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On the importance of being idle: Writer Anna Della Subin on the unsung values of doing nothing, procrastination as its own form of productivity, and the mythological power of sleep. [The Creative Independent]
"The real epiphanies of figuring out what I’m trying to say don’t happen when I chain myself to my desk. I let myself into the labyrinth, to get lost in the footnotes of arcane books from the 19th century, or just out on a walk. I need a sense of timelessness to do my best work."
annadellsubin  howwewrite  writing  thinking  howwethink  idleness  procrastination  2019  derive  meandering  walking  solviturambulando  laziness  insomnia  sleep  time  timelessness  howwework  immortality 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Contra* podcast — Mapping Access
"a podcast about disability, design justice, and the lifeworld. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play, or play from our website."

[See also:
https://www.mapping-access.com/podcast/2018/12/29/episode-1-contra-design-with-sara-hendren

"In this first episode of the podcast, we talk to design researcher Sara Hendren, who teaches at Olin College of Engineering, about disability, critical design, and poetic creation.

Show notes and transcription

++++

Themes:

Critical Design

Theory of critical design revised by disability

Writing as/part of critical design

Disability politics in relation to design

Translational work and science communication; critical design as a “friendly Trojan horse”

Things as an index of ideas

STEAM, knowledge, and power

Links:

Sara Hendren (https://sarahendren.com)

Abler blog (https://ablersite.org/)

Adaptation and Ability Lab (http://aplusa.org/)

Wendy Jacob and Temple Grandin, Squeeze Chair (https://patient-innovation.com/post/1047?language=en)

Sketch Model project at Olin College (http://www.olin.edu/collaborate/sketch-model/)

Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/253076.Tools_for_Conviviality)

Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway (https://www.dukeupress.edu/Meeting-the-Universe-Halfway/)

Aimi Hamraie, Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability (https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/building-access)

++++

Introduction Description:

The podcast introductory segment is composed to evoke friction. It begins with sounds of a wheelchair rhythmically banging down metal steps, the putter of an elevator arriving at a person’s level, and an elevator voice saying “Floor two, Floor three.” Voices begin to define Contra*. Layered voices say “Contra is friction…Contra is…Contra is nuanced…Contra is transgressive…Contra is good trouble…Contra is collaborative…Contra is a podcast!…Contra is a space for thinking about design critically…Contra is subversive…Contra is texture…”

An electric guitar plays a single note to blend out the sound.

The rhythmic beat of an electronic drum begins and fades into the podcast introduction.

++++

Episode Introduction:

Welcome to Contra*: the podcast about disability, design justice, and the lifeworld. This show is about the politics of accessible and critical design—broadly conceived—and how accessibility can be more than just functional or assistive. It can be conceptual, artful, and world-changing.

I’m your host, Aimi Hamraie .  I am a professor at Vanderbilt University, a designer and design researcher, and the director of the Critical Design Lab, a multi-institution collaborative focused on disability, technology, and critical theory.  Members of the lab collaborate on a number of projects focused on hacking ableism, speaking back to inaccessible public infrastructures, and redesigning the methods of participatory design—all using a disability culture framework. This podcast provides a window into the kinds of discussions we have within the lab, as well as the conversations we are hoping to put into motion. So in coming episodes, you’ll also hear from myself and the other designers and researchers in the lab, and we encourage you to get in touch with us via our website, www.mapping-access.com or on Twitter at @criticaldesignl

In this first episode of the podcast, we talk to design researcher Sara Hendren, who teaches at Olin College of Engineering, about disability, critical design, and poetic creation.

Sara and I talk about her work in the fields of critical design and assistive technology, including how she came to this work, how she is thinking about strategy and practice, and also her current work on bridging the humanities with STEM education."]
accessibility  disability  aimihamraie  ableism  podcasts  disabilitystudies  criticaldesign  olincollege  assistivetechnology  technology  poeticcreation  creativity  sarahendren  ivanillich  toolsforconviviality  wendyjacob  templegrandin  stem  knowledge  power  karenbarad  adaptation  materialculture  socialimagination  art  design  thinking  inclusivity  capitalism  howwewrite  howwethink  making  communication  academia  scholarship  ethics  politics  difference  jargon  language 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
How Architecture Teaches Kids Patience, Problem-Solving - CityLab
"Through the organization Architecture for Children, Hong Kong architect Vicky Chan has taught urban design and planning to thousands of kids. Here’s why."



"Why should schools start teaching design to young kids?

What does urban planning have to do with education? Whether you’re a kid or an adult, I think the biggest challenge is often figuring out how to sift through information, deciding what information to use, and learning to make compromises. You have to understand that the best argument isn’t the loudest one. It has to be rational.

For example, we had a group of students decide to build a hotel at the top of the hill near the school, connected by a tram, because the location afforded excellent views. That’s good reasoning. But the next week, they realized that construction would be difficult, and decided to raze the hill! And I told them: “Wait, you had agreed last week that the hill was good for the hotel.” So it’s about teaching the students how to rationalize the process and to keep progressing from your original thinking to taking the next step.

Even if these students don’t end up going into the design field, these thinking skills are very important.

On the sustainability front, we also have to start teaching this from a young age. A lot of students think putting their plastic bottles in the recycling bin is what sustainability means. But there’s a broader way to think about it, [such as], how do you think about transportation to reduce car use? These are very broad and complex topics, and we have to simplify them for the students to get across the message that to make the future of cities more sustainable, you really have to think about a lot of different factors.

The students also learn how to draw as a form of expression. Nowadays, we’re surrounded by iPhones and iPads, but some students lack even simple mechanical skills. I think it’s very important to teach handicraft as a way to solve a technological problem.

With design, no solution is 100-percent right or wrong. It’s not like solving a mathematical problem. In sport, you can teach team spirit, but at the end of the day, it’s a competition and it boils down to winning and losing. But in design, there is no absolute answer, and it’s very much like in real life.

How might your students apply what they learn in their own communities?

I recently showed the students a photo of walled buildings [large buildings arranged in such a way that they form a wall, blocking an area’s air flow]. I asked the students whether they saw a problem with the wall effect. They didn’t see a problem; they haven’t yet been told what is good and what is bad. In fact, they might even live in walled buildings. But if we can teach them from an early age that there are better ways to build and construct, then perhaps flawed proposals will less easily find widespread support.

Here’s another example. In Kwun Tong, there’s Kwun Tong Road, which has multiple lanes and is very wide. When I used to live nearby, I thought, there’s the metro running overhead, so does the road really need to be this wide? But this question has to come from a certain doubt, a doubting of whether there’s a problem with the status quo. Sometimes after seeing the same thing day in, day out, you come to accept that it is right and just the way things are done.

But if you think more carefully, maybe you realize that Kwun Tong Road doesn’t have to be this wide, and that having more trees would be better. It’s about having a critical mindset. This is what we want to teach the students.

What do we lose by not teaching (and learning) design from an early age?

From a design perspective, I think you miss out on learning how to analyze a question. In math or science class, you learn to solve a problem formulaically. But you may not learn how to analyze the problem. Analysis is very important for students. In the working world, I sometimes come across very stubborn adults. It’s not that they’re not skillful enough, but that they can’t get to the core of a question and deconstruct it to find the different levels of reasoning. So I think design teaches kids how to creatively think out the reasoning.

The other thing is learning how to see opportunities. Once you discover a problem, you learn to see opportunities. Problems present opportunities. But if you can’t see the problem, then you can’t see the opportunity.

Recently, people have been debating different urban planning proposals [in Hong Kong], such as the East Lantau Metropolis [a $60 billion development plan to build a series of artificial islands in the sea]. The debates were very heated. But even after hearing the debates, I don’t fully buy into any of the proposals because at no point did anyone fully present all the pros and cons. I think if we can teach kids this from an early age, and they can as adults present ideas simply, we won’t have as many misunderstandings or misguided suggestions.

You also teach patience through architecture and design. In the first five classes, we were all planning and drawing. The students were getting bored and impatient. They were asking me, “When can we start building?” But then we started building, and no one knew how to begin. And I told them: “Didn’t we just spend five classes planning?” So we’re teaching them how important each step of the planning stage is.

What have you learned from teaching?

Once, I had some students build models of bridges. I went around and asked them what the Tsing Ma Bridge looked like to them. One student told me that it looked like a smile. I thought this was brilliant. It helped me see the bridge as a very simple message about a city’s smile. It showed me the importance of using imagination and creativity to simplify a concept so that even kids can understand it.

