robertogreco + venkateshrao   18

After Authenticity
"Meanwhile, years of semantic slippage had happened without me noticing. Suddenly the surging interest in fashion, the dad hats, the stupid pin companies, the lack of sellouts, it all made sense. Authenticity has expanded to the point that people don’t even believe in it anymore. And why should we? Our friends work at SSENSE, they work at Need Supply. They are starting dystopian lifestyle brands. Should we judge them for just getting by? A Generation-Z-focused trend report I read last year clumsily posed that “the concept of authenticity is increasingly deemed inauthentic.” It goes further than that. What we are witnessing is the disappearance of authenticity as a cultural need altogether.

Under authenticity, the value of a thing decreases as the number of people to whom it is meaningful increases. This is clearly no longer the case. Take memes for example. “Meme” circa 2005 meant lolcats, the Y U NO guy and grimy neckbeards on 4chan. Within 10 years “meme” transitioned from this one specific subculture to a generic medium in which collective participation is seen as amplifying rather than detracting from value.

In a strange turn of events, the mass media technologies built out during the heady authenticity days have had a huge part in facilitating this new mass media culture. The hashtag, like, upvote, and retweet are UX patterns that systematize endorsement and quantify shared value. The meme stock market jokers are more right than they know; memes are information commodities. But unlike indie music 10 years ago the value of a meme is based on its publicly shared recognition. From mix CDs to nationwide Spotify playlists. With information effortlessly transferable at zero marginal cost and social platforms that blast content to the top of everyone’s feed, it’s difficult to for an ethics based on scarcity to sustain itself.

K-HOLE and Box1824 captured the new landscape in their breakthrough 2014 report “Youth Mode.” They described an era of “mass indie” where the search for meaning is premised on differentiation and uniqueness, and proposed a solution in “Normcore.” Humorously, nearly everyone mistook Normcore for being about bland fashion choices rather than the greater cultural shift toward accepting shared meanings. It turns out that the aesthetics of authenticity-less culture are less about acting basic and more about playing up the genericness of the commodity as an aesthetic category. LOT2046’s delightfully industrial-supply-chain-default aesthetics are the most beautiful and powerful rendering of this. But almost everyone is capitalizing on the same basic trend, from Vetements and Virgil Abloh (enormous logos placed for visibility in Instagram photos are now the norm in fashion) to the horribly corporate Brandless. Even the names of boring basics companies like “Common Threads” and “Universal Standard” reflect the the popularity of genericness, writes Alanna Okunn at Racked. Put it this way: Supreme bricks can only sell in an era where it’s totally fine to like commodities.

Crucially, this doesn’t mean that people don’t continue to seek individuation. As I’ve argued elsewhere exclusivity is fundamental to any meaning-amplifying strategy. Nor is this to delegitimize some of the recognizable advancements popularized alongside the first wave of mass authenticity aesthetics. Farmer’s markets, the permaculture movement, and the trend of supporting local businesses are valuable cultural innovations and are here to stay.

Nevertheless, now that authenticity is obsolete it’s become difficult to remember why we were suspicious of brands and commodities to begin with. Maintaining criticality is a fundamental challenge in this new era of trust. Unfortunately, much of what we know about being critical is based on authenticity ethics. Carles blamed the Contemporary Conformist phenomenon on a culture industry hard-set on mining “youth culture dollars.” This very common yet extraordinarily reductive argument, which makes out commodity capitalism to be an all-powerful, intrinsically evil force, is typical of authenticity believers. It assumes a one-way influence of a brand’s actions on consumers, as do the field of semiotics and the hopeless, authenticity-craving philosophies of Baudrillard and Debord.

Yet now, as Dena Yago says, “you can like both Dimes and Doritos, sincerely and without irony.” If we no longer see brands and commodity capitalism as something to be resisted, we need more nuanced forms of critique that address how brands participate in society as creators and collaborators with real agency. Interest in working with brands, creating brands, and being brands is at an all-time high. Brands and commodities therefore need to be considered and critiqued on the basis of the specific cultural and economic contributions they make to society. People co-create their identities with brands just as they do with religions, communities, and other other systems of meaning. This constructivist view is incompatible with popular forms of postmodern critique but it also opens up new critical opportunities. We live in a time where brands are expected to not just reflect our values but act on them. Trust in business can no longer be based on visual signals of authenticity, only on proof of work."
tobyshorin  2018  authenticity  culture  anthropology  hispters  sellouts  sellingout  commercialism  kanyewest  yeezy  yeezysupply  consumerism  commercialization  commodification  personalbranding  branding  capitalism  shepardfairey  obeygiant  tourism  sarahperry  identity  critique  ethics  mainstream  rjaymagill  popculture  aesthetics  commentary  conformism  scale  scalability  venkateshrao  premiummediocre  brooklyn  airbnb  wework  local  handmade  artisinal  economics  toms  redwings  davidmuggleton  josephpine  jamesgilmore  exclusivity  denayago  systems  sytemsofmeaning  meaning  commodities  k-hole 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Walled Gardens & Escape Routes | Kneeling Bus
"Slack and Snapchat are two of the platforms that best embody the current technological moment, the fastest recent gainers in Silicon Valley’s constant campaign to build apps we put on our home screens and not only use constantly but freely give our locations, identities, relationships, and precious attention. One of those products is for work and one is for play; both reflect values and aesthetics that, if not new, at least differ in clear ways from those of email, Facebook, and Twitter—the avatars of comparable moments in the recent past.

