It’s that time of the year, this year. For the next seven months or so my life will be consumed by a large thought experiment. One whose outcome to me at this juncture is as dark and as mysterious as a black hole.
I’m ready. And I’ll only do this once… A thesis.
At this time there are three subjects racing across my mind:
Transportation systems and enterprise architecture
Localization instead of mechanization in small farming
Analogizing our digital lives
Our thesis professor immediately brought up the point that the farming and transportation concepts could intersect and do, harshly, leading to the popularity of small farming servicing only the the higher classes of society. The notion made me think of my driving around north Brooklyn. There are only a couple of major streets there and they have a lot of trucks on them. In the afternoons on weekdays you can barely get less than a mile over to Williamsburg because of all the deliveries coming from the outer boroughs. I imagine a lot of New York City surrounding areas are like this continuously, and there is probably little we can do but live with it. As I am not necessarily interested in the idea of telling New York City and it’s tens of millions of people how to get goods in and out of an island less than a mile wide and three miles long. Instead, I will focus for now on each subject individually (farming and transportation), keeping a keen eye out for intersections and similarities.
1.) The Transportation work is my job at the MTA that I have decided to hold over from the last summer. The work we do is based in a standard set by the London Underground more than a decade ago and recently mandated by the Federal Transportation Authority as Enterprise Asset Management. It’s a glossy term for being accountable and using analytics, sensors, dashboards, and data visualization as a checks and balances. Mind you, it’s not just the MTA following the Enterprise Asset Management ideals, most of all the DOTs in every state have started doing so as well. Enterprise Asset Managements’ promise is one of accountability and better business overall, meaning better service for New Yorkers. But running a train company is an increasingly dangerous business, especially when it moves the equivalent to the population of Los angeles every day through a tight network with no room to expand.
2.) I have some friends upstate that are starting a farm on their grandma’s land. It’s an honorable craft and I see it being valued in our society more and more. I was asked recently why the CSAs could only provide to upper-middle class and how transportation may be able to disrupt that? I don’t know the answer to that but in this space I think it maybe a good start.
My next step with small farms is getting dirty. I plan on doing some research with them in the next month. The research will include interviews, participating in processes, documenting processes, and eventually working towards a consensus with them on my findings. Building requirements for a software system in a way… I just doubt it will be a software system, or even a mechanism.
I am also interested in assisting my farming friends by building or teaching them how to build microcontroller based prototypes. Arduino based aquaponics projects are being done all the time and that might be something I’d like to look into. My thinking now though is that I am more interested in the path that leads back to my community organizing knowledge in building informational systems that can expand and extended resources and relationships through localization of knowledge. We’ll see where the research takes me.
3.) The subject of analog vs. digital has been on my mind since I realized I was going to grad school. I spent a good amount of time with concept last year. The first project was a response to Hurricane Sandy. I participated in an organization that was digitally repairing damaged family photos and then digitizing them and giving them back to the families. All of the families I met said pretty much the same thing. They did not realize they even had those albums until they were gone, and if anything hurt the most, it was those photographs.
My second project around this line of analog was on the opposite side of the coin. I was interested in making something digital, tangible (I’ve done some writing about this in the past). I set my sights on mobile behaviors and our ability to take videos with a device we carry everywhere. I was interested in making the video aspect create an artifact. A couple artifacts I played with the concepts of were flipbooks and zoetropes. Neither really interested me now.
In all, I don’t want to fill a landfill or dump more mobile apps into a saturated market. Whatever I do I want to use my skills sets in Information Architecture, User Experience, Websites, and other Media production to assist a community in need. There’s the needs of instagrams and the facebooks that might make me rich and I’d be the creator of what one of my professors called “the new cigarette”. Instead my goal is to do what every valiant designer says they are going to do before they make lots of money off pfizer, I am going to do something to help us grow and prosper. I am going to change the world through DESIGN. With Pixels. And iPads and shit.
Really though… I’m going sailing. I’ll be documenting the storms and shipwrecks here. As well as the lost treasure hunts and the fantastic island oasis’.