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robertogreco : scenius   12

Small groups and consultancy and coffee mornings ( 7 Oct., 2015, at Interconnected)
"One permanent pattern in our workshop culture:
Best design consultancy tip I know: Don't criticise without offering something better. Called the Ahtisaari Manoeuvre after an early client


Always have something on the table.

Another: Always use fat pens.

Another: It's important to have the right people in the room -- representing knowledge of technical possibilities, business needs, and market insights. But at the same time, the ideal number of people to have in the room is five or six. Any more than that, you can't continue a single conversation without it turning into a presentation.

Another: The one who understands the client's business best is the client."



"There are a couple of things I'm investigating:

1. That a small group is a powerful way of thinking, and of creating action. That repetition matters, and informality.

2. It might be possible to help with strategy without providing original thought or even active facilitation: To consult without consulting. The answers and even ways of working are inherent in the group itself.

My hunch is this: To answer a business's strategic questions, which will intrinsically involve changing that business, a more permanent solution than a visiting consultant might be to convene a small group, and spend time with it, chatting informally."




"Once a week we get together -- a half dozen students, often Durrell, whoever is teaching the course with him which was Stuart before and Oscar now, plus a special guest.

It's just for coffee somewhere or other, on Friday mornings, and we chat. It's super casual, sharing ideas and references, talking about the brief and design in general.

I'm curious about informality.

The lunchtimes at BERG, everyone around the table with such a broad range of skills and interests... and after Friday Demos - part of the weekly rhythm - the sparked conversations and the on-topic but off-topic sharing... this is where ideas happen too. Between projects but not outside them.

And I think informality as part of the design process is under-communicated, at least where I've been listening. So much work is done like that. The students are great at speaking about their work, sure. But mainly I'm interesting in how we induct someone into a worldview, quickly; how we explain ideas and then listen carefully for feedback, accepting ideas back -- all conversationally, without (and this is the purpose of the special guest) it turning into a seminar or a crit.

I think the best way to communicate this "lunch table" work informality is to rehearse it, to experience it. Which is what the coffee mornings are about.

I try to make sure everyone speaks, and I ask questions to see if I can encourage the removal of lazy abstraction -- words that get in the way of thinking about what's really going on. I'm a participant-observer.

Tbh I'm not sure what to call this. Visiting convener? It's not an official role.

I think (I hope!) everyone is getting something out of the experience, and everyone is becoming more their own kind of designer because of it, and meanwhile I get to explore and experience a small group. A roughly consistent membership, a roughly regular meeting time, an absence of purpose, or rather a purpose that the group is allowed to negotiate at a place within itself.

~

These RCA coffee mornings grew out of my experiment with hardware-ish coffee mornings, a semi-irregular meetup in London having a vague "making things" skew... Internet of Things, hardware startups, knitting, the future of manufacturing and distribution, a morning off work. That sort of thing. People chat, people bring prototypes. There's no single conversation, and only rarely do we do introductions. This invite to a meet in January also lists my principles:

• Space beats structure
• Informality wins
• Convening not chairing
• Bonfires not fireworks

I've been trying to build a street corner, a place to cultivate serendipity and thoughts. Not an event with speakers, there are already several really good ones."



"My setup was that I believed the answer to the issue would come from the group, that they knew more about their business than me.

Which was true. But I also observed that the purpose of the business had recently changed, and while it could be seen by the CEO that the current approach to this design problem wasn't satisfying, there was no way for the group to come together to think about it, and answer it together. Previously they had represented different strands of development within the startup. Now the company was moving to having a new, singular, measurable goal.

So I started seeing the convened discussions as rehearsing a new constellation of the team members and how they used one-another for thinking, and conscious and unconscious decision making. The group meetings would incubate a new way to think together. Do it enough, point out what works, and habits might form.

~

Consulting without consulting."



"I'm not entirely sure where to take these experiments. I'm learning a lot from various coffee mornings, so I'll carry on with those.

I had some conversations earlier in the year about whether it would be possible to act as a creative director, only via regular breakfast conversations, and helping the group self-direct. Dunno. Or maybe there's a way to build a new division in a company. Maybe what I'm actually talking about is board meetings -- I've been a trustee to Startup Weekend Europe for a couple of years, and the quarterly meetings are light touch. But they don't have this small group aspect, it might be that they haven't been as effective as they could be.

There might be something with the street corners and serendipity pattern... When I was doing that three month gig with the government earlier this year, it felt like the people in the civil service - as a whole - had all the knowledge and skills to take advantage of Internet of Things technologies, to deliver services faster and better. But often the knowledge and opportunities weren't meeting up. Maybe an in-person, regular space could help with that.

