Author Archive

October 25, 2011

Design with the Other 90% Exhibit

by Lily Antflick

Design with the Other 90%: CITIES presented by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum is currently on view at the United Nations.

I highly recommend checking it out as the exhibit presents innovative social and environmental design solutions to severe problems facing many poor and marginalized communities around the world. The exhibit displays the recent trend in the field of Design toward identifying urban global issues and alleviating them with the limited resources available.

A couple of case studies stood out pertaining to DIY practices, specifically, COOPA-ROCA which is an initiative in Rochina, Brazil, focused on activities with groups of women, generating a small production force aimed at developing decorative craftwork products by reviving traditional Brazilian craft techniques such as drawstring appliqué, crochet, knot work and patchwork. The Favela Painting project in Rio is also a unique DIY art project in which a Dutch Design Firm decided to brighten up a local slum by having community members paint it. The Dutch artist duo Haas&Hahn started developing the idea of creating community-driven art interventions in Brazil in 2006. Their efforts yielded two murals which were painted in Rio’s most notorious slum, in collaboration with local youth. The artworks received widespread coverage and have become points of pride and gratification both in the community and throughout Rio.

Check out the entire exhibit on view at the UN until January 9, 2012 (it’s free!)


October 17, 2011

Publishing Disruptions at Mobility Shifts

by Lily Antflick

This past Friday, I was pleased to attend the panel discussion entitled ‘Publishing Disruptions: Extra-Institutional Publishing Tools’ which was conducted as part of the Mobility Shifts Conference. The panel was moderated by Morgan Currie, of the Institute of Network Cultures and included, Sam Gould of Publication Studio, Amanda Hickman of Document Cloud, Michael Mandiberg of Floss Manuals and Simon Worthington from Mute Magazine.

Each member of the panel presented their individual domains and organizations which share similar philosophies in regard to open-access and publishing as a social practice.
The panel introduced multiple newly-invented platforms for authors who are interested in publishing outside of traditional academic infrastructures, demonstrating that the act publishing can also be seen as a critique of existing institutions and copyright licensing.

Michael Mandiberg discussed Floss Manuals, a collection of manuals about free and open source software, encouraging open-source publishing as a technical and social practice.
Mandiberg discusses Collaborative Futures, a book which he worked on that was created during a ‘Booksprint’ (where many contributors come together for a few days and collaborate on a book.) Floss Manuals has a ‘remix’ option where the public can actually change/add to a book once it is formed. Mandiberg sees the hard copy as an artifact of the digital version which is constantly changing. This problematizes the notion of the book as a fixed entity by encouraging constant feedback, editing and alterations. Here, the book can never really be seen as a finished product, but rather, a malleable object which the public can engage with and adapt.

Sam Gould discussed Publication Studio, a Portland-based laboratory for publication which prints and binds books on demand. The most pertinent message of Gould’s address was his explanation of how PS does so much more than merely the production of books, but more importantly is concerned with the creation of a public. Through a consortium of studios, commissions, artists, authors, etc., PS creates a space for public collaboration. Publication Studio thus offers an expanded notion of what publication can mean, book publishing here is a social act which agitates for dialogue and as a result, forms a public around it.

Both of these speakers’ initiatives complicate traditional academic infrastructures by introducing alternative modes of publishing and collaborative pedagogy. This is central to the DIY ethic which proposes the creation of a new discourse, fracturing authority and encouraging openness, public interaction and individual agency.

October 11, 2011

DIY OMG… Identifying the Motives Behind DIY Practices

by Lily Antflick

While surfing and tumbling the Internet, I came across one of my favorite blogs which featured an ad on the top of the screen with a bunch of DIY tutorials. It included photos explaining how to tie your own tie, knit your own sweater and more. It made me laugh.
I think it’s great that the world is embracing the whole DIY trend within the field of the arts, home repair, publishing, gastronomy etc. but I wonder about the motives which people have when undertaking such DIY activities. Is this just another cultural trend or are people embracing the DIY movement as a source of ecological resourcefulness and self-sufficiency?

