Category Archives for: Design

Notes on Crowdsourcing Civil Action

14 May 2016

From a somewhat old (1-6 months) paper:

urban planning problem -> [Chris Marker-like] video -> use Facebook comments to talk about it (Facebook comments as forums) -> leads to something?

problems in reality [can be social?] -> media -> create and publish project on a crowdsourcing platform (i.e. Kickstarter) -> implement

people don’t have or wear motorcycle helmets -> Humans of Taiwan photo -> crowdsource petition (to influence companies, law organisations, etc.) -> keep updated
broken traffic light -> photo -> find correct organization to inform -> create application to automate process (i.e. FixMyStreet)

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Civics, Design, Humanities, New Media, Personal, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Thoughts

My Blog Contains a Pattern Language

01 May 2016

My blog contains a pattern language, and many posts titles are design patterns (take care of locality, hourly ethics), and many emphasized words within the posts are design patterns (todo: get a few).

This is what naturally happens when one communicates through a known human language: ideas are created, represented as words, and when writing about philosophy or design, patterns could be created, patterns to another language: a pattern language.

Writings on design, such as this one, seem to tend to easily generate [design] patterns.

Philosophy patterns appear more often in continental philosophy and critical theory, both of which are more dialectical, perhaps requiring the creation of words to describe social phenomenon. Marx’s terms come to mind: accumulation of capital, surplus value, Zizek’s surplus enjoyment, and core critical theory terms such as ideology and hagemony.

This was one of the reasons I enjoyed reading these kinds of philosophy, and believe it’s worth getting a dictionary of critical theory terms. I wanted to describe reality, but didn’t have a language to describe it. Then I read some philosophy (substantially from Wikipedia) and found the terms they used useful; They helped me write and more accurately transform my thoughts into a human language.

But, reading is not necessary, as I mentioned before, words can always be created. People know the idea behind ideology and hagemony, but just don’t know the word. Connecting ideas to existing words is not necessary. Perhaps even, it results in negative consequences, because the language’s vocabulary (and grammar?) narrows and limits what thoughts can be represented or expressed. It is always better (including efficient) to create words [as opposed to finding and using existing ones]; It is creative and more fun. Perhaps it is even better to not create words, instead prioritizing visual, audio, and reality.

Leave a comment | Categories: Applied Philosophy, Communication, Critical Theory, Design, Humanities, Linguistics, Philosophy, Philosophy of Language, Social Philosophy

Transportation Disrupts Sense of Space

30 April 2016

Transportation disrupts one’s sense of space. Just as cars do, especially in the suburbs, motorcycles do too, even in cities.

People go to destinations skipping the space between, not caring for it. In Taipei, for example, people might directly go to their favorite night market food stall via motorcycle, picking up the food in a plastic bag, nearly running pedestrians over. There is no thought about the space between, just as there is no thought between one’s location and destination in a car in the suburbs. This lack of sense of space is what ruins space. In other words, the lack of awareness of the space around one’s self, the material and the people, is what leads to the ruin of the material and the people within it.

To walk is to care for the space and people around. The space and the people within it aren’t skipped over. One can interact with both. One feels [as if one is] a part of both. The choice of walking through a slum or driving through it is a choice of care: does one care for the space of the slum or not?

Care, for me, is directly correlated with the distance between humans. If I am within the same space as humans, I care for them. It is that simple for me. Therefore, care depends on position in space, and the routines of everyday life that alter one’s position. I am aware this is an abnormal psychology, but I believe there is some truth in this.

Leave a comment | Categories: Design, Environmental Design, Humanities, Philosophy, Urban Philosophy

Noisy Transportation Destroys [Social] Atmosphere

30 April 2016

[to The Ideal Neighborhood?
– can grab a quote from this (not that) post later

[Written after biking to day markets for a day in Taipei, itself after bike commuting for several days.]

Noisy transportation ruins the [social] atmosphere around it. Wherever there is noisy transportation (petroleum-powered motorcycles and cars), the space around it, in which sound can permeate, is destroyed.

