Porous Frontier

First – I have to thank Amrit Srinivasan for the suggestion of this name – as an update on the notion of Border Crossings. Its a very powerful title for institutions’ ways of thinking about their embeddedness in society. Border Crossings is great too – but a bit overused and so worn!

Now this text is an enumeration of what we (a college of academics in Australia) do on the international front/stage/sphere (three inadequate ‘jargon terms’ – not quite weasel words but war/theatre/politics words – how did we get here? That we cant use precise words). So to re-say this same thing: This text is a listing of academic stuff we do with people in other places. What we do with Foreigners. That may however be the small story in this post.

The Porous Frontiers Project (2003~ ) is a vision for design education that privileges ‘the other’ and the powerful impacts of ‘making the unfamiliar familiar’ (that great Ulm and foundation phrase). In practice the goal has been to enable 25% of the student population on campus to be from overseas, and to enable 25% of the local student population to be overseas in this same period. All funding applications (UMAP, Endeavour, New Endeavour, Chueng Kong, New Colombo Plan) and international linkages for the past 12 years, by this particular group of academics, have been orientated to enable this project.

The Approach of the Porous Frontier Project has been about ‘access’ and ‘development’. As an illustration this approach has enabled the Project to link up with a University near Shenzhen  (providing staff and students access to Guangdong Province in PRC – the manufacturing epi-centre of the planet) as against pursuing linkages with an elite university in a major metro/city with no access to useful manufacturing enterprises. Access to a manufacturing-place, for the academically curious, is precious.

The Porous Frontier Project has itself a series of 4 sub-projects – now the naming of projects is very important. On naming who better to invoke than Eliot – refer to end of post for an excerpt from Eliot. A good name sharpens the focus and charges the collective to look a certain way.

Last month the world watched rebel forces pour into Tripoli under the banner of Operation Mermaid Dawn. While watching the news, I was struck by a curiosity many of you might have shared: just where exactly do these names come from? More

Also important is a porosity of interpretations and ways of adopting meaning or of channeling meaning (if you are of the kind that likes the spiritual terms – and need energy flow family-of-terms). Its also important that the names produce a certain level of frisson (tiny delicious chill) or attempt to get up ones nose – such as ‘great’? “Now you don’t mean to make this a post-colonial or a subaltern narrative, do you?”

While I was prompted to post by the wandering thoughts on naming – I was also aware that some of my readers would be familiar with these Project Names – as they have participated in these forays, and campaigns. So here is a quick listing of some projects and what these (Campaigns) aimed to do.

Great Civilizations Project

Student exchange and staff collaboration. This is an engagement with Asia from 2004 focussed upon working with 7 important Manufacturing Contexts (China, India, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Turkey, Indonesia).

Nordic Noir

Discipline level trans-disciplinary Engagement with Key Design focussed institutions in Nordic Countries.

Born Global

Industrial Design Focus upon digital tech and startup culture (Silicon Valley, Silicon Beach and New York). Silicon Beach is a new term – it refers to Venice Beach, which is fast becoming the preferred location for startups moving out of Silicon Valley.

Global Studio

There are there modes of Global Studios (SMOG) – Studios in-Melbourne (taught by overseas designer), Overseas (in university studio, travelling studio) and Global Collaborative (many universities link up and collaborate on Projects)

On the Naming of Cats by T S Eliot

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey—
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter—
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?


That stub above about naming military campaigns is a very informative piece. Take a look below if you missed clicking ‘more’.


As it turns out, “mermaid” has long been a nickname for Tripoli, which helps explain Operation Mermaid Dawn. Although the rebels might have not given us the best name to bandy around in the press, it certainly fared better than Operation Ripper (Part II: The Final Rip) would have. That would have sent the wrong message to almost anyone—except maybe Qaddafi himself.

By Soumitri Varadarajan

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

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