March 29, 2017

Discussion Session 3.29.2017 – Thinking Temporally

We discussed and unpacked the ideas of slow and fast knowledge. Within the world implied by that distinction, what role do designers play currently? Could we play a different role in the future? What would that look like? What would it take to get there?

Discussion Leaders: Ashley Varrato, Adrian Galvin, Michelina Campanella and Meric Dagli


  1. I just need to say that this discussion was really wonderful, pertinent, and helped to drive home the ideas presented both in class and in the readings. Well done Adrian, Michelina, Ashley, and Meric! Our section brought up a lot of really interesting points surrounding the ideas of slow and fast knowledge as well as what the role we, as designers, might play. The conversation landed on news and how we are consuming the news— in particular, on Facebook and other social media platforms. It was interesting to talk about this 10 second world that we live in and how we as humans have come to expect information instantly and in the palm of our hands. It has driven a lot of what consumers expect as well as how companies design or deliver products.

    I think that we, as designers, will certainly have a role in the future. It would involve both being present as well as reflecting on our work and practices. Our conversation in class led to how these things can help us to be more aware of our actions now and the long term effects they will have. Recently, I’ve been more strategic in my decisions. Over the past few years, a series of events (both self made and imposed on me), drastically altered the path I was on. I often look back and reflect on the pivotal moments — thinking about what might have happened had I continued down the original path. I wouldn’t be here, that I know. By reflecting back, I’ve been able to be more mindful of the decision I make and the future implications they have.

    • I 100% agree with Mac. This was hands down one of the best session of this class. Kudos to Michelina, Meric, Adrian and Ashley! Every section of it slowly yet powerfully unpacked the concepts of slow and fast knowledge. I especially enjoyed the discussions we had after the activity, which offered a lot of interesting nuggets to think about. I found a close connection to environmentalist and futurist Stewart Brand’s belief that “civilization is reviving itself into a pathologically short attention span and the trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology”. If you’re interested to know more about his thoughts on the long now theory,I would recommend watching his Ted talk,

      I am positive that designers have an important role to play now as well as the future. I feel the change will have to start at the individual level. Reiterating the activities from the class, it was important to first know what you as an individual wish in life and then move forward to understand its urgency. Being more aware of the actions and its repercussions on not only your life but beyond may change our outlook towards long knowledge and the ways to acquire it.

    • I want to echo the sentiments of everyone else: to be able to experience the concept of slower living and learning was powerful. Our section reflected on how in order for us as designers to implement slower knowledge into practice, we should practice it in our own personal lives as well. To add to the discussion on higher education that’s being focused on, I think that should involve more awareness on how it’s okay (and necessary) to, every so often, dip down from the incline of growth and let everything settle — to reflect and truly absorb everything.

  2. I agree with MacKenzie—this was a great session; the discussion leaders definitely helped to drive home the concepts of slow and fast knowledge by making the topic more real and relevant to our own lives. Well done!

    Related to Slow Knowledge is the Long Now and a need to think in terms of the long term—hundreds of years beyond where we are now. I think currently designers (especially product or fashion designers) are so intertwined with business that they are forced to think extremely short-term and in terms of mass production for massive profits. I was asked to watch “The Story of Stuff” for another class, and though I’ve seen the video before, watching it now through the lens of a designer, it was pretty horrifying to hear how this system of mindless consumption, planned and perceived obsolescence, and linear production cycle was all literally designed. Historically designers have been key contributors to our unsustainable lifestyles. The good news though is that they can also be instrumental in slowing/halting that process by changing how they see their work and being more conscious about their larger impact on the world. However, it will take a willingness (on the part of not just designers but all of society) to sacrifice the immediate gratification of the now for a better, more sustainable future.

    In our discussion, someone (I’m sorry I don’t remember who!) mentioned that fast knowledge is a threat to slow knowledge. I think this is also an interesting and important space for designers to reflect. Many techniques, methods, skills related to our craft are becoming obsolete because it is just easier and faster to do everything digitally now. Dan Boyarski spoke about hand-lettering an “n” hundreds of times until he deeply understood the form, or hand-mixing paints to understand nuances of color. We are graduate-level students at one of the best design schools in the world, but everything is so fast-paced that we don’t have the time, space, or opportunity to immerse ourselves in design to that level. What do we lose in the process?