The body seeks comfortable spaces. A place where once can sit, talk, and drink some tea. [todo: needs more thinking?]

in Taipei

All of the streets are a terrible place to be. It is only there to pass by. One way to avoid some of the noise and get by is to take a bus. Another, the subway (but that’s another problem [todo: how subways ignore space]). Walking [todo: urban problems of walking], biking [todo: urban problems of biking], and motorcycling creates a thoughtless, uncomfortable experience that disrupts one’s sense of space.

When one is stuck on a noisy street, then an exclusive comfortable place is a likely, deterministic choice, such as a convenient store or cafe.

One way to ignore all of it is to wear earplugs or headphones. But to ignore space, similar to when one drives an enclosed vehicle, is a dangerous choice, as exemplified by how the suburbs have developed without care for the space between.

The most comfortable (public) outdoor areas are in dense neighborhoods, where buildings are built close to each other, split by narrow streets in which only a few vehicles can pass by at a time.

This is exemplified by some of the densest neighborhoods in Taipei [台北] (including New Taipei [新北]). The neighborhood around Tonghua street (通化街), the neighborhood west of Taida (太大), south / southeast Songshan (松山), perhaps Datong (大同), and perhaps Shuanghe (雙和).

The day and night markets provide further comfort by nearly blocking vehicular traffic.

The more people on the street, the more comfortable the space, and less likely that vehicles will try to break through.

So, it seems, the urban solution is to build narrow streets which attract people [to be on the street], resulting in filled narrow streets.

Neighborhoods in Taipei

Tonghua is the best neighborhood in Taipei because it has a by-foot-accessible day and night market that nearly blocks all vehicles. It seems the vehicles that do make it in are those that belong to the market workers. The rest of the neighborhood consists of the typical 3–5 story buildings, small neighborhood parks, small neighborhood temples, and so on. It’s streets seem to be quite irregular, making it even more difficult or undesirable to pass through. It effectively blocks vehicular traffic.

The southeastern part of Songshan District is also great. 3–5 story buildings in a simple grid for a larger area. A day market on the east. A night market further north. Traffic permeates better, especially on larger streets, at the cost of noise.

All good neighborhoods in Taipei have these characteristics[: 3–5 story buildings, narrow streets, filled narrow streets (markets), small neighborhood parks, small neighborhood temples, irregular streets].

Connecting the good neighborhoods

The problem is simply the transportation between the areas: the uncomfortableness of getting to each one. To get to Songshan, one must traverse through the commercial belt, similar to Midtown in Manhatten. It is a terrible experience, ruining the sense of home. Instead of feeling as if one is simply going to a friend’s dwelling in a neighborhood, it feels as if one has to traverse through some annoying alien world to reach it.

The goal then is to figure out how to provide comfortable routes between residential areas. How can one comfortably get to Songshan from Daan? Bike and pedestrian routes through smaller streets is one method.

Currently the best bike routes merely are aligned with the most commercial streets, the red and blue lines. They don’t appear to go anywhere useful in itself. They require [bike] tributaries. There must be signs at each tributary, as there are exit signs near ramps on a highway. The red and blue lines are bike highways without exits.

Without comfortable routes, one becomes isolated in one’s neighborhood, not wanting to leave it, which is good and bad: good to develop a home, bad being unable to traverse [between], diversify, and melt [with] others’ homes.

Design Patterns?

I’ve only got through the intro and first few chapters of A Pattern Language, but once I began adding emphasis to words, design patterns clearly began to emerge. Although it seems natural for it to occur, is it right to implement design patterns from my experience? These are not universal design patterns. Therefore, wouldn’t that destroy space, as it may conflict with another’s design patterns? Doesn’t environmental design always destroy the space by altering it?

When these patterns are taken together, the authors say, they begin to form a kind of language, each pattern forming a word or thought of a true language rather than being a prescriptive way to design or solve a problem. As the authors write on p xiii, “Each solution is stated in such a way that it gives the essential field of relationships needed to solve the problem, but in a very general and abstract way—so that you can solve the problem for yourself, in your own way, by adapting it to your preferences, and the local conditions at the place where you are making it.
Wikipedia, Christopher Alexander and colleagues, A Pattern Language

So it seems as long as the ideas are general, abstract, one can avoid specific design, and therefore avoid destruction of space from repetition. The set of ideas merely exist as a toolset to hypothetically solve problems that can be solved by altering urban material.

