Monday, March 30, 2009

picture the conference

institution, mobilization, action, empower, carrots, anarchist, Marxism, Socialism, david harvey, neo liberalism, occupation, gentrification, rights, history, bikes, organize, cultural producers, take back the land, civil rights, grassroots, collectives, sustainability, community, the lexicon of city from below picture the homeless, housing, represent, urban, re-zoning, power to the poor people, displacement, gardening, affordable, veggie burrito, rolled up pants, knitting, stencil, posters, bohemian beer, soul foods, compost, dog poop, dream, quality, interviews

tuxedo, corporate sponsors, design, research, consumers, branding, 4 star hotels, limo, ziba, ideo, lextant, panels, sustainability, materials, innovations, business week, collaboration, creativity, web 2.0, experience, context, understanding, products, market, target audience, interaction, the lexicon of IDSA conference, students, portfolio review, bars, hotel lobby, carpets, ideas, concepts, awards, education, social issues, international, networking, business casual, give aways, brochures, way finding, art, business, trends, insights, workshops, job search, business cards, i phone, catered dinner

I've been attending IDSA (Industrial Designer's Society of America, regional and national conferences religiously for the last 10 years in the states. This year, I took a slight discourse and decided to try something difference - city from below conference ( at Baltimore. It was my very first conference related to social issues such as housing, gentrification. Not An Alternative that I've been recently working with, non profit organization presented on the topic of collaboration between cultural producers and community organizers. Most attendees coming from activists background, I found the weekend to be an opportunity to insert myself as an ethnographer.

First off, I found it hilarious to see people knitting or chewing on their carrots as the lecture goes on at this conference. The attendance was free (or $10 I think - not sure) which means the door is open to the vast crowd who is interested in the topic. The organizers of the event let our group stay at their house, and provided air mattresses! While attending IDSA conference means you will be spending about hundreds of dollars on flight ticket, 4 star hotel rooms (like 250 a night - the event usually happens at the hotel) and the attendance fee (often a few hundred dollars) that pretty much means you are going to have attendees who is looking for ROI. A great start, open to the poor or the rich, points go to the city from below.

here is what I learned...

Rights + Homeless + failing shelter system
  • NYC is a police state. abundance of police force through out the city. 35,000
  • Picture The Homeless group advocates the rights to be in public space without being selectively screened. Penn. station sit in demonstration on St. Patrick's day 09
    - watch it here
  • When taken away from Penn station at 2 am, a homeless person would be shipped to a shelter in Brooklyn. At the shelter, one gets to go through all the procedure i.e. shot test and by the time a bed is finally assigned, it is 7 am, time to leave the shelter
  • Building occupation event organized by picture the homeless is seen here. Not An Alternative collaborated on the prop preparation.
City + Gentrification + their strategy
  • In Hamburg, artists and designers out of town who was not aware of local issues were invited to justify the city's loft development. The city allured them by offering affordable living space. The City also created SQUAT area and supported it as they recognized that it attracted tourists. This is an interesting point especially Richard Florida's Creative Class is often used by cities to justify their inconsiderate development.
  • Cities often promote the gentrification process as aesthetic transformation or brining in creativity in the area. The truth is... gentrification is suburbanization of culture, Adrian Blackwell says.
  • Cities around world are being smart about using its community history and artists/designers to justify their gentrification process. This strategy is also seen in the example of privatization of union square presented by Beka Economopoulos from Not An Alternative.
Creative approach to gentrification, housing issues seen at the conference
  • In Miami, Take Back the Land gives people home.
    The goal here is to cease land owned by government or corporations to give people home. Mark Rameau says gentrification or segregation is not the real issue. The real issue is people loosing control over our LAND.
  • Design studio for social intervention talks about borrowing methodologies from design practices to come up with solutions for social issues. The workshop at the conference was about coming up with ideas around topics of people facing home foreclosure, young people behind the bar, Darfur refugees, illegal immigrants facing deportation. I thought the attempts of bringing people of different backgrounds was great yet more preparation could be done to help people brainstorm around the topic , i.e. more background information on topic (visual) defining focus area for the short discussion...
What I think the city from below could learn from design conferences...
  • Visualize the conversation. Not every body has time to invest in creating PowerPoint presentation I understand. It doesn't have to be so finished. It can be as simple as a note taker diagramming the talk on a flip chart next to the presenter. It helps people focus and digest the contents easier. Adoptivepath does a great job at this... This is not the exact example but something like that...
  • Utilize the meal time/ breaks to encourage networking amongst crowd. More breakout session to make it more participatory.
  • Keep the open door to everybody!
  • I loved the dinner format and quality of food.
  • Amazing space - church. Yet the space was a little hard to focus on the talk as it was blurred into other areas (books, coffee...etc.)

No comments: