Monthly Archives: April 2013

words

poetry_words

my wife Carol told me about this article she read or a radio interview she heard or something where the main topic up for discussion dealt with ways to guide your career — one of these fucking ‘paths to improvement’ kinda things, ya know?

aight

so

i guess the main person talking or writing about how to guide your own career toward better success mentioned owning certain words to help you channel / filter / control your behaviors and hopefully build a bit of a purposeful brand story for yourself — forgive me, i don’t know the real terminology from the article or interview, just the main concepts i took away from our conversation over the dinner table and all, ya know?

huh, i just said ‘ya know?’ to finish off 2 main paragraphs in this blogPost

not cool

but back to the main topic here, aight?

so, not sure if you’ve read some of the previous posts here about a little riff i got goin’ on called storyFirst, but its right here if you wanna go back — like you even have the time for that kinda schtuff right now and all, right? but the idea, the basic gist of it all is that you use the power of personal storytelling to drive whatever it is you might wanna change up in life, which seems, like, directly in-line with this article / interview Carol and i were discussing, right?

thank gawd i didn’t say ‘ya know?’ — ya know?

anywayz

so, i thought i’d take a few minutes to just jot down what i think my words are, the ones i’ve gravitated towards in both a purposeful and more subconscious manner over the years — what i’d love to see, if any of you can participate by chiming back through any of the myriad mechanisms or channels of communication afforded to us at this advanced age of ‘staying connected’ — i’d love it if anyone had feedback to say, like,

‘woah, lou, really? that was the vibe you were going for? well, you almost had it, but there was that fucking time you totally flipped out in the office about that email from Steve or something, i can’t even remember at this point, right? and that kind of behavior is not only totally uncool and all, and unprofessional, but it definitely goes against the idea of < put the word from my short-list in here >, which i thought was more along the lines of what you were tryin’ ta be all about — dude, what happened there?

get what i’m sayin’?

so, with that minimal contextual information and backStory in mind — here’s my list, my career list of words { or whatever you wanna call it }, and more importantly to me, my storyFirst vocabulary for some sort of self-guidance as: a colleague in the workplace; a friend in life; an acquaintance or friendly random strangerly cohort on the streets of San Francisco; an advocate for better human-centered design processes, methodologies and design results; a practicing Design professional and leader; a semi-professional wrestler sans mohawk, body piercings and backtatt skin graffitti artwork and speedo; an unprofessional japanese filmmaker; a storyteller of dark humor and adventure in a modernday world gone mad; a sometimes practicing open mike music or near-comedic performer; a laugh research practitioner and performance artist; a lover, a father, a husband and lifelong friend { only a very selected few can judge me there, at least from the special first-person perspective vantagepoint i’m personally looking for in my feedback communications }; etcetera and so on forever and ever ad infinitum farsi, amen

and thus, with no further ado, here is

my list of storyFirst personal life guidance and career-like words

fun

collaborative
highly collaborative in that kind of face-to-face sort of way that i think is absolutely vital to keeping things fun, light and efficient in the right kind of way { for the kind of energy i want to create, encourage, foster and be associated with every step of the way }

not innovative, although that’s almost the word i wanna hold onto — its just SO cliché at this point, right? and NOT every client, project, interaction or process is going to require or ultimately lead to a truly new and innovative approach or end solution — not even interpersonal, more everyday interaction needs constant innovation in the true sense of the word — i think the words that are related in some semi-sweet and semiotic fashion are more like:

nimble { really trying hard on this one lately, its a difficult one sometimes, especially when trying to improve team dynamics, etcetera nd so on }

big picture &/or blue sky — yes, its true, as a human-centered designer, after some ridiculous 15+ years of trying a million different ways of approaching a design challenge { if its even truly a design challenge at all after our initial investigations into the problemSpace / challenge context / all that }, i can say with full confidence that i always, always, always encourage and want to show off my ability to think big — in fact, to think bigger — when it comes to the way i research, actively design, think through, refine and execute my processes as a Design professional — if i don’t push for the biggest and the best right up front, the projects fucked

its that simple

its my job, as the Designer, to put the big vision { so i guess visionary could take the place of innovative, hmmmm } out there on the table { BAM! } and then to listen to like a dozen people typically sitting in 3 different office geolocations ask me big, doubtful questions — the sort of getting to NO approach of breaking the vision of what i’ve done to help funnel down the scope, the timeline and keep everything super slick and reasonable from a develper’s perspective — and THEN its my job, if i’m asked ‘Why?’ or ‘How?’ to ask, ‘Why not? Why can’t we just develop what I designed?’