This thought digressed to My Blog Contains a Pattern Language.

Leave a comment | Categories: Design, Environmental Design, Humanities, Philosophy, Urban Philosophy

Creating Comfortable Places

28 March 2016

For survival, one organizes a space to serve survival needs: food, water, temperature and humidity control, toilet, etc. After survival has been met, the space becomes a comfortable space.

[The degree of comfort needed to survive is about the same, depending on differences in bodies. Any more comfort is a luxury…]

When the weather is uncomfortable, people seek comfortable spaces — Asian convenient stores, cafes, libraries, public spaces, friends’ dwellings, one’s own dwelling, etc. (note: only two are inclusive spaces).

When the weather is comfortable, then these comfortable spaces become unnecessary [my first thought, especially thinking of my comfortable travels in Asia as opposed to uncomfortable times in cold American cities]. They only seem useful in the habit of people meeting there, but that [habit] can be changed to meeting in a public outdoor spaces.

[These comfortable spaces are a huge market, from daycare to hip places to elderly care…]

People with jobs which require their body to move through uncomfortable weather are targeted (and screwed) by capitalist designers [my second thought, thinking of migrant workers in Taiwan consuming junk at railway stations at high costs]. Transport stations, roadside convenient stores, and roadside restaurants, are utilized as a means of survival, but taken advantage of with high costs.

Instead of construction workers being provided with a nice room with a water cooler, refreshments, a clean bathroom, air conditioner, such that would be found in an office, then it is up to the convenient store to provide these comforts. But the convenient store, unlike than office space, or a space in one’s own dwelling (remote and home workers), is filled with mass-produced, high-priced, often useless commodities. 

[There is quite a difference in the experience of a convenient store in Taiwan and one in America…]

[todo: continue?]

Hmmm, well that was the thought: that programmers at home can work and save comfortably because their bodies are at home, whereas the postal workers that bring them their commodities, must efficiently find ways to survive — pack lunch, pack coffee, find free hot or cold water, use air conditioned vehicle, etc. –, or suffer the cost, in addition to the fact that a programmer’s salary is higher than a postal worker’s.

This thought was probably initiated by CouchSurfing with a person who’s job is technical support, and who works comfortably in his well-stocked apartment in a high-rise in he middle of nowhere.  One can probably even see the from the window of his apartment, looking down at the people struggle against the weather.

[insert Veidt comic frame?]

[rename to to comfort as commodity? The capitalist design of space upon laborers?]

Leave a comment | Categories: Design, Environmental Design, Environmental Psychology, Human Geography, Social Philosophy

Forms and Design

23 December 2015

[todo: published draft]

Reading the Wikipedia article on Plato’s theory of Forms reminded me of an old thought.

During more creative, physical times, I often ponder, how the material in the world came to be. Often, simultaneously, as an act of creativity and toward creating a better world, I think about how the material can be re-organized.

The contemporary world is just a possibility. Every man-made material conglomerate is a form, an idea from history.

During this time, I often disregard the intended use of man-made material conglomerates. Let’s call them them products. Instead, I use material in a more efficient manner. It leads to a seemingly primitive life, improvising with the current material world to my needs for survival, creativity, and whatever my intentions life are at the time. The re-organization of material is material creativity. Let’s call it design.

[todo: need to continue this thought]

Designers start with nothing. An empty place. When one needs something, a product, one either fetches an existing product, improvises with existing products, or creates a product from material. In the process of starting with nothing, one gains material, and with it, creates products of multiple uses[, leading toward minimalism]. The materials and products build upon each other, leading to more combinations and uses. It’s self-organization. [todo: need to continue]

“At the core… is the idea that people should design for themselves their own houses, streets and communities. This idea… comes simply from the observation that most of the wonderful places of the world were not made by architects but by the people”. — Christopher Alexander et al., A Pattern Language, front bookflap

