Peneliti Indonesia pada ke mana?

Kamis 12 Mei 2011 malam saya datang ke Goethe Institut Jakarta, untuk acara Akber Akbar-nya Akademi Berbagi. Pembicaranya adalah Yanuar Nugroho, dimoderatori oleh Onno W Purbo, dengan topik Citizens in @ctions yang merupakan penelitian doktoralnya di Manchester University. Sebelum acara dimulai, para peserta yang telah menunggu dapat menonton Linimas(s)a, atau Timeliner(s), sebuah film dokumenter mengenai fenomena masyarakat sipil di Indonesia dalam memanfaatkan teknologi Internet dan social media untuk mencapai tujuan bersama, dengan hasil yang amat signifikan.

Tautan terkait:

Presentasinya sendiri sangat menarik, dapat dijelaskan dengan bahasa sehari-hari meskipun mestinya mengandung perhitungan-perhitungan dan analisa yang tidak sederhana. Sesi tanya-jawabnya tentunya juga sangat menarik karena adanya interaksi yang ekspresif dan spontan, tapi sayangnya saya harus meninggalkan tempat ketika tanya-jawab masuk ke sesi kedua, karena harus mengejar travel terakhir menuju Bandung. Berikut ini hal-hal menarik dan menyentil yang terus-menerus terpikir sejak keluar dari auditorium itu…

– Bagaimana caranya agar teknologi Internet dapat merata, menjangkau seluruh wilayah Indonesia? “Kalau saya bisa menjawab pertanyaan ini, saya sudah jadi presiden”. Akses teknologi ini memang urusannya adalah kebijakan.

– Bagaimana caranya agar gerakan masyarakat sipil melalui internet dan media sosial ini dapat diimplementasikan secara menyeluruh dan dirasakan manfaat positifnya di Indonesia? Berbagi. Berbagi apa pun: informasi, urgensi, berita baik, dan sebagainya.

– Kegiatan online dan offline harus imbang agar ‘ajakan’ atau gerakan-gerakan di media sosial dapat berdampak signifikan. Ini ada hubungannya juga dengan fenomena sebuah gerakan yang berdampak

– Gerakan online sifatnya hanya sementara, berusia pendek, atau ketika tujuan sudah tercapai. Euforia pasti suatu saat akan reda. (Situs-situs Koin Prita, Bibit-Candra, dan sejenisnya kini telah berisi tautan-tautan berjualan yang makin tak jelas. Seharusnya pembuat akun atau moderatornya bisa menutup situs-situs tersebut?)

– ‘Click activist’ adalah mereka yang mengira bahwa hanya sekedar meng-click saja berarti sudah berbuat sesuatu. Ini tidak salah, karena memang berdampak, tapi ini tidak cukup.

– Bagaimana agar gerakan-gerakan semacam ini di Indonesia dapat diliput oleh media internasional, supaya dapat diketahui secara global? Sebenarnya kita bisa menulis tentang kita sendiri, dan ini yang sebenarnya sangat kurang di kita. Biasakanlah mencatat, merekam, menulis hal-hal yang dekat dengan kita dulu. Karena seharusnya kita yang paling tahu tentang diri kita sendiri. Bayangkan, beberapa waktu setelah meletusnya Merapi, peneliti-peneliti asing yang terlihat di wilayah sekitar gunung Merapi. Setelah bencana tsunami di Mentawai, peneliti-peneliti asing pula yang berdatangan ke sana. Seorang peneliti asing, di berbagai jenjang pendidikannya, tekun meneliti tentang makhluk halus di Indonesia. Peneliti Indonesia pada ke mana? Mari kita buat catatan dan publikasi tentang diri kita sendiri, sehingga kita tidak perlu mendatangkan atau bergantung pada media asing untuk meliput kita.

– Hampir semua di negri ini masih mengandalkan ‘strategi darurat’ dalam mengatasi permasalahan (komunikasi).

Kesimpulan utama yang dapat saya tarik dari acara malam itu adalah: Betapa besarnya sesungguhnya potensi masyarakat Indonesia dalam memanfaatkan media sosial ini, mengingat bahwa jumlah pengguna Internet di Indonesia = jumlah penduduk Kanada, jumlah pemilik akun Twitter di Indonesia = jumlah penduduk Singapura. Seharusnya bisa lebih kita optimalkan lagi.