ridiculous — yes, that’s what i said, ridiculous — i embrace it, all the way — i’m a goofy bastid and wherever i can fit in a laugh along the way, some subtle, twisted humor to cut through the heavy fog in the room at some of the dull ass conversations we all get to deal with in an office environment, i think ridiculousness { not the show, just the activity, the verb ridiculize, if that can even happen } is a tool i use, like laughter as an action in itself { even without the permission system of humor, joke or play to precede the guffaw, titter or ha ha } to break the monotony and move forward in a hopefully refreshed and lighter manner

along with that one, i guess, words like humorous, satiric, farcical — any word that’s associated with literally ‘making fun’ out of a situation, not to literally ‘make fun’ of it in a mean-spirited way, but merely to help us all survive and play together nicer — to ‘make it into fun’ i suppose — is a phraseology that i foster, support and want to be affiliated with — so, back to that top word, again, i guess, right?

hands-on and tactical but also high-level

well, let’s not get fucking crazy now, right? that’s starting to sound like typical corporate bullshitnot part of my personal storyFirst vocabulary list for this week at all

piece

the Boston music scene

Mascara

right now Boston is quite literally dripping with eclectic and wonderful creative talent in the Boston music scene — and music right now in this town quite nicely blends out into other equally interesting, mind expanding genres of live entertainment, with many bands and music acts blurring their onstage presentation into the realms of performance art, burlesque, theatre and pure provocation

any MassHole out there right now can head into Cambridge, Boston, Somerville, Jamaica Plain and any of the other wonderful buroughs of Boston proper and see an evening overbrimming with live mulitband original independent musicianship that will simply blow your mind

and you can enjoy both a wide variety of music genre as well as a depth and breadth of pure live stage presentation and dynamics that i believe far surpass what you would see out of any other metropolis around the world

i mean, i’d call it a Boston music renaissance at this point

its THAT fucking good

drop on into Lizard Lounge, Church, Middle East Café, Club Passim, Midway Café, Precinct, PA’s Lounge, and so many others on any night you have some free time and you’re bound to see a set of world-class, life changing independent music all for the ridiculously reasonable price of a small door fee and a few pints of beer — the kind of bang you get for your buck is utterly INSANE for all you music fans out in the Boston area, and you all know it

its interesting, too, as a huge fan of the Boston music scene that’s pretty much lived in this area since my humble birth at Malden Hospital back in 1969, to see the evolution and many revolutions of an artform over the span of so much time

with the gentle decline of the actual auspices of the Record Industry overlordage, too, the rise of this independent spirit of the musician truly flourishes

i don’t know about you, but i really never go into Aerosmith and Boston and all that classic rock, big dick-waggin’ arena shit from the previous Boston music scene in the heyday of the record bizz — i don’t own Toys in the Attic on cassette or More Than a Feeling, this shit makes my skin crawl and it just reminds me of sports arenas and people acting like social retards, needing to smoke a joint before any sense of real creative expression or alternative views enter the common man mindSpace, like this fucking era and genre of music is still somehow fucking radical and wild where, to me, its all about heroin and the general numbness of the masses, a numbness that drugs and music gives us all permission to suddenly feel something, to maybe move our white-ass bodies to the beat and scream out Dream On at the top of our lungs while totally ripping up our vocal cords with a big bottle of Bud Lite in our left hand and a fist raised and pumping with our right — those sly sideways gay looks we give our classic rawkin’ buddies, like, ‘Yeah, we live for these moments, man!’ while flushing a hundred dollars away for the Great Woods ticket knowing i’ll be back in the office with a hangover and SO many wacky Margaritaville tailgating stories like a good neo-serfed citizen of suppression, despair and crushed hopes — i guess its not THAT bad, really, it just makes for really good writing and the judgment is right in line with the level of individuality and freedom we get to experience or express in the United States

fucking Aerosmith

don’t get me wrong, though, i used to really love The Cars

i think they’re sonically far more interesting than bands like Aerosmith — it might be more of a textural thing for me, and the fact that big guitar solos just remind me of a bunch of guys with mullets, beer and wife beaters all hanging out on their parents’ back porch talking about women in a disrespectful yet totally hilarious and caricaturist way — good fodder for me as an unprofessional part-time comedian and someone just trying to get to any sense of real, valuable time and more intellectually stimulating discourse

all that’s beside the point, though — the music scene in Boston right now excites me — its Alive! and real and there’s such variety in the mix of what you can see on a nightly basis — and the parade of talent seems neverending, prolific and truly unique on so many levels — and alongside the performance art scene and the revival and rise of burlesque as a renewed national medium for political commentary, sexual and current event awareness, movement art and comedy, the music scene in Boston passionately conveys the energy and spirit of this city and the larger New England area in general — if we’re no longer revolutionary as Joe Citizen in this day and age, our musicians carry the torch to that vital sense of defiance and rebellion so sorely needed right now in the world, and our musicians lead the way

