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The Role of Luck in Life Success Is Far Greater Than We Realized - Scientific American Blog Network
"What does it take to succeed? What are the secrets of the most successful people? Judging by the popularity of magazines such as Success, Forbes, Inc., and Entrepreneur, there is no shortage of interest in these questions. There is a deep underlying assumption, however, that we can learn from them because it's their personal characteristics--such as talent, skill, mental toughness, hard work, tenacity, optimism, growth mindset, and emotional intelligence-- that got them where they are today. This assumption doesn't only underlie success magazines, but also how we distribute resources in society, from work opportunities to fame to government grants to public policy decisions. We tend to give out resources to those who have a past history of success, and tend to ignore those who have been unsuccessful, assuming that the most successful are also the most competent.

But is this assumption correct? I have spent my entire career studying the psychological characteristics that predict achievement and creativity. While I have found that a certain number of traits-- including passion, perseverance, imagination, intellectual curiosity, and openness to experience-- do significantly explain differences in success, I am often intrigued by just how much of the variance is often left unexplained.

In recent years, a number of studies and books--including those by risk analyst Nassim Taleb, investment strategist Michael Mauboussin, and economist Richard Frank-- have suggested that luck and opportunity may play a far greater role than we ever realized, across a number of fields, including financial trading, business, sports, art, music, literature, and science. Their argument is not that luck is everything; of course talent matters. Instead, the data suggests that we miss out on a really importance piece of the success picture if we only focus on personal characteristics in attempting to understand the determinants of success.

Consider some recent findings:

• About half of the differences in income across people worldwide is explained by their country of residence and by the income distribution within that country,
• Scientific impact is randomly distributed, with high productivity alone having a limited effect on the likelihood of high-impact work in a scientific career,
The chance of becoming a CEO is influenced by your name or month of birth,
• The number of CEOs born in June and July is much smaller than the number of CEOs born in other months,
• Those with last names earlier in the alphabet are more likely to receive tenure at top departments,
• The display of middle initials increases positive evaluations of people's intellectual capacities and achievements,
• People with easy to pronounce names are judged more positively than those with difficult-to-pronounce names,
• Females with masculine sounding names are more successful in legal careers.

The importance of the hidden dimension of luck raises an intriguing question: Are the most successful people mostly just the luckiest people in our society? If this were even a little bit true, then this would have some significant implications for how we distribute limited resources, and for the potential for the rich and successful to actually benefit society (versus benefiting themselves by getting even more rich and successful).

In an attempt to shed light on this heavy issue, the Italian physicists Alessandro Pluchino and Andrea Raspisarda teamed up with the Italian economist Alessio Biondo to make the first ever attempt to quantify the role of luck and talent in successful careers. In their prior work, they warned against a "naive meritocracy", in which people actually fail to give honors and rewards to the most competent people because of their underestimation of the role of randomness among the determinants of success. To formally capture this phenomenon, they proposed a "toy mathematical model" that simulated the evolution of careers of a collective population over a worklife of 40 years (from age 20-60).

The Italian researchers stuck a large number of hypothetical individuals ("agents") with different degrees of "talent" into a square world and let their lives unfold over the course of their entire worklife. They defined talent as whatever set of personal characteristics allow a person to exploit lucky opportunities (I've argued elsewhere that this is a reasonable definition of talent). Talent can include traits such as intelligence, skill, motivation, determination, creative thinking, emotional intelligence, etc. The key is that more talented people are going to be more likely to get the most 'bang for their buck' out of a given opportunity (see here for support of this assumption).

All agents began the simulation with the same level of success (10 "units"). Every 6 months, individuals were exposed to a certain number of lucky events (in green) and a certain amount of unlucky events (in red). Whenever a person encountered an unlucky event, their success was reduced in half, and whenever a person encountered a lucky event, their success doubled proportional to their talent (to reflect the real-world interaction between talent and opportunity).

What did they find? Well, first they replicated the well known "Pareto Principle", which predicts that a small number of people will end up achieving the success of most of the population (Richard Koch refers to it as the "80/20 principle"). In the final outcome of the 40-year simulation, while talent was normally distributed, success was not. The 20 most successful individuals held 44% of the total amount of success, while almost half of the population remained under 10 units of success (which was the initial starting condition). This is consistent with real-world data, although there is some suggestion that in the real world, wealth success is even more unevenly distributed, with just eight men owning the same wealth as the poorest half of the world.

[graphs]

Although such an unequal distribution may seem unfair, it might be justifiable if it turned out that the most successful people were indeed the most talented/competent. So what did the simulation find? On the one hand, talent wasn't irrelevant to success. In general, those with greater talent had a higher probability of increasing their success by exploiting the possibilities offered by luck. Also, the most successful agents were mostly at least average in talent. So talent mattered.

However, talent was definitely not sufficient because the most talented individuals were rarely the most successful. In general, mediocre-but-lucky people were much more successful than more-talented-but-unlucky individuals. The most successful agents tended to be those who were only slightly above average in talent but with a lot of luck in their lives.

Consider the evolution of success for the most successful person and the least successful person in one of their simulations:

[graphs]

As you can see, the highly successful person in green had a series of very lucky events in their life, whereas the least successful person in red (who was even more talented than the other person) had an unbearable number of unlucky events in their life. As the authors note, "even a great talent becomes useless against the fury of misfortune."

Talent loss is obviously unfortunate, to both the individual and to society. So what can be done so that those most capable of capitalizing on their opportunities are given the opportunities they most need to thrive? Let's turn to that next."



"This last finding is intriguing because it is consistent with other research suggesting that in complex social and economic contexts where chance is likely to play a role, strategies that incorporate randomness can perform better than strategies based on the "naively meritocratic" approach."



"Conclusion

The results of this elucidating simulation, which dovetail with a growing number of studies based on real-world data, strongly suggest that luck and opportunity play an underappreciated role in determining the final level of individual success. As the researchers point out, since rewards and resources are usually given to those who are already highly rewarded, this often causes a lack of opportunities for those who are most talented (i.e., have the greatest potential to actually benefit from the resources), and it doesn't take into account the important role of luck, which can emerge spontaneously throughout the creative process. The researchers argue that the following factors are all important in giving people more chances of success: a stimulating environment rich in opportunities, a good education, intensive training, and an efficient strategy for the distribution of funds and resources. They argue that at the macro-level of analysis, any policy that can influence these factors will result in greater collective progress and innovation for society (not to mention immense self-actualization of any particular individual)."
luck  meritocracy  2018  success  research  scottbarrykaufman  inequality  diversity  talent  serendipity  chance  society  misfortune  gender  race 
march 2018 by robertogreco
How to build a book: Notes from an editorial bricoleuse | HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory: Vol 7, No 3
"This piece offers an editor’s reflections on the ethos and craft of writing. General suggestions, words of encouragement, and detailed tips emerge through a discussion of unexpected affinities between writing and building. An annotated list of further readings accompanies the text.

Ce texte offre les réflexions d’une éditrice sur l’ethos et l’art de l’écriture. Des suggestions générales, des encouragements, et quelques conseils précis se dégagent d’une discussion sur les affinités inattendues entre l’écriture et la construction. Une liste annotée de lectures complémentaires accompagne ce texte."



"The inevitable risk in writing a document like this one is that authors will interpret my advice as an example of editorial fascism that is appeased only when others subsume their ambition to conformity. I would hate for that to be the lesson of this meditation (which is, in itself, something of an oddity).

Times change, architectural styles go through inevitable change and recombination, and books change too. No intelligent person would demand that every room conform perfectly to a single model or that every book do the same. Variation is one cornerstone of beauty. So, please, surprise me. But do so from a position of intimate understanding. Mastery of tradition, in writing as in other crafts, is the first condition for innovation."

[via: https://twitter.com/npseaver/status/944918352773951494

"Some nice, not obvious advice in this piece on writing academic books (aimed at anthro, but more broadly relevant), from @priyasnelson: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.14318/hau7.3.020 … (I especially like the “finding the center” metaphor.)

Not that anthropologists are unique snowflakes, but I wish we had more writing advice like this aimed at us particularly: we have some particular strengths and weaknesses that generic academic writing advice doesn’t appreciate."]
writing  editing  craft  2017  priyanelson  variation  conformity  innovation  citation  anthropology  srg  neologisms  socialsciences  academia  revision  publishing  serendipity  details  planning 
december 2017 by robertogreco
LMU Magazine: Jumping Time
"For some time, I’d been shadowing artists like Massenburg, people who were expert at reading possibility in a mere gesture and reacting in the moment. I had been cataloging what sort of creative benefit bloomed out from a chance encounter — a serendipitous discovery, an open path or fresh new sense of self. But now, with so much infrastructure upended, their facility to do so resonated even more. As life became increasingly difficult to parse when the planned-for scenarios evaporated — or simply didn’t arrive — so many were looking for not just comfort but real tools to find their own “what’s next.”

Chance and Serendipity

We want to map a plan — a life — that’s what both our conscience and the culture tells us; a life/plan that nudges us toward “success” and ultimately a precisely articulated and fully realized you. The trouble with this premise is that what we already know too often obstructs what we might come to know — if we’re open to it. That’s the juncture where chance lies — and where serendipity — and often the greatest possibility can step in.

We think we can outline a foolproof strategy, one that keeps us on track, moving forward, but things break, sever, snap and shatter all of the time. Plans fizzle, promises are broken, things fall apart. Both life and the language we use to describe our derailments and defeats tell us that.

Planning, however, doesn’t stave off the inevitable detours that present themselves: There are moments when patterns are broken for us, and moments when we choose to break them. What happens when we walk into that void, that open question, is the first step toward the unknown and where faith and chance can take us.

As a journalist who writes about people who make elegant, jaw-dropping leaps — creatives who ultimately conceive beyond-category art, music and food, or design vibrant community landscapes or networks — I see many who seem to share a key trait: the ability to pivot, to “see in the dark.” The darkness in this case is uncertainty: blind turns and difficult passages that we all must navigate at some point to find our way to the next phase, chapter, summit. Why, I wondered, are some better at the pivot than others? That facility begins with feeling comfortable in the space of the unknown.

Near the end of Pico Iyer’s slim, astute meditation titled “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere,” the essayist explores the importance of framing calamity: “It’s not our experiences that form us, but the way we respond to them; a hurricane sweeps through town reducing everything to rubble and one man sees it as liberation, a chance to start anew, while another, perhaps his brother, is traumatized for life.”

Iyer’s words reassured me that what we are handed is not just a measure of our mettle — how we move forward — but that the unexpected also can limit or enhance our life’s possibility. We choose.

I saw, much more clearly, that the stories I’d been assembling weren’t necessarily a catalog of successes. Rather the artists’ arcs I traced suggested that the real journey begins with instances others might categorize as dead-ends, failures, even tragedies: a deportation, a wife’s near-death experience, a diagnosis of a rare blindness. Instead of accepting an impasse, they understood a setback as a threshold, not an end, but a beginning. The ability to shake free from an outdated dream or shed a fixed desire — be it a job, a hunch or place in the world — and cultivate new inspirations is not a facility we often honor or celebrate. We should. Recalibrating — or, as one subject calls it, “bounce” — is critical to survival. Success, then, isn’t about achieving static goals or checking items off a list. It’s about mastery, acquiring insight and achieving breakthroughs.

We live in a moment of “vision boards” and Post-it affirmations — “See it. Be it.” But we forget that just as important as what we wish for ourselves is gleaning the insight that may seem beyond our imagination. That big life we crave, the one larger than we can conceive, is often the consequence of risk, misadventure and recovery. As one subject finally came to understand it: “Don’t look; leap. Trust the dark. Trust what you’ve cultivated inside.”

Jumping Time

In American roots music — jazz, blues, zydeco, bluegrass — there’s a term called “jumping time,” a moment that inevitably reveals itself on the bandstand. The singer perhaps forgets a verse, or the trumpet player, distracted, stumbles, barges in too soon, and the band must work together to pivot, restore order, move to the next line and not get jangled. It’s about moving forward: salvaging not just the moment, but the possibility for the one that follows.

I think about Massenburg and his own “salvaging” — the poetry of the pivot — finding not just a use for the stumbled upon and tossed aside, but a new narrative for it: “I remember John Outterbridge saying to me that art can be anything you want it to be. Even your life. So when I think about how I got here — it wasn’t straight-line.”

That left or right turn, it’s all about jumping time — sliding to the next spot, finding the treasure in the detritus, saving the moment. You can’t plan for it, just prepare.

Those beautiful dovetails in life that we watch from afar? They come with hard work and foresight: reacting adroitly, even poetically, at that fork in the road of thought, crisis and life shift is often our only control in chaos. That informed pivot — the one that takes us from disaster to possibility, the “new place” — can be the life-changing difference between simply surviving and thriving.
lynellgeorge  michaelmassenburg  johnoutterbridge  art  music  jazz  2016  picoiyer  chance  serendipity  planning  plans  possibility  certainty  uncertainty  presence  losangeles 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Get out now
“GET OUT NOW. Not just outside, but beyond the trap of the programmed electronic age so gently closing around so many people…. Go outside, move deliberately, then relax, slow down, look around. Do not jog. Do not run…. Instead pay attention to everything that abuts the rural road, the city street, the suburban boulevard. Walk. Stroll. Saunter. Ride a bike, and coast along a lot. Explore…. Abandon, even momentarily, the sleek modern technology that consumes so much time and money now…. Go outside and walk a bit, long enough to forget programming, long enough to take in and record new surroundings…. Flex the mind, a little at first, then a lot. Savor something special. Enjoy the best-kept secret around—the ordinary, everyday landscape that rewards any explorer, that touches any explorer with magic…all of it is free for the taking, for the taking in. Take it. take it in, take in more every weekend, every day, and quickly it becomes the theater that intrigues, relaxes, fascinates, seduces, and above all expands any mind focused on it. Outside lies utterly ordinary space open to any casual explorer willing to find the extraordinary. Outside lies unprogrammed awareness that at times becomes directed serendipity. Outside lies magic.”