    We can think of this not only in terms of our education but the digital environments we make as well. Information comes at us in a constant stream, but we’ve lost the space (and thereby ability) to think critically about the information we are being fed. Communication is literally instantaneous now (and there are undoubtedly benefits to that), but people have lost the art of communication in the process. As David Orr says in Slow Knowledge, “Consider the collected correspondence of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, letters written slowly by quill pen, perhaps by candelight, delivered by horse, and still full of magic and power nearly 200 years later. Would that magic and power be present still had Tom and James corresponded by e-mail? Somehow, I doubt it.”

    Thus, Slow Knowledge and Long Now remind us that it is important for designers to think not only of the environmental impact of the things we create, but the long-term social consequences as well.

    • I second what Mackenzie and Hajira have said.

      It is true that the vast majority of designers today are focused on the now and constantly making immediate improvements to the artifacts they build. Additionally, as consumers, we are becoming more and more used to getting what we want when we want. These expectations will only grow if we continue down the same trajectory. If this is to change, designers, us included, need to take more explicit steps to reflect on our work and its effects. We may find after reflecting that we see the world differently or that we have been creating the wrong artifacts or have been instilling the wrong qualities in our work. This reflection may lead to disagreements, but it can only help in leading to a more positive trajectory and hopefully leading to designs that better inform and influence our society’s behavior.

      • The division of labor combined with the expansion and growth of knowledge-sharing has led to our current state of multiple actors working simultaneously on similar problems. Combined with the global movement of goods and information, objects are knowledge are essentially always available, especially as they change form and advance over time.

        I do wonder if slow knowledge/thought can operate with rapid action. What I don’t understand is how actors with slow knowledge can operate at the level/pace of the faster actors. This is problematic for things like AI value alignment, where actors focusing on security and assurance necessarily work slower than those without such scruples.

        In the end of the day, for every designer/engineer/actor who thinks and acts carefully, there are going to be tens or hundreds who do not. There are simply so many people working simultaneously.
        The difficulty is that in such a state of tremendous advancement in knowledge and skill where events are accelerating exponentially, we humans are very poor at dealing with exponentials. We are consistently blindsided.

        In the future I see our actions informed by hyper-intelligent advisor/counselors that can extrapolate consequences farther than our human minds can. Hopefully such guidance systems will help us see how our ideas may eventually go against our intentions such that we can choose more wisely.

  3. Thank you both for your comments–we’re glad that the intentional shift in pace and activities resonated! I think you picked up on an interesting point, Hajira, about the contrast of fast and slow knowledge and its relationship to how we work and acquire skills. I’m taking the methodology of visualization course this semester and its the first time in a long time that I’ve learned a new analog skill–and I love it. I have to slow down, practice with intention, and take the time to immerse myself. It’s made me aware of how infrequently I do that.

    These readings also prompted me to reflect a on information overload in the school district and how that impacts the way the system evolves over time. We generally learn by slowing down, thinking, and reflecting. But in a school it’s challenging when you are inundated with information on a daily-weekly-monthly basis for multiple students across multiple subject areas that you have to connect, make sense of, and prioritize quickly. PPS is thinking about putting a “data coach” in every school next year whose sole job would be to process through academic and other data and determine a course of action for the principal or teacher to improve outcomes. The idea comes from other sectors that promote a rapid feedback loop to support innovation and decision making, but it might be missing the point that maybe we should be thinking differently about the data we have, prioritizing only a few things, and focusing on them. To Hajira’s point, what might we be losing in the process?

  4. I agree, the discussion leaders did an excellent job and the change of pace was so welcome and refreshing. The degree to which the slow start to the class was jarring (in a very pleasant way) is a testament to how our program – and most all secondary education- is the opposite of slow learning. I think the idea of slow knowledge places a direct challenge to the current form of secondary education, and makes me wonder what would a secondary educational experience look like if it was focused on slow learning? Would you need to be in school or longer? Would it borrow from the world of online learning, and somehow be more integrated into everyday life… so that you don’t have to go off into the ivory tower, but rather have long and slow learning integrated over the course of a lifetime? Does it look more like an apprenticeship model?