Pasti masih banyak point yang belum saya tuliskan, sebab acaranya seru sekali. Mungkin saya akan kembali ke post ini dan menambahkan hal-hal yang saya ingat kemudian. Terima kasih untuk Akademi Berbagi dan Akber Akbar atas acaranya yang bagus sekali, dan yang telah memberikan kesempatan untuk berjejaring dengan orang-orang Indonesia yang hebat, yang membuat saya makin optimis bahwa masa depan Indonesia bisa menjadi jauh lebih baik!

*sketsa di atas saya buat sambil mendengarkan presentasi

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Imagination, Creativity, Innovation

Sir Ken Robinson takes on Creativity in interdisciplinary settings (Summit on Science, Entertainment and Education, February 2011):

I’m learning a lot from his talk, also by connecting the following excerpts with my own experiences from working in a so-called ‘creative’ field.

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Most people go through the whole of their education and never discover what they’re good at or what their talents are.

And I’ve met all kinds of people who only discovered purpose in their lives and who they really are once they’re recovered from their education.

It’s not true of everybody. Some people do wonderfully well from education. But many don’t. And even the people who you think are being favored by the current education system, I believe, are experiencing a lot of diminishing returns.

When politicians talk about “reshaping education” these days, they almost always talk about the stem disciplines as if, on their own, science and technology, engineering and math will deliver us safely into the future. And they won’t. To me it’s fundamentally important to recognize. I think this preoccupation isn’t even good for science, honestly.

We cannot afford to focus on just one group of disciplines in isolation.  I think it fundamentally misrepresents how creativity and innovation work in all disciplines.

The scientists on the group were absolutely worried that the obsession in most of our education systems, which standardized testing, with the narrowing of the curriculum to a particularly prescriptive set of objectives, which leeching the lifeblood from their own disciplines. And they know, as you know, that creativity is the pulse of science. And if you steal that, then you’ll lose another generation.

If you make science arid, you make another generation lose interest in it.

Science, engineering and technology are essential. They are necessary, but not sufficient to the kind of culture of education we need to develop in the future in that science will benefit by making common courses and synergies with the humanities and with the arts.

There was a study done a while ago of cultural differences in visual perception. It was published in Science Magazine. Essentially they took two groups of people: people from South East Asia, and people from Western European countries, including America. Students then sat them down for several hours and showed them hundreds of pictures, for a few second for each slide, asking “What’s that?” And all they had to do was say what’s that. That was it. They noticed a difference as indeed they expected to, because that’s how science is. You start with hypothesis and then you check it out. It’s not you go blindly into the open and hope you discover something. One of the finding was this: that people from Western European countries, when shown an image like that, said that it’s a tiger, as indeed most of you do. People from South East Asian cultures typically didn’t say that. They more often said something like “It’s a tiger in a jungle”, or “It’s a jungle with a tiger”, or sometimes “It’s a jungle” and they didn’t mention the tiger at all.

Now it’s interesting, isn’t it, because we take that for granted that we can see clearly what that is. And yet some other cultures don’t. And the reason is that in the West we are imbued in a culture of individualism and our eyes are naturally drowned toward what we think as a subject of the picture. Some other cultures look at the broader context. Now I’m not saying that they’re right and we’re wrong, and that’s good and this is bad, but it is different, and it’s important to recognize that there is a difference: that even things that seem too obvious to us may not seem obvious to other people at all. And that’s the great quest of science and of discovery in every field. We begin by challenging what we think is obvious and what we take for granted.

If we lived always with the burden of common sense, we’d still be living in caves, and wouldn’t have progressed. And indeed that’s the case for most of the species.

In one respect we are very different from other creatures. We have imaginations. And imagination is everything. The power of imagination is what distinguishes us from other forms of life on earth.

We mediate our expressions to the world through conceptual structures of ourselves.

Imagination is the phantom head of this process, the ability to bring to mind the things that aren’t present to our senses, to conjure up conceptions of alternative possibilities, to step outside our own frame of seeing and to enter somebody else’s consciousness through empathetic connection, to revisit the past or to anticipate the future.

