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Recap: I’m done with grad school (yay!). I’m freelancing in NYC. I plan to move home to Oslo in December. Then I hear about this great job opportunity. In another US city. Where I know no one. There’s a dilemma here. I’ll try to write myself out of it using this old Radiolab episode called Help! that I just listened to. The first 20 minutes are about our willpower and the battle: You vs. You. Two different stories are told.
FLIP A COIN
This story is about two brothers who are recent graduates and don’t really know what they want to do with their lives (yup, sounds familiar). Then their father tells them that one of them needs to take over the family business â€“ a massage studio in Chinatown (not that familiar). The brothers really don’t want to take over, but decide to flip a coin over it. Or actually they do some tea leaf reading, but the result is the same. One brother wins, the other starts working for his dad. He’s miserable. He doesn’t particularly like touching feet. He tells a customer:
I flipped a coin, and now my life is over
After having worked there for a month, however, something changes. He starts to enjoy it. He longs for his work when he has a day off. He loves working with people every day. He simply loves his job!
The brother who won the tea leaf battle says that if he had lost, he would never actually take over as a masseuse. He just thought his brother needed a little push, and agreed to read tea leaves to help give his brother the sign he needed. How the tea leaves could help point in the right direction is beyond me. Either way, one brother found his calling, and the family business will live on.
Now the other story is about quitting smoking, and how to trick your brain into doing something that you don’t really want to do. Even though you know that quitting will be good for your health and those around you in the long run, the pleasure of having a cigarette right now just wins.
Things that are offered right now are so much more powerful than what’s offered later. It’s a battle about NOW and LATER, a battle about time.
The woman in this story finally quit smoking after telling her friend that she had to help her donate a big sum of money to the Ku Klux Klan if she ever smoked again. The battle between feeling good with a cigarette right now vs. feeling happy and healthy in the long run had been changed. It was now the balance between how horrible she’d feel for donating to a cause strongly against her personal believes vs. how good she’d feel about the cigarette. It was a NOW vs NOW battle. The KKK horror made her quit smoking forever.
ME VS. ME
So with those two stories in mind, my question to me is:
Should I flip a coin, or simply quit smoking?
In other words: is what I need a little push to take a great job in an unfamiliar city? Or is the US my cigarettes? As long as I am in the US, I will keep running into awesome opportunities. Opportunities in the NOW that I shouldn’t say no to. Unfortunately, the opportunities of the intangible LATER in Norway are hard to predict, as long as I am here in the American NOW.
If I quit my cigarettes now, I might feel better in the long run in my home country, surrounded by family and friends in the city I truly love. Speaking the language I master. Where I can be the ‘me’ I know best. And where I don’t have these visa expiration dates to deal with, cause I actually belong there. Though if I quit my cigarettes – and actually should have been flipping a coin – will Oslo become my big, fat anticlimax?
I am not sure yet whether this is a coin flipping or cigarette quitting situation. And I definitely do not know where the Ku Klux Klan comes into the equation. Though I do know that the end of my New York City adventure will be this December â€“ and after 2.5 years here I don’t seem to have a problem letting go of that particular cigarette brand.
Cigarette photo by Raul Lieberwirth. Cause I do not actually smoke. Phew.
In January 2010 I attended a concert with Mathias TjÃ¸nn in Oslo. It was one of those excellent concerts that I even blogged about! And as it turned out, Mathias is a nice guy too. We both live in the same hood in Brooklyn now, and I have attended quite a few more shows with his indie folk band Racing Heart. The photo is from a concert at Sycamore this summer.
Mathias hasn’t been playing that many concerts lately, but that’s simply because he’s been busy recording an album; To Walk Beside That Ghost. You can hear the songs Emma, This Pretty Mistake and Photos at racingheartmusic.com or his bands’ Facebook page. I’ve been lucky to have the whole album on repeat for quite a while already. Beautiful vocal harmonies are with us throughout, with the ultimate highlight in the short, a cappella song Et Ã¸nske, et hÃ¥p. These days the quiet Soft Voices is my personal favorite. While the first single, Emma, is a great synth track, it might not be the typical Racing Heart song. Then again, it’s hard to give this album a specific label anyway. Indie folk seems to be what comes closest. Let’s just listen to it instead of labeling, shall we?