At a minimum, if I'm learning how to help companies and friends with startups in a useful way that doesn't involve delivering more darn Powerpoint for the meat grinder: Job done.

But perhaps what's happening is I'm teaching myself how to do something else entirely, and I haven't figured out what that is yet.

~

Some art. Some software."
mattwebb  small  groups  groupsize  2015  collaboration  consulting  vonnegut  kurtvonnegut  organization  howwewrite  writing  meaningmaking  patternrecognition  stevenjohnson  devonthink  groupdynamics  psychology  wilfredbion  dependency  pairing  serendipity  trickster  doublebinds  informality  informal  coffeemornings  meetings  crosspollination  conversation  facilitation  catalysts  scenius  experienceingroups 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Filtered for top-notch long reads ( 5 Dec., 2014, at Interconnected)
"1.

This well-illustrated piece on Chinese Mobile UI trends [http://dangrover.com/blog/2014/12/01/chinese-mobile-app-ui-trends.html ] is full of great nuggets.

My favourite is that companies have adopted automated "chat" as their official public face. Each brand is a bot that runs inside one of the several apps that users in China have instead of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. How it works:
You can send any kind of message (text, image, voice, etc), and [the bot will] reply, either in an automated fashion or by routing it to a human somewhere. The interface is exactly the same as for chatting with your friends, save for one difference: it has menus at the bottom with shortcuts to the main features of the account.

A couple more features:
Other than that, every feature you can use in a normal chat is available here. WeChat even auto-transcribes the voice messages (mentioned before) into text before passing them to the third-party server running the account. Official accounts can also push news updates to their subscribers. Every media outlet operates one ...

I'm into this, I'm into this. Our western way for interacting with companies (assuming the shitty voice menu things are wildly out-dated) is websites, which we browse. But instead of browsing, a conversation?

So... cultural difference between China and the west, or just one of those forks in the road? Or a glimpse of the future?

2.

Hooked on Labs [http://thelongandshort.org/issues/season-two/hooked-on-labs.html ] (thanks Iain) draws a line between the practice of Robert Hooke in the 1660s and the modern trend for companies to have "labs."
Labs are places where people conduct experiments to test out theories. The new labs proliferating outside the hard sciences are a symptom of the spread of experimentalism as an ideology for how we should shape the future. Curiosity is at the core of experimentalist culture: it holds that knowledge should develop by being testable and therefore provisional ...

I like that the answer to "how should we invent?" can be not a process but a location. Other answers might be "a studio," and "the field," both of which suggest a variety of processes and practices without being pinned down.

I guess my recent preoccupation with coffee mornings is about the same thing. Can the "coffee morning" as a place, with all its informality (which I am desperate to preserve), be a way to dowse the scenius, to allow invention to occur without process?

Also coffee.

And this bit:
One vital source of this conversational approach to science was Copenhagen and the culture that Niels Bohr created around his institute for theoretical physics and his nearby home.

...which reminds me of this terrific story about the development of the theory of electron spin and how it came together as Bohr travelled across Europe by train.

At the beginning of the trip:
Bohr's train to Leiden made a stop in Hamburg, where he was met by Pauli and Stern who had come to the station to ask him what he thought about spin. Bohr must have said that it was very very interesting (his favorite way of expressing that something was wrong), but he could not see how an electron moving in the electric field of the nucleus could experience the magnetic field necessary for producing fine structure.

And as Bohr travels from town to town, he meets scientists, hears arguments, develops his view, and carries information. Great story.

I think of the interactions between scientists as the hidden particles that don't show up in the traces of a cloud chamber. They're there, busy - multiple - far denser and richer and messier than the clean interactions of the citations in scientific papers or at conferences - the invisible trillions of forks that are left out of Feynman diagrams. Those interactions are what really matter, and their stories are the most interesting of all."
mattwebb  2014  china  chinese  interface  input  chat  communication  internet  web  online  browsing  conversation  wechat  labs  openstudioproject  charlesleadbeater  nielsbohr  experiments  experimentation  experimentalism  curiosity  classideas  invention  place  studios  lcproject  informal  informallearning  informality  scenius  process  howwelearn  messiness  interaction  culture  difference  frontiers  us 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Sasha Frere-Jones: Brian Eno’s Quiet Influence : The New Yorker
"In January, 1975, the musician Brian Eno and the painter Peter Schmidt released a set of flash cards they called “Oblique Strategies.” Friends since meeting at art school, in the late sixties, they had long shared guidelines that could pry apart an intellectual logjam, providing options when they couldn’t figure out how to move forward. The first edition consisted of a hundred and fifteen cards. They were black on one side with an aphorism or an instruction printed on the reverse. Eno’s first rule was “Honour thy error as a hidden intention.” Others included “Use non-musicians” and “Tape your mouth.” In “Brian Eno: Visual Music,” a monograph of his musical projects and visual art, Eno, who still uses the rules, says, “ ‘Oblique Strategies’ evolved from me being in a number of working situations when the panic of the situation—particularly in studios—tended to make me quickly forget that there were other ways of working and that there were tangential ways of attacking problems that were in many senses more interesting than the direct head-on approach.”

