Weeks 13-14: Final Project

I am working on a communication campaign for college students about integrity. My greatest challenge so far is understand how integrity is defined by them – and how to approach the concept in a way that is both close to their references and not seeing as a type of “top-down” mandatory behavior, but something they would want to develop (or already do and care for) from the inside-out, in a very authentic way.

I am taking some rapid interviews with undergraduate students to catch their impressions about the term and improve my approach. In the next days, I will be finishing the communication materials.

Image http://www.psychologytoday.com

Weeks 12: Ethics and Personal Ethos – What if?

The store shelves are filled with assorted items, although they are all for the same purpose. They quarrel every inch of our attention, always promising something more, something better, something unique. They scream in colors and shapes, but deep down they are all more of the same.
And everything is so full, the shelf, the store, the eyes, the field of attention, the mind – there is no room to ask anything, to lack anything. Nothing is absent. Nothing awaits your action to become real, everything is as usual, and nothing is.
The store is also the mind, the world, the self. Articles are also concepts, things, everything in life suddenly too fast, too full, too modern to allow for bend, flexion – to return to oneself, to return to one self, to see what one’s mind is sneaking as truth for ourselves.
No, in the midst of the all-shelf, there is no pore or gap, empty space, crevice or vault where yearning and wanting-to-go-beyond can enter and make an abode. All that remains is the rupture, the only way out when the force of water is greater than the cement of contention.
Because in everything, even when it does not even seem any more, we still long for something else to present itself. In each cell and every atom of consciousness we remember well that emptiness is a condition of sprouting, it is dark and damp earth, it is nothing that activates the inert everything that is already potential but does not become real while it does not take body.
And if we lack the condition of generating the new for which we yearn, of creating the novelty out of nothing, perhaps the perception of the value of emptiness will be saving us. The vacuum, the opening, these we can produce, by the force of the will, by the active desire. Anticipate ruptures by choice. At least by dispensing the articles that do not make or have ever made sense – and leave blank spaces on the shelf.
What if this is what “innovative action” really is: emptying the cup, making space, opening wings? What if this ‘something’ is already there, latent and full of possibilities – waiting for just a space to pass and a choice to be activated and embodied?
What if we think about an ethical way of living and working that enable us to be agents of this type of change? Opening pores, finding points of possibility, creating positive and conscious ruptures? Cleaning the trash to keep the emptiness, the question, the absence. Overcome the fear of the Open. Abandon old ways to find the essential trans-form. What if we could contribute for regeneration of life conditions and evolution of the conscience? The seeds of the “new” await for an opportunity to blossom, as they already inhabit hearts and minds.

Image http://www.pngtree.com

Week 11: The State of Higher Education Today

The video A vision of Students Today and the documentary Declining by Degrees are both true and stinging. In a way, they make me rethink the meaning of higher education as a whole … The fact that students are not being challenged enough, accompanied enough, or getting enough financial support, makes me think that the student is not really the focus of higher education, unfortunately. I understand that the increasingly market-oriented system makes it difficult to change perspectives, even for faculty and administrators who are truly interested in students’ development and evolution.
However, even for their future financial self-support, universities will have to rethink and restructure their methods and approaches sooner or later. I particularly believe that the college years are immensely valuable in terms of development and blossoming opportunities for students’ potentials. But in fact this requires a different look, a different mentality on the part of the “adults” charged with teaching and guiding these young people .
Some noteworthy examples in the documentary have shown the importance of having a mentor, someone who views the students’ potential and encourages them to pursue their pathway. Someone who cares – it seems that caring is the great missing quality. What can we do as individuals who care, when we are embedded in a system that fundamentally does not care? How can we fight  this indifference, this standardization, this ‘numbification’? It seems an important question to keep in mind.

Week 10: Disciplinary Codes of Conduct

As a graphic designer, the society I chose was AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts), the professional association for design. The code of ethics is “AIGA Standards of Professional Practice”.  The key principles approach the following themes: designer’s responsibility to clients, how designers interact with each other, designer’s responsibility to the public, fees and compensation, publicity, authorship, and the designer’s responsibility to society and the environment. The code values aspects such as: respect to confidentiality, ethical competition, fair attribution,  transparency, truth, sensitivity to cultural values and beliefs, respect to human dignity, equal treatment, and freedom of speech.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that code explicitly states that: “a professional designer is encouraged to contribute five percent of his or her time to projects in the public good-projects that serve society and improve the human experience”. Besides that, the standards recommend that designers consider environmental, economic, social and cultural implications of his or her work and minimize the adverse impacts. In my opinion, those are fundamental ethical principles for our profession.

Image: http://www.123rf.com

I also found an interesting article: “Why Every Designer Needs a Code of Ethics”, which summarizes AIGA Standards, along with codes of ethics from four other reputable design societies.  Other very interesting resources about ethics for designers may be found at:

Rethinking Design Education for the 21st Century: Theoretical, Methodological, and Ethical Discussion – Alain Findeli

First Things First – Design Manifesto:

1964: http://www.designishistory.com/1960/first-things-first/

2000: http://www.eyemagazine.com/feature/article/first-things-first-manifesto-2000

Week 9: Copyright Issues

As a graphic designer, looking for images is a common routine for me. The Creative Commons search tool shared in the class has been very useful.  Recently I found an interesting photo bank, also licensed under the Creative Commons license: https://www.pexels.com/photo-license

Pexels homepage – http://www.pexels.com

Another website with very creative photos with Creative Commons license is https://gratisography.com/.


If you are looking for icons,  a good resource is https://www.iconfinder.com/free_icons. The website offers icon sets with Creative Commons licenses with different attributions, and also icon sets that are free for commercial use but require that you cite the author. Check it out.



Week 8: Final project description

Communication campaign: The project consists in planning and developing a communication strategy and campaign.

