Weeknotes 9

Misty paranorama of trees in the Yarra Ranges

  1. The photo above is from a lovely hike we did with a visiting friend from the UK last weekend. It’s in the Yarra Ranges and is described here (although we did it the other way round). Unfortunately we were in a cloud for most of it so didn’t have much in the way of views, but the forest itself is quite something.

  2. I went to another great edition of Prototypes and Popcorn on Tuesday, where Jussi Pasenen and Reuben Stanton (co-founder of Paper Giant) talked about about the problems with human-centred design.

    I really like how Daniel Neville curates these events, which he explains like this:

    Whereas most design nights aim to be useful and aspirational, we hope to be reflective and interesting. We will never provide answers for how to be better at your job, but instead seek out the broader questions in our industry.

    Despite feeling like a bit of a fraud given that I’m not actually a designer, I’ve found the last three events really interesting and thought provoking.

    Jussi gave a talk version of an article he wrote in January. It’s really worth a read.

    He introduced me to a new word: anthropocentrism, which “regards humans as separate from and superior to nature and holds that human life has intrinsic value while other entities (including animals, plants, mineral resources, and so on) are resources that may justifiably be exploited for the benefit of humankind” (source).

    I’m increasingly seeing this denial of the intrinsic value of other beings (including beings that we in the dominant culture don’t generally see as alive, such as forests) as at the root of the environmental crises: it’s what allows us to participate in their destruction. The conversation around this is also often very anthropocentric: we talk about how many climate refugees there will be, or how our children will struggle to survive, or whatever. The implication is that if we could engineer our way around these problems, it would be fine to destroy the forest.

    Jussi has also written quite a few thoughtful and well-researched articles about climate breakdown which I found interesting. He’s in a similar place to me right now, having left a job to work out what’s next, and we’re going to have a coffee next week which I’m looking forward to.

    Reuben’s talk was also excellent and he presented some of the ethical tensions he encounters in agency land. An example was working on services within the ‘justice’ system: a human-centred lens might look at how we can make the experience of prisoners ‘better’, but that ignores the deeper questions of why those prisoners are there in the first place, and how we can avoid that. (A particular example was that a very high proportion of prisoners in Victoria have mental health problems, and so have surely been inadequately served by the health and social support services.)

  3. This is already quite long so I’ll just leave you with a quote:

    Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.

    Naval Ravikant