Spring break has come and gone without really being. At least, that's how it felt as I spent all week in Pittsburgh, reading and writing for school assignments and thesis preparation. I am glad I got things done, though, especially when I consider all that lies ahead. A quarter-long mini course I had been taking, Adaptive Service Design, has just ended. On the bright side, that means I'm only going to be taking four classes for the rest of the semester instead of five. The sad part is that it was a course with really interesting readings and classroom discussions that flowed freely, buoyed by a natural enthusiasm and curiosity that's rare to find. This was the first time the course was taught, as well, so I feel lucky to have had the experience. For my final project, I created a service blueprint for an adaptive campus dining service, which I will discuss in greater detail in a later post.
Also this week, I finished reading an excellent book called Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink. It's full of entertaining anecdotes about food psychology experiments conducted at Cornell, one of the most memorable being a comparison of how much soup people would eat out of a normal bowl versus a covertly self-refilling (aka bottomless) bowl. The finding: people use their eyes, not their stomachs, to gauge when they are full. I won't give anything away, but there are some asides specifically about that study that made me laugh out loud.
I'm halfway through another book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. This book's about choice architecture - the design of environments in which choices are made. It's not as funny as Mindless Eating but still thought-provoking. Some of it reminds me of the material in my Information Design and Rhetoric course, the takeaway being that no design can be neutral. Beatrice Warde's crystal goblet may be an aspiration, but it is also a mirage, ever unreachable. And since design always influences, the designer has a responsibility to influence with intent.
I mean...um... Spring break! WOooooOOooOoo!