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The Design Observer Group
Observers Room: John Thackara

MONTHLY EMAIL NEWSLETTER: JULY 2011


Escape from the STEM cell

Last month, as the Dutch government expelled trouble-making artists from the state funding system, UK and US policymakers demanded a stronger focus by education on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — the STEM subjects. They claim a STEM workforce "determines a nation's ability to sustain itself."

No it does not. A too-sharp focus on STEM creates an innovation policy that is not fit for purpose. We need to diversify, not reduce, our ways of knowing and acting in the world. We need to emphasize the social dimension of innovation, not just technology. And we need to master systems thinking more than silo thinking. Experimental art and design can help us do all of the above — not as an alternative to science, but as its enrichment.

True innovators decline to remain locked in the STEM cell — as this month's stories  show. They include craft brewers who are also into urban renewal; geeks who are also into gardening; and a blacksmith who's designed a high-tech permaculture greenhouse. These guys, who use science and art in a whole systems context, are where the future lies.

Speaking of artful science, I'll be in Sweden at the new FuturePerfect  Festival, 28-31 July. It's billed as "an adventure in living well" —  and we'll discuss these issues there.

Follow me on Twitter @johnthackaravisit my blog, or subscribe to my RSS feed. Or you can unsubscribe.

NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE >>


JOHN THACKARA

Knife Sharpening

Last week I was taught how to sharpen our kitchen knives by a wood carver, Howard Raybould, who's been honing his technique for 30 years. It's the most useful skill I've acquired since learning how to ride a bike.
READ MORE

JOHN THACKARA

Shoe Town to Brew Town

When Jimmy Carbone, co-creator of The Good Beer Seal, was considering running for mayor of his old hometown in Haverhill, Massachusetts, he began to ponder possible new uses for industrial buildings that had fallen into disuse.
READ MORE

JOHN THACKARA

Geeked-out Gardening

The day after I celebrated his Kickstarter success with Tyler Caruso, co-founder of Seeing Green, which is about measuring the value of urban agriculture, I read a fascinating piece by Simon Kuper in the FT about the use of data to analyse every tiny aspect of a football match.
READ MORE

JOHN THACKARA

Open Season on Dutch Cultural Innovation

In a memorandum titled More than Quality the Dutch Arts Minister Halbe Zijlstra has announced savage cuts to the country's arts budget. Among media arts & technology organizations to lose their structural funding are such long-term friends and partners of ours as STEIM, Waag Society, V2, Submarine Channel, and Mediamatic.
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JOHN THACKARA

Kick-off!

The project is a year-long research effort to measure the stormwater management potential of two urban farms: Brooklyn Grange (a rooftop farm) & Added Value (raised beds) in NYC.
READ MORE

JOHN THACKARA

Bad taps, Good taps

Continuing our theme of systems thinking and the need for a new aesthetics — oh, what the heck, let's talk about taps.
READ MORE



JOHN THACKARA: RECENT ESSAY


How to Make Systems Thinking Sexy

How to Make Systems Thinking Sexy

John Thackara's 2011 Buckminster Fuller Challenge keynote address.
READ MORE

More essays by John Thackara >>

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JOHN THACKARA: RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Animate Earth
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Dam Nation: Dispatches from the Water Underground
Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, July Oskar Cole, Laura Allen, editors

Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change
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