In his book, “Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters”, author Bill Tancer reports that “How to” queries represent nearly 3% of all US search queries, making it the most common search question. The DIY movement owes its popularity to the accessibility of the Internet. Websites like Etsy have figured out a way to monetize this trend by encouraging people to make their own products and crafts and providing a platform for sales. The Internet serves as an ideal platform for individuals to learn how to ‘do it themselves’ and for amateur artists and creators to exhibit their work.

The DIY ethic promotes individuals to be self-reliant by completing tasks and creating objects that they would normally rely on others for. Due to the broad nature of the term, which includes everything from home improvement to creative endeavors, it is important to identify why people want to engage in DIY activities in the first place. Central to the DIY ethic is the empowerment of individuals and communities, encouraging the employment of alternative approaches when faced with bureaucratic or societal obstacles. Many of the initiatives which we have explored in class fall under this category and carry some sort of political charge or larger social benefit. However, it is questionable whether the DIY empowerment ethic is present when engaging in any DIY activity (specifically those arts & crafts related activities which I came across online) or whether it is often realized as more of an after-thought.
It seems that the latter is more often the case.

The Internet recently taught me how to knit. After several attempts, once I got the basic knit stitch down, I was rewarded with an article of clothing and a sense of accomplishment. This activity is more of a source of amusement than a political act. I don’t engage in such activities to defy or boycott mainstream clothing manufacturers, rather it is a hobby which intrinsically motivates me. My suspicion is that the majority of DIY activities that are so incredibly hyped-up today share similar intentions.

Whether we like it or not, ‘DIY’ has become a buzz word in contemporary vocabulary and as we so often hear the term repeated, it is important to note the motivations and intentions behind these practices to better understand the differing impetus for ‘doing it yourself’.

September 20, 2011

Can Character Be Taught?

by Lily Antflick
Dominic Randolph is the headmaster of Riverdale, one of New York City’s most prestigious private schools. In a recent New York Times article, Randolph labels standardized tests as a “patently unfair system” due to the fact that they evaluate students merely based on IQ and in effect, miss out on several crucial elements which when compiled, often make up a successful human being. He believes the essential missing element in education is the cultivation of character, an aspect which so many schools fail to build upon because they are so concerned with GPA and standardized modes of evaluation. After collaborating with psychologist, Martin Seligman and David Levin, the co-founder of the KIPP network of charter schools, Randolph settled on 24 character strengths common to all cultures and eras such as bravery, citizenship, fairness, humor, zest, social intelligence, gratitude. Strengths which have been commonly proved to provide a reliable path toward a life that is not only happy but also fulfilling.Neither Levin nor Dominic Randolph had any idea of how to transform these psychological ideas into a practical program. They called upon Angela Duckworth, a graduate student in Positive Psychology at UPenn. Duckworth’s research found that the individuals who were most accomplished often combined a passion for a single goal with a strong commitment to achieve that goal. She calls this distinct quality, “grit.” She developed the ‘Grit Scale’ along with a test to measure levels of grit, where individuals rate themselves on 12 questions ranging from “I finish whatever I begin” to “I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.” When tested in the real world, Duckworth found that it was highly predictive of success.Levin and Randolph asked Duckworth to use the new methods and tools she was developing to help them investigate the question of character at KIPP and Riverdale.
Levin and Randolph are now implementing these methods and tools to help promote character building in their schools. Their original list was eventually narrowed down to: zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity. From these traits, Levin and Randolph decided that students should not only receive a GPA but also a CPA, character point average.

What is occurring in character conversations and lessons are more about therapy than academic instruction or discipline. Specifically, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which involves using the conscious mind to understand and overcome unconscious fears and self-destructive habits. As the article states, “what kids need more than anything is a little hardship: some challenge, some deprivation that they can overcome, even if just to prove to themselves that they can.” Randolph explains how the problem with most Riverdale students is that they are immersed in an upper-middle class environment where they have a steady support system and will never really learn how to fail. He explains that, “the idea of building grit and building self-control is that you get that through failure…and in most highly academic environments in the United States, no one fails anything.”

