Tag Archive | interesting reading

Assignment 1: Are You What You Wear?

The first workshop of my new module (21st Century Designer) was an exercise in snooping. We’d previously been asked to collect photographs from our childhoods or our homes, which we were to swap with classmates and analyse. I enjoyed this task; I like to think I’m quite good at figuring people out, but I’ve never had to try to do so without actually being face-to-face with the person! We were asked to think about what this person might be like, what their upbringing might have been like, what subject they are studying, what sort of personality they might have – in other words, we weren’t to just note down what we see (fictional example: clothes everywhere) but why it’s there (clothes everywhere might mean an interest in trends and fast, inexpensive fashion, someone who enjoys shopping either socially or as an individual exercise, who feels their clothing/look is very important in terms of self-expression, someone who is untidy or disorganised, or any number of other things).

My team (team 8) only had two sets of photos to examine, so we were able to give a fair amount of time to each. Here are my notes for each of them:



As you can see, we noted down various basic things that we could see in the pictures, like “photos”, “music”, “birthday party”. We then tried to figure out what these things meant in relation to someone’s whole personality. We thought our first student (who provided pictures of their student halls bedroom) was female, a textile design student, quite mainstream and into fashion and trends, who enjoys socialising and travelling. She seemed to have a particular interest in Americana, with Coca-Cola, Miller, American Apparel, and Ray-Ban ads in a sort of photo collage on one wall. We spotted photographs from a music festival, so we thought she would be quite into music and taking part in new experiences, and socialising in large groups. We also thought she would be quite extroverted, from her bold choice of red bedding and a cushion that was mainly red, the photographs of her with groups of friends, and an image in the aforementioned photo collage was of someone leaping off a cliff. We also thought she would be quite organised, because next to a desk we could see a number of Post-It notes, reminders, a restaurant menu, and a taxi company phone number. Along with being extroverted, we thought she would be quite straightforward in approaching things, because part of her photo collage was an ad that stated “as simple as that” and we thought it might serve as a sort of motivational poster. Straightforward though she might be, we also thought she’d be a very caring person and a bit of an animal lover, as evidenced by all the photos she keeps around her, a decorative cushion with a dog on it, and the fact that she provided a photo of a lamb in her kitchen or utility room (which also led us to believe she lived on or near a farm back home).

Our second student provided childhood photos, which we found more difficult to work with. I’m not great at gauging ages, but I think the photos were taken between the ages of about six and ten, and they mostly seemed to be from at-home birthday parties. We took from these pictures that the student was female, quite feminine, and a textile design student. The at-home birthday parties led us to believe she came from a very caring, quite affluent background – the house appeared to be quite big, with a room large enough to accommodate a lot of excited children and their parents, and some party games. We could also see quite a nice garden and some patio furniture, which reinforced our assumption. We thought she’d be quite sociable, as there were both boys and girls in the party photos, but of course at that age the children could have just been family (which would reinforce our ideas about the family being very caring) or it might have simply been that her whole school class was invited to the party. A photo of her and another girl (who we thought to be her sister) at a park feeding ducks, along with the party photos gave the impression of her having had quite an idyllic upbringing. In none of the pictures was our student in the forefront, seeking attention; in fact, in one photo she was facing away and holding onto her mother, apparently hiding from or at least avoiding the camera, so we thought she would be quite a reserved character.

We later met up with the team whose photos we’d examined, and swapped analyses with them. It was quite interesting to see how people reacted to our guesses, and I think we were all excited to find if we were correct. It turns out that we were all (mostly) rather good at this snooping lark.

Team 7 seemed quite happy with our guesses, although our assumption that our second student was reserved was wrong – she told us that as a child she was often very much the centre of attention and would perform for any audience, so I suppose candid snapshots aren’t always the most revealing about someone’s personality.

There was a bit of nervous laughter, and everyone seemed really keen to hear what was to be said about them, sometimes perhaps a little guarded. I felt a bit apprehensive, but that’s just my default reaction to new things! I mean, really, what’s the worst thing that could be guessed from my photos?

