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Monthly Archives: September 2018

<<Written on the 21st Sept 2018>>

Lots of things change when you move to a new city, the rhythms of your routine are disrupted to allow for new activities and interactions, one of the things that I’m enjoying is starting to listen to podcasts. This is mainly due to me walking and running a lot more that I would do in London. The podcasts are a perfect way to allow your mind to drift amongst the architecture as you walk.

I’ve mainly been listening to the Adam Buxton podcast, which I love! It’s made me reflect on the podcast as a format – I know that I’m really late here and millions of people have probably written deep, thoughtful and clever pieces about the podcast form, but here’s my dumb reflections; the podcast produces a different type of intimacy, I think this due to the reduction in scale of the production team. It feels like an intimate chat with an interesting person. It allows for type of content that I wouldn’t normally listen to. I guess the barriers to entry are just high enough to make sure the most of them are ‘ok’, but it gives really creative people, access to voice based broadcast to produce amazing things, that you would normally hear on national radio.

Adam Buxton really surprised me, after years of people suggesting the show, I hadn’t got around to listening to it.  I think it was because I had a different idea of what it would be; in my head it was more sketch comedy less chit chat. He is obviously from a really privileged background and this comes through in many of the shows… he’s the typification of middle-aged, white, privileged, liberal, smart man, but completely aware of it and is lovely, brilliant and very funny with it.

One of the things I enjoy, is seeing the mechanics under creative work – the conversations about the struggles for creative people to produce work. It’s pretty inspiring.

Today is a day of lunches and dinners with interesting people, first was a lunch (nice Israeli Falafel place in Greenwich Village) with Michel Morgensen. Michael studied at Goldsmiths on the MAID programme during its last year. It was lovely to see him and reflect on how crazy 2016-17 was. Our conversation focussed mainly on how there was still a mis-match between industry’s expectation of design and how more critically informed programmes positioned the practice. We talked about tactics to overcome and survive in these times.

We also spoke about the Gulf states, the strange cultural and economic paradoxes they face (all the resources to achieve interesting things, but so much of their ambition ends up feeling like shopping; culture bought, transplanted Western ideas and cultural practices, that ultimately don’t self sustain).

After lunch I learnt that Pat Loughrey, the Warden, was stepping down. I was surprised at how much the news affected me. I really like Pat and think he’s been a positive force in Goldsmiths. Any change of leadership at that level brings with a level of risk. In our current political and economic times in HE, it’s particularly risky to find someone with the same understanding and ethos.

This sparked an interesting conversation later with Tony about the politics of US Universities; how finding the people at the top was a very difficult thing to do… a process fraught with risk. I think it’s really sad that many of the people in top leadership positions in education lack a sense of intellectual vision about education. I hope to God we find a good one.

In the evening I had dinner with Tony, Fiona and Tim Marshall (the provost of the New School). We had some great conversations about the ambitions and intricacies of design education. How many academic and professionals end up hold lines (on what should be taught, how elements of design learning are important) even though they never learnt that way themselves.

The end conversation was an amazing story, told brilliantly by Tim, about the trials and tribulations of the New School – it’s political history and the traumas of a President that didn’t fit with the schools philosophy. Many of the stories, the political action of staff and students, felt very familiar, more evidence that Goldsmiths and New School are connected in a deep way.

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Written on 19th September 2018

Although I’ve been in New York for 19 days, I’ve decided to start a diary. This is partly due to having floating thoughts and observations whizz by me, without any real reason to record them. Some of these things seem a little inconsequential, but I want to keep them to enable me to remember what being here in NYC was/is like and some of them may develop into other ideas.  I may share them at some point, or make a blog or a newsletter of something.

I’ve never written a diary before, so I’m not sure what voice or tone to use. It seems very strange to me to be writing to myself, but I guess this is part of a practice to make me understand myself and the experiences I’m going through. I hope that writing it will help me with the practice of writing itself. To write without a big pressure that it’s something smart or interesting or important to academic life and future of design and design education.

Today Laura mentioned that Corinne had used WhatsApp to record little videos for her family whilst she was abroad, I thought I’d give it a go. I was a little surprised by its effect on me, I instantly enjoyed the process and loved getting little comedy moment from Herbie. It’s been difficult to keep in touch with Herbie since I’ve been here. This is because of a range of different issues, the first is time zone and habit – this is easy to overcome with a routine and all of us getting used to how to deal with me being away. The second is technology. Everyone, when I expressed concern about not seeing Herbie, said “it the 21st century, we have Skype and facetime.”, what they didn’t mention was; you need all your devices up to date, network providers are a bit shit and the technology, although amazing in the global sense of things, is still not fully worked out.