—John Stilgoe, Outside Lies Magic
johnstilgoe  austinkleon  walking  noticing  looking  observing  seeing  exploration  landscape  attention  serendipity  outside  outdoors 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Due North | VQR Online
"I arrived in New York in October 2005 and immediately began walking all over the city, exploring for hours at a time. As I traversed its landscape, I discovered a topography of social conditions. Some days, I would linger on Thirty-Fourth Street among the glamorous workers of Midtown Manhattan rushing to and from their high-rise buildings—in swift pursuit of their ambitions, I’d assumed. I’d watch them zigzag around and dart past the enthusiastic tourists filing into the Empire State Building, that colossus rising majestically above as a beacon of hope and symbol of American derring-do.

Then I’d stride northward, eager to explore Whitman’s “Numberless crowded streets – high growths of iron, slender, strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies.” A little over two hours later, I would end up in Harlem at the courtyard of a housing project on 125th Street, where residents lounged on benches and welcomed each other with cheerful banter. They also welcomed me, and I sat beside them, took one of the kiddie’s box drinks they offered, and enjoyed their jovial talk in that relaxed, open space in Harlem far removed from the hurried dynamism of Midtown.

But as I’ve circulated through New York’s streets, nothing reveals the city’s opposites in stark juxtaposition like the walk from the Upper East Side to the South Bronx, two neighborhoods separated by a brisk ninety-minute walk, or a quick twelve-minute subway ride. I’d call them neighbors were it not so clear that they occupy such distinctly different worlds. To walk the streets from one to the other, as I often do, is to bear witness to a landscape of asymmetry. The city that comes into view is one of uneven terrain, vistas of opportunity alongside pockets of deep poverty too often lost in the periphery.

In early 2006, almost six months after moving to the city, I was hobbled from roaming around because of a botched surgery on my right knee. A few months later, I switched hospitals to the Hospital for Special Surgery, located on the Upper East Side, where I eventually underwent two more surgeries to get back to walking the streets without chronic pain. As a result of the operations and follow-up physical therapy, the Upper East Side became a regular destination. I spent a lot of time watching people go about their lives, many of whom were middle- and working-class people employed in hospitals, museums, universities, hotels, and elsewhere on the Upper East Side. Plentiful as these workers were, they didn’t define the neighborhood—at least, not in a way that forcefully impresses itself upon the mind when you think of the Upper East Side. No, the population that embosses its mark on the neighborhood is the wealthy—the extraordinarily wealthy, to be precise.

The Upper East Side houses one of the richest zip codes in the US. This wealth touches almost everything in its vicinity. Many of the less-flush people I met going about their days worked at institutions that were among the world’s finest—the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Hospital for Special Surgery—and that were easy access for their upper-class neighbors. In addition to stellar medical care and world-class museums, I’d walk past some of the city’s best private schools, public libraries abuzz with parents and nannies—many of whom were foreigners—playing with children, and music schools with eager and not-so-eager kids developing their skills. Here was a neighborhood stocked with the resources for worldly success.

Walking through that part of the Upper East Side was not unlike a jaunt in a museum. On Park or Fifth Avenue, for example, one could walk for hours and admire magnificent buildings fronted by well-manicured gardens and quiet, clean sidewalks. Serenity suffused the atmosphere. Nothing seemed out of place, and, to my untrained eye, it all looked unspoiled.

There are stunning apartment buildings that look like cathedrals in high heels. Überchic boutiques—throne rooms of specialization meant to cater to people with the most rarefied, and demanding, of tastes—abound. You can pick up scented shoelaces for your teen daughter from a store filled with accessories for tweens, buy a bra for a few hundred dollars from an Italian lingerie store, and then drop off your puppy for a spa day, all in under a half hour. And, shhh, the stores were very quiet, I’ll-glare-if-you-speak-loudly quiet. I was often hushed, too, since sticker shock often dumbfounds me. Though, I should confess, something perverse in me wanted me to scream upon entering those hush-up stores.

All around are luxe restaurants with patrons to match, and sophisticated bistros with fresh-looking, pleasant-smelling—oh, those lovely scents!—upscale clientele. And for outdoor relaxation and play, Central Park is a quick stroll away—across the road, even. It’s as if the neighborhood was curated to cater to the needs and pleasures of its wealthy residents. Dig through the historical record and you’ll find that, indeed, starting with Fifth Avenue in the late nineteenth century, later joined in the early twentieth century by Park (formerly Fourth) Avenue, elegance and convenience have characterized the Upper East Side’s moneyed class and its tony residences.

Yet, for all its beauty, the neighborhood today feels like a welcome mat with spikes, or, more aptly, like a museum after closing time. You could stand nearby and look in, but that’s as far as you could go: admiration from a distance. My feet met their limit.

So much of the lives of the very wealthy was a mystery to me, not least because I couldn’t hope to stand and chat with them. The city was this enticing language I was learning, but they were a cipher. They lived, as my friend and walking companion Suketu once put it to me, in vertical gated communities—fortresses within layers of insulation. I’d see them shuttle from cabs or chauffeur-driven cars into their elegant buildings fronted by attentive doormen. Or I’d see them interacting with each other as I strolled past a posh establishment. They were sharply dressed ghosts; I would see them for a brief moment, only for them to quickly disappear into vehicles or buildings as mysteriously as they came.

There was a come-hither-stay-away quality to it all. Apartment lobbies looked inviting, but dapper doormen in their white shirts and black ties stood between you and them. Brownstones were beguiling, but you dared not sit on their steps. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone my shade, the color of the neighborhood’s nannies and gardeners and janitors but not their neighbors (at least, none that I saw), was more unwelcome on a stranger’s stoop.

Nor would I ever see people hanging out on their own steps. The beauty of the Upper East Side, the visual allure, had a placidity I felt detached from. There was something disquieting about all that silence. Certainly, one of the joys of living in the city is the wonderful solitude it affords, the option to, as E. B. White memorably put it, opt out and announce, “I did not attend.” The city is a place of escape as much as it’s one of pilgrimage, and, to someone outside of their circle passing through, the affluent inhabitants of the Upper East Side resemble a group who entered a compact to “not attend.” The serenity felt fragile, and I feared that if I did anything that was perceived as a threat to it, no matter how simple—approaching that friendly face to have a chat, leaning over to inhale perfumy flowers—that I would be promptly reminded that I could inhabit those streets only so much.

When I leave the Upper East Side on foot, the streets declare it to me almost immediately. I cross Ninety-Sixth Street—on Park Avenue, say, and the picturesque quickly recedes. Islands of gardens are supplanted by train tracks that tear out of the ground and rise alongside and above houses, transporting streams of Metro-North trains and dispersing noise across the neighborhood. Pristine sidewalks are replaced by dusty ones, and time and again micro-dirt tornadoes, with candy wrappers within, whirl around. And luxury mansions are replaced by tenement-type buildings, row houses, and “superblocks” of housing projects.

And the population becomes increasingly darker. A lot more. And friendlier. A lot more. More Spanish is heard (significantly so), more bodegas are seen on corners, and the hum of the Upper East Side gives way to a skipping, sometimes clamoring, beat. (On weekends with good weather, there are block parties aplenty). You almost begin to wonder—at least, I often do—if East Harlem is the town crier announcing, “Yeah, you’ve left the Upper East Side. The South Bronx is three miles, and an hour’s walk, thataway.”"



"On the way back home, Suketu drove through the Upper East Side, past glittery boutiques and sexy bistros, enticing department stores and showy high-rise apartment buildings. At that moment, I recognized that, for me, there wasn’t much difference between cutting through the neighborhood on foot and in a car. There was, of course. But leaving from Hunts Point, where time in a car away from residents removes so much of the neighborhood’s pleasure, and arriving in the Upper East Side around fifteen minutes later, only to recognize that I felt at arm’s length from a lot of its residents even when I walked through, reminded me that inequality also deprives the very wealthy. In ensconcing themselves in their circles, the very wealthy had cut themselves off from a range of perspectives and temperaments and stories—stories that are a central part of their city’s vibrancy and appeal. In Hunts Point, I witnessed deprivation due to an absence of resources; in the Upper East Side, I witnessed deprivation of a different, but related sort: the absence of enriching interactions.

I became an obsessive walker as a matter of necessity. Too poor to take taxis when I was growing up in Jamaica, and living in a … [more]
walking  serendipity  2014  garnettecadogan  nyc  inequality  discovery  wonder  possibility  ebwhite  wealth  waltwhitman  rebeccasolnit  micheldecerteau  observation  flaneur 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Walking While Black | Literary Hub
"Within days I noticed that many people on the street seemed apprehensive of me: Some gave me a circumspect glance as they approached, and then crossed the street; others, ahead, would glance behind, register my presence, and then speed up; older white women clutched their bags; young white men nervously greeted me, as if exchanging a salutation for their safety: “What’s up, bro?” On one occasion, less than a month after my arrival, I tried to help a man whose wheelchair was stuck in the middle of a crosswalk; he threatened to shoot me in the face, then asked a white pedestrian for help.

I wasn’t prepared for any of this. I had come from a majority-black country in which no one was wary of me because of my skin color. Now I wasn’t sure who was afraid of me. I was especially unprepared for the cops. They regularly stopped and bullied me, asking questions that took my guilt for granted. I’d never received what many of my African-American friends call “The Talk”: No parents had told me how to behave when I was stopped by the police, how to be as polite and cooperative as possible, no matter what they said or did to me. So I had to cobble together my own rules of engagement. Thicken my Jamaican accent. Quickly mention my college. “Accidentally” pull out my college identification card when asked for my driver’s license.

My survival tactics began well before I left my dorm. I got out of the shower with the police in my head, assembling a cop-proof wardrobe. Light-colored oxford shirt. V-neck sweater. Khaki pants. Chukkas. Sweatshirt or T-shirt with my university insignia. When I walked I regularly had my identity challenged, but I also found ways to assert it. (So I’d dress Ivy League style, but would, later on, add my Jamaican pedigree by wearing Clarks Desert Boots, the footwear of choice of Jamaican street culture.) Yet the all-American sartorial choice of white T-shirt and jeans, which many police officers see as the uniform of black troublemakers, was off-limits to me—at least, if I wanted to have the freedom of movement I desired.

In this city of exuberant streets, walking became a complex and often oppressive negotiation. I would see a white woman walking towards me at night and cross the street to reassure her that she was safe. I would forget something at home but not immediately turn around if someone was behind me, because I discovered that a sudden backtrack could cause alarm. (I had a cardinal rule: Keep a wide perimeter from people who might consider me a danger. If not, danger might visit me.) New Orleans suddenly felt more dangerous than Jamaica. The sidewalk was a minefield, and every hesitation and self-censored compensation reduced my dignity. Despite my best efforts, the streets never felt comfortably safe. Even a simple salutation was suspect.

One night, returning to the house that, eight years after my arrival, I thought I’d earned the right to call my home, I waved to a cop driving by. Moments later, I was against his car in handcuffs. When I later asked him—sheepishly, of course; any other way would have asked for bruises—why he had detained me, he said my greeting had aroused his suspicion. “No one waves to the police,” he explained. When I told friends of his response, it was my behavior, not his, that they saw as absurd. “Now why would you do a dumb thing like that?” said one. “You know better than to make nice with police.”"



"Walking had returned to me a greater set of possibilities. And why walk, if not to create a new set of possibilities? Following serendipity, I added new routes to the mental maps I had made from constant walking in that city from childhood to young adulthood, traced variations on the old pathways. Serendipity, a mentor once told me, is a secular way of speaking of grace; it’s unearned favor. Seen theologically, then, walking is an act of faith. Walking is, after all, interrupted falling. We see, we listen, we speak, and we trust that each step we take won’t be our last, but will lead us into a richer understanding of the self and the world.

In Jamaica, I felt once again as if the only identity that mattered was my own, not the constricted one that others had constructed for me. I strolled into my better self. I said, along with Kierkegaard, “I have walked myself into my best thoughts.”"



"Walking while black restricts the experience of walking, renders inaccessible the classic Romantic experience of walking alone. It forces me to be in constant relationship with others, unable to join the New York flaneurs I had read about and hoped to join. Instead of meandering aimlessly in the footsteps of Whitman, Melville, Kazin, and Vivian Gornick, more often, I felt that I was tiptoeing in Baldwin’s—the Baldwin who wrote, way back in 1960, “Rare, indeed, is the Harlem citizen, from the most circumspect church member to the most shiftless adolescent, who does not have a long tale to tell of police incompetence, injustice, or brutality. I myself have witnessed and endured it more than once.”

Walking as a black man has made me feel simultaneously more removed from the city, in my awareness that I am perceived as suspect, and more closely connected to it, in the full attentiveness demanded by my vigilance. It has made me walk more purposefully in the city, becoming part of its flow, rather than observing, standing apart.

* * * *

But it also means that I’m still trying to arrive in a city that isn’t quite mine. One definition of home is that it’s somewhere we can most be ourselves. And when are we more ourselves but when walking, that natural state in which we repeat one of the first actions we learned? Walking—the simple, monotonous act of placing one foot before the other to prevent falling—turns out not to be so simple if you’re black. Walking alone has been anything but monotonous for me; monotony is a luxury.