Creativity is a step on from that. People could imagine all day long and not do anything. But you’d never call somebody “creative” for not doing anything. To be creative you have to do something. It’s a very material and practical process.

I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value.

These are misconceptions about Creativity:

  1. That only special people are creative. This is not true. If you’re a human being you are born with immense natural creative capacities. The trick is to develop them.
  2. It’s about special things. It is not. People always think it’s about the Art. It’s not. The Art is desperately important, but not because they’re creative, but also because they’re creative. But Science is creative, Physics and Chemistry and Mathematics are extraordinary manifestations of the creative capacities of human mind.
  3. There’s nothing you can do about it. You’re creative enough and that’s the end of it. Actually there’s a huge amount of what you can do to teach people to be more creative.

Innovation is a step on. I think of that as putting good ideas into practice. To be creative you have to apply yourself to things. There’s a myth that being creative is about freedom. It isn’t. It is much about constraints, it’s about discipline, and application. You cannot be creative as a scientist if you don’t understand the disciplines that you’re working within.

Creativity is essentially about making new connections. It’s therefore something that really thrives wonderfully well in interdisciplinary settings. And that’s why we need a broad-based education in which science is central, co-equal with the arts, where the creative impulse is cross-fertilizing the disciplines in creating new sense of possibility.

And I think that’s where the true dynamic of the future lies. And if we can get that right, we can find the best interests, best creative judgments of those who work in entertainment, those who work in the media, those who work as scientists and I hope the arts, too.  I think that’s the creative future we all want to live in.

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Similar post: Passion, Creativity, Element, Energy

Negotiating A New Indonesia

Ridwan Kamil filled in my Design & Sustainability class today as a guest lecturer, at the Master Program of The Faculty of Arts and Design, Institute of Technology Bandung (ITB). I invited him to talk about architecture, creative urbanism and creativity. Negotiating A New Indonesia was the title of his lecture, which actually contained lots of images and examples of his works, and activities he’s currently involved in, among others are: Tsunami Museum in Aceh, his renowned Bottle House, the award-winning Al-Irsyad Mosque in Padalarang, a locally-produced school for disaster victims in Padang, One Village One Playground program at Babakan Asih in Bandung, Bandung Creative City Forum, and Urban Farming movement.

Ridwan Kamil (white T-shirt, third from left) with fellow BCCF members, during the launch of Creative Entrepreneur Network of Bandung Creative City Forum in Bandung, 2009

Following are some lines from the session (in Indonesian).

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Selama ini alam Indonesia yang kita kenal kekayaannya biasanya adalah yang di wilayah pelosok, rural, alam bebas. Seharusnya wilayah urban juga bisa dikenal ke-Indonesia-annya melalui kekayaan alamnya. Tapi kenyataannya tidak demikian.

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Ruang-ruang yang kumuh di Indonesia ini sebagian besar bukannya diselesaikan, tapi malah disembunyikan.

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Green issues seharusnya tidak ada kalau cara hidup kita seimbang. Green seharusnya tidak menjadi trend, tapi menjadi hal yang lumrah. Ibaratnya “hidup sehat”, yang seharusnya dialami dan dijalankan setiap orang. Ajakan untuk “hidup sehat” biasanya ditujukan pada seseorang yang sudah mulai sakit, jadi sifatnya mengingatkan.

Begitu pula gaya hidup hijau, ditujukan pada manusia kini yang selama ini ‘lupa’ dan berfoya-foya memakai sumber daya, sehingga merusak kelangsungan hidup manusia sendiri.

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Gaya hidup hijau ini seharusnya tidak diseminarkan lagi, karena berarti tidak ada perubahan sejak isu itu pertama kita ketahui.

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Konsep keberlanjutan selalu melibatkan 3 hal: Ekonomi, Lingkungan dan Sosial-budaya. Tambah satu hal lagi: Lokalitas.

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Tantangannya bagi kita sekarang adalah: mewujudkan keseimbangan 3 hal tersebut, sambil mencari yang “sangat Indonesia”. Jangan secara langsung meniru konsep di negara-negara Skandinavia, misalkan, atau di Jepang.