The wonderful news is that Norwegians now can listen as the album is finally out back home. And even better, Racing Heart is visiting Norway to play for lucky guests at Internasjonalen, Sound of Mu and Kvarteret in late February. Americans won’t get the pleasure of hearing the full-length album until April. But then again, you can probably catch the gentlemen that make up Racing Heart; Mathias TjÃ¸nn, Justin Keller and Kendall Eddy at various venues around Brooklyn in the future. I’ll let you know!
Friday workshop session with my awesome service design group. We spent most of the day in a very tiny, hot chat room at our SVA IxD studio to create a service design blueprint â€” in our case a.k.a. an object-oriented sticky-note journey.
We took a little break to see one of the highlights of the event User Research Friday that was hosted in our studio. As we were very busy with our stickies, the only speaker we got to see talking was Daniel Stillman. He talked about buttons, knobs, bicycles and washing machine design.
The SVA IxD events always means mingling, bubbly and some yummy snacks. That was an excellent warm-up to prepare me for life outside the studio cave. Studiomate Guri and I went to an gallery exhibition opening at the .NO gallery. Filled with interesting Norwegians, nice art and more bubbly in red plastic cups. Yes.
I took a train out to Bed-Stuy to attend a house party concert. Very intimate, very interesting. First tune heard from the apartment living room had the catchy chorus «If you’re high enough you can do whatever you want». The last one was about a beaver with a tail that was too fat, but that found a way to be cool through wearing some awesome sunglasses. Uhm yeah. In between we had several sing-a-long opportunities that the 25 guests in the living room did not hesitate to join in on.
The day ended after that house party. But a day is not complete without a brunch, so I will cheat a little and add my Saturday brunch with Yiannis the Greek and Mathias the Musician. We had a creative session where we talked about app development, travel and eggs benedictâ€”fueled by endless coffee refills in Carroll Gardens.
Life’s intense, but wonderful!
It’s the last year of grad school, and it’s time for thesis. Yet, I’m awfully quiet here. Fear not, I’m still making progress! I’m just documenting it elsewhere. As I have decided to do my thesis with my classmate, Carrie Stiens, we had to find a good place to share our thoughts. Leatherducking.com became our collaborative blog, and it’s filled with reflections and prototypes within the area of urban biking â€“ the theme of our thesis. Right now this is where we’re at in our process (with photos and sketches and all), and we also have a somewhat more formal thesis proposal.
As part of our research we just finished hosting a bike challenge, The King of Two Wheels, for our fellow studio mates. We did this to get insights into different bike personas, and the motivational aspects of getting someone to ride their bike for transportation. The story goes like this:
And here are a few behind the scenes blog posts:
Children’s curiosity makes them do lots of random things. According to one of my SVA IxD teachers, Chris Fahey, a child aspiring to become an interaction designer might lean towards one of these approaches in play:
1. Taking things apart to see how they work
2. Fixing things that are broken
3. Creating little worlds
One would hope for the parents’ sake that fascination for approach #1 would go hand in hand with #2. Personally, I believe I gravitated mostly towards the least destructive and most practical of the three options. However, even though my tolerance for fantasy as a genre is fairly low, I definitely remember designing some awesome worlds as a child…
I built LEGO worlds (but then again, who didn’t?). I drew some crazy treasure hunt maps for non-existent treasures in my neighborhood using the coordinate system, X marking the spot and all. I created some fairly advanced pop-up-book art with lots of small paper bits and pieces showing up behind windows and doors. I also knitted a tiny teddy bear, to then move on to knit his clothes, a backpack, and even made a little ABC book, full of illustrations from A to Ã… (yup, all 29 letters in the Norwegian alphabet included) so my teddy bear wouldn’t walk around carrying only air.
I typically always spent more time creating the world then playing within it, which might be why my barbie dolls, my Baby Born doll (the doll that could eat, pee and poop), and the Polly Pockets never really got the attention they possibly deserved. But it’s been a while since I immersed myself into world creation now. Though this CabReel concept video from last semester might come close with all its’ paper wonderfulness.
