea, which is likely the first idea the team had come up with.

So, what to do. The spring quarter starts in two weeks and I would like to help the designers find the courage to share their ideas, and to persist in articulating those ideas. And I would like to help the business students take advantage of their own leadership talents to empower introverted designers to articulate the reservoir of ideas they have to offer.

Monday, February 14, 2011

This Answer Is Not Helpful

I had the goofiest interaction on Quora this past weekend. For those of you not in the know, Quora is a new site for Q&A. Unlike sites like, questions and answers posted on Quora are highly curated. And as we’ve become increasingly attentive to the crediblity of online information sources, curation has become a vital part of our virtual interactions.

Quora has strict rules about how to craft questions and answers and I bumped up against them over the weekend. I posted an answer to a question and the answer was almost immediately voted down and collapsed by another user and labelled "This answer is not helpful." Call me oversensitive, but being told that I wasn't being helpful made me feel really bad. My censurer pointed me to the rules on how to write a helpful answer, but I did not know which of these rules I had broken. And beyond that, I didn't agree with all of the rules.  

In contrast, something that I kind of liked about Facebook was its "like" icon. Even though several groups formed claiming to want an "unlike" icon, it never materialized. And even though you can have a pretty contentious discussion on Facebook, the architecture of the icons is pretty positive. As are the defaults they afford us.

This experience with Quora got me thinking in a broader sense about online rating systems which are also playing a major role in the quest for creating credible information sources online. 

Why do we vote instead of encourage people to articulate their responses in writing?  Because it's faster and easier. Yet sites like Quora have the potential for a real exchange of knowledge and beliefs that a rating system can never achieve.

If we really want to increase human knowledge, then why don't we create systems that enable us to help each other find the right words? IDEO has a brainstorming principle "Build on the Ideas of Others." That is, when someone says something that you may not agree with, pause for a minute, find a part of the statement that you like, and build on it until you like it. As with any consensus-building exercise, the addition of new ideas to a conversation can almost always be helpful - regardless of the idea’s direct relationship to the project’s goal. Educators don’t shut people down for writing unhelpful answers; rather, we take on the responsibility of integrating those answers into the discussion.

My Quora experience would have been great if only my censurer had provided a thoughtful and constructive response. Now how can I help him do that?

special thanks to E. K. Learnard for feedback and editing

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Some projects that I'm working on

It's February in Rochester, the snow is endless and the only thing that keeps me going these days is the promise of spring.  At RIT, we're already gearing up for our 4th Innovation and Creativity festival, Imagine RIT,  which happens this year on Saturday May 7.

Having participated in NYC World Maker Faire this past September, I'm a hard-core believer in the value of these types of events. They push creatives to tell rich stories about their projects and they engage the general public in colorful and creative visions of the future. Below are some projects that I'm involved with. Some of them will be featured at Imagine RIT, some not. But all of the projects I work on focus on making the world better, so listing them here helps me discover the overlaps and opportunities. If you find something that I've missed or are working on similar stuff, then please send me a message or leave a comment. 

My RIT colleagues Vic Perotti from business and Andrea Hickerson from journalism are working together on a project for the festival called "Rise Above the Crowd," and I'm honored that they invite me to chime in on the project whenever I want to. The project is still in the formative stages but I believe the questions that the project team is asking are the right ones: How does general public + mobile technology effect journalism? How can large networked displays + mobile inputs engage journalists and public in positive feedback loops? How does gaming and elements-of-play enhance the news experience? How do new technologies + conventional and unconventional content creators enrich real-time events such as Imagine RIT? Like I said, great questions. I'm excited to play with whatever they've got on festival day. The communications that will "Rise Above the Crowd" are bound to be rich ones. 

In the Saunders College of Business our freshman engage in a year long course sequence called "Biz 1-2-3" in which they create a new product or service from start to finish. In the design school, all of the design freshman engage in a year long sequence called "3D Design" in which they learn to observe the world around them and intervene with 3D artifacts. This year, we decided that at least one section of these classes should play together. It's been a learning experience, for sure. Communication across these academic silos takes practice to master, but these kids are getting  a head start and they are doing great. Some of the teams will show off their projects at the festival. 

In previous years, Saunders College has struggled a little bit with what to do for the festival. Our students don't make race cars like the engineering students do and they don't make sculpture like the art students do. So how do we exhibit our skills? This year we're going to try a mini-lecture series inspired by O'Reilly Ignite model and by the ITP Cafe that we saw at MakerFaire last fall. Our students and faculty really know how to explain the role of emerging technologies in society and economy, so we've created a space to let them shine doing just that. Additionally, the business students on the Executive Board want to host a Saunders Genius Bar - they'll staff a room with students, faculty, staff, and alums who all have social network know-how and offer free consults to festival attendees. Both the cafe and bar will be fueled by plenty of coffee and treats. 

