Brain Pickings

Project Interaction: Design as an Education Curriculum


What existential epiphanies have to do with New York high schoolers and The Clash.

We agree with Paola Antonelli in that “design is the highest form of expression people have, period.” And for it to be a truly transformative force of social change, it has to be woven into a society’s most deep-seated cultural sensibility. What better place to begin than the ripening young mind, whose design sensibility remains unaddressed, if not assaulted, by traditional academia?

Project Interaction is a 10-week afterschool program teaching high school students how to use design to change their communities. From storytelling to critical thinking to interaction design, the curriculum takes a holistic approach to design as a social problem-solving tool and encourages students to tackle issues that matter to them with solutions that are both thoughtful and practically viable.

One of our favorite aspects of the project is the series of interviews with established designers, who share how they got their first a-ha! moment about what design means and the turning point in their self-discovery at which they recognized design as a lifelong calling.

Design is something with a sense of history, something that you can riff off of, flip to the past, tweak it, make it your own, and just kind of keep moving forward and just playing with the world around you and reassembling it.” ~ Bill DeRouchey

[Design] helps you think. It’s assistive to all other disciplines. Whether or not you end up becoming a designer or an artist in the strictest sense, the skills are just valuable aross the board.” ~ Jason Santa Maria

The project, which reminds us of Emily Pilloton‘s wonderful Studio H initiative, just finished raising funds on Kickstarter, successfully, and is about to kick off the fall curriculum in partnership with the Urban Assembly Institute of Math & Science for Young Women. Follow them on Twitter for updates and help spread the word about an admirable effort we hope to see replicated in public schools everywhere.

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Frames of Reference: Clever Vintage Film Makes Physics Fun


Saying that reality is merely a matter of point of view may be a tired truism. But illustrating it with irreverence and ingenuity can be utterly original. Such is the case of Frames of Reference, a lovely example of how cross-disciplinary creativity, blending architecture, design and cinema, can make physics tremendously more fun and digestible. The fascinating film released by the University of Toronto in 1960 utilizes ingeniously placed furniture and a rotating table to demonstrate how we make sense of space and motion.

All motion is relative, but we tend to think of one thing as being fixed and the other thing as being moving.”

The clever cinematography by Abraham Morochnik is part Hitchcock, part Lynch, part dorky Discovery Channel scitertainment — and totally brilliant.

You can download a hi-res version of the film over at the Internet Archive.

via Coudal

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Street Artist JR Wins 2011 TED Prize


In a highly unusual yet utterly inspirational move, TED has awarded the 2011 TED Prize of $100,000 to one of our favorite street artists, the shadowy Parisian JR. Known for his large-scale graffiti murals touching on subjects like freedom, identity and limit, the anonymous 27-year-old artist has recently entered filmmaking — his powerful documentary debut, Women Are Heroes, based on the 2009 exhibition of the same name, premiered to astounding acclaim at Cannes this year.

JR creates “Pervasive Art” that spreads uninvited on the buildings of the slums around Paris, on the walls in the Middle-East, on the broken bridges in Africa or the favelas in Brazil. People who often live with the bare minimum discover something absolutely unnecessary. And they don’t just see it, they make it. Some elderly women become models for a day; some kids turn artists for a week. In that Art scene, there is no stage to separate the actors from the spectators.”

Previous TED Prize winners have included Bill Clinton, marine biologist Sylvia Earle, educational entrepreneur Dave Eggers, and chef and nutrition activist Jamie Oliver.

We’re thrilled to see TED further expand its celebration of creativity and philanthropy with work that lives outside the world of traditional high culture and even the law, yet touches millions of lives in a very human and powerful way, injecting joy, pride and humility where they are needed the most.

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