Saturday, October 25, 2008

Food across Communities: Macro Micro investigations in DCC

DCC2008 Paldi Group 2: PG Disciplines at NID: Graphic Design, Film & Video Communication, Furniture Design and Ceramic Design: Assignment one: Mapping the known universe of Food: Producers, Converters & Consumers.

M P Ranjan

Image 1: The Producer Group with their model of the production pyramid and the variety of food types at the circular base.

The last batch of students who are taking the Design Concepts and Concerns course here at Paldi campus of NID were asked to look at the theme of Food at the Macro level of exploration in three groups, each looking at three stages through which food travels from the land to our plates, from the point of Production, Conversion and then Consumption. This kind of Meta investigation is encouraged in all design journeys since it is a good point of departure for any design task to take stock of what we know of a particular subject or a theme that is being addressed and to try and map this territory as clearly as possible before embarking on a further journey of research and experimentation to discover what we do not already know. As a group process, this kind of articulation of what we already know about the broader contours of a discipline or a particular subject is very useful to discover the depth of understanding that is present with the group members as well as get a glimpse of regions of uncertainty and in particular the areas of ignorance, which could inform the later stages of research in those specific and identified areas.

Image 2: The Producer Group making their presentation to the class.

This batch was divided into three broad groups that included, Producers, Converters and Consumers, since the focus was on Food and we were keen that the groups would explore regions that were beyond the ordinary, to include areas of agriculture, nature and food production through the Producer focus group while the broader contours of processing, trade, branding and distribution could be covered in some detail by the second group which we called the Conversion focus group. The last group looked at the whole area of Food consumption lying at the far end of the supply chain by looking at the Consumer as a category along the long path from growing to eating. Each group went through the processes of brainstorming and categorization to discover and articulate what was known to the group and from these explorations they built models that could be used for a show & tell presentation about the insights gleaned from the whole process.

Image 3: The Converter Group gathered around their Sun metaphor with the long supply chain as a literal exhibit on the floor.

This batch of students came from the disciplines of Graphic Design, Film & Video Communication, Furniture Design and Ceramic Design, all post graduate students, from a variety of disciplines which brought a good mix of variety of skills and abilities to the group processes in this course. The three groups had an equal number of students from all the participating disciplines since the process of selection ensured an even mix in the composition of each team. Three coordinators volunteered at first and they then selected one team member from a particular discipline by turn till all the members from that discipline were assigned to one of the three groups. They then moved to the next discipline and selected additional team members by taking turns and all the disciplines were covered in the end. Each group had an even mix of students from all the participating disciplines and in the end we took lots to assign the three meta themes to each of the groups thus formed to ensure that the whole process was democratic and not pre-determined by any one including the teachers.

Image 4: The Consumer Group with their “Last Supper” metaphor to capture the huge variety of conditions of food consumption across India.

The three groups wee given a day and a half to explore what they already know about the chosen and assigned theme through a process of brainstorming and categorization and the group then built a structure that was based on the discovered words using a metaphor that best captured the meaning of the joint investigation that the team had discovered during their explorations of the theme. The producer group came up with a Pyramid of concerns with the hierarchy of governance flowing down to the roots in the variety of agricultural products on one side and dairy and poultry products and fisheries on the other two sides of the triangular pyramid. The circular base was strewn with images of all kinds of food alongside words that the team had gleaned during their intense explorations of the day before. The second group on the other hand made a sun like image that radiated from a soft centre in rings of growing magnitude before breaking out into rays that extended around the circle, each touching upon a key issue that the group had identified as being important for their analysis of the Converters in the chain of the supply of food in India and across the world. The chain was represented by a set of large paper links that formed a “Chain” along the ground from the sun to a remote location across the room. The third group used the metaphor of a complex dining table, almost a last supper, in their representation of various categories of eventual consumers, from the poor and the hungry to the rich and the affluent, each located at opposite ends of the table. The installation was set on the ground and words were literally sprinkled on the floor in meaningful groups and paper plates with images of food and chairs that expressed the status of the consumer by their form were the highlights of this particular display. The representation achieved by this group was quite stunning in effect as well as in structure.

M P Ranjan

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