I had wanted to make it a part of the assignment to take a picture of the person I’m meeting, but I’ve realized that that can be the most stressful part of the interaction. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable, so I’ll have to come up with another way to visualize and record the process.

Today I had a conversation with the man at the Whole Foods meat counter, about how he would recommend making split pea soup with a lamb shank rather than a ham bone.

I think I need more definition around what it means to “meet someone”, because I keep feeling like I’m cheating.

 
Today I decided to make my assignment a bit more straightforward. There are so many different kinds of "mini-risks" I could take each day, it can get a little overwhelming just to make the decision. To be more specific, I decided to think a bit more about the actual challenge I'm trying to address. My problem is not with having confidence in myself— I can even be a bit over-confident when it comes to signing up for new challenges and projects. And it's not about being comfortable with people in general— once I get to know someone, I open up fairly quickly. The main challenge is in being able to express myself confidently to new people who I have not met yet. So I think my new challenge will be to meet one new person each day. 

Wei & Annemarie

Today, I met Wei at the Institute of Design's Transcultural Design night. She was presenting about her research on "the sex talk" between American parents and children. She showed us her project and we talked about the connection to my recent talk with a class of high school girls about STIs in their communities.

I often find myself discounting my attempts at my assignment. Tonight Wei introduced herself to us, so I felt I had cheated by not taking the initiative to introduce myself. But I kept reminding myself that my new assignment was to meet someone new each day, it doesn't matter who introduces themselves.

Dance, dance:

After watching this week’s videos about visualizing and automating the process, I’m inspired to refine my assignments and the context around them to make them easier to follow. I think the first step towards that might be recording some of my existing tendencies, or my individual “culture”:

  • I drink a smoothie every morning. I usually make it at home and bring it to work in a travel mug because I’m running too late to drink it at home. 
  • I read on the train— often a library book, but occasionally something on my iPhone if the train is too crowded or if my mind feels too busy. I’ve found that the train is a great place to catch up on emails, but I’d often rather consume information than do any actual work.
  • I use iCal to coordinate my schedule. It pulls appointments from my work’s google calendar and syncs between my work computer and my iPhone, so I have it all the time. I am obsessive about adding reminders and events to my calendar to keep myself in check.
  • Evernote is another link between my personal and work lives. I use Evernote throughout the day at work to keep notes, brainstorm and make to do lists. Throughout the day, I often think of ideas or tasks or daydreams that I can’t pursue on the clock, so I write them in another Evernote note to remind myself when I get home.
  • Lately, I’m on a complicated diet, so I always bring my lunch to work. However, I normally try to bring lunch but allow myself to go out once or twice a week. I like using lunch as a way to hang out with my coworkers. Now that the weather is getting nicer, we’ll start having lunch on the patio, which allows me to eat my packed lunch and hang out with coworkers at the same time!
  • Before the complicated diet, a busy or lazy night meant that my roommate and I would order food from Piehole (pizza), Dimo’s (pizza), or Cozy (thai). It was the ultimate relief and comfort.
  • After arriving home from work, I usually spend most of the evening in the kitchen— cooking, eating, cleaning up after myself, and occasionally hanging out with my roommates. I’m always amazed at how late it is once I’ve cooked, eaten and cleaned up.
  • Whole Foods is an easy walk between my train stop and my house, which means that I go there almost daily to pick up an ingredient or two for dinner or lunch the next day. When I’m there, I always want to get a little something extra, and I usually allow myself one thing that wasn’t on my list. This is dangerous at Whole Foods.
  • I go to yoga every Saturday at 12pm. I always imagine that I’ll wake up early enough to do something before this on Saturdays, but I always end up jumping out of bed and rushing out the door just in time.
  • After yoga, I always want to sit down on the couch. I’ve learned that if I don’t sit down, I can harness the energy gained and use it for chores. But I’d much rather sit down and take a nap.
  • Now that it’s getting nice outside, I always want a reason to come home from work and relax outside. I don’t want to go for a run or anything, I just want to be in a sunny place.
  • I love food. Gathering small groups of good friends around food is my favorite social interaction.
  • I spend way too much time browsing food blogs and adding recipes to my YummySoup organizer.
  • I get into addictive cycles with the food blogs, as well as checking my Facebook news feed and likings things on Svpply. 
  • Drawing, scanning and coloring in Photoshop is a relaxing and rejuvenating activity that I don’t do enough, but when I make time, it makes me happy.
  • Thinking through an idea, consuming inspirational information and planning is easy and addictive for me, but doing things is draining and difficult.

