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Critical Self-Reflection

Studying Change: Design as advocacy/activism/agency with Liam Fennessy and Soumitri Varadarajan was a choice I made when reading the subject guide before balloting. As my last ever studies class that I will undertake, I wanted to make sure that I chose a subject that would interest me, push the boundaries of my design thinking and set me on the right track to head into third year Industrial Design at RMIT. I will admit, after reading the subject brief, I wasn’t 100% sure what I was signing myself up for, but I had been taught by Liam in the past, and I know that his teaching style and philosophy sits well with me.


After our first class with Soumitri, I doubted weather I had made the right choice, straight after class on 25th July, tweeting “feeling annoyed/irritated/insulted #changeaaa”. But upon reflection, I realized that this is how Soumitri wanted us to feel. He had pushed our buttons to spark a sense of irritation, to drive an emotional reaction that would illicit a need for change.


For the next four weeks, tweeting as much as possible and updating our WordPress blogs with our thoughts and insights on current issues was a daily exercise. At first I found these tasks to be a chore, it wasn’t easy learning how to use them, but when it becomes such a frequent occurrence, you pick it up pretty fast. I found that scrolling through HootSuite, Tweet Deck, looking up what was trending and following tweeters like “Humanitarian News”, “” and  “Climate Reality” vastly expanded my knowledge and awareness of what was going on in the world. This live feed form of research made me feel in touch with what was going on. It puts things in your own life in perspective when you see what others are dealing with.


Our first task of committing to giving up something didn’t last long for me. I chose to totally wipe out coffee from my daily routine. Although I was not previously a huge coffee drinker, I did struggle with this task. It wasn’t purely because I was struggling to keep my eyes open in the morning, but I also found that on social occasions like going to someone’s house for a catch up or meeting in a café, I didn’t want to seem rude by refusing their offer of a coffee. I guess, if I had of stayed firm in my attempts, I could have overcome this situation, but this time it was caffeine: 1, Georgie: 0.


Focusing on the topic of ‘Energy Saving in the Home’ for our group assignment and the Field Manual for Change was an engaging topic because it sits very close to home for me. Being a strong believer in the need for change in order to lessen our emissions and input towards climate change, I felt a strong drive to clearly get this issue out there. After having lived through years of drought and having to adapt to change in order to conserve water in particular, I had first hand experience of small and low cost things that people can implement into their own homes in order to reduce their energy usage.

            Working in groups was an interesting experience. We started off very strongly, meeting up for regular discussions of ideas, which moved into breaking up tasks among group members and communicating via the Internet using media like Facebook, Twitter and Google Drive. In general our group was excellent at giving each other feedback and correcting each other’s work. Unfortunately towards the end of the assignment, someone took it upon herself to compile all of our work into the posters, and instead of placing our work into the poster layout; she also saw her role as the Editor. With the best intentions of simply wanting to present quality work, this overshadowed a lot of input that other group members had, and when undertaking group work, it is not a one-way street. You have to learn to compromise. Overall I feel our assignment turned out very well, and most importantly we were able to visually and textually communicate the need for change in terms of energy saving in the home.  


Class discussions were one of my favourite facets to this course. Bringing up notions of switching between Marco and Micro vision thinking when designing, reading about the idea of Defuturing proposed by academic provocateur in sustainability, Tony Fry, and discussing the history and importance of Industrial Design, all changed the way I view my role as a designer.


Overall I think that this course, through the guidance of Liam and Soumitri has resulted in my better understanding of the role of a designer, the importance of switching between different ways of thinking about design and finally understanding the three concepts of being a change maker, advocacy, activism and agency. 


How to turn your local set of Traffic Lights into a 30 Sec Dance Party! (S3449221 CHRIS WORSLEY)

A Field Manual For Change by Chris Worsley

How to turn your local set of Traffic Lights into a 30 Second Dance Party!


Bored of your local traffic light just dictating to you when you can cross the street?
Wish there was better way to share your interest in pop music with your friends?
Can’t find the time to learn the forbidden dance aka ‘the Lambada?’