    These discussions also make me wonder if it is even possible to have slow learning in an information based economy? Slowing down seems so counter to almost every other force within our society right now and how do you ever reverse that, or at least make space for other forms of knowledge acquisition ?

    • Delanie Ricketts April 1, 2017 at 7:36 pm Reply

      Like Jesse, I am also interested in Lauren’s idea regarding secondary education that is focused on slow learning. In my previous workplace I worked on designing and developing online courses that, like Lauren said, were the opposite of slow learning. Clients paid our company to create them precisely because they were faster and more cost effective than traditional face-to-face trainings. As such, as a designer my role was directly in service of fast learning. Perhaps if these trainings were more integrated into everyday life over the course of a lifetime, as Lauren suggested, they could contribute to slow learning. Maybe it is this type of curriculum development that is the role of an instructional designer in the future.

      Personally, I find technical skills to be best taught in a “fast learning” type of setting in which I can quickly digest and practice said skills, and this is where I find online learning to be most effective. It is the more deep types of knowledge — critical thinking or understanding of deep-rooted issues, for example — that I find I absorb more effectively through physical books, face to face discussions, and experiential learning. I’m not convinced this type of knowledge can be taught in an online or digital setting.

      Nevertheless, even though I know I will recall information more easily if I can read it from a physical book, I still buy almost all my books on my Kindle. Frequent travel, moving, and work have made it difficult to find time to leisurely browse a book store or invest in a book that adds weight to already limited space. In order to truly embrace slow learning I would have to embrace a slower lifestyle.

  5. That’s an intriguing point that Lauren brings up, what would a curriculum consist of if it were all about slow learning? I’d imagine that you would learn several things very well, as opposed to touching lightly on many subjects. But would that also draw out the length of a program? And while I can say it would be cool look at a master’s program that offers a bunch of classes that really let you focus in on something and “slowly learn” it, how helpful would that be to each of us as we pursue our careers? It seems that our society is more focused on “how much do you know” and not whether you know a few things really well. However there certainly are exceptions to that.

    But sort of connected to that, I feel that a lot of the current fast knowledge and practices have been designed by well, designers. I don’t necessarily fault them though. Designers are often servants to the system of capitalism, where those who employ us are profit driven and thus see us as tools in their arsenal. If we could speed things up, certainly we can slow them down. I think we all are have the capabilities to do this and to find ways to help people slow down, even unintentionally. But, because our society is so used to fast everything, caution would be needed to prevent people from getting annoyed at our slow system at the risk of alienating them. We as a society have come to expect everything fast, “the faster the better” and “we’ll have your ___ ready in ___ minutes or it’s free.” You never hear “we will take as long as we need to make sure your order is done right.” How would you respond to that if you say, saw it on a billboard?

    And I think that Ashley brings up a good point about data in schools. Just because we can do something with new data/capabilities, does that mean we should? At least with my mindset, I view the process of examining different options in this case a sort of slow analysis.

    As others have said, a great class and discussion! Thanks guys for all of your hard work (and food!)

    • Jesse– I actually think slow learning in university curriculum is far more attainable than we often make it out to be. In my experience, Stacie Rohrbach has designed her courses much in this fashion. In our discussion section, I brought up the analogy of the learning hill. In traditional learning environments, a class or semester is one long hill, where the challenges get ever greater.This is a fast learning form of teaching, because students are never given time to reflect and review. A more slow learning approach would be a series of hills, with dips and falls, which sets aside time of rest during which students reflect and deepen their knowledge of past material. An example of this would be, after students have turned in a big project, spending the following class session reviewing how they applied course material to the project and asking students how they might expand the project if they had more time. This would be a small way to add slow learning into a curriculum. The opposite of this would be if, after students just turned in a big project, a professor immediately jumped into a lecture new topic.

