Synthesize, Research, Repeat

October 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

I see.

Since we last spoke I’ve been continuing my research using the methods I described earlier. Occasionally I’ll pull out my note cards and sort them, looking for key facts and connections in effort to make sense of sensemake the mass amount of information I’ve been going through. I was able to build a nice visual that helped me better comprehend the connections and engage others in conversations about my topics – local government, citizens, communication, visualizations, and participation.

The image above represents one corner of my synthesized visualization. Click here to view the full visual.


Postcard from Researchburg

October 5, 2010 § Leave a comment


I’ve been traveling through the vast land of thesis research, reading books and articles the past week and am filtering through them, building my knowledge and stack of key fact cards. In the past week I’ve studied collaborative research methods, citizen participation in government, sense-making, and visualizations. The previous week I visited local government innovation and positive deviance.

After deliberation I’ve narrowed my focus to local government viewed through the design lens of visual sense-making.  After working as a designer for five years at a non-profit organization serving local government needs, I’ve developed an interest in the inputs, processes and outcomes of local governments.  In addition to the books and journals I’ve collected I come across insightful stories existing only on the web. Here is an interesting short article, a longer blog, and a website with beautiful and informative images I came across recently:

Graphing the Stimulus

Transparency is Not Enough (Web2.0 + government)

Information is Beautiful

My plans are to sort through my latest round of gathered info and develop a synthesis of the data. After that I plan to visualize and also write research questions. I’m feeling good about where this is trip is headed.

See you soon,


Research Process

September 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve been collecting research for my thesis project for 5 weeks now and have established a pretty good routine for tracking key facts that I find. I track down my materials via the Internet using simple Google searches and the more academic Google Scholar. My primary source has been the IUPUI catalog and book and article databases. After a general search for content I use Google Scholar to identify more items and track them down in the IU system. General searches in the IU catalogs have also yielded decent results.

If I have a physical version of the source is found I skim the table of contents to see what jumps out. Sometimes that leads me to sections inside and other times I just start reading. I do a lot of skimming until I find topics of interest. Once I find that I focus my reading and use sticky note tabs to mark important sections, noting on the tag why I have marked the page.

After getting a number of tabs established I then transfer the facts onto note cards, reading the sections again to determine relevancy and to review the fact. On the note cards I’ve noted the author, speaker, article and/or book.

If the source is digital, I use a similar process, only I sometimes take screen capture photos of content as well. I have these files all saved in one folder for easy access when needed.

I now have a few nice stacks of cards with key facts on them that are helping me keep my momentum going forward and helping me synthesize and understand the huge amount of information I’ve gathered.


September 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Since we last talked about my thesis project I was ruminating on Design Education and made my way into generational traits. I figured that the future of education revolves around the Y-Generation (a.k.a. Millennials, Echo Boomers, First Digitals) so we should be considering them when constructing educational methods. I just dove into this idea last night and one thing (of many) I discovered was that that some researchers have proven is that there are generational traits (generationism) and that the generation born between 1980 and 2000 (+/-) has a natural tendency towards left and right brain thinking. According to Daniel Pink’s book “A Whole New Mind,” thinking/creating/working with both sides of the brain will be the new economy. This type of thinking is also crucial to innovation as we need to balance creative (new ideas!) and analytical (logical systems!) thinking to come up with truly innovative concepts. His theory, as well as my belief, is that leveraging both sides of the brain will be crucial in solving the most pressing and complex problems within society. So, if the Y-Gen is predispositioned toward this sort of thinking they may be able to successfully address the slew of fuzzy problems that we know of (and those that we haven’t yet discovered). « Read the rest of this entry »

Research Hunting Grounds and 80 Hours

August 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

Since we last spoke I’ve been working at collecting research on a few areas of interest. The two that have risen to the top at this point are “Local Government Innovation” and “Design as Vocation.” I’ve been seeking out information within these two content areas and have come across interesting concepts, themes, theories, and facts within each. Key themes that have emerged from each are “Design Thinking” and “Design 4.0,” which are core subjects of my curriculum at Herron. That seems to be a good sign because I did not start my research there and came to the concepts organically in my research.

Let’s look at some areas of interest and themes in each topic:
Local Gov’t InnovationInterest: funding; innovation vs optimization. Themes: programs and services.
Design as VocationInterest: design education; social transformation design; compare/contrast design with other professions’ vocational opportunities/work. Themes: use of resources/skills for common good; calling to solve a social problem(s).

This seems to be a good start and will hopefully offer a fertile hunting ground for thesis research questions. However, I need to do more research to gain additional understanding of these topics and continue sensemaking. In this effort I went to the IUPUI library today and checked out a few books, one of them titled “Design for the Real World,” written by Victor Papanek, which I believe is the original “design for the common good” book and started the social innovation movement.

Reflecting on my process over the past week I have decided that I need to establish a formal work schedule; office hours if you will. Last week I allowed personal commitments – carpet installation (and a bad installation process) as well as an out-of-town wedding (Columbus, Ohio is a cool place) – to get in the way of conducting proper research. I’m endeavoring to remedy letting personal commitments prevent me from putting in the necessary work at any point in this process (while still keeping true to my family and friends). As I discovered today, I have about 80 hours of free time a week; surely I can commit a large portion of this time to thesis work.

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