No matter, the exhibition at Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) called Otherwordly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities blew my mind when it comes to small worlds. The level of details in the exhibition suggests artists who must be blessed with a patience …ehm… out of this world(!). The photos taken of these small scale models reveal so much details and look so real that it’s hard to believe that the photo really is of the tiny model at all. These bad iPhone photos do not do the amazingly detailed art any justice:
If you’re in New York you need to go to see this live. GO! Before September 18th which is this Thursday. Or see a few of the artists explaining their art and motivation: Alan Wolfsen & Lori Nix. Thanks to lovely Petra (@prntscreen) for the recommendation!
I am hereby extremely excited about the upcoming semester and all the projects that potentially could turn into some mini-worlds where I can play God for a day. Muahahahaha.
Speechless. That’s what I am. The actions towards my home town, my country, my government, and towards innocent children are just so unreal. For me a Facebook status update about a horrible sound, possibly an explosion close to the Government building in Oslo was what startet my work day here in NYC. Then my day went on with some meetings, and otherwise constantly refreshing Facebook and Twitter to make sure my friends are OK, and of course following all Norwegian online newspapers, streaming news reports from NRK â€“ just waiting for the number of deaths to increase. Then another status update from my sister came along:
So. People on an island hiding in the bushes, and we should not call them. I was just – WHAT is she rambling about? But then again shooting innocent children at a summer camp is simply madness, so no wonder I couldn’t believe her message. But now all I see is love for the city and our country all around. And I wanted to capture that. So I did:
And btw, I am as far as I know NOT related to that maniac.
How do you build movements in the 21st century? The research for my thesis has begun, and I’m now halfway into Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. In the spirit of my thesis theme ‘collaborative consumption’, of course I’m borrowing this book from my local library that is somewhere behind those trees in the background. However, I have already felt the urge to underline and comment a bunch of stuff on the pages. Guessing the librarians would not be happy about that, so using my iPhone to take notes for now.
I definitely need to get more organized in my research, but then again, getting to know my new neighborhood, the lovely Prospect Park, changing my pale skin to a more proper color for the summer, are all high priorities for the weekends, and will unfortunately interfere a bit with my studying. Considering that I spend my work weeks this summer at Purpose, I’m hoping that will give me some valuable insights before next semester starts as well…
Purpose designs movements for social change, and works within areas like LGBT rights (Yay, same-sex marriage law in NY!), fighting obesity, trying to make the world a little bit greener, just and so on. Their focus is on mobilizing people online to take action for different causes. It’s great to be a part of the enthusiastic Purpose team, knowing that all our projects are meaningful and can potentially make a difference in the world.
Building a movement is no exact science, and whether or not something becomes as big as one would hope for is hard to predict. Right now the American Dream Movement (see RebuildTheDream.com), a response to the conservative Tea Party movement, is one to watch. Their arguments are clear and convincing â€“ for a Norwegian social-democrat, anyway. But will their strategy be able to mobilize the American democrats under one umbrella like the Obama campaign did? Watch highlights from Van Jones movement launch speech, read these articles (article I, II, III), and judge for yourself! Unfortunately, I’m afraid Sally Kohn at HyperVocal (article I) might be right in her analysis of the people this movement is trying to reach out to:
[T]he success of the American Dream Movement depends on the willingness of progressive organizations and leaders to glom onto Vanâ€™s message. And progressives, in general, arenâ€™t known for glomming on. Maybe itâ€™s because weâ€™re free thinking, anti-hierarchical types who like to create things ourselves. [...] Or maybe itâ€™s because weâ€™re overly analytical or even cynical, too busy dissecting any solution as imperfect to be enthusiastic about the good parts.
I got this rusty old bike last year to ride around NYC. Tried to be economical, but ended up kinda annoyed by this squeaky, heavy, rusty thing. Yes, I wanted a bike with a personality, but then again, getting from A to B was important too. So I decided to upgrade to a new, fancier bike.
But what to do with this old heavy thing? Most people would just lock it up somewhere and watch it go through a slow death, it seems. But I don’t like to throw garbage around like that. As a matter of fact, it’s not garbage. Yet. This bike will get you from A to B still. If you have some patience. Also, it’s hard enough to find bike parking in NYC, so I wouldn’t let my bike steal valuable pole space either. Sell it, then? Wouldn’t be worth the trouble.