      Although the fast learning approach to university classes may seem more efficient, it is actually far less efficient in the long run. When you do not design your courses with slow learning, you are increasing the likelihood that students will not remember the material in the long run. Slow knowledge is what goes to our long term memory. Although you may be able to cram more information into the class in the short term, if you were to go review class material with your students 3 years later, you would be sorely disappointed. If education is supposed to be a long term benefit, rather than a short term cram of information, then it needs to be designed that way.

      • Michelina Campanella April 2, 2017 at 11:09 am Reply

        Thank you Lauren, Delanie, Jessie and Vic for your thoughtful remarks on this topic! Vic, I think you hit on a really important distinction between fast and slow knowledge, which is that fast knowledge is a form of “learning” and slow knowledge is a form of “remembering”. Your analogy of the hill with fast knowledge as the upward slopes and the valleys as moments of reflection and assimilation is a great visualization and I think the right way to be thinking about integrating these two ideas together.

        The conundrum of fast and slow knowledge is that they seem diametrically apposed to each other, but in reality they support each other, much like the mechanistic and holistic world-views. The problem in our current society is we are inundated with so much information that we are incapable of perceiving the bits of slow knowledge that are all around us.

        I think it is interesting to think of redesigning educational experiences to support the integration of fast and slow knowledge. Do you think it merely requires a change in course curriculum? To me, the physical structures and mediums that we use to exchange information are culprits as well. Can we have outdoor classrooms? Can we utilize our bodies more during the learning process? Do you have to be sitting in chairs and looking at screens to learn? The point I’m trying to make here is that fast and slow knowledge don’t necessarily have to be considered as separate. Can we as designers think about the levels of knowledge imbedded into a single experience?

        One day after a studio class, Haijra asked me what is was like to grow up on a farm in a rural setting and as I thought about it, the most impactful thing to me was that I could see a vast sea of stars almost every summer night. I would stare into the sky for hours, my mother had a telescope and we would look at the stars together and she taught me about the rotation of the earth, and the seasonal markers from the changing stars. I was utterly fascinated and terrified of the expansiveness of the universe and frankly became obsessed with learning about it. This is where fast knowledge helped me gain a greater understanding of something I first integrated through slow knowledge.

        The simple experience of seeing the stars at night connects us to our celestial ancestors and can give us perspective of “the long now”. Would we have had a different learning experience of the “long now” if we had this lecture outside under the stars?

        • Vic and Michelina, I really appreciate your thoughts on how we can incorporate elements of slow learning into the classroom. One of my challenges with the with the Transition Design course is that we’ve read a lot of content very quickly. There’s been very little time to process individual readings, let alone draw the connections between them. By the time, I’m getting a handle on the material, we’ve moved onto the next topic. I do wonder how much I’ll manage to retain in the long-run.

          I had Stacie last semester for Communication Design and I also appreciated the way that she encouraged us to reflect upon our projects and the concepts that we explored. I also think that Hannah du Plessis and Marc Rettig’s course in Social Innovation introduce some interesting reflective practices into the classroom, and to Michelina’s point, explore other forms of learning through practice, embodied exercises. I think these are small ways that we can integrate slow learning into the classroom and allow students to explore material in greater depth.

      • Agree with Vic, your comment really resonates me. In our studio course this semester, we are spending much more time on conducting research compared to last semester. And we are literally more often exhausted with all these research processes because we are still not sure what our final deliverable might look like. We have to be more patient to come up with an idea. It’s like learning hill that you mentioned. We sometimes feel that we are making a really good progress and taking a right direction, but sometimes feel we got stuck and going into wrong direction. But anyway we have to move on. If we wish to see/know if we are in an appropriate track or learned something invaluable, we need to take some time and view it from far distance.

        Also, in the class, other classmates and I were talking about design thinking and slow knowledge, and we talked a lot about designers’ role: we agreed that our role is to have flexible perspectives both of slow knowledge and fast knowledge, especially slow one is needed when designers approach and solve problems but when it comes to “actually designing something”, we need fast knowledge so that we can come up with ideas rapidly.

