Rahil Patel

| (• ◡•)|/ \(❍ᴥ❍ʋ).

A Liberal Arts Self Study Curriculum

19 September 2014 by Rahil

I’ve recently felt I’ve lacked knowledge in liberal arts. People around me have libraries of books. I have nothing. They’re able to speak lucidly about certain subjects referencing a common history, whereas I base my knowledge entirely on empirical knowledge. I have little knowledge in the domain of history (and how knowledge developed historically to affect the present). Though this doesn’t mean I dislike my empirical education, nor do I care to listen to dead old white dudes, rather, I just want to verify some thoughts to better organize all of the thoughts I’ve empirically gathered over the past 5 years.

The Curriculums:
I see two.

1. MIT offers several (nearly all?) through the OpenCourseWare program. They offer substantially more than other colleges that have this program. They even provide curriculum guides. I’ve just learned about the curriculum part 5 minutes ago and am now thinking about changing to this. TODO BRB

2. The Great Books is a method of learning through books. It’s traditional, euro-centric, going through the Western Canon. The most well known curriculum based off that is Columbia College’s Core Curriculum, something all student’s must partake during their first year. On their website, a current syllabus is available for Contemporary Civilization (mainly philosophy [ethics and social sciences]) and Literature Humanities, both of which contain all of the readings and exact textbooks in sequential order, but unfortunately does not specifically show all of the selections of texts, or provide any materials. In addition to those two supposed year-long courses, there’s semester-long arts, music, writing, science, and frontiers of science. Of them, only two, arts and frontiers of science, have the some materials available online, but even then, they are missing lectures.

My greatest concern is humanities (a mix of philosophy, ethics, urban studies, aesthetics, social sciences), so the Contemporary Civilization syllabus is a perfect fit for me. To supplement the readings, one can use The Great Courses lectures and questions (nearly all can be pirated), after each reading.

other references:



– a college that bases it’s entire undergraduate curriculum on great books! Excessive.


– a selection of books from the Western Canon, more science and philosophy centered like those found in Contemporary Civilization, all somehow based on Great Ideas


– another set of books from the Western Canon, more essay-driven, which is nice if one loves to read all day, but rather inefficient. It also contains quite a bit of literature.

Leave a comment | Categories: Education

Public Places (and Public Spaces?)

19 September 2014 by Rahil

These thoughts were triggered after watching Babycastles talk at Indiecade 2014: Building an Alternative Dream:

Anything that is public has an enabling effect. People can freely enter that area, use it however they like. This creates a feeling of freedom, allowing people to do work and feel proud of it.

Being physically near is different from interacting online, or through media.

It’s more likely to result in action, because, it’s social.

My history with public places:
In the neighborhood I grew up in, I’d explore it and nearby neighborhoods by biking. Nature should be every child’s first public place. I had friends on my street and in my neighborhood. We would bike together and to each others’ houses.

During school, there would be breaks during lunch and recess. There would always be a place where people would meet and hang out.

In college there was a public room called “the retro room” (todo: deserves it’s own blog). It mostly contained nerdy types because there were always TVs with video games hooked up. People would talk, play, read, work, eat, and sleep there.

After I moved to a rich neighborhood, I struggled and used media. Media is a one way interaction. I left it when I left the suburbs. From then on, I physically attended public places.

In SF, I would explore neighborhoods, attend free museum days, and attend free art events. I used public libraries (including UCSF library) and cafes and parks as regular places to do computer work. I also just generally spent a lot of time in transit: walking, running, on the 38, and on the Caltrain when I had my first job.

During this time, I gained knowledge in art aesthetic, physical space, people, but I lacked knowledge in their creative process, personal life, work life.

In New York, I explored again for nearly a month, in search of places to live. Later, I’d explore the ethnic enclaves. I used public transportation liberally. I began by volunteering for a public organization and voluntarily interning, seeing how artists work. Again, there were free art events — lectures by NYU, comedy at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade and Hannibal’s place, free events on The Skint. For work, I mostly spent time at Pratt Institute’s library.

I saw how film was made, how an organization was run. I continued exploring, but only what can be seen in the public, from the streets. I can see where capitalism is high or low, and where ethnic enclaves sustain a better life. Through game jams I made friends for game development.

