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Alaa & Rolesia’s Egalitarian Park

For our group project, we picked the words “egalitarian” and “park”. As we started to brainstorm, we were actively trying to think by making something physical we could talk about. As we roamed the room for various materials, we knew we wanted to have an open park with no specific limitations on who could or could not come in. So definitely no fence.

In the process, we added different design features to sort of emphasize that point. We started to rethink the program of the park itself. We added a pond that had a path around it, but it also allowed people to swim in the pond. We also wanted people to feel safe in this park, so we invited locals to participate in a marketplace where anyone could sell to people in the park. The people in these markets also act as a self policing mechanism, with no need for a larger surveillance of the park.

We also wanted to invite more people and provide resources they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get. So, we also placed a small mobile health care clinic that provides free basic check ups.

We also wanted to be able to teach, but not necessarily create an exclusive class. So, we embedded a nature walk that has plaques, teaching people about the different trees in the park.

We also wanted some sort of food education, so we created these picnic benches for an informal food share program.

As we modeled different parts, although our discussions centered around specific instances of program, each addition called attention to the type of park we wanted to build.

Looking up and seeing this little park filled with different activities to provide for community, while tearing and folding the next small idea we wanted to add, what started to emerge was a colorful surface filled with different, but equal opportunity activities. Of course, we were nowhere near comprehensively thinking about the idea of egalitarianism, and what each addition entailed, but this little park was filled with ideas centered on sharing and giving, and thats what we believed egalitarianism should bring forward. 

Public Park Redesign

For my group’s design activity we were tasked with designing a eagle egalitarian public park. This was no easy task!

One of the first things we thought about was the physical location of a park and how that might affect who would be able to access the park. We decided that making sure the park was easily accessible by public transportation as well as having nearby public parking was a high priority.

One interested discussion point was around the types of parks that exist and what their intended purpose is. Some are designed for young children and families by focusing on play spaces. Some serve as outdoor museums by feature prominent architecture and art work. Some are for the dogs. While others are for historic land preservation. In the end we decided to model our park based on Boston Common, with some added room for play spaces.

Most parks are only open from dusk until dawn, which might not fit in everyone’s schedule. Because of this, we decided to make our park open 24 hours. With adequate lighting of course.

We also started looking into what accessible jungle gyms looked like and realized that the entire play area could be designed to be accessible. From ramped slides to swings and even round abouts that sit at ground level, we realized that this was an area that was overflowing with resources.

We also spent some time talking about park benches and how it seems in recent years benches are being designed to prevent homeless from sleeping on them. This is usually done by placing an arm rest between seats or by making single park benches. We decided to go back to the traditional style benches of the past, but agreed that we needed to spend more time thinking about how we could use the park as an opportunity to assist with homelessness.

We talked about a few other things, but almost forgot that we were supposed to build a physical representation of our park. The image below is not an indication of my crafting abilities (that’s what we do in LLK), but it is an attempt to outline the pieces of the park that we thought were particularly important to address.

An Individualistic Passport

Sofia and I spent most of our time butting against the fact that passports are intrinsically designed to avoid individualism. Their purpose is basically singular: to allow people (usually government agents) to quickly read information that they can trust is in fact true. That information is personal, perhaps even sensitive, but must be standardized so that passport readers can do their jobs. In fact, passports’ users may in fact be the governments who issue passports and the agencies who must use them to permit people to travel. I make a distinction in this post between passport users (agents) and passport holders (travelers).

To create an individualistic passport, we found we could hide the conformity. Conformity would be necessary for passport users to quickly find information, so we proposed placing an RFID in passports which could transmit this basic information to a screen which agents would read. Despite RFIDs also being (often) anti-individualistic technology, it is invisible to most passport users and would allow for some changes to the passport which could make it more individualistic. However, we recognized that RFIDs are not particularly secure, which can undercut the ability to verify the information it transmits. We are less concerned with the technical implementation, but a secure transmission which would be invisible to passport holders would be our ideal.

As for the individualism, we explored ways to design for creativity. We wanted to be able to design three parts: the cover, the page containing personal info, the photo (which would be included on the aforementioned page), and the part with stamps.

Cover We initially wanted a cover which could represent multiple nationalities at a time to accommodate those who hold multiple passports. Those designs ended up being too conformed and decided such information could be transmitted electronically. Instead, we wanted that part to be totally free-form. I drew the eagle from the Mexican flag on mine.