      • Vic, thank you so much for making these points. I agree with you that in our fast-paced learning environment, instructors often forget the value of time for letting the dust settle. When we were younger I remember the common advice to review flashcards right before going to bed, because having a time of rest would allow this information to sink into long-term memory. The same could be said of in-class exercises. Instead of teaching just to the next test, after which new information is promptly forgotten, periods of rest between exercises, lesson units, etc, could be extremely helpful.

        Personally, I’d like to play a role in expanding the length of the “now” via futuring and telling stories. Encouraging people to think about the future in a way that’s not escapism, such as Star Wars, or dystopia zombie land, can stretch our imaginations and make it easier to envision an ideal for the future.

  6. Ashlesha Pradeep Dhotey April 2, 2017 at 12:38 am Reply

    I completely agree with everyone! This session was one of the best sessions so far! I completely enjoyed the way you all conducted yourselves and facilitated the entire session so thoughtfully. The entire session was designed in a way that I understood the concept completely and had enough time in class to explore the topics further. The self-reflection exercise was so refreshing!

    This session made me wonder if “slow learning” setting is even possible in this fast paced era. I wonder how a slow learning paced higher education system would really look like? That would mean our higher education would last for more than 5 years for sure and would give us a deeper understanding. This slow knowledge acquiring process would probably change how the industry functions currently, like Jesse said the system of capitalism. One way designers can probably integrate slow knowledge setting in the current scenario is to create a self-reflection and practice time for students something similar to your exercise but over a longer period of time. We tend to just consume knowledge and never get enough chances to reflect and understand the knowledge in depth. What if designers could create an ideal balance between slow and fast knowledge setting and integrate it in the higher education system. Is that even worth considering?

    • First of all thank you so much for the lovely breakfast. It really prepared me both physically and mentally for the class…love the fruits!

      I agree very much on what Ashlesha said about having reflection time for students who are living in a fast knowledge age. I guess the greatest difficulty is that, there is simply no time for reflection because none of other activities in students’ lives are slowing down in order to make room for the reflection. Right now even though I am asked to self-reflect on three of my classes, the workload for these classes have not been changed because of the reflection requirement. I am wondering if restructuring of the entire educational system is needed. I know that Stanford University recently announced a new educational system that allows anyone to study in any of their 6 years in life. I have hopes that this new system might allow students to truly focus on learning in a pace they feel comfortable with.

    • These discussions are amazing! It would be great if I was there, but all the comments really helped me to catch up! Thank you all.
      I also agree with Ashlesha’s point on creating a self-reflection and practice time for students.We mostly have 5-8 weeks for one project and it’s almost impossible to spend time evenly and have a mindset to spend extra time to reflect each process. Most of the project ends at prototyping stage and almost never get a chance to do real user testing and do iteration on that. However, when we go out and work as a designer, that’s one of the most important stages that we need to focus on. It would be ideal if we can have a balance between slow and fast knowledge setting so we could be prepared to do both; but again, this issue is intertwined with one another. How can we focus on both quality and efficiency of learning? Is it possible to have flexible education setting depends on the context?

  7. The intentionality of the slower pace resonated with me as well. I think as designers, we should be paying attention to how we’re living and designing our own lives, as we did in class, so we can be more intentional about what we design for the future. If we paid more attention to how we take care of ourselves, would we be better designers? I would guess that the answer is yes. How are we supposed to design with the long view in mind if we don’t live that way? Everything I wrote on those post-its was related to living a slower, more intentional life. Can I slow down the way I interact with food? Would that make me more considerate as a designer working on food systems? If I took a moment to enjoy nature everyday, would that make me think about nature’s role in the experience being designed? These are all interesting questions that I think would could be explore through design and slowing down.

    • Really appreciate the actives and splendid breakfast! I enjoy so much from the self-reflection time. And I agree with Monica that “We pay attention to how we’re living and designing our own lives, so we can be more intentional about what we design for the future.” This reminds of David Ogilvy, who said “Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read.” This is a deep empathy in an anthropology aspect.

      I think currently a lot of fast knowledge are exactly designed by designers. I don’t fault them because the truth is that we benefit a lot from the fast knowledge. MOOC make knowledge more accessible, social media give everyone the chance to make voice…we think the world becomes flat, we think our society is more democratic. We do things more efficiently, we achieve more and we feel good about that, we benefit from the rapid development. But during the night, we feel tired. We enjoy the comfortable environment and facilities that fast knowledge brings to us but we really want to slow down and take a break or have a look.