Recently I compared Twitter to a shrinking city—slowly bleeding users and struggling to produce revenue but a kind of home to many, infrastructure worth preserving, a commons. Now that Pokemon Go has mapped the digital universe onto meatspace more literally, I’ll follow suit and extend that same “city” metaphor to the rest of the internet.

I’m kidding about the Pokemon part (only not really), but the internet has nearly completed one major stage of its life, evolving from a mechanism for sharing webpages between computers into a series of variously porous platforms that are owned or about to be owned by massive companies who have divided up the available digital real estate and found (or failed to find) distinct revenue-generating schemes within each platform’s confines, optimizing life inside to extract revenue (or failing to do so). The app is a manifestation of this maturing structure, each app a gateway to one of these walled gardens and a point of contact with a single company’s business model—far from the messy chaos of the earlier web. So much urban space has been similarly carved up.

If Twitter is a shrinking city, then Slack or Snapchat are exploding fringe suburbs at the height of a housing bubble, laying miles of cul-de-sac and water pipe in advance of the frantic growth that will soon fill in all the space. The problem with my spatial metaphor here is that neither Slack nor Snapchat feels like a “city” in its structure, while Twitter and Facebook do by comparison. I never thought I’d say this, but Twitter and Instagram are legible (if decentralized): follower counts, likes, or retweets signal a loosely quantifiable importance, the linear feed is easy enough to follow, and everything is basically open by default (private accounts go against the grain of Twitter). Traditional social media by now has become a set of tools for attaining a global if personally-tailored perspective on current events and culture.

Slack and Snapchat are quite different, streams of ephemeral and illegible content. Both intentionally restrict your perspective to the immediate here and now. We don’t navigate them so much as we surf them. They’re less rationally-organized, mapped cities than the postmodern spaces that fascinated Frederic Jameson and Reyner Banham: Bonaventure Hotels or freeway cloverleafs, with their own semantic systems—Deleuzian smooth space. Nobody knows one’s position within these universes, just the context their immediate environment affords. Facebook, by comparison, feels like a high modernist panopticon where everyone sees and knows a bit too much.

Like cities, digital platforms have populations that ebb and flow. The history of urbanization is a story of slow, large-scale, irreversible migrations. It’s hard to relocate human settlements. The redistributions of the digital era happen more rapidly but are less absolute: If you have 16 waking hours of daily attention to give, you don’t need to shift it all from Facebook to Snapchat but whatever you do shift can move instantly.

The forces that propel migrations from city to city to suburb and back to city were frequently economic (if not political). Most apps and websites cost nothing to inhabit and yield little economic opportunity for their users. If large groups are not abandoning Twitter or Facebook for anything to do with money, what are they looking for?"



"If we’ve learned anything from recent technology, we can expect Slack and Snapchat to reveal their own serious flaws over time as users accumulate, behaviors solidify, and opportunists learn to exploit their structure. Right now most of the world is still trying to understand what they are. When the time comes—and hopefully we’ll recognize it early enough—we can break camp and go looking for our next temporary outpost."
walledgadens  web  online  internet  2016  snapchat  slack  darknet  darkweb  instagram  twitter  legibility  drewaustin  fredericjameon  reynerbanham  email  venkateshrao  benbashe  identity  communication  openweb  facebook  texting  sms  flowlaminar 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Creation and Destruction of Habits
"1/ There are two kinds of stories: about forming habits, and about preserving them. Superhero movies and Christmas movies.

2/ While you have room to grow in your life, forming habits is much easier than breaking habits. Neither is easy, however.

3/ A habit, once formed, demands use. This is because it exists as a sunk cost. Disuse would imply depreciating value.

4/ A living habit generates returns and grows more complex over time. This is growth. Growing habits occupy more room over time.

5/ A dying habit generates losses and grows simpler over time. This is decay. Dying habits decay to occupy less room over time.

6/ You are grown up when you run out of room to grow and are forced to break old habits in order to form new ones.

7/ The alternative to growing up is to preserve existing habits against decay through mummification. This is ritualization.

8/ To ritualize a habit is to decide to sustain steady losses for the indefinite future. This means feeding it with make-work.

9/ Living habits are ugly. Constant growth and increasing complexity means they always appear as an unrefined work-in-progress.

10/ The reward of a ritual is comforting, relived memories of once-profitable habits. These can be passed on for generations.

11/ Rituals are beautiful. Mummification is the process of aestheticizing a behavior to produce comfort instead of profit.

12/ Comforts must be paid for. But it is an easy decision to rob the ugly to pay the beautiful. Growth must pay for decay.

13/ Living habits can be valued in terms of expected future returns. Comforts cannot because they are being sustained despite losses.

14/ Living habits have a price. Rituals are price-less. They represent comforts worth preserving at indeterminate cost.

15/ Price-less comforts evolve from things-that-cannot-be-priced to things-that-must-not-be-priced. This is sacralization.

16/ The sacred price-less is the economic priceless. We drop the hyphen and add a notional price of infinity. This is a sacred value.

17/ The ritualized habit associated with a sacred value becomes a virtue: a behavior that serves as is its own justification.

18/ Virtues are behaviors that are recognized as their own justification by their unchanging beauty. The sacred is beautiful.

19/ Vice is that which cannot visibly co-exist with virtue: it is behavior that justifies its own suppression or marginalization.

20/ Profanity is an inchoate mixture of virtue and vice. Experimentation separates ugly profanity into future virtues and vices.

21/ When your living habits cannot pay for their own growth, and you sacrifice beauty for experimentation, you get innovation.