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Desainer-desainer di Indonesia belum ‘janjian’ atau membuat manifesto tentang bagaimana karya desain yang ‘berkelanjutan’ itu untuk Indonesia. Sehingga kita sekarang memproduksi banyak hal, tapi tidak mencerminkan spirit yang sama.

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Biasanya penciptaan karya desain selama ini mengikuti tahap berikut ini: Existing Culture -> Design -> Status Quo Value

Dengan tahap ini, hasilnya tidak akan berbeda dari yang sudah-sudah, tidak akan ada inovasi. Sehingga akan lebih baik kalau memakai tahap berikut ini:

Design -> New Culture -> New Value

Kekuatan terbesar pada tahap ini adalah kreativitas.

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Desain harus menjadi wacana dan membuat orang berpikir.

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Masyarakat yang tinggi peradabannya adalah masyarakat yang memiliki apresiasi yang tinggi terhadap desain.

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Dalam hal Lokalitas terkandung tiga hal: cultural/vernacular, sosial/urban–non urban, dan klimatologis/lingkungan.

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Desain arsitektur saya adalah desain story-telling. Tidak sekedar mengambil simbol atau ikon visual, tapi menerjemahkan ide dan konsep menjadi bentuk/ruang.

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Konsep museum seharusnya dibuat sebagai ruang publik, bukan ruang ‘privat’ seperti sekarang ini.

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Pendidikan arsitektur cenderung mengajarkan doktrin Cartesian: sumbu XYZ, bangun geometri logis, kotak-kotak. Padahal seharusnya tidak selalu begitu.

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Karya arsitektur saya banyak dikolaborasikan dengan Desain Grafis.

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Konsep ruang makan sekarang harus memperhatikan dan dapat merangsang semua indera manusia; tidak cukup hanya menawarkan makanan yang enak. Sajikan lokalitas dengan geometri yang baru.

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Bagi bangunan di iklim tropis, bayangan itu penting. Merasakan keteduhan itu penting.

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Arsitektur yang paling emosional adalah yang dapat berpuisi.

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Pendidikan adalah yang membatasi cara kita berpraktik. Saya arsitek, karena saya dididik (formal) dengan ilmu arsitektur. Tapi bukan berarti saya tidak bisa menggarap hal-hal lain di luar arsitektur.

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Ubahlah Indonesia dan masyarakat Indonesia dengan imajinasi.

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Jangan pernah mendesain tanpa melihat/ mempelajari lokasi.

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Desainer paling senang bila pesan yang ia ekspresikan melalui karyanya berhasil disampaikan dan karya tersebut feasible.

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Sekarang sekitar 20% waktu saya untuk aktivitas sosial. Hidup di Indonesia ini, tidak akan tenang kalau kita makmur sendiir, tapi tetangga kesusahan.

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Networking is everything. Kita harus bisa bergaul dengan setiap orang.

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Urbanitas di Indonesia ini sudah ‘sakit’. Indikasinya adalah orang sudah enggan atau takut keluar rumah. Takut berjalan kaki, kuatir tersenggol kendaraan bermotor, takut bersantai di taman dan ruang terbuka lain.

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Di jam-jam macet, traffic Twitter paling tinggi. Ekonomi kemacetan lahir: tiba-tiba ada tukang bapau, tukang jual minuman, dsb. muncul di jalan raya. Contoh lagi, tukang ojek mangkal sembarangan. Kalau ditanya, pasti jawabnya, “Yang lain juga begitu”.

Ini karena urbanitas kita hanya dalam konteks, bukan mindset.

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Urban itu kata sifat, yang artinya harus dapat menerima perbedaan, harus mau mengikuti aturan, harus bertoleransi terhadap yang lain, demi kepentingan bersama.

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Di kota-kota besar Indonesia, manusia dijauhkan dari arsitektur. Ini adalah penghargaan terendah terhadap profesi arsitek.

Pendidikanlah yang menyebabkan terjadinya hal ini. Tugas kita sekarang adalah melawan norma-norma yang salah kaprah. Yang, karena sudah terlalu banyak dilakukan orang dan menjadi biasa, lalu dianggap ‘benar’.

