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Peter Poon at TEDxCUHK

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Today, I would like to use design ethics as an example to discuss about the issue of social responsibility Design ethics is a concept suggested by Mr. Kan Tai-Keung, which is embodied in a new course designed by me and taught at Shantou University starting from last year Design ethics is a contemporary term used in the Mainland when discussing this issue Although people in Hong Kong may think that it is a bit weird like mixing design, morality and ethics together in a blending machine like designing a Mercedes-Benz car between design and humanity, as well as design and society in nature explaining social reality of design and considering the connection between design and society I’ve been working in society for many years I have some feelings and hope that you all can think in this regard In the past, we were concerned about our contribution to society but now we are concerned with our own prospect Is there any conflict between them? Holding an early view and feeling uncomfortable about some social phenomena we like to criticize but we seldom pay attention to them If you broaden your vision of life to the whole society and even the world would it endanger your future prospect? How should we behave? I would like to talk about this aspect I hope that you all can understand that it is not important whether what I’ve said here is right or wrong Indeed, there are not many cardinal matters of right and wrong in the world but relatively more minor matters of right and wrong Therefore, right and wrong are not important Understanding is rather more important Just like education nowadays people emphasize too much on results and standard answers In other words, they particularly like right and wrong Thus, you just need to know but not understand This can allow you to deal with most of the things from primary school to university and even in master programs which is really unfortunate Hope that this is not the case in the Chinese University of Hong Kong However, this cannot be applied to doctor programs How can one be a doctor if he/she does not understand? Neither is this applicable to kindergarten as you need imagination and innocence! Do you still keep imagination and innocence? These inspire creativity as well If you want to be creative, I recommend you all, from now on, to be more naive Yah, I always think in the opposite way to my parents They told us not to be too naive didn’t they? Let me first tell you what design is It is absolutely alright if you don’t quite understand it In fact, many designers can’t make it clear either Don’t you believe it? If you walk down the street, you will see posters of Hong Kong Design Year on mailboxes which are plastered with memorandums full of different explanations of design making people not know which one to follow Actually, the relationship between design and art is even more confusing In China, design is said to be artful design did you know that? as if it is a kind of alternative art I’m doomed to “be” embarrassed Indeed, what is design? Design is doing things with intention, aim and planning. the aim is objective Art is more complex For art, the emotions of man are expressed explicitly or abstractly through lighting, video, sound, language, models, dancing and acting followed by impulse Without impulse it appears to fail Emotions become introversive When introversion reaches an extreme, it will explode Madness is not art. Madness is just madness Design is an objective implementation while art is a subjective expression Modern design is a job that focuses more on “big society” than on “small groups” It merges with art and technology to create better well-being for humans Art cares for the emotional needs while technology cares for the rational needs The diversity of the industry of design nowadays is a result of development All aspects of design are of the same origin The aim of design is to improve our quality of life and for a better career It aims for better but not the best Because the best of today is no longer the best sooner or later If the best really exists, then design is no more needed It will put designers in a miserable situation as they cannot survive anymore Of course, there is no such thing From this we can see that design is meaningful work Designers need to think if it is divergent from its meaning We need to criticize if it runs counter It is obvious that design has social responsibility And thus designer has social responsibility as well As for how design can fulfill its social responsibility I’m not going to go into detail now Does art have social responsibility? It seems that it is not worth mentioning such status of art in today’s society No one will protest or will strike, right? However, if there is someone making love in public or using organs of man or animal as an art exhibition or pouring red paint over a bronze statue in a plaza then we ought to pounder on this issue In addition to skill and expression, art is also about feelings and can warn the public and criticize society As for how the public understands and feels we shouldn’t care about them When art conflicts with society, how should we consider it? I think it is a give and take relationship The society is the taker Artists, at the same time, are also members of family of the society He should be responsible for his behavior He should obey the law And he should abide by the social ethics I believe that art is derived from Heaven, Earth and Humanity I hope that artists will produce art for society’s sake but not art’s sake He should devote himself to society rather than art Just like some people eat just for eating’s sake and talk for talking’s sake It is meaningless Even though I understand sacrificing oneself for Art’s sake is quite tempting Design has its social responsibility Every industry has its social responsibility I don't need