execution 4 love drawn dagger

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- Chris Takakura

Why design should intersect social science

Date March 16, 2011 | Published by |

Recently, a pre-production to a project based on racism has been in the works. The project itself was something I have been wanting to do for quite a long time now, but it has only been recent, where it started to be conceived on paper and in my head.

The reason I mention this is because I have long been wanting to intersect social problems and psychological science with my design work for quite sometime. I been notoriously infamous for executing projects based on my personal experiences and my personal psyche, but I have always thought that it is important to fuel that creative energy to execute something that communicates to the world about human rights and political problems that we face today.

Outside of the recent events in Japan, there has also been a number of issues going on in the United States alone, where a small little problem turned into a big problem via social media. If you have not been in touch with U.S news, there were some big uprising and anger within the state of California, specifically southern California, over a college girl (Alexandra Wallace) who created a video ranting about a specific race and her connection within that over the devastating disaster Japan is currently still recovering from.

In case you missed it:

Many people, Asians and non-Asians alike, have called for a punishment against Alexandra Wallace such as expulsion from her school (University of California Los Angeles). Make no mistakes, as a Japanese American, I was outraged by this video at first. I was angry, I was shocked that someone would make a video and then post it on YouTube for the whole world to see. But then after thinking and some deep thought process, I realized that anger is not the solution. If anything, I should be feeling bad for this girl due to her lack of knowledge of the Asian culture. Now of course someone can ask themselves, “why is it important to understand the Asian culture specifically?” I am only stating Asian culture due to the relevance of this video, but I believe that it is important to at least understand the world culture in various degrees.

Why the Alexandra Wallace video matters

This isn’t about the video being the centralized item of media, but mere fact of the existence of people who really are sheltered and clueless about the cultures different from theirs. Now I can easily sit and walk away from this all since I have no personal connection with Ms. Wallace in anyway. But as a designer, we have the power to communicate a solid subject matter in the world today. Don’t make any mistakes, art and design is a very powerful medium to educate, spread the knowledge and make people think about things they usually don’t think about. This is why Ms. Wallace’s video matters. Not only is it a pure sign of ignorance or the lack of education on ethnic studies, but it is a sign that certain parts of our educational system fails us.

It is not a innovative topic for me to sit and tell you that social media can fuel social suicide for users. It is vital and important in this new generation that there are consequences to what you publish on your Facebook page, Twitter, Tumblr and so on. This is an area where Ms. Wallace failed on and is now facing consequences from many Asian advocate groups and the Asian community as a whole. She even got death threats, which I strongly condemn. Now I stated earlier that our educational system fails us. Why does it fail us as a young generation? I believe that the most disturbing fact about Ms. Wallace’s video is her age and her career goal. As a young Political Science student, she should not be having this mentality. And with her being in college, she should not be in the mental state that she is in to begin with. If this video came from a grade school kid, I can assure you that there won’t be that 15 minute bad celebrity fame that Ms. Wallace has gotten. Why? It is because kids do not know any better. They are not experienced, exposed to what is out there in the outside world. It should not be too difficult to have kids get educated in ethnic studies at a young age. I find that this is very important due to the hybrid society this world is starting to become. And Ms. Wallace’s video is a clear sign that she has not been exposed to the Asian culture. She failed to even separate the difference between the imitation of Chinese language versus the Tsunami disaster. My first reaction was “hey, they are not even the same country or culture”, but to Wallace, “we all look alike and we probably live in the same area.” Is this an outrage to the Asian community? Sure. But the most saddening thing is that she is that ignorant of the world. I don’t believe her punishment should be expulsion. That will just leave this girl out in the open with no education in cultural studies. I believe that she should be faced with requirements to take an ethnic studies class, where they will go over the differences of each major culture and how it intertwines.

Why design should communicate Social Science

As stated earlier, design is a powerful form of communication. With this in mind, it is always a good idea for me to promote the idea of designing or working on a project that communicates and educates some form of social science. This can come in forms of Sociology or Psychology, but as designers I believe that it is important to understand world culture and things that happen around the world, and to educate others who do not perhaps understand. Now I am not stating that a design propaganda is the answer to early education and exposure to international studies. I still strongly believe that a class based on this, with tests, and reading, should be presented in mid grade school to middle school. But it would be good to see, some form of design media as in TV advertisements, movies, books, magazines that cover more topics of social science involving race and ethnic studies. One thing to ask yourself (if you are a designer), when was the last time you did a personal project revolving around the idea of a “voice” being heard? The existence of social injustice still lingers all over the world. The existence of the close minded idea that the color of our skin is what sets us apart still lingers. We should not always condemn these people, but brace them with education and opening up their minds.

Why racism angers people

No doubt that they are angry. Some are angry because a girl like Alexandra Wallace exists. They are angry because her belief system is corrupted in their view. But most of them are shocked, and angry, because this type of mentality and media execution based on racism and prejudice still exists till this day. We all like to believe that racism does not exist anymore. We all like to believe that everyone is equal, however this is far from the case. It is important to note that through education and communication, knowledge and exposure, Ms. Wallace wouldn’t have done what she did in the first place. I do not rule out the idea that her unacceptable behavior may stem from a Psychological route. May that be jealousy, or a form of lashing on how “close Asian families are compared to hers”. But it is important to point out that she has a social disease. She has a firm belief of what she has posted. She apologized only after her premeditated plan to set up, record, and upload the video on YouTube. But again, I believe that she did what she did due to her lack of knowledge and understanding of the Asian culture as a whole.

Automatic Drawing

Pure Social Psychology Automatism

As André Breton used the style called “Pure Psychic Automatism” to express his surreal art, we as designers need to stand up against social injustice and inequality through design without thinking. I call out to all designers to just pick one topic within the realm of social injustice or inequality, sit and design something about it. It will not only surprise you in terms of what you can come up with, but it will educate others at the same time. You don’t even need to sit and design something that precise. Just let your creativity flow, save the design, show it to your friends and see what the reaction would be.

As a famous teacher has said, “Racism is a learned condition, if it can be learned, it can be unlearned. Racism is all about power.”

One Response to “Why design should intersect social science”

  1. Md Razaul Karim said:

    Thanks for explain your idea and i appreciate this.

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