22/ When your living habits can pay for their own growth and your comforting rituals, you have a beautiful life. This is individualism.

23/ When living habits can pay for themselves but not for comforts, you have a problem. This is failed individualism: depression.

24/ If you try to strip away comforts and retain only growth, you have cognitive-behavioral cancer. This is being manic.

25/ You can pretend that comforts are profits. To do this you deny new data and restate old justifications. This is called derping.

26/ You can also strip away rituals, deliberately making your life uglier by unburdening living habits. This is called empiricism.

27/ You can strip away enough ritual to keep your life ugly at work and beautiful at home. This is called being a loser.

28/ You can confuse the beautiful with the living and the ugly with dying and strip away the wrong things. This is called cluelessness.

29/ You can consciously develop your ability to contemplate both ugliness and beauty with equanimity. This is called mindfulness.

30/ You can strip away rituals up to the limit of your mindfulness, staying on the edge of manic-depression. This is being a sociopath.

31/ The most common response to failed individualism, however, is to get others to pay for your comforts. This is called culture.

32/ A culture that cannot pay for its own comforts overall is a called a tradition. One that has no comforts to pay for is called a frontier.

33/ Tradition is beautiful, frontiers are ugly. To mistake one for the other is the defining characteristic of the clueless middle class.

33/ A culture that is more tradition than frontier is a loser culture. Sincere partisan conservatism and liberalism are both for losers.

34/ A culture that is more frontier than tradition is sociopath culture. It offers few comforts and fewer sacred ones.

35/ A compassionate culture is one that drives each member to the limit of their mindfulness. It is inclusive by definition.

36/ A beautiful culture is one that highlights comforting tradition and hides profit and profanity. It is extractive by definition.

37/ A culture cannot be both compassionate and beautiful at once without ceasing to grow. To be a sociopath is to recognize this.

38/ A culture that ceases to grow is a culture that increasingly trades compassion for beauty, paying more for its priceless elements.

39/ A culture that chooses to grow is one that systematically devalues beauty and resists the allure and comfort of pricelessness.

40/ Civilization is the mortal tension between the imperative to keep growing and the imperative to remain beautiful.

41/ Those who choose beauty tell one kind of story, about a relatively shrinking set of beautiful things that define the human.

42/ Those who choose growth tell another kind of story, about an expanding zone of mindfulness that defines the superhuman."
culture  humans  ideology  venkateshrao  2014  habits  growth  frontiers  balance  tradition  ritual  sociopathy  conservatism  liberalism  individualism  mindfulness  cluelessness  comforts  empiricism  derping  depression  experimentation  beauty  marginalization  pricelessness  comfort  complexity  ritualization  makework  mummification  sacralization  sacredness  virtue  justification  life  living  behavior  manicdepression  civilization  rituals 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Rhetoric of the Hyperlink
"The hyperlink is the most elemental of the bundle of ideas that we call the Web. If the  bit is the quark of information, the hyperlink is the hydrogen molecule. It shapes the microstructure of information today.  Surprisingly though, it is nearly as mysterious now as it was back in July 1945, when Vannevar Bush first proposed the idea in his Atlantic Monthly article, As We May Think. July 4th will mark the second anniversary of Ribbonfarm (I started on July 4th, 2007), and to celebrate, I am going to tell you everything I’ve learned so far about the hyperlink. That is the lens through which I tend to look at more traditional macro-level blog-introspection topics, such as “how to make money blogging,” and “will blogs replace newspapers?” So with a “Happy Second Birthday, Ribbonfarm!” and a “Happy 64th Birthday, Hyperlink,” let’s go explore the hyperlink."
hypertext  hyperlinks  venkateshrao  2009  via:vruba  internet  web  writing  linking 
september 2014 by robertogreco
The Deliberate Practice of Disruption
"This model is an accurate one in descriptive terms, but a terrible one in normative terms. So let me propose a highly prejudiced contrarian reading of what Csikszentmihalyi is describing.

What we have here is a closed boundary defined by a symbolic domain (rather than raw, unmediated reality), within which there are awestruck beginners and awe-inspiring experts. Expert performance is primarily a beautiful feeling that is derived not from the effects of the performance itself, but from the integration of metacognition and cognition into an internal superego. An inner [Tiger-] parental spectator that supervises performance according to an external standard of error-free perfection, and rewards you psychologically to the extent that you meet that standard. The performance is necessarily an incremental push beyond the edge, where received standards of performance and aesthetics can be reliably extrapolated. You cannot apply standards of violin performance if you suddenly decide to use your violin as a bat in an improvised game of softball (a profane use of a violin that is nevertheless physically possible).

In short, this is sustaining innovation driven by groupthink, divorced from reality by an internal language of symbols, and limited to what doesn’t violate sacred standards of quality or prevailing aesthetic sensibilities. As determined by honored retirees whose expertise is beyond doubt.

The reward for such metacognition is in fact the subjective state of flow: a regime of behavioral sacredness that is valued for its own sake rather than for its effects, and which is rewarded in social ways.

Disruptive Metacognition: Finding Ugly Awkwardness

It’s easy to get to the broader notion of deliberate practice. The base layer is still the same. You’re still practicing the skill for 10,000 hours.

It’s the metacognition that is different. Instead of finding creative flow, you seek out ugly awkwardness that nevertheless intrigues and tempts you. You figure out what feels uncomfortable and “wrong” in some sense, but also alluring, and figure out why. There are no judges to tell you if you’re right. There are no aesthetic standards to internalize. There are no performance standards other than what you’ve yourself done before or the behaviors of people you choose to imitate because you can’t think of anything yourself.