We architects spend a lot of time thinking about complex ideas, but sometimes you just need something simple and pure."
architecture  education  cv  teaching  making  howwelearn  vickychan  2018  design  howwethink  problemsolving  patience  howwteach  learning  schools 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Hay que reconciliar al cine mexicano con su público: Fernanda Solórzano - El Sol de México
"ENCONTRAR VIRTUD EN LO COMPLEJO

Otro tema que para ella es importante a la hora de dignificar las películas que se hacen aquí es revisar la idea de que el cine es sólo una forma de entretenimiento, útil nada más para el escapismo y la evasión, sin dar oportunidad a las producciones que no tienen un mensaje cerrado y que apelan a que el espectador abra su inteligencia a distintas posibilidades de mensaje.

“A mí me gustaría que en las escuelas mismas se promoviera entre los niños la idea de que no todos tenemos que entender de inmediato los relatos sino que entre más preguntas puedan provocar más pueden enriquecer. Que seas capaz de salir de una película y la puedas comentar con alguien que quizá tenga un punto de vista distinto al tuyo, justamente porque no se les dio un mensaje definido…”

Reconoce que es un trabajo lento y que puede durar varias generaciones, pero que no hay nada como encontrarle virtud a lo complejo y entender que una película que te permite tener varias lecturas puede resultarte quizá más satisfactoria que una que no va a permitir que alguien te cambie tu propio punto de vista.

Y remarca: “El cine que más disfruto es el que me saca de mis certezas; el que me hace pensar y repensar mi realidad. Me choca darme cuenta de que me están manipulando. Me gusta que confíen en mi inteligencia. A mí me gusta que los directores también confíen en la inteligencia del público y el público en su propia inteligencia”.

LA COMEDIA ROMÁNTICA

Y de todo ese panorama destaca algo con lo que no está de acuerdo, la temática con la que se están haciendo algunas comedias mexicanas actuales, ya que le parece que refuerzan valores a los que como sociedad estamos tratando de oponernos, como el machismo o la homofobia, y que en este género suelen ser abordados como algo gracioso y normal.

“Voy a poner como ejemplo la cinta Qué culpa tiene el niño, cuya historia versa sobre una chica que en una fiesta queda embarazada, no sabe de quién porque estaba alcoholizada y entonces eso es presentado como chistoso, sin importar que es irresponsable que un hombre se aproveche de una mujer en esas condiciones”.

No ve que este tipo de producciones sean tan terribles y bajas como las sexy comedias de los años 80, donde los hombres literalmente violaban a las mujeres y nadie decía nada y todos se reían, pero asumen los mismos valores. “Obviamente son más sofisticadas estas comedias, son más pulidas, pero los chistes son los mismos, apelan al mismo tipo de moral, lo que me parece triste”.

LA ERA DIGITAL

Con respecto a los nuevos formatos de filmación y las modalidades de exhibición más allá de las salas cinematográficas, Fernanda percibe que ciertamente plantean nuevos problemas estéticos y económicos, lo cual también puede ser una oportunidad para que se abaraten las posibilidades de acceso para producir cine a quien actualmente no tiene los recursos para hacerlo.

“Al final lo importante es contar bien una historia y hacerlo estéticamente. Incluso hay historias que se pueden contar mejor en uno u otro formato. Por ejemplo, hay un director que filmó su primera película en iPhone, Tangerine, de Sean Baker, que fue muy premiada, y después decidió que su segunda producción se hiciera en 35 mm porque consideró que esa cinta no aguantaba lo digital y requería cierta profundidad. O sea hay narrativas para todo tipo de formato”.

Sobre el formato de miniseries, predominante en los servicios de streaming on line, la crítica de cine también los califica de oportunidad interesante. “A mí me gustan muchísimo, yo no las veo como un producto menor. Creo que muchos directores de cine, ante la imposibilidad de tener un presupuesto tan alto, están experimentando. Y pongo cono ejemplo la serie Un extraño enemigo de Gabriel Ripstein, que me pareció muy buena, bien contada, bien narrada y muy acentuada, a pesar de que era muy difícil que una serie más sobre el 68 tuviera impacto”."
fernandasolórzano  conemexicano  education  schools  stories  film  filmmaking  storytelling  linearity  ambiguity  certainty  complexity  howwethink  conversation  interviews  race  racism  homophobia  digital  2018  literature  children  medialiteracy  literacy  teaching  howweteach  unschooling  deschooling  criticalthinking 
december 2018 by robertogreco
GRADA KILOMBA: DECOLONIZING KNOWLEDGE - Voice Republic
"In this lecture performance Grada Kilomba explores forms of Decolonizing Knowledge using printed work, writing exercises, performative narrative, and visual art, as forms of alternative knowledge production. Kilomba raises questions concerning the concepts of knowledge, race and gender: “What is acknowledged as knowledge? Whose knowledge is this? Who is acknowledged to produce knowledge?” This project exposes not only the violence of classic knowledge production, but also how this violence is performed in academic, cultural and artistic spaces, which determine both who can speak and what we can speak about.To touch this colonial wound, she creates a hybrid space where the boundaries between the academic and the artistic languages confine, transforming the configurations of knowledge and power. Using a collage of her literary and visual work, Grada Kilomba initiates a dialogue of multiple narratives who speak, interrupt, and appropriate the ‘normal’ and continuous coloniality in which we reside. The audience is invited to participate, and to re-imagine the concept of knowledge anew, by opening new spaces for decolonial thinking."

[See also: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grada_Kilomba ]
gradakilomba  performance  decolonization  speaking  listening  2015  knowledge  narrative  art  knowledgeproduction  unschooling  deschooling  colonialism  academia  highered  highereducation  storytelling  bellhooks  participation  participatory  theory  thinking  howwethink  africa  slavery  frantzfanon  audrelorde  knowing  portugal 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Sean Ziebarth on Twitter: "The effects of outlining on writing. Via “Several short sentences about writing” by Verlyn Klinkenborg #teachwriting #aplangchat #2ndaryela #elachat #engchat… https://t.co/iu9kcxup0F"
"The effects of outlining on writing.
Via “Several short sentences about writing” by Verlyn Klinkenborg
[https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/93789/several-short-sentences-about-writing-by-verlyn-klinkenborg/9780307279415 ]
#teachwriting #aplangchat #2ndaryela #elachat #engchat


[images with: ]

In the outline and draft model of writing, thinking is largely done up front.
Outlining means organizing the sequence of your meanings, not your sentences.
It derogates the making of sentences.
It ignores the suddenness of thought,
The surprises to be found in the making of sentences.
It knows nothing of the thoughtfulness you'll discover as you work.

It prevents discovery within the act of writing.
It says, planning is one thing, writing another,
And discovery has nothing to do with it.
It overemphasizes logic and chronology
Because they offer apparently "natural" structures.
It preserves the cohesiveness of your research
And leaves you with a heap of provisional sentences,
Which are supposed to sketch the thoughts you've already outlined.

It fails to realize that writing comes from writing."

[later: "I can’t believe I’ve survived the past six years without “Several Short Sentences About Writing” by Verlyn Klinkenborg. #zen #wordnerd"
https://twitter.com/MrZiebarth/status/1047722841532071937

[images with]

"There's nothing permanent in the state of being written down.
Your sentences, written down, are in the condition of waiting to be examined.

You commit yourself to each sentence as you make it,
And to each sentence as you fix it,
Retaining the capacity to change everything and
Always remembering to work from the small-scale—The scale of the sentence—upward.

Rejoicing and despair aren't very good tools for revising.
Curiosity, patience, and the ability to improvise are.
So is the ability to remain open to the work and let it remain open to you.

Don't confuse order with linearity.
You'll find more than enough order in the thought, and sentences that interest you.
By order I mean merely connections—
Some close, some oblique, some elliptical—
Order of any kind you choose to create, any way you choose to move."]
seanziebarth  verlynklinkenborg  writing  outlines  howwewrite  unschooling  deschooling  drafts  meaning  thinking  howwethink  sentences  poems  poetry  scale  linearity  order  thought  connections  meaningmaking  2018 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Children learn best when engaged in the living world not on screens | Aeon Essays
"As a parent, it is obvious that children learn more when they engage their entire body in a meaningful experience than when they sit at a computer. If you doubt this, just observe children watching an activity on a screen and then doing the same activity for themselves. They are much more engaged riding a horse than watching a video about it, playing a sport with their whole bodies rather than a simulated version of it in an online game.

Today, however, many powerful people are pushing for children to spend more time in front of computer screens, not less. Philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have contributed millions of dollars to ‘personal learning’, a term that describes children working by themselves on computers, and Laurene Powell Jobs has bankrolled the XQ Super School project to use technology to ‘transcend the confines of traditional teaching methodologies’. Policymakers such as the US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos call personalised learning ‘one of the most promising developments in K-12 education’, and Rhode Island has announced a statewide personalised learning push for all public school students. Think tanks such as the Brookings Institution recommend that Latin-American countries build ‘massive e-learning hubs that reach millions’. School administrators tout the advantages of giving all students, including those at kindergarten, personal computers.

