Internships at Fields of View

Recently, we were asked, what intern profiles do you seek at Fields of View. For a minute, we were wondering what to say .

We have had interns whose backgrounds range from law, social sciences, technology, and art. We conduct workshops and courses at design colleges, architecture colleges, as well as engineering colleges. Our projects are at the intersection of art, design, technology, and social sciences, and so we necessarily need people from diverse backgrounds to participate, and the profiles of all researchers at Fields of View and our interns mirrors this need for diversity. We realized the only possible answer to the question of what intern profile we seek is to say that we are discipline agnostic.

Image 1 – Some interns who have worked with us in the past.

Mail work@fieldsofview.in if you are interested in pursuing an internship here, with details of your background and what areas you are interested in.

Day – 2 Global Goals Jam

Day -2

Day 2 was about prototyping. There were exciting brainstorming sessions and discussions to design interventions for the  problem statements identified by each of the teams. The teams produced different prototypes that modeled their intervention, which included a booklet, videos, and visualizations.

    

The design interventions the teams came up included:

  1. An institutional framework to provide micro-entrepreneurs with timely credit after a natural disaster
  2. An activity module for students that would spark discussions on gender perceptions
  3. A handout ‘Leave to Stay’ on easy-to-implement policies to make an organization gender inclusive
  4. A reframing of the craftspersons and artisans so that they are seen as a champion of sustainability — and how the Indian craftspersons and artisans can provide an alternative way of conceptualizing sustainability in India.
  5. A competition — ‘Attack the Pack’ to spark research and innovation in designing ecologically safe and economically viable packing materials and waste management processes for FMCG companies

 

The two-day high energy jam then ended with the participants demonstrating their prototypes, and thought-provoking discussions on what support these interventions needed to move from a prototype stage to a fully developed product stage.

Day 1 of the Global Goals Jam at FoV

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a United Nations initiative and they came into effect from January 2016. The 17 SDGs form a set of Global Goals with 169 specific targets to be achieved before 2030. These 17 Goals build on the successes of the previous 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focusing on inclusion, collaboration and cooperation.

 

Global Goals Jam is a world wide jam being held across 15 cities across the globe where creative teams of designers, developers and jammers from the local community would come together and brainstorm over a two-day sprint to deliver innovative solution prototypes focused on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

For the India jam, we had 18 participants from different backgrounds, including arts, social sciences, technology, development and design.

 

1.       Pallavi Sharma Photography, design, art
2.      Mohit Varyani Development studies student APU
3.      Vaishali Rao Energy, livelihoods, social entrepreneurship
4.      Anisha Nazareth IT, Sustainable sities and communities
5.      Agam Arora Design
6.      Sucharita Eashwar Enabling women’s entrepreneurship
7.      Miguel Computer Science
8.      Arzu Mistry Artist, educator
9.      Subir Rana Sociology, Anthropology, Ethnography
10.  Madonna Thomas Architect, Urban design, public transport systems
11.  Olga Alexandrova Sustainability, agriculture
12.  Tejas Shah IIIT H
13.  Morgan Campbell Urban Planning, public policy, Gender, transport
14.  Brindaalakshmi K Marketing and communications
15.  Jayasimha K IT
16.  Tushant Jha Cognitive science
17.  Sabira Lakhani Waste management, circular economics
18.  Aakarsh Sustainable cities

 

The Jam began in the morning at 10:30am with a short briefing and introduction to the UN SDGs and the Global goals. The participants were grouped into 5 teams and they focused on SDG 1, SDG 5, SDG 11. They were also introduced to the Fields of View methodology to design for complex problems. The Fields of View methodology involves a guided process involving two phases — the problem articulation phase and the design phase.

The participants went through both the phases today with great success. The first phase, i.e. the problem articulation phase, involves participants working through different activities that lets them generate a common problem statement.

 

The problem articulation phase is then followed by the design phase, where the participants work together to imagine futures and figure out how to design for these transformations.

 

 

Day 2 will follow with prototyping and presentation of the same by the respective teams.