Personal Info This page would be less functional but should still exist (though only for the photo ). We decided it should work like an introductory slide for a class. It should have parameters for what information should be included, but you can decide on its layout. Additionally, passports could allow you to have personal statements (mine is a bit boring).

Photo Again, this seems it should be approved by some government office to verify that the photo can represent you to passport users. However, it seems that the photo should be easier to update. Some of that would be bureaucratic changes, but our passport had easily replaceable pages (represented here by a napkin). That would also allow you to drastically change your appearance and allow your photo to be up-to-date.

Stamps Stamps could be crowd sourced online and approved by each government. When you arrived at the airport, you could choose from a number of steps, including ones you’d submitted.

Zach and Bridgit’s Authoritarian Passport


When Zach and I began working on the authoritarian passport, we tried to start with a blank slate, do away with ideas of what a “passport” should be, and build up based upon the supposed priorities of an authoritarian government.

We determined that one of the priorities of an authoritarian passport would be surveillance. Why give citizens a closed book passport? Passports should be open and visible like a badge so citizens can be easily identified. Passports should also have gps tracking and eavesdropping capabilities. Citizens would be required to check in at an embassy upon arrival in a foreign country.

The second priority for an authoritarian passport is controlling access. Citizens would have restricted access to travel based upon their good or bad behavior. If a citizen had incidents of bad behavior, that would restrict their travel privileges and perhaps they wouldn’t be to travel at all. Passport badges would display the level of access a citizen currently possessed. Anyone could report bad behavior so citizens were always at risk of having their privileges revoked.

The results were pretty scary!

Flynn and Jingxian’s Individualistic Public Park

When we got the papers we found it was a little difficult to combine individualism and public into one design. There seemed to be a conflict – It is meant to be a public park, but also individualistic. To help with this, we decided to define ‘individualistic’ as individualistic people – people who reject conformity. Individualistic people would like to think and do things in their own way, rather than imitating other people. They hold the belief that people should have the greatest possible personal freedom [collins dictionary]. In an individualistic public park, people should have the opportunity to do whatever they wish, however as this is a public place, they must actually conform to laws and customs. This is unavoidable. We decided it would be best if people could decide what to do in their individualistic area, which can be achieved by using private donation to shape what function different fields could serve. With this in mind, we designed our public park as in the following figure.

There are two areas in the park, separated by a path or river running through the middle. One section is made up of functional fields for the individualistic, who may decide on their own what they do with their space, the other is a grassland like in normal public parks for everyone to share. We don’t want to decide what the functional fields should be for the individualistic, so they can bring what they want to use and donate goods to the space for other members of the public to use. This allows individuals to define what function this plot should serve. We imagine there would be a barbecue field with separated grill shelves, a book field where people can donate books and do some reading, and enclosed buildings for storage and events, all of these goods would be donated to the land by the public and free to use by all. The purpose of allowing individuals to donate is to allow any person to define their space and express their individuality, however, after a while the park may become too busy/cluttered and prohibit individualism. The public area of the park would be kept clean and open, so that individuals have clear and open space to do as they please and not have to conform to other individuals’ donations and use of the space.

We also considered other problems that might occur relating to donated equipment and goods, e.g. free-rider and theft problems. To counteract these problems, we considered regulating the donations, perhaps through planning permissions or expiration dates on donations, so items circulate through time, rather than pile up. We could also implement a swapping/sharing system with for smaller items such as books, so you give at least equal to what you take. Maybe individuals would have to scan their IDs or QR Codes – perhaps this infringes on people’s individuality?

Egalitarian Public Park/ Juan and Sky

Cambridge city often boasts about how people living here enjoy abundance of public parks. Yes, it is true that we are not short of parks here but  have we thought about for whom? It is stated as ‘public’ park, but while discussing egalitarian public park design, we came to realize that the term ‘public’ is often used in very UN-egalitarian way.

For example, many public parks in the midst of middle class houses are designed mostly for lifestyles of families with kids. Playgrounds with swings comprise substantial area and kids usually play around screaming. Where should a person with no kid who wants a quite park suitable for reading go, if there are only parks for kids? On the other hand, in the neighborhood where population of African American is higher, the public parks seem to have far more basketball courts than average. Stated as public, but aren’t these parks results of stereotypes? What if a black kid wants to play soccer instead?