[todo: another thought, about how wealthy people have a privileged choice: they can simply buy an existing product to meet their needs, simultaneously showing their lack of creativity, exercise of power in a capitalist society, and destruction of nature (creative destruction?). i.e. American cookie-cutter suburbia as opposed to poorer Asian cities]

[todo: What triggered the old thought was a particular example describing the problem of universals: using table-ness to describe a table. Almost anything flat can be used as a table, including the floor. And so, out of a desire in efficacy of time and cost, this is how my mind words. I use anything for the purposes that I want. I don’t think about existing products that have been manufactured or created in the past for specific purposes. The area that I am in is my sandbox (or lego bucket?): the material within the area can be used to my liking…]

[todo: It seems I was getting at some kind of natural order of material, as opposed to the dogmatic use of existing ideas through material products. This most familiarly applies to household and personal products. This also applies to the forms within a room, a city, and country.

Let’s creating examples to each of those scales of areas:

A person living in a room may partition it into rooms for various reasons (some of culture) such as a room with a shower, a room with a toilet, a private enclosed room, and so on. It fits the needs naturally.

A neighborhood…]

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Design, Humanities, Philosophy, Urban Philosophy

Working Memory and Creativity

08 September 2015

[todo: just published some old drafts, this is very important for creative work]

[I didn’t write anything, but I believe I was getting at how creativity depends on the things in working memory, and how that interacts with long-term memory. For example, say you watched neorealism film in the recent past, then you have some intense travel experience, you may want to try to make a neorealist film.

I think I was also thinking about how design jams work. If one has knowledge of sensors in the mind, then has some experience, then forces oneself to try to design something with the experience in the working memory.]


to read:

Leave a comment | Categories: Action, Art, Design, Mind and Matter, Philosophy, Social Philosophy

A Project Plan for an Urban Area

07 September 2015

First written to narrow down my interests for an application for MIT Media Lab, then formalized for the Democracy and Human Rights Service Fellowship by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, then rewritten for Open Society Fellowship, it is nearly entirely based on personal desires and ideals, and serves as a good snapshot of my desires and ideals at the time, which is quite different from two year ago.

written for OSF and TFD (newer):

2.1.1 My Perspective of Taiwan’s Issues:
Taiwan is a beautiful mess. The feeling of lack of government, enforcement, and social security continues. Even as the country unevenly advances to the most contemporary form of society, it still feels the people must survive on their own. It’s people have leveraged technology as exemplified in the prevalent use of technological knowledge to manufacture high quality products, accommodation and skill-share web services, social media as a primary source for national news, and social media to manage large-scale protests. The alacrity of their adaption to new technology and the strain of low income has resulted in a technological society with survival values.

Though the people have adapted, the government has not. Along with a little normative government ilk, Taiwan’s government has bare digital services for citizens, keeps non-harmful data private, and contains non-sensical policies that aren’t being enforced properly anyway. Thus, it is generally up to the people to manage themselves, which itself has become a common moral and ideology. Though I believe most of the people will be able to survive — have shelter, eat, obtain health services and an education — thanks to civil society, I believe their civic progress will remain scattered outcries without tools to help them direct conversation.

2.1.2 My Belief and Proposal:
I believe Taiwan’s civil society is active enough to adapt to civic tools, convert conversation to actions, and experiment with technology and methods of social actions, as a means of progress.

My proposal, defined by my personal background, is a civic technology center specialized in (1) the advocation and facilitation of civic technology, and (2) the creation of social and urban interventions.

1. It advocates the use of mobile digital tools, extracts and serves functional civic data in more meaningful forms, and helps organize the useful bits of the infinite civic dialog created through their peculiar digital communication mediums (BBS system and non-Facebook social media) to lead to more effective civic actions. Basically, a Taiwanese sister organization of MIT Center for Civic Media, without the development of technology — leave that to MIT.

2. It serves as a local community hall for the sake of constant personal civil experience, allotting time to solving local social and urban problems, and experimenting new forms of social intervention, urban intervention, and activism on a reoccurring basis.

written to narrow down thoughts for MIT Lab and then used for first draft of TFD (older):

In 2013, I volunteered, travelled and lived (any maybe protested) in Taiwan for periods of time. I had good experiences within the society of Taiwan, felt a strong sense of community and civil service, and decided that I will return, with intent to be a part of that positive force.