Eno is widely known for coining the term “ambient music,” and he produced a clutch of critically revered albums in the nineteen-seventies and eighties—by the Talking Heads, David Bowie, and U2, among others—but if I had to choose his greatest contribution to popular music it would be the idea that musicians do their best work when they have no idea what they’re doing. As he told Keyboard, in 1981, “Any constraint is part of the skeleton that you build the composition on—including your own incompetence.” The genius of Eno is in removing the idea of genius. His work is rooted in the power of collaboration within systems: instructions, rules, and self-imposed limits. His methods are a rebuke to the assumption that a project can be powered by one person’s intent, or that intent is even worth worrying about. To this end, Eno has come up with words like “scenius,” which describes the power generated by a group of artists who gather in one place at one time. (“Genius is individual, scenius is communal,” Eno told the Guardian, in 2010.) It suggests that the quality of works produced in a certain time and place is more indebted to the friction between the people on hand than to the work of any single artist.

The growing influence of this idea, ironically, makes it difficult to see clearly Eno’s distinct contributions to music—his catalogue of recordings doesn’t completely contain his contribution to the pop canon. When someone lies on the studio floor and sings at a microphone five feet away, Eno is in the air. When a band records three hours of improvisation and then loops a four-second excerpt of the audiotape and scraps the rest, Eno has a hand on the razor blade. When everybody except for the engineer is told to go home, Eno remains. Behind Eno stand John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, and Erik Satie, but those guys didn’t make pop records.

It feels odd to call Eno’s new album, “High Life,” released this week, a collaboration. Credited to Eno and Karl Hyde, of the electronic duo Underworld, “High Life” is indeed the work of several people. But deciding that any one project of Eno’s is a collaboration seems off, because collaboration is Eno’s primary mode. Eno’s first recorded work was the sound of a pen hitting a lamp. Who deserves credit for that—Eno, the pen, or the lamp?"



"What became increasingly clear in the seventies was that Eno’s embrace of possibility and chance wasn’t as free-form as it seemed—it was a specific aesthetic. His name shows up on very few records you would describe as hard or aggressive, and his love of the perverse has never been rooted in hostility. Eno fights against received wisdom and habit, but rarely against the listener.

In fact, as Eno found more ways for technology to carry out his beloved generative rules, his music became less and less like rock music and closer to a soundtrack for meditation. The same year that he released “Another Green World,” he also put out “Discreet Music.” The A side was a thirty-minute piece that was written as much by machines as by Eno. In the liner notes, Eno wrote, “If there is any score for the piece, it must be the operational diagram of the particular apparatus I used for its production. . . . Having set up this apparatus, my degree of participation in what it subsequently did was limited to (a) providing an input (in this case, two simple and mutually compatible melodic lines of different duration stored on a digital recall system) and (b) occasionally altering the timbre of the synthesizer’s output by means of a graphic equalizer.”

The result is an area of sound without borders or time signature. There is no rhythm track, just layers of monody, lines programmed into a synthesizer and playing over each other. It is hypnotic, and fights your attempts to focus on it. In 1978, he started to use the term “ambient music”: the concept stretched back to describe “Discreet Music” and the work of earlier composers, like Satie, who coined the term “furniture music,” for compositions that would be more functional than expressive. In the liner notes of “Ambient 1: Music for Airports” (1978), Eno wrote, “Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.”

But “Music for Airports” was not nearly as docile as Eno wanted it to be. Though the music is gentle enough to be background music, it is too vocal in character and too melodic to be forgotten that easily. I can recall entire sequences without much difficulty. As much as Eno wanted his music to recede, and as potent as the idea was, he failed by succeeding: the album is too beautiful to ignore. But, in some ways, history and technology have accomplished what Eno did not. With the disappearance of the central home stereo, and the rise of earbuds, MP3s, and the mobile, around-the-clock work cycle, music is now used, more often than not, as background music. Aggressive music can now be as forgettable as ambient music."



