Superhero deeds for the day

March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

There are getting to be so many I can’t remember them all in a day.

Buying sweets and keeping them in an old Gameboy pouch to give to anyone I talk to. Only one or very few – I don’t want to promote gum disease!

Cheering up the atmosphere with my cape.

Spoke to a girl getting coffee, when I described my project and well-being I mentioned not getting enough sleep, and she admitted that she hadn’t been sleeping well recently from stress. ‘Well, I’m not really stressed, I just haven’t been sleeping well.’ I said to her that well-being is more important – we go to uni for self-development but well-being is the big thing, more important that grades. I didn’t say it very well – and I haven’t said it well here either. I also ended up saying ‘you are the most important thing in your world’ – which I don’t think I should say again. To me, my family members are just as important to me as myself, so it’s not completely true, and also I don’t want to promote selfishness – quite the opposite. Still, giving to yourself is important as well as giving to others. It’s important to give yourself enough sleep and ‘me’ time for good well-being. That’s what I really meant. Give to yourself – you are important. Anyway, the girl said thank you, which I wasn’t expecting, but I guess throwing a few bits of info out about well-being is one superhero thing a well-being superhero would be expected to do.

I cheered up the coffee man too, we had a quick chat with the next customer, and we thought up a machine that would make time spin faster… I think, I can’t quite remember, it was some kind of machine, my memory is appalling. Also mentioned a machine that would make everything look sunny that I and another guy at a coffee counter talked about. Coffee is a great way of meeting people!

Wrote to my grandma the other day, and she wrote back, saying that writing to them is part of the happiness project. I’m moved by her replies, Papa is not well sand I don’t think he can write any more. I think Nana is grateful for the contact – we live quite far away. I got her card today and I will write back to her soon.

Helped Henrietta with her project for about an hour. She really appreciated it.

Volunteered to do the cloakroom at the ball and trying to get others involved. Slightly resenting this though, there’s no reward in it and a great deal of resistance. What’s in it for me? Nothing. Apart from a slightly bigger fund for the degree show to be good.

Decided to put the Goldsmiths blog for everyone on a back burner. If people aren’t sending in anything, then whatever. It’s meant to be for all of us and people think I’m doing it for my own benefit. I don’t have to do it and I won’t if it’s not making any difference. It can only make a difference if we all come together – I don’t want to be a one-woman show. My energies can be spent better where appreciated. There’s no point in ‘giving’ if nobody gets anything out of it.

Talked to maybe up to 10 people about well-being today, probably 7 people not including the people they were with. Spreading a bit of capeful joy.


Old vs. young on happiness

January 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

This quote is from Prof. Ed Diener, ‘the Jedi Master of Happiness Studies’ (David Myers).

‘As we age, we tend to experience emotions less intensely. The burning passions of our twenties subside into the warm embers of our seventies. But this is not to say that the elderly are unhappy – not by a long shot. In fact, research shows that older people are often higher than younger folks in life satisfaction, even while younger people tend to be higher in the experience of intense pleasant emotions.’
Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, 2008:250.

That means I’m probably never going to feel as intensely about life as I do now. I’ll just get more and more ‘meh’. 😦

The Worried Well

December 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Perhaps we are a nation of ‘the worried well’.

If the recent Happiness Index study in Britain is to be believed, we’re actually quite happy. Is there a reason for change if that’s the case?

It’s difficult to find any truth in scientific studies. Statistics can be framed for whatever purpose you might have. I’m trying to find deliberate reasons for action. If we’re all apparently happy, is there a point?

The thing is, if we were all happy, we wouldn’t have riots and protests. But then I suppose it’s only one section of society that’s unhappy. Not everyone is protesting. Yet, my interest isn’t in making the rioters happier. I’m interested in changing our culture – I want to encourage people to help each other, because there’s evidence that it will make the helpers and the helped happy in a deeper way, and also because helping each other will make things better in general, I believe. If I help you with your work, then you might achieve your aims better, and your work in turn will be helping someone else. It’s difficult to achieve aims all by yourself. Yes, connecting people is what I’m interested in, for those reasons.

I’m also interested in how to change attitudes, but maybe it’s not necessary. Counting our blessings will make us appreciate our lives more. Perhaps if we did that, we’d realise that really we are all right, and we are quite a happy country. Is that a good enough reason for doing something about it? I like the idea of bringing a religious tradition back in a secular way.