When I read this article, I was struck with how progressive the idea of a CPA sounded and wondered why more schools don’t implement similar programs. Standardized tests measure a very singular portion of human intelligence and disregard the other multiple forms of intelligence which humans can encompass (interpersonal intelligence, musical intelligence, spatial intelligence etc.) Introducing character building programs into school curricula along with other academic subjects would provide a more balanced and well-rounded education. Plus, if Duckworth’s research proves correct, this type of character-building model will also result in more successful and virtuous students.
Surely, the KIPP character strategy still has some skeptics who wonder whether their methods are legitimate and raise questions such as, how does one define good character and wonder whether these traits can be taught in a classroom setting at all. Some parents may also take the CPA as a direct insult on their parenting styles.
My guess is that there are some universal human qualities which can in fact be translated into a classroom setting and reinforced to children, who will in turn gradually learn to value these traits and hopefully internalize these values and incorporate them into their own lives. This brings to mind Vygotsky’s notion of the ‘zone of proximal development’ and the influence of collaborative learning on one’s potential growth. It also echoes John Dewey’s conception of experience as resulting from an active process of trial and error. Most pertinent to our discussion on DIY educational practices, the character building program offers a unique and beneficial model for education, focusing not only on good grades but also on raising good people.

For more info and to see a copy of the KIPP Character Report Card, see here.

September 13, 2011

Bio: Lily Antflick

by Lily Antflick

Hi! I’m Lily.

I’m from Toronto, Canada and this is my third semester in the MA in Media Studies program at the New School.

I did my undergraduate degree at McGill University in Montreal. My background is in Art History. I’ve worked at several Canadian art galleries and also in film production at Radke Film Group and Soft Citizen in Toronto.

My focus in the program is Design but I am interested and open to a diverse array of fields and discourses, especially in regards to local and global DIY initiatives.

Most of my personal DIY projects are arts & crafts or food related. Some DIY activities that I enjoy include: creating origami cranes and pinwheels, inventing new recipes in the kitchen, thinking up unique interactive drawing games, drafting my own typography and painting gifts for friends. Lately, I have taken up knitting as my newest DIY hobby. Contrary to the New York dining norm, my most memorable evenings involve weekly cooking adventures with friends, where we experiment with new ingredients and veer from traditional recipes in the kitchen.

Experimenting with Beet Gnocchi

A birthday present that I made for a friend (recycled wooden frame and painted canvas)

This past summer, I worked at the Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam on the ‘Out of Ink’ Project, where I researched the changes occurring in the publishing world and the differences and implications of print vs. digital publishing. The initiative views publishing as more than just an avenue of communication but also as a way to challenge legal, technical and social standards embedded in intellectual property, scholarly communication, and notions of authorship. One of our motives in this project is to act as an organized facilitator of DIY publishing practices, to further professionalize them and provide a model for others.

I’m really excited about this class…I think we should all delve into as many DIY NY projects as possible this year.

DIY Candy Apples

September 12, 2011

DIY Public Art Project: Flaming Cactus

by Lily Antflick

If you’ve been around Astor Place lately, you have probably noticed the poles and street lights lined with bright, colorful cable ties. The cable ties are linked together, forming a circle around the circumference of the poles. What is left is a spikey and vibrant post which somewhat resembles a cactus, hence the name, “The Flaming Cactus Project”. These public displays force pedestrians to stop and look around and appreciate the burst of color arranged on these previously drab and boring public objects.

Flaming Cactus was debuted at FIGMENT 2011 in the Governors Island Sculpture Garden and was later recognized by NYC’s Department of Transportation who expanded the size of the project for its “Summer Streets” program. The project is the brain-child of Animus Arts Collective, who have also created public art pieces mostly from recycled and found objects. The collectives’ multiple projects dare to create an environment which instigates a dynamic relationship between the participant and the object and between the participants themselves.

Their project entitled “1,000 Pieces” was an evolving puzzle display on Governor’s Island which encouraged pedestrians to contribute to the art by adding and readjusting the wooden puzzle pieces, after drawing personal messages on them.

The Flaming Cactus Project represents the simplicity of creating something beautiful out of everyday objects and the sense of public satisfaction which follows. As the Animus Collective explains, “We wanted to show that making art doesn’t require a lot of resources, formal education, or even money.  Art and creativity are things we’re all capable of.”

12+ Flaming Cactuses will be on display around Astor Place for the month of August.