“ It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.”
The most powerful lesson for me, after 20 years working as a visitor on projects in India and South Asia, is that we have more to learn from smart poor people on things like ecology, connectivity, devices and infrastructures, than they have to learn from us.
Among the elements of a sustainable world that already exist, many are social practices — some of them very old ones — already learned by other societies and in other times. From this insight flows the idea of designers as global hunter-gatherers of models; processes and ways of living that already exist. Or used to. As scavenger-innovators, our first response should be to ask: Who has cracked a similar question in the past? How might we learn from, or piggyback on, their success?
10 ago today Alex and I set out of our cross country bike trip from New Haven CT to Seattle WA. I don’t think either of us had ridden more than 30 miles on a bike before, but that summer, we clocked over 4,000 miles in 63 days. I remember him riding behind me and whistling as I gasped up enormous hills in NY, fighting off swarms of flies and killer dogs in Wisconsin, and hanging onto his back wheel for dear life as he pulled my dehydrated ass through canyons in South Dakota and up the cascades in Washington. This photo was taken at the top of Powder River Pass - a 26 mile climb between Buffalo and Tensleep, WY and our highest elevation on the trip.
Alex went on to race for the US Development team in Belgium and I went on to design school - but that summer holds some of my most cherished memories with my brother. Last year, I wrangled all our trip maps and made this data visualization that shows our route, tracks our daily mileage, and points to key events. After years of driving each other crazy, this was the summer that Alex and I became friends, and that is something I will always be thankful for.
Final designs are coming together for Frank: a service that enables small groups of friends to work together to save money for the things that matter most. Come check it out on May 12
In a world before the meteoric rise of credit cards, a public service announcement about considering what you buy, what you save for, and how to spend your money…
“ Technology has made it possible to fundamentally change the way we interact with money. By providing a way to access people and financial resources in one place, technology has the potential to restore money to its original function - a means to create valuable relationships between people.”
Yesterday I went through my key screens with Charles making sure that my ideas and concepts were being communicated through actionable steps on the screens. Here is a peek inside the day’s activities. I have identified 4 pillars of experience that each part of the experience is focused around: Independence, Confidence/Competence, Generosity, and Sharing. Green post-its indicate where these pillars are manifested in the screens. These have helped me clarify actions, identify holes, and communicate the concept more clearly.
Think about all the things you can DO with money
All of us spend it. Some people borrow it from other people who lend it. We have tools to track money, we can accumulate it, analyze it, ot think about it later. We can earn money, we can separate money into different accounts. We can use money to help entire countries, entire industries, or entire populations. We can give money away or keep it for ourselves. The things we can DO with money are infinite. And we have built an infinite number of systems to accommodate our infinite number of actions. These systems are made up of institutions, objects, networks, and people. Some of these systems are visible. Most are increasingly invisible.
The entire world has spent a good part of the past 4 years talking about these systems. We have uncovered why they don’t work, can’t work, or aren’t working the way the should work. We have proposed and argued about ways that they need to work better. Regardless of where we stand, it should go without saying that our money and the systems that support it have become really really complex.
Yet, despite it’s massive and looming complexity, money doesn’t leave anyone out. Even the people that don’t have it, can’t understand or access it, can’t live without it.
The number of people who interact with money is far greater than the number of people who interact with Facebook. And that is power. And I’m talking about the interaction… not the money.
For something with so many users, why aren’t we putting more effort and focus into how we interact with and experience money?
Could it be that it is because we are too focused on what money DOES rather than what money IS? Anthropologist Keith Hart said, “Money is a means of social interaction.” Money is a way to participate. A way to engage with all the things - large and small - that matter to us.
Our focus on what money already does, has only highlighted it’s shortcomings. But by renewing our focus on what money inherently IS - we come to understand what it can enable. Think about the other participatory objects, products and systems: These systems enable sharing, chatting, giving, inviting, messaging, friending, connecting, experiencing, even trusting people you don’t know and have never met.