Mascara, Schooltree, Count Zero, Jaggery, Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls, Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys, Goli and Bury Me Standing { previously Fluttr Effect }, Sarah Rabdau and the Self-Employed Assassins, What Time is It Mr. Fox?, Do Not Forsake Me My Darling, Gene Dante and the Future Starlets, Endation — I could go on and on and on with the list of band names, both researched and simply known off the tip of my brainstem — i’ve seen almost all of these bands in one form or another out at Johnny D’s or The Cantab Lounge or elsewhere, and there’s both the current state of each genius band of musicians as well as the rich history of the individual acts, the mythos, if you will, and the rather prolific creation story that’s moved each band and musician from their mythical origins to the place each act finds themselves in today

there’s a richness and texture and a performative delivery i witness out at the clubs that’s like no other era in the Boston music scene

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i’m a bit of a broken dabbler myself when it comes to music — so i totally get what’s happening up on stage from the unique perspective of someone that knows the language and knows all of the activities, exercises and elements that go into putting together the music, putting together an ensemble and putting on a show — but these musicians, i don’t know, they really make it seem too easy, its all so effortless on the surface, which goes to show the level of craftsmanship and professionalism the Boston scene delivers

and the genius also comes from a very humble place for these acts — they’re all SO giving to their audience, and all so appreciative — its very apparent and transparent to me that the musicians and performers have a nurturing and beautiful little family up there on stage, and that sense of family extends to all of the offstage real life preparations and social aspects of this art, that too, shows through in the work and in the seamless delivery of such a complicated form of expressive communication

and you, as a person in the audience, you feel part of that family every step of the way — you’ve been invited into the heart and soul of each act and as they come off stage or get up there to set up everyone takes the time to say hello, to thank you for coming out to support their work and their vision of what a show can be, and there is no sense of separation, of fourth wall hierarchical disparagement, of any better than airs or politics — i think there’s a thoughtful sense of understanding how integral the audience, the performer and the work itself come together to create the actual live experience and completion of the work — there’s a deep, almost Duchampian comprehension of the craft and of this amazing sense of community that all timeless artwork must strike with the audience, viewer and ultimately the participant of the entire experience — and at this moment in time, whether its all entirely on the subconscious level of each musician’s mindflow or whether its at the forefront and deepest concern of each iterative performance, the Boston music scene emotionally succeeds in this spirit of inclusivity in the work — we’re invited in through the window to a party that’s illicit and raucous and vulnerable and realthis is where real life is, not on reality television or on the social web { that’s all just a mere performance of reality }, its right up here on center stage under the spotlight or not, but up here where these universal themes play out for us all, to relive personal scenarios and to re-examine the human spirit of our existence and the general chaos of nature and the world

its such a beautiful thing to see

1917_duchamp_self-portrait_c

the grocery shopping experience at Market Basket

shopping

there is nothing else in the world that can totally suck out any remaining sense of hope or empathy for the human race quite like the shopping experience at the Market Basket in Peabody

its a fucking nightmare

i’m NOT joking, either { although i’m sure this will be a hilarious entry }

from the moment you walk into the place you just know you’re getting a glimpse into what Hell might actually feel like — the experience completely humbles you, reminding us all how delicate and breakable the balance and boundaries actually are between a somewhat reasonable expectation for our human social experience and the life of our animal ancestry

the place horrifies me almost everytime

its worse than the comparably mild country pop music white trash nightmare going on right down the street at the Peabody Walmart — that’s another mindfuck of a trip that could probably be a few blips more tolerable if under the influence of hallucinogens, but it still gets put to utter shame by the kind of debilitating, pure insanity that is the Market Basket

the worst part of it all is, i mean, i know, i know, we all need to buy food on a semi-regular basis, right? and i know, too, that the less expensively priced the food offerings — well, the less refined and customer-focused the experience might be

at the Market Basket in Peabody, there’s just literally no room to move — the aisles are tight, you can barely get around or through if the feed monsters that frequent ‘The Basket’ cart park to both the left and right of main open floor per aisle — and they seem to not give a flying shit about when to re-stock shelves, or even how to re-stock ’em

