October 1, 2014

In Class assignment:
Discuss sketch for mandala

Homework Viewing
Documentary | Frontline: Two American Families (85 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLubV28PqpU



Surviving the New American Economy (56 minutes; If you can’t see all of it, please make sure to see from minute 27 to end)

Twenty-two years ago, Bill Moyers started documenting the story of two ordinary families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — families whose breadwinners had lost well-paying factory jobs. Relying on the belief that hard work is the key to a good living and better life, the Stanleys and the Neumanns, like millions of others, went about pursuing the American dream. But as they found other jobs, got re-trained, and worked any time and overtime, they still found themselves on a downward slope, working harder and longer for less pay and fewer benefits, facing devastating challenges and difficult choices.


A2 Assignment.

A2 step 2: Please bring to class the following for in class discussion.
(1)Sketch out family tree
(2) sketch out 2×2 framework with two forces for the future where your family is situated.
(3) sketch out family timeline
(4) sketch mandala and prepare interview questions
(5) Fill out matrix for each persona. http://ixdcourse.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/cscp-personas-dimensionsv1-0.docx


10 thoughts on “October 1, 2014

  1. The changing status of the middle class in America is a consequence of the shift from a manufacturing to service based economy. As the United States began to outsource more of their labor to other countries, the value of the American worker began to decline. Bill Moyers documentary on the two American families and their life for the past 20 years clearly demonstrates the drawbacks of this shift. No matter how much you work, the skills that were once valued at x are now valued at a much lower y value. This documentary struck a chord close to my heart because my family could have had a very similar story. My family migrated from the Dominican Republic in the 1980s and started with factory jobs. However, they quickly went into the public sector of New York and luckily have been able to make a fair living. If my family had continued to work in those factories or if they had chosen a different city to live in, my life could have been drastically different. Although we are by no means rich and money is constantly discussed, my family has been able to live fairly well.

    This documentary is relevant to me as a designer of the future because it humanizes the individuals that are usually just numbers to any person making policy decisions. One can easily blame the United States government for failing the people but the article also did mention that the United States has become more than 100% more productive since the 1970s. Although the wealth from this productivity is arguably not distributed fairly, the government should be applauded for fostering these gains in productivity. This documentary demonstrates the importance of balancing economic growth with ensuring the entire populace is prospering.


  2. One interesting thing was from the Moyers interview with the Barbaras, where one of them was saying how productivity has doubled while wages remained the same. I didn’t really realize before how that was in itself a problem: there’s twice as much stuff to sell to each other, but we can’t afford to buy it. There’s basically money being created but the people paying the wages are taking it all. And since money is always at least a little bit competitive (is there a name for this principle?), the gap between the rich and the poor keeps widening, which makes things worse for the poor.

    Another striking thing was how little folks were making despite being employed. I heard about Seattle raising their minimum wage to $15, and I thought, huh, maybe that will actually fix something. I’m a little worried about companies responding by becoming even more “informal” – like Uber or any of those “1099” businesses. (more: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/09/silicon-valleys-contract-worker-problem.html) However, I think that, even if $15 is not perfect, it’s at least a step in the right direction.


  3. I was really struck by the comment in the “Surviving the New American Economy” video about how one of the biggest problems both families faced was lack of security. During the “Two American Families” documentary, both families generally found ways to make the best of what they faced, but they were constantly walking on egg shells. For example, semester to semester Keith Stanley did not know if he and his parents would have enough money to pay for college, but they kept finding new credit cards to charge to. His mom described this as a constant cycle of “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.


  4. The families in the documentary were struggling to adapt to a new generation, and part of the cause was the shift from industrialization to a new kind of economy. One thing I thought about was how I could see this conflict happening now with the advent of new technology. There is talk about our society shifting to a “knowledge economy” and there is the concern that technological advancements could render jobs we take for granted now to be obsolete. It’s also scary that I could picture my family in that situation; for instance, if high paying jobs like computer engineering had been replaced by automation as they could be in the future, my family could be like the ones in the documentary. But before that happens, the jobs that do not require high skill level currently will disappear. There is less room for unskilled labor in the economy, but not everybody has the resources for education and acquiring high level skills, and even the people who do are struggling, as we’ve seen with the current generation’s trouble with debt. It is also concerning how the definition of what unskilled labor is will change. From my own experience, I have noticed that many employers look for people who have a certain type of skill (i.e. “creative” – but how does one teach “creativity”) or many different kinds of skills, and it is no longer enough to be specialized in one thing. Another thing I found provoking was how the picture of poverty in the middle class isn’t that of starvation, but insecurity. Like Adam Neumann said, “I live paycheck to paycheck, child support, rent, electric, food. But they still call me middle class, but I don’t— I don’t see that.”