Many adults appreciate the power of computers and the internet, and think that children should have access to them as soon as possible. Yet screen learning displaces other, more tactile ways to discover the world. Human beings learn with their eyes, yes, but also their ears, nose, mouth, skin, heart, hands, feet. The more time kids spend on computers, the less time they have to go on field trips, build model airplanes, have recess, hold a book in their hands, or talk with teachers and friends. In the 21st century, schools should not get with the times, as it were, and place children on computers for even more of their days. Instead, schools should provide children with rich experiences that engage their entire bodies.

To better understand why so many people embrace screen learning, we can turn to a classic of 20th-century French philosophy: Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception (1945).

According to Merleau-Ponty, European philosophy has long prioritised ‘seeing’ over ‘doing’ as a path to understanding. Plato, René Descartes, John Locke, David Hume, Immanuel Kant: each, in different ways, posits a gap between the mind and the world, the subject and the object, the thinking self and physical things. Philosophers take for granted that the mind sees things from a distance. When Descartes announced ‘I think therefore I am’, he was positing a fundamental gulf between the thinking self and the physical body. Despite the novelty of digital media, Merleau-Ponty would contend that Western thought has long assumed that the mind, not the body, is the site of thinking and learning.

According to Merleau-Ponty, however, ‘consciousness is originally not an “I think that”, but rather an “I can”’. In other words, human thinking emerges out of lived experience, and what we can do with our bodies profoundly shapes what philosophers think or scientists discover. ‘The entire universe of science is constructed upon the lived world,’ he wrote. Phenomenology of Perception aimed to help readers better appreciate the connection between the lived world and consciousness.

Philosophers are in the habit of saying that we ‘have’ a body. But as Merleau-Ponty points out: ‘I am not in front of my body, I am in my body, or rather I am my body.’ This simple correction carries important implications about learning. What does it mean to say that I am my body?

The mind is not somehow outside of time and space. Instead, the body thinks, feels, desires, hurts, has a history, and looks ahead. Merleau-Ponty invented the term ‘intentional arc’ to describe how consciousness connects ‘our past, our future, our human milieu, our physical situation, our ideological situation, and our moral situation’. He makes readers attend to the countless aspects of the world that permeate our thinking.

Merleau-Ponty challenges us to stop believing that the human mind transcends the rest of nature. Humans are thinking animals whose thinking is always infused with our animality. As the cognitive scientist Alan Jasanoff explains in a recent Aeon essay, it is even misleading to idealise the brain independent of the rest of the viscera. The learning process happens when an embodied mind ‘gears’ into the world.

Take the example of dancing. From a Cartesian perspective, the mind moves the body like a puppeteer pulls strings to move a puppet. To learn to dance, in this paradigm, a person needs to memorise a sequence of steps. For Merleau-Ponty, on the contrary, the way to learn to dance is to move one’s physical body in space: ‘in order for the new dance to integrate particular elements of general motricity, it must first have received, so to speak, a motor consecration.’ The mind does not reflect and make a conscious decision before the body moves; the body ‘catches’ the movement.

Philosophers have long attributed a spectatorial stance to the mind, when in fact the body participates in the world. It is common sense that the head is the ‘seat of thought’, but ‘the principal regions of my body are consecrated to actions’, and the ‘parts of my body participate in their value’. People learn, think and value with every part of their bodies, and our bodies know things that we can never fully articulate in words.

Surely, one could reply, this might be true for physical activities such as dancing but does not apply to all intellectual pursuits. Merleau-Ponty would respond: ‘The body is our general means of having a world.’ Everything we learn, think or know emanates from our body. It is by walking through a meadow, hiking beside a river, and boating down a lake that we are able to appreciate the science of geography. It is by talking with other people and learning their stories that we can appreciate literature. Buying food for our family infuses us with a conviction that we need to learn mathematics. We cannot always trace the route from experience to knowledge, from a childhood activity to adult insight. But there is no way for us to learn that bypasses the body: ‘the body is our anchorage in a world’.

Merleau-Ponty would not be surprised if people showed him students learning on a screen. Students can project themselves into the world that they see on a screen, just as many people are capable of thinking abstractly. As long as children have had some exposure to the world and other people, they should be able to make some sense of what they see on screens.

Still, Merleau-Ponty gives us reasons to resist the trend towards computer-based education. Proponents of personalised learning point to the advantages of having kids on computers for much of the school day, including students working at their own pace to meet learning objectives. However, from a phenomenological perspective, it is not clear why students will want to do this for very long when the experience is so removed from their flesh-and-blood lives. Teachers and parents will have to use incentives, threats and medication to make children sit at computers for long stretches of time when children want to run, play, paint, eat, sing, compete and laugh. To put it bluntly: advocates of screen learning sometimes seem to forget that children are young animals that want to move in the world, not watch it from a distance."
children  learning  nature  bodies  education  schools  howwelearn  2018  nicholastampio  howwethink  mauricemerleau-ponty  1945  plato  descartes  johnlocke  kant  davidhume  perception  screens  digital  technology  senses  personalization  sfsh  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  body 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Ideas in cars, honking
[To these examples, I’d add what Earl Sweatshirt says about moments and his process in this interview:
https://www.npr.org/sections/microphonecheck/2015/03/24/394987116/earl-sweatshirt-im-grown
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:30b20a46fed3 ]

"There was one great spot in the Dave Chappelle episode, though, that I felt was worth transcribing and sharing. Seinfeld asks Chappelle whether he feels like, knowing he can do a great TV show, he shouldn’t try to do another one.
CHAPPELLE: Sometimes the offering drives. If I [have] an idea, it should drive. It’s like the idea says, “Get in the car.” And I’m like, “Where am I going?” And the idea says, “Don’t worry, I’m driving.” And then you just get there.

SEINFELD: The idea’s driving.

CHAPPELLE: Sometime’s I’m shotgun. Sometimes I’m in the f—ing trunk. The idea takes you where it wants to go.

SEINFELD: That’s great.

CHAPPELLE: And then other times, there’s me, and it’s my ego, like, “I should do something!”

SEINFELD: “I should be driving!”

CHAPPELLE: Yeah.

SEINFELD: That’s not good.

CHAPPELLE: No, ‘cause there’s no idea in the car. It’s just me. That formula doesn’t work.

SEINFELD: If the idea is in the car honking, going, “Let’s go…” It pulls up in front of your house.

CHAPPELLE: That’s exactly right.

SEINFELD: “You’re in your pajamas. Get dressed!”

CHAPPELLE: “I’m not ready!” “You can go like this.” “Where are we going? What are we doing?” “Don’t worry about it. You’ll see.”

Although, there’s another great story about cars and ideas, told by Elizabeth Gilbert:
Tom [Waits], for most of his life, he was pretty much the embodiment of the tormented contemporary modern artist, trying to control and manage and dominate these sort of uncontrollable creative impulses that were totally internalized.

But then he got older, he got calmer, and one day he was driving down the freeway in Los Angeles, and this is when it all changed for him. And he’s speeding along, and all of a sudden he hears this little fragment of melody, that comes into his head as inspiration often comes, elusive and tantalizing, and he wants it, it’s gorgeous, and he longs for it, but he has no way to get it. He doesn’t have a piece of paper, or a pencil, or a tape recorder.

So he starts to feel all of that old anxiety start to rise in him like, “I’m going to lose this thing, and I’ll be be haunted by this song forever. I’m not good enough, and I can’t do it.” And instead of panicking, he just stopped. He just stopped that whole mental process and he did something completely novel. He just looked up at the sky, and he said, “Excuse me, can you not see that I’m driving?”

“Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment when I can take care of you. Otherwise, go bother somebody else today. Go bother Leonard Cohen.”

And his whole work process changed after that. Not the work, the work was still oftentimes as dark as ever. But the process, and the heavy anxiety around it was released when he took the genie, the genius out of him where it was causing nothing but trouble, and released it back where it came from, and realized that this didn’t have to be this internalized, tormented thing.

Gilbert interviewed Waits in 2002 and he elaborated on his attitude:
“Kids are always working on songs and throwing them away, like little origami things or paper airplanes. They don’t care if they lose it; they’ll just make another one.” This openness is what every artist needs. Be ready to receive the inspiration when it comes; be ready to let it go when it vanishes. He believes that if a song “really wants to be written down, it’ll stick in my head. If it wasn’t interesting enough for me to remember it, well, it can just move along and go get in someone else’s song.” “Some songs,” he has learned, “don’t want to be recorded.” You can’t wrestle with them or you’ll only scare them off more. Trying to capture them sometimes “is trying to trap birds.” Fortunately, he says, other songs come easy, like “digging potatoes out of the ground.” Others are sticky and weird, like “gum found under an old table.” Clumsy and uncooperative songs may only be useful “to cut up as bait and use ’em to catch other songs.” Of course, the best songs of all are those that enter you “like dreams taken through a straw.’ In those moments, all you can be, Waits says, is grateful.