And most importantly, there is no clear understanding of whether variation from your own past behavior or others’ behaviors should be considered error or innovation."



"So disruptive metacognition is irreverent and transgressive. It does not respect received sacred/profane distinctions. It does not justify extended practice on the basis of “pay your dues” but as a means of exploration. It does not seek flow as an end in itself, divorced from the effects of performance. While sustaining metacognition can be whimsical in an approved way, it cannot be offensively playful in the sense of irreverently crossing the boundary separating sacred and profane. Only disruptive metacognition can do that.

If the reward for effective sustaining metacognition is a sense of your own inner sacredness, experienced as flow, the reward for effective disruptive metacognition is a sense of snowballing absurdity and paradox that miraculously does not unravel. Effective awkwardness that inspires irreverent laughter rather than reverent awe. Instead of approval from honored figures, you get the slightly vicious pleasures of desecration.

While it is possible to do this all this in closed worlds of performance, it takes a kind of sociopathy to ignore expert tastes (or refined customer/audience tastes) and willingness to suffer being punished for being genuinely innovative (customers of cultural products punish straying performers much more than other kinds of customers). This is why early rockers shocked classical musical purists by burning or smashing guitars. Of course, you can also shock aging rockers’ sense of the sacred by not being outrageous (“kids today, they have no rebellion in them!”)."



"The bad news is that success still depends on repeating some skilled behavior in roughly the 10,000 hour range, at “good enough” levels, before you’ll start stumbling across mutations that are both good and haven’t been spotted and explored before. This is why “good ideas” that beginners come up with, even if actually good, aren’t worth much. They lack the behavioral base to actually go down the bunny trail opened up by the idea. The have the idea, but not the idea maze. The genetic mutation without the protein synthesis machinery.

But if you do have the disruptive deliberate practice under your belt you can, well, be disruptive.

If you know the basics of disruption theory, you know it involves attacking a market from a marginal niche. I won’t rehash that. But I will state what might be a new point. What’s disruptive about disruption is that it violates a prevailing sense of the sacred with irreverent profanity.

A disruptor attacks a saintly mindset rather than a market. A mindset that holds certain performance standards and aesthetic considerations to be sacred, and is blind to the potential of what it considers profane. The disruptor wins by being mediocre where it is a sacred duty to be exceptional, and embracing profanity where saints are blinded by their own taboos."
venkateshrao  flow  disruption  2014  metacognition  conservatism  establishment  closedworlds  disciplines  practice  taboos  mindset  change  mutations  openworlds  gatekeepers  cv  aekwardness  mavericks  sociopathy  rewards  motivation  social  groupthink  sacredness  performance 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Demons by Candelight
"I grew up with frequent power outages and load-shedding, especially during the summer time. Dark evenings without power were a special time for children. The candle-lit hours on porches and balconies were a strange mix of an ethereal kind of intimacy, beckoning darkness, and thoughts that retreated from both sunlight and electric lights.

You could do nothing useful during those hours. There was no TV or radio. Reading was difficult. Candle-lit meals tended to be either quick, simple affairs whipped up in semi-darkness, or leftovers. Families who turned the blacked-out evenings into family time generally sat out on the porch. Adults would use the time to tell family stories to children. Teenagers and some couples would stroll up and down the street, occasionally stopping to chat with neighbors. Younger kids would run around squealing and playing, seemingly possessed by the strange euphoria-inducing forces leaking in from another world. Or they would huddle together and try to scare each other with ghost stories.

Even back then, having never experienced cold northern climates, I instinctively knew that the Scottish word fey, born of cold foggy highlands, and which I had only encountered in books, was somehow the right word for the charged pre-Monsoon summer air around me."

***

To a great extent, our existence is framed by the kinds of light that illuminate it. The work/life balance is really a sunlight/electricity balance. Half our waking hours are framed by sunlight, the other half by electric lighting.

If the medium is the message, the message of sunlight is survival and work. Despite emerging lore around hacker all-nighters and owl-work, we are not a nocturnal species, or anywhere close to becoming one. We conduct our affairs in the harsh and unforgiving light of the sun. Sunlight is much too valuable to waste on non-essentials, so it is a light that keeps our mind on practical details. Even apparent leisure activities have a plugged-in-and-present quality to them, with a clearly definable value proposition that can be linked to survival. We save our slow strolls for sunrises and sunsets. Exercise in broad daylight is vigorous and energetic; for health.

The message of electricity-powered evenings on the other hand, is one of active and practical reflection, of learning from our own lives and the lives of others, through television and the Internet in particular. We review our own game-tapes, in solitude or in conversation. We take in and discuss news of distant wars and local traffic accidents, integrating them into the backdrop of our own stories.

Where work leaks into the night, it tends to be the heroic component. Programming or writing sessions driven by the steady energy of flow conditions. Or heavy-lift efforts to conquer piled-up mountains of tax paperwork. The banalities of life — calling customer support, going to the post office, holding meetings — those are for sunlight hours.

But candlelight hours enforced by blackouts are neither sunlit nor electrically lit. Candlelight is a light of disconnection and isolation; of forced intimacy and reflections easily avoided at other times. Of forced sensory presence in the here-now, rather than a sought-out and self-imposed retreat from life.

It is the difference being wanting to learn to swim and being dumped unceremoniously into the deep end. For adults unused to radical disconnection, candlelight can bring forth more lurking horrors than the supernatural imaginings of children.

Such people, unable to handle ascetic slowness for even a couple of hours, buy generators."



