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Teaching in Information

The start of a very different semester. Plus Rob Haisfield on Roam and other things worth your attention.
Jorge ArangoJorge Arango
September 6, 2020

Welcome to INFORMA(C)TION, a biweekly newsletter about systems thinking, responsible design, information architecture, and other topics of interest to humans who create digital products and services.

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A short(er) note today. I’ve been swamped; the fall semester just started, and I’m co-teaching two studio courses in the interaction design program at CCA.

Preparing for the semester has been challenging. Meeting for three hours twice a week is feasible when you’re using a physical classroom. That won’t work on Zoom; long video calls aren’t conducive to good studio work. So, we have to restructure projects and materials created for “in-person” environments. Additionally, some of our students are in different timezones.

As a result, we’ve structured our courses to be mostly asynchronous. The question is: How do we effectively teach studio courses while minimizing real-time interactions with students? Studios rely on feedback. When it comes to critiques, asynchronous digital channels aren’t as rich as real-time interactions in physical spaces.

At least that’s my impression now, at the beginning of the semester. But perhaps there are also advantages to being asynchronous and digital. Our task is to discover those advantages and amplify them.

I’m confident that we can create valuable experiences under these circumstances. Early on in the pandemic, when everyone was adjusting to working from home, my schedule got packed with back-to-back Zoom meetings. We were trying to continue working as we did when we shared physical offices. It was exhausting and ineffective.

But now that we’re several months into this way of working, there are fewer meetings on my calendar. I’m working mostly asynchronously, and I’m more productive than ever. It’s taken time to discover the pacing and upsides to this way of working, but now they’re evident — and I frankly prefer this new modality. I expect something similar might happen with teaching. I’ll share with you what we learn.

Speaking of learning from a different field...

Are you feeling anxious about the future? This Tuesday (September 8) I’m facilitating a panel on what organizations of all types can learn about resilience from startups. I expect my friends Jonathan Hoffberg and Min Chen will have lots of valuable insights to share. The session kicks off at 10 am PDT; reserve your spot now.

Adapt to Thrive: Learning Resilience from Startups

Also worth your attention:

  • “All architecture is design, but not all design is architecture.” A great Twitter thread by Grady Booch about the architecture of software systems. (Many of his points also apply to the architecture of UX.)
  • “Understanding the key properties of complex systems can help us clarify and deal with many new and existing global challenges, from pandemics to poverty and ecological collapse.” How understanding complex systems can help us manage complexity.
  • “Seams aren’t just connection points, they are the space where the connections are made. Not every connection needs a seam, but, where seams exist, meaning, memory, and ‘what matters’ can as well.” Brian Dell explores our world’s vanishing seams.
  • “The taste for this kind of mood — slow, quiet, meditative — used to be marginal but now, I’m happy to say, there are quite a lot of people at that margin. To me that signifies the emergence of a new type of mind, a type of mind we need in this new type of world.” Brian Eno in an interview about Mixing Colours, his new(ish) album with his brother Roger. (This music has been a salve for me in this stressful year.)
  • “How to enable not users but adaptors? How can people move from using a product, to understanding how it hangs together and making their own changes? How do you design products with, metaphorically, screws not nails?” Matt Webb revisits Dan Hill’s work on Adaptive Design.
  • From my blog: One of the hardest things about critiquing a product is putting aside our "expert" understanding of how it works.
  • A16Z on the opportunities inherent in unbundling the verticals latent in platforms.
  • I’m not thrilled about some recent changes to WordPress, the CMS that hosts my websites. A recent post by Ev Williams has me considering a possible change.
  • How do you choose the right note-taking app? It depends on whether you’re an architect, a gardener, or a librarian. (h/t Benjamin Schneider)
  • Ask Nature, a repository of natural strategies for solving complex problems — “it’s time to begin asking the rest of our complex planetary family how to build a more resilient, regenerative, and beautiful world.” (Via Recomendo, a great weekly newsletter from the folks at Cool Tools.)
The Informed Life Episode 43: Rob Haisfield on Roam

Episode 43 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with behavioral product strategy and gamification consultant Rob Haisfield. Our discussion focused on how Rob uses Roam, “a note-taking tool for networked thought.” He's an expert, and I was excited to learn about how Roam has helped his work. If you were intrigued by my notes on digital gardening in the previous newsletter, you’ll definitely want to tune in.

The Informed Life Episode 43: Rob Haisfield on Roam

Thanks for reading!

-- Jorge

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Jorge Arango
Boot Studio LLC
P.O. Box 29002
Oakland, CA 94604

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