POST D – Glorious Tempe 

1200px-tempeh_tempe(Midori, 2006)

The UTS Lab B trip to Yogyakarta was a time of many new experiences for me. My first time in Asia. My first time in Indonesia. And my first experience of the wonderful local delicacy tempe. After this pivotal culinary experience, I decided to research the humble Indonesian staple and establish it’s history and origins.

Tempeh or tempe is a traditional soy product created through a process of fermentation and culturing which causes the soybean to congeal and set into a kind of cake. Tempe differs from tofu in that it does not originate from China, but rather from Indonesia (most likely on the island of Java). The earliest known reference to the soybean staple appears in the Serat Centhini, in 1815, but tempeh could have emerged as early as the 17th century as a byproduct of the Chinese tofu industry in Indonesia. Ong Hok Ham, a Chinese-Indonesian historian – proposes that early, primitive forms of tempeh were the product of excess soybeans from the tofu industry that grew pale fungi and were discovered to be edible (Ubud Food Festival, 2017). Some claim that tempe is in ‘an adaptation of tofu to the tropical climate of Indonesia’ (Diversity of Nature and Culture 2014). Though tofu and tempe are both whole soybean products they also differ in texture, flavor and nutritional value. Tempe has a firmer texture and an earthier flavor, and has higher dietary fiber and protein. Close second to meat and fish, soy (and by extension tempe) is one of Indonesia’s main sources of protein. Perhaps this is why it is known as ‘Javanese meat.’

sliced_tempeh_cropped(Amus, 2017)

Tempe ‘has it’s own place in the heart of every Indonesian’ and is eaten by itself or as a complementary side dish to meals that feature chicken, meat or fish (Diversity of Nature and Culture 2014). Often marinated in various different spices or herbs it’s relatively cheap but highly nutritious nature has made it an intrinsic part of the Indonesia culinary landscape. It is also popular in Japan, Europe and America.

Despite tempe’s status as an Indonesian, indigenous superfood, a dominant meal that ‘characterises  Indonesia, just as kimchi does for Korea or miso and nato does for Japan’ (Ubud Food Festival, 2017) as much as 70% of Indonesia’s soybeans are imported. Producing tempe locally is still problematic because of environmental concerns surrounding tempe production. Production requires plenty of water and energy, and these waste products are often disposed of in rivers or sewage which pollutes the environment. As an affordable and nutritious food staple, many Indonesians are pushing for strategic government investment into the development of a strong tempe production network – especially given concerns about food security with the Southeast Asia region. Ever since the 2007 Indonesia riots and protests in response to a food crisis which saw the cost of staples such as rice and soybeans spike dramatically, Indonesian policymakers have endeavored to ensure all citizens have access to healthy and affordable food (Inside Indonesia,  2013). Perhaps tempe could be the answer to these problems. As Professor Winarno notes, ‘Tempe holds a variety of developmental possibilities not only in the culinary field but also in the fields of medicine, the agricultural industry, and bioprocessing. Tempe is Indonesia’s unique treasure” (Ubud Food Festival, 2017).

Tempe and Tofu - Bali, Indonesia(Uncornered Market, 2017)


Amus, B. 2017, Sliced Tempeh, Epicurina, viewed 10 February 2017, <;.

Diversity of Nature and Culture 2014, ‘Tempe’ Traditional Food From Indonesia, viewed 13 February 2017, <;.

Inside Indonesia 2013, Feeding Indonesia, viewed 13 February 2017, <;.

Midori, S. 2006, Traditional Tempeh, Wikimedia, viewed 10 February 2017, <;.

Tasty Indonesian Food 2017, How to Make Tempe, viewed 13 February 2017, <;.

Ubud Food Festival 2017, Indonesian Superfoods: Tempe, viewed 14 February 2017, <;.

Uncornered Market. 2017, Tempe and Tofu, Uncornered Market, viewed 10 February 2017, <;.

POST B – Icelandic Youth Against Drugs  

trainspotting(Trainspotting, 1996)

In the film Trainspotting, directed by Danny Boyle, Renton provides this sage advice ‘You’re an addict. So be addicted, just be addicted to something else.’ (Trainspotting 2, 2017) This is more or less the philosophy adopted by Harvey Milkman and Gudberg Jónsson, psychology researchers who represent a public health movement centered on countering adolescent substance abuse.

Milkman began his research into behavioural addiction when he was an intern in a New York Psychiatric Hospital, in the early 1970’s. His research explored the idea that human beings were not addicted exclusively to a particular drug, but rather to fluctuations in their brain chemistry, and that people’s choice of either heroin or amphetamines was dictated by how they chose to manage stress (by numbing it or confronting it). “People can be addicted to drink, cars, money, sex, calories, cocaine – whatever,” says Milkman. “The idea of behavioral addiction became our trademark” (Mosaic Science, 2017).