I provided photos from my living room, and was quite excited to hear team 7’s guesses about me. They were pretty spot on, actually. Female, 23+, textile design student, flat shared with a boyfriend, keep a lot of “stuff” – cutesy trinkets, small toys, etc., very into learning – they thought learning and education would have probably been very important at home and something that I’ve carried on, would probably rather stay in and watch a film than go out clubbing – this is very true, evidenced by our massive DVD collection (which probably also proves that I like to “keep stuff” and “have things”), and I’m usually happy to say that I’m a stay-er-in-er but coming from someone else it sounds quite boring.

The way I felt about inspecting someone else’s life and having my own life inspected differed quite a bit, which surprised me. I didn’t feel bad or awkward looking at the pictures, because I didn’t imagine that anyone would show pictures that they didn’t want anyone to see. However, when I was trying to choose my own pictures to show, I found it quite difficult – I examined every shot and hemmed and hawed over what people might think of them. Of course it didn’t really matter in the end – everyone showed pictures (I assume) they were happy to show, and I didn’t really mind that I hadn’t dusted, that my shelves are cluttered with things, that there’s bits of unfinished knitting floating around, and the occasional empty envelope that hasn’t quite made its way to the bin. I suppose that’s the whole point of the exercise, really – this is how I we are, whether we like it or not!

In terms of ethics, there are lots of considerations to make in regards to snooping. We had it quite easy, as everyone had the choice of what pictures to show, or even not to provide pictures of their own. I suppose at the very least, in cases like ours, people have to know about and agree to you looking into their lives.

As part of this assignment we’ve been asked to research the Johari window, something I’d never heard of before. It’s a technique often used in a self-help capacity to help people increase their personal awareness, by placing adjectives chosen by both the subject and his or her peers in place on a grid. It is definitely going to take a bit more in-depth reading to fully understand. I found an interactive Johari window floating around the depths of the internet, which might be quite an interesting thing to explore.



Cube houses. Image from all-that-is-interesting.com

Source: all-that-is-interesting.com

Although they’ve been around since the 1970s, I’ve only just recently learned of the existence of these cube houses, designed by Piet Blom. They’re very beautiful to look at, and I’d love to step inside one and have a look around, but can we really call it good design if a quarter of the building’s 100mspace is unusable?

Assignment 4: Reading and Reviewing.

Two journal articles.

I read these.

To further my research for our RSA brief, as part of our Change by Design module, I have chosen to read two of the journal articles I found during assignment 3. These articles are mainly concerned with reflective learning, and learning using social networking sites.

The 2011 article “Expression and Connection: The Integration of the Reflective Learning Process and the Public Writing Process into Social Network Sites” by Park et al, in the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, looks at the reflective learning process and the public writing process as a way of improving the quality of reflective learning on social networking sites, and it proposes a model for reflective learning on social networking sites based on two key areas of such sites: individual expression and collaborative connection. The most important information in this article, for me, is in the sections related to using social networking sites as a tool for reflective learning, and the areas specifically on individual expression and collaborative connection.

This article makes many references to other articles and studies, and I found a few of the quotes used particularly relevant to my research. Branch and Paranjape (2002) are quoted as saying that reflection ‘brings about “growth of the individual – morally, personally, psychologically, and emotionally, as well as cognitively”.’ Park mentions a 2009 article by Branch and Kastanis which identified three major obstacles in adopting a social networking site framework for reflective learning, which are 1) insufficient time, 2) technical difficulties, and 3) the reflective learning process being insufficiently integrated into the social networking site characteristic – in this article, Park looks to solve this third obstacle. Park also uses several diagrams in this article which I found especially useful: Gibbs’s (1998) diagram of the reflective learning cycle, Kolb’s (1984) diagram of the experiential learning cycle, and Strauss’s (2008) diagram of the public writing process. I found these diagrams particularly relevant, as they display exactly the kind of information I was looking for throughout my research, my question essentially being “Can an online forum environment be used for self-reflective learning to aid in understanding and changing behaviour, and how?”