"I learned recently that our ancestors did not sleep as we did. Before street-lighting (first oil and gas, then electric) became common in the 1800s, apparently humans tended to sleep in two sessions, eight hours spread across two sessions within a twelve hour period between sunset and sunrise. Between first and second sleep, people apparently lived a third life that was distinct from the work of daylight between dawn and dusk, and the life of evenings until first bed-time.

I suspect the period between first and second sleep was something like what we experience today during blackouts. The link above mentions several interesting things about the period, and references a few books I plan to read."



"Stillness is the third space between spaces of action and reflection. A space that vanishes if life becomes too frictionless and reliably provisioned."



"Stillness is the other side of sacredness, the experience and contemplation of transience, letting go and irreversible loss. The practice of accommodating emptiness. In the presence of the demons who represent the work of our lives that must be done before we are done."



"There is a new kind of stillness creeping back into our lives. The dim glow of smartphone screens is more like candle light than electricity or sunlight. It is a warm bubble of connected hyper-intimacy we carry around with us through both days and evenings.

Sometimes, when I look up from my smartphone and unplug momentarily from Facebook and Twitter, I get the same sense of unreal other-worldliness that I used to get looking out at the urban landscape of a blackout.

Darkness is a relative thing after all. Even the brightest-lit scene seems dark when you become sensitized to what you’re not seeing. Walking about, glancing up from the small screen, I realize that I am surrounded by darkness. People whose lives are opaque to me. Trees I know nothing about until I try to identify them on Wikipedia. Docked ships with invisible stories attached, which I cannot see unless I look up a ship-tracking site. And somewhere in the universe of unexplored information, lurking demons of our digital selves who can wander invisibly even in the brightest sunlight, stewards of debts we did not know we were accumulating.

The demons of our smartphone lights are perhaps more powerful than the demons of candle light. Because until recently, we weren’t even aware they existed.

Now we do. We know they’re out there. We know they represent unrecognized debts to ourselves. More work-of-life items for our to-do lists. And that, I suppose, is what makes the age of the Internet a new kind of enlightenment.

The light of smartphones is a weak one today. It is not always on or all-powerful in relation to the universe of digital information, the way electric lighting is in relation to physical darkness. Using a smartphone feels like using a flashlight during a blackout. I often hop back and forth between offline and online worlds, googling birds and ships I spot, restaurants I walk by. Soon, I suppose, I’ll learn more about people I see through my AR glasses, whenever those become cheap enough for me to buy. Those will perhaps be the electric bulbs of our time, replacing the smartphone candles we stumble about with today.

Much of the darkness being lifted today only reveals a world of new banalities. But hidden among those there are new debts to fill moments of stillness.

When augmented reality finally hits our world in earnest, another layer of darkness will be peeled away. Demons that lurk today in the darkness of smartphone-level connectedness will retreat.

And we will come to cherish newer kinds of unexpected and unscheduled darkness."
death  darkness  light  venkateshrao  2014  candlelight  history  energy  electricity  sleep  community  technology  stillness  blackouts  consciousness  slow 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Workalong: Critical Design / Design Fiction lecture finally written up. (loooooong)
[A very thorough catalog of "design fiction" examples]

"So futures. Design fiction, critical design, speculative design and all that stuff tends to be based in the future, or a futures, or futures. Why? Because it's a fertile playground and fair game. We're open to the suggestion of future images. It's how advertising works. It's evocative, it compounds hopes and fears and it's malleable. Most work isn't about the future, it's about now, but you can explode the now into the future to make it much more visible and understandable.

The archetypal quote. [WILLIAM GIBSON] This is one of the cornerstones of futures work. Somewhere, someone else has your future, and right now, your iPhone is someone else's future.We have to understand there's no kind of absolute rule for 'the' future. There is no 'the' future. There's just a bubbling and propagating mess of technologies and hopes and fears that sometimes arrange themselves into 'a' future.

So this is kind of where you aim at when thinking about the future. This is the futures cone, another one of those tools or symbols that comes up and over and over again. Uncertainty tells us that the future opens up to possibilities. The Google Glass future vision sits in that green preferable part but is unlikely to happen. Where it becomes interesting is exploring some of those wild cards that sit right on the outside. You lend that perspective to people and you can blow their minds. 'Hey there's this new technology and they say it'll do this, but what if it did this instead.'"



"Right, so this is the end and I want to leave you with some questions that I don't have answers to, having seen all of that stuff.

First up, 'Yes, but is it art?' Most of the projects I showed end up in a gallery. They're not sold in shops or made into real products, so how is this not art? There are cleverer people than I that could answer that question. I believe on some fundamental level that it's design because it uses the language of design to try and attract an audience. Because like I said earlier, it rearranges existing phenomena we can understand to give them new meaning and because it's for other people, not for the creator.

Secondly 'What if? ... Then what?' Critical design poses difficult questions and forces us to confront them, but then what? Once we have the questions and we have the provocation how do we deal with it, individually and societally? I don't know, I'm trying to figure that out.