A foot leaves, a foot lands, and our longing gives it momentum from rest to rest. We long to look, to think, to talk, to get away. But more than anything else, we long to be free. We want the freedom and pleasure of walking without fear—without others’ fear—wherever we choose. I’ve lived in New York City for almost a decade and have not stopped walking its fascinating streets. And I have not stopped longing to find the solace that I found as a kid on the streets of Kingston. Much as coming to know New York City’s streets has made it closer to home to me, the city also withholds itself from me via those very streets. I walk them, alternately invisible and too prominent. So I walk caught between memory and forgetting, between memory and forgiveness."
garnettecadogan  racism  blackness  race  walking  nyc  neworleans  nola  serendipity  anonymity  fear  judgement  fatswaller  waltwhitman  kingston  jamaica  us  via:ayjay  racialprofiling  police  lawenforcement  possibility  possibilities  grace  favor  faith  hermanmelville  alfredkazin  elizabethhardwick  janejacobs  memory  forgiveness  forgetting  freedom 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Limits of “Grit” - The New Yorker
"For children, the situation has grown worse as we’ve slackened our efforts to fight poverty. In 1966, when Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty initiatives were a major national priority, the poverty rate among American children was eighteen per cent. Now it is twenty-two per cent. If we suffer from a grit deficiency in this country, it shows up in our unwillingness to face what is obviously true—that poverty is the real cause of failing schools.

In this context, grit appears as a new hope. As the federal programs stalled, psychologists, neuroscientists, pediatricians, education reformers, and journalists began looking at the lives of children in a different way. Their central finding: non-cognitive skills play just as great a role as talent and native intelligence (I.Q.) in the academic and social success of children, and maybe even a greater role. In brief, we are obsessed with talent, but we should also be obsessed with effort. Duckworth is both benefitting from this line of thought and expanding it herself. The finding about non-cognitive skills is being treated as a revelation, and maybe it should be; among other things, it opens possible avenues for action. Could cultivating grit and other character traits be the cure, the silver bullet that ends low performance?"



"Now, there’s something very odd about this list. There’s nothing in it about honesty or courage; nothing about integrity, kindliness, responsibility for others. The list is innocent of ethics, any notion of moral development, any mention of the behaviors by which character has traditionally been marked. Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth would seem to be preparing children for personal success only—doing well at school, getting into college, getting a job, especially a corporate job where such docility as is suggested by these approved traits (gratitude?) would be much appreciated by managers. Putting it politically, the “character” inculcated in students by Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth is perfectly suited to producing corporate drones in a capitalist economy. Putting it morally and existentially, the list is timid and empty. The creativity and wildness that were once our grace to imagine as part of human existence would be extinguished by strict adherence to these instrumentalist guidelines."



"Not just Duckworth’s research but the entire process feels tautological: we will decide what elements of “character” are essential to success, and we will inculcate these attributes in children, measuring and grading the children accordingly, and shutting down, as collateral damage, many other attributes of character and many children as well. Among other things, we will give up the sentimental notion that one of the cardinal functions of education is to bring out the individual nature of every child.

Can so narrow an ideal of character flourish in a society as abundantly and variously gifted as our own? Duckworth’s view of life is devoted exclusively to doing, at the expense of being. She seems indifferent to originality or creativity or even simple thoughtfulness. We must all gear up, for grit is a cause, an imp of force. “At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.” Through much of “Grit,” she gives the impression that quitting any activity before achieving mastery is a cop-out. (“How many of us vow to knit sweaters for all our friends but only manage half a sleeve before putting down the needles? Ditto for home vegetable gardens, compost bins, and diets.”) But what is the value of these projects? Surely some things are more worth pursuing than others. If grit mania really flowers, one can imagine a mass of grimly determined people exhausting themselves and everyone around them with obsessional devotion to semi-worthless tasks—a race of American squares, anxious, compulsive, and constrained. They can never try hard enough.

Duckworth’s single-mindedness could pose something of a danger to the literal-minded. Young people who stick to their obsessions could wind up out on a limb, without a market for their skills. Spelling ability is nice, if somewhat less useful than, say, the ability to make a mixed drink—a Negroni, a Tom Collins. But what do you do with it? Are the thirteen-year-old champion spellers going to go through life spelling out difficult words to astonished listeners? I realize, of course, that persistence in childhood may pay off years later in some unrelated activity. But I’m an owlish enough parent to insist that the champion spellers might have spent their time reading something good—or interacting with other kids. And what if a child has only moderate talent for her particular passion? Mike Egan, a former member of the United States Marine Band, wrote a letter to the Times Book Review in response to Judith Shulevitz’s review of Duckworth’s book. “Anyone who would tell a child that the only thing standing between him or her and world-class achievement is sufficient work,” Egan wrote, “ought to be jailed for child abuse.”

Duckworth not only ignores the actual market for skills and talents, she barely acknowledges that success has more than a casual relation to family income. After all, few of us can stick to a passion year after year that doesn’t pay off—not without serious support. Speaking for myself, the most important element in my social capital as an upper-middle-class New York guy was, indeed, capital—my parents carried me for a number of years as I fumbled my way to a career as a journalist and critic. Did I have grit? I suppose so, but their support made persistence possible.

After many examples of success, Duckworth announces a theory: “Talent x effort = skill. Skill x effort = achievement.” It’s hardly E=mc2. It’s hardly a theory at all—it’s more like a pop way of formalizing commonplace observation and single-mindedness. Compare Duckworth’s book in this respect with Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” Gladwell also traced the backgrounds of extraordinarily accomplished people—the computer geniuses Bill Gates and Bill Joy, business tycoons, top lawyers in New York, and so on. And Gladwell discovered that, yes, his world-beaters devoted years to learning and to practice: ten thousand hours, he says, is the rough amount of time it takes for talented people to become masters.

Yet, if perseverance is central to Gladwell’s outliers, it’s hardly the sole reason for their success. Family background, opportunity, culture, landing at the right place at the right time, the over-all state of the economy—all these elements, operating at once, allow some talented people to do much better than other talented people. Gladwell provides the history and context of successful lives. Duckworth—indifferent to class, race, history, society, culture—strips success of its human reality, and her single-minded theory may explain very little. Is there any good football team, for instance, that doesn’t believe in endless practice, endurance, overcoming pain and exhaustion? All professional football teams train hard, so grit can’t be the necessary explanation for the Seahawks’ success. Pete Carroll and his coaches must be bringing other qualities, other strategies, to the field. Observing those special qualities is where actual understanding might begin."
grit  2016  angeladuckworth  race  class  luck  perseverance  daviddenby  education  mastery  practice  kipp  character  classism  elitism  obsessions  malcolmgladwell  serendipity  mikeegan  judithshulevitz  capital  privilege  success  effort  talent  skill  achievement  history  culture  society  edreform  nep  pisa  testing  standardizedtesting  nclb  rttt  socialscience  paultough  children  schools  poverty  eq  neuroscience  jackshonkoff  martinseligman  learnedoptimism  depression  pessimism  optimism  davelevin  dominicrandolph  honesty  courage  integrity  kindliness  kindness  samuelabrams 
june 2016 by robertogreco
'I Love My Label': Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech
"I’ve argued elsewhere, drawing on a phrase by cyborg anthropologist Amber Case, that many of the industry-provided educational technologies we use create and reinforce a “templated self,” restricting the ways in which we present ourselves and perform our identities through their very technical architecture. The learning management system is a fine example of this, particularly with its “permissions” that shape who gets to participate and how, who gets to create, review, assess data and content. Algorithmic profiling now will be layered on top of these templated selves in ed-tech – the results, again: the pre-packaged student.

Indie ed-tech, much like the indie music from which it takes its inspiration, seeks to offer an alternative to the algorithms, the labels, the templates, the profiling, the extraction, the exploitation, the control. It’s a big task – an idealistic one, no doubt. But as the book Our Band Could Be Your Life, which chronicles the American indie music scene of the 1980s (and upon which Jim Groom drew for his talk on indie-ed tech last fall), notes, “Black Flag was among the first bands to suggest that if you didn’t like ‘the system,’ you should simply create one of your own.” If we don’t like ‘the system’ of ed-tech, we should create one of our own.

It’s actually not beyond our reach to do so.

We’re already working in pockets doing just that, with various projects to claim and reclaim and wire and rewire the Web so that it’s more just, more open, less exploitative, and counterintuitively perhaps less “personalized.” “The internet is shit today,” Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde said last year. “It’s broken. It was probably always broken, but it’s worse than ever.” We can certainly say the same for education technology, with its long history of control, measurement, standardization.

We aren’t going to make it better by becoming corporate rockstars. This fundamental brokenness means we can’t really trust those who call for a “Napster moment” for education or those who hail the coming Internet/industrial revolution for schools. Indie means we don’t need millions of dollars, but it does mean we need community. We need a space to be unpredictable, for knowledge to be emergent not algorithmically fed to us. We need intellectual curiosity and serendipity – we need it from scholars and from students. We don’t need intellectual discovery to be trademarked, to a tab that we click on to be fed the latest industry updates, what the powerful, well-funded people think we should know or think we should become."
2016  audreywatters  edupunk  edtech  independent  indie  internet  online  technology  napster  history  serendipity  messiness  curiosity  control  measurement  standardization  walledgardens  privacy  data  schools  education  highered  highereducation  musicindustry  jimgroom  ambercase  algorithms  bigdata  prediction  machinelearning  machinelistening  echonest  siliconvalley  software 
march 2016 by robertogreco
We are all Umberto Eco now | Overland literary journal
"He felt, I think – or at least played at feeling – that he needed to justify being given such freedom in a medium that was perceived as being finite. For him to write on the last page of L’Espresso meant that somebody else could not. To devote that space to expound on idle musings was a self-indulgence that needed to be accounted for.

Now consider how similar this author-position is to online writing, and blogs in particular. I’m sure I’ve read dozens of debut blog posts setting out the author’s intentions to write about disparate topics, and that it might not last very long, but anyway, ‘we shall see’. It’s the same reader contract, which is another way of saying we’re all Umberto Eco now: everyone can start a column of idle musings, and publish it to a potentially wider audience than his – as large as everyone who speaks one’s language and has an internet connection. And sure, there is no money involved, but I can’t imagine money would have been too big a consideration for the author of The Name of the Rose. It was the opportunity to enter into that contract that would have appealed to him.

The other thing about blogs and personal pages or small, non-paying online magazines is that very few people might actually read them, but, on the other hand, you don’t have to feel you’re taking anyone’s space away. Which I think explains why – without my having researched the problem in any systematic way – online first posts are generally less apologetic than Eco’s first matchbook. There are, besides, entire social media platforms devoted to presenting and sharing one’s niche interests.

Eco’s column, as I’ve written in a book on his work published this year, was in many respects an early incarnation of the blog form, trading as it did in lists, word games, pastiche and curiosities. Yet, ironically, it lost its uniqueness and become a much more conventional print magazine column once the World Wide Web took off and actual blogs started to proliferate. In 2012, Eco wrote:
When I get tired once and for all of coming up every two weeks with topics that are somewhat current for this column, I would like to embark on a series of late reviews, in which I talked about books that were published a long time ago as if they were new and it were useful to reread them.

This is, in fact, a most common kind of exercise on the web, and the subject of many popular blogs. We review old books and old films as if new all the time, since not only space but also time has collapsed under the digital paradigm. But maybe Eco’s late misgivings suggest we should interrogate these practices.

This belief that online is ‘free’, that it doesn’t take anyone’s paid writing job away or stifle anyone’s voice – while unspoken and in most respects probably true – needs to be measured against the crisis of magazines and of formally edited selections of content more generally.

While the online edition of Overland is a magazine in a fairly traditional sense, The Huffington Post isn’t, just like Buzzfeed isn’t a newspaper. Looking at my own patterns of reading, I find that I consume individual posts and essays from a wide variety of sources, some of which I’m not even entirely conscious of, as I just happen to end there on somebody’s recommendation. On balance this has enriched my life immeasurably, exposing me to a far greater range of voices than was ever available to me before. These broader connections, in turn, greatly facilitate political articulation and organisation.

Yet the countervailing issues are not merely economic: my reading all of these disparate writings frays the contours of my social and cultural world, fracturing any sense of the topical and the local. Even as I engage on my own musings on obscure topics, reasoning that I am not limiting anyone’s time and space but in fact adding infinitesimally to the available store of knowledge, I must ask myself if this is entirely true, or if the shifts that occur under the surface entail the loss of something else, somewhere else.

I am not suggesting that people should write less, or justify why they write to anyone, let alone to me: but rather calling attention to material realities that are sometimes hidden by the sheen of the digital screen. Not just the mechanics of publishing but also the psychology of writing has changed. We should reflect not just on the economics of the profession, as we do often, but also on the economics of attention. It is, after all, always a valuable question to ask: why do I write?"
attention  blogging  writing  giovannitiso  readwriteweb  2015  twitter  socialmedia  buzzfeed  huffingtonpost  serendipity  web  online  howweread  howwewrite  reading  publishing  umbertoeco 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Apple and Star Wars together explain why much of the world around you looks the way it does - Quartz
"One of the most effective critiques of the totalizing approach to urban design—the Darth-design of cities, if you will—was architecture critic, activist, and theorist Jane Jacobs. Towards the end of her bestselling 1962 critique of mid-century urban design, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs recounts the number and diversity of the neighbors in the building where she worked. She reports:
“The floor of the building in which this book is being written is occupied also by a health club with a gym, a firm of ecclesiastical decorators, an insurgent Democratic party reform club, a Liberal party political club, a music society, an accordionists’ association, a retired importer who sells maté by mail, a man who sells paper and who also takes care of shipping the maté, a dental laboratory, a studio for watercolor lessons, and a maker of costume jewelry. Among the tenants who were here and gone shortly before I came in, were a man who rented out tuxedos, a union local and a Haitian dance troupe. There is no place for the likes of us in new construction. And the last thing we need is new construction.”

