Plotting Yourself

As I reflect on this past semester, the discussions we’ve had about data – what to do with it, who can do what, where does it come from; the discussions about technology’s place and use in today’s world – what do we understand, how complicated can we make something before nobody uses it; the discussions about how to redesign processes that have never been redesigned before, how to intervene into systems never thought to be broken, how to re-engineer the plane while we’re flying it, as @bethnoveck says. 

As I think about all of these run-on, incomplete sentences, I think back to a design practice taught to me while taking a course at ITP.  Jorge Just @jorgej and Chris Fabian @unickf taught us an exercise best used at the beginning stages of designing your idea.  Draw out a graph, just like you did in 7th grade math class, and on the X axis you chart “local” to “international.”  On the Y axis, you’re looking at “low tech” to “high tech.” 

Think of your current idea.  That idea that you know is going to change the world.  Plot it on your map.  Where does it fall? 




Feel free to use my map as your starting point.  This sketch, for those following along at home, would probably be plotted on the bottom left corner, maybe a little higher up on the Y axis since it’s a white board.  A paper and pen would be lower tech.  But it is extremely local, since it’s in my apartment (also, yes, I white boarded part of my wall, something I recommend to everyone).

How would I scale that up and move it along each axis?  A chart that’s on a computer would go higher on the tech side.  But if it’s my computer, still stay local.  However, by putting this picture on this blog, it’s now wider spread and thus less local.  So it spreads on the X axis.  If there was an app to chart things, that would move even farther in both directions. 

The point is to reimagine your idea in both directions.  What I’ve found to be true is that a good idea can move in any direction on this map.  It’s all about how you want to intervene in the world.  The design world uses the world intervention, which I personally adore because it means you’re causing a ruckus but in a good way.  Before you do, think about where on this graph you’re intervening.  Then think about what it would be like all the way to the left.  Then the right.  I promise you’ll think of new problems and eventually new solutions in your designs of programs and experiments and ideas. 

By: Asher Novek


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