Anyway, I made a little video today and sent it to Herb. I like the process of doing it, I felt I could be a little silly and it was low pressure. It means that as I see something, that I think he’d like, I can make a little video. They instantly make me think of Alice Bartlett and her instagram stories, which I enjoy immensely. It also means that he can understand that I’m thinking of him during my day; not just a small moment, every fews days when we arrange for a big video chat.

The surpising thing about the videos, both making and receiving them, is that they evoke a different, more casual conversation between us. As an 8 year old, it’s quite hard for Herbie to enter the ‘serious chat’ of speaking to me and giving me an accurate, interesting or consistent account of what he has been doing. But making videos, seems to come far more easily… the youtube generation hey!

Today I decided not to go into Parsons. This is partly because I seemed to have replaced my ‘guilt’ of not being productive and working hard at Goldsmiths, with the (incorrect) assumption that I need to be in the office 9-6, 5 days a week. Which is not true. I think a big part of what I’m struggling with is with my expectation to ‘be productive’.

So today, I woke up, went for a run… which I’m loving… but am continuously surprised at how hard I’m finding the first 1km. I soon forget that after it’s over and what to be running again. I guess this is why people say it’s addictive.

I then had a wonder about the neighbourhood that I’ll be staying when Herbie is here. It’s a bit closer to Bedford Av, and therefore lovely. Then for coffee.

I went for lunch to Sweetgreen, a healthy and hip food chain that exists across the city. I ate a good salad, sat outside and people watched. I sat next to a table, three people, two men and a woman. The scene felt distinctly New York. A gruff New Yorker, born in the Bronx, probably in his late forties, tattooed lightening bolts on his forearms. He held himself with the confidence of a man that was very handsome in his younger days. A man who’d been through a lot, a life lived through drink, drugs and sex.

He monologued through the lunch, over a kale salad. He had a range of philosophies about life. About the end of Western culture and how it was important to focus on equipping oneself with the knowledge to thrive in the enevitable event of the apocalypse. I wonder if characters like this are particular to our time, their ‘deep thoughts’ fueled by late night googling and mining the deep dark parts of wikipedia. Or have men like this always held court. Middle-aged men with strong opinions… not sure that that’s a new thing… but the internet has fuelled their conviction in their own ‘reckonings’.

I’m reading a short story by Johnathan Letham called Procedure in Plain Air. Like many moments, when I’m on my own, with space to think, the world’s experiences collide and connect. The story tells of municipal workmen, digging a hole and burying a bound person. As I read, I see similar group of workmen, digging the road. I’m also writing a short story about a municipal worker who is trapped in an algorithmic employment hell… A Singaporean intensely socially engineered nightmare.

After lunch I discovered The West, a cafe / restaurant /bar on Union. It’s possible dangerous, it’s built to be like a ‘hotel lobby bar’ where people can work whilst drinking coffee or beer. It’s super relaxed and lovely. So I had a pint at 4pm, continued to write.

There 10 people in here, all tapping away, working remotely, the digital nomads, working without offices in different ways. There should be a phrase for the coalescence of digital activity that is produced in a specific environment. It would be great to see if certain places (cafes, hotel lobbies, public parks, bars) have different levels of productivity. A digital output to judge the environmental conviviality.

I often get a strange sense of overwhelming intregue seeing other peoples lives that pass me buy. This is focused a bit more in a place like this. What are these people working on; are there great works of fiction in the making, podcasts, code being written that’ll change the world, HR decisions that make peoples lives worse.

For those who don’t know, I’m currently on sabbatical. To kick off my year, I’ve come to NYC for three months as a visiting scholar at Parsons New School with the wonderful Tony Dunne and Fiona Raby in the Designed Realities Lab . D+R have kindly given me a desk as well as the space and time to reflect on my practice as a designer and educator. During this time, I’ll be doing some research for an upcoming book, whilst meeting and talking to interesting people in one of the greatest cities in the world.

Three weeks into my visit, I tentatively started writing a diary. I set up a separate blog, and began to capture my activities and thoughts as I embark on this new experience. However, I’ve just had a change in mind. I’m going to write here on SB129. I don’t want to get too precious about a blog that isn’t read by many people and is massively neglected by me. So be aware, the forming posts will be more diary like; scrappy, autobiographic and not fully thought threw.

Here we go….