And added, in a forceful footnote: “No, the last thing we need is some paternalist weighing whether we are sufficiently noncontroversial to be admitted to subsidized quarters in a Utopian dream city.”

That there is little room for controversy or discord in the Death Star—amongst its legion of same-suited stormtroopers, say—may go without saying. But what of Apple?

It is clear, first of all, that the company’s success—for all the apparent imperiousness of Jobs—relied, and likely relies still, on discussion, disagreement, and diversity. Jobs himself was famously a stickler for regular “no-holds-barred” meetings in which, while his own leadership had to remain unchallenged, no other presumptions or suppositions were sacred. (Pixar’s irrepressible Alvy Ray Smith would be one of the only employees to challenge Jobs’ control of a whiteboard, part of a duel with Jobs in which dry-erase markers, presumably, stood in for sabers.)

Like the products themselves, however, Apple’s core identity relies on keeping disagreement and discord behind a tightly controlled façade. And sometimes even a tightly controlled interior; one of Jobs’ least successful management interventions on his return to Apple was a short-lived attempt to have all his many thousand employees wear the same, black, custom Issey Miyake clothing. To Jobs’ credit, he quickly withdrew the proposal—but it lived on in the many hundred black turtlenecks Miyake crafted for Jobs’ own, resulting use.

No, if there is something disturbing in the design of Apple’s own apparent Death Star, it is not so much in the company’s clearly successful internal operations, nor in its beautifully singular product range. Rather, it lies in the runaway result of this success; the way in which so many of our interactions with the world, and with each other, are now filtered through the efforts of a single, well-designed and Apple-authored interface.

And beyond well-intentioned, we might even say essential. Particularly given the disorder and predictable unpredictability of complex technological systems, we all crave, and need order. The first Star Wars shoot was so plagued with technical difficulties (and the related derision of the unionized British workforce on the Pinewood Studio lot) that more than one cast member observed that George Lucas appeared far more sympathetic to the authority and order of the Empire than the ragtag Rebel Alliance. Apple has thrived above all in the last two decades by offering the particular beauty that lies in order, organization, and simplicity, and in the predictable delight that results when something technical, unexpectedly, just works."



"We might start inside. A recent profile of Sir Jony Ive in the New Yorker by Ian Parker, “The Shape of Things to Come,” shifts seamlessly from the discussion of consumer objects to that of architecture. Ive, it is suggested, sees himself as an architect too. He finds it, he says, “a curious thing” that in design “we tend to compartmentalize, based on physical scale.” He is reported to assert that he has (in Parker’s words) “taught Foster’s architects something about the geometry of corners,” introducing a seamless, curved detail between wall and floor that now runs throughout the building’s interior.
Yet this detail, and its future life, points to what is in fact one of the main differences between design at the scale of consumer electronics, and that at the scale of architecture and the city.

Apple’s great success as a consumer-focused company is rooted in the one power a consumer has above all: choice. Apple’s products are ubiquitous, above all, because they are far better than what they compete with, a quality that comes precisely from the tight control that Apple exerts on them and their design. But, at the point we don’t like our device, we can—and will—buy a different and better one—from Apple, or from some as-yet-unimaginable competitor.

Yet it is in the nature of architecture that it offers no such choice—the more so the bigger it gets. We can, if we are lucky, sell a house we don’t like. But we can’t sell or dispose of the terrible building across the road. And architecture involves many more people than those who design it, or even pay for it. Myself, I keep thinking of the cleaning staff of the new Apple headquarters; it is for these people, above all, that the usual, clunky detail of wall-meeting-floor exists, with a skirting board to hide the edge of the floor-wax, and catch and disguise the dirt that escapes the polishers. One hopes a special, super-functional polishing device has been designed for them, that will seamlessly clean and feather the floor-wax as it slowly curves into the wall—but one fears that it has not. One thinks as well of Apple’s desk-bound employees, who, so as to preserve the clean lines of the building’s exterior, will not be able to open windows in their offices—despite the Bay Area’s preposterously perfect climate. (“That would just allow people to screw things up,” Jobs apparently declared.)

But here is where the design of products and buildings is most different. The particular conundrum solved by the best teams of architects and city-builders (including all of us as citizens) is how to balance a whole set of competing demands, physical, environmental, and social, against each other—including the demands of the powerful against the needs, and rights, of the powerless.

As we attempt to design 21st-century cities for an increasing landscape of uncertainty, this is an important lesson to remember. Instead of single, grand projects, the staying-power of a city depends on a million connections between its inhabitants, and the natural and technological systems that sustain them. Cities designed tabula rasa, as Jane Jacobs cogently characterized it a generation ago, lack this robust resilience. Instead, their monumental visions of order turn out to hide brittleness, fragility, and frequent catastrophe. Even the most seemingly ordered long-lived city-grid—Manhattan, Barcelona, even San Francisco—simply allows us to better negotiate what is, in reality, a riot of real-world diversity.

It is in this light, perhaps, that one might also examine Apple’s greatest points of corporate difficulty: the interface between the company’s tightly designed and integrated products, and the public software ecosystems it has developed in service of them, the App Store and the Mac App Store. To this architect, these places read a bit like a modernist cityscape; beautiful, elegant, even nice to visit—but very difficult to live in. Like such cities they are also—at least in the case of the Mac App Store—increasingly abandoned, as is usual, by those who can afford to leave.

And yet it is not really Apple that is entirely to blame. The revolution in architecture today—one where the world of screens and devices and the common infrastructure of our cities merge, overlap and combine—is much larger than even the enormous, careful company.

In an awkwardly received, hauntingly prescient diatribe while presenting the Oscar for Best Director in 1979, Francis Ford Coppola declared, “We’re on the eve of something that’s going to make the Industrial Revolution look like a small out-of-town tryout.” What Coppola saw was our world today: “a communications revolution that’s about movies and art and music and digital electronics and satellites, but above all, human talent.”

Steve Jobs’ Apple set out to help create this world—and has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams of the future. George Lucas hired Pixar’s founders, originally, to use technology to make the production of culture easier for himself and a cadre of directors. But Lucas’s digital editing system was quickly eclipsed by Apple’s own, far cheaper, Final Cut Pro—and then, of course, by the iPhones that put high-quality filmmaking and editing into all of our hands. In this, and much else, Apple has helped author a world much like that of Lucas’s far-off galaxy; where all of us are connected, and can tap into vast reserves of invisible power through the device we hold in our hands.

But as Apple’s reach extends into the city and world, into the public sphere as well as the private screen, we should do well to remember these hard-learned lessons of control and openness, hardness and softness, brittleness and resilience. After all, the only thing one can say for certain about a Death Star is that it unexpectedly explodes right before the ending."
apple  starwars  georgelucas  architecture  cities  design  stevejobs  nicholasdemonchaux  history  siliconvalley  filmmaking  urbanism  urbanplanning  control  predicatability  fragility  resilience  unpredicatability  hackers  hackability  jonyive  janejacobs  discussion  disagreement  friction  discord  serendipity  authority  cupertino  pixar  canon  openness  hardness  softness  brittleness  isolation  uncertainty 
december 2015 by robertogreco
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
How Wikipedia Could Improve Your Internet Surfing - NYTimes.com
"For years, critics have feared that the Internet will kill interestingness, offering us only what we’re looking for with none of the happy accidents that can spur creative thought. Might a solution to this problem come from the kind of browsing we do on Wikipedia?

In a Fast Company review of Wikipedia’s new iOS app, Chris Gayomali sets the scene:

“One minute you’re on Wikipedia, reading up on the ‘Simpsons’ episode that Michael Jackson secretly guest-starred on; three hours whiz by, and suddenly your whole night is lost and you’re staring at an alphabetized list of French Impressionist painters, to say nothing of the 23 other tabs you haven’t even clicked on.

“Wikipedia’s strange ability to warp time and space to send you down a rabbit hole has been a central part of its long-term success.”

The app, he posits, might enhance that ability even further. “Totally rewritten,” his review’s subheading reads, “the speedier new Wikipedia app makes it easy to get lost — in a good way.” One of the changes is a new sidebar that allows users to jump easily to different sections of a single article. Vibha Bamba, an interaction designer at Wikipedia, tells Mr. Gayomali: “We understand that readers love reading on Wikipedia, but they don’t often get past the first section. They read two sentences, and then they hit a link.” She adds: “We want you to jump around the article to find different entry points. We wanted to support curiosity in a design sort of way.”

Whether the new app actually results in longer Wikipedia rabbit holes remains to be seen. And Wikipedia is hardly the first site to want users to spend more time with its content. Still, Mr. Gayomali’s emphasis on Wikipedia’s ability to promote lostness is interesting, since getting lost — and happening upon things we didn’t think we’d find — is an experience critics fear the Internet has stolen from us.

Damon Darlin made a relatively early version of this argument in The New York Times in 2009 — “the digital age,” he wrote, “is stamping out serendipity.” He argued that the structure of services like Facebook, Twitter and iTunes made it hard for us to come upon something unexpected:

“Everything we need to know comes filtered and vetted. We are discovering what everyone else is learning, and usually from people we have selected because they share our tastes. It won’t deliver that magic moment of discovery that we imagine occurred when Elvis Presley first heard the blues, or when Michael Jackson followed Fred Astaire’s white spats across the dance floor.”

Astra Taylor, in her recent book “The People’s Platform,” critiques what she sees as the “winner-take-all” nature of online media, in which a few sites or stories get the lion’s share of the attention: “When we click on the top search results or watch the FrontPage videos on YouTube or read established blogs, we are jumping on invisible bandwagons.” She explains:

“Most-read lists and top search results create a feedback loop perpetuating the success of the already successful. When an article becomes ‘most e-mailed,’ it garners more attention and thus its reign is extended. The more a viral meme spreads, the more likely you are to catch it. As a consequence, the same silly gags land in all our in-boxes, a small number of Web sites get read by everyone, and a handful of super-celebrities overshadow the millions who languish in obscurity.”"
wikipedia  2014  mobile  applications  android  ios  astrataylor  internet  web  serendipity  sameness  online  chrisgayomali 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Urban Omnibus » Precedents for Experimentation: Talking Libraries with Shannon Mattern and Nate Hill
"Mattern: That’s interesting. In the branch library design study I’m working on with The Architectural League and the Center for an Urban Future, one of multiple challenges is to “find closets,” which is to say, to make minor modulations in order to offer the kind of access you are able to provide in Chattanooga.

Hill: I know what you mean. But it’s not always about the size of the space. When I talk to other library systems around the country about how they can take on the types of activities that we support here, it’s about making decisions. It’s about observing how library users are actually using the facility and then creating structures to enable those users to engage in the different activities they want to be doing.

When you look at the branches in New York City, some library advocates like to cite the high circulation statistics as a means of measuring success. But then you see the banks of public computers and how long the wait is to get online. I think there are great opportunities for branch library systems to diversify what public computing is, and to make some hard decisions about how to use your space.

Earlier today I was speaking with a council of local mayors about the work we do at the library and its context within downtown redevelopment. And the ideas that you have written about — the notion of the library as a piece of flexible infrastructure — really resonated with these officials. Your mention of the Rem Koolhaas design for the Seattle Public Library reminds me of an issue of Volume magazine about architecture as a content management system. That was a powerful read for me. Our job is to move information objects around a complex system, and a library user’s view of the data depends on where she is and how the information is being sorted."



"Hill: I hear a lot about how browsability and serendipity are essential to the library experience. Personally, I love looking through shelves and stacks. But it’s not an efficient way to use the prime real estate where libraries should ideally be located. Browsing has moved online. In New York as well as here in Chattanooga, I see a huge shift in people wanting to pick up their materials wherever is most convenient to them. If the buildings have fewer stacks of books, those spaces can become community platforms, where people can engage with one another and with the distributed nature of knowledge in that community. The content, the collection, can be sent there."



"Hill: Looking around the US, most of the excellent libraries in our country are in smaller systems that are able to be more agile. The state of Colorado is filled with good library systems, such as Douglas County or the Rangeview Library District, which rebranded itself “Anythink.”

But we need to figure out how to get this right in our big cities. I think they’re working really hard in Chicago. It’s a massive challenge and very exciting.

I just came back from checking out a fascinating project in Greece, where the Stavros Niarchos Foundation is building a cultural center that will house the national library, an opera house, and a botanical garden. I’ve spent some time checking out branch libraries in Copenhagen; I regularly look to Scandinavia for inspiration.

Aarhus, Denmark, is a good example. One of the smartest things about their project was that they started doing transformation work early on: an iterative process of trying out new services and community engagement techniques in their old building. So by the time that they open this new, incredible space, there won’t be any surprises about the services being provided or how it will be staffed.

In Helsinki, there’s a project called Library 10. In the US, we give a lot of lip service to the idea of co-working in the library. But in Finland, it really works: people come in and use their library cards to check out portable screens and create a work area."



"Mattern: I think the social service sector needs to be engaged. Returning to the notion that libraries often pick up slack where other institutions fall short, I think we need to recognize the library as part of an ecosystem of social-cultural knowledge resources. I think the library conversation needs to include university presidents; school superintendents and principals; advocates who deal with affordable housing, recent immigrants, or other disenfranchised populations; real estate developers; and other people with innovative ideas for co-location or partnerships."
2014  shannonmattern  architecture  libraries  design  engagement  servicedesign  natehill  chattanooga  bookmobiles  aarhus  makers  makerspaces  lcproject  openstudioproject  browsability  serendipity 
july 2014 by robertogreco
DE$IGN | Soulellis
"I’ve been thinking a lot about value and values.

