These are the sights and sounds of Idle No More that I recorded over three events in Ottawa from January 11, 2013 to March 25, 2013. Using a combination of digital and physical ethnographic research, as well as strategic interviews, I sought to better understand what Idle No More means. The goal was to identify potential project opportunities for design and development to become engaged in what has been described as an ‘indigenous civil rights movement’. Findings to follow…
This article originally appeared in Herd Magazine Issue #03. Herd Magazine is a grassroots arts & culture magazine put together by some tremendously talented individuals whose mission is to stop Ottawa’s creative exodus. Check out Herd online at www.herdmag.ca or pick it up at a number of fine locations around Ottawa.
“So… what is design, exactly?”
In this world of i-ubiquity, the question still comes up with shocking regularity. In this same world, business and tech publications incessantly tout design as the white stallion you’d be foolish not to hitch your cart to if you want to achieve true innovation and attain competitive advantage. If you haven’t heard, design is on the cusp of revitalizing our education systems, reinventing health care, and will be at the core of every successful entrepreneurship venture. All of this while becoming a prominent figure in public policy, government, and future educational curriculums.
It’s in this same muddy world full of self-proclaimed typographers, makers, hackers, social media strategists, stylists, and so many more creatives, that the word gets tossed around with reckless abandon, and one can’t help but succumb to the confusion. The instinctive frustration a designer feels at being asked the question - which on the surface seems shockingly ignorant - somehow becomes so much more palatable when one comes to grips that within those vagaries and delicious ambiguity lies the real beauty of the d-word…
Design, one of our most basic human endeavors, so key to scampering up Maslow’s triangle, has evolved from crafting a better spear to kill a bigger animal into a convoluted, smoke and mirrors activity that finds itself at a crossroads. It’s either on the verge of being taken seriously, and achieving serious impact, or it will remain in the fog of general public consciousness wedged between Eames chairs, Helvetica type, and Louboutin heels.
So, wait…what is design?
What do you find when you analyze the content from 1500 of the most influential #idlenomore tweets from selected dates over the past 4 months? That’s what I’m about to find out.
In a previous post, I discussed some of the parallels between the Idle No More movement and ‘wicked problems’ from a design perspective. The goal of this perspective is to better understand what role design and development could potentially play in addressing some of the pressing domestic challenges facing our Indigenous communities.
Idle No More is a complex, fluid, and powerful movement that has been described by some in Indigenous communities as their civil rights movement. It should by no means be trivialized and the solution is not as simple as building better houses or finding better accountants. To make significant progress it requires empathy, respect, and understanding.
Lately design has been talking a big game about how its processes just might be able to “save the world”, without really being able to show how it’s going to walk that talk. While design is prone to hyperbole, I think many within design understand that, and are beginning to try and figure out what role design thinking and innovation could actually play in addressing many stagnant challenges that have been plagued by entrenched perspectives that haven’t proven to work all too well – like aid.
As the finish line nears for this project, it’s time to take a moment and thank the tremendous people who have contributed to the still ongoing research.
The incredibly generous contributions are from people doing impressive work in Participatory Design, Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D), Social Innovation, E-Government, Citizen Advocacy, Crowdsourcing, Design Research, and Development. In their own rights, they are educational, inspirational, and motivational. My work and research contributions to the field certainly wouldn’t have been possible without the help of these champs. They’ve definitely helped shape and influence my perspectives and that can only mean good things for design.
The result of my research aims to collectively capture their experience and opinions and amalgamate it in order to move the conversation forwards in these respective fields. Looking at their various contributions and the wisdom within them, I’m really excited to share what it has all become.
I highly recommend you check out what these fine folks are up to, and in no particular order I’d like to thank…
This post is in response to the flurry of articles emerging in the mainstream “credible”, “reliable”, and “accurate” news sources that are looking to blame the Internet in some misguided guilt-mongering. Here and here are some examples. (Here’s a more level-headed and informed one)
As most of you know, a huge sub-plot emerged - and at the time of this writing is still unfolding – in the role that the “crowd” played in the investigation into the Boston bombings. Primarily using Reddit, a massive online community emerged where people shared photos, theories (conspiratorial or not), ideas, suspicious persons, and plenty more in a sub-reddit called “Find the Boston Bombers”. Behaviours that are of course so incredibly understandable given the high profile nature of the event and natural human curiosity. People gossip, people speculate, and people experience a sense of excitement and maybe even civic duty in doing so. The only difference, is that while people used to do this at the bar with their friends or in the comfort of their own homes, they now have the internet as a platform. Guess what, that’s how society communicates now, and that’s changed everything, sort of…
Over the past few days I’ve been actively watching it all unfold. On Reddit, and through mainstream news. Here are some thoughts.
Super proud to have been considered a highlight among speakers at Design Indaba 2013 from among the awe inspiring people that took the stage.
Other chosen highlights from the folks in Cape Town include Ben Terrett (of the highly ambitious and incredibly important GOV.uk project), Masashi Kawamura (owner of PARTY an interactive design agency and maker of some crazy dancing sperm videos among other wild projects), Jeanne Van Heswijk (participatory/ethnographic design guru), Asif Khan (fantastic architect of London Olympics fame), the brilliant and quirky Daan Roosegaarde and advertising legend Sir John Hegarty.
Again, so many thanks for the opportunity and it will be one that I always remember…