USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Filtered Experience

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the increasing indifference an uncomfortable percentage of North Americans seem to have towards information and experience. Myself included, many may “tune in” to certain experiences and information only at opportune moments, leaving a large percentage of one’s daily life victim to distractions. Television, music, and the internet consume an uncomfortably large portion of our existence, effectively overwriting much of the more immediate information around us. Just this morning, I caught myself in the midst of Shanghai without a sense of the city around me – my iPod had completely consumed my consciousness – I was effectively numb to a multitude of sights and sounds that could otherwise post great interest. Is this an isolated incident, or is it merely a byproduct of a much larger cultural phenomenon all too common in twenty-first century America?

An answer came to me later in the day as I sat at my computer, scrolling through my Google Reader account, filtering through the day’s news and other daily internet-related happenings. Tired from a day at studio, I quickly glanced each for signs of promise – an interesting photo, a choice quotation, a subject which somehow interested me. I had over eight hundred unread articles from which to choose, yet I persisted in scrolling past each new article, hoping a more exciting, interesting, or relatable item was just ahead. Too much data, not enough time, energy, or interest – I needed to be selective.

Far from being advantageous, however, this selectivity is a decidedly negative influence on daily life. Rather than reading the less interesting articles which may not pertain to my preconceived interests and immediate curiosities – rather than really having to think, consider, and grapple with the less familiar – I was caught in the process of merely absorbing that which fit into well-worn grooves and familiar intellectual territory. Perhaps it’s the excess of information available at one point in time, maybe it’s the need to “decompress” from a day of thought and discussion, or possibly it’s a desire to learn more about what one already knows. Such selectivity of perception is dangerous if only because it begins to “close off” the world around you, reducing an abundance of alien ideas and information to a mere repetition of preconceived notions and values.

I’ve long shared this view towards many of my interests and hobbies, choosing to watch music and view films which may lie outside my usual canon of styles or genres. This said, I am only now beginning to realize what a consistent and deliberate effort must be made in order to open one’s mind to new ideas in all spectrums of daily life, and not simply when it may appear convenient. In a world of instantly downloadable music, filtered search results, and on-demand everything, a genuine curiosity towards the inaccessible and distant seems antithetical. Yet it is only through such an approach to the world that one can truly learn and develop, not merely viewing life through a singular set of filters and ideas.

Many of the people closest to me make a distinct effort to read, view, and listen to media and art which may at first may appear uncomfortable or daunting, traits I first regarded years ago with a tinge of ambivalence. At first, it would seem easy to download the iTunes Top 40, watch only the biggest box-office hits, and live within the most comfortable niches carved by popular culture. As I learn and understand more about the world around me, however, I’m beginning to realize that a dedication to learning and knowledge outside the immediately accessible and familiar is a critical trait to possess. A genuine curiosity towards the outside world, a desire to experience that which is unfamiliar or unpopular, a commitment to the consumption of information which is less than immediately apparent: rigorized approaches to daily life which propel the everyday to a transformative and eye-opening experience.


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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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