MA: IDC — weeks 1-2

Back to school

I still can’t believe it — after ten years of working in the digital industry I am back to school. I packed my bag, brought my best pens and off I went. Bonus points: I can now say I’m a student of the arts. Not that I’ll do it, it’s just nice to know the option is there to be used in case of an emergency. Oh and the student discounts — everywhere! What a glorious life! How did I not do this earlier?

A lot of us
The first days have been a bit mental; not in terms of rhythm or contents but in terms of sheer numbers. We have a big class (37 of us) with a lot of very different individuals, backgrounds and expectations — yet the course is supposed to cover everyone’s needs. Challenge accepted. I was concerned walking in that my lack of design background might be a challenge, but it looks like it’s a pattern shared by a lot of students so this won’t be an issue at all.

We also had the chance to interact with the 16–17 cohort. I met Virginie (whom I discussed with prior to registration) as well as other students who — because of the varying nature of their backgrounds (some incredibly close to mine — American girl, can’t remember her name!) — all brought me piece of mind.

Interaction design, products, systems and catalan independence
I have to admit, I was a little bit concerned after the first day(s) that this course was going to be mostly structured around physical products and interfaces. Not that I have no interest in them (quite the opposite, actually — MAX was awesome, can’t wait to bring a video of Messi scoring a goal and have it play with facial recognition) but I really wanted to start understanding and experiencing interaction design at a much larger societal (is that even a word?) scale.

My concerns didn’t have the time to fully articulate before Tobias and George teamed up to deliver a critical blow. Reading (and purchasing — oh this is not going to help my book hoarding habits I see) James C. Scott’s Seeing like a state unlocked the door to my mind and George’s talk on Design and dissidence just smashed the door in — didn’t even bother wiping her shoes on the door mat.

Although George’s talk was mostly around dissidence and protest (quite topical seeing what is going on back home in Catalunya), it was centered around a simple idea: the most efficient change (positive or negative) comes from an intricate knowledge of the system/tool you are trying to change. Whether it’s planting a forest, changing government policies, improving transport service or designing my fucking sentient bike rack, the bait has worked, I’ll happily let myself be reeled in.

Answering my questions around recent events in Catalunya and if there would be a way to deconstruct, understand and re-present them, George redirected me on recent work done on recent US (Trump) and UK (Brexit/Corbyn) elections. Nice. Populism and indoctrination, here I come!

Melting Oyster cards (1.1)
For my first 1.1 brief, I’ve decided to start looking at the Oyster card as a system/hyper object. During my research — because I was curious this is the whole point of this exercise — I decided to melt the Oyster card in a liquid to free its RFID chip. Apparently, you can go through a TFL reader with just the chip (although, fair warning, TFL will fine you if they catch you). The card is currently at home, in a jar, full of nail polish remover — I hope it hasn’t leaked on my table. I’ll post some photos next week.

Keeping an eye out, asking questions (1.2)
I really liked Nicolas’ affordance photo brief. a) because it forced me to go outside and b) because it encouraged me to be much more aware and critical of objects around me.

Multiple times this week, I’ve found myself stopping dead in my tracks and asking myself the questions “What is this for? Who is this for? Who is the imbecile who did this like this?”. I guess these new reflexes will end up joining my long list of existing socially awkward habits. Merci Nicolas, merci beaucoup.

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