During my travels I’d start at a hostel, I’d almost consider as a public place, some even allow you to enter the common room without sleeping there. Then I’d go explore the artificial and nature, all accessible to the public. I’d volunteer at places where anyone was allowed to (why anyone pays to volunteer is crazy).

What was a public space blurred with what was space. At some point, it didn’t matter where I was. There was no reason to be in a cafe to use the computer, or a building, or on a chair. If I needed to use the computer I’d just whip out my laptop wherever I was (street, transit, nature), tether to a cheap 3G, and use the computer! I’d never spend any time in a residential or office building, just outside or in a public place, consuming the public, or in proximity of friends, maximizing time with friends and the public. Common rooms of hostel, parks, near street food, near points of interest, transport were common.

In East Asia, it didn’t matter where I slept; There’s no crime there. I’d sleep when I was tired, or at a friend’s house, or at a park. It cut commute time.

In Taiwan, it didn’t matter where I ate. The food was cheap enough to eat anywhere. There was no reason to go home. I could eat, sleep, work, anywhere. Absolute freedom.

Public Places as a Savior from Commoditization:
Public places in cities I think are closely associated to freedom. The sense of freedom gets lost in social norms of the artificial. People are conditioned to sleep at home, cook and eat at home, work in offices, and work more at home or at a cafe, leaving bars as the only place to socialize. This is the result of commoditization, people feel (and often do) that they have to pay to use a computer, pay to rent a book or dvd, pay to sleep, pay a cafe to use the internet, pay to park, pay to sleep, pay to travel, pay to pitch a tent, pay to drink water, pay to wash clothes. Without a healthy street life, worse, in the suburbs, it’s possible that people live without knowing they could actually meet friends at a park, have a barbecue, and enjoy.

Public Places have Common Values:
The people that show up in an arcade, a free museum, a park, an outdoor public performance are of the same. In negative light, freeloaders. In positive, curious, wanting an experience, with people. It’s publicly accessible, open to all people, especially, when in a city (for transport accessibility).

Because of those traits in the place itself, the people who attend have certain common values (mentioned in the video): free, open to all people (age, color, sex, whatever). A great portion of the people who come to these events turn out to be quite altruistic themselves, willing to spend time, share skills, socialize with anyone.

Public places are an option that’s open, a stimulus. “Humans are by nature political animals”, and when there is a choice between spending time at home or with people in a public place, it’s likely the latter.

Public Spaces
Public spaces are little different. It’s a more active place, a space where one can fill it in with whatever they like. The intention isn’t to merely consume, but to interact, with people and things. A public space is where anyone can volunteer, pitch and run an event. That’s very powerful, and requires creativity, artists. These often come in the form of DIY spaces, open mics at cafes or bars, music jams, game jams, and other forms of improvisational creation.

San Francisco’s ATA, New York’s spaces in Bushwick and Williamsburg, cafes across Asia, hackerspaces around the world.

In the video, it’s mentioned spaces allow freedom to create work and feel proud of it. For people to feel good, does there need to be a feeling of freedom to create any work? Or does it require a social aspect, to collaborate with others, to create work?* (THINK MORE)

Also in the video, when spaces interact with other spaces, it creates a community of spaces.

Also in the video, when spaces interact with institutions, the aforementioned values have to be fought for.

The value of these places, perhaps, will require another blog post at another time.


Leave a comment | Categories: Personal, Social Science

A Design Strategy for Data

19 September 2014 by Rahil

This was inspired by the first week’s Creativity and Computation class’s lecture by Sven Travis.

A neat way design new media (which may be in the form of a game) is to think of the input and the output, based on the perceptions of humans.

I used this strategy in the past for games, where I’d think about all of the inputs the medium has, often an iPad, then create games using them. However, it only dawned to me during the lecture that data is not limited to mediums. Everything is data. In and out.

design strategy for data

Personal designs:

  • Track the motion of a falcon, whenever it swoops for an attack, output a “falcon punch” sound through a speaker in the public.
  • When a sentence with the word love or hate is said on a social platform, have a speaker in the public output the sentence.
  • Track rats over time, post the results in the form of a transportation transparency and paste it over a transportation map.
  • Put a camera on a bum, output the video in a public square.
  • Each time someone e-mails a government official a letter to appeal something, trigger a catapult to throw a ball of sand approximately at the official’s office window.
  • Each time a human dies from the fault of government, trigger a mechanism to splash blood on the White House.

Leave a comment | Categories: Design, Design, Games, New Media

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