Then I remembered what my thesis area of exploration is. Collaborative consumption. Ownership vs. access. Why not set my bike free for the public to use, and see where it goes? Granted, a small experiment that actually would lead to a bit more trouble than just selling it. But to not try the idea out would be a wasted opportunity, right?
The idea came to me the very day I was traveling back to Norway on vacation. This meant I could involve my Mom and her wonderful laminating machine in the project! OhCarolBike was born:
I don’t really know why OhCarolBike became the name, but I figured all riders could have this happy song in their head while riding:
And no project without an online presence. Inspired by the «Yes I am Precious»-bike, I decided to let the bike communicate to the world. But instead of letting various sensors tweet Carol’s story automatically, I want the users of the bike to tell the story. By using Twitter, users can tweet Carol’s story and her whereabouts using their own twitter account and writing on the format:
@ohcarolbike: [write the story from Carol's perspective]
If @TwitterUserX writes:
@ohcarolbike: I had a lovely ride in Prospect Park. Abandoned on Vanderbilt ave. That pizza from Amorina smells yummy!
Then @OhCarolBike writes:
I had a lovely ride in Prospect Park. Abandoned on Vanderbilt ave. That pizza from Amorina smells yummy! (@TwitterUserX)
This is done by using twitter search, hooking it up to Yahoo Pipes, doing some find and replace to change up the tweet (check this tutorial), then using TwitterFeed to feed the tweet into @OhCarolBike‘s twitter account. Unfortunately this has about a 2 hour delay right now. Looking into why that is.
In addition, @OhCarolBike will retweet whenever anyone is talking about her (#ohcarolbike) or to her (@ohcarolbike) by using the same procedure as above. This retweet is not delayed for some reason.
I just picked up my new, fancy bike today at Ride Brooklyn. They were very helpful with the final details for Carol as well- getting the neon orange flag antenna mounted on her so she’s visible from afar. Then Carol and my new Linus Dutchie said hello and goodbye, before I left Carol behind on Bergen street all alone. Hope someone will notice her, read her story on Twitter, and continue it by riding and writing about it.
Maybe it will inspire others to set their old bikes free as well? The idea of «Set your bike free»-kits definitely appeals to me (thanks, Tina!). But then again, it requires a bit of work and some bucks to get the bike ready for the public, so. I don’t know if the biocost for the average old, rusty bike owner might be a tad too high, compared to the efforts required to just leave the bike locked to that pole for all eternity…
Summer is upon us, and as most Norwegians, I am quite obsessed with getting enough of that treasured sun that hides from us all winter. In New York City, people don’t worry as much, but might rather complain when the heat is unbearable. However, while growing up in Oslo, I often traveled further south during summer to make sure I got a dose of that vitamin D.
For my final project in information visualization (taught by Nicholas Felton), I decided to visualize all my travels abroad from the day I was born. I didn’t leave Europe before coming to New York for grad school, so luckily all my travels fit nicely into a European map. But if I were to splash them all on the map at once, I don’t think it would be able to tell the story I wanted to tell with the data. You would see that I’m a fan of Italy, but it would get a bit too crowded to make sense of it all. That’s why I decided to create an animation.
Before I could do any coding, I needed to gather the data. I recorded how I traveled, for how long I stayed in each location, and I even added some notes to spice it up. To fill the 130 rows in this spreadsheet required a lot of work both for me and my family.
Then I could start experimenting in Processing to communicate the travel stories in the best way. I experimented with different line styles to illustrate different means of transportation, and used growing circles to illustrate how long I stayed in each location. I had to figure out how to fast forward during the «dull» periods* of traveling within Norway. I also added a dynamic list to display the latest locations visited. This is meant to also work as a key to understand the visualization better.
Here’s a snapshot, but if you want to join me on my journey of conquering European locations, you need to see it in action. Click the photo below to do so! (works best in Safari/Firefox)
*By not visualizing my traveling within Norway, I do not mean in any way that those vacations have not been as exciting as my travels abroad. There were just way too many of them to keep track! By limiting my travels to abroad travels, I’m pretty sure I have nailed them all down. Exceptions might be some trips to Sweden, as my parents have a cabin there.