Week 51 - 21 July 2022

There's definitely a pattern to Riku Nagasaki's feedback, it's just eluding me slightly. I agree with almost all of it (the biggest exception for when he told a group to create an autonomous oil freezing robot to clean the ocean), and there is a pattern underneath - but it's like trying to decipher a magic eye picture.

I can't work out why our group received a good reception last week. I don't think our idea is particularly good - but perhaps he's seeing past the execution to something more? Or maybe I'm being overly generous towards ourselves.

He says we've found a group of jumping fish but I'm not so sure. Let me try to unpick it. We noticed that people go to the river to cool down. But when they're there they cannot be both in the shade and the river. The river is a symbol of coolness, but it is somewhat of an illusion. So we wondered, how can we make the city more naturally cool?

To me this feels obvious to the point of glib. Of course we want to make our cities more naturally cool. Anyway, we discovered ankyo, which are underground covered rivers. We wondered if we could use these, but it was too challenging to find an economical idea which worked. So what we've ended up proposing is a planter that fits into the standard Kyoto sized drains, allowing the plants to be fed by rainwater.

For me, there are many issues with this idea. It feels both over-engineered and uneconomical. For the price of sunken drain planters, you could probably just plant 10x the number of trees. It could mess with the operation of the drains. Also, plants are fed by rainwater by virtue of being outside (duh).

It's confusing because another group received similarly positive feedback, but I think their idea is genius. They are looking at how to keep flowers in shrines cool so they last longer, and have created a ritual around flower shaped ice cubes being left in a specially shaped tray.

Writing this out, they both seem a little silly. I wonder if I'm over-jaded, over-conservative, through having worked in-house for a few years. At organisations where it's hard to get anything done (I'm thinking of the BBC and Parliament here). There is some kind of elegance to both the ideas. Some sort of wholeness. Writing this out does feel like I'm getting somewhere. Maybe starting to see something in the idea.

Riku Nagasaki talks a lot about how some groups have discovered 'needs', but not 'demands'. A need is something obvious which can be vocalised. A demand is a society-wide thing that has not been vocalised, but can be observed through jumping fish. Satisfying a need almost always leads to a short-term fix, but satisfying a demand leads to long-term sustainable change.

I'm not sure if I've totally got that right. Writing it out to try to make sense of it.

Another professor presented their work to us, which was about co-design. However, the academic paper they'd written was based around an experiment in co-design where the co-design participants were other pHD candidates working on a hypothetical brief for 3 hours. It just struck me what an exceptional, incredible waste of time the entire endeavour was. Co-design fails because it happens in the real world, where there are messy power dynamics and asymmetrical knowledge distribution exists. Co-design cannot be studied in a vacuum as a method. Which made me write in my note book 'start and end in the real world.'

I read an interesting paper about the concept of the 'sublime' in both western and japanese philosophical traditions. I want to write some thoughts on that down before it evaporates from my brain.

I also picked up a copy of Japanese Wired magazine. In the short editors letter they managed to mention the Whole Earth Catalogue (which I forgot somewhat birthed Wired Magazine), the IPPC and Heidegger in the same breath. Made me laugh. The issue is called "[X] as a tool".

Last update: 2022-07-21 19:45