design anthropology

Tokyo street gardeners are rule breakers

東京の路地に小さな庭のスペースを作る方は、一般のルールに従わないところが素敵です。このブログの写真を使って、友達のショウさんがBell Street Filmsと一緒に30秒のビデオを作ってくれました。去年、ショウさんはベランダの庭にデザイン人類学校と東京グリーンスペースについてビデオを作りました。

This 30 second clip features my photographs of flowerpot gardens and stories about their makers, who explain to me how they break the law in order to create safer streets. Last year, my friend Sho’s Bell Street Films made a short video about Tokyo Green Space and design anthropology, shot mostly in my balcony garden.

My Tokyo garden and design work is featured in a fashion brand video


My friend Sho, whom I met in Nakano, created this promotional video for a Japanese fashion brand called ID Daily Wear. You can see that I am wearing their super high-quality and made in Japan pocket t-shirt. But it’s cool that the video also introduces my high-rise garden, the field of design anthropology, and why my neighbors inspire me to document Tokyo Green Space. The photography and especially the editing tell a a big story in a few minutes. The Japanese translation is also superb. Thanks, Sho!

What rules do you break for design? An essay in Ethnography Matters


A very exciting blog started recently called Ethnography Matters. Contributors include applied anthropologists and experienced practitioners, graduate students and professors, design and technology consultants. It’s a very intelligent and public discussion.

My Guest Post is called “Outside In: Breaking Some Anthropology Rules for Design.” Design and industry are becoming more aware of the value of ethnography. I wanted to raise the question of how to make visible the full range of theories and perspectives from our academic training as cultural anthropologists. And when to break the rules.

Although it’s tempting to put a happy gloss on past endeavors, I also think there’s been a lack of public discussion about the employment realities in anthropology over the past decades and how they have led to an inward focus. This silence serves very few people.

My essay is about reclaiming the productive parts of academic training, while also gleefully breaking old academic rules. I am curious whether the younger readers, particularly graduate students, will have a different perspective. Do academic rules still limit creativity and innovation?

What do you think? Have you broken professional rules to be a better designer? Can we be simultaneously thinkers and practitioners?

Mega-Cities syllabus for University of Tokyo


Several people have asked me about the syllabus for the Tokyo University graduate seminar I am teaching this summer. The course title is Mega-Cities: Design Anthropology and Urban Landscapes. You can download the syllabus here (86kb pdf). Please let me know what you think.

Teaching a graduate seminar at University of Tokyo

Starting tomorrow I will be teaching a graduate seminar at Tokyo University. The course title is “Mega-Cities: Design Anthropology and Urban Landscapes” in the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies. This master’s and PhD program is taught in English to foreign students, mostly from East Asia. I am very excited to see Tokyo through the students’ eyes. They will be closely observation urban life and documenting it online. My challenge to them is to connect experiential learning with history, comparative study, and theory.