I just attended a university lecture by Chuck Klosterman, journalist, pop culture philosopher and author of books such as Eating the Dinosaur. In a self-aware storyteller style reminiscent of a stand-up comic, he talked about a variety of things, including Why are things the size they are? How are a blues club and a zoo similar? What is the relationship between reality and realness? How is the Unabomber's Manifesto relevant to society today?
These kind of lectures remind me why I enjoy the university environment. Not only was the talk entertaining and interesting, the students in the audience asked questions that were equally thought-provoking. I especially liked the debate that sparked over whether new media creates a low ceiling for creative thought - whether the images we see in television and movies limit our ability to imagine things outside our own experience.
Earlier in the afternoon, I attended a talk hosted by the Carnegie Mellon School of Design. Ezio Manzini, founder of the DESIS (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) Network, described how designers are harnessing social resources to tackle sustainability issues. Citing examples from urban vegetable gardens to co-housing, the smiling Italian emphasized four characteristics of successful projects in this area: small, local, connected, and open. The Q&A session afterward for this talk provided additional food for thought.
What kind of foundation is today's generation laying for future generations? Are designers becoming a professional field without an industry? What is the relationship between sustainability and resilience?
I look forward to pondering these questions further, in between the bursts of concentration I will, of course, devote to my course work and thesis topic musings...