I teach in a even though my background is in art and design, and I am incredibly grateful to my mentors, such as famed design historian R. Roger Remington, for inviting me to participate in some of the projects they work on. As you probably know, we recently opened the Vignelli Center for Design Studies at RIT and Roger has been the champion of this project. This spring, the Vignelli Center is partnering with Fabrica, the communications think-tank for the Benetton Group, on a project called "Looking Back, Designing Forward." With this project, we'll be creating posters that celebrate positive innovations of the past ten years. And then we'll look forward to imagine and model innovations to come in the near future. Several classes are participating in this project. My class is going to focus the second half of the project on the future of the city of Rochester (see Imagine Rochester 2020 below). 

I got an invite last week to submit an entry to this competition only to find that the entry date is on Monday. But when I found out that one of the judges was Douglas Rushkoff, I just had to throw something together. So I gathered a team and very quickly we wrote a proposal for a system called "Together" (name may change again before Monday). In a nutshell, the system doesn't help people cut down on their digital intake, but instead tries to change the quality of it. We liken this change to a person replacing processed foods with whole foods. And the “whole food” of digital input is input that encourages volunteering. There is probably some overlap among this project and the Knight Foundation project, in that we're all concerned with how people consume media and what people do with media. How does it inspire action? We're seeing some pretty amazing proof of that in Egypt this past week.

We're in the winter quarter at RIT and my students are wrapping up the projects they've been working on for Foodlink. They started by simply observing volunteer culture. And I have to hand it to them, they identified some pretty incredible problem spaces to work on. Group one is working on making signage that helps developmentally disabled volunteers work more independently. Group 2 is working on a ride share system for volunteers. Group 3 is working on a beautification/farmer education installation in the warehouse where volunteers sort food. Group 4 is working on a way-finding system for volunteers. Group 5 is working on a needs/skills board that matches staff with specific needs with volunteers who have the skills to fulfill those needs. I've pushed them pretty hard this quarter, and I feel a little guilty about that, but the work that they are doing is top notch.

I've been struggling to find a way to continue my work with Foodlink and take on this fantastic project that we've got going with Fabrica. I've been incredibly impressed with the R&D that Foodlink is engaged in. Their immediate goal is to continue serving eleven counties with emergency food, but their long term vision is to transform the region so that emergency food is no longer needed. Think about that for a minute. They already have mechanisms in place that support this vision and I hope they will be mainstream ten years out. So my class will work with Foodlink and other future thinkers in Rochester to make a 3D map of the city year 2020. I am grateful to Fabrica for putting forth this brief. Ten years into the future, it turns out, is a very useful amount of time to be exploring. We don't have to invent the future from scratch. But rather, we can look at the seeds that are being planted now and imagine what cities will be like when these innovations reach a tipping point.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Does poetry matter?

Poet Nikki Giovanni was interviewed on the local radio station earlier this afternoon. She is in town for a Martin Luther King celebration. It was a fantastic interview. In it she said something about art, and poetry in particular, that I want to capture here. 

The host of the radio show asked her something like, 'Does poetry matter to the average person? Is poetry important?' 

Now, before I taught in a, I didn't ever have to think about questions like these. When you are in art school as a professor or a student you just assume that what you are doing matters. 

But now that I travel in business and tech arenas, I'm constantly finding myself explaining the value of creativity to skeptics. Which is challenging, but ultimately good for me and, I hope, good for the skeptics.

But back to the interview. When asked if poetry mattered, Giovanni responded with this convincing anecdotal evidence, 'We have words poured over us when we are born. We have words poured on us when we marry. We have words poured on to us when we die. Surely, poetry must be important to us.'

I love this answer. It's straightforward and clear. It's the kind of answer that I can picture one of my colleagues in business or technology responding to. But I can also imagine these colleagues pushing back with something like, "Well, of course art matters to us during those milestones, but those moments are few and far between. I still don't understand how art, or creativity, is meaningful in our everyday lives."

‪Poems are important to us at births and weddings and funerals because we want them to shape those important moments of our lives. But we should be seeking to shape our lives every day. ‬Business and technology are every day ventures. Every day these forces shape us whether we want them to or not. So as long as they are shaping our lives, I'll make mine, and take mine, with poetry. 

bonus: Here's a much longer post on design & poetry that I wrote a few years back. Enjoy. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sign up for Design-thinking at RIT

Hey RIT folks. It's registration time once again. If you're looking for a great gen. ed. course for the spring, then check out  "Design-thinking and Concept Development," a general education course hosted by the Saunders College of Business at RIT. course #0102.421.01

This spring we'll be creating a 3D map of Rochester's future. Throughout the process of making the map, we will learn about and practice problem-solving strategies commonly held by designers: 
               Generating & visualizing ideas
               Engaging in creative exercises
               Designing for sustainability & society
               Observing & understanding human-behavior
               Discussing readings & videos about design
               Exploring new business models
               Researching emerging technologies
               Building & testing prototypes

Join us. The project is going to be fantastic. The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 11.50am in the Center for Student Innovation at RIT. 