Today I’m not sure if there’s any point to changing things for the better in this country if we’re ok. My reasoning before was: deal with what you know, then you’ll know how to deal with it, so you can deal with it in places you don’t know. I think it’s fair enough reasoning – it requires seeing this project as part of a long journey to making life better.

‘Making life better’ – how? I hate to be vague. I hate to be specific too. Today is not a good day for being positive.


November 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Writing a manifesto was our first step to thinking out the title for our degree show. I like writing manifestos. It makes me hopeful and enthusiastic.

From the manifesto we came up with a few key words. From this we proposed some titles for the show. We had fun doing this. I laughed a lot. That’s important for me.

Here’s our brainstorm for the titles. We put down funny ones as well as serious ones.

The last two in the running after voting off most of the titles were ‘Michael’ and ‘Pilot’.

Michael is the one world user. He is the person we design for when we have a user in mind. It’s user profiling – a useful technique. However, I’ve rarely seen anyone on this course actually user profile. I don’t think it represents us at all. We talked a lot about community and collaboration, and supporting one another. This theme doesn’t come into the show name at all.

Pilot works on a few levels. We are driving our own projects. It’s the pilot show, like with TV series, suggesting our debut and that we are planning on carrying on. There were a few other levels suggested too which could work. It’s an ok title. I still prefer Explorers Collective but apparently because it’s a band name we can’t use it.

Michael got chosen. I strongly objected. It just seems silly to me. I can’t bring myself to say ‘come to see our Michael show’. It needs explaining.

“Come to our Michael show.”/”Come to our Goldsmiths show called Michael.”
“Who’s Michael?”
“The one world user.”
“What’s a one world user?”
“The person that we’re designing for.”
“You’re designing for one person?”
“It’s actually about user profiling, so we can design with someone specific in mind.”
“Oh really, I didn’t know you were that kind of course. I thought you were arty and pushing the boundaries. All the other courses do user profiling too. What makes you different?”
“That we called the show a person’s name… personifying the show… we call it Michael, as in, Michael’s really making me angry today.”
“Aha. That’s… funny.”

“Come to our Michael show.”/”Come to our Goldsmiths show called Michael.”
“Who’s Michael?”
“The one world user.”
“Right.” (Goes away none the wiser. Gets bored with having to ask for an explanation. Looks at the show, not really understanding where Michael fits in.)

(Person gets to the show, possibly a non-design visitor from Spitalfields) “Who is Michael then?”
“Our design degree show.”
“Why did you call your show a person’s name? How does that reflect what you do?”
“We’re all Michael. Michael is who we design for. You’re Michael. This design is for you.”
“I’m not Michael.”
“You are, user profiling blah…”
“I don’t like your design. Bye”

Alternative (this one’s positive)
(Person gets to the show, possibly a non-design visitor from Spitalfields) “Who is Michael then?”
“Our design degree show.”
“Oh right, it was just to get me in here then. Ok I might as well look at your stuff.”

If that last one is what happens, great. We’ll get more footfall and I won’t have to stand up for the show’s name. I’ve spent 22 years explaining my own name and I don’t want to have to explain something else’s.

Michael, or any other name, is a good marketing ploy. It’s been done before, but it will probably work.

However, it doesn’t reflect us as designers very well. We don’t employ user profiling as a focus to our work. We experiment and critically analyse. We try to question how things are rather than thinking about designing for a user group – this is what makes us different. We have a totally different approach to the traditional user profiling. We’re probably the course that uses user profiling the least in the country.

If you know that about the course, it’s an ironic name. If you don’t, you’ll think that we’re more traditional than you thought before. We’re not. This name gives a false impression on this level and also in that nobody will understand what ‘Michael’ is implicitly. That will work for us and against us. We’ll have people who don’t know anything about design and not understand what’s going on. Do we need those people to come to the show?

I’m angry to be mis-represented. I do occasionally use user profiling but it’s not on my top ten parts of my design identity. I doubt it would be on more than two people’s top ten in the class.

There’s no point in me rallying against the majority within my own class. I don’t want to alienate myself. So I’ll shut up, and just not get involved. At least for the moment. I can’t positively contribute to this theme unless it’s ironic, which then requires too much explanation. A show name should be about the work, not just a marketing ploy. We have something interesting to give without ploys. It’s a cop out.

