The number of our influences is unknowable. Every person I’ve encountered has shaped who I am. However, writing requires some degree of pragmatism, and so the following is an unordered and ever growing list of people whose influence on my design career has been disproportionate to the time I’ve known them.
William Logan was my favorite undergraduate poetry professor. He’s a poet himself and an extraordinarily harsh critic for The New York Times. In 2002, Eric McHenry of Slate magazine wrote that “Logan, a professor of English at the University of Florida and a prolific critic, dislikes most contemporary poetry and likes letting that be known. If you write a book of poems, he’ll pan it. If you write a poem about being panned, he’ll pan that, too. He’s a perpetual demotion machine.”
Despite his recommendation that I pursue an MFA at Columbia, he only ever praised one line of my poetry. It was simple and beautiful and now lost somewhere in an iBook hard drive. His criticism was invaluable in teaching me to use criticism. Sometimes it helped me to write better as well.
He taught me to not be trivial, and to say what I meant. He made fun of my first tattoo.
Clint Beharry has introduced me to many things in the few short years I’ve known him, including how to properly argue at 2am. But at the forefront of these introductions is his suggestion I “look into” interaction design, particularly at SVA. He later wrote me a reference letter. For all intents and purposes, I would not be studying what I am now had he and I not gotten drunk together at a work event in DUMBO.
David Ferguson gave me both my first job out of college, and an unshakeable sense of confidence that I can be left alone to talk to important people. He provided a comfortable environment in which I could develop professionally, and even paid me fairly for it.
Gary Belkin serves as Senior Director for Psychiatric Services for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. He is also Associate Professor in the New York University School of Medicine. He holds a BS and MD, and a PhD in history and an MPH from Harvard. His published historical works covers a wide range, including ethics in medicine, mind-brain constructions in medicine and society, and social psychiatry. At the time he was also involved in mental health policy for the UN Millennium Village project.
More personally, Gary was my undergraduate professor at NYU, and taught my favorite undergraduate class, entitled, Explaining Ourselves, Mind, Behavior, and Emotion.
In academic speak, the course drew on primary and secondary sources in psychology and social psychology to critically read works of history with respect to their ability to credibly capture the psychological dimension as a factor in history.
But what the course became was an exercise in finding the thesis of a piece of historical writing. This meant we, the students, had to dig in to the mindset of the authors of important pieces, like, for example, a 19th century essayist, who was critiquing the societal implications of the competing theories between Darwin and Lamarck. We had to learn to internalize the psychological underpinnings of people writing dense academic text, and I am forever grateful of that skill. Even the overtly opinionated intelligentsia are rooted by emotions and their own interpretation of their emotional state. It’s complicated.
Adeola Enigbokan is the first person to tell me I should design. We only talked for two hours, but she saw something in me that I couldn’t see myself, and started me on the course I am on today.
Ran and Linda Henry are my parents and my mentors for all time. My father is a tenacious writer, wielding an MFA and a deep appreciation for To Kill a Mockingbird like a meat hook. His first book, a sports biography and a treatise on the influence of relationships, was published this year. His support for my work is steadfast and I am truly, though not alway explicitly, appreciative.
My mother had turned forty before finding her calling as a photographer, but her ability to coax candidness from her subjects, and in turn create beautiful photos is uncanny. She is a constant reminder to me that life is long, and full of possibility.
The following is yet another unordered and ever-growing list. This one is of references that make up my thesis research. If you’re interested in diving into a tumultuous sea of data-parsing, city-understanding, language-learning, and emotions, this list might be for you too.
Urban Code: 100 Lessons for Understanding the City by Anne Mikoleit
Discussion on the words ‘authenticity’ and ‘grit’ as they describe a place
50 Years into the War on Poverty, Hardship Hits Back, - NYTimes.com
Google Scholar Search on “Questionable Emotional Decision Language”
What You Will Find On A Design Researcher’s Bookshelf by Jon Freach
The KJ-Technique: A Group Process for Establishing Priorities by Jared M. Spool
The Changing Places Research Group at MIT Media Lab
Communication Patterns Around the World by Richard Lewis Communications
StoryScape by Micah Eckhardt at MIT Media Lab
How the Internet is Narrowing Our Minds by Linda Besner
COGNITIVE MAPS, COGNITIVE COLLAGES, AND SPATIAL MENTAL MODELS by Barbara Tversky
London SE, a guide to the best spots in London’s unsung south east corner
Writing Fiction Together: Ensemble, A Collaborative Storytelling System by MIT Center for Civic Media
Visual Storytelling Systems for Communicating Sustainability by Arlene Birt
WordSeer: Exploring Language Use in Slave Narratives by Aditi Muralidharan
Formal prosodic structures and their application in NLP by Jan Romportl and Jindřich Matoušek
How we spent our vacation: Collaborative storytelling by young and old adults by Odette N. Gould and Roger A. Nixon
ConceptNet — A Practical Commonsense Reasoning Tool-Kit by H. Liu and P. Singh