In this photograph taken on November 3,(Lopez, 2015)

Milkman hypothesized that people could be on the threshold for substance abuse before they had even come into contact with drugs such as heroin – that coping mechanisms were personal and hardwired, a predisposition to seek out activities that would alter brain chemistry in a specific way. So Milkman proposed a possible solution – “why not orchestrate a social movement around natural highs, about people getting high on their own brain chemistry?” (Mosaic Science, 2017)

Milkman and Gudberg met in Iceland in 1991, and sparked the beginnings of this movement in the form or a residential drug treatment center for adolescents, in a small town called Tindar. Essentially Milkman and Gudberg’s philosophy in Iceland is very simple – provide teenagers with natural high alternatives to drugs and crime.

Twenty years ago, says Gudberg, Icelandic teens were among the heaviest-drinking youths in Europe. Now Icelandic teens are amongst the most healthy adolescents living in Europe, with the percentage of teenagers who consume alcohol, cannabis, and cigarettes on a daily basis plummeting between 1998 and 2016 (Youth In Europe, 2017).

The simple yet effective strategy Iceland has committed to (known as ‘Youth in Europe’) focuses on providing ‘life-skills training’ (teaching self-awareness, communication skills, and positive thinking) as well as providing teens with an outlet of some kind to help them release stress and feel a sense of community. Teenagers don’t enter the program under the premise of treatment, but of being taught any skill or sport they want to learn: from music to martial arts.

“The main principle was that drug education doesn’t work because nobody pays attention to it. What is needed are the life skills to act on that information,” Milkman says (Mosaic Science, 2017).

1484684179187-173-iceland-04(Immi, 2017)

Iceland has now integrated its municipalities into a system that benefits the physical and mental health of millions of its young citizens. However, despite the success of the measures taken in Iceland – the rest of the world doesn’t seem to have caught on yet. Could similar systems be used in Australia, or Indonesia, where the war on drugs has taken a two-pronged approach ‘targeting both supply and demand’ rather than approaching the root of the problem? Perhaps such an initiative could enable Australian and Indonesia to look beyond ‘broad-based education campaigns, increased powers for the judiciary and a high-tech crime-fighting capability’ and take a closer look at the basic human needs and instincts that fuel substance abuse (Inside Indonesia, 2007).


Immi, D. 2017, Iceland Teen Substance Abuse, The Atlantic, viewed 13 February 2017, <;.

Inside Indonesia 2007, Youth Heroin Use, Jakarta, viewed 12 Feb 2017, <;.

Lopez, G. 2015, Methadone Addiction, Vox Media, viewed 13 February 2017, <;.

Miramax, 1996. Trainspotting, Outtake, viewed 12 February 2017, <;.

Mosaic Science 2017, Iceland Knows How to Stop Teen Substance Abuse But The Rest Of The World Isn’t Listening, viewed 11 Feb 2017, <;.

T2 Trainspotting 2017, Motion Picture, TriStar Pictures, Edinburgh.

Youth In Europe 2017, Youth In Europe – Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis, viewed 14 Feb 2017, <;.

POST A – The Beautiful Becak

becak-in-a-line1(Katherine, 2013)

A back to front Rickshaw, a reverse Tuk Tuk, closer to a warped rickshaw than a Bajaj, the Becak is a delightful mode of transport and a curious design object which occupies a special place in Indonesian culture, history and design.

The ubiquitous Indonesian interpretation of the cycle rickshaw, Becaks consist of a front facing passenger seat and a main cycle behind. A Becak will fit two passengers comfortably and offers a protective canopy that shades commuters from the sun and a plastic adjustable sheet to aid against rainstorms. Fares are negotiable (a euphemism for haggling) and are determined by traveling distance.

abang_becak_by_liemp(Asahjaya, 2011)

Once a common site in Jakarta these iconic rickshaws have been banned at various times in recent history within the city limits, due to their tendency to contribute to traffic jams (The Vine, 2012). But Yogyakarta and numerous other Javanese cities still boast healthy Becak populations and as Inside Indonesia notes:

‘It is Indonesia, and especially Java, that is the true heartland of the pedicab. The Becak is as much a motif and symbol of Indonesia as the silhouette of a wayang kulit puppet, or the smell of a clove cigarette’ (Inside Indonesia, 2002).

