Week Three: MA Project

Updated: Mar 18


Peer to Peer Review


It was good to catch up with my fellow students during my first peer to peer review and discuss where we were at regarding forming our project questions and how we were feeling so far about our final projects. I discussed one of my potential ideas, looking at how I could feel more connected to the culture and country where I'm currently living, Taiwan. The word Monachopsis came up, which is defined as, "The subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place, as maladapted to your surroundings as a seal on a beach—lumbering, clumsy, easily distracted, huddled in the company of other misfits, unable to recognize the ambient roar of your intended habitat, in which you'd be fluidly, brilliantly, effortlessly at home." Cat mentioned a photography exhibition she had recently been to with the title being Monachopsis.



Images: http://alexandervanderbyl.com


After absorbing all the lectures from week's one and two, I took some time to decide on a specific topic that I felt would interest me throughout the project and that would also reflect who I am as both a person and a designer. During my tutorial with Dan, he emphasised how important it is to use your final MA project to showcase your interests, skills and the direction you want to head towards as a designer.

One subject that has attracted me time and time again is plastic. It cannot be argued that plastic pollution is a and will continue to be a huge problem on the natural environment, thus dangering the life of all species and the future of our planet. This interests me for numerous reasons, a few of which I'll outline below:

  1. It's a problem that connects us, or at least it should. It's one of those issues that, despite everything else that continues to divide us, plastic is an issue that reminds us how much we depend on the stability of various ecosystems.

  2. More should be done; although many countries globally are taking giant steps in reducing plastic consumption and plastic pollution, radical and revolutionary steps still need to be taken.

  3. It's a reminder of our mortality. I'm almost repeating myself here, but I remember being told as a child not to be put a plastic bag over my head as it could lead to suffocation; however, it seems like we're all contributing to this on a massive scale. My local beach is a magnet for mounds of plastic waste being washed up; I guess this is due to currents or storms. However, seeing this happen regularly is a stark reminder of the reality of the problem. Seeing plastic waste adorn a naturally beautiful landscape such as a beach ignites a sense of sadness and hopelessness.

As well as this, this final MA project has coincided with as internship I started with non-profit, Plastic Tides. I have been following Plastic Tides for a little while on Instagram. Plastic Tides seek to educate and inspire action towards a plastic-free future through education, adventure and youth empowerment. Along with my teaching experience at a bilingual school in Taiwan, it felt like a solid foundation to build my project on.


Image: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/1083608360314087858/


I struggled for a while to really pin down what I wanted to achieve with this project, what I wanted to ask and address. Again, in my tutorial with Dan, we both agreed that plastics have been a topic for so many projects that coming up with an original idea would be difficult. However, I felt it was key here to remember something that Ben had mentioned in a lecture, and that was that we're not creating anything completely original. We're adding another rudder to the ladder, another voice to the conversation. This was reassuring and relieved the pressure slightly. I took Dan's advice and created a Miro board, which allowed me to collect various articles of interest surrounding plastic.


Through my teaching experience, I felt that there wasn't enough being done to educate young students on plastic pollution. With this in mind, I had found various teaching resources online that could be easily be incorporated into a teaching plan, such as Plastic Education. Plastic Education have set up a website that invites schools from all over the world to take part in a day of plastic education. Schools, teachers, and educational institutions have free access to teaching resources and educational materials surrounding plastic pollution from their website.



How Plastic Bags Were Supposed to be Useful (BBC News)


Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQW5w9yAWgE


This short report on plastic bags was eye-opening as it outlined the original intention for plastic bags. The inventor of the plastic bag, Sten Gustaf Thulin, addressed the negative environmental impact paper bags were having due to the felling of trees. He intended to create a bag that could be used multiple times; unfortunately, this didn't turn out to be the case.



A Handbook for Increasing Ocean Literacy :


https://aambpublicoceanservice.blob.core.windows.net/oceanserviceprod/education/literacy/NMEA_Practitioners_Guide_to_Ocean_Literacy_2021-accessible.pdf


This handbook is an educational resource (shared by a colleague on my internship) available to anyone that wants to educate others or learn more about the ocean. Although, from a design perspective, the handbook isn't the most exciting, it addresses a purpose in a way that I am considering.



Polluted Water Popsicles


Image: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/443886107019895978/


Polluted Water Popsicles was a project created by students at a university in New Taipei in Taiwan. Students took water samples from various urban creeks, rivers and ports and preserved them in resin—the project aimed to highlight water pollution in Taiwan and inspire change.

I found this project fascinating as it does a great job highlighting the issues surrounding water pollution uniquely and creatively. It has made me understand why the tutors have emphasised not to rush on ideas of your final outcome as the possibilities are endless and surprising but can only be achieved through thorough research.



Images: https://settingmind.com/vogue-taiwans-january-issue-is-dedicated-to-the-environment/



1970 New York CityTransit AuthorityGraphics Standards Manual

Images: https://standardsmanual.com/products/nyctacompactedition?extra=gallery


As I sifted through ideas in my mind, I reminded myself of the 1970 New York Subway Graphics Standard Manual. I think for me, and I'll have to prove that this is a problem felt by others through further research; there's a lot of information surrounding plastics. Still, it's hard to find that information in one place that is easily digestible and in an aesthetically pleasing way. Information such as:

  • How is plastic made?

  • What are the different types of plastic?

  • What is single-use plastic?

  • What do the codes mean under the recycling symbols?

I'm, perhaps, thinking that there should be a manual containing this information that can be used within education and on a personal level.


Webinar with Ben 9/2/2022



The webinar with Ben was very valuable in helping to understand further what makes a good research question and how to set yourself up for a good project with opportunities to expand and exploit new knowledge. Despite my slightly crumpled notes, the main factors of a good research question are:

  • Something that isn't too broad. Consider the time frame in which the project has to be completed.

  • Be specific and make sure that it's something that interests you.

  • Ensure that you allow for an open-ended answer, not just yes or no.

  • Finally, ensure that there's a clear role for design in answering the question.

Conclusion


This week has been more about researching plastics, getting to know the subject more, identifying problems, and thinking up potential solutions. I feel that I'm heading in the right direction to deciding on a question I want to propose for this project.


References


flex.falmouth.ac.uk. (n.d.). Log in to canvas. [online] Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/1013/conferences [Accessed 24 Feb. 2022].


Hunt, E. (2018). Popsicles of pollution: ice lollies highlight Taiwan’s contaminated waterways. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/gallery/2017/sep/01/popsicles-pollution-ice-lollies-taiwan-taipei-contaminated-waterways [Accessed 24 Feb. 2022].


BBC News (2019). How plastic bags were supposed to help the planet - BBC News. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQW5w9yAWgE [Accessed 24 Feb. 2022].


www.google.com. (n.d.). Google. [online] Available at: https://www.bkconnection.com/bkblog/jeevan-sivasubramaniam/thoroughly-depressing-word-of-the-day-monachopsis [Accessed 25 Feb. 2022].

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