Hi there! Well you’ve taken the first steps to making this a reality.   Your very own Dance Party at your local traffic lights is but a few task’s away.  By reading this manual for change, you’ll find insight into the world of everyday objects and the relationship we share with them, the way in which our perspective towards everyday objects can affect us and the community as a whole and how empathy for these objects should be shared.   And what better way to do it than through humor.

Its no laughing matter though, While it’s also important that we realize how experimentation and re-appropriation of objects helps us to discover the potential of the items around us, as well as encourages creativity and ingenuity within the community.    It is also a great way of communicating an idea or message and changing people’s perception something that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Traffic lights are publicly shared object.  The reason why we have chosen this as an object requiring change is that it will communicate to others our message more effectively and quickly, to more people in a shorter amount of time. It will inspire and encourage other to effect their surroundings in a positive way, I hope.

Through this exercise you will see just how easy it is to turn a regular, everyday item into a interactive dance partner.  It’s as easy as following the below steps!

You will need the following.
1 x MP3 player/Ipod with remote control, Fully Charged.
1 x Plastic Bag
20 x Cable ties.
1 x Ladder
2 x Hi Vis Safety Vest
3 x Witches Hats
1 x Can of white enamel spray paint
2 x Stencils (1 x Left and 1 x Right foot)
1 x “Out of Order” Sign
1 x Think Cardboard 50cm X 50 cm
1 x Pencil
1 X Stanley knife.

Friendly tip No.1. Do you know the design hub has an A3 printer which you can use fro free!! With the help of your friendly RMIT student,

Optional Items
-Disco Ball
-Laser Beams
-Smoke Machine



  1. Once you have purchase or obtained the items from the list above, Chose the set of street lights you wish to turn change into a futuristic 30 ball of disco ‘amazingness’ and perform your civic duty upon.  I suggest perhaps not utilizing the closest set of lights to your house as you may bump into neighbors or people you know during the set-up.
  2. You’ll need a look out. Convince a friend to help you out, perhaps someone who owes you a favor or someone who shares your point of view on the current state of empathy towards everyday objects.
  3. Stand on the piece of thin cardboard.  With your pencil trace around the outside of each foot.  Then using the Stanley knife, cut the outline you have just made. You now have your stencil.
  4. Pick your favorite musical artist.  If you struggling to think of one, below is a list of suggestions.

Prince – 1999
Slayer – Walk
Grandmaster Flash – White lines


Organize a relatively quiet time to install. Peak times might make this awkward, so suggest either the mid morning 10am-11am or late evening. Midday to 3am.


  1. Place the witches Hats down surrounding the Traffic light around 1m in distance from the light pole base.
  2. Have your support buddy / look out stand at the bottom of the ladder with two hands supporting the ladder while you climb to the height you wish to install. I suggest just below the actual traffic lights themselves.
  3. First take up the small two speakers you purchased early and use the cable ties to secure them tightly to the pole with the speakers facing toward the crossing.
  4. The wrap the Mp3 Player in the plastic bag and tie it closed. This is to prevent any damage is the case of rain.
  5. Secure the MP3 Player to the pole again using the cable ties.
  6. Make a quick plan with regard to the type of dance moves you would like executed through the crossing. Now place take the left and right foot stencils and apply a quick treatment of paint through them across the traffic crossing to achieve the steps you want.
  7. Pack away your witches hats, take off those ridiculous vests and head home for the day.  Job Well Done!


  1. Be sure to be wearing appropriate dancing shoes.
  2. Keep the key ring with the attached MP3 Remote in your pocket when you head out the door.
  3. As you approach the lights, pop your hand in your pocket and feel for the MP3 remote.
  4. As the Signal turns “Cross” (GREEN WALKING MAN) , push the play button on the remote to start the music.
  5. Follow the steps on the ground and amaze your friends with your skill.
  6. Hit the stop button on the remote in your pocket once you have completed crossing the street or when the signal turns stop (RED FLASHING MAN).

It’s that easy.

You may feel that this is a trivial exercise but it is important for us to experiment and try new things, at all stages of an objects life.   These shared objects can evolve as ideas as they are exposed to more and more people.  The creative process must continue throughout the lifespan of shared objects, hopefully someone will build on your creation and in turn you build on theirs.  This cycle can go on and evolve the product around us.

Feel free to show your involvement with these objects and share them with others. Its good for you, and the community as a whole.

