Where I am and what I'm thinking
My last post, I'll admit, was rather contrary. I have found it so hard to even narrow the scope of things I'm considering focusing on for my thesis, in part because I've had so many new experiences in the past month. I want to keep doors open and follow my curiosity as organically as I can, but I do want to share some of the experiences that have got me thinking.
This summer, I have joined six other researchers and designers to work for Common Cents Lab, an organization working to increase the financial well-being of low to moderate income Americans using behavioral science insights. Common Cents Lab conducts behavioral research, publishes regularly on the topic of behavioral insights, and partners with fin-tech companies and financial services providers to develop new products and improve existing ones.
I have been in San Francisco for nearly three weeks now, living at Embassy SF, part of the Embassy Network. The Embassy is a house—a grand old one family mansion built in 1906—and is run as an experiment in communal living and intentional community. I sleep upstairs in one of the many bedrooms in a bunk with a few of my fellow program-mates, and we work out of the downstairs during the day.
These first few weeks have been a constant reevaluation of my previous assumptions about the importance of privacy, about my own introverted tendencies, and about the rarity of truly inspiring and intriguing conversation. Turns out I don't need a lot of privacy, I like being around people, and I constantly find myself either connecting on a common interest or learning something about a field I didn't even know existed.
Before coming to San Francisco, I spent two weeks serving on a grand jury in Manhattan, witnessing a part of of the legal system of which I was previously completely unaware. Grand juries, unlike trial juries, are not deciding to convict, but rather whether to indict. Every person accused of a crime must be indicted by a grand jury before coming before a trial jury. The burden of proof here is much lower: no "innocent until proven guilty," just "probably cause to believe that the crime was likely committed by the accused." During the first week, I was simply fascinated by the performance, the procedure, the specificity of language. In the second week, though, I became much more aware of the implications of my participation in the jury and in every vote to indict. I've been thinking a lot about the dynamics of the grand jury chamber, both systematic, spatial, and social—but that's a story for a different post.
So between a grand jury, a commune, financial services, and behavioral research, I'm pretty sure I'll eventually think of something for my thesis.