      So I think the tricky thing is how to make a balance between the development of homo sapiens and individual happiness. If you look back into the history of homo sapiens, you will find this is an eternal topic even though specific issues will change with time goes by. And I think designers play important role in how to make the balance.

  8. I really enjoyed the pace of the session! The breakfast was lovely (Thanks guys!) & the conversation was moderated in a great manner. What really struck me while doing the personal objective exercise was the feeling of disconnect I had with myself. It’s easy to get lost and the chaos of working, and it was good to step back and gain some perspective. When looking at the course structure – I definitely felt that because of the fast pace at which we are learning, it’s easy to lose out on important knowledge – knowledge that takes a lot more time and space for us to grasp. As a designer of the future – I can see this differentiation in fast and slow paced learning and the acknowledgment of it- to help me take directions a bit differently.

  9. Love so much about this discussion session. Started with the delightful breakfast experience, I felt relax from the bottom of my heart while being prepared for the conversation.

    The discussion about how to shape design education to convey slow knowledge is inspiring. The point of view our team shared in the class was changing the way of organizing thesis projects, or maybe some studio courses projects. Instead of asking students to come up with some whole new projects every year, we believe if the same projects could be transmitted to students year after year. It would give the students an opportunity to learn slow knowledge from before while shaping the design solution by the fast knowledge they have.

    Furthermore, slow knowledge and fast knowledge can only make a bigger impact while they are combined. In the booming of Chinese internet industry, a huge number of startups saw the great opportunities in traditional industries and wanted to change the service or products in these areas with new technologies — fast knowledge. However, without deeply understanding a specific field, most of them failed soon. At the same time, most traditional industries are looking for a transformation and want to be adaptive to new technologies, but it is a goal equally hard for them to achieve without fast knowledge support. Establishing a team which includes people have either fast or slow knowledge to view the problem holistically is hard, which takes time. But it is the only way to eventually complete a transition.

  10. This was one good class! While the breakfast was splendid, i loved unpacking things I want to do, or haven’t been able to do. Though I have been thinking about these things for sometime now, writing them down made these concrete in my head and I feel like I know what to do now (hope to do it too). I understand that the session was to drive in slow knowledge vs. fast knowledge, but for me this was a great personal experience.
    While I was unsure about others reading what I had written initially, I am glad for the group discussion. It was amazing how we had all written different things, but there were common threads. It made me stop, and think.

  11. I also loved this discussion session. I think it was the first session where there was no powerpoint slides. I welcomed the thoughtfulness of the discussion leaders when planning this session. This led to a very wonderful discussion because there was time build in for (self) reflection, mindfulness, small group discussions, as well as, classroom discussions.

    The pause at the beginning of the class to get breakfast and clear our minds was very important. I wonder if every discussion group should start like this. Like Monique said, it has been hard for me to be reflective about the material when we’ve covered a lot of content very quickly. Sometimes not all of the content is even covered in the lecture or discussion group (due to time). Thus, I find it hard to digest the readings and find it’s relevance, especially when they’re not always covered in class. By the time I’m processing the material, finding relevance, and starting to make connections between them, we’ve moved onto the next topic. I do, too, wonder how much I’ll manage to retain in the long-run.

    However, I liked that this discussion allowed time for self-reflection and sharing versus “coming up with a solution to X/Y/Z problem in a 20 minute exercise” (which sometimes it feels like we are doing). In my discussion group for Max Neef’s Needs, I also had my group activity be all about self-reflection. I think when people reflect on themselves and then expands that into a broader topic, they can see begin to see their impact on that problem/topic space. This will make that topic more relevant and important to them. If they’re thrown a very broad and complex topic immediately, they might get overwhelmed or miss the relevance.

    Also, thank Michelina, for basically pulling an all nighter to cook all the quiches.