Brian Eno puts it in terms of surrender and control:
On one side of Eno’s scale diagram, he writes “control”; on the other “surrender”. “We’ve tended to dignify the controlling end of the spectrum,” he says. “We have Nobel prizes for that end.” His idea is that control is what we generally believe the greats – Shakespeare, Picasso, Einstein, Wagner – were about. Such people, the argument goes, controlled their chosen fields, working in isolation, never needing any creative input from others. As for surrender, that idea has become debased: it’s come to mean what the rest of us do when confronted by a work of genius. “We’ve tended to think of the surrender end as a luxury, a nice thing you add to your life when you’ve done the serious work of getting a job, getting your pension sorted out. I’m saying that’s all wrong.”

He pauses, then asks: “I don’t know if you’ve ever read much about the history of shipbuilding?” Not a word. “Old wooden ships had to be constantly caulked up because they leaked. When technology improved, and they could make stiffer ships because of a different way of holding boards together, they broke up. So they went back to making ships that didn’t fit together properly, ships that had flexion. The best vessels surrendered: they allowed themselves to be moved by the circumstances.

“Control and surrender have to be kept in balance. That’s what surfers do – take control of the situation, then be carried, then take control. In the last few thousand years, we’ve become incredibly adept technically. We’ve treasured the controlling part of ourselves and neglected the surrendering part.” Eno considers all his recent art to be a rebuttal to this attitude. “I want to rethink surrender as an active verb,” he says. “It’s not just you being escapist; it’s an active choice. I’m not saying we’ve got to stop being such controlling beings. I’m not saying we’ve got to be back-to-the-earth hippies. I’m saying something more complex.”
austinkleon  davechappelle  jerryseinfeld  elizabethgilbert  tomwaits  brianeno  control  flow  ideas  howwethink  creativity  neoteny  children  surrender  tension  howwework  howwelearn  productivity  earlsweatshirt  2018  rap  hiphop  thebenerudakgositsile 
july 2018 by robertogreco
The Misguided Drive to Measure ‘Learning Outcomes’ - The New York Times
"It seems that the pressure to assess student learning outcomes has grown most quickly at poorly funded regional universities that have absorbed a large proportion of financially disadvantaged students, where profound deficits in preparation and resources hamper achievement. Research indicates that the more selective a university, the less likely it is to embrace assessment. Learning outcomes assessment has become one way to answer the question, “If you get unprepared students in your class and they don’t do well, how does that get explained?” Mr. Eubanks at Furman University told me.

When Erik Gilbert, a professor of history at Arkansas State University, reached the end of his World Civilization course last fall, he dutifully imposed the required assessment: an extra question on the final exam that asked students to read a document about Samurai culture and answer questions using knowledge of Japanese history. Yet his course focused on “cross-cultural connections, trade, travel, empire, migration and bigger-scale questions, rather than area studies,” Mr. Gilbert told me. His students had not studied Japanese domestic history. “We do it this way because it satisfies what the assessment office wants, not because it addresses concerns that we as a department have.”

Mr. Gilbert became an outspoken assessment skeptic after years of watching the process fail to capture what happens in his classes — and seeing it miss the real reasons students struggle. “Maybe all your students have full-time jobs, but that’s something you can’t fix, even though that’s really the core problem,” he said. “Instead, you’re expected to find some small problem, like students don’t understand historical chronology, so you might add a reading to address that. You’re supposed to make something up every semester, then write up a narrative” explaining your solution to administrators.

Here is the second irony: Learning assessment has not spurred discussion of the deep structural problems that send so many students to college unprepared to succeed. Instead, it lets politicians and accreditors ignore these problems as long as bureaucratic mechanisms appear to be holding someone — usually a professor — accountable for student performance.

All professors could benefit from serious conversations about what is and is not working in their classes. But instead they end up preoccupied with feeding the bureaucratic beast. “It’s a bit like the old Soviet Union. You speak two languages,” said Frank Furedi, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Britain, which has a booming assessment culture. “You do a performance for the sake of the auditors, but in reality, you carry on.”

Yet bureaucratic jargon subtly shapes the expectations of students and teachers alike. On the first day of class, my colleagues and I — especially in the humanities, where professors are perpetually anxious about falling enrollment — find ourselves rattling off the skills our courses offer (“Critical thinking! Clear writing!”), hyping our products like Apple Store clerks.

I teach intellectual history. Of course that includes skills: learning to read a historical source, interpret evidence and build an argument. But cultivating historical consciousness is more than that: It means helping students immerse themselves in a body of knowledge, question assumptions about memory and orient themselves toward current events in a new way.

If we describe college courses as mainly delivery mechanisms for skills to please a future employer, if we imply that history, literature and linguistics are more or less interchangeable “content” that convey the same mental tools, we oversimplify the intellectual complexity that makes a university education worthwhile in the first place. We end up using the language of the capitalist marketplace and speak to our students as customers rather than fellow thinkers. They deserve better.

“When kids come from backgrounds where they’re the first in their families to go to college, we have to take them seriously, and not flatter them and give them third-rate ideas,” Mr. Furedi told me. “They need to be challenged and inspired by the idea of our disciplines.” Assessment culture is dumbing down universities, he said: “One of the horrible things is that many universities think that giving access to nontraditional students means turning a university into a high school. That’s not giving them access to higher education.”

Here is the third irony: The value of universities to a capitalist society depends on their ability to resist capitalism, to carve out space for intellectual endeavors that don’t have obvious metrics or market value.

Consider that holy grail of learning outcomes, critical thinking — what the philosopher John Dewey called the ability “to maintain the state of doubt and to carry on systematic and protracted inquiry.” Teaching it is not a cheap or efficient process. It does not come from trying to educate the most students at the lowest possible cost or from emphasizing short, quantifiable, standardized assignments at the expense of meandering, creative and difficult investigation.

Producing thoughtful, talented graduates is not a matter of focusing on market-ready skills. It’s about giving students an opportunity that most of them will never have again in their lives: the chance for serious exploration of complicated intellectual problems, the gift of time in an institution where curiosity and discovery are the source of meaning.

That’s how we produce the critical thinkers American employers want to hire. And there’s just no app for that."
learning  learningoutcomes  outcomes  academia  assessment  evaluation  quantification  measurement  accountability  highered  highereducation  2018  mollywhorthen  criticalthinking  johndewey  metrics  inquiry  efficiency  standardization  standardizedtesting  capitalism  content  complexity  howwelearn  howwethink  knowledge  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  unschooling  deschooling  schools  pedagogy  teaching  skepticism  bureaucracy  corporatism  corporatization  inequality 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Pool of Thought - The New York Times
"THERE is no drug — recreational or prescription — capable of inducing the tranquil euphoria brought on by swimming. I do all my best thinking in the pool, whether I’m trying to figure out how to treat a patient’s complicated ailment or write a paper. Why that is is mysterious, but I have a theory.

Assuming you have some basic stroke proficiency, your attention is freed from the outside world. You just have to dimly sense the approaching wall before you flip turn and go on your way. Cut off from sound, you are mostly aware of your breathing. You have to traverse boredom before you can get to a state of mental flow. Now your mind is free to revel in nonlinear, associative thought. Nothing has to make sense. You suddenly become aware that time has passed. You are not sure what elapsed in that strange discontinuity, but the solution to a problem that escaped you on land is perfectly obvious emerging from the water — a rapturous experience.

I could flood you with facts about the physiology of swimming in an attempt to convince you of its cognitive benefits. Some point to endorphins — but the idea that exertion causes endorphin levels to rise in the brain seems to be a myth. Perhaps swimming improves brain function by increasing blood flow? Sure, that’s true. It also raises the level of BDNF, a protein that promotes neurogenesis, especially in the hippocampus, which supports memory. But so does nearly every form of exercise that speeds up your heart rate.

And yet, immersion in water up to the level of the heart has been shown to increase blood flow to one of the brain’s major arteries by 14 percent over that which you’d expect on land. So perhaps there is something special about swimming that is distinct from exercise on land.

Some of my psychoanalytically oriented colleagues have joked that swimming promotes an emotional regression — back to “swimming” in utero. I love the notion, but considering that the brain regions central to encoding long-term memory don’t develop sufficiently until around age 1, it’s unlikely.