What is the cost of not feeding India’s malnourished children?

‘Zero Hunger’ is the second sustainable development goal, the first being no poverty. The key to achieving both these goals lies in ‘all people at all times having physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food  that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life’, which is how ‘food security’ is defined as. And what holds the key to food security is agriculture, on which around 40 per cent of our population directly depends on for their livelihood. Given that agriculture and food security are such key concerns, how is our Government planning for it, how much are we investing in it, and what does our union budget have to say about that? These were some of the questions tackled by Dr. Madhura Swaminathan, Professor at the Economic Analysis Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore, in her lecture on ‘Food security and agriculture: Implications of current policy and budget’. The lecture was organised by our neighbour in south Bangalore, Centre for Budget and Policy Studies, as part their annual lecture series on budgets.

Even before going into issues of access, the first question that comes up when it comes to food security is do we have enough? Do we have sufficient food to feed a population of little more than a billion people? According to Dr. Madhura, up to the 90s the answer to that question was yes. The graph of food production she showed hovered above the line tracking our population growth. But after the 90s, the situation reversed, which is bad news for both sides — those who grow food and those who eat food.

How badly have the producers of food been affected? For starters, there is little data on income of producers, said Dr. Madhura. To address this paucity of data, a group of scholars including Dr. Madhura conducted detailed surveys of 5000 households in 22 villages as part of the Project on Agrarian Relations in India (PARI). From the income data collected, Dr. Madhura highlighted two observations — one of extreme inequality. In the same village there are farmers who earn around Rs. 29 lakh a year, and others who barely make do. The other was of what she termed as ‘negative income’, where what you earned was less than what you spent. A significant number of farmer households have negative incomes. This leads farmers to abandon farming entirely, which exacerbates the situation we have now where already the food we produce isn’t enough for us all to be food secure.

Why?

Why is agriculture not making profits for these small (less than 2 hectare holding size) and marginal (less than one hectare holding size) farmers? First is that the input costs (seeds, fertilisers, machinery, etc) have shot up, something that is particularly hard on the small and marginal farmers. Second, the Minimum Support Price set by the Government isn’t enough to compensate for the investments that have gone in.

What then is the Government doing?

Not nearly enough, said Dr. Madhura. Though newspaper headlines hailed an almost 94 per cent increase in Government spending on agriculture, she said the increase was the result of some deft statistical jugglery with ‘interest subvention’. When the Government gives banks money so that they can then lend to farmers (or any sector) at a reduced rate of interest, it is termed as ‘interest subvention’. The money allocated thus for interest subvention goes to the banks, and not to farmers directly. The amount Government allocates for interest subvention for agriculture was earlier not added to the agricultural budget, but this year it was. And the sum of Rs. 15,000 crore allocated to interest subvention accounts for the gigantic leap into agricultural acchedin. What happens if you remove that figure? What you the get is an increase of around Rs. 7000 crore, which would not have garnered the kind of headlines that the budget did. (For a detailed analysis of why the allocation ‘math for the agricultural sector in the budget doesn’t add up’, go here.)

If we take away the interest subvention, does the figures still indicate an increased spending in agriculture?

If you look at spending in agriculture as a percentage of GDP, in 2012-13, it was 0.3 and in 2016-17 it is again 0.3. Therefore, it isn’t a big difference from what has happened earlier.

But the interest subvention has been increased from Rs. 13,000 crore to Rs. 15,000 crore. Isn’t that a good thing?

Apparently not, said Dr. Madhura. As mentioned earlier, the money given for interest subvention goes to the banks and not the farmers. One study shows that most credit goes to urban and metropolitan banks rather than rural banks and is disbursed to either large farmers or even large corporates. For instance, if a soft drink company wants to put up an irrigation system, it would be eligible for a loan. Therefore, the small and marginal farmers, who are in dire need of timely and affordable credit, are not the main beneficiaries. (For more on how ‘rural’ is agricultural credit, go here. The op-ed piece draws from studies by the same authors Dr. Madhura referred to.)