    • I agree with Denise. The change of pace of this session was truly nice and refreshing. The 20 minute “design a solution” exercises are nice in certain contexts, but I think they begin to encourage bad habits, at least I find that in myself. I feel that fast learning is taught alongside (whether intentionally or not) fast decision-making, which I feel is detrimental to the design process. A lack of habitual reflection definitely inhibits learning as well as effective solution development.

      Thanks to the wonderful discussion leaders! It was really nice and important to remind myself what is important to me and my overall life goals.

    • As many of our cohort said, I have to say that it was really wonderful session. Thank you Adrian, Michelina, Ashley, and Meric. The breakfast warmed and opened my mind for discussion regrading fast & slow knowledge. It was a good opportunity for me to reflect on th attitude toward knowledge of today’s society overall. We are living in the era of information. Data is continiously being gathered, processed, and analyzed. Information floods over online and offlne. However, it it doubtful how much information we are able to appreciate. The reflection is valuable for me to think about what my future practices should be as designer dealing with information to be distributed to world.

    • Manya Krishnaswamy April 3, 2017 at 7:11 pm Reply

      A huge thanks to the discussion leaders for the change of pace. It was unexpected and much welcomed.

      I agree with Denise and Olivia on their comments about 20-minute design-sprint-style exercises. For some reason, we seem to be doing a lot of these this semester in transition design, service design, research methods as well as during couple of workshops outside class. It seems that these exercises are typically designed with the hopes of imparting essential knowledge through experiential learning. The draw-back of this is that we fail to move beyond the superficial layer of learning. It also encourages to do more “blue-sky” thinking that waves away feasibility and any kind of constraint that exists in the real-world.

      This prevents us from diving deeper into the subject matter. When we don’t dive sufficiently deep into the subject matter, it makes it harder for us to make dwell on it and make associations to other knowledge we have. The process of dwelling and reflection is really helpful in retaining newly acquired knowledge becomes difficult to retain. Instead of remaining in isolation, we can help create stronger connections to other things which can serve as both a way to remember the new knowledge as well as provide us with a unique perspective through which to view the new knowledge.

      I’m happy that more classes seem to be highlighting the need to reflection–primarily studio and and social innovation. On a small scale, it would be great if we had like 5 minutes of every class to reflect and digest on what we learnt during the session. It would help 1) capture key ideas in written form for future reference and 2) help transition learnings from really short-term to medium-term memory.

  12. Ashlesha Pradeep Dhotey April 2, 2017 at 2:26 pm Reply

    This was by far one of the best classes of transition design! You guys did a great job! I loved the pace of the class and the way you all facilitated the exercise. The self-reflection section was really refreshing! This session really helped me understand the topic better. I wonder if designers can create a balance between slow knowledge and fast knowledge and integrate it into our higher education system. I really agree with Leah, slow and fast knowledge together can create a bigger impact in this fast paced society. There is fast consumption of knowledge but there is never enough time for reflection and deeper understanding of the problems or topics. It is necessary to go deep and broad while solving problems. Slow knowledge setting could also be a life long method we can adapt to become better designers. There is definitely a need to incorporate “slow learning” setting in the higher education system but for all learning to be slow may not be the best way.

  13. I do agree with everyone who mentioned that today’s society is more supportive of fast knowledge. The constant need to compete against each other (people); the need to compete with nature; the need to compete with time all drive us to be more supportive of fast knowledge and the letting go of the slow. The span of a human life is nothing but a flicker in time so we as intelligent beings look for ways “get” what we all individually want as quickly as possible because we can’t adjust time. My peers and I joined CMU’s Masters program because of the vast amount of knowledge it can offer but so much has to be covered in so little time that it is really difficult to digest it all properly. I’m so focused on getting things done that it’s hard to find time to be more reflective of the material. I’ve been so busy that I didn’t even have the time to notice this. So as a first step, I needed to be reminded to be more mindful and reflective of the things that I’ve doing. Then I could be more conscious about looking up and around.

  14. Thanks everyone for your thoughtful replies, I am so pleased that everyone enjoyed our experience. Michelina, Meric, Ashley and I really wanted to shift the rhythm of class and it sounds like it was effective, we weren’t sure it would work 🙂 I’m gratified that we were given room to experiment and that we had such thoughtful, engaged participants would gave honest, real answers.

