There is no there, there.

Internet Cafe

Some time ago now, I returned to my Facebook account for a visit. The impression I got was of a town I once knew filled with my cousins of an older generation screaming about how the world had gone to shit or sharing strange puzzles and jokes — with a few more recently met friend-strangers mixed through to give the place the resounding air of a bad dream.

I could not help but think of Gertrude Stein’s quip of Oakland California: “There’s no there, there”. Stein was expressing how she felt upon returning to the place of her childhood as…

Processes, transitions and living space

Read visualising relations Part I here.

(I want to thank my colleagues in the Visualising Transitions research group in the School of Design at UTS, Anne Burdick, Jacquie Lorber-Kasunic, Abby Mellick-Lopes, Kate Sweetapple and Cameron Tonkinwise for inspiring this piece of thinking. Thanks also to Chris Gaul and Rachael Wakefield-Rann for insightful examples and discussions.)

In this article, I’m going to discuss some thought-provoking illustrations of processes and living spaces. At the outset, I need to own up to something: my massive dearth of knowledge regarding the history and contemporary practice of architectural drawing, which seems very relevant here. Likewise…

Nests and networks

(I want to thank my colleagues in the Visualising Transitions research group in the School of Design at UTS, Anne Burdick, Jacquie Lorber-Kasunic, Abby Mellick-Lopes, Kate Sweetapple and Cameron Tonkinwise for inspiring this piece of thinking)

The metaphor of ‘the nest’ is often used when discussing the relationship between scales and lines of influence. The most common instance is perhaps the notion of a ‘nested hierarchy’ or ‘nested set’ a term which is common in both information and biological sciences, though with reasonably widespread disciplinary and vernacular applications.

Nesting hierarchies allows for the twin consideration of distinction (vertical) and inclusion…

(This analysis is in part based on a Twitter thread started by Cameron Tonkinwise)

Metaphors change based on the way they are used. As Ian Hacking says of the categories we use to name different kinds of people (people who have autism, child viewers of television, women refugees, etc.), they are more interesting from the perspective of their dynamics, rather than semantics (Hacking 1999). In other words, how terms or categories are used in turn changes the meaning of the term, which continues to inform a dynamic feedback cycle as terms with changed meanings continue to change. …

The below is my dad, Robert Lee’s talk from the ADAPT NSW Conference November 2019.

My name is Robert Lee. I farm sheep and cattle just east of Cumnock in central west NSW. Coorah is a beautiful farm on the slopes just north of Orange ranging in elevation from 500 on the Bell River to 600 metres. Inside country I’ve always been told; although I’m a bit worried that the outside country is moving in. My family have been there for four generations prior to me; about as long as descendants of the British settlers can be, given that my…

Horse racing was a hugely important part of my childhood, particularly the gambling side of things. I ran the book at school for four years (and nearly lost a lot of money in the process when Rogan Josh got up in 2019 Hamish Dixon). I had a TAB account from the age of 15 (thanks mum and dad) and used various gambling systems to try and reliably pick winners — often successful, but addiction to the adrenal experience was my undoing. I’d sneak out of school at Friday lunch time and run 10km down the street to buy a Best…

A Degree in Repair?

The twentieth century saw the emergence of many new academic disciplines, across fields ranging from design, to business, to environmental science. The emergence of new disciplines is a story of implicit or scattered knowledges coming together as explicit, integrated models of learning. For example, while mercantile and designerly activities have been with humans throughout history, it was only in the 19th and 20th centuries that these practices became formalised as disciplines in business and design.

In this series of short articles, I begin imagining what a new degree in the discipline of Repair might look like…

(I wrote this in response to a story by Nick Kilver published by the ABC that used narrative to communicate data about climate change predications. It’s great to see journalism in different modes other than conventional reportage. The story provoked me to think about what my own abilities and preoccupations as a writer might bring to the topic of climate change in a piece of a similar length. Kilver’s story had a strong emphasis on communicating specific data. He no doubt wrote to that brief. My attempt is different in the sense that I wanted use a series of hypothetical…

Contemporary quackery or sounding boards for geniuses? In this brief, undisciplined essay I suggest some different ways to think about design thinking.

Design alchemy

In his great new book Outnumbered, David Sumpter discusses the difference between what algorithms can actually do and the way they’re talked about in the media. He suggests much of the data science used in targeted marketing and recommendation engines is better termed ‘data alchemy’. Data alchemy isn’t bad it’s just a lot less accurate and scary than the hype suggests. I want to suggest that calling ‘design thinking’ ‘design alchemy’ might have two benefits: 1)…

(For Pat Armstrong and Anne Burdick)

“Show me your tabs! Can you believe it? That’s what she asked.”

Tom was meeting Kieran for a drink at a pub near the station. It was something they continued to do even though their initial efforts at relationship didn’t work out. He’d been to a job interview earlier that day, his first ever, and was really keen on the job: a writer for a design start-up specialising in voice operated UI and chatbots. He’d hoped his background as a poet would give him an edge over the other candidates.

“I didn’t know what…

Tom Lee

Technology, landscape, narrative, poetics, design. Senior lecturer in Design at UTS, author of Coach Fitz. https://giramondopublishing.com/product/coach-fitz/

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