My love of swimming is as emotional as it is intellectual. My father, who was a great swimmer, taught me to swim when I was very young. We swam together in every conceivable body of water for years, so swimming is inextricably bound to my relationship with my father, who was an engineer and a deeply curious person.

Though we never discussed it, I suspect that he, too, swam not just for health, but to think. He would return from a long swim and disappear into his office, emerging hours later excited about an insight into a new technology or instrument.

A few years back, my husband and I celebrated on our honeymoon by swimming from Europe to Asia across the Dardanelles — the Hellespont of Greek myth. It was about a two-and-a-half-mile swim in some of the most beautiful cool azure water, so I had plenty of time to think.

Halfway across, I looked up and could see the coast of Canakkale, Turkey, in the distance, and realized I had 40 minutes or so more to finish. I found myself thinking of my father, as I often do in the water, and pictured his powerful, graceful stroke. Next thing I knew, I had reached land."

[via: http://www.deliberate.rest/?p=966 ]
swimming  richardfriedman  2016  immersion  euphoria  psychology  nonlinear  discontinuity  hellespont  beathing  senses  thinking  flow  howwethink  via:robertogreco 
january 2018 by writeitdown
Toykit – Undercommoning
“You can either talk about it as having a kind of toolbox or also talk about it as having a kind of toy- box. With my kids, most of what they do with toys is turn them into props. They are constantly involved in this massive project of pretending. And the toys that they have are props for their pretending. They don’t play with them the right way – a sword is what you hit a ball with and a bat is what you make music with. I feel that way about [conceptual and theoretical] terms. In the end what’s most important is that the thing is put in play. What’s most important about play is the interaction… If you pick them up you can move into some new thinking and into a new set of relations, a new way of being together, thinking together. In the end, it’s the new way of being together and thinking together that’s important, and not the tool, not the prop. Or, the prop is important only insofar as it allows you to enter; but once you’re there, it’s the relation and the activity that’s really what you want to emphasize.” – Fred Moten
fredmoten  toolboxtheory  toolkits  toykits  toys  play  thinking  howwethink  interaction  relationships  relations  undercommons  pretending 
december 2017 by robertogreco
003: Craig Mod - I Want My Attention Back! • Hurry Slowly
"Did you know that the mere presence of a smartphone near you is slowly draining away your cognitive energy and attention? (Even if it’s tucked away in a desk drawer or a bag.) Like it or not, the persistent use of technology is changing the quality of our attention. And not in a good way.

In this episode, I talk with writer, designer and technologist Craig Mod — who’s done numerous experiments in reclaiming his attention — about how we can break out of this toxic cycle of smartphone and social media addiction and regain control of our powers of concentration.

Key takeaways from the interview:

• How Facebook and other social media apps are lulling us into “attention slavery”

• Why interrupting your workflow to post on social media — and sharing pithy thoughts or ideas — shuts down your creative process

• How short digital detox retreats and/or meditation sessions can “defrag your mind” so that you can deploy your attention more consciously and more powerfully

• Why mapping your ideas in large offline spaces — e.g. on a whiteboard or blackboard — gives you “permission” to get messy and evolve your thinking in a way that’s impossible on a screen

• How changing the quality of your attention can change your relationship to everything — art, conversations, creativity, and business"



"Favorite Quotes

“If there was a meter of 1 to 10 of how present you are or how much you can manipulate your own attention — how confident you are that you could, say, read a book for three hours without an interruption, without feeling pulled to something else. I would say the baseline pre-smartphone was a 4 or 3. Now, it’s a 1.”

“I think that a life in which you are never present, in which you have no control over your attention, in which you’re constantly being pulled in different directions, is kind of sad — because there is this incredible gift of consciousness. And when that consciousness is deployed smartly, it’s amazing the things that can be built out of it.”

Resources

Here’s a shortlist of things Craig and I talked about in the course of the conversation, including where you can go on a meditation retreat. You should be aware that vipassana retreats are offered free of charge, and are open to anyone.

Craig’s piece on attention from Backchannel magazine
https://www.wired.com/2017/01/how-i-got-my-attention-back/

Vipassana meditation retreat locations
https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index

Craig’s article on post-100 hours of meditation
https://craigmod.com/roden/013/

Film director Krzysztof Kieslowski
http://www.indiewire.com/2013/03/the-essentials-krzysztof-kieslowski-100770/

Writer and technologist Kevin Kelly
http://kk.org/thetechnium/

The Large Hadron Collider at Cern
http://www.wired.co.uk/article/large-hadron-collider-explained "
attention  craigmod  zoominginandout  ideas  thinking  focus  meditation  technology  blackboards  messiness  presence  writing  relationships  conversation  art  creativity  digitaldetox  maps  mapping  brainstorming  socialmedia  internet  web  online  retreats  jocelynglei  howwethink  howewrite  concentration  interruption  kevinkelly  vipassana  krzysztofkieslowski  largehadroncollider  cern 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Books that have shaped our thinking – Nava PBC
"Recommended reads related to civic tech, health, government, behavioral science, design and engineering

At Nava we have a living Google Doc where we link to books that help us understand the systems and architecture we use. The intention of this document is to form a baseline of readings that new employees will need and to share with other employees good resources for being productive.

Below are some of our favorites from that list:

Sorting Things Out: Classification and its Consequences
by Susan Leigh Star and Geoffrey C. Bowker
This covers, in great detail, the astounding ways that the models we make for the world end up influencing how we interact with it. This is incredibly relevant to our work: the data models we define and the way we classify and interpret data have profound and often invisible impacts on large populations. — Sha Hwang, Co-founder and Head of Creative

Decoded
by Jay Z
Decoded is Jay Z’s autobiography and describes his experience as a black man growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in NYC. In particular, there is a passage about poor people’s relationship to the government that changed the way I think about the perception of those government services that I work to improve. This book showed me that the folks we usually want to serve most well in government, are the ones who are most likely to have had profoundly negative experiences with government. It taught me that, when I work on government services, I am rebuilding a relationship, not starting a new one. Context is so important. It’s a fun, fast read and I used to ask that our Apprentices read at least that passage, if not the whole book, before starting with our team at the NYC Mayor’s Office. — Genevieve Gaudet, Designer

Seeing like a State
by James C. Scott
A reminder that the governance of people at scale can have unintended consequences when removed from people’s daily lives and needs. You won’t think of the grid, property lines, and last names the same way again.— Shelly Ni, Designer

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
by Susan Cain
Cain uses data and real world examples of how and why introverts are overlooked in American culture and then discusses how both introverts and extroverts can play a role in ensuring introverts get a seat at the table and a word in the conversation. — Aimee Barciauskas, Software Engineer

Capital in the Twenty-First Century
by Thomas Piketty
This book analyzes the long-term fluctuations in wealth inequality across the globe, from the eighteenth century to present. He exposes an incredibly important issue in a compelling way, using references not just to data, but to history and literature to prove his point. — Mari Miyachi, Software Engineer

Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson III
by Robert A. Caro
Our most underhanded president also brought us Medicaid, Medicare, and civil rights. Was Machiavelli so bad after all? — Alex Prokop, Software Engineer

Praying for Sheetrock
by Melissa Fay Greene
A true, close-up story of McIntosh County, Georgia, a place left behind by the greater Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. This is a story about the civil rights movement that shakes up the community in the 1970s, and this is also a story about burnout, and organizing, and intergenerational trauma. — Shelly Ni, Designer

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care
by T. R. Reid
Reid explores different models for healthcare in nations across the globe. He’s searching for an understanding of why America’s system is comparatively so expensive and unsuccessful, leaving so many uninsured and unhealthy. There is a great chapter on Ayurvedic medicine which (spoiler alert) seemed to work for the author when he was suffering from a shoulder injury! — Aimee Barciauskas, Software Engineer

Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
A very enjoyable and inspirational read about the history of Pixar from founder Ed Catmull himself. It delves into what sets a creative company apart and teaches lessons like “people are more important than ideas” and “simple answers are seductive” without reading like a typical business book.— Lauren Peterson, Product Manager

Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman
The magnum opus of Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman is a psychologist but his Nobel is in Economics, and unlike other winners in this category, his win stands the test of time. You will be a much better decision maker after reading this book and understanding the two modes our brains work in: System 1 intuitive “fast” thinking and System 2 deliberate “slow” thinking. It is a beast of a book, but unlike the vast majority of (pop) psychology books, this book distills decades of groundbreaking research and is the basis for so many other psychology books and research that if you read this book carefully, you won’t have to read those other books. There are so many topics in this book, I’ll just link to the Wikipedia page to give you a flavor.— Alicia Liu, Software Engineer

