Reading Responses

Response to “Dancing with Systems” by Donella Meadows

After reading Meadows, I had some questions on if the systems can’t be controlled, how are they being designed and redesigned. How can you design a system if you can’t even control it? What if, while you are designing for it, the system changes drastically and your design won’t work anymore? Do you have to do constant tests and repairs and trials till the end of the world? Also, I was wondering, after she states “Living successfully in a world of systems requires more of us than our ability to calculate. It requires our full humanity–our rationality, our ability to sort out truth from falsehood, our intuition, our compassion, our vision, and our morality” how to combine these humanlike abilities into computer models/systems. I understand that we need full humanity in real life situations but in artificial, technology driven systems that work with binary, I don’t think so.

Also, while listing the steps, in the first one Meadows stated that “Starting with the behavior of the system forces you to focus on facts, not theories” but I feel like if you watch how the system behaves and observe, you will have personal opinions about the system and not the facts. I think the only way to get real facts about the system is to do research and interact with people/things within the system.


Response to “Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, And Software” by Steven Johnson

The slime mold experiment was really interesting. I liked how the system of it is similar to a governmental system. The hierarchies within the system are really characterize our world and our way of managing things. Even the video games’ behaviors are somehow similar to slime mold cells’ behaviors.

The quote “What will happen when our media experiences and political movements are largely shaped by bottom-up forces, and not top-down ones?” was very intriguing. While I think that a society needs rules, and leaders, I also believe that every person has equal responsibilities in the governmental system. Democracy is threatened when citizens refuse to participate in power (like by not voting) or if they are getting excluded from the rights. (like race issues). If everyone works for everyone’s rights, then it would be ideal. When the top gets all the power, they benefit only themselves, making it easy to survive in the economy, not pay taxes etc. 


Response to “The Internet of Things/Forward: A Tale of Two Cities” by Sean Dodson

Surveillance, when I think about it nowadays is something we are already used to. Facebook tracks our history searches to send us ads of the things we just looked up in online stores, Snapchat tracks our faces and keep them into their databases so that we can have dog ears filter on our pictures. It is not the tiny cameras that look at us in the streets, but tiny cameras that tracks us within our internet and technology usage. This facial recognition software’s and location based technologies remind me of the “boiling the frog “example. “If a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.” I think we are living that in our generation, and we are unable and unwilling to understand the emergent technological issues. Gradually, the tech companies are tracking us, forcing us to do things they want, controlling us to buy things they wish us to. But when you say it like “The City of Control –a city of our nightmares” it sounds really bad. Yet, even in this world, “citizens walk the streets aware that ‘any word or deed may be noted by agents of some mysterious bureau’.” This is not fiction anymore.

Dodson also talks about the rich and poor dynamics as “Security is the defining issue for those who can afford it, but also for those that cannot. Very soon, access to parts of the city is being carved off: allowing the rich and powerful entry where they please and the poor have access where they are lucky.” I think this is a concept that we are living really apparently in our generation too, where the rich as way more rights than poor, and the poor is most of the times “forced” to be poor by systematic oppression.

Also, giving “object, spaces, people are tagged and given a unique number” reminded me of Hitler and his fascist rules, so I didn’t like the fact that these two cities’ “urban infrastructure is embedded with a sophisticated network of traceable items.”


Response to Web Design the First 100 Years by Maciej Cegłowski

It was really interesting to see how much work design required back then. “The 747 required over 75,000 technical drawings. All of them were done by hand. There was no computer aided design to help engineers figure out how to put everything together, just a massive filing system.” I feel like this is somethings 90 percent of the designers do not want, spend a massive amount of time and labor on their work, and they often get technical/mechanical help (just an observation, not a criticism).

In the part it was talking about how “The 747 was meant to be a stopgap. It was supposed to serve the airlines until the SST entered service in the 1970’s”, I was thinking about how current technology trends work. IPhone 7 comes only with two different minor changes than iPhone 6 Plus, so that people can talk about it until a new one enters the service like in 6 months. IPhone 8 comes to be a stopgap because they know that people will still wait for/want iPhone X even though it is way more expensive.

Cegłowski talks about how putting everything online has real and troubling social costs, which is really true. Even though we became a social media generation, it doesn’t mean that it improved our quality of life. Way more people have self esteem issues because of the comparison, we don’t have privacy and security, we live for showing off and posting things that make us look like we have a great life when we actually don’t. All the texts and images you sent to someone or somewhere has a great chance to be public and viral which can has a big and sometimes bad impact on you.