 Theme:    Integrity – in life in general and, more specifically, in the college environment and in future professional settings. Special focus on academic integrity and ethics

Audience:  Undergraduate students at VT

Goal:  Communicate about integrity, in three levels:

  • develop reflection about the concept , relating integrity, entirety & wholeness
  • practical situations requiring integrity in students’ academic life – prompts for reflection
  • indications about the importance of developing ethics in preparation for professional settings

Materials: Table cards, series of posts for social media, digital ads, ad on local newspaper, banners in Canvas, posters

Language: Textual and visual language and references close to students’ cultural universe

Potential uses: Beyond the general presence in VT diverse media channels as mentioned, graduate students in teaching positions may also use the materials as a way to promote reflection and engage undergraduate students in academic integrity. That strategy is beneficial for undergraduate students receiving the message, but also beneficial for graduate students, at the extent that they “embody” the message about academic integrity in their teaching using these resources.

Why did I choose this project?  In my point of view, there is a need for communicating about integrity for college students in a way that: (a) goes beyond the institutionalized discourse; (b) takes the concept closer to their reality and references; (c) prompt reflection and stimulate intrinsic motivation.


To be great, be whole;
Exclude nothing, exaggerate nothing that is not you.
Be whole in everything. Put all you are
Into the smallest thing you do.

― Fernando Pessoa

Week 7: Authorship Issues

Reading about issues on authorship and attribution was very interesting – I was glad to learn that we have many references to look for when trying to understanding and solve questions in this matter.  I have something I would like to discuss with you and ask your opinion about it.

When you write a paper for a class, then later you want to improve this paper and submit to a conference, for example – is the professor entitled for a co-authorship or not? In some cases, the professor worked in the paper with you, oriented, revised. In other cases, the professor only received and graded the paper. Which do you all think  it would be the appropriate way to proceed in this case?

Image by AlphaCoders

Week 6: Citation Methods

Yes, yes, we know that almost every idea is not really new. We are all playing with, re-creating, and remixing ideas all the time. But it is also true that people must receive credit for the compositions of ideas, insights, and new perspectives they come up with. Although it is absolutely fine to be inspired by others (as we are almost always), appropriate their ideas as if they were ours is definitively not cool.

Citing your sources is important to make clear the genealogy of your ideas, show where did they come from, and allow people to do the same with your own ideas. Proper citation ensures that those ideas can thrive and continue their way on the world: inspiring, provoking, changing people.

Cite your sources, folks!

Video produced by the Office of Student Judicial Affairs, University of Alberta, and Townend Films

Week 5: The VT Graduate Honor System, Part II

I really liked The Lab: Interactive Movie on Research Misconduct. It’s an interesting experience to see the same situation from different perspectives. And as for each person, there are a number of factors that interplay affecting  how they understand and react to the situations.

Another very interesting point is that the interactive video helps you understand the consequences of EACH choice along the way.  I appreciated the fact that Lab is not just “black and white”, showing that many times, even the right path is difficult to identify. Often, even with the best of intentions and sincerely seeking to do the right thing, it is not so clear which way to go.

I also like the fact that the video reinforces the importance of doing the best possible, according to the highest consciousness that it is possible to have at that moment – and not trying to find the easy shortcut.

It was a good learning experience for me. If only we could have second chances to change our choices like this in real life! 😉

Week 4: The VT Graduate Honors System, Part I

According to the VT Graduate Honor System webpage, one of the fundamental beliefs underlying and reflected in the Code is that “to trust in a person is a positive force in making a person worthy of trust”. For me, it seems to be the strongest motivation behind a person’s behavior. In other words, more than a system for punishing and correcting students’ behavior, the Honor System is meant to be an inspiring and purposeful commitment for people intending to be and behave at their highest standard.

Steve Wolk from Oberlin College discusses several aspects linked to the history and philosophy behind Honor Systems at Universities. The author brings fundamental aspects such the expectation of an “honorable behavior”, the fact that Honor Systems put full responsibility for academic integrity on students and the extent that the honor system has the potential to be an integral part of campus identity.

Wolk (2015) opens a discussion about an interesting topic as well: how the idea of cheating and plagiarism change in a culture that is shifting increasingly toward student collaboration? The author suggest that we could make advantages of that apparent contradiction to “talk about the value of collaboration in scholarly work is to engage our students in the heart of how knowledge is created” and move the discussion of the Honor Code towards a “more engaging conversation about epistemology, creativity, and the values of collaboration”. Another interesting idea proposed by Wolk (2015) in the blog is about universities adopting Honor Codes is completely student-run – he adds a good example coming from Haverford.

The RSA animate video “The (honest) truth about dishonest” (below) brings a very interesting talk from Dan Ariely. In the talk, the author recognize two conflicting motivations in people: we want to be seen and recognized as good people, but at the same time, we may be tempted to make advantage of small cheating. Our flexible cognitive psychology and the process of rationalization allows us to create very elaborate self-justifications and ‘reconcile’ these two contradictory motivations. The author states the grand majority of cheating is done by ‘good people’, and in small amounts. Several situations help to create a feeling that small cheating is not really cheating etc.

Ariely’s research (2012) found that one good strategy for fighting this effect would be taking the rationalization down, by reminding people of values, honors, responsibility, and trust. Those reminders would help by make us more alert in supervising ourselves and being “more thoughtful of our own actions”. Other important aspect for strategies in this field would include opportunities for people to “open a new page”: recognize their mistakes, assume the responsibilities, and “clean” the situations, so they can see themselves as good people again and tend to consciously seek for the honest attitudes. The author suggest the importance of changing the incentive structure (Ariely, 2012).

Those aspects reflect very well the importance of maintaining honors systems at Universities and striving to create student-led initiatives linked to the honor system.