Design Humility and Counterpractice were first attempts to build a conversation around the value of design and our values as designers. They’re highly personal accounts where I try to articulate my own struggle with the dominant paradigm in design culture today, which I characterize as —

speed
the relentlessness of branding
the spirit of the sell
the focus on product
the focus on perfection

and they include some techniques of resistance that I’ve explored in my recent work, like —

thingness
longevity
slowness (patience)
chance (nature, humility, serendipity)
giving away (generosity echo)

I’ve been calling them techniques, but they’re really more like values, available to any designer or artist. Work produced with these criteria runs cross-grain to the belief that we must produce instantly, broadcast widely and perform perfectly.

Hence, counterpractice. Cross-grain to common assumptions. Questioning.

And as I consider my options (what to do next), I’m seriously contemplating going back to this counterpractice talk as a place to reboot. Could these be seen as principles — as a platform for a new kind of design studio?

I’m not sure. Counterpractice probably need further translation. An idea like ”slowness” certainly won’t resonate for many, outside of an art context. And how does a love for print-on-demand and the web fit in here? Perhaps it’s more about “variable speed” and the “balanced interface” rather than slow vs fast. Slow and fast. Modulated experience. The beauty of a printed book is that it can be scanned quickly or savored forever. These aren’t accidental qualities; they’re built into the design.

[image by John Maeda: "DE$IGN"]

I’m thinking about all of this right now as I re-launch Soulellis Studio as Counterpractice. But if there’s anything that most characterizes my reluctance to get back to client-based work, it’s DE$IGN.

John Maeda, who departed RISD in December, where I am currently teaching, recently delivered a 4-minute TED talk, where he made this statement:

“From Design to DE$IGN.”

He expands that statement with a visual wordmark that is itself designed. What does it mean? I haven’t seen the talk yet so I can only presume, out of context. These articles and Maeda’s blog post at Design and Venture begin to get at it.

Maeda’s three principles for using design in business as stated in the WSJ article are fine. But they don’t need a logo. Designing DE$IGN is a misleading gesture; it’s token branding to sell an idea (in four minutes—the fast read). So what’s the idea behind this visual equation? As a logo, it says so many things:

All caps: DE$IGN is BIG.
It’s not £ or ¥ or 元: DE$IGN is American.
Dollar sign: DE$IGN is money.

DE$IGN is Big American Money.

and in the context of a four-minute TED talk…

DE$IGN is speed (four minutes!)
DE$IGN is the spirit of selling (selling an idea on a stage to a TED audience)
DE$IGN is Helvetica Neue Ultra Light and a soft gradient (Apple)
DE$IGN is a neatly resolved and sellable word-idea. It’s a branded product (and it’s perfect).

In other words, DE$IGN is Silicon Valley. DE$IGN is the perfect embodiment of start-up culture and the ultimate tech dream. Of course it is — this is Maeda’s audience, and it’s his new position. It works within the closed-off reality of $2 billion acquisitions, IPOs, 600-person design teams and Next Big Thing thinking. It’s a crass, aggressive statement that resonates perfectly for its audience.

[Image of stenciled "CAPITALISM IS THE CRI$IS"]

DE$IGN makes me uneasy. The post-OWS dollar sign is loaded with negative associations. It’s a quick trick that borrows from the speed-read language of texting (lol) to turn design into something unsustainable, inward-looking and out-of-touch. But what bothers me most is that it comes from one of our design leaders, someone I follow and respect. Am I missing something?

I can’t help but think of Milton Glaser’s 1977 I<3NY logo here.

[Milton Glaser I<3NY]

Glaser uses a similar trick, but to different effect. By inserting a heart symbol into a plain typographic treatment, he too transformed something ordinary (referencing the typewriter) into a strong visual message. Glaser’s logo says that “heart is at the center of NYC” (and it suggests that love and soul and passion are there too). Or “my love for NYC is authentic” (it comes from the heart). It gives us permission to play with all kinds of associations and visual translations: my heart is in NYC, I am NYC, NYC is the heart of America, the heart of the world, etc. .

Glaser’s mark is old-school, east coast and expansive; it symbolizes ideas and feelings that can be characterized as full and overflowing. And human (the heart). It’s personal (“I”), but all about business: his client was a bankrupt city in crisis, eager to attract tourists against all odds.

Maeda’s mark is new money, west coast and exclusive. It was created for and presented to a small club of privileged innovators who are focused on creating new ways to generate wealth ($) by selling more product.

Clever design tricks aside, here’s my question, which I seem to have been asking for a few years now. Is design humility possible today? Can we build a relevant design practice that produces meaningful, rich work — in a business context — without playing to visions of excess?

I honestly don’t know. I’m grappling with this. I’m not naive and I don’t want to paint myself into a corner. I’d like to think that there’s room to resist DE$IGN. I do this as an artist making books and as an experimental publisher (even Library of the Printed Web is a kind of resistance). But what kind of design practice comes out of this? Certainly one that’s different from the kind of business I built with Soulellis Studio."
paulsoulellis  2014  conterpractice  design  humility  capitalism  resistance  branding  speed  slow  consumerism  sales  salesmanship  perfection  wabi-sabi  thingness  longevity  slowness  patience  nature  chance  serendipity  generosity  potlatch  johnmaeda  questioning  process  approach  philosophy  art  print  balance  thisandthat  modulation  selling  ted  tedtalks  apple  siliconvalley  startups  culture  technology  technosolutionsism  crisis  miltonglaser  1977  love 
june 2014 by robertogreco
INTERVIEW: MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman on ‘Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection’ – Next City
"Sometimes I think the obsession with cities and data in particular is taking us back to this very modernist, planned set of assumptions, where all the data is going to be the same in all places. There was an IBM group analyzing traffic flow in Côte d’Ivoire that came up with the remarkable finding that if Côte d’Ivoire would just follow IBM’s advice, their transportation system would be 10 percent more efficient. I find myself going, ‘We all know what happened when RAND tried to plan the New York City Fire Department and the Bronx burned down.’ But beyond that, the best we can do for the city of Abidjan is 10 percent, based on surveilling everybody in the city for a year? These solutions are not actually all that impressive. There are probably much more interesting solutions to traffic in Abidjan that are probably based on going to Abidjan, something other than doing data analysis somewhere far away from the city."



"I have to be completely honest that I don’t live in a city. I live in a town of 3,000 people out in western Massachusetts. I do commute into a city, and I periodically turn to my city-dweller friends and talk about what to me seems like a certain species of insanity. [Laughs.] Living in a subset of American cities, particularly New York, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, just to me seems willfully obtuse. You are being ripped off. There are no two ways about it. The amount of money that people pay here in Boston and Cambridge for a reasonable place to live to me just seems insane. For all these very good arguments about the efficiencies and vibrancy of cities, I kind of feel like it’s a conspiracy to make people feel good about how they’re getting ripped off by the real estate market. So I have to talk about cities as someone who has opted out in a big way.

To me, smaller cities make a lot of sense. But this is where I think the city as a construct gets very, very complicated. Does it make sense to talk about New York, London or Berlin as hotbeds of cosmopolitanism? Yeah, I’m sure it does. I’m not sure I feel the same way about Guangzhou in southern China, where I was for a bit of the summer: Massive city, giant manufacturing and mostly Han Chinese. Not a whole lot of obvious cultural manifestation."



"The whole book is basically a conversation about potential and reality. The potential of the Internet is that we’re going to get information from all over the world. And the reality is that, a lot of the time, we’re mostly getting information from people we went to high school with. The potential of the city is that we’re going to benefit from the fact that there’s a Uygur population somewhere over in Flushing, Queens, that we have so much to learn from all the different cultures, that I can go eat Senegalese food tonight, and that I’m going to brush shoulders with people from all over the world all the time. The reality is, it’s really easy to stay in your apartment and eat takeout food. You can fool yourself into being a cosmopolitan when you’re pretty isolated in your physical space.

Robert Putnam of Bowling Alone for years has been bemoaning how the Internet is going to separate us and how we’re losing the social fabric of mixing in public. But he’s done recent work that is much, much less discussed, because it’s really uncomfortable. He’s found that when you’re living in a city where you’re a minority, you’re probably going to hunker down. You’re probably not going to mix much with your neighbors. You’re probably going to spend a lot of time watching TV. Confronted with high degrees of cultural diversity, people, for the most part, don’t seem to step up to the challenge and meet their neighbors. In many ways, they hide from them. A lot of cities that have the highest degrees of civic participation are pretty ethnically homogenous.

I would love to be able to say, yes, cities are serendipity engines, and if you just fully embrace the city, and take advantage of all the cultural richness and diversity that’s available there, you’re going to find a way to get as much of that encounter as you get from having the Internet. But there’s no guarantee that you’re going to do it in the city. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to do it online, either, and my encouragement [in the book] is to look for bridge figures, look for translators and look for structured serendipity. And all of that is as applicable in an urban environment as it is in the online environment."
cities  2013  diversity  serendipity  ethanzuckerman  nancyscola  digital  cosmopolitanism  urban  urbanism  adamgreenfield 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Alec Soth looks back at his Socially Awkward Summer Camp | State of the Arts | Minnesota Public Radio News
"I wanted this to be a camp and not a school. Because I wanted it not to turn into a curriculum and creating a budget and all the sort of infrastructure, and then losing the spontaneity of it,” he said.”So I am worried about the idea of repeating it because that’s what you supposed to do in school.

“It wouldn’t feel so alive. But I definitely want to do something.”"
camp  alecsoth  storytelliung  2013  writing  photography  bradzellar  slideshows  stories  littlebrownmushroom  socialmedia  tarawray  wenxinzhang  serendipity  spontaneity  unschooling  deschooling  education  curriculum  summerinwintercamp  campforsociallyawkwardstorytellers  ephemeral  lcproject  ephemeralisty  openstuidioproject  pop-ups  ephemeralinstitutions  ephemerality 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Serendip-o-matic: Let Your Sources Surprise You
"Serendip-o-matic connects your sources to digital materials located in libraries, museums, and archives around the world. By first examining your research interests, and then identifying related content in locations such as the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Europeana, and Flickr Commons, our serendipity engine helps you discover photographs, documents, maps and other primary sources.

Whether you begin with text from an article, a Wikipedia page, or a full Zotero collection, Serendip-o-matic's special algorithm extracts key terms and returns a surprising reflection of your interests. Because the tool is designed mostly for inspiration, search results aren't meant to be exhaustive, but rather suggestive, pointing you to materials you might not have discovered. At the very least, the magical input-output process helps you step back and look at your work from a new perspective. Give it a whirl. Your sources may surprise you."
dpla  flickrcommons  flickr  serendipity  search  bibliography  europeana  zotero  wikipedia  onlinetoolkit  research 
august 2013 by robertogreco
futureful - your random guide to web for iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad on the iTunes App Store
[Website: http://www.futureful.com/ ]

"The best way to get lost in inspiration and imagination. Futureful never takes you to the same place twice.

Just choose and combine interesting topics
• Exciting stuff surfaces automatically
• Explore interesting long-forms, blog posts, news articles, videos and photos
• Combine topics to find more specific stuff

No sign-in. No typing. No following. No feeds. No categories.

• The app learns from you: the more you use it, the better it gets.
• You'll always have interesting things waiting for you

Avoid the obvious. Stay away from self-evident. Choose your journey."
applications  ios  ipad  iphone  discovery  random  internet  futureful  serendipity  onlinetoolkit 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Experimental travel - Wikipedia
"Experimental tourism is a novel approach to tourism in which visitors do not visit the ordinary tourist attractions (or, at least not with the ordinary approach), but allow whim to guide them. It is an alternative form of tourism in which destinations are chosen not on their standard touristic merit but on the basis of an idea or experiment. It often involves elements of humor, serendipity, and chance.

There are a number of approaches to experimental tourism:

• Aerotourism - in which a tourist visits the local airport and explores it without going anywhere.

• Alphatourism - in which a tourist finds the first street alphabetically on a map, and the last street alphabetically, draws a straight line (or any other figure they desire) between them, and walk the path between the two points.

• Alternating Travel - in which a tourist leaves their front door, turns right, turns left at the next intersection, turns right at the next, and so on, alternating each direction, until they are unable to continue because of an obstruction.

• Cecitourism - in which a tourist is blindfolded and allows a friend to escort them through the city.

• Contretourism - in which a tourist visits a famous tourist site, but turns their back on the site and takes photos of, or just examines, the view from that direction.

• Erotourism - in which a couple travels separately to the same city and then tries to find each other.

• Monopolytourism - in which a tourist takes the local version of a Monopoly board with them and visits places on the board as determined by a roll of the dice.

• Nyctalotourism - in which the tourist only visits tourist attractions between dusk and dawn.

Other ideas do not have particular names:

• "Touring" a home town. Stay at a youth hostel, backpack through town, meet new people, do not go home until the vacation is over.

• Taking a map of the town being visited, selecting a random map grid, and exploring every bit of the grid.

• Visiting a bar, asking the bartender where their favorite bar is and what they drink there. Visit that bar, do the same with the bartender there, and continue.

The concept of experimental travel was developed by writer Joel Henry, the French director of the Laboratory of Experimental Tourism (Latourex).

In 2005, Lonely Planet published The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel [http://www.amazon.com/Lonely-Planet-Guide-Experimental-Travel/dp/1741044502 ], which formalised and developed many of Henry's ideas."
travel  serendipity  experimental  experimentaltravel  tourism  psychogeography  situationist  chance  humor 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Tupperwolf: Anonymous asked: How the hell do you find all these interesting things you post to your reading Twitter? How do you go searching for these veins?
"Veinily is a useful way of seeing it. You never find an interesting thing on its own. And things are rarely interesting in themselves: everything makes sense as a product of its causes, after all. What are interesting are things in certain contexts, making connections that you could not have anticipated, doing kinds of things you did not know could be done.

Ignore rebels. Ignore lawgivers. Look for people who are sincerely willing to be either or neither, as the situation demands. Look for ones who (1) love the world as it is and (2) see how to make it better. People who rely on only one of those qualities tend to be more famous, more firework-y, and uninteresting."
learning  life  truth  charlieloyd  reading.am  veins  interestingness  curiosity  unschooling  deschooling  education  discovery  serendipity  process  rules  rulemaking  laws  rebels  fame  context  connections  connectivism  2013 
february 2013 by robertogreco
Manufacturing Serendipity - Rand's Blog
This manufacturing serendipity business breaks down pretty much like this:

1. Go to places that are not your office (conferences, events, meetups, trains, etc)
2. Participate in things, learn things, and be generally game for new experiences
3. Meet interesting people in the process
4. Build relationships
5. Be generally awesome by helping the people you’ve met and doing good deeds with no expectation of a return
6. Repeat 1-5 hundreds of times

Following this process yields a weird and wonderful return on investment. But, like many investments that actually pay off, that return is poorly understood for three big reasons:

Reason #1: The true value of serendipity usually comes years down the line. …

Reason #2: It’s nearly impossible to measure the impact of serendipity. …

Reason #3: Attribution is almost always misplaced."
learning  crosspollination  relationships  randfishkin  2012  luck  networking  serendipity 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Getting the News — Evan Williams | News.me
One thing that I find missing is discovery of non-new content. The web is completely oriented around new-thing-on-top. Our brains are also wired to get a rush from novelty. But most “news” we read really doesn’t matter. And a much smaller percentage of the information I actually care about or would find useful was produced in the last few hours than my reading patterns reflect.
newspapers  reading  evanwilliams  discovery  serendipity  rediscovery  resurfacing  howweread  howwelearn  novelty  via:tealtan 
september 2012 by robertogreco
A Jester’s Guide to Creative See[k]ing across Disciplines | American Journal of Play
"For many centuries and in many cultures, jesters recited tales of heroic exploits, but they did more than simply recount past events—they amused, cajoled, and spun tales that transported listeners to the edge of mysterious, unmapped territories. Through the transformative power of play and the imagination, they reworked what was already understood and created from it new realities that transcended the established order. The author maintains that such imaginative play is vital to creativity in any medium and is fundamental for optimal human development. She explores possibilities for cultivating creativity through the playful, paradoxical stance of the jester—a serendipitous and purposeful, strange and familiar, disruptive and productive figure. Her discussion, grounded in a visual-arts practice that leverages uncertainty and randomness, considers the role of play in light of its wider implications for knowledge and creativity."

[PDF: http://www.journalofplay.org/sites/www.journalofplay.org/files/pdf-articles/4-3-article-jesters-guide-to-creative-seeking-across-disciplines.pdf ]
challenge  howwelearn  howwework  productivity  strangeness  purpose  generalists  randomness  uncertainty  visualarts  imagination  play  serendipity  dianerosen  jester  jesters  cv  interdisciplinary  interdisciplinarity  creativity  disruption 
august 2012 by robertogreco
When a path of discovery becomes a loop and a mini “eureka” moment | The Linchpen
"I’m fascinated by paths of discovery. Not just the link you share, but the steps you took to get there. How did you end up at this point?

I experienced one such path tonight that turned into a loop and gave me a mini “eureka!” moment, so I wanted to share:

I met a fellow journalist/geek, Keith Collins, at BarCamp News Innovation Philly on April 28. We were chatting about science and that, of course, led to RadioLab. He mentioned a segment he enjoyed about a pendulum. I did a quick search on my phone and sent myself the link to read later. When I returned to the post, it didn’t seem like I found the right item — this was a post on the Krulwich Wonders blog about a Pendulum Dance. Nonetheless, it fascinated me.

I tweeted it with a hat tip to Keith and he replied with the actual segment he had referenced on the Limits of Science. It did not disappoint. I responded to say that I’d enjoyed it and Keith replied with a link to one of the things mentioned in the segment…"
eurekamoments  messiness  2012  paths  keithcollins  greglinch  tangents  circuitousness  learning  via:maxfenton  discovery  serendipity  search 
may 2012 by robertogreco
Stranger Studies 101: Cities as Interaction Machines - Kio Stark - Technology - The Atlantic
"There are three broad themes during the semester.

1. Why stranger interactions in cities are meaningful

2. The spaces and the significance of the spaces in which strangers interact, and

3. How strangers 'read' each other, how they initiate interactions, how they avoid interactions, how they trust each other and how they fool each other, how they watch, listen and follow each other.

Then there is the secret theme. I want students to fall in love with talking to strangers, to do it more, and to make technology that creates more plentiful and meaningful interactions among strangers."
discovery  serendipity  interaction  darreno'donnell  thechildinthecity  publicspace  janejacobs  josephmassey  ireneebeattie  ervinggoffman  richardsennett  kurtiveson  cosmopolitanism  cities  nyc  gothamhandbook  sophiecalle  paulauster  relationalart  situationist  georgsimmel  rolandbarthes  strangers  2010  kiostark  collaboration  psychology  social  architecture  technology  culture  urban  urbanism 
march 2012 by robertogreco
Flaneurism shouldn’t be easy | I Am Pete Ashton
"When you think about it, relying on the likes of Google, YouTube, Facebook et al stand up for the niche and the curious is pretty naive. Where their interests coincide they will side with the mainstream, and those interests will coincide more and more. We can’t rely on large Internet companies to look after this stuff – Yahoo’s half-arsed custody of Flickr should have taught us that. If we’re going to have an infrastructure that enables the spirit of the cyberflaneur to thrive we’re going to have to build and maintain it ourselves, above and beyond the financial blinkers of the mainstream.

One of the most surprising things about the Internet is how people think there’s a single monolithic culture. There used to be, back when access was difficult and determined by circumstance. But it’s not like that now. The Internet is for everything and everyone, which means it’s like everything else, prone to mediocrity and abuses of power…"
monoculture  discovery  diy  serendipity  stateoftheweb  exploration  psychogeography  online  web  flaneur  cyberflaneurism  2012  evgenymorozov  peteashton 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Joyce and the Internet: What Leopold Bloom Didn't Know - Alan Jacobs - Technology - The Atlantic
"James Joyce's narration leads us through the difficulty of finding knowledge in a pre-Internet era, reminding us how lucky we are to have this technology, despite all its flaws."
parallax  leopoldbloom  dunsink  jornbarger  web  internet  serendipity  literature  informationaccess  access  information  search  2012  ulysses  alanjacobs  jamesjoyce 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Daniel Gilbert (psychologist) - Wikipedia
“At the age of 19, Gilbert was a high school dropout who wanted to be a science fiction writer. In an attempt to improve his writing skills, he took a bus to the local community college to enroll in a creative writing class. When he was told that the creative writing class was full, he signed up for the only class that was still open: Introduction to Psychology.”
happiness  serendipity  circumstance  psychology  dropouts  danielgilbert 
january 2012 by robertogreco
The Startup Man: A Conversation With Joi Ito - Gregory Mone - Technology - The Atlantic
"…part of what managing the Lab is going to be about: trying to make that space perfect. Because the way it's laid out, the way things are connected, and how people run into each other and stumble on new things, a lot of that is affected by the layout. I don't think everybody gets how important that is…

Multi-disciplinary is a really key missing part of society, whether you're talking about science or the economy or any of these things. We've gotten so good at getting deep and being more and more specialized about a smaller and smaller thing that now we've got so many people who are really, really smart but don't know how to talk, let alone build anything together…

A physicist and a chemist and an architect are only going to work together really well when they're building something. You can have them sit around a table and argue but they'll really only be talking across each other. The minute you try and build something together it becomes rigorous."
mitmedialab  joiito  2011  multidisciplinary  interdisciplinary  lcproject  collaboration  making  doing  discovery  innovation  tcsnmy  learning  sharing  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  serendipity  generalists  creativity  creativegeneralists  medialab 
september 2011 by robertogreco
Orange Crate Art: Stefan Hagemann, guest writer: How to answer a professor
"Be interested in a lot of things: Some questions are designed to test your command of a set of facts, and some leave little room for interpretation. Once in awhile, a question might even permit a “yes” or “no” answer. But often you’ll be dealing with open-ended questions, ones about which there is much to say and from many angles. Recognize that most open-ended questions range across academic disciplines and areas of interest, and do your best to develop a good grasp of the world around you. Good question-answerers read widely, talk to their peers and professors, attend on-campus events such as plays and concerts, and (I’m guessing here) subscribe to PBS and NPR. Good question-answerers also listen. If you know a little bit about the world around you and make an effort to experience your immediate environment, you may be surprised by your ability to add outside knowledge to your answers. Broad experience equals (or at least increases the chance for) serendipity."
serendipity  interested  interestingness  interesting  stefanhagemann  howto  teaching  learning  education  experience  pbs  npr  knowledge  generalists  via:lukeneff  2010  noticing  connections  observation  listenting  inquiry  honesty  power  relationships  universities  colleges  highereducation  highered  interestedness 
august 2011 by robertogreco
the serendipity of the unexpected, or, a copy is not an edition » Sarah Werner
"The best thing about old books, I think, is their longevity and the traces of the history that they carry with them. Inscriptions, marginalia, doodles, vandalism, erasures, cutting out images and leaves–none of those are captured if your focus is solely on the text, and all of them have something to tell us about how a book was used."
unexpectedencounters  serendipity  marginalia  books  history  digitization  2011  socialtransactions  sarahwerner  intangibles  print  printing 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Between the By-Road and the Main Road: Being in the Middle: Learning Walks
"So imagine a commitment to learning that involved making regular learning walks with high school students as a normal part of the "school" day. Now, these learning walks should not be confused with walking tours, which are designed based on planned outcomes. One walks to point X in order to see object or artifact Y. The points are predetermined, hierarchical in design.

Instead, learning walks are rhizomatic. They are inherently about being in the middle of things and coming to learn what could not been predetermined. Learning walks are part of the "curriculum" for instructional seminar (which I described here)."

[My comments cross-posted here: http://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/7182110515/walking-and-learning ]
maryannreilly  comments  walking  walkshops  adamgreenfield  flaneur  psychogeography  derive  dérive  education  learning  schools  teaching  unschooling  deschooling  noticing  observation  seeing  2011  rhizomaticlearning  johnseelybrown  douglasthomas  unguided  self-directedlearning  serendipity  johnberger  willself  rebeccasolnit  sistercorita  maps  mapping  photography  alanfletcher  lawrenceweschler  kerismith  exploration  exploring  johnstilgoe  noticings  rjdj  ios  situationist  situatedlearning  situated  hototoki  serendipitor  flow  mihalycsikszentmihalyi  experience  control  ego  cv  coritakent 
july 2011 by robertogreco
YouTube - TEDxEast - Lauren Redniss - Mistakes Have Been Made
"Lauren shares her process both as a writer and and artist to create her works. Lauren also shares the unexpected benefits of trail and error throughout her journey as an artist."
laurenredniss  art  science  process  mistakes  serendipity  2011  learning  discovery  understanding  illustration  cyanotype  mariecurie  pierrecurie  history  books 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Eli Pariser: Beware online "filter bubbles" | Video on TED.com
"As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there's a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a "filter bubble" and don't get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy."
elipariser  echochambers  serendipity  internet  online  web  media  relevance  search  google  facebook  exposure  2011  ted  via:jessebrand  politics  crosspollination  dialogue  walledgardens  algorithms  censorship  personalization  advertising  yahoonews  huffingtonpost  nytimes  washingtonpost  impulse  aspirationalselves  filterbubble  dialog 
may 2011 by robertogreco
The Setup: Frank Chimero
"I’d like a more flexible, faster all-in-one inbox for my digital detritus. For some reason, DevonThink, Yojimbo, & Evernote aren’t cutting it for me. Tumblr is close, but not quite it. I’d like something that successfully handles images in tandem w/ text, because that’s how my brain works. I have this dream of having a management interface very similar to a hybrid of LittleSnapper & Yojimbo, & then a “serendipity engine” application for iPad. It’d be a bit like Flipboard where things are served up at random from your collection for browsing. That’s the flaw of all of these things, in my mind: they encourage you to get things in, but aren’t optimized for revisiting it in a way that lacks linearity or classification. If you’re looking to make constellations of content, I think the way your collection is presented back to you matters. I guess what I’m asking for is a digital rendition of the commonplace book, & serious rethinking of what advantages digital could provide…"
frankchimero  hardware  software  thesetup  tools  howwework  commonplacebooks  dropbox  devonthink  yojimbo  evernote  macbookair  photoshop  illustrator  muji  notebooks  tumblr  serendipity  discovery  iphone  kindle  lumixgf1  appletv  netflix  texteditor  gmail  instapaper  simplenote  rdio  itunes  reeder  2011  usesthis 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Drift Deck
"Welcome to Drift Deck, a different sort of city guide. Think of it as a set of playing cards that help you playfully find your own, untouristy way through city streets. It's a set of simple cues, clues, actions, and provocations to see your way about the city, looking at it from a different angle. It will make you an active part of your own romp around.

