Nadia’s blog

A spirit of play
21 March, 2008, 3:34 pm
Filed under: HDG401 | Tags: , , , , , ,

I was looking up some of the favourite books from the ABC to determine which people I wanted to do portraits of. I came across Kate, who mentioned David Malouf’s ‘A Spirit of Play’ (one of the ABC’s Boyer Lectures). His vision for an “Australian consciousness” interested me (as it did Kate). I thought it might be of some use to the groups looking at the Australian Ethos (possibly my group!).

Click here for a transcript.


Lecture visualisation 3
20 March, 2008, 6:26 am
Filed under: HDG402, Lecture visualisations

For lecture 3, we were privileged enough to have Allan Whitfield speak to us about the ‘Hunter-gatherer brain’.

I found this a fascinating lecture. Allan was a most engaging speaker and he delivered the scientific content in an easy-to-understand manner. It was a most entertaining, humourous and interesting lecture.

Allan told us that the way the human brain works today is due to our ‘ancestral brain’. Our primate ancestors date back to 5 million years ago, and that within each of us there are inherent remnants of those days on the savannah.

Some things have changed, like the world around us, and the technology we have, but we are still essentially the same.

Some points on the ancestral brain:

  • Language began 200 thousand years ago
  • Agriculture began 10 thousand years ago
  • In the days of the savannah, “we carried with us everything that we own”

  • In the grasslands, we were part of the food chain
  • We survived by forming groups – the basis of culture and society
  • If you were ostracised, you were killed and eaten
  • 1.2 million years ago, fire was discovered, which meant we didn’t need such powerful jaws, we could cook food, and therefore didn’t need to grind food so much
  • Fire also allowed us to see at night
  • Language could have begun to allow us to communicate at night
  • We are separated from other primates by our lockable kneecaps (and now bigger brain and smaller hips)

The brain is powered by emotion, and our main thoughts are:

  • Can I eat it?
  • Can it eat me?
  • Can I mate with it?

The brain recognises objects quickly – the amygdala, a primitive, early part of the brain ‘sees’ before we do and takes action

  • What is it?
  • Is it good or bad?

Our brains are made to make sense of a week, this is why it is difficult to communicate something like, “In 40 years you will have cancer from smoking.” There were no long-term goals in the savannah. With reference to ‘climate change’, because it is gradual, the brain ignores it. The brain finds it difficult to focus on background features.

Some things are ‘wired-in’ (inherent, innate) and others are socially acquired:

  • Gifts have more significance to women than men – modern-day men can’t give women the best cut of meat like they did on the savannah, it is much more complex nowadays

  • The popularity of confectionery is possibly due to being that if it was sweet, it was more likely okay to eat on the savannah (they ran the risk of starvation, not obesity)

In design, packaging has two functions:

  • Container and indicator of content
  • To the brain, the package is the surface of the object
  • It indicates its performance – brain decides whether it does or doesn’t like it
  • Package is the interface for the brain – people perceive beautiful things as being usable (like websites)
  • Transposed savannah processing of objects to packaging
  • This is why we don’t package raw foods – we have evolved with raw foods and expect to see them, they are imprinted on the brain and are true brands
  • We design packaging with the aspiration that they will become true brands

Humans have superb visual memory, we don’t smell an oncoming tiger, we see it.

Lecture visualisation 2
14 March, 2008, 5:51 pm
Filed under: HDG402, Lecture visualisations

In Lecture 2, we were exposed to a panel comprised on Judith Glover, Denise Meredyth and Stephen Huxley who discussed the issue of sustainability and ethos.

Ethos is about society’s voice, beliefs, behaviours, ideologies and consensus. It comes from community, government and commerce. Sustainability will have to become a part of our ethos.

Since World War II, we have been encouraged to consume, and we have begun to consume the planet to death. If it happens, the future holds a transition from one set of social behaviour to another (consumerism to sustainability).

The future also raises a number of ethical concerns, for example:

  • Should we manufacture what people want and what will make money, despite the negative impacts or repercussions they may have on the environment
  • Consider services like Google, YouTube, etc. have servers running 24/7 and the environmental impact that may have
  • As designers, we should consider whether what we are producing is needed, in what form it is needed (eg: does it need to be printed?), how it will affect the environment and can whatever it is be smaller or have less of a ‘footprint’.
  • Should we all be working closer to home and nurturing local communities?
  • Do we need to own (anything)? Can we just hire, borrow or share?
  • Are we actually recycling effectively?

Other interesting points from the lecture included:

  • Economy versus sustainability. For the economy, we need to keep people spending, but also make them save. If people consume less, will we have ‘negative growth’ and will that be detrimental to the economy?
  • Sustainability is a part of everything
  • It is not just about designing things, but designing ways of doing things
  • ‘Green’ has become fashionable

Below are my lecture visualisations:

Is the promotion of consumerism more of a con? What do you really get out of consuming?