'How do you measure success?' A question that is coming up more and more. You can measure the success of a normal design project by it's kickstarter funding or by units sold, but here we're not selling units or launching startups, we're trying to get people to deal with difficult things so how do you measure if that works? Well, there's a good spread of projects that get a lot of media attention so I guess that's a success, but is it enough?"
tobiasrevell  designfiction  speculativefiction  criticaldesign  design  futurism  2013  fionaraby  hertziantales  robots  superstudio  williamgibson  bigdog  saschapohflepp  goldeninstitute  power  normalcy  venkateshrao  anabjain  superflux  nickfoster  brucesterling  stanleykubrick  childrenofmen  diegetics  diegeticdesign  davidkirby  revitalcohen  prophecyprogram  stanleymilgram  phillippronnenburg  jamesbridle  berg  berglondon  littleprinter  newaesthetic  liamyoung  vincentfournier  josephpopper  larissasansour  peckhamouterspaceinitiative  cristinademiddel  hefinjones  welshspaceprogram  materials  3dprinting  markuskayser  thomasthwaites  toasterproject  jeremyhutchinson  cohenvanbalen  stelarc  choykafai  sputniko  agathahaines  unnaturalhistory  aihasegawa  synthetics  georgetremmel  shihofukuhara  art  canon  davidbenque  geopolitics  yosukeushigome  zoepapadopoulou  stacktivism  julianoliver  dunne&raby  anthonydunne  posthumanism 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Design for the New Normal (Revisited) | superflux
"I was invited to talk at the NEXT Conference in Berlin by Peter Bihr, as he felt that a talk I gave last year would fit well with the conference's theme Here Be Dragons: "We fret about data, who is collecting it and why. We fret about privacy and security. We worry and fear disruption, which changes business models and renders old business to ashes. Some would have us walk away, steer clear of these risks. They’re dangerous, we don’t know what the consequences will be. Maintain the status quo, don’t change too much.Here and now is safe. Over there, in the future? Well, there be dragons."

This sounded like a good platform to expand upon the 'Design for the New Normal' presentation I gave earlier, especially as its an area Jon and I are thinking about in the context of various ongoing projects. So here it is, once again an accelerated slideshow (70 slides!) where I followed up on some of the stories to see what happened to them in the last six months, and developed some of the ideas further. This continues to be a work-in-progress that Superflux is developing as part of our current projects. "

[Video: http://nextberlin.eu/2013/07/design-for-the-new-normal-3/ ]
anabjain  2013  drones  weapons  manufacturing  3dprinting  bioengineering  droneproject  biotechnology  biotech  biobricks  songhojun  ossi  zemaraielali  empowerment  technology  technologicalempowerment  raspberrypi  hackerspaces  makerspaces  diy  biology  diybio  shapeways  replicators  tobiasrevell  globalvillageconstructionset  marcinjakubowski  crowdsourcing  cryptocurrencies  openideo  ideo  wickedproblems  darpa  innovation  india  afghanistan  jugaad  jugaadwarfare  warfare  war  syria  bitcoins  blackmarket  freicoin  litecoin  dna  dnadreams  bregtjevanderhaak  bgi  genomics  23andme  annewojcicki  genetics  scottsmith  superdensity  googleglass  chaos  complexity  uncertainty  thenewnormal  superflux  opensource  patents  subversion  design  jonardern  ux  marketing  venkateshrao  normalityfield  strangenow  syntheticbiology  healthcare  healthinsurance  insurance  law  economics  ip  arnoldmann  dynamicgenetics  insects  liamyoung  eleanorsaitta  shingtatchung  algorithms  superstition  bahavior  numerology  dunne&raby  augerloizeau  bionicrequiem  ericschmidt  privacy  adamharvey  makeu 
april 2013 by robertogreco
Demystification versus Understanding
"So in general, Russell was correct: when the experts disagree, the lay person had best reserve judgment.

But there is an exception to the rule. Expertise also comes with taking many basic things for granted. So when radical changes happen, sometimes it is the naive novice, wrestling with the basics, who ends up innocently asking the right questions. You can only re-examine foundational assumptions if they are not ingrained second nature for you.

Thinking like a novice: the Zen idea of “beginner’s mind” is really hard for an expert. Which is one reason disruptive changes are often triggered by relative outsiders and smart novices. But not so often as romantics like to think. I suspect “experts thinking like novices” happens more often than novices serendipitously asking the brilliant right questions."
judgement  questioning  askingquestions  thinking  beginner'smind  beginners  zen  bertrandrussell  priorities  expertise  disruption  disruptivechanges  learning  demystification  venkateshrao  2012  novices  experts  understanding  questionasking 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Rediscovering Literacy [Way too much here, quotes are from only the beginning]
"Literacy used to be a very subtle concept that meant linguistic sophistication. It used to denote a skill that could be developed to arbitrary levels of refinement through practice.  Literacy meant using mastery over language — both form and content — to sustain a relentless and increasingly sophisticated pursuit of greater meaning. It was about an appreciative, rather than instrumental use of language. Language as a means of seeing rather than as a means of doing…

The written form itself was merely a convenience…

Before Gutenberg, you demonstrated true literacy not by reading a text out aloud and taking down dictation accurately, but through exposition and condensation.

You were considered literate if you could take a classic verse and expound upon it at length (exposition) and take an ambiguous idea and distill its essence into a terse verbal composition (condensation)…

the fundamental learned behaviors that constitute literacy, not reading and writing…"

[Update: Adding the final portion to this bookmark]

"This might sound like engineering elitism, but I find that the only large classes of people who appear to actually think in clearly literate ways today are mathematicians and programmers. But they typically only do so in very narrow domains.

To learn to think with language, to become literate in the sense of linguistically sophisticated, you must work hard to unlearn everything built on the foundation of literacy-as-reading-and-writing.

Because modern education is not designed to produce literate people. It is designed to produce programmable people. And this programmability requires less real literacy with every passing year. Today, genuinely literate reading and writing are specialized arts. Increasingly, even narrowly instrumental read-write literacy is becoming unnecessary (computers can do both very well).