today my son and i were just waiting at the top of one of the aisles to let Carol fend her way down what looked like the very claustrophobic and busy soup, pasta and ethnic food section of the store — we were waiting up by the meat department, consequently also extremely too close to their filthy restrooms and shelves of lost and rotting packaged discount grocery items, and this young Basketeer pulls out a major palette of Fun Pops, still entirely encased in semi-sheer plasticwrap, and leaves it in what seemed to my son and i like a fairly open and safe area previously in front of us

it totally cut our breathing space in half and now if anyone wanted to get by our carriage we would need to totally rock and yank the cart into a cozier proximity to the stuffed oysters and cocktail shrimp in the floor freezer unit we were previously huddled closely against

the guy starts yapping it up with some happy camper Baby Boomerette as he moves from this one majorly ridiculous obstruction he’s set up to another palette of Hugs Fruit Barrel beverages, which i really assumed were totally claimed to be as illegal as lead paint and wax teeth or something way back in the 70s, but i guess Hugs are still around — he moves the Hugs away after his little bantery live conference in the lane with Betty Boomer and disappears around the corner

after joking with Maceo about how insane this little chess move seemed to me, i decided to move our cart out into the newly opened space, maybe the only open 6 by 6 foot space with room to move, breathe and feel comfortable in the entire goddam grocery store at this point

woman-shopping-with-list-horiz

i started to think about grocery stores in general and why we typically start our food shopping at such a miserable place like Market Basket, sometimes picking up items later in week at Super Stop & Shop or elsewhere { just never Shaw’s, ya know? } — and, i think its an obvious no-brainer, right? Market Basket does have the overall best prices { and by best, i mean lowest or most affordable, of course } — i mean, other stores probably have wider aisles and less desperate people — and for the most part, only the wider aisles part is verifiably true — the people, i hate to say, as i know this will come off as sounding like mean snobbery on my part, but its simply a realistic observation when i say these sorts of things — the people, no matter where you go to shop for groceries, typically act like these strange lost animals of consumerism

today i thought less about the word food and more about the word feed

as i looked around Market Basket and my fight or flight adrenaline was kicking in to simply help me survive the experience in this sense of hyperawareness of the sheer chaos all around me, my fellow people seemed a LOT more like animals than human beings — and they were all coming here to feed more than find food — any sense of intellectual differentiation from the animal kingdom or more refined social awareness and exchange of communication from organism to organism fell completely away to make the entire experience feel more like a zoo or a farm or a circus — and that’s what makes it even worse for me — these weren’t even the truly WILD animals i would better respect and adore to come out and see in the woods, on safari or in a tropical rainforest, no, not at all — these animals were simply humans gone wild in a next-to-nearly-inhuman contextual setting, acting like decent and respectable American shopping citizens of the capitalistic consumerist construct we’ve been given — mannerless, inconsiderate, self-motivated and self-centered, inchoate as far as i’m concerned in our journey along the technohumanic evolutionary continuum, unthinking, base, and quite frankly simultaneously frightening and disappointing to me

i know, i know, i can’t believe i’m writing this openly and honest about these observations — its just all too tragic-sounding and rather judgmental

and you need to believe me when i say, i typically give almost everybody the up-front and center benefit of the doubt the first time i encounter them, despite all they say about the importance of first impressions and all that

but i dare you to pay a visit to the Peabody Market Basket — especially on a weekend or right around the temporal vicinity of a major storm threat as predicted by our horrendously inaccurate television weather reporters — go and see for yourself and report back to me what you experience, i bet you’ll see it almost exactly the way i do

EMealz-Budget-Grocery-Shopping-500x332

and what’re the alternatives?

go grocery shopping at Whole Foods?

its WAY too expensive there — and although there’s a lot more room to move and breathe and think, the people that shop at Whole Foods disappoint and disgust me for the very same reasons, but just coming from some more pretentious and extremely health- and fashion-conscious mentality — and there may be less of ’em, so the grocery shopping experience there feels more elegant, smooth, organized and thoughtful — i just can’t stomach the designer sweatsuits and pretentiously all organic, sugar free and decaffeinated institutionalization of food and our health addicted general public — any super market that doesn’t carry Cap’n Crunch is just selling an entirely different kind crack as far as i’m concerned

don’t get me wrong, i love the salad bar there, especially at lunch time when i worked out in Wellesley and all — it was fun to hit up the Whole Paycheck every couple of weeks or so for a nice change of pace, but its just not a financially sustainable grocery shopping option, and its not remotely believable to me on the earthy crunchy side of its post hippy, all naturale food chic

i guess until i hit it big or something i’m going back to The Basket despite the chaotic, animal-based nature of the total shopping experience — i even think i’m going back to The Basket when and if i hit it big, too — i just might go to the Market Basket out in Middleton instead