Party on!

Reflection (Alin Coop – s3379729)

Stepping into class that first day, I didn’t know what to expect. WIthin minutes it was clear that even if i had expected something, this wasn’t it. I quickly learned that Soumitri didn’t want us to try and guess what he wanted us to say, but to actually develop opinions and thoughts of our own. However, this didn’t mean that I was instantly able to do so.

We spent the first few weeks quietly listening to Soumitri, barely contributing to the discussion. I was no exception.

There were a number of things I didn’t connect with immediately (and a few I still don’t). The use of Twitter felt burdensome at first, I was treating it as an assignment. Retweeting and posting links that I thought would appease the Twitter gods. But that’s not what it was about. Eventually I began to comprehend the role Twitter can have in linking you with the world. I filtered through the general nonsense and focused on the nonsense that interested me. Then I shared that with #changeaaa.

It felt good when someone ‘favourited’ my content. I’m important and so are the things I say.

That’s not a joke. Well it sort of is, but in all seriousness, what I took most from the time with Soumitri is that it’s important to care. I’m finding it difficult to say this without sounding like I’m just trying to tell you what you want to hear. But I can see why being ’empathetic not pathetic’ is important.

So did I connect with Twitter and blogging? Not really. Did those activities open my eyes to a reality outside my own? I think it did.

Moving onto later in the semester, when we started getting a bit deeper into the assignments. I began to feel a bit lost as to what was expected and when. In the end I think it all turned out okay, but only because no one else knew what they were doing either.

I liked the group I worked with. Our journey wasn’t without some turbulence, and I think it boiled down to a lack of communication. Maybe not even that, but a lack of understanding of what others wanted. I’m being super ambiguous right now, but everyone who needs to understand what I mean, will understand. Whoever is reading this right now can take solace in the fact that in the end we pulled through and completed a well-thought-out, yet slightly unrefined and grossly oversized poster on maintaining a comfortable living situation.

What did I get out of the last semester? The ability to develop and articulate my own understanding and opinion of a matter. I’m still soft-spoken and prefer to listen than talk, but I’m not brain-dead.

In terms of Industrial Design, my perspective when approaching problems has changed and I will be able to pursue solutions with a wider point-of-view. There is still an attraction to design that some may call superfluous (chairs and tables) but I’ll always have an eye open bigger and better opportunities.

Alin Coop

Self-Reflection_ChiehChung Cheng, s3428170

Still remember the first advocacy/activism/agency class with Soumitri Varadarajan, during the lesson he had completely changed and destroyed the way how we perceive the world. At the time, I was feeling helpless, terrified, shocked and upheavals. Due to the fact that Dr. Soumitri made me realised how ignorant I was in the past 19 years. I became aware that I did not take much attention of what was happening around in the world, even though I thought I did. However, with Dr. Soumitri’s irritation he had drove my emotional reaction deep down in my heart. He had made me came to understand as a designer, I should be more conscious about our surrounding and knowing the current issue in the world.I walked out the first class with depression and sadness.

After the first lesson, I knew this is the class that I want to be in, even though I was completely confused and frustrated at the time. I told myself I not to give up, people does get overwhelm during the process of CHANGE, and I just have to accept the change to happen.

Since I am not a Facebook addict, I found it struggling to share thoughts and articles on Twitter. However, it was introduced to us as a research tool, twitter gave us an insight of what happened in a particular area and also it is a primary source without others interpretation. This made me started to use twitter as a research tool more often than before.

I was introduced with numerous different ideas and thoughts from Liam and Soumitri and also my classmate. Was able to communicate sharing ideas around with my group mates and furthermore gained a lot of discussion experience during the group project.

Overall of the class, I have developed a new way to perceive the world and ideas, which have made me realised the importance of Change. Even though I found the class challenging, however, through out the class I have gained a lot of knowledge that I could not possibly get from other lesson.

Field Manual of Change – Solar in the home (Alin Coop – s3379729)


What is it? Do we really understand the hype? We all hear about this magical alternative energy, but what we need is to understand it’s functions in our every day lives. Especially in our homes.