Response to “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking” by Richard Buchanan

In the readings Buchanan talks about art and creation, and the distinction between practice and theory. Sol Hewitt, as an artist, only gives instructions to people to “make” “his” art. I think this is a clear example proving the fact that distinction between practice and theory is blurry. Does making a thing hands on is the only way for you to become an artist/designer or having the idea of it and making other people do it is also counts as being an artist?

I believe in the quote “rejecting the notion of the systems as linear, static, hierarchical and mechanical order”, because throughout our design education we learned that there are several solutions to the same problem, several designs that can fit one society at that current time, and too many different aspects of a system that are within each other and effect each other.

It was really interesting to read about how the larder sign makes people more likely to ignore it, which was something I didn’t know about. Now I know that I can incorporate smaller texts in my graphic design projects and different styles/colors to try to attract people and not just rely on the size.

The store example where the rerouted/redesigned where the objects sit according to the observations of the people who do the shopping, was really showing how important user testing is. It was clearly stating that if you see how your user will interact with your system design/product/art, you will have a way clearer idea on how to make and improve that system/product.


Response to “Interventionist Toolkit 3, Our Cities Ourselves” by Mimi Zeiger

I believe at the quote “a notion that if we change our environments we will change our lives”. I personally experienced this when I moved more than 5 times within last 3 years. I moved my house back in Turkey, as well as moved to two different dorms and a apartment here in New York. They were all in different areas of New York/Ankara that made me feel completely different and it really changed how I live my life. The places I go changed, the type of people I hang out with changed, the places I shop from changed.

When Zeiger stated that “The performance of a structure can be measured using a variety of metrics: annual energy use, number of visitors, user productivity, etc.”, I was kind of skeptical to the topic, because I believe that the number of visitors or productivity doesn’t necessarily reflect on the performance of a structure. Actually, it is nearly impossible –in my opinion- to comment on it, since there are too many things to take into consideration such as, gentrification it caused, people the building displaced, culture it changed, nature it damaged, habits of people it changed etc.


Response to “Death & Life of American Cities, Intro” by Jane Jacobs

It was really interesting to read about “North End”, which looks and feels great, and the data/social statistics supports that yet people (and the city planner person) think that it is a slum and has to be rebuilded eventually. How a city “ought” to look is not that important than how it works. The lawn example from Harlem was really depicting the idea of understanding the system without our prejudice and pre-existing knowledge/beliefs before trying to design it in a different way. If we fail to understand the core and what it means to the people who are actually within the system, the system we rebuild/redesign will never work even though it looks beautiful and working to us. “In New York’s East Harlem there is a housing project with a conspicuous rectangular lawn which became an object of hatred to the project tenants… “Nobody cared what we wanted when they built this place. They threw our houses down and pushed us here and pushed our friends somewhere else. We don’t have a place around here to get a cup of coffee or a newspaper even, or borrow fifty cents. Nobody cared what we need. But the big men come and look at that grass and say, ‘Isn’t it wonderful! Now the poor have everything!’””

It was also interesting to see that the rehabilitation of the North End is solely made by the efforts of the tenants/residents. “The rehabilitation work had been almost entirely financed by business and housing earnings within the district, plowed back in, and by skilled work bartered among residents and relatives of residents.” They didn’t get any mortgage or funds/loans from the government, which is an example of knowing the system from the core to be able to design it well. “There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.”

The Garden City -Utopia- is really similar to City of Control in my mind, because when you force people to use land in certain way and force them to reduce their populations and not have kids etc. is a kind of slavery. This is not a solution to city problems, yet an escape from it which will create different set of problems by existing after all.


Response to “Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals” by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman

Emergence, as Steven Johnson states, is a “higher-level pattern arising out of parallel complex interactions between local agents”. He states that to consider something as emergent, the local interactions has to “result in some kind of discernable macro behavior.” But Zimmerman and Salen state that “emergence is a crucial aspect of games, linking their intrinsically systemic nature to the space of possibility and meaningful play.” I think this should not be necessarily true, because what if someone designs a game and sets all the rules, but there is nothing emerging out of it? The characters don’t/won’t do things or be things the user might not expect/predict. Most of the rules are fixed even though the game might be complex; ‘if you press this, this character will jump”. Maybe it is just a clothing game that you choose the clothes and put them on a girl and take a screenshot of your creation? That would be a game without ‘unplanned patterns appearing from within a system”. I think these type of games are more in quantity than emergent games. So, this shows that they are not a crucial aspect in game design, yet is something that will make games a lot more interesting.