Drift Deck will help you capture and share your discoveries. You'll be able to share your journey through the maps you make and the photos you take. Share your Drifts with others around the world! Be active, not passive. Enjoy."
situationist  driftdeck  exploration  derive  dérive  julianbleecker  dawnlozzi  jonbell  davidspencer  brucesterling  bencerveny  kevinslavin  katiesalen  janemcgonigal  ianbogost  janepinckard  urban  urbanism  ios  iphone  applications  cities  perspective  noticing  engagement  observation  interaction  serendipity  maps  mapping  photography  psychogeography  context  context-awareness  undesign  design  arttechnology  landscape  landscapeasinterface  play  games 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Born to Learn ~ Meandering
"The brain works like that – I call it “helicoidal thinking”. Contrary to the best expectations of politicians and educational administrators learning is never linear, it is much more like the meandering river, shaped by its helicoidal flow. When you are gently meandering and going where the mood takes you, you frequently find that you solve a problem which, when sitting uncomfortably at your desk, you just couldn’t work out.

That is why young children need playgrounds, and adolescents need mountains to climb.  We adults especially need to meander again to escape the limitations of linear thinking.  To meander is critical – always following a straight line may take you to the wrong place."
meandering  cv  thinking  linear  linearthinking  helicoidalflow  flow  johnabbott  learning  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  tcsnmy  serendipity  via:cervus  education  linearity 
april 2011 by robertogreco
The Technium: The Satisfaction Paradox
"Let's say that after all is said and done, in the history of the world there are 2,000 theatrical movies, 500 documentaries, 200 TV shows, 100,000 songs, and 10,000 books that I would be crazy about. I don't have enough time to absorb them all, even if I were a full time fan. But what if our tools could deliver to me only those items to choose from? How would I -- or you -- choose from those select choices?"
kevinkelly  serendipity  choice  paradox  paradoxofchoice  satisfaction  satisfactionparadox  netflix  amazon  scarcity  abundance  google  spotify  music  film  curation  filters  filtering  discovery  recommendations  psychology  economics 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Quark - Neven Mrgan's tumbl
"If you’re ever looking for inspiration, take a dive into the Wikipedia hole. I’ll be sitting here imagining a universe built of subatomic ducks."
wikipedia  nevenmrgan  quarks  discovery  serendipity  reading  cv  exploration 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Beyond the “smart city,” part II: A definition | Urbanscale
"What do we call places where the above things apply? In recognition of the increasing ubiquity, everydayness and unremarkability of the technologies involved, we call them cities."
data  cocities  sustainability  adamgreenfield  smartcities  urbancomputing  definitions  2011  networkedobjects  services  efficiency  mobility  enhancedmobility  transparency  information  access  urban  urbanism  everyware  resources  urbanscale  serendipity  delight  citymagic  socialequity  inclusion  citizenagency  inclusivity  inlcusivity 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Speculative Diction: Places of Learning
"While we can’t necessarily change the buildings we’re in, we can be sensitive to their use, to our adaptation to the context provided. And we can ask ourselves questions. What would the building look like if we began by asking how people learn? How do people meet each other and form learning relationships? If you could design your own workspace, your own learning space, what would it look like and why? This need not involve a major reconstruction project. If the university had taken these things into account before renovating our program space, the same amount could have been spent and things might have looked, and felt, very different."
howwelearn  education  highereducation  highered  meloniefullick  place  flow  serendipity  exchange  conversation  schooldesign  learningplaces  learningspaces  architecture  thirdteacher  context  learning  informallearning  informal  engagement  reggioemilia  tcsnmy 
march 2011 by robertogreco
The New Culture of Learning: cultivating imagination for a world of constant flux - Joi Ito's Web
"As an "informal learner" who dropped out of college and managed to survive, "The New Culture of Learning: cultivating imagination for a world of constant flux" captures and provides a coherent framework for many of the practices that guide my own life. If their suggestions are able to be weaved into the discourse and practice of formal education, informal learners like myself might be able to survive without dropping out. In addition, even those who are able to manage formal education could have their experiences greatly enhanced.

John Seely Brown has continued to help give me confidence in the chaos + serendipity that is my life and have helped those who seek to understand people like us. This book brings together a lot of his work and the work of others (like my sister ;-) ) in a concise book definitely worth reading."
joiito  johnseelybrown  education  learning  unschooling  deschooling  dropouts  flux  serendipity  informallearning  informal  chaos  cv  sensemaking  2011  imagination  books  toread 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Frank Chimero - Velocity
"It is tempting to think there are no beginnings, no rebirths. Every new day we have to live with yesterday. That doesn’t mean we can’t change. Change is slower than we think. It sneaks up on us. We can’t shed our skin like snakes, we replace our cells, one-by-one. We cross-fade into becoming new people. One day you wake up & look in the mirror and say “Who is this person?”…

But when we travel, we move more rapidly than the rest of the world. We change faster, revise who we are quicker. I think when we travel our cells replace themselves with more rapidity. We may not be able to shed our skin, but through the sheer velocity of movement, we slough off our old selves.

But that furniture is still in the same spot when we return home. Mostly, it seems that things will be as they were before. And yet, not. Things are different now. I know it. They WILL be different. And better. This time through, I’ll be better. At least that is how it feels…"
frankchimero  change  perspective  travel  newzealand  airports  human  slow  velocity  urgency  improvement  self-improvement  clarity  accidents  serendipity  time 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Children at Play - The Run of Play [Goes on to discuss soccer players, pointing out the 'adults' and 'children' in professional ranks.]
"Sometimes I find myself walking home from work around the time the local elementary school dismisses its charges for the day. When this happens my daily journey becomes a little more interesting and a little more complicated, because children don’t walk the way adults do. Children will run past you, then stop and squat to look at a slug on the sidewalk, then run past you. Even when no stimulus, sluggish or otherwise, presents itself, they’ll slow down and dawdle for a while before hoofing it again. Also, for any given weather they might be wildly over- or under-dressed. The other day the temperature was in the high forties when I saw ahead of me two girls, ten years old or so… They were walking home from school and so had accoutered themselves, but neither seemed to notice the differences. They dawdled, and ran, and dawdled. I dodged them when necessary, which was often.

Adults aren’t like this. Adults dress appropriately and move steadily towards their goals."
children  adults  play  walking  goals  situationist  serendipity  curiosity  surprise  soccer  futbol  sports  football  xavi  zlatanibrohimavić  dirkkuyt  dawdling  purpose  slow  meandering  alanjacobs  tcsnmy  entertainment  discovery  differences  concentration 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Near Future Laboratory » What Innovation
"best part of book is last sentence…

"Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses & other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, reinvent. Build a tangled bank."

Had Johnson followed the walks of those innovators he was curious about, followed them along their mistakes & noted the ways they borrowed, recycled, reinvented he could have done away with the silly biology analogies. It’s all right there in the hands-on work that’s going on — there’s no need for a big, grand, one-size-fits-all theory about how ideas come to be and how they circulate, or don’t circulate and how they inflect and influence and change the way we understand and act and behave in the world. That’s the “innovation” story — or the way that *change-in-the-way-we-understand-the-world* comes about story."

[Now here: http://nearfuturelaboratory.com/2010/12/23/what-innovation/ ]
stevenjohnson  julianbleecker  innovation  crossdisciplinary  interdisciplinary  serendipity  learning  wheregoodideascomefrom  books  criticism  biology  walking  thinking  cv  analogies  analogy  adjacentpossible  stuartkauffman  science  robertkrulwich  kevinkelly  radiolab 
december 2010 by robertogreco
The Myth Of Serendipity
"The content that I want, and better yet, the content that I don’t even know that I want, is an ever-changing proposition based on any number of factors. To achieve that level of sophisticated customization requires a sensitive understanding of context for any proposed “serendipity engine”, both a context of the content and the user.<br />
<br />
In the end, relevance is a goal based on context. The impossibility of fully understanding every intricacy of context at any given moment makes achieving the mythical, consistent sweet spot of serendipity impossible. Recognizing that serendipity is a constantly moving target of context, the best we can hope to achieve are fleeting moments relevance."
serendipity  discovery  socialmedia  google  innovation  techcrunch  technology  search  context 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Amazon.com: A Field Guide to Getting Lost (9780143037248): Rebecca Solnit: Books
"This meditation on the pleasures and terrors of getting lost is-as befits its subject-less a coherent argument than a series of peregrinations, leading the reader to unexpected vistas. The word "lost," Solnit informs us, derives from the Old Norse for disbanding an army, and she extrapolates from this the idea of striking "a truce with the wide world." It's the wideness of the world that entices: a map of this deceptively slender volume would include hermit crabs, who live in scavenged shells; marauding conquistadors; an immigrant grandmother committed to an asylum; white frontier children kidnapped by Indians; and Hitchcock's "Vertigo." Solnit imagines a long-distance runner accumulating moments when neither foot is on the ground, "tiny fragments of levitation," and argues, by analogy, that in relinquishing certainty we approach, if only fleetingly, the divine."
rebeccasolnit  books  wayfinding  philosophy  discovery  serendipity  art  culture  curiosity  travel  yvesklein  understanding  human  maps  mapping 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Derek Powazek - Design for Serendipity
"1. Designers of digital media: There are many serendipitous routes that lead people to your stuff. Understand what they are and nurture them. But don’t become over-reliant on them. Design your stuff to create serendipitous connections between things. Look for every opportunity to hint that there’s much more to be discovered. Take the time to design the serendipity in to the experience.

2. Lovers of print: I love print, too, and yes, there’s something very special about that moment when you’re flipping through a book or a magazine and you discover something new. But that experience can just as easily happen online, especially if designers are doing their jobs (see #1). But just because you have’t yet had a serendipitous experience in digital media, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It just means designers have more work to do. But mostly you should just stop pretending that digital media cannot also be serendipitous. It just makes you look old, honey. Sorry."
serendipity  derekpowazek  oldmedia  online  webdesign  usability  ux  web  paper  discovery  information  media  design  wikipedia  stumbleupon  webdev 
november 2010 by robertogreco
stevenberlinjohnson.com: Can We Please Kill This Meme Now
"Serendipity is not randomness, not noise. It's stumbling across something accidentally that is nonetheless of interest to you. The web is much better at capturing that mix of surprise and relevance than book stacks or print encyclopedias. Does everyone use the web this way? Of course not. But it's much more of a mainstream pursuit than randomly exploring encyclopedias or library stacks ever was. That's the irony of the debate: the thing that is being mourned has actually gone from a fringe experience to a much more commonplace one in the culture."
2006  newspapers  stevenjohnson  serendipity  browsing  books  journalism  culture  web  randomness  internet  blogging  blogs  discovery  media 
november 2010 by robertogreco
elearnspace › Questions I’m no Longer Asking
"I’m firmly convinced of the following:

1. Learners should be in control of their own learning. Autonomy is key. Educators can initiate, curate, and guide. But meaningful learning requires learner-driven activity

2. Learners need to experience confusion and chaos in the learning process. Clarifying this chaos is the heart of learning.

3. Openness of content and interaction increases the prospect of the random connections that drive innovation

4. Learning requires time, depth of focus, critical thinking, and reflection. Ingesting new information requires time for digestion. Too many people digitally gorge without digestion time.

5. Learning is network formation. Knowledge is distributed.

6. Creation is vital. Learners have to create artifacts to share with others and to aid in re-centering exploration beyond the artifacts the educator has provided.

7. Making sense of complexity requires social and technological systems. We do the former better than the latter." [Read on...]
georgesiemens  education  connectivism  learning  timewasted  wastedtime  do  doing  autonomy  unschooling  deschooling  theendlessdebate  lcproject  community  networks  student-centered  student-led  messiness  chaos  process  serendipity  criticalthinking  reflection  information  cv  complexity  technology 
november 2010 by robertogreco
And Speaking of Revolutions. . . | Santa Fe Leadership Center
"If anyone is ready to lead the technology revolution in schools, it is Rob Greco, Middle Years Coordinator and humanities teacher at The Children’s School in La Jolla, CA. Rob is an educator who sees beyond the fads and fearlessly adopts technology in his classroom – hardware, software, social media alike. An artist, avid blogger, 21st century educator, and lifelong learner, Rob seamlessly integrates technology into his daily work with students.It is almost impossible to describe the way his students take up the endless technology options Rob presents them without simply experiencing it first hard. The SFLC invites you – urges you – to read the following post by Rob on his recent project with his students that resulted in a collaborative writing adventure with author Robin Sloan. I recommend following all of the links as you read along — you might learn a thing or two about teaching, blogging, feeding your passions, and serendipity."
tcsnmy  cv  ego  robinsloan  serendipity  edtech  technology  education  teaching  learning 
november 2010 by robertogreco
The Ecology of Thought: Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From - ProfHacker - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Johnson devotes three chapters to serendipity, error, and “slow hunches,” each of which can be a source of creativity and which, according to Johnson, can be harnessed by individual researchers. Countering the usual curmudgeonly complaint that the Web kills serendipity, Johnson argues that the ubiquity of mobile computing makes new forms of serendipity possible: “If the commonplace book tradition tells us that the best way to nurture hunches is to write everything down, the serendipity engine of the Web suggests a parallel directive: look everything up.”"