These are not stupid people. You only have to listen to a child delightedly reciting supercalifragilisticexpialidocious or indulging in other childish forms of word-play to realize that raw skill with language is a native capability in the human brain. It must be repressed by industrial education since it seeks natural expression.

So these are not stupid people. These are merely ordinary people who have been lobotomized via the consumerization of language, delivered via modern education.

We dimly realize that we have lost something. But appreciation for the sophistication of oral cultures mostly manifests itself as mindless reverence for traditional wisdom. We look back at the works of ancients and deep down, wonder if humans have gotten fundamentally stupider over the centuries.

We haven’t. We’ve just had some crucial meme-processing software removed from our brains.

Towards a Literacy Renaissance

This is one of the few subjects about which I am not a pessimist. I believe that something strange is happening. Genuine literacy is seeing a precarious rebirth.

The best of today’s tweets seem to rise above the level of mere bon mots (“gamification is the high-fructose corn syrup of user engagement”) and achieve some of the cryptic depth of esoteric verse forms of earlier ages.

The recombinant madness that is the fate of a new piece of Internet content, as it travels, has some of the characteristics of the deliberate forms of recombinant recitation practiced by oral culture.

The comments section of any half-decent blog is a meaning factory.

Sites like tvtropes.org are sustaining basic literacy skills.

The best of today’s stand-up comics are preserving ancient wordplay skills.

But something is still missing: the idea that literacy is a cultivable skill. That dense, terse thoughts are not just serendipitous finds on the discursive journeys of our brains, but the product of learnable exposition and condensation skills.

I suppose paying attention to these things, and actually attempting to work with archaic forms like maxims and aphorisms in 2012 is something of a quixotic undertaking. When you can store a terbayte of information (about 130,000 books, or about 50% larger than a typical local public library) on a single hard-disk words can seem cheap.

But try reading some La Rochefoucauld, or even late hold outs like Oliver Wendell Holmes and J. B. S. Haldane, and you begin to understand what literacy is really about. The cost of words is not the cost of storing them or distributing, but the cost of producing them. Words are cheap today because we put little effort into their production, not because we can store and transmit as much as we like.

It is as yet too early to declare a literacy renaissance, but one can hope."
production  jbshaldane  oliverwendellholmes  larochefoucauld  words  aphorisms  comprehension  jargon  wisdom  knowledge  banter  citation  correspondence  conversation  self-indulgence  technology  printing  web  content  composition  civilization  memorization  oralculture  creativedestruction  recitation  history  highculture  popculture  culture  internet  education  2012  gutenberg  text  understanding  condensation  exposition  literacy  communication  language  writing  reading  venkateshrao  unschooling  deschooling  moderneducation  schools 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Warren Ellis » How To See The Future [What? Not yet bookmarked?] [Purposely tagged 'boredome'.]
"Can you even consider being part of a culture that could go to space and then stopped?

If the future is dead, then today we must summon it and learn how to see it properly.

[more examples]

We live in the future. We live in the Science Fiction Condition, where we can see under atoms and across the world and across the methane lakes of Titan. …

Understand that our present time is the furthest thing from banality. Reality as we know it is exploding with novelty every day.

To be a futurist, in pursuit of improving reality, is not to have your face continually turned upstream, waiting for the future to come. To improve reality is to clearly see where you are, and then wonder how to make that better.

Act like you live in the Science Fiction Condition. Act like you can do magic and hold séances for the future and build a brightness control for the sky.

Act like you live in a place where you could walk into space if you wanted. Think big. And then make it better."

[Video now here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLTs4RXM3vE ]
boredom  boredome  spacetravel  jgballard  philipkdick  takealookaroundyou  appreciation  science  sciencefictioncondition  rearviewmirror  space  nasa  voyager  voyager1  vintage  vintagespace  magic  weliveinamazingtimes  perspective  atemporality  iphone  googlegloves  googleglass  manufacturednormalcy  venkateshrao  reality  marshallmcluhan  noticing  hereandnow  now  lookaround  futurism  sciencefiction  2012  scifi  technology  future  warrenellis 
september 2012 by robertogreco
How Do You Run Away from Home?
"For some people, psychological home has clearly moved online. I recall an op-ed somewhere several years ago, comparing cellphones to pacifiers. Appropriate, if they represent a connection to psychological ‘home.’ Putting your phone away is like suddenly being teleported away from home to a strange new place.

For others, the three R’s still dominate the idea of home. Online life is not satisfying for these people. I think this segment will shrink, just as the number of people who are attached to paper books is shrinking.

For a speculative third category, we have the sitcom-ish idea of interchangeable people in roles. I am not sure this category is real yet. I see some evidence for it in my own life, but it is not compelling.

But for a fourth category of people, the need for a psychological home itself is reduced. A utilitarian home is enough. The getting away drive has irreversibly altered psychology."
psychogeography  2012  davidgraeber  gettingaway  thirdculture  runningaway  interchangability  offline  internet  web  digital  online  belonging  culture  anarchism  existentialism  libertarianism  francisfukuyama  robertsapolsky  psychology  history  place  homes  home  rootedness  identity  individualism  venkateshrao  from delicious
april 2012 by robertogreco
From Social Business To Superlinear Corporation - The BrainYard - InformationWeek
"…Cities are superlinear; corporations are sublinear…as they [cities] grow bigger, get more productive, creative, energy-efficient, & generally better by just about every interesting metric. Corporations…get less productive, less creative, more wasteful, & generally worse in every way.

Makes intuitive sense, doesn't it? Creative, energetic young people want to live in big cities, but want to work in small companies.