    For me, it was a big step which took some thought to be able to present a framework in which we could explore together the differences and overlaps between slow and fast knowledge. I really appreciated Hajira bringing up the connection between family|community and slow knowledge. I just had a new nephew born and my grandmother died last year, these milestones in my life have helped me to focus in on what really matters the most to me: building those deep loving connections with people that I care about.

    Gideon pointed out during class that there is an element of slow knowledge which must be place based, ie local. That hadn’t struck me before, but of course it makes sense, if you have deep knowledge about the water system of an area, your knowledge is specific to that water system which you are involved in. I know Chris Donadio is doing a project on helping the residents of Millevale to test their water and then develop an off the grid solution for their neighborhood so that they can be safe to drink water which they are 100% in control of. I think this is an example of deliberately moving toward slow knowledge solutions which disrupt a larger fast knowledge based framework, which is so inspiring!

    Thanks for your time and excellence everyone, it was a pleasure and honor to help facilitate this class.

  15. I am late at posting this but thank you for an awesome session and the lovely breakfast. Just a thought that struck my head, although the content of the session was compelling and we did do a reflective slow exercise, how can I implement those learnings in my own life. In my opinion, a lot of it comes from the fact that “what reality do you create for yourself?”. It is our conscious choice whether we want to move fast or slightly slow. Both come with their pros and cons. We are living in a time where a person’s efficiency is decided by the number of ticks made on a to-do list which essentially is quantity, what about quality? Yes, it is difficult to stop and reflect too much on each and everything we pursue but I think it’s a skill that can be developed gradually. As Einstien said ” If I had to tackle a problem, I would spend 90% time thinking about it.”

  16. Thanks everyone for their feedbacks on the session!
    As Adrian stated, we are pleased that our hypothesis on slow & fast knowledge by our session’s structure has been verified. We were actually not sure about how this session will end up, especially timing-wise, but I think both groups were able to finish the session as we planned.

    To echo what Adrian and Hajira have said, I personally also in the route of bridging slow knowledge and my personal life. I think what I count as a slow knowledge are the things that I can reflect in my everyday or work life to some degree. Since the most of master’s programs focused on breathing more things as fast as possible, it is expected that we all having the same issue, lacking enough reflections with our studies at CMU. Although I haven’t pursued a Ph.D. degree, I know that researching at a Ph.D. level requires a deep dive into a topic. In a way, this is like bridging what you are learning with your personal/work life. So in that way, I see a master’s degree with a thesis, somehow, in between slow and fast knowledge. Despite having a very short amount time, again for reflection, I believe that a period of time, allocated to doing experiments on a certain topic, enables individuals to do a slow learning through the reflections of fast learning.

  17. As a transition designer, we need to have ability to think in terms of dozens of years, decades or even generations.

    I think this topic is especially hard and contradict to design. The essence of design thinking is about iterations and rapid prototyping. Software industries, as another example, also focused Agile development methodology. You have no idea what you have done is right or wrong. Just try it in the market. If you have no idea what you do right, you will have no idea how to solve problem when issue occur.

    We could call the things that we have learned fast knowledge. Fast knowledge is about know-how while slow knowledge is about know-how and know-why. Fast knowledge focused on solving problems, usually by one technological fix or another; slow knowledge has to do with avoiding problems in the first place.

    We had put human on the moon since 1969 but could you name any innovative technoloy breakthrough in 21th century? We are using technology to deal with the problem caused by previous technology. It is a good sign that more people have aware of the problem and even become suspicious any further technological solutions that are suggested by professionals.
    The bad thing is that human’s brain has hard time to think in long term. If you proposed a 50-year project to focus on global climate change. People simply think this long term project is none of their business. It is too far from their everyday life.
    This happen to design project as well. Design is good at reframing the problem in a solvable scope and trying to deliver solution. We need to give up the thoughts that there is an ultimate solution for global problem. Transition designer should see problem in macro way and act in micro way. Trying to delivering design solution in each specific problem and leverage them into larger scope change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *