Archive for October, 2010
13 October, 2010 – 8:47 pm | Filed under design, personal, school | No Comments »
Yay, I’m slightly more marginally famous!*
Print Magazine approached Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design about having us graduate students write articles, reflecting both CMU’s approach to design and our own design interests, for the Imprint Blog–their blog about other interests and interesting areas of design beyond print. A number of the second-years volunteered, and we just started our weekly rotation of articles. (Last week my classmate Jenny kicked our column off by writing about designing for social impact, and next week my classmate and housemate Jeanette is up.) Everyone who’s volunteered is set to write one article this semester–we’ll see how it goes for the spring as well.
My article this week is on intercultural design, its importance, and why I think it’s better to be intercultural than cross-cultural. (Had I had the foresight to include a title, it would’ve been less proclamatory and more punny.) I believe it may have been edited minorly for length (that, or my lack of sleep is making me misremember how I’d written and edited it), but the message is the same. Check it out and let me know what you think!
* When people come to hear of my Pirates of Dark Water fan site, I tell them that I am very, very, very, very minorly internet-famous. :) (Yes, with four “very”s before the “minorly.”)
In other news, I am an “aunt” again–my cousin Yamuna had a baby girl this morning, YAY!–and I determined that printing out the results of my first thesis survey would take nearly 400 sheets of legal-sized paper. Wow.
11 October, 2010 – 4:24 am | Filed under commentary, design | No Comments »
You know the show Undercover Boss? The one where a well-known company’s CEO goes undercover and works in entry-level jobs in his company?
It hit me tonight, during the episode about DirecTV, that the show is a public enactment of human-centered user research, and that the CEO is assuming the role of a designer. He (which I use because every episode I’ve seen so far has featured a middle-aged white guy) is trying to ascertain what the issues with his company are by jumping in headfirst and immersing himself in the thick of things, trying to understand how his company actually functions and what actual employees truly face and deal with on a day-to-day basis. He learns about their jobs and them as people, and he empathizes with them as he himself takes on their responsibilities. He then comes out of it and makes changes company-wide that are directly informed by those real-life experiences, both as experienced by him and as related by the people for whom he’s designing/planning.
There are days when my classmates and I wish we could shut this “designy sense” (like “spidey sense”) off and just accept things at face value and “make pretty stuff” again. But this was a cool realization. It’s neat to see a real-life example of these concepts at work in such a prominent way.
8 October, 2010 – 9:05 pm | Filed under assignments, design, school | No Comments »
My head is spinning as a result of the last week, which was spent in Chicago at the 2010 Design and Emotion Conference. It was my first true design conference (SXSW Interactive in 2008 kind of counts, but…), and my first academic conference. I didn’t present a paper, but I did volunteer and sat in on something like 30 talks about various design papers and 3 of the 4 keynote speeches (I only missed the 4th because I had a headache, but it’ll be online shortly anyway), and had some great conversations and met some great people. It was a great experience, and has given me a lot to think about. (Maybe I’ll write a write-up in a few days.)
We got back late last night, and today I’ve jumped right back in with catching up on my large pile of schoolwork and research. Besides my thesis, I’m in two other classes, with their own research projects:
- Social Impact By Design (mentioned by Jenny on printmag.com’s Imprint blog!) – I’m exploring the idea of getting people to take more responsibility for their surroundings. This could relate possibly to something like littering or vandalism, or being more considerate of people around them, or just shaking the idea that “it’s not my problem; someone else owns it/someone else will deal with it”.
- Information+Interaction+Perception – I’ll be developing some designed product/artifact/campaign that educates and informs about the health and environmental benefits of vegetarianism (in a friendly and totally unobtrusive way, to counteract the headstrong and pushy image a number of vegetarians have built).
For the latter, I’m working on reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma right now, and searching for relatively unbiased and reputable sources of information.
For the former, I’ve started by reading up on designing for persuasion. But that brings up some questions: does persuasion imply some sort of tangible and measurable reaction? With something like this, which is more of an implicit and personal cultural shift in how a person responds to a situation, does that mean that this project would still fall under the umbrella of persuasive design? I’m not persuading people to take a specific action; I’m “persuading” (or suggesting?) that they think differently, and possibly even internalize a message or concept that changes their view, which will, in turn, change their actions. Or…is that actually what persuasive design is all about?
Obviously I’m only getting started on my research for this. But the psychological implications and strategies implicit in design are really fascinating to me, and I’m looking forward to learning much more about this.
1 October, 2010 – 5:29 am | Filed under thesis | No Comments »
This was a big part of why I finally got around to getting this blog started again. I realized that I didn’t have it in me to chronicle every minute detail of my thesis research in a dedicated blog, and I didn’t want to make it all public anyway. But I would like to have a place to post cool findings and thoughts as I go along.
My topic (specifically, the “one-liner” my advisor asked me to prepare):
“I am developing a resource to aid North American JET Programme returnees who have spent several years living in Japan as they go through reverse culture shock upon their return.”
Why did I choose this?
1. I really wanted to do something related to international experiences somehow, as I have a strong interest in intercultural design and communication.
2. The JET Programme has a solid network of alumni associations that I figured would make it easy to get access to a pool of research participants. (Plus, I still have friends and contacts from my own experiences abroad.)
3. There is plenty of information out there to prepare JET participants for the culture shock they’ll experience when they first arrive in Japan, but there is relatively none to prepare people for the (often times even stronger) shock of returning home afterward, and what is there is often overlooked or disregarded somehow.
The truth is that it is a rough “homecoming” for many folks; you sometimes don’t realize how much you have changed when you spend time abroad, and life has gone on at home and the people and things you knew may have changed as well. It’s not the comforting constant it had been before. I know people who genuinely went through quarter-life crises once they returned because their fundamental values and outlook on life had changed drastically, and their former career paths were no longer relevant for them.
I have a general hypothesis, based on my own experiences with the JET Programme and reverse culture shock: community, and talking to others, is one of the best ways to get through it.
I spent the summer and part of the fall beginning a basic literature review–reading up on the psychology behind reverse culture shock primarily, but also starting to explore topics surrounding my hypothesis. I started drafting user research materials (a general survey for a broad snapshot of JET alumni, interview questions to get insight into specific individual experiences, and a journaling activity to get a more emotional look into RCS) and obtained IRB approval.
First I distributed the general survey (much later than I intended, but oh well). I disseminated it both via Facebook and a few relevant forums, and Steven, the webmaster of JetWit (a great website serving the JET alumni community), kindly offered to post about it as well. I also asked Jessica, the JET coordinator at the Japanese consulate in Atlanta, if she’d mind passing the URL on to her list of alumni.
Through my own efforts, I’d gotten a dozen or so responses. Thanks to Steven posting the link to JetWit, I got roughly 30. Once Jessica sent out the URL, I received (wait for it…) 90 responses in 12 hours. It’s been a little over a week now and I’ve received well over 200 responses–twice what I thought I’d get! They’re finally tapering off but still coming in, amazingly, and each one has such an incredible amount of insight to offer.
Here are a few snapshots of my attempts to collate some of the data thus far:
To the JET alumni community: thank you so much. I don’t have words to express how incredibly grateful I am for your kind assistance, and that so many of you took the time to give such thoughtful and detailed (and very moving, in many cases) written responses to nearly every question. This is such an enormous help. (Particularly since, in looking at that last image, nearly every prefecture in Japan is represented. I still am reeling from this amazing response!)