On the macro-scale, this means cities are effectively immortal, while corporations (like humans) are mortal… [and] their lifespan has been falling rapidly…

My theory is straightforward: Cities are open; corporations are closed. People can move into and out of cities freely and basically do whatever they want so long as they can pay the cost of living. So people naturally leave cities that don't work for them and flood into cities that do. This makes cities self-renewing and self-organizing."
lcproject  creativity  bureaucracy  vitality  sustainability  growth  sublinearity  superlinearity  halflifeofcorporations  corporations  deschooling  unschooling  freedom  closedsystems  opensystems  geoffreywest  mortality  scalability  toshare  2011  venkateshrao  cities  scale 
january 2012 by robertogreco
On Going Feral
"Cloudworker lifestyles…create a psychological transformation that is very similar to what happens when animals go feral. In animals, it takes a couple of generations of breeding for the true wild nature to re-emerge…But in humans it can happen faster, since most of our domestication is through education & socialization rather than breeding.

You might think that the true tabby-mutt human must live outside the financial system…that’s actually a mistaken notion, because that sort of officially checked-out  or actively nihilistic person is defined & motivated by the structure of human civilization. To rebel is to be defined by what you rebel against. Criminals & anarchists are civilized creatures. Feral populations are agnostic, rather than either dependent on, or self-consciously independent of, codified social structures. Feral cloudworkers use social structures where it accidentally works for them…and improvise ad-hoc self-support structures for the rest of their needs."
mobile  cloudworkers  cloudworking  venkateshrao  2009  feral  mutts  cv  society  socialization  deschooling  unschooling  illegiblepeople  illegibles  domestication  lordoftheflies  anarchism  anarchy  conformity  lifestyle  work  thirdplaces  introverts  neo-nomads  nomadism  nomads  telecommuting  labor  thirdspaces  from delicious
august 2011 by robertogreco
A Big Little Idea Called Legibility
"The Authoritarian High-Modernist Recipe for Failure…

• Look at a complex and confusing reality, such as the social dynamics of an old city
• Fail to understand all the subtleties of how the complex reality works
• Attribute that failure to the irrationality of what you are looking at, rather than your own limitations
• Come up with an idealized blank-slate vision of what that reality ought to look like
• Argue that the relative simplicity and platonic orderliness of the vision represents rationality
• Use authoritarian power to impose that vision, by demolishing the old reality if necessary
• Watch your rational Utopia fail horribly

Central to Scott’s thesis is the idea of legibility. He explains how he stumbled across the idea while researching efforts by nation states to settle or “sedentarize” nomads, pastoralists, gypsies and other peoples living non-mainstream lives…"
politics  history  philosophy  problemsolving  imperialism  colonialism  jamescscott  design  architecture  urbanplanning  urbanism  nomads  nomadism  gypsies  pastoralists  mainstream  radicals  radicalism  2011  venkateshrao  legibility  illegiblepeople  illegibles  stevenjohnson  patternmaking  patterns  patternrecognition  complexity  unschooling  deschooling  utopianthinking  india  high-modenism  lecorbusier  forests  brasilia  bauhaus  control  decolonization  power  nicholasdirks  rome  edwardgibbon  civilization  authoritarianism  authoritarianhigh-modernism  elephantpaths  desirelines  anarchism  organizations  illegibility  highmodernism  utopia  governance  simplification  measurement  quantification  brasília  from delicious
august 2011 by robertogreco
On Being an Illegible Person
"For the nomad, the question of why you are temporarily somewhere is simply ill-posed. It’s like asking a settled person, “why aren’t you moving?” For the nomad, a period of rootedness is unstable, like travel for the rooted…a disturbed equilibrium that requires explanation. An explanation of non-movement, & eventual resumption of movement, are required…

It is not inconceivable that the world could be arranged to provide all these in a way that supports both rootedness & nomadism.…it is becoming easier every year. I’d like to see trains getting cheaper…health insurance becoming more portable…government identity documents becoming anchored to something other than physical addresses…executive suites and coworking spaces sprout up all over…

There is no necessary either-or between nomadism & rooted living. Technology has evolved to the point where the apparatus of the state should be able to accommodate illegible people w/out pinning them down."
neo-nomads  nomads  nomadism  venkateshrao  travel  rootedness  illegiblepeople  identity  movement  lifestyle  2011  from delicious
august 2011 by robertogreco
Venkatesh Rao's answer to How might we build an education system that is centered on creating rather than replicating knowledge? - Quora
"The short answer to your question is that to create MORE and BETTER knowledge, paradoxically, we need to TRY to create FAR LESS."

"It's too late for you and me. But if we want the giants to return, we have to do one single, simple, and incredibly important thing:

We have to deprofessionalize discovery, and return it to amateur status.

Paradoxically, to get back to "giant-driven" discovery, we have to focus on teaching and preservation.

We have to turn off entirely, or significantly reduce, the cocaine of indirect cost support that flows through the veins of research universities.

Grow thinkers, not buildings.

Let institution builders get back to doing their own damn fund-raising, instead of leeching off thinkers and knowledge creators through what is in effect, predatory taxation that enslaves them."

[via: http://twitter.comsebpaquet/status/26705003276140544 ]
institutions  highered  education  highereducation  learning  making  organizations  organizationalinertia  middlemanagement  waste  inefficiency  fundraising  gamechanging  small  lcproject  discovery  innovation  creativity  teaching  tcsnmy  cv  obsolescence  venkateshrao  from delicious
january 2011 by robertogreco

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