However, when I asked 80 college students to talk about their experience with money, this is how they described it: private, selfish, anxiety inducing, out of control, elusive, unpredictable, overwhelming, not-emotional, impersonal, invisible, confusing, and a lot of work.
There were only 2 areas where they talked positively about their experience with money
- Saving not only gave them more money to buy and do the things they wanted to do but also gave a sense of confidence, pride, and stability.
- Most find great joy and satisfaction in giving money, however small, to a friend in need.
While their negative experience was based on “the system” taking money from them (in form of interest, loan payments, and purchases), each aspect of their positive experience with money focused on giving within a highly personal context. First, giving to themselves and then giving to others. Saving built a sense of individual competence and autonomy, while helping others tapped into this generation’s overwhelming desire to be generous and share.
These positive actions and behaviors around money drilled straight to the heart of what money IS and the positive things it enables. Money is a way to participate. Money is a means of social interaction. Money enables relationships and exchanges. Our complex systems and institutions have turned our experience of money into a highly private and personal pursuit that is tied to an object or coin. We have forgotten that money, at it’s heart, is NOT a common object, but rather a common unit of value that is intended to be shared and passed between people. This is what money DOES best - and it should come as no surprise that some of our most delightful experiences with money are still built from this original foundation.
Shabash stops thinking about money as a financial resource and starts thinking about it as a series of exchanges and social interactions that help you participate in the world in ways that are meaningful.
How do we DO this?
- Through saving rather than spending or borrowing.
- Put money back into a social context
- Focus on the transferrable and sharable qualities inherent to money
- Leverage the fact that for the first time in history, our social capital and financial capital exist in the same space - on our mobile phones.
I have spent the past day going through my research, insights, writings and readings trying to cull everything down into manageable bits so I can begin to get a handle on how to present things. So far this is the clearest and most succinct way I can express my work to date: Match the intrinsic qualities of money with the intrinsic motivations of people to build more sustainable interactions around our financial relationships.
“ Money isn’t a hinderance, but an enabler. And we should start interacting with it as such.”
I have been really struggling these past weeks trying to figure out how to show and talk about my concept in ways that are meaningful and concise. I have been especially hung up on communicating the user experience - trying to decide if its best to talk about the overall need for my product or better to show it in action; whether to talk about how it works or the emotional experience with it. It has all been quite a tangle and I have been discouraged because I feel like I don’t have the time to do any of it very well. However, after good conversations with both Allison and Dave today, I think I am now headed in a better direction. By focusing on the value of saving through the lens of specific product features I think I will be able to make some good progress….
This is my first pass at a presentation introduction. We are working with Stephen Nixon, which has been a fantastic experience. I have been working this past week to refine my approach - which really means overhaul it all together, but it has been fun. Here is the feedback that I received last week and have been improving upon.
- The things I talked about in the first minute were not necessarily related to the main point of saving.
- Starting with social is perhaps revealing something too soon and not immediately clear. Don’t make your audience work too hard from the beginning
- Make a statement about money that is not so loaded. Something that is easier to connect with. Something like: “Money Sucks.” Immediately identifiable because we don’t have enough of it. Then move into the fact that it’s also social.
- Go slower., Pause more., Too many ums.
- Credit cards: the obvious option, but not the only option.
- The important thing about saving is:
- Build empathy with your audience
We are re-presenting tomorrow to Chloe Gottlieb, David Womack and Tamara Giltsoff and I am feeling much better about the direction I am headed.
“Products based on sharing are disrupting traditional industries”
I probably have this phrase written in one way or another on about 90 different pieces of paper that are littering my life right now. But there is something valuable to writing things down over and over and over again.
I chuckle a little when I see that I was writing the same thing in 2007…. and feel really good when I realize that what I am doing right now is exactly what I have been writing about all along. It’s maybe what both Liz and Paul would call “a consistent approach to a persistent idea” Heh.