It was also interesting to read about how random systems does not create complex systems, since no point in the system has a correlation with the other one (Per Bak, How Nature Works). Even though visually and conceptually random systems are very complex and hard to figure out, but theoretically there is nothing to figure out, because the system doesn’t provide any rules to follow. At the same time, this made me think about if there are any nature-made random systems in the world, that are not complex. I think there are very few examples in life that can be counted as random system beyond pure concepts people formed.

Question: Is the black, unchanging TV screen is a system? More like an object to me.

It didn’t made sense to me that Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman refer to complex systems as they ‘inhabit a narrow band’ and then compares it to a ‘planet’ that support life. Firstly, I think our planet as a system is a pretty big and important. Also, it is not certain that the other planets that exist in the universe does not have ‘life’. They may not have the ‘right combination of temperature, atmosphere, and chemical composition’ for allowing ‘human life’ to emerge but maybe they have other creatures that live there.

In the Head and Tails, even though Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman made some adjustment to the game, I initially didn’t see a change that really made the game meaningful or complex. After, he stated that “The game still feels arbitrary… the overall outcome of the game feels random” I agree that it is as random as the old version, making someone choose between two choices and then guessing it. Even though the flipper decides himself, it is as random as it was for the player and the flipper won’t know if he/she is going to win or not either. They still have two changes.

I also remember reading somewhere that a computer won some professional in the game Go, but I am not sure.

It was really interesting to understand why someone would play the same game over and over again, which is a weird concept to me because I don’t play video games. “The infinite possibility that arises out of an emergent system is a key design strategy to encourage repeat play. A successfully emergent game system will continue to offer new experiences, as players explore the permutations of the system’s behavior.”


Response to “World Game” by Buckminster Fuller

World game was intended “to make the conditions of global interaction manifest and to use computer simulation to make the consequences of decisions transparent to all.”

I think it is really interesting to see how a person will act according to their own perception, “ideal world” beliefs, conceptions and then will be able see results of their decisions. Without this, it is really easy to have beliefs, thoughts and topics we strongly support even though they are bad for the majority; but after seeing the consequences in first person, it is nearly impossible to stick to our old beliefs, if we see that they don’t work/ function properly in real world. It would be also interesting to see how many people would act according to their own gains/profits and will be okay with the fact that many many others will get destroyed in consequence of their winnings. Will they act accordingly to provide (maybe minor) advantage to all and disadvantage to none, or to provide (maybe extremely major) advantage to themselves and disadvantage to others? It is also really interesting that you won’t win the game unless everybody wins, since “everybody must be made physically successful.”

Fuller talks about how people now got used to technology and trust it, saying “On the working assumption that humanity now has established implicit confidence in the computers and automated instrumentation…” This was a really interesting concept to think about because now there are machines that does better and more accurate, faster surgeries than people. I don’t now how I feel about them, what if they malfunction or they have connection problems in the middle of the surgery but at the same time human error happens more frequently.


Response to “Cradle to Cradle”, by William Mcdonough & Michael Braungrat

Waste equals food/resource in the nature… ‘Growth was good. It meant more trees, more species, greater diversity, and more complex, resilient ecosystems. Then came industry, which altered the natural equilibrium of materials on the planet. Humans took substances from the Earth’s crust and concentrated, altered, and synthesized them into vast quantities of material that cannot safely be returned to soil.’ It is beyond my scope of understanding that how much waste we create right now, even in a second, that will never going to go back to nature in our lifetime. Everything we buy, soda cans, detergents, printing papers, take-out food packaging etc. creates a waste which is a design problem. “Our systems are no longer designed to return nutrients…” If you don’t have a vision for where your product is going to end up after its life cycle is done or after its solely out of fashion, you are missing a design step. Pre-production of the item and usage of the item is important but what people do with it after is really important too. “To eliminate the concept of waste means to design things -products, packaging, and systems -from the very beginning on the understanding that waste does not exist.”

I was really interesting to read about the theory of the ego, how we think that we as individuals are important and have to own ‘virgin’ products. “If the Industrial Revolution had taken place in societies that emphasize the community over the individual, and where people believed not in a cradle-to-grave life cycle but in reincarnation?”

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