QUESTIONS? contact Prof. Xanthe Matychak at xanthe [dot] matychak [at] rit [dot] edu or shoot me a DM on twitter @xanthm

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kimchi and Soft Hearts

I've been making some fun things at home these days. For one, I'm trying to find a nice little something to give for Valentines Day which is one of my favorite holidays. I enjoy sending out valentines to my friends to remind them that I love them. I'm not crazy about these hearts yet, but new designs tend to get better after I make about a dozen or so. I'll get there.

I've been making kimchi too though I don't think I can put it in the mail. This is unfortunate because, I mean, what says "I love you" more than a stinky jar of fermenting cabbage?

This batch here is made of nappa cabbage, daikon, carrot, bonito, a splash of rice vinegar, pressed garlic, grated ginger (I love my ginger grater, btw. I think it needs its own post soon), and a heaping tablespoon of that Korean red pepper sauce they make dukboki with.

Let's just say that I'm having fun.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Facebook Funeral and Other Techno Observations

The beginning of 2011 brings in a few technological changes for me: I’ve sold the iPad that I bought in summer 2010; I’ve deleted my facebook account; and I’ve increased my twitter usage. Some of my friends have been asking me “why?” - especially about deleting my facebook account. So here’s a little piece about my “whys” and my “what nows.” Not life-changing stuff, really, but kind of fun to track if you follow tech trends.

Sold the iPad. At the beginning of summer 2010 I bought a netbook because laptops are heavy. Even though just about every man I talk to tells me that a laptop isn’t that heavy, I can’t agree. They are heavy for me and they are a pain to carry, so I was looking for a lighter device to throw in my bag for teaching and traveling. I tested the netbook for a full two weeks but returned it, in the end, because browsers don’t work on a screen that small. They don’t. I couldn’t get used to looking at that garbage. The graphic designer in me said “No way!” So I returned it. Then I waited and at the end of the summer I got an iPad. And I really liked the software. For a device that size, apps are a much better fit than internet browsers. No question. But I couldn’t get comfortable with the hardware. The iPad wasn’t comfortable to hold in bed, to read or watch movies on. And it was too delicate to toss in my bag to take to school. And then when I discovered that I couldn’t plug it into a projector and mirror my screen, for the classroom, well, that was the last straw. Would I pay $100 for a tablet some day? Sure. But not $500. No thanks. It’s just not for me now. 

Deleted FB Account. This I did for a few reasons. Like many other critics of facebook, I don’t like that all friends are created equal. I don’t want my work friends to see my family stuff or my high school friends to see my work stuff. And even though you can go into your settings and make groups to filter who sees what, the default is that everyone sees everything and that got tedious for me. More importantly, facebook made me a lazy bookmarker and photo-sharer.  I’d use it to bookmark articles several times a day with no intention to share them really. It was just easy to use from any device. “Oh, I’ll just post this article to facebook,” I thought, “and read it later.” And that worked well to some extent. I’d read the articles that I posted just about every night. But then when I wanted to retrieve something I posted a few weeks ago or months ago, that was difficult because my posts weren’t searchable. I had a RSS feed of my fb posts going to my google reader account, and that helped some, but, eh, just didn’t work. I needed something new.

I’m trying tumblr now. I don’t really understand it - like how to search stuff I’ve posted or how to use it from my phone, but we’ll see. And then the final reason that I deleted my facebook account is that I just don’t feel good about facebook as a company. I borrow this notion from Ze Frank who posted it on his facebook wall about a year ago. It stuck with me. This feeling is further enhanced by Douglas Rushkoff who is constantly using facebook as an example of the manipulative web, in his book Program or Be Programmed. So bye bye facebook. I miss it a little, especially seeing pictures from my family and close friends. But I’ll figure something out.

Increased Twitter Usage. There are a lot of things that I like about twitter, but can I just say, I follow WAY too many social media strategists on there. I have to fix that. But I do love that if you follow someone, they don’t have to follow you, and that if someone follows you you don’t have to follow them. It’s a subtle difference from facebook but a very meaningful one for me. In addition, twitter is a great place to share news and to set up news filters. I also love it for real time events. Hashtags are brilliant for that, if, say, you’re at a conference and you want to communicate with other conference goers in real time. But I’m missing a place to share pictures of food or good recipes. Still looking for that--twitter doesn’t feel right for that. And I miss my artist and musician friends who are on facebook. Twitter doesn’t really fit that bill either. Not great for sharing images of new paintings or short videos of musical performances. So I’m looking to fill those holes but I’m sure I’ll either find something or build something that fills them.

The internet continues to amaze me. And I hope that we end up doing something very meaningful with it. And by we, I don’t just mean the top 10% of the economic pyramid. Time will tell.