Paola Antonelli on Design as the Interface Between Progress and Humanity

Pao­la Antonel­li — Senior Cura­tor of Archi­tec­ture and Design at the MoMA, long­time pro­po­nent of human­ized tech­nol­o­gy, self-described “curi­ous octo­pus” — has arguably done more for the main­stream infil­tra­tion of design lit­er­a­cy than any oth­er indi­vid­ual in con­tem­po­rary cul­ture. In her recent open­ing keynote at the unequiv­o­cal­ly titled media and ideas con­fer­ence The Con­fer­ence in Malmö, Swe­den, Antonel­li pulls the cur­tain on her cura­to­r­i­al process and, with her sig­na­ture on-stage charis­ma, takes a reveal­ing look at how her shows go about the incred­i­ble bal­anc­ing act of being both bea­cons of the bleed­ing edge of design and an approach­able edu­ca­tion plat­form for instill­ing in the gen­er­al pub­lic a basic under­stand­ing of the fun­da­men­tal impor­tance of design — some­thing she describes as “push[ing] design down from the realm of art and up from the realm of dec­o­ra­tion and pret­ti­fi­ca­tion into real life.”

“What design­ers do is they take rev­o­lu­tions that hap­pen maybe in sci­ence or tech­nol­o­gy or pol­i­tics, and they trans­form them into objects that you and I can use, that you and I can feel some famil­iar­i­ty or at least some curios­i­ty about, so we can be drawn in and we can start a new life and a new behav­ioral pat­tern. And this idea of design­ers as the inter­face of progress, between progress and human­i­ty, is what I try to stay with.” ~ Pao­la Antonel­li

Antonel­li’s excel­lent new show, Talk to Me: Design and the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Between Peo­ple and Objects, is on dis­play at the MoMA through Novem­ber 7.

Maria Popo­va is the founder and edi­tor in chief of Brain Pick­ings, a curat­ed inven­to­ry of cross-dis­ci­pli­nary inter­est­ing­ness. She writes for Wired UK, The Atlantic and Desig­nOb­serv­er, and spends a great deal of time on Twit­ter.

Biblioburro: Library on a Donkey

For more than a decade, Luis Sori­ano, a pri­ma­ry school teacher, has trav­eled the rugged ter­rain of Colom­bia by don­key, deliv­er­ing books to chil­dren in hun­dreds of rur­al vil­lages. The project, pow­ered by his two don­keys Alfa and Beto, goes by the name “Bib­liobur­ro.” And it seeks to pro­mote lit­er­a­cy in areas where access to books is not always a giv­en. You can find more infor­ma­tion and pic­tures on the home­page of the Bib­liobur­ro project and also make a small dona­tion. A video update shows what these dona­tions are actu­al­ly used for.

Bonus mate­r­i­al: The clip above is part of a 60-minute PBS doc­u­men­tary avail­able in full here. If you are a teacher and want to work with the film in class, you will appre­ci­ate this relat­ed les­son plan. Bib­liobur­ro has even been cov­ered by The New York Times, and there is now a sim­i­lar project under­way in Ethiopia.

By pro­fes­sion, Matthias Rasch­er teach­es Eng­lish and His­to­ry at a High School in north­ern Bavaria, Ger­many. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twit­ter.

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.