to say more I know it is a bit old fashioned Yet when stepping into society we forget this trite but undeniable truth, only learning the details of how to work well Still, if everyone learns it and follows it, society will be so different from that nowadays which is glutted with tainted milk, unauthorized buildings, smuggled goods, etc. Now let’s move on to another topic Let's talk about the philosophy of life and the meaning of life. It is hard to discuss such big issues in such a limited time talk. I just want to emphasis that I am similar to you in this regard Never really think about it Still, whether we think about it or not we do have our own opinions on it which constructed our way of thinking And design is all about the way of thinking Because it is based on our own knowledge and logic Let's start by examine the way Chinese people think If you ask a Chinese, What is your dream? I bet on two answers in general Social status and successful career which easily turns into “money” so let's put them together that is, when you build your reputation, fortune comes As a matter of fact, I believe it is similar to the thinking of artists and designers As for most people, we aim for fortune then the reputation Anyway, we should not shame to commit it. Yet there is a traditional concept on Chinese people We work and strive for ourselves first and then for our children and wives and husbands and then for our parents Some will also pursue them for our sisters, brothers and other relatives A few will pursue them for their friends Anyone here has the wish to help their friends in the future? People are concerned with themselves and then their intimates I call this thinking Hong Kong butterfly effect Please notice that it is not Chinese butterfly effect Because only Hong Kong people can afford to think like this at the moment as most mainland Chinese people are still fight for living Imaging society as a giant cushion When you press it, a hollow appears The giant cushion is the society as a whole The hollow is your thought The deepest part of the hollow is the life goal that your work for If it rains, you are concerned with water that flooding into the hole And how much concern depend on how deep it is Outside the hole, it is none of my business By Hong Kong butterfly effect, I means that one's influence cannot be broadened And I believe that it is the reason why most Chinese fail to care about the world As if the outside world is none of their business They cannot see that anything happens in this world will influence them eventually Hence, most of them will not become big men and change the world I always like to mention Steve Jobs when I teach the ethics of design His idea affects social culture profoundly He was proud of one dollar per year salary which made other CEOs not dare to require more bonuses You see, taking the social responsibility didn't affect his personal development while it brought him reputation and fortune Reputation and fortune is not the end but the result Someone once asked me will there be any Steve Jobs in China? My answer is no, in the past, now and in future, unless thinking is changed Because the mainstream thinking in china is a kind of individualism that combines the traditional chinese and utilitarian thinking people are way too materialistic and generally lack compassion they seek the feeling of security but end up feeling even more insecure, why is that? Because people desire too many things even if they don't need those things and they find tons of excuses for why they need those things we are the only animal in this planet who acts this way we lack purpose, we are introverted, and that's why we cannot do something big Making billions of money is not the "big" thing in my opinion but sure, if you use those money to contribute to the society, it is good in a way For example, many building in CUHK are funded by donation Sir Ka-shing Li's contribution to Shan Tau University and University of Hong Kong Sir Run Run Shaw's Shaw foundation Let's not forget the funds by Gorge Soros as well as Bill Gates Some may think that they are doing it for reputation only But I think they are giving back to the society If we can all be socially responsible then we are the same as them To contribute is our responsibility and the reward is the result don't be confused I believe that most of you here knows about the social responsibility the thing I am concerned about is that we get confused give up too early and forget too soon Every game has its own rule its own purpose and spirit even for playing the Mahjong or the Olympic Games Similarly, the society has its own rule, purpose and aim I think they are the same thing therefore, I recommend everyone to not play tricks to win Or you may ended up as the Western saying goes Win a battle and lose a war trust me Being socially responsible will not harm your future or your personal development If you use your talent and intelligence they may turn out to be big opportunities business opportunities even Those are the foundation for great expectation they harmonise the society and make you proud make you happy and make your life more satisfied Our parents have great expectation on us and we also have expectation for our sons and daughters therefore, being socially responsible is not only for the society but it is also the expectation of our parents, sons and daughters and our ancestors This is what I learnt in my life hope everyone can pounder on it and I sincerely hope that everyone here can be more innocent for creativity sake That's it

Video Details

Duration: 18 minutes and 2 seconds
Country: Hong Kong
Genre: None
Views: 140
Posted by: tedxcuhk on Dec 8, 2012

Peter Poon is a seasoned designer in Hong Kong. And he gives an informative and forceful speech on design ethics and explains how the social reality is reflected in the design.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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