In this scenario, what happens to people who need food? We are worse off than all our neighbours when it comes to malnutrition figures, and so there is no question that there are a large number of desperate people who need immediate attention.

What are we doing for nearly 30 per cent of India’s children who are underweight? (For more on the ‘overlooked malnutrition crisis in India’, go here.)

Not much, according to Dr. Madhura. There has been a gradual policy shift toward targeted schemes, where the Government ‘targets’ who needs attention, rather than go toward universal food security. Now targeting has two kinds of errors – errors of inclusion and exclusion. If those who don’t need subsidised food get it, it is an error of inclusion. If those who need it don’t get it, it is an error of exclusion. The focus has been on errors of inclusion, because you can estimate financially what that error costs you. On the other hand, the error of exclusion is tricky.

For example, what is the cost of not feeding India’s malnourished children?

What happens when people who need the food don’t get it? Malnutrition, disease, inter-generational issues — all these are intangibles, and therefore difficult to put a cost on. Numbers can prove to be tyrannical. Easily quantifiable, something that can be plotted in graphs and charts is tangible, and something that evades that kind of easy quantification becomes an almost ephemeral entity. If there is no calculable cost to not giving children food they need, then it becomes intangible, a non-headline grabbing entity that fades into and falls off the margins.

Before asking the question of what is the cost of not feeding India’s malnourished children, the, more crucial question becomes, should we know the answer to that to make us do something about it?

An aria in Babel or what happened at DotXDab

What happens when artists meet coders meet journalists meet scientists meet …? Different people, diverse disciplines, multiple voices, and many ways of seeing. Will there be a Tower of Babel tangle of tongues? Or will we witness an emergence, a gradual becoming, an unrehearsed harmony?

We were curious, and decided to hold Dot Cross Dab, a one-day design jam on April 2, 2016, where we invited artists, coders, journalists, scientists, … — you get the picture. Twelve brave souls joined us, who were split into groups of three.

The first group had Ayontika Paul, a writer; Antony William, who teaches at the National Institute of Design, Bangalore; and Tanmayee Narendra, a student of computer science at IIIT-Bangalore. The second group had Padmini Ray Murray, who teaches at Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology; Shramana Dey, an environmental scientist; and Angshuman Das, a student from IIIT-B. Shakti Banerjee, who teaches at the National Institute of Design; Anisha Nazareth, a student from IIIT-B; and Akash Hans, an artist who works in advertising, were in the third group. And the final group had Karthik Krishnaswamy, a sports journalist; Adishesh Iyengar, who runs a start-up; and Soumitro, a student at the NID, Bangalore.

 

Ways of seeing

The teams were given a choice — either they could design on their own, or they could have a firsthand experience of the FoV methodology, which we use in-house for interdisciplinary design. All the teams chose to go with the FoV methodology.

The theme of the first edition of DotXDab was ‘Equity in the City’. At the outset, every one individually mulled over different lenses with which you could view the theme. Caste, class, gender, education, access, appearance — these were just some of the different lenses folks came up with.

The lenses went up on the wall on post-it notes, and slowly a clustering began to emerge.

Collectively, the participants debated over different lenses, and each group found an affinity to a certain lens, with which they worked with through the course of the day.

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

Now that the lenses were chosen, the teams split up to discuss about what was the problem they wanted to focus on, and think through different dimensions of the problem. The problem formulation session had two parts — the first where the team thought over the problem they wanted to design for, and the second part where they listed different actors who affected the problem, and who were affected by it.

The first team chose to focus on how external appearance affects the way you ‘see’ different people.

The second team focused on how language creates barriers rather than bridges.

The third team wanted to recreate that lost sense of community by bringing people together for fun,

and the fourth wanted to think about the problem of loitering at night.

FRAMING THE FUTURE

Post-lunch, the teams focused on designing an artifact that would address the problem they chose, and presented it to others at the end of the day.

 

Is what you see what you get?

The first team came up with a song (and sang it too, with chorus and all) that spoke about how what you see is not always what you get.