iStock_Grocery-Shopper-680x449

uxWTF experience design challenge #1 — CVS receipt reDesign { please }

okay, okay, okay — for those of you that might personally know me in some way from the UX and Design Community, and by know me i mean really know me, you’ve probably heard me rant on about the real reasons why i am a user-centered designer

most people outside of the profession simply assume that all designers have this wonderful and delicate appreciation for elegant design in the world and that their passion and motivations lie somewhere within the logic of thereby wanting to design and bring to life newer designs as inspired by Bauhaus, clean and minimalist typography or by some self-delusional thinking that our contributions as designers in modernday society will somehow make for a greener, more peaceable and liveable planet

sorry if this sounds like a loaded way to re-introduce myself here for you — i don’t mean to sound hostile or pessimistic or negative in any way, believe me — i’m actually quite a lighthearted and humorous person in person, if you know what i mean — but i want you to understand MY reasons for being a designer, which i don’t think are too atypical, but they’re definitely not reasons most designers typically discuss in such a public forum

i design because i am constantly frustrated

yep, there ya go — i said it out loud { or as loud as you can get in blogPost format } — i’m frustrated, constantly frustrated: with the way the world is; with the horrendous design of just about everything we encounter in life; with the ridiculously backwards and twisted way everything seems to be better designed for The System, for information and data, for Machine-to-Machine Communication and Interaction { or M2M if you wanna get all TLA on that shit }, but not nearly even remotely designed for human consumption, use or participation

so, here we go — no real fantastic segue, fade or transition here to help move into this next concept, you now know my personal and professional motivations as a user-centered design professional and performance artist — they’re actually quite political reasons to do what i do, but let’s not get into that now, aight?

right now i want to talk about an idea that came to me recently while taking care of business in a public office restroom { this is where i get my most brilliant ideas, as funny as it sounds, in the handicap stall while sitting on the porcelain throne } — thinking about these frustrating experiences i keep bumping into out there in the world, i tried to figure out a way i could actually make discussions like these more consumable, more relatable and — most importantly — more actionable

i mean, how could i inspire other people to work with me in some collaborative capacity to actually redesign these horrifically poor and annoying experiences even if there might be no actual paying project on the books, even if there is no real financial reason to tackle these vital worldly challenges, even if the ONLY potential motivation to change these experiences is simply embedded in the very human need to show off what real, innovative design thinking can do to improve and better optimize our universal human experience and to hopefully become ubiquitously famous through these public, humorously expressed issues and processes to show people how to actually change the world

i mean, i’m talkin’ Steve Jobs level shit here — just without all the asshole politics and multimillionaire nerdy swagger of ‘The Genius’ bullshit we’re all led to believe about iPod Man

and it all starts with this concept

logo_uxWTF

let’s take a look, in blog serial format, at a list of these frustrating experiences through user-centered investigation and photodocumentation and see if we can’t put our heads together and fix this shit

its not that difficult people

its really not

and i’m here to help ya

let’s start with this one, this little uxWTF? design challenge:

the CVS receipt reDesign

now, to be completely fair here, this is NOT solely a CVS-related UX offense we’re talking about, right? we’ve all experienced this at NUMEROUS retail consumer establishments — it just so happens, though, that i’ve been picking up my meds a lot lately { thank gawd, right? who knows what this post’d be about without ’em ;] } and this similarly strange feat of cash register magic recurs like fucking clockwork with each and every transaction at the CVS Pharmacy and even at the front counter { not sure on the Photo Lab area, though, let me know if you can verify this same phenomena happening there, too }

let’s take a looksy

here’s what the CVS Pharmacy Technician handed me at the register before wishing me to, ‘Have a nice day’ …

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look familiar? this receipt — and i kid you not — this receipt is almost as tall as i am

that’s ridiculous

its just fucking ridiculous

what a waste of the life of a sapling

and you know what? i never ever use the coupons on these neverending receipts — never

i bet someone takes advantage of the remarkable savings provided by Consumer Value Stores, but i personally think the benefits or value i get from these veritable partystreamers of savings do not in any way outweigh the environmental cost or just the frigging paperwaste nuisance of these amazing little lengthy souvenirs i collect from each trip to the national chain convenience store

i used to actually save these receipts and scotchtape them together to write on the eventually handmade collaged side of my frankenpaper sans ink — but c’mon, seriously? seriously?

so, uhm, i don’t know — i recently downloaded and started using the CVS smartphone app on my android mobile device, and i actually think the app would be a far more appropriate delivery mechanism for these additional CVS membership savings — could be nicer, right?