"“I have a trick that I used in my studio, because I have these twenty-eight-hundred-odd pieces of unreleased music, and I have them all stored in iTunes,” Eno said during his talk at Red Bull. “When I’m cleaning up the studio, which I do quite often—and it’s quite a big studio—I just have it playing on random shuffle. And so, suddenly, I hear something and often I can’t even remember doing it. Or I have a very vague memory of it, because a lot of these pieces, they’re just something I started at half past eight one evening and then finished at quarter past ten, gave some kind of funny name to that doesn’t describe anything, and then completely forgot about, and then, years later, on the random shuffle, this thing comes up, and I think, Wow, I didn’t hear it when I was doing it. And I think that often happens—we don’t actually hear what we’re doing. . . . I often find pieces and I think, This is genius. Which me did that? Who was the me that did that?”"
2014  brianeno  sashafrere-jones  music  johncage  marcelduchamp  eriksatie  scenius  collaboration  notknowing  uncertainty  constraints  rules  obliquestrategies  art  process  howwework  happenings  bryanferry  improvisation  generative  possibility  chance  genius 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Brian Eno’s Diary: A Year With Swollen... - Austin Kleon
"Art is about scenius, not genius.

Eno rails against what he calls the “Big Man” theory of history, “where events are changed by the occasional brilliant or terrible man, working in heroic isolation.” Instead Eno believes that the world is “a cooperative enterprise,” “constantly being remade by all its inhabitants.”
The reality of how culture and ideas evolve is much closer to the one we as pop musicians are liable to accept — a continuous toing and froing of ideas and imitations and misconstruals, of things becoming thinkable because they are suddenly technically possible, of action and reaction, than the traditional fine-art model which posits an inspired individual sorting it all out for himself and then delivering it unto a largely uncomprehending and ungrateful world.

Art is not an object, but a trigger for experience.
Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences (Roy Ascott’s phrase). That solves a lot of problems: we don’t have to argue about whether photographs are art, or whether performances are art, or whether Carl Andre’s bricks or Andres Serranos’s piss or little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’ are art, because we say, ‘Art is something that happens, a process, not a quality, and all sorts of things can make it happen.’ (…_ Suppose you redescribe the job ‘artist’ as ‘a person who creates situations in which you can have art experiences’.

“Try to make things that can become better in other people’s minds than they were in yours.”

Eno rejects the term “interactive,” and suggests “unfinished” instead. He suggests that new culture-makers will move away from providing “pure, complete experiences to providing the platforms from which people then fashion their own experiences.”
Once we get used to the idea that we are no longer consumers of ‘finished’ works, but that we are people who engage in conversations and interactions with things, we find ourselves leaving a world of ‘know your own station’ passivity and we start to develop a taste for active engagement. We stop regarding things as fixed and unchangeable, as preordained, and we increasingly find ourselves practising the idea that we have some control. Most importantly, perhaps, we might start to think the same way about ourselves: that we are unfinished (and unfinishable) beings whose task is constantly to re-examine and remix our ideas and our identities.

Art is where we go to become our best selves.
What a bastard Beethoven sounds — arrogant, paranoid, disagreeable. Why am I still surprised when people turn out to be not at all like their work? A suspicion of the idea that art is the place where you become what you’d like to be… rather than what you already are…

Stop obsessing over all the possible journeys you could take, and just start off on one.

Over and over, Eno expresses a desire for less choices in the process of art-making, not more. ”Less exploring of all the possible journeys you could make; more determination to take one journey (even if the choice of it is initially rather arbitrary) and make it take you somewhere.“
My ideal is probably based on the story I heard years ago of how the Japanese calligraphers used to work — a whole day spent grinding inks and preparing brushes and paper, and then, as the sun begins to go down, a single burst of fast and inspired action.
That cultural image — which you find throughout Japanese culture from Sumo to Sushi — is very interesting and quite different from ours. We admire people who stick at it doggedly and evenly (I also admire them) and put in the right amount of hours. But more and more I want to try that Japanese model: to get everything in place (including your mind, of course) first, and then to just give yourself one chance. It seems thrilling.

“If you don’t call it art, you’re likely to get a better result.”

Eno says, “people do much better when they don’t think they’re being artists,” and when they do think decide they’re being artists, they “suddenly turn out crap.”
Oldenburg’s earlier stuff — before he knew what he was doing — looked best. So often the case that people work best when they are stretching out over an abyss of ignorance, hanging on to a thin branch of “what-is-still-possible”, tantalized by the future.
"
brianeno  austinkleon  objects  art  experience  process  glvo  unfinished  interactive  royascott  culture  scenius  genius  andresserrano 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Design for the New Normal | superflux
"How do you operate as a design company when your competitor is an open source community of hackers - selling 3d printed objects from virtual environments like Minecraft for a profit?…

How can designers explore the potential of these new challenges?

