- On the differences between how designers and engineers in China work vs. U.S./Europe: "This is the new shanzhai. It’s open-source on hyperspeed — where creators build on each other’s work, co-opt, repurpose, and remix in a decentralized way, creating original products like a cell phone with a compass that points to Mecca (selling well in Islamic countries) and simple cell phones that have modular, replaceable parts which need little equipment to open or repair."
- How "4D printing" can enable new forms.
- The ethereal world of social media has a concrete effect on the tangible. "Designing for Instagram" is influencing everything from restaurant menus to museum exhibits.
Roadmapping the Future:
- U.S. courts have made a decision in the legal battle between provocateur Cody Wilson (and his making-machines-that-make-guns startup) and the State Department. The State Department argued that his downloadable design files for weapons components violated ITAR (International Trade in Arms Regulations) by allowing anyone in the world with unrestricted internet access to "acquire" firearms via CAD models. While many are viewing this decision as a sure recipe for a bloody, gun-filled society, the reality is that the U.S. is already at that point, and has been for some time. The country is already teeming with guns that are easier to obtain than DIY options and the economies of scale provided by corporate production means incredibly cheap firearms (often subsidized by the juicy military contracts those same manufacturers receive). The more hopeful subtext of this case is that the verdict sets a legal precedent for removing restrictions on independent, non-corporatized production across borders of things beyond guns: useful tools, research devices, replacement parts, and so on. Just as firearms manufacturers (and their lobbyist counterparts) are behind thwarting sensible regulations that could stymie their own profits, corporate producers of all kinds of goods design parts for limited lifespan, ensuring consistent consumption year over year. Simply put, there are plenty of systemic problems whose solutions cannot be entrusted to those that profit from them, and while this verdict has its risks, it's also a vote for giving individuals and communities more tools to opt out of life as mere consumers. Ultimately it's a question of whether we trust our neighbors more or less than the companies that have helped to create the problems we are all facing now.
- Farhad Manjoo on how the ease of sharing tips, tricks, and skill building exercises for various hobbies underscores what is good about the internet: "There’s something else that has been magical about the experience. Although I took up pottery to go offline, it has driven something surprising for me online: It helped restore my faith in the possibilities and the basic humanity of the internet."
- The politics of being seen, controlling your image, and avoiding the commercialization of radical aesthetics: "For black people, often captured and archived without our consent, these practices of self-documentation can take on a special kind of significance. At events like Afropunk, people play at claiming and disavowing an authentic blackness."
- A first person account of body dysmorphia, surgery, and the process of understanding and claiming one's own body, through any and all available methods.
- Skyscrapers are expensive to maintain, difficult to retrofit with more energy efficient tech, and nearly impossible to tear down beyond a certain height. This vertical approach to city-building is less adaptable to changing population flows or neighborhood demands, like in the case of the vacant 44 story tower in downtown St. Louis.
- Since the earliest days of humanity, people have used substances and tools to alter their mental state and improve physical abilities. Maybe it's natural then that today's humans are finding the biometric sensors of wearable technology useful not just for the mundane workday reminders, but for dialing in recreational drug doses.
- Recent drinking straw bans have incited a range of responses, from cheery optimists seeing it as a small but meaningful sign of progress, to disability advocates calling out such policies for creating unnecessary hurdles while having minimal environmental impact. We tend to agree with the latter perspective. User/consumer oriented initiatives like this are designed to incite guilt in the individual while doing little to address the mega corporations doing the most damage to our world. Another challenge with creating effective solutions on the individual level is that accounting for the damage of waste is tricky, and the answers often counterintuitive. The non-straw solution appears to waste more material, and behaviors can make theoretically good practices like reusable canvas bags worse than the current devil of disposable plastic ones. If we are to truly address waste, environmental damage, and climate change, we need to thoughtfully design systems from a bird's eye view, rather than just picking on random objects in our day-to-day.