Hunting for my "Arc Reactor"

This week I continued conducting research in the field and worked on trying to analyze and synthesize some of my initial findings. I spoke again with Devin, where she reminded me that as interesting as entire food systems are, I need to distill my topic down to a specific starting point. Especially if I want to make any sort of impact, if I stay too broad it will dilute my effort in the long run.

Tony Stark has his   Arc Reactor,  a power core made out of pure energy, that powers his Iron Man suit. What's my Arc Reactor for this thesis? (post it credit: Erlend)

Tony Stark has his Arc Reactor,  a power core made out of pure energy, that powers his Iron Man suit. What's my Arc Reactor for this thesis? (post it credit: Erlend)

Exploring some of the themes at the core of my thesis

Exploring some of the themes at the core of my thesis

Guillaume Charny-Brunet, VP Innovation Servicces   at Space10

Guillaume Charny-Brunet, VP Innovation Servicces at Space10

I also went to Space10, IKEA’s innovation center where I met with the CIO, Guillaume Charny-Brunet. I was initially interested to meet with him because when I was first in Space10 back in early springtime, they showed us their hydroponic farm in the basement. I was quite curious to see what kind of bottom-of-the-pyramid solutions they were working on.  He shared a bit about the strategic direction of Space10, and after introducing my research area around immigrants and marginalized communities, it became clear that we may not have as much overlap as we originally suspected.

Erlend's magic post it skills

Erlend's magic post it skills

I had my weekly meeting with Erlend, where we went through some of my research findings and started to synthesize a few ideas that were really at the core of my interests. These were “cohabitation”, “spark” and “dialogue.” For example, what does it mean to live in close quarters with someone from other racial or ethnic groups? Should we hold hands? Or what kinds of tensions arise in those situations? What is sparked, or created in those urban areas of conviviality? We also acknowledged that my findings are still quite obvious, and how can I explore the question of “what’s next?” Also, I came up with my mantra for the project “Don’t lose your compass.”

I Skyped with Linda Lapina, a PhD fellow researching cultural encounters (among other topics) in Denmark. Linda connected me with Anders Riel Muller a PhD researcher who’s (again among several topics) looking into ethnic minorities in Denmark and how food practices come into being in the encounter with Danish majority food cultures. It was fascinating speaking with both of them, and Anders’ research was spot on with my thesis. He encouraged me to rethink some of my word choices, and challenged me in my thinking of nostalgia, authenticity and discovery. A key insight was the paradox of white chefs being valued by their creativity, whereas ethnic food chefs being measured by their authenticity. What are some restaurants considered authentic and others not, and how do connotations of authenticity evolve over time? Can we look at bringing creativity and creation into the story of ethnic food in Copenhagen? Who gets recognized as culinary experts and why?

PhD Fellow, Linda Lapina Skyping in from Vancouver

PhD Fellow, Linda Lapina Skyping in from Vancouver

Meeting with Anders

Meeting with Anders

I spent an evening in the home of Haragua, an Ethiopian immigrant living with her Ethiopian husband and Danish born children in Copenhagen. I observed as she prepared dinner. These days, she only cooks Ethiopian food once every few months, because it’s so labor intensive, and because of the ingredients she has to substitute, like white flour in her Injera (traditional Ethiopian flatbread), it’s a lot less healthy, and she worries about the impact on her health.

Fermenting at home

Fermenting at home

Spices from Ethiopia

Spices from Ethiopia

A busy mother of three

A busy mother of three

Clara from Conflict Kitchen

Clara from Conflict Kitchen

I spoke with Clara Gamalski the Assistant Director of Outreach and Education at Conflict Kitchen, and dug deep into the motivations, mission and vision of Conflict Kitchen, and organization that opens takeaway restaurants serving food from countries that are in direct conflict with the US. She spoke about the mission being not to take a political stand, but to spark conversations about what it’s like to come from one of these countries and live in Pittsburgh.

I also had my first external review session with Pier Dalla Rosa an Interaction designer and technologist and Gitte Jonsdatter the Global Patient Partnering Research Lead at Novo Nordisk Strategic R&D. It was fascinating to have the different perspectives of a more research-oriented person, and a technology-oriented designer. The initial feedback was that it’s quite obvious that my background is in research, and that that is also acting as a barrier for my ability to transition into solution-oriented thinking. I’m very comfortable in the high-level, broad questioning stage, but I need to push myself to start thinking of solutions as a way to identify my hook in how I want to narrow down my research question.

My Daily Mantra

My Daily Mantra

Meeting with External Reviewers

Meeting with External Reviewers

Plan of Attack!

Plan of Attack!

Original Network Mapping of Ethnic Enclaves in Copenhagen

Original Network Mapping of Ethnic Enclaves in Copenhagen