After spending a day thinking and discussing our values, coming up with something that completely misses what we’re about is really disappointing.

Some argued that it’s what we’re about in that it’s unusual to call a show a person’s name. That doesn’t outweigh the reason, for me, that it seems to be a silly thing to do, not in a good way.

Anxieties in this project

November 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Image from Delivering Happiness website
Some of what I read hints that trying to make people happy is completely futile.

When I interviewed the Somehow Related girl, she said that trying to make people happy is a non-aim. I disagreed with her on other things, she was dismissive of quite a lot – in fact she barely seemed to like anything apart from her own work.

Making people happy isn’t it though. I’ve defined it a bit better by using the word ‘satisfaction’.

‘Happy’ is a feeling which passes.

‘Satisfaction’ can be a feeling that passes, but it can also be a longer term feeling about your life situation.

Your feeling over your life situation is not just determined by the situation itself, but also by your perspective, which is probably influenced a great deal by what other people think. In most countries, the London life is completely enviable, whatever your relative status within the boundaries of the city.

If we were more aware of what other people around the world thought of our lives, would we be happier – I mean, more satisfied?

Satisfaction runs deeper than happiness. Happiness over certain things can become satisfaction. The feeling of being satisfied can make you quietly happy.

For example, your child gets into a good school. You are ecstatic. At the same time comes on the knowledge that your child is intelligent – more intelligent than the other kids. You are satisfied with how you’ve raised your child. That feeling can last for a long time. I know that my pride in my mother getting into university as an adult remains, even though that was 3 or 4 years ago. I’m happy for her, I’m proud of her, I am satisfied in the knowledge that she is a worthy artist (especially after all her worrying she’s not good enough, fuelled by her insensitive peers). Her worthiness is reconfirmed when I see her current works every so often. Perhaps one needs less continuous confrontation with information to stay satisfied with other people, compared to oneself.

What I mean by that is that if I have one bad day, I can lose confidence in my abilities to do anything in particular and that can last a few days if I can’t pull myself out of it. I feel dissatisfied with myself, so I think I can’t work, so I don’t, so I become more dissatisfied with myself. The two ways to get out of it are: just start doing something, force it, and I’ll begin to be more satisfied; or else do something completely different, forget about the whole thing, go and have some fun and get lots of sleep and come back with new eyes.

In that time of being dissatisfied with myself, I can be happy and sad several times a day.

Image from Top Grade Formula

Ok, another anxiety. Is what I’m doing up to the standard of a good third year Goldsmiths degree? I want to be better than good if I can be. Good is just 2:2. I know not everything is grades, but I’ve had it drummed into me that grades are important, and I can’t shake it that easily. I used to be an A-student. Sometimes I think I could work and work and work and it wouldn’t make a difference to my grade. Sometimes you feel like you’re getting nowhere. It’s so easy, so easy, to disregard past achievements and just think of right now when it’s not going so well. I think, ‘but that was the me of the past – that me was in the position to do that gutsy thing, I was primed and ready for that moment, I’m not ready for it any more. I’m out of practice in this skill, I couldn’t do that today, not in the same way that I did it before, not to the same standard.’

I think that is the big anxiety for a lot of people if not everybody. Am I Good Enough? Good enough for what – yourself? Your friends? Your parents? Your spouse?

Do I put pressure on other people? Do I make them feel Not Good Enough? Can that ever be a positive thing?

How long can you stay Good Enough for yourself? Is that what brings you the most satisfaction, or is that just me?

Meeting your own high expectations of yourself is how you get to be satisfied with yourself. But if you’re very demanding of yourself, I don’t think you can stay satisfied for long, it’s not possible. There’ll be another thing you have to achieve.

Image from Freaking News

My old DT teacher used to say that A-levels seem like the top of the hill. But what’s over that hill? What happens when you climb to the top of that mountain? It keeps going up. It builds itself another bit that you have to climb. You keep going forever.

What happens if you slip down?

Image from The Life Design Project
Another anxiety: that I will say nothing new. I’m bringing together all this information. Happiness and satisfaction are things that everyone has experience of, and probably most people think about it – hopefully not as many articulate it so that when I do it sounds relatively better.

