Two days after the mid-way thesis review, I was given the opportunity to discuss my thesis work thus far to the undergraduate students in the Art Center College of Design’s Business 101 class. I decided to use this as an opportunity to address a lot of the feedback given during the critique in the form of a keynote lecture / classroom discussion. The following is an excerpt from the talk:
I believe we are headed towards an era of sameness – an era in which innovation by the human species alone is impossible because all humanly perceivable problems are solved. While, to some, the elimination of problems may seem to be a great success, I find it to be the most pressing dilemma of mankind. Entrepreneurship, the design of new stuff as a result of our innate empathy towards others, is what makes us human. To strip innovation and ingenuity out of the human equation is to strip the very thing that makes us unique as a species.
Four signals that point towards this predicament, the end of entrepreneurial practice, are identified: Knock-Off Products, Feature Companies, Product-Enhancing Products, and the Templatization of Innovation. In the 20th Century we saw an abundance of innovation – the Personal Computer, the Pocket Calculator, the Xerox Machine. I argue that, made visible by these signals, the current landscape of innovation is driven by enhancing that which has already been innovated, as opposed to creating that which is new.
I see these signals as a visible cry for help, a sign that the practice of entrepreneurship is on it’s last leg. My project offers a speculative alternative to human innovation by inventing the “(Dis)Embodied Entrepreneur,” a machine that aims to heroically take the place of mankind in entrepreneurial practice in order to raise critical dialogue around this predicament.
Taking from the knowledge gained in my initial attempts at building the (Dis)Embodied Entrepreneur, this second iteration of the algorithm is designed with more complex layers that further remove the human / maker from the process of development as a way to push it further towards an autonomous existence.
Where the system, in this mock up, falls short is the final selection. Something that algorithms do especially well is selection based on detailed paramaters. This objectivity is what interests me in developing the entrepreneur. However, because the final step of the algorithm is simply a random selection, the algorithm becomes very subjective, and in a sense loses it’s purpose.
Initial future considerations:
- How can each component of the automation process be drawn out in an obsessively detailed manner?
- How can the system itself become embodied? Can there be a physical / illustrative form to add to the message as a whole?
As part of my mid-thesis review installation, I decided to design a very long poster that aims to form connections between all of the work I have done thus far in relation to my thesis research.
In making this timeline, the following connections and relationships are made:
- The work has gone from subjective > objective. The initial systems provided an open space for the participant to conceptualize what the business might be, based on their generated content, but the new systems eliminate the room for that.
- My practice has developed to be a balance between experimentation and dissemination. The work, at various milestones or points of completion, is developed into the form of workshops or lectures given at various institutions.
I designed my mid-thesis installation in a way that could show the first iteration of the machine in the first (left) column, the overall process in the second (middle) column, and the work-in-progress iteration in the third (right) column.
The process of setting the work up in this space as well as in Think Tank Gallery last week has made me realize the gallery setting really may not the best place to be talking about these ideas, I’ve become much more comfortable behind a keynote presentation.
For the past 4 terms, I have helped teach the Business / Entrepreneurship 101 Course for undergraduate Graphic Design Majors at Art Center with Terry Stone. Every term, I lead the workshop / lecture on Self Promotion tools and tactics, in which students get a chance to come up with a promotional plan for themselves, or their potential design studio. I have found that my process has developed as a pattern of experimentation within the Media Design Program, and dissemination outside of MDP, within the academic, social, and corporate sectors. To continue this pattern, I designed a business model generator specifically for the Entrepreneurship 101 students.
The Serendipitous Design Studio Generator works a lot like the Serendipitous Executive Summary Generator, except the businesses it generates are limited to graphic design enterprises. Each group of students generated one design firm using the system, and were prompted to design a promotional campaign for the studio to market their capabilities and niche traits. The following are a selection of generated design studios:
The generative design studios ranged from the imaginative and intangible to the viable and practical. This range fostered a diverse set of promotional tactics that the students produced during the workshop.
This method worked particularly well for the students in this situation because it removed the burden of conceptualizing a design firm that held interest amongst each of the designers in the group. This removal of personal interest actually resulted in more imaginative concepts, and less concern with practicality - a stigma that is hard to defeat in the context of a business class.
For example, to promote a design studio that specializes in way-finding systems for concerts, specifically rap shows, the students chose to use a trail of marijuana joints to guide the audience to their seats. Another group, given the task of creating a promotional campaign for a design studio that specialized in packaging for soda companies, proposed the idea of augmented bottles with user-submitted content / artwork on the drink.
“Diegetic Entrepreneurship: A Documented Attempt at Inventing the Embodied Entrepreneur” is the first draft of my MFA thesis submitted to the Art Center College of Design. The paper establishes a new theoretical stand point on the role of entrepreneurs and the field of business, and then acts on this theory through a series of design systems. 8,758 words. 28 pages.