If you said solar energy is power harnessed from the sun, whether that be light or heat, you’d be correct. To some it’s also seen as a big investment, too big to consider, despite the obvious benefits. When most people think of solar power, they think of solar panels. They think of solar panels on the roof of a house. But what about the solar farms? What about solar hot water? Understandably, solar panels might seem out of reach for an individual. However, we should be pushing toward a future powered by the sun.

Improvements in solar and battery technology are making amazing things possible. More and more people are living ‘off-the-grid’. Surviving entirely on what they produce. These are extreme scenarios, however. A lot of time, effort and often money go into making those situations possible. A lot of understanding and care about what energy goes where in the home. For someone like you or I, who just want to save a few dollars, or create a more comfortable home, or ‘do our bit for the environment’, there are options that aren’t too radical and complex.

First of all, know that I won’t be talking about solar architecture, artificial photosynthesis and solar thermal electricity. Now that I’ve dropped some big words, let’s move on to what we can both relate to.

Taking advantage of solar means taking advantage of two things, heat and light. I’m sure you can already see the relationship this has with our homes. Now also understand that we can utilise solar in two ways, actively and passively. Actively means to convert solar energy into another useful form of energy, such as electricity. Passively means to collect, store and distribute solar energy in it’s existing form, be it heat or light.

Looking closely at active solar, there are a multitude of applications. I’m going to focus on the basics, in this case turning the sun’s energy into electricity and storing that in battery banks. What’s involved in a simple set up are three things: solar panels, a charge controller, batteries and possibly an inverter.

The solar panels are what capture the sun’s energy, these are to be positioned in such a way that their exposure to the sun is as great as can be.

The charge controller is what ensures safe and efficient charging of the batteries. For examples, batteries cannot be overcharged, and a charge controller prevents this from happening.

Batteries are obvious. They contain the energy in a functional package that we can tap into at any time.

Now inverters can be considered depending on the context of your application. If this solar setup was located in a van, chances are you’re just using it to power some lights and a radio. If they run off DC current, then you don’t need an inverter. However if you want to power home appliances such as fridges, microwaves and televisions, you will need one. An inverter outputs an AC current.

Let’s also talk about passive solar. Do you remember what that was? Utilising the energy in it’s existing form. As an example we’ll look at heating water.

Take a long hose and spread it out in your garden during a hot day. Ensure there is water sitting along the entire length and let it bask in the sunlight. When you turn on the house a while later, you’ll find the water that’s been sitting in the exposed sections of hose is likely much warmer than that which has been underground or in shade. I’m sure you understand what I’m alluding to but: the sun heated that water.

Imagine if that hose was black. Black conducts heat much better than other colours. Imagine if you spread out a smaller diameter hose, efficiently increasing the exposed surface area. The water would heat up much faster.

Passive solar doesn’t just refer to heat, but also light. Strategically designed homes take advantage of nature and open themselves up to the big lightbulb in the sky, instead of switching on their tiny compact-incandescent-LED-globe-things. They reflect the light internally, meaning even areas that aren’t in direct line of sight with the sun can be well lit.

So those are some options for you. Though you may be wondering, why?

– Because solar can save you money!

– Because not only is it sustainable, it’s renewable! You won’t run out!

–  It requires little maintenance! So easy even I can take advantage of it!

– We’re always improving the technology! This means efficiency is increasing while production costs are decreasing!

Are you convinced? If so, good. Now go change the world. If not, then tell me why. ‘Solar panels are too expensive’ is not a reason. Go paint a water bottle black and leave it outside. Then have the least satisfying but most environmentally friendly shower of your life.

Don’t forget though, research is important. By all means, jump in to the world of solar with two feet. But make sure you know what you want to get out of it. Do you want to power a camper-van? Do you want to heat your swimming pool? Figure that out first, and you’ll have no problem finding the perfect solution.

Sunny skies and warm showers,
Alin Coop.


What is solar energy?