The Language Cafe

The second team came up with a ‘Language cafe’, where Kannada can meet Bhojpuri over coffee and kodubale, and in doing so understand each other a bit better. The ‘Language Cafe’ is an end-to-end concept, complete with a curriculum, a flag, hashtags, and a detailed schematic for an app.

Talk to me

The third team came up with a message board — something you can perhaps soon spot in elevators or corridors of apartment complexes. With empty pockets of spaces, the board invites you to fill in messages for your neighbours to see — ‘Cricket match at Apartment #304’ or ‘Congratulations to Seema from #402 on completing tenth standard!’

Stories of the night

The fourth team who wanted to encourage people to loiter at night, first came up with the idea of creating a map that could travel on different streets, where you could add on your own story of what happened that night.

Building on that idea, the team came up with a ‘Story machine’, a machine that prints you someone else’s story of the night if you tell it one of your own.

The team invited someone from the other groups to tell a story, as they had a quick prototype to convert speech into text that could be printed out.

From a broad theme of ‘Equity in the City’ there emerged four different ideas of how to make the city a bit better. And lest we forget, the idea of what that ‘better’ meant was debated, discussed, and decided over many cups of buttermilk, nippatu from Nippatu Nagaraj, and organic millet cookies from Orgtree.

We leave you with the song – to be spoken out to the beat of 1-2-123. Last two lines tobereadwithoutstoppingforbreath. And the chorus goes

‘What you see is what you get.

What you see, you soon forget’

– sung twice between each stanza.

 

Sumandro on data, people, and smart cities

For the second podcast of our Smart city podcast series, we have Sumandro Chattapadhyay, a Research Director at Center for Internet and Society (http://ajantriks.net/).

You can listen to the entire podcast below. We apologise for a drop in audio quality after 9.47 due to a technical glitch.

In case the embedded audio doesn’t work, you can download the entire podcast here.

Some of the highlights of the conversation are in the post below.

Smart cities is the usage of certain sensor-driven methods of measuring various patterns of urban life, analyzing that, and acting upon that analysis through various network actuators,says Sumandro. In the Indian context, smart cities are seen more as an “infrastructural initiative” where the Government is interested in developing more efficient systems for urban management, and attracting private investment for such initiatives. He points out two areas where it is probably still early to say how things will pan out. One is about the kind of responsibilities private investment will have when it comes to public infrastructure and the other is about how different government verticals will talk to each other. In the past too, the Government has attempted to use information as a resource to better manage different verticals such as water management, waste management, etc. The challenge continues to be integration of these verticals.

Given Sumandro’s ongoing work with open data, another area where he thinks more clarity would be welcome is about how the Government would share open data related to smart cities. Though the Government has spoken about initiatives like a data portal for cities, it is still not clear what shape such portals would take, and what potential there is for the different kinds of data to be compared and understood across cities.

There are a lot of concerns raised about people’s participation in smart cities, and according to Sumandro, “participation is not a smart city issue – participation is a city issue.” Drawing a distinction between people’s participation in administration, people’s participation in democratic governance, and people’s participation in technological decisions, he says that while we have a sense of how to involve people in administrative processes, it is still unclear how to do the same when it comes to technological decisions. Overall, he says there is more clarity required when it comes to different aspects of technological policy and urban policy, and the ways in which these two overlap and inform each other.

Citizen Engagement in the Indian Smart Cities Challenge

ISCC

The Government of India has initiated the Smart Cities Challenge, where they let the states nominate cities that meet the necessary criteria. Among the different entries submitted, 98 cities were shortlisted for the challenge.

Between August and October 2015, the selected cities will further develop their proposals for the final round. It is interesting to see the different approaches being adopted by the cities in this round, while one consistent theme being online modes of citizen engagement. The city councils are planning to interact with citizens in various ways to get feedback about the kind of smart cities they desire.