a LOT nicer

i mean, we know they’re tracking our every purchase via the app or our CVS loyalty card much-like any supermarket, department store or other corporate chain of transactional wonderment, and i think it would be the very least they could do for us — let’s get smart, now, aight? — THIS might actually be one of the best potential implementations for those semi-bizarre and overused / misused QR codes { QR = quick response, in case you weren’t already in the know } — i mean, it might be superCool and magically fantastic if the entire CVS members rewards savings systems { and that of other similarly national chain-like corporate establishments } all somehow leveraged the app or the card, right? but at the very least, bring out the QR codes, print ’em right on the receipt, and then it might be, i don’t know, 6 inches long at the most { mostly now depending on just how many items you purchased from the store, not how much psychosocial data-driven stalker suggestions they can spit back at you } — i mean, we don’t need to memorialize last Tuesday’s purchases from the pharmacy for any real reasons as average American citizens now, do we? in fact, the printed proof is in some ways an actual privacy liability that could potentially break patient confidentiality { but maybe not, i’d need to actually read my receipt to see what’s listed for my recent pharmacy purchase }

on another note — and this is something i am just DYING to see happen in the very-near future — i would also love to see these apps and other store membership systems that track our every micropurchase behavior actually provide our data for US to usethe government sees my data, stores and financial institutions see my data, Hell, even offshore agencies working for credit card and other similarly skanky organizations most likely have more access to my personal transactional behavioral information than i do as the user of these systems, as the actual supposed member of these systems { whatever that means to me at this point, right? }

show me the data!

i think its about time to better empower the people through the access and flow of our data

and its also about time that we start turning the tables a bit and actually get paid for sharing our data with these organizations — why do we so willingly sign up for these services that basically steal our information and use it for the big consumer feedback loop for devious subliminal purchase suggestions from The Man { in a rather loose and corporatey collective sense of definition } — i mean, i know i know, we willingly sign up for these services and give it all away for free, like the utter dopes we all are — but c’mon, let’s get it back, let’s take back what’s rightfully ours and what should be ONLY ours unless we make a little jing in the deal — and i’m not talking about this beautiful, easy ‘giving back’ gesture we receive upon receipt, this paper streaming printed register tape of coupon savings, i’m talkin’ about actually gettin’ paid

pay up bitches!

you want this? you want this data?

pay me

let’s discuss design performance

i recently bumped across this rather incredible article on Co.DESIGN entitled, ‘4 Secrets For Doing Gonzo User Research‘ — and the article helped put some interesting historical context around one of the 4 major project streams i pursued and captured in my MFA Design thesis ‘confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy

so, in the Co.DESIGN article they discuss a form of first-person research as first formalized by the designer Patricia Moore — as a way to study the actual human experience of target demographic, Moore …

‘… dressed as an elderly lady, wearing prosthetics that restricted her movement and eyesight.’

moore-elder

the insight that Moore gathered by going undercover as an elderly woman with realistically limited visual and physical faculties helped influence her thinking as a designer, bringing a heightened awareness and perspective to her work — one more closely aligned with the actual people that would eventually use the designs resulting from her research and design work

Her experiences transformed the way Raymond Loewe’s team designed for less able users

as a user experience design professional with a secret nighttime, after hours life as a performance artist — my graduate work at Dynamic Media Institute at Massachusetts College of Art and Design quite naturally delved into explorations that combined these 2 areas of practice in ways i had never previously personally explored

my personal heroes — the original inspiration for the kind of performance art i do — came from the work of fantastic innovators that i’ve admired, like: Andy Kaufman; Sasha Baron Cohen; George Carlin; Alan Funt; Chuck Barris; Anaïs Nin; Carolee Schneemann; Rod Serling; and numerous others — but, first and foremost, my brand of performance art follows the interventionist and subversive spirit found throughout Kaufman’s work

from the outside of his ofttimes off-putting and controversial work, the majority of Kaufman’s target audience — apparently the general american public { mostly television watching, suburbanites } — might not even understand the prankish nature of Kaufman’s work — in other words, the audience is not in on the joke, which is very confrontational, very aggressive and unkind in many ways

now — of course — most of us watching the historic footage of Andy Kaufman’s appearances on the first episode of Saturday Night Live, on David Letterman, etcetera — remain part of the other side of these performances, but now that we understand that he’s a comedian delivering from the practice of performance art in the unusual context of mainstream televised media — now that we’re in on the joke — Kaufman’s work seems less threatening and a LOT more humorous, clever, and to some, like me, actually ingenious — the oeuvre of his work becomes a sort of ongoing performative social commentary meant to wake us up and start to question, as the audience, this one-to-many, one way, consumeristic broadcast delivery mechanism — and, much-like the very iterative and experimental way in which a traditional stand-up comedian tries out his or her bits on stage to eventually build, test and refine a set act of material, Kaufman very bravely discover and build his very own vocabulary in mediated performance art for the mainstream to then engage in this dialog of awkward self-awareness