With these uncomfortable questions in mind, we designed (well… tried) this egalitarian public park: COMMUNITY ARENA (FOR ALL). This park is a public park, but it starts with an idea of not strictly defining ‘public.’

Single guy who likes to read alone at night (You see? It sounds a little bit weird if you add a phrase like ‘on a swing.’ But what’s wrong with reading at night in a park?), a senior person who needs occasional walk in a wood, moms who would like yoga class during the days, a black boy who wants to play hockey (instead of basketball) can all come to a park we designed and find whatever they need. This is possible with modular design that allow a park to change by pushing a buttons installed in the park with each set of features. For example, if one pushes the button written  ‘soccer field’, basketball courts will transform to the soccer fields. (It might have some kind of laser technology machine to drawn lines for an appropriate occasion.)

We don’t want people to fight over the feature, so reservation systems must be built. In addition, it should be made sure that community people will have strong voices over which set of modules will be installed.

Sure it sounds fancy, right? It is like TD Stadium (where they transform ice hockey rink to basketball court in relatively short time) in your neighborhood!

However and of course, it sure will need too much of a budget.



Kreg and Anne’s (attempted) Egalitarian Park

One of the key challenges in designing this pubic park was that we started realizing how hard it was to actually make design choices that were absolutely “egalitarian,” especially as we considered possible side effects and where the funding would come from.  In our initial attempts, some characteristics we came up with were:

  • Accessible playgrounds (e.g., the round circle is a roundabout/merry-go-round that is level with the ground for wheelchair accessibility; the blue squiggle is an accessible slide, and then we had to think about the safety of the incline; accessible swings incorporated)
  • Needed to be easily reached via public transportation
  • Benches were long (without the dividers to keep people from sleeping on them)
  • Great lighting so the hours aren’t limited (as a lot of public parks have hours like ‘closed at dusk’)
  • An art wall along the walkway where members of the community visiting the park can contribute (Do we provide the markers/chalk/etc? If so, how do we keep them from being stolen/removed so everyone can continue to use them? What if people draw things that aren’t “egalitarian” messages?)

Why are you always on your phone?

I spent the weekend in NYC. On Saturday I went to Chelsea Market and then went up towards Times Square and MOMA. There was one thing I could not escape. Everywhere I went I had to navigate around people who were looking down at these small screens texting, double tapping photos, checking their Snapchat. At MOMA, everyone was stopping in front of the art to take photos (I was guilty of this myself). This experience made me stop to think about the intention of smart phones and what they have evolved into.

Phones were meant as a form of communication, as a way to contact someone immediately who was not in the same place as you. As they became more advanced, the evolved beyond simply text and verbal communication. Companies have found ways to monopolize every moment you spend on the phone and as that happens, we become more addicted.

A few features to redesign:

  • Limit time on applications: Deactivate certain applications on the phone after they have been used beyond a certain amount of time.
  • Block applications during certain events: For example, while driving or while walking places. (A consideration with this is that people often use GPS navigation to get around – what would be the alternative?)
  • Reduce financial incentives for company’s to create content: Could there be restrictions on content that was created for phones or how much money company’s make off of them?

So many considerations with this – who should be allowed to dictate how a person spends their time? How enforceable is it? Can you tell when someone is using their phone out of necessity or just to waste time? For some, a phone is a way to conduct business and make a living, or a tool during emergencies, but for others, its a way to compare yourself to your friends or avoid the real world around you.

I missed the design exercise at the end of class yesterday, so I thought I’d comment on something I observed this weekend – an amazing device that has taken over our lives…





Part 2: Britney and Sean’s Individualistic Park

Our experience of translating the viewpoint we chose into an object wasn’t an extremely difficult one. In our design, we aimed to depict the exact opposite of how public parks are portrayed today. Public parks currently exist as democratic spaces of unity and inclusion. The ways by which we chose to eliminate this political feature (e.g. by including electrical outlets and single chairs) closely resembles how individualism exists amongst us today. Furthermore, the plots of grass surrounded and divided by hedges prevent people from interacting with each other and establishing connections. This promotes exclusion, which exists in our design.

Other politics that currently exist in public parks involve:

  • physical location: Some parks are constructed in places that are inaccessible for undesired people;
  • seating: Chairs and/or benches may be designed to prevent those who are homeless from being there;
  • and preservation: Parks in poorer areas may not be maintained as well or often as those in more expensive areas.