03_meeting

I tried the productive dancing today, and discovered that making big gestures is legitimately scary for me! As I tried to make my limbs extend as far as they could, there was a sort of terror and discomfort that made me want to curl up into a little ball. I thought this was a great discovery, and it only reinforced that dancing big is the right thing for me to do. My yoga instructor often talks about using poses as a metaphor for larger life challenges, and breathing through poses to practice dealing with those larger challenges. I’d like to try focusing on my breath to calm myself down during morning dance time. Also, after doing it once, I learned that it might actually be worth it to carve out the time to focus on this. I’ll try to do that tomorrow, even if just for one song.

Today at work, I was asked to attend a practice presentation for a project in the office in order to give feedback from an outside perspective. This was scary because I have a coworker on the team who is often very critical of my comments in meetings. I felt myself making excuses to get out of the meeting throughout the day, but eventually ended up attending. I spoke up with comments during each round of feedback, and was surprised to have my comments seconded multiple times by the critical coworker. As always, afterwards I replayed moments in my head that I felt hadn’t gone well, but while talking with another coworker over tea, I realized that he also had insecurities about his performance. It gave me some great perspective that everyone faces these challenges, everyone messes up, and everyone learns from their mistakes and moves on.

I’ll attach my dancing songs below for your confident enjoyment!


02_angel

Again, I failed to get up early to dance. It seems a bit disruptive to my roommates, to play dance-y music in the morning. And I’m always getting out of bed too late to even get out the door on time. Does this mean I’ve failed to integrate this into my own personal culture? I’ve been thinking about how my cultural intervention thoughts from Saturday would translate to this project. Knowing a culture would be translated on this small scale as knowing yourself. So if I know that I’m not a morning person, maybe I shouldn’t plan for something to happen in the morning. Or maybe I could work it into my routine to serve a double purpose of helping me to wake up. Maybe I could listen to the music in my headphones and dance from one task to another— getting dressed to making my morning smoothie, all dancing big. It’ll be crazy. I’ll try it tomorrow.

After a slow day that didn’t seem incredibly risky, I was considering writing about the value in simply recognizing risks that I take in normal, everyday life, like the fact that I called my client today even though I wasn’t sure if the meeting was still happening, or if I was supposed to be talking to them on my own terms. I’ve never called a client before! So I think that is valuable.

But then I learned another lesson while walking home. I said “Hi” to a man who was going through the garbage in the alley behind my house. I didn’t know what I would say next, I mostly had the courage to say something only because he surprised me as I rounded the corner. I usually would just smile or wave at someone I pass in the alley. But the fact that I started the conversation with that one small word gave him permission to talk to me. He walked with me down the alley and commented on what a nice day it was. He asked what I thought the temperature might be and he told me his name was Angel. I always get nervous when strangers follow me or ask my name. This man didn’t ask my name, and he was obviously more interested in his task of finding treasures in the garbage than he was in following me. It was comforting to feel like I could trust a stranger, and to know that sometimes I just need to take a small step to set something in motion.

01_dwi

It’s my first day and I already failed at the first part of my assignment— no big morning dancing.

For the second part, I took a bit of a planned risk. My friends and I get together every month to eat good food and discuss a topic that’s been on our minds. This month, I volunteered to facilitate the discussion around the ethics of behavior change. There were definitely a couple of moments when I felt uncomfortable being the “leader” of the discussion. I knew that with a room of such brilliant people, we could have a great conversation without any direction. And besides, this is a casual, fun gathering. It was difficult to be the leader in a casual way. Aside from these thoughts in my own mind, the dinner went very well— delicious food, great conversation, happy friends, as always. And I did feel like I took a few risks and opened up about some parts of my life that I wouldn’t normally tell a group of people about.

I had also assigned myself the task of documenting this risky moment with a photograph. I’m realizing this might be difficult if I couldn’t even get a photo in the midst of my friends. Maybe I will make a little drawing for each moment instead.

As I mentioned, this project is a practice run for me as I think about defining the idea of cultural interventions for behavior and perspective change. On Saturday morning as I was trying to get myself out of bed, I had some thoughts about a hypothesis for how this cultural intervention process could work. The example is from a day I spent with the amazing ladies of Demoiselle 2 Femme in Roseland, discussing their project about addressing STIs in their neighborhoods. The process is not new, and not much different from what we do every day as design researchers, but I think there are some pieces that could be especially important for cultural interventions specifically.

1. Map the experience
For example, how does someone get an STI? At some point, two people have sex, but what happens before and after that to put someone at a higher risk?

2. Dive deeper
At each point at the map, ask “Why does the experience happen this way?” The girls mentioned that boys have sex with lots of different girls. Why? Because they’ll get bullied by the other boys if they don’t.

3. Go to the cultural source
What if then we went to hang out with the most intimidating bullies, to understand their culture and value system? What’s cool and why is it cool? How did it come to be cool? What are the important core needs that are being fulfilled by this bullying behavior, or the focus on sexual promiscuity? Is there another healthier way we could fulfill those needs in a similar cultural context?