Solar water heating

DIY Solar Australia

Micro-inverter makes install-it-yourself solar panels possible

DIY Solar panel installation

An introduction to solar energy

Solar Energy 101

Alternative Energy News

Benefits of Solar Energy

Alin Coop – Learning contract

What I want from this class, this semester:

Result: Distinction
How I will achieve it:
– Be involved
– Contribute
– Expand awareness
– Achieve a connection
– Develop empathy

Time: 10-15 hours per week

– Achieve a sense of accomplishment
– Personal growth
– Satisfaction
– Deeper empathy

Twitter: 10-14 tweets per week

Giving up:
Short term – Smartphone and laptop for 48 hours
Long term – Fast food

Design activism: International Wish Wall

Public activism: Home Insulation Scheme


“You’ve come to university to learn, but have you come to change?” – Soumitri

Public and Design Activism

When it comes to public activism, I’ve got to stop being a child, and stop being scared of voicing my opinion. It’s my responsibility as a citizen to showcase myself as a change-maker, to try and improve our society in whatever way I can. Change making is about 3 things; advocacy, activism and agency. To be a change-maker you have to understand these 3 concepts. 

Advocacy: to fight for somebody. Where someone can’t achieve a better quality of life, and you step in to lobby on their behalf. For example, when did women get to vote? When did they become equal? The answer, they still aren’t equal! Look at Julia Gillard. When does a man in politics get harshly judged based on their body shape, hair colour, dress sense or tone of voice? 

Activism: anything that you do has been fought and won for you. What are you doing to give back? If nothing – are you guilty? People need to have a bleeding heart, to connect to the things inside you that drive your passion and ignite your sense of irritation. You’re no different than the people before you. You can make a difference too. The fact that people don’t care is an accidental mistake. Ask an Architect what he thinks of women being allowed on the front line. He’ll probably tell you that he doesn’t care or doesn’t have an opinion – and that is a problem. To make a real change in this world, people need to give a damn. They need to show care and compassion towards people or things that are happening in the world. These issues aren’t going to resolve themselves by people living in their own little bubble, only being concerned by the trivial problems in their lives. We have to be active public citizens. 

Agency: I’m not a nobody. I can say things – and if they’re wrong – at least they’re out there. When you feel like you can achieve something, you are an agent. We are agents for change. Statistics show that approx. 80% of refugees live in 3rd world countries. And what do we do? We put up walls, barriers between ‘them’ and ‘us’. What do poor people do? They welcome them with open arms, tell them to come and join the party. Take Tibet for example, some people left and went to India, no worries. Some people stayed. Why don’t we accept them? Because that’s the kind of people we are. 

Public Activism is not just about going and yelling stuff out in protesting mobs when you’re feeling overcome by anger or disgust. It’s about the small stuff too. As Soumitri professed “Be empathetic not pathetic”. If you’re walking along the street and a homeless person is asking for money, should you just chuck them 70 cents from your back pocket and keep walking? No. Have you got time to give to them? If so, tell them the story of your life. Share something with them. Be a person and treat them like you would your mate next door. Let’s be honest people, it’s likely to be 5 minutes out of your day, but imagine what it could do for that person with whom you spoke. There are other ways that you can show public activism, from personal experience, taking part in charity based events such as the ’40 Hour Famine’ and ‘Relay 4 Life’ are unforgettable experiences that not only promote awareness within your local community, but also have great benefits in terms of aid and monetary assistance to the companies that you are supporting. For me, another form of public activism is through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I have a large number of friends on these platforms, which I can use as an outlet for posting whatever I like. When I ‘share’ or ‘post’ or ‘tweet’ information, it is potentially seen by a vast number of young people. Instead of scrolling through a lot of rubbish on Facebook in particular, people could be learning about current world issues, as well as opportunities to be involved in their community. 

Design Activism is a tool that could potentially be very powerful, and make a difference in the way that people do or interact with everyday things. A designer is someone who is fundamentally radical. Everyone knows that we are a consumerist society battling monumental issues of climate change and global warming. Design strategies can be put into place to elicit behaviour change in consumers. Critical thinking in terms of sustainability and service design are two areas that I have recently spent a lot of time learning about. It is paramount that not only designers, but also citizens, are thinking about ways of living more sustainably, for it is our loved ones living in the future that will pay the price of our polluted earth. It is the responsibility of everyone to change the we way live and consume and dispose of things. It is not acceptable to be spoon fed, only knowing what you’ve been taught. We need to be porous individuals, constantly soaking in news and technology and squeezing out thought, feelings, and scope for change.