From the Ground Up
I’d like to share with you a little token of knowledge from being brought into a world of openness. In less than a week of starting with the Open Government Initiative at NASA, I have become surrounded by a spectrum of intelligent, enthusiastic and innovative people behind some of the most outstanding causes to date. Presently, I am living in one of the most exciting cities in America, and have the dream opportunity to not only listen in on these discussions, but to be involved in the formula.
To provide context to my story, I am currently in my 4th year of 5 at Syracuse University up north, studying Industrial and Interaction Design (which is really just a fancy phrase for physical and digital products). A few months ago, if you would have asked me where I’d be right now, I would never have imagined something to this scope. While working in government may seem like an anomaly for someone creative like me, it may surprise you to find that this talent is the seeping through the cracks of a conventional system from multiple directions. The reason behind “why” so may incredible people are gathering around this movement is because the vision of openness is alive.
In between moving from event to event, I had the luck to tour NASA’s JSC facility and get a sneak peek into the environment astronauts work, as well as live. One of my many lasting memories was hopping on Ron Garan’s boat with the Open Government Team. I listened in on stories of his journeys, which gave him affordances to transition into guiding compelling and sustainable efforts. Moreover, these stories felt like encapsulated memories from the human bank. The stories he was sharing were not singular, but were faceted with human understanding.
Organizations like NASA, which establish themselves on universal principles of answering unknown questions, exist for expansive periods. However, many times these organizations are lost in an antiquated perspective. In short, the inspiring thoughts of the 20th century are still valuable, but the variables have changed and evolved. The public is turning on its radar to gamification models (and the like), which are on the upswing of technology. NASA is known for it’s cool factor, but it’s so closed off from the public that it’s difficult to understand the importance of those 20th century ideals and how they apply today. Open Government has ignited a sense of passion in me that has been latent, providing me with the chance to fall in love with the quintessential knowledge embedded within NASA. The celestial stars of policy, transparency, and innovation are finally in alignment, and people are interested.
The sp.ace, which is the collaboration destination for the team, was another surprising turn in my week. We stopped in and sat down wherever we wanted, and drew on the tables to work through ideas. Not only that, background music was provided by mentor in-chief Ali Llewellyn, with a view of the Liquid Galaxy, and sat in chairs designed by IDEO (possibly the most influential product design firm). Not only can I use what I see for visual inspiration, but I can actually start making things, with the sp.ace’s very own MakerBot. The sp.ace has vision that exceeds anything that I was expecting for team partnership, and I can’t wait to go back.
The “Open” ideology is distinct from any other effort you see in a Government setting. Many popular and disruptive movements today articulate these omnipresent notions bred within us, which surface through the human relationships we foster. Social applications aren’t only “cool”, but they allow a kind of communication which champions fate. Openness isn’t just communicating honest opinions, but it’s truly allowing a sense of comfort and trust to thrive in the work you’re doing.