While cities like Trichy and Vishakapatnam have prepared a questionnaire to share with citizens, but I couldn’t find the links, not sure where they are hidden. Nagpur, on the other hand, wants to go door-to-door and interact with citizens for smart city concepts. Rajkot came up with a unique concept of wanting to paint graffiti on city walls with ‘social messages’; which is a lot of work for artists, says our in-house artist Kshiraja. Agra Municipal Corporation invited intellectuals, social workers, doctors, businessmen and other dignitaries of the city to discuss the smart city project; it does seem to leave out large sections of the general population. Hubli-Dharwad distributed 2 lakh leaflets to its citizens, but I do wonder how that would translate to collecting the citizens’ opinions. Indore on the other hand, has its own website. IMC launched a social media campaign to get feedback and suggestions from residents. The Mangaluru City Corporation organised essay writing competitions for students and general public about smart cities. Kakinada City is quite active on Facebook and they opted to use the digital route to collect data and suggestions from citizens.

City Modes of Engagement with Citizens
Trichy www.mygov.in/group-issue/ smart-city-tiruchirappalli
Vishakapatnam www.mygov.in
Nagpur Door to Door Citizen Engagement
Rajkot Wall Painting Competition
Agra Agra Municipal Corporation invited intellectuals, social workers, doctors, businessmen and other dignitaries of the city to discuss the smart city project
Hubli-Dharwad
Indore Social media campaign to invite suggestions from residents on smart city project, www.smartcityindore.org
Mangalore The Mangaluru City Corporation has organised essay writing competitions for students
Udaipur Udaipur sets up 100 booths asking citizens’ priorities for smart city
Kakinada http://facebook.com/smartkakinada
Bubhaneshwar Children Voice Opinions on Smart City

 

It’s really interesting to see how every city has got its own approach in reaching out to public for their opinions and suggestions. Bhubhaneshwar engaged with children and they got some interesting feedback about transportation, waste management and also how elders need to change their behaviour toward children. One step closer to being a child friendly city!

Here is the link of 98 nominated cities, every city page has got its own feedback link where you can share your opinion and suggestions.

Secrets of Bengaluru’s lakes

Kantereeva stadium was once upon a time, which is not so recent past, Sampangi lake. The Cantonment and the Pete had a tug of war as to how the lake had to be used. A part of it was allotted for recreation. And a part of it was important for some people’s livelihoods. The same tug of war continues today – lakes continue to be seen as either a space for recreation and aesthetic expression, rather than a space that has a more fluid identity — an identity that the people who were once its stewards, and now marginalized, struggle for.

Here are some photographs of the talk by Hita Unnikrishnan, a doctoral scholar at ATREE, Bangalore, where she delved into the history of Bengaluru’s lakes combined with her field studies, and showed us the myriad ways people have relationships with lakes — from using the lakeside for livelihood (fishing, collection of greens, fodder collection, etc.) and other more uncommon uses (burial ground for monkeys, ceremonies, and rituals).

The talk was part of our Research in Play series.

IMG_20150923_170441350 IMG_20150923_173101120 IMG_20150923_175351757 IMG_20150923_175928430 IMG_20150923_181850186

 

₹ubbish! goes to Hebbal

So far we have played ₹ubbish! board game with participants from Hasirudala, ELCITA, city planners and researchers. This time we wanted to take this game and play at a ward level, which could give us some valuable feedback.

We chose to play our first game at Hebbal ward, I invited a few students to play this game. Two students from NMIT, two students from M.S.Ramiah, and 1 from Florence High School. The idea was to have a mixed audience from same locality.

As you can see in the picture, the game started with people going after well known wards like Koramangala and Malleshwaram thinking it would generate more waste, but in reality areas like Chikpet, Yeshwanthpur generate more waste. Amount of waste generated is based on real data, which was collected by ₹ubbish! game designers at FoV. The game went on till 14 rounds, the players could only manage to build in 9 out of 18 wards. The game went on for about 40 mins.

RubbishHebbal

Interestingly, the two final semester mechanical students from NMIT, who had opted for solid waste management as their elective were aware of the present situation in Bangalore. In the first 4 rounds they spent most of the money on expensive wards thus making it hard for them to generate money.

At round 8, the landfill started to rise and the game dynamics changed. Players tried their best to adapt to the situation as quickly as possible, but it was too late.