As innocent as they may seem, politics can clearly be found within current public parks. However, it is our hope that public parks be redesigned to fulfill the intent that we believe: to be spaces of healing and unity within our communities.

Britney and Sean’s Individualistic Park

Welcome to Britney and Sean’s individualistic park. The park is not accessible by public transport, and the lone entrance is through a turnstile (seen in the upper left hand corner). The park itself is divided into nine plots, divided by hedges around their perimeters. Each plot has an electrical outlet to allow you to charge your electronic devices, and thus avoid engaging other people (if that’s what you would prefer). Instead of benches, we included single chairs.

Lisa – Theory of Change

My theory of change is that access to information is power and transformative and that the digital divide will not be bridged without considering the language and fluency challenges of those at the base of the pyramid.  Â

In the developed world, access to information has been transformed by the combination of the internet and mobile phones encouraging self-directed inquisitiveness and problem solving. Collectively this engagement creates a virtuous cycle promoting more content and more tools connecting more questions to more answers. In addition, monitoring this activity can support broader social listening (e.g. trending topics) and the promotion of new voices.

For the developing world, access to information can be equally transformative, disrupting traditional power. Self-directed access to information could for example, help individuals close market gaps (e.g. eliminate middlemen in transactions) or educate themselves towards better health or farming practices.  Finally, monitoring this on-line engagement could amplify previously unheard voices and organic solutions.

The developed world business model for creating tools for connecting questions and answers (speech recognizers, search engines, translation) is profit based. 80% of global GDP covers only 18 languages, so there is little market incentive to expand these costly tools.  A new model needs to be developed to gap the digital divide and replicate the virtuous cycle that information access has created in the developed world.

Beginning with the norms

My personal theory of change is usually rooted in norms. I often engage in a bottom-up approach to affect change from the individual rather than from the institution level. Creating change at the institutional level can often be a slow tedious process without many indicators of success. By creating change at the individual level, you can often observe immediate results. I reflect on my time working to integrate technology into public schools, and how i often felt greater successful when working directly with teachers and students rather than with administrators.

Over time, once enough classrooms had changed their practices, it was too noticeable for the administration to ignore. This is when I started to try to affect law and code changes. I found it was easier to discuss institutional change once the leaders of the institution were willing to meet you at the table. Beginning with the administrators would have been a lot more difficult since I would not have had the ability to point to the community as an example of how the change could meet their needs and expectations.

Structures of Change

When talking about change, we are considering ways in which to disrupt the status quo (entrenched ideology). The simplest way to disrupt the entrenched ideologies of the status quo is to conglomerate enough people with opposing ideological views to remove the dominant views from prominence. The problem with this type of change is not only that it alienates large swaths of the population, but also that it is short lived. Structurally, the conditions of a dominant ideology in competition with other ideologies are identical before and after these large-scale disruptions such as revolution, rebellion, or coup d’etat.


In order to make lasting change, we must address the structure of ideology and belief. Rather than satisfying ourselves with those who share our ideological frames, lasting change requires a commitment to listening and understanding each other. This change occurs not only when dominant ideologies are disrupted, but when the very hegemonic structure of dominant ideology is usurped by a conversational model promoting nuance and understanding.


Theory of change

My theory of change is to infuse energy to everything one does, even the daily routines that might seem mundane. The current reality is one of rapid shifts of attention, where people’s attention is grabbed by one thing then another in quick succession. The desired future state that I envision is where people are invigorated by the things they pay attention to, instead of scrolling down and down and down in a mechanic motion to kill time. The pathway from the current state to the future desired state is paved with enthusiasm, empathy, and genuine care for other people. These emotions can be evoked by pausing and drawing out one’s energy. People gravitate towards energy, and are infected by it. In this case, it would be a positively reinforcing infection.

Forming a foundation for change

My personal theory of change comes with some caveats. For the purposes of this class I am interested in changes that I, or other individuals or groups, have the capacity to effect. I am interested in sustainable, not ephemeral, change. Change is not inherently positive or negative. Change may be intended or unintended, and individuals and groups can at times bear responsibility for the unintended consequences of their change efforts. Change, of the meaningful variety, is usually not easy or unobstructed. Change oftentimes entails risk—reputational, financial, and sometimes physical. Unless one relies on compulsion, change requires persuasion. It does not happen fast, and it requires the infrastructure of change. Change of the personal variety might be invisible to others, as might the early signs of an ongoing social change.