Park has provided two new diagrams, based on the ones mentioned previously. The first diagram shows the expression process on social networking sites, and it combines Kolb’s and Gibbs’s reflection processes and Strauss’s public writing process. The second diagram shows the connection process on social networking sites, detailing four stages of the connection process: searching, expressing, reflecting, and connecting. Again, I found these diagrams very helpful, as they outline very succinctly the processes of expression and public writing, and connection. Park also gives an exemplary model of and a customisable framework for web-based reflective learning, which is incredibly useful in setting out the stages of web-based learning – there are several stages mentioned, including initiation, preparation, expression, connection (the process of giving and receiving peer feedback), reification (collecting and critically reviewing selected feedback), actualisation, and evaluation. Understanding these stages will be extremely useful in building a successful online learning community environment, because allowing users to participate in these stages will give them a very good basis for self-reflection, and learning about their own behaviours.

The article concludes that in an online learning community environment, the reflection process should be integrated into the processes of expression, public writing, and connection. It also concludes that levels of participation in such a community are subject to change depending on the users’ needs and learning objectives, and that the quality of social networking depends on the media types used, and the development of the content.

Park assumes, however, that the internet is consistently available to everyone. Park quotes numbers of social networking site users from Park and Kastanis (2009) and Ellison, Steinfield, and Lampe (2007), but these figures come from undergraduate class numbers – there are no figures relating to non-students, the middle-aged, etc.

Park also quotes a study which says that reflection is often regarded as time consuming and an annoying interruption, and which goes on to say that learners can become introspective and anxious about their actions, which can affect the quality of their reflective practice. However, Park uses these statements to convincingly support his own argument, that the design of a reflective learning community should focus on the users’ engagement in and participations with others users, and the public writing process.

The 2010 article “Social Learning Networks: Build Mobile Learning Networks Based on Collaborative Services” by Huang et al, in the journal Educational Technology & Society proposes the idea of collaborative services to help service users find learning partners based on shared interests. It contains the results of a survey Huang performed to determine user satisfaction from the collaborative service platform. The key question the article poses is whether or not knowledge sharing in communities of practice is effective, and if users can be assigned learning partners based on shared interests and expected outcomes from the service.

The article contains the results of a survey conducted by Huang and his associates themselves, which positively support the point of the article. Many studies are referenced, but some key sources which I found relevant are Huang et al (2009) – the idea of supporting collaborative learning with blogs, Yang and Chen (2008) – the idea that knowledge sharing communities could be based on social networking sites, and Fischer et al (2002) – where’s it’s concluded that social relationships have an impact on learning in a collaborative environment.

The main conclusions Huang comes to are that learning activities can be well supported by a collaborative learning process, and that knowledge sharing by learning partners assigned due to similar interests and specialties is successful, and rates highly in user satisfaction. The section titled “Results and Discussion” contains the following information, with supporting references:  Knowledge sharing attitude, system quality, information quality, and service quality have positive influences on the collaborative service platform.

The information in this article is geared very positively towards building learning communities based on collaboration and interaction, and the authors found that in such communities, user satisfaction is high. Using the information laid out in this article, and following the references made throughout, could lead us to a greater understanding of what it takes to build a successful learning community, with an atmosphere designed to foster collaborative and reflective learning.

The main assumptions this article makes are, again, that the internet is available to all, and that users will actually want to be partnered with someone based on their interests or specialties, rather than find their own friends and way around an ‘open’ community. There doesn’t seem to be any allowance for letting users work by themselves, as the author shows that learning communities work well when users are partnered up – however, there should perhaps be the option to work alone, and opt out of being partnered with other users based on shared interests and specialties, at least until the users feel comfortable within the community environment.

I am happy with the information I have gathered through my research into this topic. I came at this assignment with quite a specific question – can an online forum environment be used for self-reflective learning to aid in understanding and changing behaviour, and how? I think that through my research I can say with a degree of certainty that an online community environment can be used for self-reflective learning and understanding behaviour, as long as the framework is right. Of course, learning is a very changeable and diverse subject, and the service’s success would depend very strongly on the users’ attitudes and commitment to it.

One article is based on the results of a study conducted by the authors themselves, and the other uses secondary sources of information as a base for the points it makes, but both of my chosen articles do seem to support each other. They both conclude positively towards online learning communities in a similar vein to social networking sites like Facebook, and even though our idea was more along the lines of a forum or bulletin board, I think the conclusions presented still apply to our design. Park et al propose an actual model for reflective learning on social networking sites, which has given me a greater understanding of what reflective learning actually is, and what it entails. It is quite an in-depth process, but along with personal expression, public writing, and connection with other users, I think it could be an extremely helpful process to give users a better understanding of their own behaviours.

I am still very interested in the idea of using personal videos to aid the self-reflection process, either in a candid, simply behaviour-recording way, or as a sort of video blog, so to have a better understanding of this I would like to conduct further research – during my search for information for assignment 3 I noted a number of articles related to using videos in a learning context, so I would like to investigate those articles to see if videos really would be useful in the kind of learning environment that our service would provide.

As part of the assignment, our groups were asked to meet up in order to get a fresh perspective on our projects. Team 8 and team 7 took over the DJCAD cantina for a while to discuss what we’d been looking over. Our groups had both become aware of each others’ projects after last week’s Pecha Kucha style presentations, but it was really refreshing to meet up with another group who had a completely different project, and hear what they had to say in a more relaxed setting.

Assignment 4 meetup.

Teams 7 and 8 discussing our projects.


Branch, W. T., and Paranjape, A., 2002. Feedback and reflection: Teaching Methods for Clinical Settings. Academic Medicine, 77 (12), pp. 1185-1188.

Huang, Y.-M.,  Jeng, Y.-L., and Huang, T.-C., 2009. An Educational Mobile Blogging System for Supporting Collaborative Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 12 (2), pp. 163-175.

Huang, J. J. S., Yang, S. J. H., Huang, Y.-M., and Hsiao, I. Y. T., 2010. Social Learning Networks: Build Mobile Learning Networks Based on Collaborative Services. Educational Technology & Society, 13 (3) pp. 78-92.

Park, J.Y., and Kastanis, L.S., 2009. Reflective Learning through Social Network Sites in Design Education. International Journal of Learning, 16 (8), pp.  11-22.

Park, J.-Y., 2011. Expression and Connection: the Integration of the Reflective Learning Process and the Writing Process into Social Network Sites. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7 (1)

Yang, S. J. H., and Chen, I. Y. L., 2008. A Social Network-based System for Supporting Interactive Collaboration in Knowledge Sharing Over Peer-to-peer Network. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 66 (1), pp. 36-50.

Euthanasia Coaster

I read this article, “Suicide by roller coaster”, the other day and I really can’t stop thinking about it. It’s such an odd and interesting idea – a euthanasia roller coaster – and I wonder what led the designer, Julijonas Urbonas, to invent such a thing.

In response to a comment on his video, Urbonas says:

Please note that this macabre insight was made in and for the context of the exhibition “Human+” which speculated upon the future of humans. In that case the coaster is a sci-fi black humour. Originally this dystopian insight was inspired by a few sci-fi stories such as Kurt Vonnegut’s “Welcome to the Monkey House” where euthanasia is a citizen’s patriotic duty, and the movies like “Soylent Green,” “Children of Men.” Thus the coaster could be also seen as a tangible design interpretation or equivalent to the literary versions of the euthanasia machines found in these stories.

I’m actually finding it quite difficult to convey what I think about this – I love dystopian stories and novels like Nineteen Eighty-Four and Fahrenheit 451, and films like Soylent Green and Logan’s Run (I must find a copy of the novel some day), so maybe that’s why this idea has captivated me so strongly!