Participants enjoyed the game and it was an exciting end to our first game session at ward level. Some of the participants were not aware about most of the garbage problems and also said it was good to know about landfills and about other garbage related issues.

We look forward to playing the game in more wards, to see what the feedback we get.

These old bones will never lie. Will they?

Imagine you are standing at the excavated gravesite of an ancient warrior. The grave is filled with spears, bows, and other weapons, proud possessions of the warrior and the skeletal remains. Close your eyes and imagine this Viking warrior.

Now tell me – did you think of a man or a woman?

Till about a few decades ago, if you had asked most archaeologists, they would have said, mmm, a man. For the hunter-gatherer is a man, the woman stays at home, gives birth, minds the chickens, and does other things that history isn’t particularly concerned with. Not only those archaeologists’ point of view is patriarchal, but they also did not have access to the secrets bones can tell, if only you know what to look for.

On the other hand, if you are trained in understanding bones and are critical of making unsubstantiated assumptions about gender, then you may look at the grave, examine the skeleton, and surmise on the basis of available evidence that it could be a woman. Akshay Sarathi, a graduate student of anthropology (archaeology) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of those who is trained in and practises this new way of seeing. In his talk ‘Archaeology of gender’ organized by the Center for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS) on Tuesday September 01, 2015, he spoke about new methods of decoding fragments from the past and the dangers of preconceived assumptions and gender biases colouring many a finding.

Citing different examples, Sarathi explained the difficulties in assigning gender and gender-based reasoning purely on archaeological evidence. For instance, if there is a site that shows shell-fish catching in a historic era, do we assume that men did the fishing? Or women? If there are three skeletons, where the man’s hand is on the woman’s groin, what do you make of it? Your guess is as good as mine, he said.

On the other hand, there are instances where there are texts and other sources that provide insights on the basis of which interpretations can be made. He cited the example of the Ishtar, who he described as a ‘transgressive’ goddess. There are multiple copies of a text that has survived, of Ishtar’s journey to hell and back. Such textual sources and other material help in interpreting available archaeological evidence, but it isn’t always the case that you would find such supporting evidence for theories.

Queen_of_the_Night_(Babylon) (1)

(By Hispalois (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Sarathi spoke about how the study of bones gives additional insights, previously not accessible to archaeologists who were not trained in that area. He cited the example of a mass burial of women, considered to be ‘virgin sacrifices’, but on examining the bones, you find that all the women show signs of having given birth, a pitting observed in their pelvic bones, which would have had to bear the stress of childbirth, debunking the ‘virgin’ theory.

But it is not that you can exactly tell whether the person was a male or a female by studying the bones, because that understanding is supported by statistics, available data, and interpretations, all of which can only provide a tentative understanding in many cases.

Sarathi’s talk touched upon that tentativeness in understanding history, which is usually obfuscated in certain ‘definitive’ versions of history. There is a pressure to sound certain, even if the evidence available can only give you a tentative hold on possible interpretations. Self-reflexivity was another theme, being able to critically examine your own biases and prejudices constantly, something everyone, be it in the sciences or social sciences, needs to practice. The tentativeness and self-reflexivity go hand in hand.

I was struck by how similar the situation is in the media, be it news media or popular media. There is a pressure to sound certain, provide ‘definitive’ accounts, and trade in certitudes, even though you know you only have a tentative understanding. Self-reflexivity is mandatory, but it is hard to put into practice. Where does this pressure for sounding certain come from? Is it because it is easier to work with simple narratives, rather than ones filled with ifs and buts? Or is it because a simple narrative is the one most suited for maximum control?

Overall, the talk was funny, thought-provoking, and accessible, even to someone with no formal training in either archaeology or gender. Now am off to figure out how I can get my hands on ‘Breaking and Entering the Ecosystem – gender, class, and faction steal the show’ by Elizabeth Brumifel, something Sarathi said was a must-read to understand this new way of seeing, even though, he sighed, the author has a few archaic ideas about women and weaving.