#4 Integrated Design Processes

1. I grew up in a very artistic household. Both my parents are artists: my mother a potter and painter, and my dad a woodworker and draftsman. Throughout my childhood, I learned a lot about design from analyzing their very different processes. My mother, when throwing on the pottery wheel, lets her practiced hands form the clay. Each pot is different, and she’s ok with the subtle differences. In the process of glazing and firing, there is little control over the result. Unruly factors such as the temperature of the kiln and humidity in the air can drastically change the outcome. She also has training in studio art and has a very loose and gestural style. She is not concerned with the details so much as she is concerned with the overall emotion, impression, and form. My dad on the other hand, is almost neurotic in his approach. As a draftsman, he worked designing guitars. His process is similar to that of an architect, with acute attention to the mathematical details. In his personal art, he is a pointillist. He creates large drawings with pen on paper solely out of dots. I love to watch him start from a single dot and grow forms into intricate, highly detailed designs. Through these influences, I’ve grown my own design style. I have appreciation for detail, but understand that sometimes it is important to take a step back to remember the loose form: the bigger picture. From my mom, I know that it is important to be gestural, and to throw ideas out there with the knowledge that they might not work out. In the context of this project, I think it is especially important to draw inspiration from real people. Hearing real stories is imperative to telling a story that is authentic and powerful. With this in mind, attention to detail as well as allowing for adaptability is how I will proceed with the process.

2. As our research progresses, I understand fully that there is no single answer to the problem of motherhood mortality. There is nothing that can be engineered that will solve every aspect of the multifaceted problem. We have a unique opportunity as filmmakers to tell a story, to inspire, and to educate. While I won’t argue that one film will make everything better, we do have the opportunity to spark a conversation that might result in change.

3. Our project will directly engage with communities, so it is very important that we approach these people’s stories ethically. As documentarians, we have a responsibility to protect their vulnerabilities and respect their individual privacies. Building relationships is essential in this project. My personal philosophy when working with communities is to have a shared vulnerability to make the relationship respectful and mutual. Awareness of your interviewee’s vulnerability also makes them feel more comfortable in sharing.

Week 4

Give three examples of how you can use nature as a model / mentor / measure for your own designs (and life).
1. Becoming a better listener: When forming relationships with those around me, it is important to know how to listen. This is also true for my work as a documentarian. From nature, we can learn to listen and learn to unconventional knowledge. Trees, for example, have complex systems of communication. They transfer information through chemical signals to warn of fires and blights. They also transfer nutrients through roots underground. Understanding alternative ways of communication is important to my work and life. By listening to nature, we can learn a lot more than we think.

2. Understanding connections in order to develop synthesis skills: In my life and work, synthesis has been very important. I’m drawn to unusual connections and excited by unexpected similarities. In nature, everything is interconnected. By studying and understanding the less obvious relationships in nature, I can train my mind to be more attuned to connections in research.

3. Nature as a superior being: As a human race, we generally feel that we are the most intelligent beings on Earth. However, nature has been solving our problems for thousands of years. Acknowledging nature as knowing more than we do can open us up to new ways of problem solving and development. Personally, a heightened awareness of nature as “knowing best” can humble me and open my mind to accepting different world views and ways of thinking.

Pick one of Life’s Principles. Explain how you might apply it to your work and life (could be unrelated to your GSIF projects).

Leverage Interdependence: The Leveraging Interdependence principle is relevant to both my project and my personal life. In reaching my personal goals, having a support system of people to work alongside with is very helpful. In my research team right now, we help motivate each other to do well. In my project, empowering women works the same way. When women start to empower each other through example, the effect can snowball and result in a larger social change.

How do you envision integrating the Cradle to Cradle Design concept into your project (and life)? Give one compelling example.

There is a strong connection between women’s health and environmental health. We feminize the environment through terms such as “Mother Earth” because both human and planetary mothers provide life and sustenance. My project has the opportunity to create cultural change and emphasize the importance of maternal health. Because abuse of land and abuse of women are paralleled, my project can have an impact on mindset for both mother figures. The cradle to cradle design concept takes into account the entire life cycle of the product and emphasizes renewability. I believe that through empowering women and changing the mindset around women’s health, we can start a cycle of improving the lives of mothers (both human and natural).

Give three examples of something very interesting you learned from a friend that was a completely alien concept to you.

1. I became close friends with a student from India, who told me he wanted to have an arranged marriage. This was not a new concept to me, but I never knew that it was desirable. He explained his reasons and it forced me to view love and marriage in a different way. I ‘m thankful for opportunities like this that make me challenge my beliefs and make me question whether my beliefs are “best.”

2. A friend of mine sees no problem with a world where every living thing is engineered by humans. For me, biodiversity is incredibly important. Hearing her perspective didn’t change my mind on the importance of diversity of life and species, but imagining other perspectives was interesting. What I previously viewed as “unnatural” she showed me was actually natural, for humans are nature too – a fact that we often forget as a result of the increasing divide between human and nonhuman nature.