Nudge
by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
This covers how sensible “choice architecture” can improve the decisions and behavior of people. Much of what’s covered comes from decades of research in behavioral science and economics, and has a wide range of applications — from design, user research, and policy to business and everyday life. — Sawyer Hollenshead, Designer

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
by Atul Gawande
This book is about how checklists can help even experts avoid mistakes. Experience isn’t enough. I try to apply the lessons of this book to the processes we use to operate our software.—Evan Kroske, Software Engineer

The Soul of a New Machine
by Tracy Kidder
This book details the work of a computer engineering team racing to design a computer. While the pace of work for the team is certainly unsustainable and perhaps even unhealthy at times, the highs and lows they go through as they debug their new minicomputer will be familiar to engineers and members of tight-knit groups of all varieties. The rush to finish their project, which was thought to be a dark horse at the beginning of the book, is enthralling and will keep you engaged with this book late into the night. — Samuel Keller, Software Engineer

Release It!: Design and Deploy Production-Ready Software
by Michael T. Nygard
One of the best, most practical books I’ve ever read about creating resilient software on “modern” web architectures. While it may not be the most relevant with regards to cloud-based infrastructure, the patterns and processes described within are still very applicable. This is one of the few technical books I have read cover-to-cover. — Scott Smith, Software Engineer

Design for Democracy
by Marcia Lausen
From an AIGA project to improve the design of ballots— both paper and electronic— following the “hanging chad” drama of the 2000 election, comes this review of best practices for designers, election officials, and anyone interested in the intersection of design and voting.—Shelly Ni, Designer

The Design of Everyday Things
by Donald A. Norman
This is a classic for learning about design and its sometimes unintended consequences. I read it years ago and I still think about it every time I’m in an elevator. It’s a great introduction to a designer’s responsibility and designing in the real world for actual humans, who can make mistakes and surprising choices about how to use the designs you create. — Genevieve Gaudet, Designer

More recommendations from the team
• The Unexotic Underclass
• Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice
• Everybody Hurts: Content for Kindness
• Poverty Interrupted: Applying Behavioral Science to the Context of Chronic Scarcity [PDF]
• Designing for Social Change: Strategies for Community-Based Graphic Design
• Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels
• The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on their Craft
• The Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art out of Desperate Times
• The Effective Engineer: How to Leverage Your Efforts In Software Engineering to Make a Disproportionate and Meaningful Impact
• Effective DevOps: Building a Culture of Collaboration, Affinity, and Tooling at Scale"
nava  books  booklists  design  education  health  healthcare  sawyerhollenshed  jayz  susanleighstar  shahwang  geoffreybowker  decoded  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  susancain  introverts  quiet  thomaspiketty  economics  melissafaygreene  civilrrights  socialjustice  creativity  edcatmull  amyallace  pixar  teams  readinglists  toread  howwethink  thinking  danielkahneman  government  richardthaler  casssunstein  atulgawande  tracykidder  medicine  checklists  process  michaelnygard  software  ui  ux  democracy  donalnorman  devops  improvisation  collaboration  sfsh  journalism  kindness  socialchange  transparency  participation  participatory  opengovernment  open 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Thinking and Friendship in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt for Now | On Being
[via: https://www.instagram.com/p/BUht-yij3OyVQraCWufQICDNRQbRNmhMZd0s_M0/

"Still thinking about the recent @onbeing podcast with historian Lyndsey Stonebridge talking about the new/old/new wisdom of Hannah Arendt. Cannot recommend highly enough: the "organized loneliness" of totalitarianism, the limits of empathy as commonly defined, on refugees and belonging, on the theater of politics and neighborly love. Gonna have to re-listen with a notebook in hand."]

"MS. TIPPETT: I think, just for me, rereading The Origins of Totalitarianism, dipping back into her after quite a few years, that she wasn’t just — this is not historical. It’s not history-telling. It’s really delving into the human essence of what we experience and analyze as political historical events.

But something that struck me so much that I’d forgotten is this idea about the isolation of — that she wrote, “What prepares men for a totalitarian domination” — and here, again, is what happens in the human heart and psyche and society that makes these things possible — “is the fact that loneliness, once a borderline experience, usually suffered in certain marginal social conditions like old age, has become an everyday experience of the ever-growing masses of our century.”

And if I think about the Brexit experience in the UK, and I think about this last presidential election in the US, so much of the dynamic were human beings who had felt unseen and feel disconnected. It’s that language, she says, “atomized, isolated individuals.”

MS. STONEBRIDGE: Yeah. And she makes a further distinction in the last chapter of Origins of Totalitarianism, which she wrote later, between uprootedness, which is what people — since the Industrial Revolution, this has happened, but obviously, it’s got worse — and in periods of economic crisis, it gets far worse — is not feeling recognized, not feeling at home. So it’s a kind of malaise about rootedness. And then she contrasts and compares with superfluousness, which is not being not being treated like you’re in the world at all.

And that was the camps, and that is the refugee camps. So there’s this awful relationship between the uprooted of the world, in Europe, in the States, and the new superfluous of the world, which she understood very well because she was one of the superfluous of the world in the 1940s. So I think she was very interested in that relationship. And I think you’re absolutely right; the loneliness is absolutely crucial, but it’s the question of how we imagine a response to that. I think it’s very interesting — I discovered recently that Hannah Arendt taught George Orwell’s 1984 to Berkeley undergraduates in 1955. [laughs]

MS. TIPPETT: [laughs] Another new bestseller.

MS. STONEBRIDGE: Exactly. Another new — and what would one give to have been in that classroom?

MS. TIPPETT: [laughs] Right.

MS. STONEBRIDGE: Maybe your listeners were in Berkeley in 1955 being taught 1984 by Hannah Arendt. [laughs] I would love to hear. And she had — I think she read the novel earlier because she started rewriting the last chapter of Origins of Totalitarianism. So she’s getting that kind of analysis off Orwell. She’s in dialogue with Orwell, who’s, of course, dead by then. And he’s saying, “Actually, this is what happens.” The visional title of 1984 was The Last Man in Europe. I mean, if you can hear the Brexit resonance. [laughs]

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah.

MS. STONEBRIDGE: The Last Man in Europe. And the loneliness. And the reason why Winston Smith is so drawn to Big Brother in the end is he cannot bear being alone. And I think you’re absolutely right. Listening to that cri de cœur, that cry of the heart around not having a place to go. But I, on the other hand — she would have been, I think, very cautious of having too ready answers to what you do with that dilemma.

I mean, she’d been very, very suspicious of throwing up another worldview or ideology to end the loneliness or very — I think she’d be very impatient with the way that those of us who are trying to react to our current scenarios, both in the UK and the US, are either turning on each other, or blaming the liberal elite, or blaming high capitalism, or blaming whatever. Making people un-lonely is a good project, but how that’s going to happen, what politics you need for that to happen is going to be a very, very hard question.

MS. TIPPETT: Right. Or even if politics is the place where that would start, if it would be a political project, which is a different kind of question to raise in the 21st century than it was in the 20th century…

MS. STONEBRIDGE: Absolutely.

MS. TIPPETT: And that is something I wanted to ask you also because she had this insistence that people should be more political, which meant one thing for her, and maybe this is a way in which the foundation on which that idea was based in her century is so different. I mean, because politics itself is called into question in a different way as part of our crisis.

MS. STONEBRIDGE: Yeah. I was very interested about your question about imagination because I think we talk a lot today about empathy and suffering. And I’m like Arendt. I’m always a bit wary. It sounds like a terrible thing to say. I’m really a bit wary about empathy. [laughs] I really don’t know about this.

MS. TIPPETT: I wanted to ask you about that because when we talk — talking about loneliness, as we’re discussing it in the context of her work, it’s clearly the human condition, and it can be a personal experience. But it’s not talking about loneliness as something that, if we can be compassionate towards each other’s loneliness, things will get better.

MS. STONEBRIDGE: Well, I think for her — I mean, she was critical of pity, and she wrote very famously in her On Revolution book that what she didn’t like about pity is it kept the power relationship. Other people’s suffering for the one who’s doing the pitying or the empathizing keeps the power.

And also, she didn’t like it because once you have suffering as your ground zero, you can allow for anything in the name to end that suffering. And that was the tragedy for her of the French Revolution. We have to be piteous in order to save the suffering people. And she’s thinking about what it’s like to imagine not being in the place you’re in, to be imagine to be in the place of another.

And that’s slightly different from pity, and it’s a slightly different take from empathy, because it involves something a bit harder, actually. [laughs] So when she’s teaching to Berkeley students in 1955, she says, “Imagine what it was like to have the political experience of a European, which is an experience totally unlike yours.” And then she puts in brackets, “A bit like mine, but totally unlike yours.” [laughs]

MS. TIPPETT: [laughs] Right.