Past Thoughts:
The following Ideal Objectives and the Development towards them, were written in the past, but are fitting to see my mind:

Ideal Objectives:
I want to continue living in Taiwan, manage a public space in a city, collaborate with organizations here, be a part of my neighborhood, city, and country; I want to be a part of the civic decisions that goes on it, make it better by giving people methods to make civic decisions and methods to take action beyond the recent social media leveraged protests, organize reality to help decision-making; help communities maintain themselves by being aware of local problems, encourage people to socialize and collaborate with neighbors, encourage sharing; further autonomy with self-service housing, workspaces, and work; etc. all those ideals.

Development of tools as the method toward ideal objectives,:
To complete these objectives: there should be tools to help organize people physically and stay up to date with those people digitally, to allow people make civic decisions and take action, to allow people to educate themselves under the circumstances of the current lifestyle, tools to teach community leaders how to organize, to enable community leaders to organize urban data, to match the right solver to the problem; There should be a better designed city to calm people from moving and find people nearby to work with. Simple ideas should exist to facilitate sharing. There should be tools to have local discussion, to corrode corruption; Thanks to Taiwan’s solidarity, the autonomy of the country can be furthered with successful examples of the uses of spaces — housing, education, work, play, and mixes; etc. all those ideal, tools.

On Human Rights and Development:
From the few travels around Taiwan I am aware of social problems: rampant urban development projects, lack of policy, lack of care of policies, lack of enforcement (what do they do?), prostitution, lack of healthcare on the east coast, land conflicts with indigenous peoples, underpaid migrant workers, etc. I am also aware of current social processes: the accumulation of capital, consumerism, urbanization, globalization (migrant workers, language teachers), etc.

I am willing to make efforts toward many of these problems, but my focus is on organizing knowledge (awareness) and people (action), which reflects my experience in programming, design and technology, and knowledge in urban planning.

Outward Radiation of Work:
I have a very materialistic, urban-planning, anarchistic (direct democracy is okay!) philosophy that promotes autonomous societies, and so my Rough Outline of Actions radiates spatially outward, from a place to neighborhood to city to country.

Rough Outline of Actions:
0. See current organizations for experience and determine if any can be used as a public place.

1. Create a physical (and digital) public place. It may be possible to take over a current public space, such as TFD, FabLab or some kind of town hall. It must be accessible to a dense urban area, preferably in a working-class neighborhood.

2. Gather organizational information. Leveraging TFD contacts and my friends from the public realm (Hackerspaces, NTU landscape students, social spaces in Gongguan) quickly gather information about Taiwan’s hierarchy of organizations.

*. Hold workshops. There’s no time for teaching, but I think civic-oriented workshops may come to mind, as I have a need for creativity :) . Teach map-making, Wikipedia editing event, problem-solution design jams, protest tactics against government interventions, etc.

*. I will personally be able to detect local problems, social and material, have an experience (as opposed to relying purely on data, including news) and take action against them. For example, prevent automobile traffic from entering market streets, inform lack of walking and biking lanes for the working class, displace people in poor quality rooftop housing. The action could be from policy-making to direct intervention.

4. The public space also serves as a community hall for the neighborhood. It is a place for people to direct social problems to, and a physical (and digital) forum for discussion.

?. Neighborhood media. Social problems must disperse back to the neighborhood. I haven’t decided how (paper, digital, radio, etc.) yet.

5. Mapping of existing data. The first tool I believe that’s necessary are maps with data. Whatever the problem may be, the physical areas must be identified. In case the data is stuck in ugly government databases and websites, I can leverage friends from Hackerspaces to help here, or do it myself, putting it into a more modern mapping system, available for public use. There are several good existing technologies for this. Other organizations may benefit from learning how to do this. Maybe Taiwan has this, but I personally know of friends who are scraping data from poorly designed or outdated government websites because they are so bad.

6. Creation and mapping of new data. Next there must be a tool for people to create geopoints of interest to begin a forum of discussion, to centralize conversations.