I can’t solve world peace in the same way that I can’t make everyone satisfied. I can’t make everyone do anything. How many people can this project affect? Does the scale matter?

What is there new to say about satisfaction? The idea that materialism is shallow and destructive to deep personal satisfaction has been around for centuries. What can I add? Will all this collating of information get me anywhere? It’s hard to see ahead. This is my usual process, all this research, and it usually lands me somewhere. I should just trust my process. But with pressure to be better than I have been before, I feel like I need to add an extra input to the process. I mean, it’s different every time, but shouldn’t I have thought of some innovative process add on that will magically lead me into originality?

I ended the quest for originality a while back and I think since then I’ve done some good, interesting work. It’s not really the originality that matters, but the right implementation, at least that’s the case so far in my experience. Here, in an academic context, there is more pressure for contributing something new. I’m not quite sure in my faith of myself to do it, at least today.

I’m hoping that I can bring together information from all the different books I’ve read, add them up, and their overlap will be the area in which I work.

So far that’s looking like:
We all habituate towards our own individual normal happiness level
Satisfaction in our life is infectious to others by 25%
Materialism is an inexorable part of human nature
Obsession with material wealth in our society leads to desiring something you can’t have, which makes you unhappy
Moderation is good for satisfaction
Our goals never quite meet our expectation that they will deliver permanent satisfaction
Spending time with family and friends makes you happy
Your mind can be trained to desire less – so you don’t have frustrating unfulfilled desires

Of course the flip side of all of this is that if we didn’t desire, and if we were always satisfied, then nothing would change and life would be boring. You need dissatisfaction to have ambition, which makes our world a more interesting place. So dissatisfaction is useful – but again, not in imbalanced excess, because that will make you unhappy.

The thing that I’m concerned about is that aiming to make people satisfied perhaps isn’t the right goal at all, if they’re going to get back to being dissatisfied eventually and if even if they did stay satisfied it wouldn’t be great because they wouldn’t change.

Maybe all I can do is show that it’s better to accept the flows of satisfaction and happiness. – But why is it better? Maybe because it will help you to know that even during the bad times, you will have good times again.

However the problem with that is with depressed people, because they will not believe that. They believe that they are now in a permanent state of sadness and in a way are satisfied with that – if they are dissatisfied, they start trying to get happy. Dissatisfaction with dissatisfaction, now that might be interesting. Does dissatisfaction with dissatisfaction always lead to satisfaction?

Scientific American Mind (Part 3)

November 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mine!: Passion for Possessions, by Bruce Hood, P56, Scientific American Mind, September/October 2011, Volume 22, Number 4, Scientific American, a division of Nature American inc, New York

tagline: Ownership of objects plays a critical role in human identity

‘in Western cultures, humans treat objects as extensions of themselves’

Why then is it so easy to throw away our possessions? Surely we have cultivated enough separation between objects and ourselves to discard them so easily. Or perhaps when we discard objects, we discard part of ourselves?

Capitalism –> Democratic Economic System?

October 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Michael Moore talks to Jeremy Paxman about the Wall Street Occupation on the BBC here.

He says that perhaps a new system will be invented out of this – ‘this’ being all the protests and discontent over the capitalist system. He kept repeating ‘they’ve had it’. He suggested a democratic economic system, because it’s not fair that 1% of Americans get 40% of the ‘pie’.

I don’t think it’s fair that there are billionaires who have so much money they don’t know what to do with it while there are people that starve. How many people could one billionaire support?

At the same time I believe hard working people should be rewarded. I’m not spending years and years in education for nothing. I’m going to work hard my whole life to contribute to society, and I expect to have a good lifestyle because of it – a better one than someone who makes no effort to do anything. The people that sit around living on the dole don’t deserve the same rewards as me. But they also don’t deserve to starve.

Perhaps we need a more equal system. Perhaps the language of money has got out of control.

I don’t think designing a new political and economic system can be done in an undergraduate degree project – not a good one anyway. But I would like to do a project this year that will attract that project after my degree. I would love to help design a system like that, working with politicians, sociologists, psychologists, historians and economists.

How awesome would that be?

Can I design the conditions in which that project can take place? A platform for political system designing. Who would be on this ideal super team?

If you have any thoughts I’d be grateful if you commented on this post.

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