at this point i think of Andy Kaufman’s comedy as something situated between Theatre of the Absurd and Theatre of Cruelty — he’s showing us in the 1970s just how silly television really is, how easily we are consumed by our own consumerist broadcast box but then also showing us, as the audience, just how stuck and defenseless we are as well-trained american citizens

if we watch some of Kaufman’s earlier appearances now, and switch our own perspective to imagine what it must’ve been like from Andy’s perspective to perform in this way — after all, i really think that’s what his work is all about at the end of the day — its more for him than us — he’s getting a total rise out of these subversive experiments with the medium of mainstream television — just looking at his later work of challenging women to wrestling matches alone exposes this aspect of his work, this sort of total provocation of the masses accompanied by a personal rise, even, in this case, quite literally, a sexual rise { as according to Zmuda’s Andy Kaufman Revealed!, Kaufman sexually enjoyed getting sexually excited in the ring, and most likely also got turned on during his rather ridiculous anti-femminist shouting matches with potential future female wrestlers, with his ‘weaker sexed’ adversaries — such a despicable ploy, to play the part of the male chauvinist asshole comedian }

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so, it seems to me there are 2 rather valuable lessons to learn from this conversation about what Co.DESIGN calls gonzo design and what i am calling design performance — and as a design professional i very highly recommend we all start to get more active with our design processes and explore deepening our personal awareness of the experiential aspects of our potential designs using the following 2 activities or experimental approaches:

  • be the user / audience / participant — go ahead, put on a costume and get out there and experience the world with some semblance of a prototypic manifestation of the environment, object or experience you’re exploring in your design research — get all Patricia Moore on that shit, aight? — you’ll be delighted and surprised how much insight you can gather using this amazingly enlightening first person approach { although it can get a little risky at times, too, depending on how far you take it }
  • confront the user / audience / participant — take a well-established medium, like television in the case of Andy Kaufman, and be bad with it — do all the wrong things for a change — break some conventions, hurt people’s feelings, destroy all the typical expectations we all have with a medium we might all now take for granted — i’ll bet there’s some valuable terrain to discover, and things will get crazy sociological real fast in quite a wonderful and fun way — you’ll get a LOT closer to understanding context, delivery, mental and behavioral modes and concepts of distribution, consumption, use, and so on — this is definitely the path less traveled that could lead to areas of innovation, excitement and adventure

nobody said you need to sit on your ass in front of a computer to design, right? that’s just the toolset they keep pushing on us in academic and professional settings — its up to us, its our obligation as designers, to keep the field fresh and active and exciting and to make sure we keep the word DESIGN in the realm of an action verb, not just a noun that describes the final, object-based results of the actual living, breathing, writhing process we all know and love along the way when its done right, when its injected with the proper doses of vigor, vim and real human energy

on Tracking Happiness

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‘… people have been debating the causes of happiness’ — an interesting quote from this TEDxCambridge Talk from Matt Killingsworth — examine the phrase ’causes of happiness’ — it almost implies happiness, like fear, diabetes or paper cuts, is somewhat like an epidemic, a disease or a physical injury

i would like to suggest that the mystery of happiness is that its a quality that is not remotely scientifically measurable or investigable in the least — its more spiritual than that — it might be epidemic or habitual at some levels — i think its definitely a choice, a lifestyle, something we can decide to be — happiness is a state of being, which means its more of a philosophy, an existential philosophy, or a state of mind

he also asks at one point, ‘How do you feel?’ and then gives the person a scale of 1 to 10, as if feeling or happiness are in any fucking way mathematically measurable qualities of our human existence

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why do we force so much of this stuff into the closed-box thinking of Scientific Inquiry? maybe there’s no measurement to any of this, right? some of this stuff is actually offensive or dangerous to quantitatively examine — suffering, for instance, should never be poured into graduated cylinders to help us compare my suffering to your suffering to the suffering of one people or another — i’m sure the degree of suffering varies significantly depending upon factors that are well beyond any sense of what we can humanly control — but we all suffer, that’s a fact, and it doesn’t need to be measured in any way whatsoever — even those that seem to live their lives without any sense of suffering may be suffering from a lack of suffering, they might not understand the world and the dynamics of life in the same deep and rich way their brothers and sisters understand due to circumstances of their pre-destiny surrounding: the geographic worldly region of your birth; the amount of fingers, toes and limbs you were lucky enough to be born with or without; the time and place in which you live and breathe in

Track Your Happiness sounds clever as a prototypic data-collection tool — but is this really Science? Is Matt Killingsworth really a Scientist? He says at one point, ‘… as a Scientist …’ but he never gives us a definition of how he is defining the concept of Happiness. How do we define Happiness? How do we really measure true Happiness? In what context did Killingsworth track his version of Happiness? How objective are these tests he’s conducting? If someone is really focused in the moment, focused on their Happiness in the moment, how do they have time to be truly happy and simultaneously track their happiness? Its an obvious diversion from enjoying the moment, using this Track Your Happiness app, right?