The three-wheeled Becak design varies from city to city, in colour scheme, upholstery, and mechanics but the basic concept is resoundingly popular across Indonesia. A likely descendant of 19th Century Japanese hand-pulled rickshaws the seating design of a Becak allows passengers to sit up front and have a comprehensive view of busy city roads, narrow streets and general metropolitan activity (Living in Indonesia, 2016). The attempts of various municipal governments to outlaw this humble form of transport have largely failed (excepting Jakarta) and there are still countless Becaks populating cityscapes and towns across Indonesia. Despite their enduring image Becaks were only introduced to Indonesia during WWII  – first appearing in Jakarta in 1936 (Top Indonesia, 2016). They were initially favored by Chinese traders – the name Becak originates from Be Chia (Hokkien Dialect for “horse carriage”). They were also known as ‘Roda Tiga’ (The Three Wheels).

trishaw(Liemp. 2017)

Becak drivers make up a considerable percentage of the informal work sector in Indonesia – a much maligned but intrinsic element of the national and local economy.

As Inside Indonesia notes ‘No one knows for sure how many people make up the informal sector in Indonesia. Yet it is a central part of life. But tensions between the city administration and the urban poor – particularly Becak (trishaw) drivers – are high’ (Inside Indonesia, 2002).

The informal sector (street vendors, drivers, and laborers) have little or no legal protection and legislation often does not appreciate or protect their status as vital contributors to community and economy. Despite their obvious charm and popularity amongst tourists, expats and locals Becak still face opposition on some political fronts. Let’s hope that Indonesian municipalities follow Yogyakarta’s example and accept the Becak as an ‘unacknowledged slice of the city community [that] is actually its heart’ (Inside Indonesia, 2002).


Asahjaya. 2011, Becak, Asahjaya’s Place, viewed 12 Feb 2017, <;.

Inside Indonesia 2002, Whose City?, Jakarta, viewed 10 Feb 2017, <;.

Katherine. 2013, Becak, Katherine and Bruno’s Adventures, viewed 10 February 2017 <;.

Liemp. 2017, Abang Becak, Deviant Art, viewed 9 February 2017, <;.

Living in Indonesia 2016, Traditional and Modern Public Transport in Jakarta, viewed 11 Feb 2017, <;.

The Vine 2012, All About Indonesia #4: Modes of Transport – The Becak, viewed 11 Feb 2017, <;.

Top Indonesia, 2016, Becaks, the traditional transportation in Indonesia, Indonesia, viewed 11 Feb 2017, <;.

Post A: Design in Context

Context is everything when understanding and solving problems

The scope and influence of Design is seemingly endless and it plays some role in almost every industry, society, and culture today. Design determines the systems, technologies and structures we live by and as these evolve and shift, as does the role and practice of the designer. Human-Centered design researcher Gozde Goncu-Berk explained, “In the last decade, graphic design has gone from being defined largely by style to something that is influenced and can influence international policy, consumption, education and the environment (Drucker and McVarish, 2009).” This limitless flexibility is what makes context a key element in every design problem and solution.

Graduating designers are no longer simply experts in the elements and principles of graphic design, products, architecture or fashion, but equally important is their understanding and approach to the many complex contexts they may need to engage and collaborate with.  Assistant professor of art and design at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukeein, Adream Blair-Early, reinstated this when she explained, ‘New designers are valued as much for their ability to collaborate, innovate and creatively solve problems as they are for their understanding of typography and layout.’

Designers frequently must take into consideration shifting environmental, economic and  technological contexts, but with ever-growing globalisation, one of the most challenging tasks for designers today is working across a diversity of cultures. Without undergoing extensive and immersive research, understanding the needs and sensitivities of a foreign culture can be very problematic. Gozde Goncu-Berk highlighted these difficulties when she said, “Designing for another culture is less intuitive and vulnerable to assumptive thinking; therefore cross-cultural design requires constant validation of design decisions with the users. Designers need to be aware of their biases and assumptions as much as possible to draw insights from the user’s reality.”

For example, the culture of a country such as Indonesia is significantly different to Australia in many ways. Therefore an Australian designer must take time to understand the religious, social and political climate of the country before embarking on any kind of user-centered design. Without gaining this information, the designer cannot assume they know how the locals would interpret, receive, understand or interact with their design.

Throughout their practice designer’s must develop skills in innovation and creativity. These invaluable tools, when implemented in a way that is harmoniously integrated with the given contexts, have the power to significantly reshape and improve global society.


Gonku Berk. G, 2013.’A Framework for Designing in Cross-Cultural Contexts: Culture-Centered Design Process,’ PhD Thesis, University of Minnesota, viewed 18 February 2017, <;

Blair-Early, A. 2010, ‘Beyond borders: Participatory design research and the changing role of design,’ Visible Language, Vol.44 ,No.2 ,Pp.207-218.

Xiang, X. 2007, ‘Product innovation in a cultural context: A method applied to Chinese product development,’ Dissertation Abstracts International, Vol.68, No.03, Pp.73-77.


Ahlefeldt, F. ‘It’s not that deep,’ viewed 19 February 2017, <;