Reading and Writing

(Reproduced Post to PhD Design this morning)

For writing – the activity of Reading is useful too. And in the corridors here we usually hear that students these days dont read. Therefore and quite incidentally I offer two points for discussion from my experience this semester:

On Reading:

I am teaching a 12 Credit course this semester called “Reading India” – mainly for students going from here to India for a semester on a grant. To get them into India I made a handout. For this I compiled articles, book chapters and papers on and from India. Each of these was chosen because it was hugely confronting – for example one dealt with the eyewitness account of the daylight massacre in Ahmedabad a few years ago, and so on for the rest of them. The task for the students was to do two papers through the semester: the first was to be on a confronting topic and the second was to be on ‘design and industry’. Most of the first papers are in and weeks ago when they read it out in class – I was quite stunned at the quality. One paper dealt with Vandana Shiva and her fight with the global corporations over patent rights for Rice, Neem and Turmeric. Philippa who wrote this piece was quite passionate in her support through the piece – and at the end she decides to address criticisms about Shiva the person and the prima donna act. And that was quite slickly done. Another did ‘the hunger project’ – which took her into the discourse of the ‘other’.

In retrospect the problem here was not the student – they could write. But the problem was me, this academic, who believed they would not be able to write and so went in with a first set of texts – that would shock them out of their complacency. Is that what happened – was that why their writing was so good? Not sure I know the answer to this. But something else is coming through – their second papers are causing them grief. What are the topics? Automobile design in India, Craft in India – and so on. The indication seems to be that these topics are difficult to read – they go to sleep. Maybe “gruesome car crashes in India” may have been more engrossing. In short haven’t thought about this – and not really sure what is going on.

On writing:

Three of my PhDs and one Masters by Research student are in the last stretch of their time with me. And they are all furiously writing. But in January things were a bit different – so I spent quite some time marshaling resources on writing and talking/walking them through the material – and they have all come back to say how helpful all that was to them. You can find all that material here:

By Soumitri Varadarajan

Soumitri lives in Melbourne, Australia - #probonodesign #codesign #sustainability #patientexperience #quantifiedself #mdg

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