Session 10 :: Signal Interpretation

20 mins: OLI questions 

Process :: Five-minute group discussion

  • 5-minute discussion.
  • Submit group comment/question.
  • 1-minute. Each student votes individually on 3 questions they would like to discuss (Here is a link to some questions)
  •  We discuss as a class the most voted upon questions for nine minutes.
    • optional: Peter replies to the other questions via YouTube after class and uploads response.

Following is a comment from one of the previous class:

  • One of the major dilemmas I find with zero-waste lifestyles and those that serve as its figureheads: its overlooking of class. Most videos showed a college-educated, unemployed (except by YouTube, or publishers), white person preaching about their behavior. Going about their day, shopping at Whole Foods, utilizing ‘home-made’ beauty products that imitate the conventional, ‘bad’ beauty products & companies. Unfortunately, not only do these actions signify sustainable living, but also whiteness, wealth, and urbanity. How might we uphold sustainable lifestyles that aren’t just for rich, educated, white people that live near a whole foods? For example, where are the rural, impoverished people’s sustainable lifestyles?

What benefits does examining future signs in three parts (emerging issue, signal, interpretation) have?How are politics impacted by fast fashion?how do circular economies fit in? (Like the modular phone)The ten-item wardrobe is a lifestyle that I already seem to live, honestly not even on purpose. I’m curious to know if there are other members of the class that realized they were already living by some of the tenets eschewed in these videos without necessarily noticing it before.

(1) When and why people started to respect minimalism? 
(2) How do we reduce wasteful practices in the School of Design?Bottom-up student initiatives?  SAC anyone? Studio based initiatives e.g., composting in grad studio.
(3) Is this type of lifestyle really sustainable from an economic standpoint? Our economy is built on consumerism and I’m not sure what the alternative would be?Consumerism is a relatively new phenomenon: 
Another perspective:: 
What are the worldviews and myths linked to consumerism? What might be the worldviews and myths linked to minimalism?Any of you read Walden by Henry David Thoreau? 
Sustainable development 
(4) What is the alignment like between finding signs and identifying issues? Do the two words refer to the same idea, or is there a functional difference between them?Signals point to the actual thing in the world.
(5) The minimalists still give a lot of importance to products. They imply that having fewer things will automatically help you focus on what is important. Why can’t we have a rich life when we have more products than we necessarily need?“Paradox of choice” Barry Schwartz 

55 mins: In-class assignment sheet 

You’ve just experienced some future signs around minimalism, post-consumerism, zero-waste lifestyles, and so forth. 


  • Bea Johnson
  • Lauren Singer


Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

Dave Bruno :: 100 item challenge

Liz Wright :: Throw away 1000 things

(c) ZERO WASTE STARTUP: Lauren Singer


10 item wardrobe (Jennifer L. Scott)

(e) Digital Minimalism: Cal Newport & Jaron Lanier

What makes an heirloom? What was a luxury in the past? What might luxury be in a future of zero-waste, local manufacture, minimalism?

5 mins: Step 5. Going deeper into future signs (group)  

10 mins: Step 6. Signal, Issue, and Interpretation. (individual)   

15 mins: Step 7. Describe the design opportunity and design concept (individual) 

15 mins: Step 8. Critique your project (pairs) 

Here is a link to the grading rubric

Recap :: In the OLI homework you made connections between future signs, plausible futures, and STEEP forces. Today you went deeper into futures signs. You sought to engage with more future signs from a design perspective.

Homework :: 
(1) OLI page 29 Future signs: issues, signals, interpretations
(2) Submit steps 1-8 on futures signs. 
(3) Week 5 reflection due two days before class. Read comments before class.
(3) OLI page 22 (Layers of Change).

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