Are we just consuming the Earth to death and using up more than we have? Consider the effect you have and multiply by 6 billion …

Spin cycle economy – what goes around comes around, and must do so. How do we become ‘green’ without threatening the economy?

Is ‘green’ a fashion statement (or the latest fad)? A new take on fashion recycling.

More research avenues
10 March, 2008, 11:16 am
Filed under: HDG400 | Tags: , , , , , ,

I have another research suggestion: try searching the ABC radio national transcript archives ( There is a lot of useful information and it will give you the names of leading experts in the fields you are looking at.

Research avenues
9 March, 2008, 8:33 pm
Filed under: HDG400 | Tags: , , , ,

Hello all,

Thought you might be interested in this site:

It allows you to search the Australian Parliamentary Library for the following:

  • Bills Digests
  • Research Papers
  • Background Notes – formerly E-Briefs and Chronologies
  • Monthly statistical bulletin
  • Parliamentary Handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia
  • Monographs – (Australian Parliamentary Fellow, fmly Political Studies Fellow)
  • Parliamentary Library Briefing Book: Key Issues for the 42nd Parliament
  • Vision in Hindsight – a collection of essays that tells the story of how Parliament has fashioned and reworked the intentions of those who crafted the Constitution.
  • Parliamentary Papers index, 1992-
  • Explanatory Memoranda index, 1901-1982
  • Royal Commissions, 1902-2006
  • E-Briefs – now produced as Background Notes
  • Chronologies – now produced as Background Notes
  • Background Notes – Senators and Members only
  • Research Briefs
  • Research Notes
  • Current Issues Brief
  • Background Paper

(all of the above dot points were taken from the website)


Australian Policy Online is a great website. It has so many useful research papers and it’s affiliated with Swinburne. It’s definitely worth a look.

“Ask yourself: would you stay if your value-added was not appreciated?”

I’ve been reading Don Watson’s ‘Death Sentence’. I recommend it already, and I’ve barely made a dent in it.

Public language is the language of politicians, marketing and advertising, management and the media. It is the language of public life – the language of power.

Below are a few key (Don Watson would love this) quotes from the book:

“… It is right that the culture and environment should be so respected. Yet everyday we vandalise the language, which is the foundation, the frame and joinery of the culture, if not its greatest glory, and there is no penalty and no way to impose one. We can only be indignant. And we should resist.”

“… Judging an employee’s performance, for example, comes down to this:
The role of the corporate centre is to worry about talent and how people do relative to each other. Workers build a set of intangibles around who they are. If they are not appreciated for their value-added they will go somewhere else.
Ask yourself: would you stay if your value-added was not appreciated?”

So far, my understanding of the book is that much of public language has reduced the English language to meaningless “sludge”. This largely began in the early 1980s “when economics (and business) became so decidedly mainstream”. Language in society follows fashions, it begins with politicians and the military and filters through to the media, then down to the man in the street, so that we are all talking about “our core values and beliefs”.

All of this is starting to remind me of Barbara Kruger, in particular, her piece “I shop therefore I am” (Google it. I got 84 hits on my page in one day recently just because I linked to the image and I’m over it). From memory, these words adorned the swingtags on clothing sold in a large British chainstore. It also reminds me of Monday night’s lecture, where a major (almost said key) theme was consumerism. Has consumerism replaced thinking? What would René Descartes think?

Watson, D 2003, Death sentence: the decay of public language, Milsons Point, NSW: Random House Australia.

Lecture visualisation 1
6 March, 2008, 10:17 am
Filed under: HDG402, Lecture visualisations

I thoroughly enjoyed the lecture delivered by our new Dean, Ken Friedman. I found him to be a breath of fresh air. It will be interesting to see him implement all that he spoke of – it sounds like a promising future for Swinburne.

Some of Ken’s main points included:

  • Sustainability is important to designers as everything manufactured has a designer’s touch at some point
  • Making a commitment to change and actually doing something about it

(meeting environmental targets)

  • Community & sharing of information is integral to furthering the faculty – not just in terms of sustainability, but in terms of meeting other goals
  • Starting and maintaining a dialogue on sustainability and the multitude of issues within it

  • Having fun with sustainability – not getting bogged down or being too doomsday

(me and my brother taking a wheelie (recycling) bin trip)

  • Globalisation – dealing with issues on a worldwide basis
  • Research-based teaching
  • Any kind of decision has cascading ramifications – good and bad
  • We should look at environmental issues with a design perspective

My thoughts on what sustainability might be.