Lee Seungho

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Paris, 23-28 December 2012

Homage to Midnight in Paris (2011) by Woody Allen

All footage including sound filmed with Sony RX100. Sincere thanks to the street musician in front of RMN Grand Palais.

Epilogue: Pixelache micro-residency on Food-Info-Activism

Pixelache My contribution was quite an implicit one, suggesting ideas to Pixelache and Ruoan Tulevaisuus for a novel, down-to-earth, participatory food festival and its name – ‘Foodycle’ – presenting some ideas forward and making suggestion to put together a comprehensive plan for the event. All in all, I am relieved to see some concrete outcome I could contribute during my micro-residency, which I think was genius of Andrew, as he invited me as the micro-residency and arranged the meeting with Ruoan Tulevaisuus one day before my week ended.

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Pixelache micro-residency

Suvilahti, where Pixelache as well as the coal-power plant is located. I am invited to work with Andrew as a micro-resident of Pixelache |ˈpɪks(ə)leɪk| for the week as they are working on a series of event on Food-Info-Activism for September 2013. Pixelache is an organically developing, transdisciplinary platform for experimental art, design, research and activism in Helsinki, Finland. Organised by non-profit association Piknik Frequency Ry, it consists of an annual festival in Helsinki, as well as experimental art-science and technology productions, an educational programme called Pixelversity, residencies and other activities since 2002.

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My favourite This American Life episodes

logo-v5This American Life (TAL) is a podcast radio show I started listening to since 2010 when I got back from Cambodia. Bryan sent me a link as he thought the episode being on NGOs in Haiti have some good stuff relevant to my studio work.

So far, I think I have probably listened to close to 100 episodes from TAL, and it is a mixture of fun and deep thoughts. Though I do not agree with every detail of the show, for example, how they describe Germany in their episode on Eurozone crisis, the show is really fun and often make me learn. Here’s what I would recommend for TAL beginners, which is also for me to revisit later.

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Watching Lake Erie

Lake Erie from near the Buffalo city hall, NY

I had a friend whom I had been very grateful to for often bringing me to the shores of Han river. Perhaps we didn’t go to see the river too many times. It may be just my gratefulness exaggerating the memory. He drove his car whenever I am or he is at a time of grief or disappointment. We always went there at a very late night time, sat, and talked about this and that drinking coffee from cans or so. I did enjoy the great company and the talks we had, however, I think I did not really appreciated being at the shore and watching the river although I did not tell him because I did not want to devalue his effort. Maybe once or twice, but I do not remember any particular moment in which I felt being there was consoling.

My wife and I are spending our summer in Buffalo, New York, where my brother-in-law and sister-in-law live and we happened to be near the city hall and approached to the shore of Lake Erie. The sun was very strong but the wind towards us was equally strong. It wasn’t hot although the temperature was high enough for me to sweat thanks to the wind. The very particular feeling of the strong sun, the warm, strong wind and the noise made by the wind breaking at my ears was consoling.

Few years back, I went on a packed trip on an island in Thailand that offered some snorkeling few kilometers from the beach, some fried rice cooked onboard by the captain, and a visit to a shark farm. There were some ten people I did not know, and the motored boat was a dated boxy, wooden boat that probably no one would use for fishing. On our way back to the beach from the shark farm, I saw a crew climbing up the ladder to the roof of the boat and take a nap. So did I. I was reminded of the mild sunlight and the nap on the shaky boat rooftop watching Lake Erie with the dose of warmth.

Food for birds

Winter is harsh in Finland, especially from January through March. It’s harsh not only for us but also for birds: where do they find food when it snows as high as our knees? One thing you can do is buy and hang those grain balls available from supermarket. We finally got to do it for the birds we love to watch around after few years of living in Finland.

Thoughts on Foxconn

Nike-sweatshops The blame on Foxconn and Apple has been a hot potato on social network after the suicides were reported. Many blame Apple for their loose auditing and some blame themselves for buying Apple products. Unfortunately it’s not that simple, and fortunately there is little something we can do.

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Beyond Criticism

criticism-reality

Why Critical Design and conventional design are not be not the two unconnected, but parts of a continuum

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Ignorance and complicity-lessons from Earthlings

Image courtesy: Earthlings.com

As I am doing my masters thesis work on beef in Finland, I have been turning my head to the issues around animal and food, and have come to watch a 2005 documentary film, Earthlings. By watching it, I have realized how ignorant and complicit I have been of animal rights. Unlike Food Inc and Fastfood Nation, Earthlings more focuses on how animals can feel as much pain as we mankind do, and how the way we treat animals draw parallels between racism, sexism, and speciesism.

As long as there are slaughterhouses … there will be battlefields. –Leo Tolstoy

With footage obtained through the use of hidden cameras to chronicle the day-to-day practices, the film urges the viewers to make connection and take actions. Covering various places where animals are undergoing agony, the film touches five most prevalent ways animals have come to serve mankind: Pet, Food, Leather and fur, Entertainment, Science, none of which, I must say, can be a good excuse to torture other earthlings after watching the film.

I did not know that milk cow dies in four years whereas normally they can live 20 years or so, nor did I know that my leather shoes probably have caused a cow in india a tremendous agony none of us mankind would take for himself/herself. A poet once said, “Pain is a sensation tricked by the distance. That’s why a thorn under one’s fingernail hurts more than the disaster in the other continent”. I can’t agree more.

The change should occur now, and it’s not only about animal right. We do not see, living in the city, what it takes to make our foodstuff and products and how they will effect us in the long term, but the consequences are obvious.

Ironically we only see mankind’s complete disrespect for these non-human providers. Without a doubt, this must be what it is to bite the hand that feeds us. In fact, we have actually stomped and spit on it. Now we are faced with the inevitable aftermath. This is evident in health reports due to our over-excessive consumption of animals. Cancer, heart disease, Osteoporosis, strokes, kidney stones, Anemia, diabetes and more. Even our food has now been effaced, and at its very source. With antibiotics used to promote weight gain in animals–who can’t gain under the stressful, overcrowded living conditions in factory farms–with the over-use of pesticides and insecticides, or artificial hormones, designed to increase milk production, litter size and frequency with artificial colors, herbicides, larvicides, synthetic fertilizer, tranquilizers, growth and appetite stimulants, it’s no wonder that Mad Cow Disease, Foot and Mouth disease, Pfiesteria, and a host of other animal related abnormalities have been unleashed on the human public. –from Earthlings

Nation Earth has agreed to stream Earthlings online for free as a part of their effort to spread awareness, and the YouTube embedment below is one of them with subtitles in many languages. I know many of you have watched this already, I know that this will make many of you uncomfortable, but if you haven’t and if you are brave enough to face the reality, you should give it a try.

I had had a few choices for my thesis topic: beef, waste management, energy saving et cetera. I chose beef cause I thought I would be learning the most, which I think I am. From the beginning, however, I have deliberately chosen to exclude animal right from the discourse as it can easily be not about the rationale but feelings. Now, I am confused, but more motivated than before.

What (the heck) is design?

Design is everywhere nowadays. Every nation–or even some cities–runs design organization of some sort, and there are ever-more design awards, festivals, and fairs around the world.

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What is allowed, and what is not?

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I met Teemu Mäki at Design Factory in September 2009 while he was running a seminar on the topic “What are we allowed to do in the name of art and why?”. As also a part of his doctoral dissertation, the subject strives to discuss on the function of art, the reason being they need to be analyzed in societies where art and artists are supported by the tax payers one way or the other.

He categorized the function of art into some eight categories, one of those I now remember is escapism: such as block-buster movies that offer distraction and relief from unpleasant realities or engaging in fantasy. Art can also help us be more empathic to others by emotionally training us with stories of others or of fiction. The most interesting of the few he argued to me was to ask (good and/or right) questions.