Taiwanese citizens are often very civic-minded people. They talk about problems, but it is often through personal networks (LINE, Facebook, and BBS), private and unorganizable.

I realize that the stipulation of having a digital device will restrict access to residents, but I also believe it just has to be up to the younger generation to pass information to the non-digital users. (Maybe create a radio station for the non-digital?).

I am actually not sure if there is an existing technology for the first point. MIT’s Action Path is close to the idea, but still quite far in execution. But at the least, something can be done about the BBS.

7. Further tools to enable people to take civil actions where it is beyond their own control. Enable people to be able to directly give real and current information to the right organization i.e. sending a picture.

?. City media. Thanks to the political problems, I’m guessing there’s a non-corporate online media source already in place, but I wonder how that information can get to the non-digital audience, and furthermore, non-Chinese language audience.

*. Follow civic crowdsourcing. Can even try to pass the idea of campaigning for bike and motorcycle helmets, for public bike systems in dense urban areas, for laptops, for public libraries, etc.

8. What successful actions I take locally has a chance to propagate to other localities, and other cities. If they do not naturally propagate, then communication to organizations in other towns may be needed, but not forced.

Feasibility of tools:
All tools will use existing web and mobile applications. I highly doubt the need of designing anything new.

Direct interventions may not require tools at all, perhaps just a physical sign, or talking.

On Human Rights and Development again:
I notice that my outline is lacking in human rights. In a country where law enforcement is minimal, therefore rendering many laws useless, I believe working toward better self-governance, education, civil (and ecological) conduct, is better, especially in the case of Taiwan, where the ideology, form my experience, is quite well-natured. For example, if a migrant worker were to come to a clinic without health insurance, I believe it is up to the clinician to do the right thing, and from my experience, this is often positive. More likely the problem, I think, is the lack of resources in less developed areas, in this example, a professionally trained clinician with medicine in the area.

Comments Off on A Project Plan for an Urban Area | Categories: Design, Engineering, Organization, Personal, Self-assessment, Urban Philosophy

Will to Make

06 September 2015

A thought from reading the title of a book, Will to Architecture.

The thought reoccured from Place: A Short Introduction:

All over the world people are engaged in place-making activities.

Humans will to make material and digital things. To materially put together a better world; To design a better world.

This is a subset of Will to Experience. Making is an experience, but one does not have to make to have an experience.

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Design, Human Geography, Philosophy, Thoughts

Space, Time, and People

11 July 2015

Just a thought that’s been rumbling in my head as I look for a space in Taipei to use as a public space, written the day after  reading an article about a public space in New York City posted by a friendly chef.

The people in a space contribute to the social decisions of a group. Social groups: neighborhood friends, family, classes, organizations, companies, hostels, towns, cities; outcome depends on the people in it.

Win found like-minded people on the internet because the Internet contains the a great portion of the world. Win physically gathered people in a city, just as he did in the Internet, with a space. A space is the equivalent of an Internet message board. It’s a place where communication is made for a group of people.

Many personalities need a social group to progress in a certain direction. Without it, they continue in a viscous cycle, creating ideas, but not actualizing them.

Space and people create experience. The awareness of the space and the awareness of people’s actions (communication) is the experience.

The change of space and people creates new experiences.

Experiences are what give people knowledge and social relations (feelings, memories).

Therefore a good method of learning is a constant change in space and people.

The intensity of an experience does not have any factors, it is quite random.

To create something (not consume, or copy) requires time to think (or talk). To think, time is needed in a space, perhaps without much action. A relaxed social space; downtime.

People create naturally. Forcing people in a space and guiding them to create is artifical. These guidances work (school, art, jams, events), and are often needed for many personalities to work, mimicing a deadline, a restriction in social time, but it is not required; work has no time limit.

All that is needed are people and time in the same space. This is how any lengthy work is accomplished. Though, work is not judged by its scale. This is also how several works by a person, or a social group is accomplished. This is a virtuous cycle.

To gather people in to the same space is the first step of creating an experience. To do this several times is the formation of a community.

Leave a comment | Categories: Anthropology, Design, Human Geography, Social Philosophy, Urban Philosophy

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