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I mean, I get what he’s trying to do … what he’s trying to get at. Fantastic stuff, right? Happiness and data, skipping gleefully down the tree-lined avenue, hand-in-hand, tracking little moments of happiness in daily life as we all experience them, in the moment.

I think that the moment to moment approach Kiilingsworth is taking with these studies makes a HUGE assumption. He’s assuming that all moments have something in common. That moments are neutral before we experience them. And then he’s assuming that the way happiness works is a totally separate and divorced mechanism from the moment to moment experience of our lives.

But, any asshole walking down the street knows — even unScientific people { those poor, poor souls } — that not all moments are equal. Moments are NOT neutral — and, in fact, moments might contain some qualities of Happiness or unHappiness all unto themselves. Moments themselves effect the emotional state of people. Qualities of the moment effect our emotional state, too. I think I might be happier to be distracted a bit from painful moments, right? If my mind wanders a bit while I’m visiting a dying relative in the hospital — if my mind actually travels back to a happy memory, the memory of a happier moment coming back to me from the past that reminds me of a happy experience I had together with this suffering relative now struggling to live through a few more weeks in dignity at the end of life’s journey — is there even anything wrong with that happy distraction? And am I NOT happy in that distracted moment, that moment of wandering? I’m definitely not going to pull out a fucking app to track that shit in the moment, though, that’s one thing we’re sure of in THIS moment.

I’m not digging this guy’s illogical rants. They’re not Scientific to me at all. And they’re not thoughtful or significant or helpful. I hope he decides to deepen his thinking in this area. My hope is that over time Killingsworth rethinks his ‘Scientific Approach’ and thinking about Happiness to go beyond the mere ’causes of happiness,’ beyond the concept of faux-metric tracking of supposed happiness in the moment, to reach beyond the mere knowledge of numbers, scales and surveys he’s using as a shallow toolbox to perhaps strive for a less Scientific examination of life’s mysterious forces such as Happiness to hopefully start living an emotionally richer, healthier and happier, more valuable life with less data. Thank you.

happiness-wide

introducing Random Acts of Laughter

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OMFGawd! — today ranked in as one of the funniest, funnest April Fool’s Days EVER!

My very good friends and colleagues out at MobiquityRachael Stedman and Skylar Roebuck, the mad fucking geniuses that they are — took my rather broken dregs of an initial attempt to prototype a ‘Laugh Hotline’ concept I tried to throw together at Tufts Hackathon 2013 and really made it into something functional, fun and quite hilarious — i mean, this shit is FUNNY!

check out Random Acts of Laughter

Just enter your name and the target — er, ehm — recipient phone number you’d like to send a random laugh to and through the magic code expertise of Idea Squad Brain Trust { aka, Rachael Stedman, Skylar Roebuck and I … and any other Mobstrz that join our all powerful forces of hackage } the RAoL back-end servers randomly selects one of our hand-crafted audio laugh pre-recordings { generaously supplied by Laugh Institute } and sends it over with some light salutations to help brighten somebody’s life for a few ephemeral mobile moments

After just one day of our 2013 April Fool’s Day Beta Launch we’ve already received a barrage of random accolades and praise — just take a gander at what people are saying about Random Acts of Laughter:

One receiver of a random laugh immediately replied, ‘Oooh my goodness! I just sent this to myself and almost lost it — fun for the whole family!’

Another unsuspecting participant in our surprise mobile laugh intervention chimed in by saying, ‘Just had some moron/creep call my cell phone and leave a voice mail message. It was a Quincy number so I didn’t answer it. The message was just maniacal laughter. Creepy—like a deranged clown. Probably some idiot calling random numbers on his day off from Walmart.’

And finally, yet another delighted and mirthy victim of Random Acts of Laughter says, ‘Lolz!  So funny!’

Looking forward to more incredible evidence of the success, joy and positive energy we’re all feeling out here at the Idea Squad Brain Trust, the Laugh Institute and Mobiquity

Random Acts of LaughterMake ’em laugh