‘Person in a ditch measuring 300 x 500 x 300 cm’, Image courtesy: www.santiago-sierra.com

Mäki presented us a piece of Santiago Sierra in which Sierra put a homeless person in a ditch between Kiasma contemporary art museum and the Finnish parliament. A homeless person was to stay for two weeks, for four hours a day, being paid 50 Finnish marks, some € 4 per hour. We were asked to discuss in groups and present what kind of questions the artist wanted ask.

While we were discussing in our group, I have learned from a teammate that he is the killing-cat-artist, who videotaped himself killing a cat and then masturbating on the dead animal, and he is not the only one who killed an animal in the name of art. There was even a Costa Rican artist who captured and then exhibited an underfed street dog for a gallery project, in which the dog was chained to the wall until its death of starvation in captivity. During the Q & A session, I asked Mäki about his project: how he felt killing the cat, and whether he had any legal issues. If I don’t remember wrong, he said ‘I did not like the feeling, but I thought it was right to do it.’, and that he was convicted of breaking the law and fined the Euro-equivalent of roughly few hundred for failing to kill the cat professionally meaning in certain seconds.

I thought both works certainly asked difficult questions: why Sierra chose to dig a ditch between the art museum and parliament not elsewhere, why he chose to put the homeless person in it not others; why would a homeless person volunteer to sit in the deep ditch being exposed to the visitors; why the homeless person has become homeless; why we were sitting there listening to Mäki about these stuff; why we are conducting further studies in masters level; why we are angry to Mäki for killing a cat; why it is okay to kill a cat or any animal if one does it professionally; why he chose to kill a ‘cat’, not a dog; why we are not angry to ourselves eating beef, and pork, which cause someone else kill millions of cows and pigs everyday; why we deliberately call beef beef not cow-meat, and named pork pork not pig-meat; why we are more angry to those artists than to people who abandon animals; whether cows and pigs are lesser animals than cats.

These questions are coming back to me every once in a while urging me to think what I am allowed to do and what is not as a person and a designer, which is all but painful, however obviously so worth thinking about. I am deeply grateful to Mäki, and the organizer of the seminar. If you’re too shocked or are not with me, here’s a well written post about Mäki, his work, and the likes, before you make comments on a poor post as mine.

Feels good (or bad).

Ready to go

I sold an iPod JBL speaker dock via Huuto.net to someone who lives in Naantali, yes, the Moomi‘s home town. The reason I feel good is hardly because I made little money, but it will be used by someone for a little longer. Technically this JBL iPod dock is not mine. My ex-flatmate left it behind at my old apartment on Fredrikinkatu (Fredrik’s Street) when she moved out abruptly. When I asked if she wants me to bring this over to her new apartment, she said no because she thought it was out of order. As it was bought in the US I had a hunch that it was only the adapter not working not the actual dock and I could revive it by replacing the power adapter.

One years and two movings later, I happened to find a universal adapter at an electronics store, and got it for € 39 with a promise that I could get it refunded within a month for any reason. Brought it home, hooked it with JBL, and it worked perfectly. Got it refunded, and went to Valtteri, one of the largest flee market in Helsinki. Three visits and 10 minutes of bargain later, I could get an old IBM power adapter for € 15. The seller did not want to sell it cheaper because he could easily sell it for more as laptop owners are ready to pay more. I couldn’t find anything from cheaper and lower voltage adapters commonly used for micro electronics.

Ready to go

Later I realized that the remote was missing. I visited my old apartment where no my ex-flatmates live any longer, and found the remote. It doesn’t work, which my ex-flatmate also thought out of order but I was sure that it was again just the battery. I bought a new one for € 3, then everything works perfect. I put it on Huuto with a great help of one of my best friends Masaich, because I do not speak as fluent Finnish as to handle it alone myself. After three trials on Huuto, I sold it for € 30 including the poatage which was €8.50 to Naantali. Taken all thing into consideration, I made € 3.50. Yeah, three and a half Euros.