  5. It’s interesting to see how these two authors coin the term de-industrialization and the effect it has on the common welfare. They both claim that thia situation has arisen because of badly engineered political decisions when it comes to abandoning public schools, creating jobs in the suburbs or overseas, downgrading jobs and reducing state and federal funding to cities. The solutions they pose are to increase the minimum wages for all jobs and to create a family sustaining wage systems in order to allow for families to survive and a general redistribution of wealth which seems to be stuck with the 1% of wealthy Americans. It’s also interesting to note how the author envisions the consequence of not making adjustments for this situation – she says that America will soon fall into another debt crisis if people aren’t equipped with the money to pay off their increasing debts.


  6. The documentary was a very enlightening perspective of the middle class in America. In the end, the Stanley’s demonstrated true resiliency despite lots of hardship. The Newman’s, on the other hand, were shattered by lack of good jobs and debt. Overall, I found the story of these two families heartbreaking, specifically witnessing someone lose their home, get divorced, and then their children are struggling just as they are. In America it’s very easy to live in a bubble and not be aware of the way many people are living day to day. The middle class is truly shrinking and we can’t continue paying people minimum wage with no benefits. It reminds when I worked at Six Flags for a summer making $5.50 an hour, my manager and supervisor didn’t make much more and were supporting their families. Six Flags made sure that no one worked more than 38 hours a week in order to not pay for benefits.

    In terms of future studies it was interesting to see the development of these families across the span of 20 years, from seeing them as kids to then as working adults.


  7. I am really curious about the changes in the Middle Class. One of the changes listed was the decrease of Union workers. Why is there a decrease? Is it because there is an increase in companies that try to block unions (ex: Walmart)? Or is it because many of the jobs we have aren’t unionized? Many of the points that were brought up about the changes in the middle class are really interesting and I would be very curious to understand why exactly these policies had such a huge effect and why they were brought into effect. I believe that if these causes aren’t addressed, the gap between the classes will increase and could eventually cause the elimination of a middle class– which would really in either extreme wealth or extreme poverty and very little in between.
    I find Moyer’s video extremely frightening. I believe that we are in a similar time and as someone who could potentially get stuck in a series of internships and very dependent on their parents, I find it very sad and scary. I think as designers, it is essential to understand how this happens and to work with policy makers or companies to create programs and help prevent this.


  8. Personally I’m worried about the middle class workers and listing in the Moyers interview. I found the story of the two families an eye opening story as there are people who are struggling to get their families to make ends meet. I’m extremely glad that they’re pulling through. America holds vast lands and it’s easy to get caught up with your own life and your own family to pay an attention to the whole scheme of the world. I’m extremely sad that the families cannot even live in peace because the fathers need to work and maintain the minimum wages. It almost gets to the point: what’s the point of working? Are we working to make ends meet? Are we working to have broken families? Are we having families to create even more working children?

    I’m not sure if increasing the minimum wages for all jobs will help out. If the wages go up, product prices may go up. It’s also interesting to see how the author envisions the situation. I hope that America will soon fall into another debt crisis because our middle class is disappearing.

    Sometimes I worry if we’re all working more jobs. I hear my friends taking on three jobs just to get things we want to buy. How many jobs do we have? Is everyone getting the job the can? I’m almost worried about the balance of the economic job market looking into these families.


  9. Middle Class as discussed by Bill Moyers documentary is subjected to change if we just look at past trends. If you look at the various trends we can see shift of the middle class economy through the years. The middle class is prone to change because it is in between. The middle class has the potential to grow into the upper middle class or sink below into the lower middle class. It is constantly fluctuating. However, this is a result of changes in value but Moyer fails to discuss however Moyer fails to mention technologies role and how this can influence the shift. Different types of work have changed in value over time. As architect students of now, our skillsets will not be at the same value as people 20 years down the line. This is also dependent on advancements of technology. New technology for designers in the future will make them way more efficient and they may have more disposable resources that could help them increase production rate, while older designers are stuck behind at a slower production rate and lack of understanding. The gap may be so great that older generation individuals will not know how to manipulate and thrive/understand how to make use of new resources. Therefore, younger designers will always be more successful.


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