3. My sister’s boyfriend’s family opens all of their Christmas presents the day before Christmas. It was alien to him that we opened them on Christmas and alien to us that he didn’t. This shows how stuck we get to our traditions.

Week 3

I am part of the Safe Motherhood Documentary project, and the first stakeholder that comes to mind is the mothers themselves. The women in Sierra Leone are the subjects of the story, and ethically, we must be very aware of their privacy. It is important to respect the lives and experiences of those being filmed. In Sierra Leone, women keep pregnancies secret. It is a cultural norm to be very low-key, so we must keep this in mind when telling their stories. Another stakeholder is the TBAs (traditional birth assistants). TBAs are key players in the narrative because of their intimate relationship with the mothers. They have first-hand experience dealing with maternal mortality, and have an understanding of the culture surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. TBAs have a responsibility to the mothers, so it is important to keep in mind the social culture and how us interacting with both parties can affect this. In addition to mothers and TBAs, families are important people to know. In order to understand the relationship between women and men, children and parents, etc., we will have to spend time observing the family structure. Marital structure as well as gender roles in the household are interesting aspects that have an influence on maternal mortality. I also think it is vital for our team to speak to workers in the health sector in the USA as well as Sierra Leone. By speaking to both, we can compare and contrast the two and get a better understanding of cultural and institutional differences. US health professionals are more accessible at the moment, and may be able to share knowledge on the causes of maternal mortality. Health professionals in Sierra Leone on the other hand are able to give insights into the resources available to women there. I am interested to learn about the ways in which hospitals are trying to encourage women to give birth there instead of with a TBA. I am also curious to hear their perspective on the reasons women do not trust hospitals. Lastly, a very integral stakeholder in our project is experts in the field. Talking to experts in health, women and gender studies, africana studies, and other fields can help us learn more. The internet is great for research, but when dealing with complex questions of culture, it is sometimes better to get information from experts that have spent time in Sierra Leone, or the region. We have already spoken to Bruce Whitehouse, and he was an amazing resource. I’m looking forward to reaching out to more professionals and learning about their perspectives.

Throughout the semester, I will gain credibility through knowledge. As our research continues, the team will learn more about the culture, issues, and people, and subsequently become more credible in telling the story. I am also looking forward to speaking with people in Sierra Leone as well as health workers in the US. By forming these relationships, I can become a more credible figure. Earning their trust is very important to the ethics of storytelling and film.

GSIF Week 1

During a meeting last fall, Professor Kramp brought the Safe Motherhood project to my attention. GSIF immediately sparked my interest due to its collaborative and creative nature. The very next day, another one of my professors reached out to me recommending the project. I have to attribute some of the motivation for enrolling in this course to those two professors who educated me on this opportunity me and supported me along the way. This being said, I have never seen a project that fits my interests so perfectly before. I am studying english, documentary film, and sustainable development. I landed on that combination of majors due to a passion for storytelling and an interest in how art functions in combatting some of the world’s most pressing issues. During a class on the literature of environmental crises I developed a strong interest in maternal health and the ways that motherhood are connected to environmental and social issues. I am beyond excited to dive into the Safe Motherhood project and help tell the stories of women in Sierra Leone. 

GSIF is a good step in furthering my academic and post-grad goals. It will help me improve my teamwork skills, organization, and responsibility. I think I will gain a lot of self motivation through this, due to the fact that I’m in Australia. Being abroad makes it difficult to keep up with work, but I think it’ll be a good experience scheduling my own time. For my film studies, I’m excited to get more hands on production experience and have a finished film to diversify my portfolio. I think working in Sierra Leone will help teach me about the ethics surrounding documentary production. Learning to respect the lives and stories of those we are documenting is very important to the process and I’m interested to begin working on this. As an english student, I will learn communication, writing, research, and storytelling skills. I am looking forward to working with faculty and further developing passions for these issues. Finally as an SDEV student, this project will give me hands-on access to field work where the problems we learn about in class are really happening. Through the Safe Motherhood project, I will be able to combine all of my interests and explore the impacts that film has on educating and combatting maternal health. 

The question posed about access to eyeglasses in developing countries reminds me of some of the entrepreneurial ventures established to provide access to other amenities. There are some companies that provide laptops to students in developing countries. Also, I think of Tom’s business model where for every pair of shoes bought, a pair gets sent to children across Africa. A system like this helps provide goods to those in need while providing the consumer in the US a product as well. People are more likely to buy a product than donate money. Studies also show that people are more likely to buy a product when they know it is helping a bigger cause. This is one of the reasons why Toms became so popular, and they ended up helping a lot of people in developing countries. A business model like that for eyeglasses could work well. After reading about the issue a bit, I noticed there are a few articles bringing this issue to light as a philanthropy opportunity. Other brands are expanding into Africa hopping to establish themselves there and one day make a profit. Expansion into these developing countries can help solve the issue and be mutually beneficial.