In the end it ain’t that bad. I have found really lovely porcelain for daily fruits, a wind breaker and useful 2nd hand tools during my visits to Valtteri. What is more I have got to learn the problems of too many standards. Not only plugs and input voltages are different, but also are the plugs–input plugs vary from country to country, while output voltages and power consulption greatly vary and there are at least as many as 12 different DC plugs which you connect from the adapter to the electronics. Even worse, some of the manufacturers use two or three different types.

The dock and the remote.

Planned obsolescence. Is your charger broken, you won’t be able to use your product again unless you are ready to pay for an expensive universal power adapter, let alone the possibility that you won’t be able to use your charger for another electronics. It’s not that I am saying everything should use the same standard which is of course impossible will diminish evolution and efficiency of the individual products even if possible, but we can at least reduce the number of kinds, by which we can also reduce gigantic amount of e-waste in theory. Yeah, I know that the bigger problem is the globalization and too cheap products, but still.

Then what about Apple and its authorized accessory makers ? My iPhone 3Gs doesn’t get charged with most of docks that were released only three years ago. Newer iPhones in coming years will probably not be compatible with the docks you buy today. You’ll throw it away in a few years because it doesn’t play music from your new phone. What a scary idea–especially because most of these problems can be solved by simple firmware upgrade and a little more considerate attitude of hardware manufacturers to lengthen the obsolescence cycle of cables, which is why I am so happy that I could sell the old JBL dock to a guy in Moomi’s home town. Stay strong with legacy iPod. Please.

Huuto.net page

Huom! Jääkärinkatu

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I have found this flag poll this evening coming home from supermarket. As you can see the poll is coming off from the holder, and it looked dangerous to me as there are cars right below it, and more importantly there are people walking by. I called the maintenence company, Kotikadun Kiinteistöpalvelu Oy, and the guy doesn’t speak English, nor do I speak good Finnish, and therefore I ask an old lady to call them on my behalf and she does. She says the guys said that it’s not their fault, but the snow cleaning company did it two months ago, and although they have been getting claims from this building’s tenants–FYI, I do not live in this building–they have no intention to fix it.

The flag poll

Close-up, does this look dangerous only to me?

Sounds terrible, and I call the police, and I realize that I have the old number–10022, and the machine do not redirect me automatically to 112, but inform that the number has changed to 112 and hang up on me. I become more frustrated, call 112 and tell the police that the poll looks dangerous, the police tells me that I have to call the maintenance company, I tell her that the company doesn’t give a shXX and ask her to force the company to do it or do something about this poll, then she redirect me to the Central Police which I do not know what it is, and they don’t answer the phone for five minutes. I think they will realize that this is their responsibility when somebody will actually be hit by the poll.

The phone number of the maintenance company.

Update: I went down to the fitness club on the same street, the clerk agreed with me and took out a ladder, and we went to fix the problem. The ladder is not nearly tall enough, and the poll is really really heavy so no ordinary people with ordinary ladder can do this. The clerk says she will call the firestation. No change yet, as of 23:46 April 20, 2011. It’s quite windy nowadays, and I am worried.

Update II: Now, after few weeks, the poll is back to where it is supposed to be. I guess nobody got hurted as I have not seen any of that on newspaper. Thank god.

Brand Gap

Image courtesy: Peachpit Press–peachpit.com

Image courtesy: Peachpit Press - peachpit.com

In the world of so much information and so little time, branding is not a mere marketing tool but probably the only and the most efficient way of communication: to tell what and why an organization does for whom and which is relevant not only to corporates but also to government, and even NGOs. Brand Gap is a small book with few pages and large font that gives the secret recipe to succeed in branding bridging between logic and magic a.k.a. strategy and design. Marty Neumeier, the author with several decades of experience in branding, very quickly and briefly touches every aspects of branding to help the reader understand what branding is all about–what brand is and is not, why branding is so important, and how to be good at it.