[via: http://lukescommonplacebook.tumblr.com/post/1322255880/if-the-commonplace-book-tradition-tells-us-that ]
stevenjohnson  serensipity  commonplacebooks  search  memory  slowhunches  mobile  phones  ubicomp  web  internet  cv  learning  ideas  error  serendipity 
october 2010 by robertogreco
Konstantin Novoselov Interview - Special Topic of Graphene - ScienceWatch.com
"The style of Geim's lab (which I'm keeping and supporting up to now) is that we devote ten percent of our time to so-called "Friday evening" experiments. I just do all kinds of crazy things that probably won’t pan out at all, but if they do, it would be really surprising. Geim did frog levitation as one of these experiments, and then we did gecko tape together. There are many more that were unsuccessful and never went anywhere (though I still had a good time thinking about and doing those experiments, so I love them no less than the successful ones).

This graphene business started as that kind of Friday evening experiment. We weren’t hoping for much, and when I gave it to a student, it initially failed. Then we had what you could call a stream of coincidences that basically brought us some very remarkable results quite quickly—within a week or so. Then we decided to continue on a more serious basis."
google20%  tcsnmy  graphene  science  physics  materials  play  research  fun  serendipity  experimentation  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  konstantinnovoselov  interviews 
october 2010 by robertogreco
Serendipitor
"Serendipitor is an alternative navigation app for the iPhone that helps you find something by looking for something else. The app combines directions generated by a routing service (in this case, the Google Maps API) with instructions for action and movement inspired by Fluxus, Vito Acconci, and Yoko Ono, among others. Enter an origin and a destination, and the app maps a route between the two. You can increase or decrease the complexity of this route, depending how much time you have to play with. As you navigate your route, suggestions for possible actions to take at a given location appear within step-by-step directions designed to introduce small slippages and minor displacements within an otherwise optimized and efficient route. You can take photos along the way and, upon reaching your destination, send an email sharing with friends your route and the steps you took."

[See also: http://vimeo.com/14205766 AND http://serialconsign.com/2010/09/out-wayfinding-serendipitor AND http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/09/serendipitor-gives-maps-and-navigation-a-gaming-layer/ ]
serendipity  wayfinding  maps  iphone  applications  serendipitor  mapping  discovery  exploration  vitoacconci  yokoono  fluxus  psychogeography  situationist  meandering  flaneur  derive  dérive  ios 
september 2010 by robertogreco
The design of serendipity is not by chance - Bobulate
"Chance leads to the possibility of new behaviors, new patterns, new ideas, and new structures. It allows people to change their behavior in response to context, in the moment, however fleeting. How might we help recapture serendipitous moments by helping coordinate chance? And what is the role of technology and interaction design? As the power that citizens have with their media grows, so must we grow opportunities for creative exploration, new ideas, and chance encounters."
lizdanzico  discovery  chance  serendipity  technology  iphone  applications  adamgreenfield  ios 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Frank Chimero - Robert Krulwich on Wondering
"Noticing is tough, yet rewarding work, & it begs to be documented. We’ve more tools than ever to do so. I’ve done some documenting of my own. I walk everywhere with a phone camera in my pocket, & I suspect you do too, so documenting visuals is easy. I can type on my phone, so I can capture text or overheard conversations. I can record video if necessary. And then? I can dump it to a Twitter account or a Tumblr blog to catalog everything. And then, if it is good? Maybe if the noticing started to arrange into larger patterns or there got to be a lot of documentation, I could maybe even print up a book of all the things I had noticed. …

As a person constantly in a position to produce words or designs or ideas, or whatever it may be, it feels good to give myself permission to kick back and inquisitively absorb things as they come. Part of noticing isn’t seeking, it’s highly reliant on serendipity and unexpected relevancy."
frankchimero  noticing  photography  sound  recording  audio  robertkrulwich  serendipity  patterns  patternrecognition 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Frank Chimero - Cooking, Magic, Jamming Your Own Stuff Through the Machine & Changing Everything
[Frank: Thanks. That Grant Achatz piece came along while digging around online after seeing "A Day at El Bulli" [Phaidon] at the bookstore—some old-fashioned serendipity there. Don't miss this (bookmarked a year ago): http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6105.html &, for the record, on Sunday, my kids were remarking about my actual sense of smell.]

"I’m not sure I know specifically what magic is, but maybe it is encountering a good impossibility. We don’t run into many Willy Wonkas or Walt Disneys in our lives: someone who has a completely different viewpoint than our own, & somehow, through sheer talent or brute force, builds a temple to that point of view."… "I think the future belongs to designers who can create their own content; to designers who have a point of view about the world. To folks who can make people respond to what they make and build an audience and then let them support that point of view." … "At this point in my life, I believe the future of design is the polymath."
frankchmero  magic  design  ferranadrià  elbulli  vision  meaning  purpose  ego  serendipity  frankchimero  polymaths  generalists  future  cv  glvo  experience  surprise  delight  creativity  imagination  personality  audience 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Serendipitor for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store
"Serendipitor is an alternative navigation app that helps you find something by looking for something else. Enter an origin and a destination, and the app maps a route between the two. You can increase or decrease the complexity of this route, depending how much time you have to play with. As you navigate your route, suggestions for possible actions to take at a given location appear within step-by-step directions designed to increase the likelihood that, in the end, you will have encounters you could never have pre-planned. You can take photos along the way and, upon reaching your destination, send an email sharing with friends your route and the steps you took."

[via: http://twitter.com/agpublic/status/21619402371 ]
serendipity  serendipitor  applications  iphone  maps  mapping  location  driftdeck  flaneur  wayfinding  navigation  gps  urban  urbanism  urbancomputing  urbanexploration  ios 
august 2010 by robertogreco
From Obama to Efron - sneak peek of The Accidental News Explorer iPhone app on Vimeo
"The Accidental News Explorer is a new type of news app that celebrates serendipity and chance encounters. Start by searching for a subject. Once you've browsed the suggested articles taken from hundreds of news sources, tap the “related topics” button to discover connected topics, which in turn lead to more articles. Each article leads to new things; the more curious you are, the longer your journey will be. What will you discover? Coming soon to iPhone"
brendandawes  news  discovery  serendipity  iphone  applications  reading  curiosity  accidentalnewsexplorer  instapaper  ios 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Main Screen | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
"From the forthcoming iPhone app "The Accidental News Explorer: "Look for something, find something else" [I'm intriqued.]

"The Accidental News Explorer - a news exploration iPhone app that celebrates serendipity and the joy of discovering unthought of paths." [http://brendandawes.posterous.com/being-selfish-making-things-for-yourself-to-m]
serendipity  news  iphone  applications  brendandawes  accidental  accidentalnewsexplorer  ios 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Buttons for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store
"Buttons is a camera that takes other people's pictures. When you press the camera button, Buttons records the current time or location, then searches the net for other photos that have been taken in the very same moment or place. Photos that are at once not yours but also somehow yours."
iphone  applications  cameras  chatroulette  serendipity  ios 
july 2010 by robertogreco
In praise of tardiness - Bobulate [The above is not necessarily the "value" of tardiness, but rather an example of how timing can be improtant & often is only a matter of chance. Oh, and something about the power of suggestion.]
"One day in 1939, Berkeley doctoral candidate George Dantzig arrived late for a statistics class taught by Jerzy Neyman. He copied down the 2 problems on the blackboard & turned them in a few days later, apologizing for the delay—he’d found them unusually difficult. Distracted, Neyman told him to leave his homework on the desk.

On a Sunday morning 6 weeks later, Neyman banged on Dantzig’s door. The problems that Dantzig had assumed were homework were actually unproved statistical theorems that Neyman had been discussing with the class—& Dantzig had proved both of them. Both were eventually published, w/ Dantzig as coauthor.

“When I began to worry about a thesis topic,” he recalled later, “Neyman just shrugged & told me to wrap the 2 problems in a binder & he would accept them as my thesis.”"

[Don't miss the other contrary examples at the bottom.]
tardiness  promptness  etiquette  timing  serendipity  knowingless  seeingonlypartofthepicture  lateness  misunderstanding  happyaccidents  thepowerofsuggestion  thereisnooneway  lizdanzico 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Twitter Strangers : The Frontal Cortex
"We naturally lead manicured lives, so that our favorite blogs & writers & friends all look, think & sound a lot like us. (While waiting in line for my cappuccino...I was ready to punch myself...as I realized everyone in line was wearing exact same uniform: artfully frayed jeans...etc. & we were all staring at same gadget & probably reading same damn website...our pose of idiosyncratic uniqueness was a big charade.) While this strategy might make life a bit more comfortable - strangers can say such strange things - it also means that our cliches of free-association get reinforced. We start thinking in ever more constricted ways.

& this is why following someone unexpected on Twitter can be a small step towards a more open mind. Because not everybody reacts to same thing in same way. Sometimes, it takes a confederate in an experiment to remind us of that. & sometimes, all it takes is a stranger...exposing us to a new way of thinking about God, Detroit & Kardashians."
jonahlehrer  twitter  dissent  creativity  strangers  innovation  psychology  socialmedia  socialnetworking  social  homgeneity  serendipity  diversity  indiosyncracy  difference  perspective  insularity 
july 2010 by robertogreco
…My heart’s in Accra » What if search drove newspapers?
"My concern is this – we’ve got great tools to help us find what we’re interested in online – search engines. We’re building strong tools to let us see what our friends and people who share our interests are interested in – Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Digg. Who’s building tools to help us encounter stories we didn’t know we were interested in, and which our friends haven’t already found? Who’s building online tools that go beyond search and social towards serendipity?"
ethanzuckerman  future  journalism  newspapers  search  serendipity  diversity  online  internet  web  twitter  facebook  reddit  digg 
july 2010 by robertogreco
FutureEverything Blog | Serendipity, cities, apps: Bringing it all back home
"Just now, these are the sort of interventions I believe most likely to mesh with the way cities already work (and most of us already know how to use them). But who knows what comes a little further out, once the way we do citying has had a little time to evolve, and to take account of the mobile, networked, location-based reality we know inhabit? If we learn anything at all from having experienced serendipity, it’s not merely to expect but to cherish the unexpected — the ruptures in routine from which all novelty flows. And if we use them consciously and well, the following thirteen applications can present us with just such ruptures.
iphone  applications  serendipity  adamgreenfield  computing  ubiquitous  urban  cities  crime  ios 
may 2010 by robertogreco
Blog: Frank Chimero (Here)
"I’ve said before attention is the most limited resource we have. We’re spread too thin, like too little butter over too much bread. I still believe that’s true, and there are a lot of people talking about how to alleviate that situation. But, often times the discussion stops too soon: we wrongly think that we’re just here to put up fences around certain areas so we’re not spread too thin.

We forget that the opportunity isn’t just to build up walls in certain areas, but to tear them down in others to give us the opportunity to care, to teach, and to just be present for a little while. Bad writers give mediocre advice that tell you to build up walls. The best writers tell you to tear walls down in the areas that matter to you. Because being available leads to incredible things: not only to unforeseen requests like Irwin’s, but also unexpected opportunities like _why’s teaching kids programming on a train ride. Availability is a mindset."
presence  frankchimero  availability  attention  delight  wonder  robertirwin  teaching  serendipity  play  focus  grazing  writing  programming  wisdom  singletasking  monotasking 
may 2010 by robertogreco
Adventures of the Mind « John’s Blog
"...you never know when a decision you make is going to have a profound effect in your life. At least, I’ve never been able to tell. So my coping strategy — what I do to make everything work for me — is try to put myself into situations where there are tons of great choices, tons of great people, tons of great outcomes possible — so that it makes the odds that I make some really important & good choices that much better." [via: http://metacool.typepad.com/metacool/2010/05/metacool-john-lilly.html]
choice  serendipity  importance  planning  cv  vision  purpose  learning  opportunity  life  decisions  decisionmaking  people  connections  conversation  chance 
may 2010 by robertogreco
Focusing on everything - Joi Ito's Web
"One of the great thoughts in the book is the idea that you should set a general trajectory of where you want to go, but that you must embrace serendipity and allow your network to provide the resources necessary to turn any random events into a highly valuable one and that developing that network comes from sharing and connecting by helping others solve their problems and build things."
2010  focus  joiito  serendipity  ties  social  people  connections  messiness  trajectory  purpose  cv  conversation  networks  sharing  time  life  flexibility  chance  opportunity 
may 2010 by robertogreco
Op-Ed Columnist - Riders on the Storm - NYTimes.com
"This study suggests that Internet users are a bunch of ideological Jack Kerouacs. They’re not burrowing down into comforting nests. They’re cruising far and wide looking for adventure, information, combat and arousal. This does not mean they are not polarized. Looking at a site says nothing about how you process it or the character of attention you bring to it. It could be people spend a lot of time at their home sites and then go off on forays looking for things to hate. But it probably does mean they are not insecure and they are not sheltered.
davidbrooks  serendipity  web  online  internet  politics  polarization  segregation  integration  commons  ideology  exposure  fragmentation  socialmedia  connectivity  offline  homophily  2010  networks  blogs  blogging 
may 2010 by robertogreco
Ideological Segregation Online and Offline
"We use individual and aggregate data to ask how the Internet is changing the ideological segregation of the American electorate. Focusing on online news consumption, offline news consumption, and face-to-face social interactions, we define ideological segregation in each domain using standard indices from the literature on racial segregation. We find that ideological segregation of online news consumption is low in absolute terms, higher than the segregation of most offline news consumption, and significantly lower than the segregation of face-to-face interactions with neighbors, co-workers, or family members. We find no evidence that the Internet is becoming more segregated over time." [via: http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com/2010/04/the-glass-box-and-the-commonplace-book.html]
fragmentation  2010  segregation  socialmedia  homophily  politics  internet  networks  ideology  research  serendipity  connectivity  web  online  offline  f2f 
may 2010 by robertogreco
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