MS. STONEBRIDGE: Which I thought was very sweet given what she’d just been through. And I think it’s that kind of — what she says to do is not just to empathize, but which is to actually build blueprints, or worlds, or frames for understanding experience that is not ours, that cannot be incorporated into ours. So why I think it’s different from empathy or pity is, when you are imagining — because you’re imagining to be empathetic or to share suffering — you’re immediately incorporating that experience into a view of yourself and your own worldview.

What Arendt wanted was actually something a bit more radical than that, is to imagine something that’s not your world, that makes you feel uncomfortable. And that’s where the work has to start. And that’s why she was also very committed to thinking. [laughs]

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

MS. STONEBRIDGE: To the activity of thinking.

MS. TIPPETT: Yes. And…

MS. STONEBRIDGE: Which is how you do that.

MS. TIPPETT: Which is how you do that. Right. And honestly, Americans have a very conflicted kind of relationship, historically and philosophically, with thought and ideas. It’s a different thing than it was, for example, in the Germany that Hannah Arendt was raised in. The power of ideas. But it feels to me like there might be a receptivity now precisely because we see that it’s not getting us anywhere to be meeting my emotion with your emotion. Her — as you say, you can only have moral imagination if you also think, if you are thinking.

You talked in this podcast I heard you in that brought me to you, In Our Time, about how she always talked about the dialogue we have in our heads, that we are constantly working out what it means to be human, to be a person, whether we realize it or not."



"MS. TIPPETT: So one of her famous phrases is the “banality of evil,” which was an observation she made about Eichmann, and that was controversial. But you said something about the bureaucratization, which was part of that banality, a refuge for — instead of thinking, you are part of the system, and you follow the rules, and you enact the rules.

And again, not to — I really would not compare Eichmann to anyone alive right now in full, but the revulsion and the sense of alienation people all over the place have from bureaucracy, which in our age is globalized, right? The way the phrase “the government” will be received in many places in the US, the way the phrase “the EU” is received in England, there are echoes of something that goes wrong — something that goes wrong in human societies that were still with us or we’re feeling again. I don’t know.

MS. STONEBRIDGE: Yeah, I think it’s — one of the first things Arendt did when she finally got to New York, one of her first jobs was to help edit Kafka’s diaries. You remember the story of The Castle near the stranger is kind of a — it’s certainly a migrant story. You know, stranger arrives in a new place, he comes for work, and then he can’t work out what’s going on, and he can’t settle, and he’s blocked by this … [more]
hannahjarendt  via:ablerism  kristatippett  2017  lyndseystonebridge  totalitarianism  empathy  refugees  belonging  politics  neighborliness  love  organizedloneliness  thinking  howwethink  acitivism  activists  isonomia  liberty  freedom 
may 2017 by robertogreco
A Weapon for Readers | by Tim Parks | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
"Imagine you are asked what single alteration in people’s behavior might best improve the lot of mankind. How foolish would you have to be to reply: have them learn to read with a pen in their hands? But I firmly believe such a simple development would bring huge benefits.

We have too much respect for the printed word, too little awareness of the power words hold over us. We allow worlds to be conjured up for us with very little concern for the implications. We overlook glaring incongruities. We are suckers for alliteration, assonance, and rhythm. We rejoice over stories, whether fiction or “documentary,” whose outcomes are flagrantly manipulative, self-serving, or both. Usually both. If a piece of writing manifests the stigmata of literature—symbols, metaphors, unreliable narrators, multiple points of view, structural ambiguities—we afford it unlimited credit. With occasional exceptions, the only “criticism” brought to such writing is the kind that seeks to elaborate its brilliance, its cleverness, its creativity. What surprised me most when I first began publishing fiction myself was how much at every level a novelist can get away with.

This extravagant regard, which seemed to reach a peak in the second half of the twentieth century as the modernists of a generation before were canonized as performers of the ever more arduous miracle of conferring a little meaning on life, is reflected in the treatment of the book itself. The spine must not be bent back and broken, the pages must not be marked with dog ears, there must be no underlining, no writing in the margins. Obviously, for those of us brought up on library books and school-owned textbooks (my copy of Browning bore the name of a dozen pupils who had used the text before me), there were simple and sensible reasons supporting this behavior. But the reverence went beyond a proper respect for those who would be reading the pages after you. Even when I bought a book myself, if my parents caught me breaking its spine so that it would lay open on the desk, they were shocked. Writing was sacred. In the beginning was the Word. The word written down, hopefully on quality paper. Much of the resistance to e-books, notably from the literati, has to do with a loss of this sense of sacredness, of a vulnerable paper vessel that can thrive on our protective devotion.

The absolute need to read with a pen in one’s hand became evident to me watching my students as we studied translation together. …"



"Aside from simply insisting, as I already had for years, that they be more alert, I began to wonder what was the most practical way I could lead my students to a greater attentiveness, teach them to protect themselves from all those underlying messages that can shift one’s attitude without one’s being aware of it? I began to think about the way I read myself, about the activity of reading, what you put into it rather than what was simply on the page. Try this experiment, I eventually told them: from now on always read with a pen in your hands, not beside you on the table, but actually in your hand, ready, armed. And always make three or four comments on every page, at least one critical, even aggressive. Put a question mark by everything you find suspect. Underline anything you really appreciate. Feel free to write “splendid,” but also, “I don’t believe a word of it.” And even “bullshit.”

A pen is not a magic wand. The critical faculty is not conjured from nothing. But it was remarkable how many students improved their performance with this simple stratagem. There is something predatory, cruel even, about a pen suspended over a text. Like a hawk over a field, it is on the lookout for something vulnerable. Then it is a pleasure to swoop and skewer the victim with the nib’s sharp point. The mere fact of holding the hand poised for action changes our attitude to the text. We are no longer passive consumers of a monologue but active participants in a dialogue. Students would report that their reading slowed down when they had a pen in their hand, but at the same time the text became more dense, more interesting, if only because a certain pleasure could now be taken in their own response to the writing when they didn’t feel it was up to scratch, or worthy only of being scratched."



"Some readers will fear that the pen-in-hand approach denies us those wonderful moments when we fall under a writer’s spell, the moments when we succumb to a style, and are happy to succumb to it, when suddenly it seems to us that this approach to the world, be it Proust’s or Woolf’s or Beckett’s or Bernhard’s, is really, at least for the moment, the only approach we are interested in, moments that are no doubt among the most exciting in our reading experience.

No, I wouldn’t want to miss out on that. But if writers are to entice us into their vision, let us make them work for it. Let us resist enchantment for a while, or at least for long enough to have some idea of what we are being drawn into. For the mindless, passive acceptance of other people’s representations of the world can only enchain us and hamper our personal growth, hamper the possibility of positive action. Sometimes it seems the whole of society languishes in the stupor of the fictions it has swallowed. Wasn’t this what Cervantes was complaining about when he began Don Quixote? Better to read a poor book with alert resistance, than devour a good one in mindless adoration."
howweead  howwethink  reading  annotation  marginalia  timparks  2014  teaching  howweteach  criticalthinking  underlining 
february 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger and Susan Sontag / To Tell A Story (1983) - YouTube
"John Berger and Susan Sontag exchange ideas on the 'lost art' of storytelling, 1983."

[via: "Art for him was never something apart from the business of being alive. He was grounded. He struck me as a man who was both supremely astute and perceptive, and a sentimentalist. He could be a wonderfully engaging companion. A 1983 television debate with Susan Sontag – both wrestling with what a story could be – remains electrifying, mostly because they were both struggling with thoughts and ideas rather than trading certainties."
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/02/adrian-searle-on-john-berger-art-for-him-was-never-apart-from-being-alive ]
johnberger  susansontag  1983  storytelling  oral  oraltradition  howwethink  thinking  companionship  listening  conversation  certainty  uncertainty  conformity  reality  absurdity  meaning  fantasy 
january 2017 by robertogreco
'Such freedom is unthinkable today' – my life making television with John Berger | Television & radio | The Guardian
"I still have all the versions of the four scripts for Ways of Seeing. Looking at them now, after 45 years, I’m struck and moved by two things. The first is how much John wrote and rewrote – either at home in Geneva or in a back room of his parents’ flat in London – right up to the moment of filming, and then further modified during the edit, when something wasn’t quite right or we thought of a better idea. The second is John’s beautifully fluid and legible handwriting, which is very revealing about the way he thought – tentative and exploratory, never dogmatic, just trying to get something clear in his mind. He always used a fountain pen, with black ink, and the pages are full of crossings out, with single words added or sentences rephrased and stuck on with Sellotape.

