Usually, the year-end affords time for reflection on the past year, with a list of hopes for the upcoming year. The circumstances this year have me rushing this note a few hours before the year ends. But in the spirit of keeping up with the tradition, here is a short note.
This year has been great, both in terms of doing, making, and working as well as slowing down, when needed.
This year started with the release of our book, “Actually, Colors Speak”. It was great to finally place the book in the world, and it made me feel accomplished. This accomplishment came not from the feedback or sales of the book, but from finishing a first-of-its-kind (for me) project. Thanks to Minhaj, Somdatta, and Rabin for being partners on this project. It was the pandemic season, so we ‘released’ the book at a memorable interaction at ISF 2022. We were able to hook up the microscope and show a bunch of specimens through the microscope and do a delightful book reading with a brilliant kid. One of the feedback for the book is visible here.
I was also able to share the process of making the book at the annual conference by GNSI, the Bioticks club, and some other invited talks. We also took the idea of color in animals to interactions with a young crowd at BIC during the summer and to the public at the metro station with Bangalore Design Week.
The new job
The second big change in my life was joining SMI as a facilitator. I have always wanted to be in an environment where I get to interact with people of diverse backgrounds and interests. This experience has been enriching for personal growth and has given me a safe space and the courage to try new and experiment. What I am most grateful for is new friendships!
I also am learning a lot about myself as a human being, during my interaction with students. In this year, I worked with a great bunch of students to create part of an exhibit called the Interlude. The interactions and process of putting together the exhibit were a very fun-filled experience. I also got to offer a course on information visualization which led me to build a small project of my own (More on that in next year’s note, I suppose). The most interesting interaction was a course on scientific illustration and objectivity based on this brilliant essay, Image of Objectivity. As I come close to finishing a year at this new workplace, I am excited to work with students and colleagues in the time to come.
The science studies
Building on some work from the last year, I continued to work on a zine series around science. This included conversations on choices a scientist makes, the idea of beauty in science, and the sense of space and time among others. As the Indie comix fest returned to Bangalore, I was able to share this work with the public to a phenomenal response.
Some of my old zines on cells made it to an exhibit, called Bodies at Sea, by Devika and Kamini at the Archives at NCBS. I also got to present some of my work at a talk there as part of exhibit programming.
Craft in Science
This summer I spent a week at the Fly facility at NCBS, observing the folks in the lab do their thing! They make transgenic flies. Being the lab, sketching, and learning the process of ‘doing’ science, I uncovered ideas on the craft that is required to perform these time-sensitive tasks with finesse and technique that involves training of the hand. I also realized how much labor goes into science, and a whole lot of it is unrecognized. I was able to share some of it with my zine: Crafting a mutant fly. I hope, to build on this work sometime in the future.
Drawing in Science
I shared my ideas on drawing in scientific pursuit at my Tedex talk at MNNIIT Allahabad. I elaborated on how drawing unlocks creativity that is required for original thinking and hypothesis building. While I have not been able to do real work on this. I hope to bring the drawing to studies on craft in science and trust in science in upcoming collaborations with scientists and science students in the coming years.
Trust in Science
Following up on the trust in science zine created last year, I planned to understand the relationship between science and society more intimately. I started with a direct translation of the zine and found a lot of responses from the scientist. The most meaningful insight (for me) was that scientists acknowledge that existential questions can’t be answered by science. In the next run, I am collaborating with Debanshu Bhowmick to look at the same understanding of science among people not trained in sciences. (If you are one, or know some: consider filling out or sharing the form). This line of inquiry will continue to grow in the next year.
Even with the Image of Objectivity course at SMI, I got design students to talk to scientists and ask them questions about their relationship with ideas such as objectivity, truth, ethics, etc. These conversations all showed the level of honesty scientists have! I hope to create a set of public conversations around these ideas in the coming year.
Science in Public
After much resistance to the idea, prepping for a specific talk made me acknowledge that a whole lot of work I have done over the years is in fact about enabling access to science. With Bangalore Design Week, I brought conversations on science to the public in a more literal sense, myself, and with help from other friends. This endeavor to bring science, and the scientific method to the public, in public spaces, is a definite direction in the coming year. (hey, Scicomm and Science peeps, I need your help with this).
The scicomm thing
Scicomm workshops and courses and talks are always a big part of my work year. This year it meant interactions with students at Miranda college, BHU, Sri Venkateshwara College, IISER Mohali, and IIT Gandhinagar. I was also part of sessions with SciRio and SicommSci Club. My favorite workshop was a zine-making workshop at TIFR Hyderabad, where people created together with such force and joy that felt ‘wow’.
The human thing
This year, I turned 35 years old. It felt landmark-ish as imagining a future for me at 35 was hard for my 25-year-old self (it was not an ageist thing but a mental health thing). This year I also decided to invest better in people and communities. I found folks to work with, paint with, make zines with, play games with, do science with and etc. I am hoping that these communities will stay with me in time to come and perhaps grow.
So I end this year’s note with gratitude and hope, as always. Hoping that your year has been kind to you and that the next one is what you need it to be. Happy New Year!