I dont have all the answers, but I can show a quick glimpse of some strategies that we’ve been exploring to work with these challenges at our design studio Superflux.

For starters, can the design studio be less of hierarchial monolith and more of a decentralized organism that has eyes and ears everywhere that people touch the company? Whether they are employees, partners, customers or suppliers? Through these wider networks of interdisciplinary collaborators we are attempting to cultivate the 'scenius', a term create by Brian Eno to refer not to the genius of a lone individual but that of collective intelligence.

Cultivating such a network has led us to work on a range of projects…"
interdisciplinarity  interdisciplinary  flatness  decentralization  hierarchy  hierarchies  songhojun  ossi  hackers  hacking  future  drones  reprap  collectiveintelligence  biohacking  3dprinting  opensource  collaboration  scenius  design  brianeno  2012  anajain  superflux  horizontality  horizontalidad  anabjain  thenewnormal 
october 2012 by robertogreco
Kevin Kelly and Steven Johnson on Where Ideas Come From | Magazine
"Kelly: It’s amazing that the myth of the lone genius has persisted for so long, since simultaneous invention has always been the norm, not the exception. Anthropologists have shown that the same inventions tended to crop up in prehistory at roughly similar times, in roughly the same order, among cultures on different continents that couldn’t possibly have contacted one another.

Johnson: Also, there’s a related myth—that innovation comes primarily from the profit motive, from the competitive pressures of a market society. If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.

Kelly: The musician Brian Eno invented a wonderful word to describe this phenomenon: scenius. We normally think of innovators as independent geniuses, but Eno’s point is that innovation comes from social scenes,from passionate and connected groups of people."
stevenjohnson  kevinkelly  innovation  ideas  history  technology  creativity  scenius  brianeno  networks  books  crosspollination  evolution  life 
october 2010 by robertogreco
Installed infrastructure, latent knowledge and the small-batch aesthetic « Adam Greenfield’s Speedbird
"Consider: over the last several years, San Francisco in particular has become a field of premium and super-premium, small-run craft production: Ice cream. Bicycles. Coffee. Spirits. Clothing. An audience primed to expect, desire and demand the provenance of the “lovingly handcrafted,” and pitch-perfect retail tuned to that demand. Especially for someone like me, whose senses have become inured to the increasingly homogenized material landscape of Manhattan, it’s hard to escape the sense that the last decade’s activity amounts to nothing less than a local renaissance of craft and technique and pride."
culture  diy  local  work  community  scenius  stuff  infrastructure  craft  adamgreenfield  sanfrancisco  glvo  make  tangible  economics  generations  premium 
september 2009 by robertogreco
girish: Brian Eno's Diary
"One of the reasons I'm attached to this idea is that it is capable of dignifying many more forms of human innovation under its umbrella than the old idea of genius, which exemplifies what I called the “Big Man” theory of history—where events are ch
brianeno  scenius  definitions  genius  innovation  invention  community 
june 2008 by robertogreco
Inklings - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"informal literary discussion group associated with the University of Oxford...between early 1930s & late 1949...regular members... J. R. R. "Tollers" Tolkien, C. S. "Jack" Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Christopher Tolkien (J. R. R. Tolkien's so
literature  history  authors  inklings  groups  learning  community  scenius 
june 2008 by robertogreco
Kevin Kelly -- The Technium - Scenius, or Communal Genius: "the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius."
"Scenius is like genius, only embedded in a scene rather than in genes. Brian Eno suggested the word to convey the extreme creativity that groups, places or "scenes" can occasionally generate." "When it happens, honor and protect it."
brianeno  kevinkelly  community  creativity  education  learning  lcproject  genius  culture  intelligence  organic  scenius  words  neologisms  collaboration  groups  art  environment  crowdsourcing 
june 2008 by robertogreco
cityofsound: “I come from Brisbane, I’m quite plain”* Cities have music scenes and that’s why ICT doesn't enable decentralisation
"the scene is usually a relatively short-lived concentration of artistic activity, but one that kick-starts or exemplifies some wider creative, and usually economic, actvity...numerous examples of transformative scenes from last few hundred years."
cities  music  ict  technology  richardflorida  cityofsound  creativity  creativeclass  neo-nomads  nomads  pervasive  internet  urban  urbanism  scenius 
june 2008 by robertogreco

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