I am particularly interested in the infrastructure of change. What organizational features, what communications systems, and what types of strategy enable success? How do we choose to measure change in the first place? How does coalition-building impact the potential for change? When are the costs of compromise, or conversely the price of going it alone, too high? The answers to these questions, or the attempt to answer them, form the foundation of my personal theory of change.

Theory of social change

My personal theory of social change involves two main factors: a key influencer and an incentivized critical mass within a community.  I think most social change is started by a key influencer — maybe a single individual, a motivated group, even large businesses.  The key influencer gains momentum through different avenues (now that we’ve talked about them, the four levers of change make sense at this stage), but for social change to actually happen, a critical mass of the relevant community needs to be appropriately incentivized.

I know it seems somewhat cynical to already start talking about incentives.  I do believe that people will do things out pure internal motivation — however, at a larger scale, most people have different personal priorities, and behaving in a way that promotes a particular social change may not be at the top of the list for a critical number of people unless there are incentives that move it up their priorities list, or makes it easier for them to go along with the social change.  A common example of this is environmental behavior: most people say they want to help save the environment, but choosing energy-efficient light bulbs or recycling properly might not be at the top of their priorities list unless they’re incentivized by convenience, lower costs, or sufficient peer pressure/public shaming.  Often, the challenge for the key influencer once they have built up enough momentum is thinking about how to change the system such that the incentives are aligned for the social change.

Juan – Theory of Change

My theory of change is based on identifying pivotal moments of change and figuring out what the best way is to leverage individual and collective assets to get change to translate into well-being for communities I live and work in and care about. I think that understanding the economy and using markets as arenas for advancing social change, specially in local scales, will help my generation address inequality, by far the most pressing issue we face.

I think technology has a strong role in strengthening deliberation and enhancing public participation, never replacing it. However, I am aware that the prevalence of techno-solutionism is a tremendous challenge we must face. I come from a country that is slowly transitioning towards post-conflict and has very weak institutions. This has resulted in levels of skepticism and lack of trust which I try to mitigate but influences my work. I learn by listening and by asking questions, hoping that innovation will emerge from dialogue and interaction with communities at the margins.  My approach to knowledge creation has also positioned practice above theory, as I think experimentation and prototyping are essential in advancing change.

Theory of Change: Patience

My theory of change is patience. I love the excitement of ideas and the spirit of experimentation, but I worry about jumping to conclusions. The world and the people in it are very complicated and just because answers don’t immediately emerge doesn’t mean that they aren’t coming or that they aren’t worth the wait. There is value in the process of refinement that can only be captured if people are willing to endure the discomfort of uncertainty.

The thing that I appreciate about Disney Channel is that they believed in Good Luck Charlie and invested in its ability to grow beyond its first quarter ratings. Disney Channel, unlike cable networks, never cancels shows after one season. The first season of the show didn’t have the strongest viewership, but it continued to build. Now it is a show that other writers try to emulate when they are coming up with new ideas for TV.

Where is the Love?: My Personal Theory of Change

Where is the love? In the media, politics, our interactions with human beings – there is an abundance of hatred, divisiveness, and dislike. But I am curious to know what we have done with love, compassion, and empathy. Why is negativity more prevalent than positivity? I can only imagine a future filled with support, unity, and hope spreading across the world. We could experience blissful lives without worry of harm, judgement, or inequality. Can you picture what that world would look like?

It sounds like a fairytale, sure; but what if there was more exposure of love in the media, politics, etc. than there was hate? We may never reach a perfect world, but we can set a path to move in its direction. A starting point to consider would be being kind to someone we may not agree with or who may have wronged us. This is tough, I know. But it is a start. By showing and expressing acts of kindness to one another, over time, this can lead to so much more: support, love, hope, unity, equality, etc. What a world that would be to see.


*My goal is to build/use tools that will inspire and empower individuals & communities to reach their full potential.

What is your own personal Theory of Change?

I actually have several theories of change, depending on what goal I want to achieve.  Within the context of technology and social change…..

My goal is to transform schools. If, in collaboration with others, we create structures, policies, technologies and practices that interrupt inequities with resources (human, capital and financial) that truly provide opportunities for diverse groups of students, then the results will be accelerated achievement in school and in life.