Neumeier offers a framework for better-branding: Differenciation – Collaboration – Innovation – Validation – Cultivation. By Differentiation he means focus, focus, and even more focus. he claims a brand should redefine its category if it is not the market leader or the 2nd player. Collaboration is about getting the best team. The author takes Hollywood as the best example of the collaboration–a village of different talents who work together for the best and disperse right after the show-best for each other. The model shall vary, however, for each brand as all brands have different genes and environment. Innovation means the gut to be different giving clear benefit to the customers from strategy through execution because execution is where the rubber meets the road. In other words, creativity is what gives brands their traction in the marketplace. Validation is about test, test, and more test as we do in design field (or at least we should). Good idea doesn’t always validate, so tests in the real context in the only-and the most efficient way. Finally, cultivation is about cloning the gene of brand to all the personnels of the brand as brand is like person-I eat noodle today and rice tomorrow, but I am me, aren’t I? Since keeping the track of all the people in an organization is simply not possible, the book suggests to get all the staff identical compasses.

Last, but not the least, Neumeier emphasize throughout the book that branding is about bridging left and right–strategy and creative, logic and magic, marketers and designers. For this, he claims each organization should have a CBO-Cheif Branding Officer who forms a human bridge between aforementioned elements. I find this book rather handy as it walks the reader through the essence of branding while touching many details of actual work. I believe, however, innovation should take place in every step of the framework he offered because methods of differentiation, validation and cultivation are to be innovative at the end of the day-I know he probably meant it as well.

Dicover more slideson SlideShare

Nudge

Image courtesy: Yale Press - yalepress.yale.edu

The book, Nudge, talks about why people often make wrong choices, and how we can help make better choice by understanding ‘human’ and creating carefully planned ‘choice architecture’. The fundamental idea of welfare in capitalism has been to create as many options for choices as possible so that homo economicus(econs)1 can choose what best-fits their interest. The book claims, however, we humans unlike econs make wrong choices very often for many different reasons: delay of consequences, complexity of choices, social aspect and so on. For example one picks up another muffin not seeing the consequences today as well as being social with his corpulent family members and therefore the chance to become obese is higher when one’s family members are of obesity. Shockingly the chance of teenager pregnancy appeared higher when she has pregnant friends around in a research for the U.K.

Therefore the author advices us work on ‘choice architecture’ keeping ‘humans’ in mind. According to the given example in Nudge the nutritionist could increase or decrease up to 50 per cent of consumption of certain item in the school cafeteria by simply changing the order and the placement of food products.

I am now half way through the book and looking forward to more examples of application because ‘choice architecture’ is what we designers are doing pretty much every single day in our studios when creating posters, mobile phones, TV sets, software, furniture, whatsoever. We design products to make it more desirable, more useful based in human heuristics. We try to create things that are simpler and better for ‘human’ though many of our works are more commercial. At least many of us designers know that humans are not econs, or I think we should know.

In my opinion, Nudge gives us designers a hope that we can also make people better off by working in public and governmental sectors rather than helping only corporates excavate more, produce more, sell more, and dump more as we have been doing in the last century.

1. Homo economicus or Economic human is the concept in some economic theories of humans as rational and narrowly self-interested actors who have the ability to make judgments towards their subjectively defined ends.

A City in Crisis: Part II

Things taken for granted at home were not easily achievable here: clean water, sanitation, sewage management, waste management and education, just to name a few

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A City in Crisis: Part I

Floating village, a vernacular principle in Cambodia where the rainy season continues for six months.

My studies in Aalto University have taken me to Cambodia, where Aalto University’s City in Crisis course is expanding the design discourse to

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