On one script he wrote: “Dear Mike, here’s script No 2. Please remember all I said about it on the phone. Criticise, improvise, change, improve, cancel out, as much as you want or see how to. Or even we can begin again. All I would stand by is the essential idea …”

This exemplary approach to collaboration perfectly characterised our relationship on Ways of Seeing and on subsequent films together. That does not mean the process was always easy and free of tension – with John it was never like that – but the arguments when they arose were always open and equal (he never pulled rank), and ultimately resolved, not by theory, but by trying out an idea to see if it worked. And I often remember us laughing. John, I will miss you."
johnberger  2017  mikedibb  collaboration  writing  howwewrite  revision  criticism  relationships  handwriting  editing  clarity  howwethink  thinking 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Adrian Searle on John Berger: 'Art for him was never apart from being alive' | Books | The Guardian
"I cannot overestimate John Berger’s importance to me. It wasn’t so much his critical opinions or insights I valued, so much as the man himself, whose vitality and receptiveness to the things about him had a force I have rarely encountered.

It was his freedom as a writer I admired most. He had both backbone and playfulness, approaching things at tangents but always illuminating his subjects in unexpected and often disconcerting ways. In his groundbreaking 1972 television series, Ways of Seeing, Berger described the purposes of art, and artists’ intentions, in ways that felt flexible, undogmatic and grounded both in experience and in delight. He helped us look for ourselves, which is the best a critic can do.

Berger provoked intense loyalties and animosities. There were those who saw his defence of vernacular art as waging war against modernism, a man fighting a rearguard action against all kinds of artistic progress. This was oversimplistic, as his writing shows. I got to know Berger largely through our mutual friendship with the late Spanish artist Juan Muñoz. In the mid 1990s Muñoz and Berger collaborated on a radio play, which won a big prize in Germany and in 2005 was turned into a stage production at the Casa Encendida in Madrid. Berger, acting the part of a radio chatshow host, fielded imaginary calls and talked about illusion and presence and Goya’s dog, while an elderly Turkish foley artist, seated on the edge of the stage, provided sound effects. Already almost 80, Berger performed under sweltering stage lights in the Madrid summer heat and never lost his cool. Although there were several other actors in the work, it was almost a solo performance. John carried it; he had presence.

I asked Berger if he had ever wanted to be an actor and he admitted that he had been approached by an agent who encouraged him to go on the stage after seeing him perform in the annual Chelsea School of Art student revue. His stage presence and manner reminded me, disconcertingly, of Frankie Howerd. He was a natural and one of the reasons Ways of Seeing was so good was that he never came over as the patrician smart-arse superior critic. He made you feel he was thinking on his feet, right there in front of you. John would screw up his face and affect an expression somewhere between bewilderment and anguish, before launching into an argument that seemed to arrive fully formed. He was enormously compelling. He made me aware that writing itself was performative.

He reminisced about his time sharing a Paris apartment with the young David Sylvester, who never let go of an early falling out. It had something to do with Berger’s complaints about Sylvester leaving his “voluminous underpants” draped over a chair in a shared room in the early 1950s. Sylvester, I always thought, was jealous of Berger’s abilities as a writer of fiction as well as of art, though his career-long public animosity was also about Berger’s left-wing politics and his championing of socially engaged art.

It strikes me that art for Berger was the beginning of a journey of his own, a way of igniting responses and provoking thoughts. He approached art with a kind of innocent curiosity. He had enthusiasms I couldn’t share (from Soviet artist Ernst Neizvestny to British painter Maggi Hambling) but was open to work as diverse as Rachel Whiteread’s House and Muñoz’s enigmatic figurations. There are things I wish he had written on, but never did. If he was wrong about Picasso (whom he called a “vertical invader”, slicing through tradition) or just plain weird about Francis Bacon (whose paintings he once compared to Walt Disney animations – though Berger later revised his opinion) it didn’t matter. His ideas remained useful, because they always felt part of a bigger, ongoing conversation. It is healthy for a critic to beware of fixed opinions.

Whatever he did, Berger was a teller of stories, and alert to the complexities of all kinds of art-making and writing. Dip into him anywhere – an essay on Courbet, on drawing hands, or Roman Egypt funerary portraiture – whatever it is, his subject is vivid on the page. His writing is filled with insights. That he trained as a painter gave him a sympathy and understanding of the act of making and its difficulties – rare among critics now.

Intensely observant, Berger had the ability to focus the smallest quotidian detail – a penknife in a boy’s pocket, or a pear grown inside a bottle in a farmer’s orchard, bringing in the cows or sharpening a pencil – in order to tell us something about life and human relations, in an unending chain of acts and expressions. Everything he wrote has humour in it as well as sorrow. His writing never forgets the vagaries of the everyday. He revelled in all this.

Art for him was never something apart from the business of being alive. He was grounded. He struck me as a man who was both supremely astute and perceptive, and a sentimentalist. He could be a wonderfully engaging companion. A 1983 television debate with Susan Sontag – both wrestling with what a story could be – remains electrifying, mostly because they were both struggling with thoughts and ideas rather than trading certainties. Always worth reading, even when one disagrees with him, Berger went his own way, which was the only way to go."
johnberger  adriansearle  2017  art  everyday  publishing  life  living  susansontag  thinking  howwethink  storytelling  conversation  politics  lowbrow  highbrow  presence  performance  waysofseeing  delight  experience  vitality  companionship 
january 2017 by robertogreco
William Kentridge Interview: How We Make Sense of the World - YouTube
""There is a desperation in al certainty. The category of political uncertainty, philosophical uncertainty, uncertainty of images is much closer to how the world is", says South African artist William Kentridge in this video presenting his work.

"The films come out of a need to make an image, an impulse to make a film, and the meaning emerges over the months of the making of the film. The only meaning they have in advance is the need for the film to exist".

William Kentridge (b. 1955) is South Africa's most important contemporary artist, best known for his prints, drawings and animated films. In this video he presents his work, his way of working and his philosophy.

He tells the story of how he failed to be an artist:

"I failed at painting, I failed at acting, I failed at film making, so I discovered at the age of 30 I was back making drawings". It was not until he told himself he was an artist with all he wanted to included in the term - that he felt he was on the right track. "It took me a long time to unlearn the advice I had been giving. For for me the only hope was the cross fertilization between the different medias and genres."

William Kentridge talks about the origin of his animated films with drawing in front of the camera. "I was interested in seeing how a drawing would come into being". "It was from the charcoal drawing that the process of animation expanded". With charcoal "you can change a drawing as quickly as you can think".

"I am interested in showing the process of thinking. The way that one constructs a film out of these fragments that one reinterprets retrospectively - and changes the time of - is my sense of how we make sense of the world. And so the animated films can be a demonstration of how we make sense of the world rather than an instruction about what the world means."

"Uncertainty is an essential category. As soon as one gets certain their voice gets louder, more authoritarian and authoritative and to defend themselves they will bring an army and guns to stand next to them to hold. There is a desperation in al certainty. The category of political uncertainty, philosophical uncertainty, uncertainty of images is much closer to how the world is. That is also related to provisionality, to the fact that you can see the world as a series of facts or photographs or you can see it as a process of unfolding. Where the same thing in a different context has a very different meaning or very different form."

"I learned much more from the theatre school in Paris, Jacques Lecoq, a school of movement and mime, than I ever did from the art lessons. It is about understanding the way of thinking through the body. Making art is a practical activity. It is not sitting at a computer. It is embodying an idea in a physical material, paper, charcoal, steal, wood."

William Kentridge will work on a piece not knowing if it will come out as a dead end or a piece of art, giving it the benefit of the doubt, not judging it in advance, he says.

The artist has been compared to Buster Keaton and Gerorge Méliès. He mentions Hogarth, Francis Bacon, Manet, Philip Guston, Picasso, the Dadaists, Samuel Beckett and Mayakovski as inspirations.

"I am considered a political artist by some people and as a non-political artist by other political artists. I am interested in the politics of certainty and the demagoguery of certainty and the fragility of making sense of the world", William Kentridge states.

This video shows different excerpts from the work: 'The Journey to the Moon' (2003), 'The Refusal of Time' (2012) 'What Will Come (has already come)' (2007).

William Kentridge was interviewed by Christian Lund at the Deutsche Staatstheater in Hamburg in January 2014 in connection with the performance of the stage version of 'The Refusal of Time', called 'Refuse The Hour'."
williamkentridge  art  thinking  uncertainty  certainty  artists  provisionality  busterkeaton  georgeméliès  christianlund  therefusaloftime  accretion  process  making  filmmaking  philosophy  sensemaking  makingsense  unlearning  howework  howwethink  authoritarianism  chance  fortune  unschooling  deschooling  unknowing  hogarth  francisbacon  manet  philipguston  picasso  samuelbeckett  mayakovski 
december 2016 by robertogreco

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