innovation

Old grove on Nodai campus

東京にはいつも解体と復興が見れます。農大のキャンパスも同じです。この保存された林はこの農業大学の長い歴史を思わせます。

Like all of Tokyo, the Nodai campus seems to be in a state of constant demolition and reconstruction. I like how they have preserved this old grove of tall trees that remind you that this Agricultural school has a one hundred plus year history as a center of innovation and learning.

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

デザイン人類学についての記事が出ました。たまには規則を破ったほうがいいと思っています。差し当たり、記事は英語だけで申し訳ありません。

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?

CNN on Tokyo’s green streets and vertical gardens

CNNのインタビューです。みんなが小さな緑をたくさん作って、東京生活を楽しくしています。路地と区役所のイノベーションについて話しました。@KyungLahCNN さん、 ありがとうございます。

CNN broadcast their interview with me about how neighborhood gardens make Tokyo life so enjoyable. Focus on small green streets & local government innovations. Thanks @KyungLahCNN

Continue reading

Japan Times: Tokyo’s urban design role

The Japan Times published my op-ed article “Tokyo’s urban design role.” My argument is that Tokyo’s past urban design failures paradoxically make it a model for rebuilding existing cities and designing hundreds of emerging cities. In the context of climate change and global warming, livable cities can create a new balance between people and  nature.

I talk about fireflies, Ginza rice and honeybees, modern bonsai, satoyama in the city, businesses and biodiversity, and how Japan can promote innovations in urban life, alongside achievements in popular culture and high technology.

Biomimicry and Innovation

Janine Benyus TED Global talk

Janine Benyus gave a TED Global talk this summer about how biomimicry provides sustainable innovation inspired by nature. Benyus main claim is that “we are part of a brilliant planet and surrounded by genius.”

Examples she cites are JR West’s examination of the kingfisher to solve the problem of trains creating pressure and sonic booms when going through tunnels. Sharklet Technology applied the pattern of Galapagos sharks that repels bacteria to design anti-bacterial washes. Calera uses knowledge of coral reefs to sequester carbon in cement.

Here’s a video of her TED Global talk from 2009. Her 1997 book is Biomimicry: Innovations Inspired by Nature.

She also has a consulting company the Biomimicry Guild, a public website called AskNature.org, and has worked for global engineering and urban planning leaders like ARUP.

Her video from the 2005 TED conference is below.

Who’s YOUR City?

Richard Florida's Asia Mega Regions

I read Richard Florida’s 2008 Who’s YOUR City? book, a “self-help” book about the central importance of where we live and the outsized opportunities in the world’s leading mega-cities. Drawing from Jane Jacobs and a wealth of statistics, Florida analyzes how the world has become “spiky” with concentrations of innovation and economic activity in mega-regions. Despite globalization and technology, place has become ever more important for individual happiness and economic growth.

For individuals, Florida argues that the choice of where to live is the biggest factor in our lives, happiness and communities. And for urban leaders, his writing and consulting describes how to become a magnet for the creative class and economic growth by promoting the arts, tolerance, talent and technology.

Tokyo is the largest mega-region, with 55 million people, and appears to far exceed all other mega-regions in the innovation map below. There are many other interesting maps on his website, although heavily focused on the United States and Canada.

Richard Florida Innovation Map

Since Florida is increasingly focused on sustainable urban living, it would be interesting if he can correlate urban plant and biodiversity levels with human happiness and economic activity. Somehow I imagine this is a topic he will be investigating soon.

China’s giant wind farms

China's giant wind farm

There’s an interesting New York Times article about China’s giant wind farms. China is using state funding, low interest loans from state-owned banks, and domestic manufacturers to create six unprecedented wind farms. The scale is mammoth: 10,000 to 20,000 megawatts each, compared with the  4,000 megawatt Texas wind farm proposed by T Boone Pickens as the world’s largest, and that is now delayed.

Apparently the United States government is upset that China is using domestic suppliers who may not have the best technologist or lowest life cycle cost. I wonder if this complaint is serious. Shouldn’t any massive government investment in renewable energy be encouraged? Given the subsidies required at this early stage, do the US trade representatives or anyone else really think China would consider US and European suppliers?

Renewable energy requires huge public investment and technological innovation. Why aren’t US, European and Japanese citizens demanding that their governments invest heavily in this new clean technology? The Chinese government is showing admirable foresight in jump-starting their clean technology industry.