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Perubahan tidak bisa ditunggu. Ia harus dijemput.

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Salah satu mimpi saya adalah adanya Bandung Biennale, di mana kreativitas tersedia di ruang-ruang publik, tidak hanya di ruang privat seperti galeri atau museum.

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*All images, except the first one, are taken from Ridwan Kamil’s presentation slide

The Other Ninety Percent

This semester I teach an “Eco-Design” class at the Master Program of Industrial Engineering at Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung. Among our main references is Design for Sustainability (D4S) published by UNEP and TU Delft, especially when we were discussing the subject of Design for Sustainability in Developing Countries. I couldn’t help but also included another reference: Design for the Other 90% that was actually an exhibition and is now also a book. What does “The Other Ninety Percent” refer to? According to Dr. Paul Polak from the International Development Enterprises who initiated the exhibition:

“The majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%”

This statement is similar to the critics of Victor Papanek in his book Design for The Real World (1972), that (industrial/product) designers tend to make products for less than 10% of the world’s population who can afford to buy them, and rarely work for the rest, whose main concerns are the fulfillment of basic human needs: clean water, food, shelter. In this book, he also provided examples of how designed products shouldn’t alienate themselves from people who use them.

An attempt of designers and engineers to make design available for as many people as possible is the site Demotech: Design for Self Reliance where people can freely access information about daily products, tools and machinery: how to build them out of various local resources and materials. Next to those who might need the information, people can also contribute to this site by submitting their designs, suggestions and tips for improvement. The concept of democratic-technology (hence the site name Demotech) indeed aims to reach the majority of people with limited resources, for them to be able to assist themselves.

Having this previous examples in mind, I asked the student of that class to bring an example of a product that is intended for “The Other 90%” and they came up with interesting ones, which I will put in later posts. But, for now, here’s a video about Design for The Other 90% as a prologue:

Here’s another link worth checking: a review of the Copper-Hewitt exhibition at Core 77

A fuss over a lid

This is probably the most mundane subject I bring up here, but hey- I need to get it out of my system. It’s about this thing.

It’s not because I’m unfamiliar with this object. On the contrary, I used to use this thing a lot of times during my commuting years in The Netherlands. When you have to catch a morning train, especially in Fall and Winter, or on your way back, when the sky’s already dark before 4pm, the wind’s blowing hard and cold, and you think of nothing much else but your warm home, it’s such a comfort to have one of these in your already-enveloped-in-gloves hands while waiting for the train to come and/or to depart at the platform of a train station. Filled with a piping hot drink of your choice (mine’s usually hot chocolate or cappuccino), ready to be consumed sip by sip before it loses its heat.

See, in such situation, it’s necessary to have such an elaborate design for a lid. A throw-away-after-each-use plastic lid for a throw-away-after-each-use paper cup. I was indeed delighted when I first saw the details put into such lid. See here: it has a tiny hole that allows smooth sipping; moreover, it also has a part that can be loosened to reveal a gap where you’d put your mouth.

But one has to be extra careful in estimating the distance between the gap and the hot liquid, the elevation and the speed of the hand tilting the cup, so no tongue would get scalded.

Anyway. Back to the details of the lid. The “lock” is a pretty neat trick, or so I thought, since one doesn’t have to throw away a small part, as with a beverage can, while one also doesn’t have to be bothered by a hanging piece of whatever that might obstruct the sipping process.

This type of lid is getting quite common now in Indonesia, although I think it’s for the worse, not for the better. Why? Regardless of all meticulous details it offers: this thing must have been imported (a quick Google search directed producers’ location in China, duh) and we don’t have a proper recycling system yet to handle plastic waste so it will end up along with other plastic varieties in landfills. This lid will outlive the beverage, the paper cup, and the person who drank and purchased the whole thing by tens of years.

I’m not saying that we should ban this lid altogether, for this is a wonderfully engineered, designed utility object – if used within an appropriate condition. Considering that the one I use as a model here comes from a fast food restaurant (I don’t think the urgency is there to serve every dine-in customer with this type of cup & lid), we should think of a better system that doesn’t generate waste or excess materials that we can’t process.