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Monthly Archives: September 2002

Warren Ellis reviews one of the most beautiful considerations of human creativity I’ve come across: Snakes & Ladders by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell.

It’s a wonderfully sensitive illustrated adaptation of a talk Moore gave at the Conway Hall, Red Lion Square (which I walk through on the way to work every morning) – using the square’s history, it’s inhabitants and their encounters with the muse as a basis for the investigation of dna, magic and the creative urge.

There’s a PDF preview [c. 500k] to give a flavour.

» artbomb.net: Snakes & Ladders

Short, thoughtful recap of a lot of the memes around wifi vs 3g by the old man of the seachange, Nicholas Negroponte:

“In the future, each Wi-Fi system will also act like a small router, relaying to its nearest neighbors. Messages can hop peer-to-peer, leaping from lily to lily like frogs — the stems are not required. You have a broadband telecommunications system, built by the people, for the people. Carriers are aware of this, but they discount it because they do not feel there will be sufficient coverage. They are wrong.”

» WiReD: Nicholas Negroponte: Being Wireless
[via warchalking.org]

Just spent a couple of hours hacking together my entry in the Viridian BioFuture Robot Dog Contest, based on some doodles and sketches that have been mounting up over the last month. Here he is below, along with some of the sales-blurb that goes along with the entry…

“Introducing Von Neumanns best friend.

A self-replicating, self-structuring nanodog system designed to be fun for all the posthuman family. Advanced ‘stinky-sneaker-simulant’ tail-bonds ensure structural integrity whatever the game – from chasing a stick to digging tunnels through gas-giants.

Von Neumann’s best friend is a canine companion that will last you from now until way after the singularity. He’ll be your pal no matter what scale or how distributed your consciousness is.”

» BioFuture Robot Dog Contest: Von Neumann’s Best Friend

From McSweeney’s interview with Kurt Vonnegut:

Q: It is a weird moment in history, don’t you think?

Kurt Vonnegut: Well, my late brother Bernie, who was a great expert on weather — at one point he knew more about tornadoes than anybody else on the planet, I imagine — was always approached by people who knew his background and wanted him to be an expert about it. “Bernie, isn’t this weather unusual?” And he would say, “The weather is always unusual.” I mean, this is a very special time in history, but every time is.’

» McSweeney’s: The best jokes are dangerous: interview with Kurt Vonnegut, pt. 1

The Observer interviews various leaders in their field about what creativity is, their creative processes and inspirations. Some heroes of mine in there:

J.G. Ballard
“If you’ve got a strong imagination it’s there all the time, it’s working away. You’re kind of remaking the world as you walk down a street, sort of reinventing it. I have a walk every day and a good think about things. I sometimes think maybe this town is a complete conspiracy, or maybe it’s a very advanced kind of psychological experiment – all these ideas occur to me and every now and again I think: ‘Hey, that’s not bad. That’s worth pursuing.’”

Jan Kaplicky

“Architecture is generally presented by one name, but it’s a fantasy and very 19th-century to claim it is a one-man product. A lot depends on the people you have around you and how good they are.”

Peter Saville

“Ideas never come out how you first imagined them – something else happens along the way, and if you’re lucky it turns out better. For me the process of thinking about things goes on all the time. I’m very often quite happy to sit down and watch some football, or pornography, late at night, in order to avoid thinking about things, to avoid reading another interesting magazine or journal or a new book.”

Some good quotes in the intro to the interviews by Guy Claxton, a psychologist:

“Essentially, creativity is all about learning to listen to the unconscious and being able to cultivate that relaxed and alert time that is typical of meditation and dreaming. Very creative people may be able to do this intuitively, but it is important to realise that we were all born with creative minds.”

This is great. I can’t stand it when people maintain that “creativity”, especially in the field of design, is some special exclusive right of those in the mysterious turtle-necked/expensive-vintage-t-shirt caste, and any idea originated outside of “the design team” is automatically to be discounted.

To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke again, creativity isn’t magic, it’s just indistinguishable sufficently-advanced thinking; and anyone can do that.

» Observer Magazine: “Here is the muse”

Half aide-memoire, half-call-for-participation: things I have a burning need to write about/remove from my head by typing – but don’t have the time to address right now. Outboard-brain-dump begin.

Dump ends. Begin prioritisation. What first? If you get to any of them before me – let me know! la la la… i found my sooooldier girl… she’s so far away… she makes my head spin around… la la la… BZZZT. End of line.

Meatball may be my new favourtie thing:

“Really, it’s dangerous to even cut the marble and say, “Here, this is what Meatball is about.” Having done that before, it was a mistake. Like any community, it defines itself by being itself. The direction is only an illusion of consent amongst its members.

That being said, there need to be defined goals to direct our efforts. MeatBall is about…

People and People and Computers and People.

Meatball Wiki: MeatballMission

Skimming the surface of social-software research and thinking, there is a lot made of the the things that we are ‘hard-wired’ to do – for instance the notion of the “law of 150″, and other anthropological rules of thumb. Steven PInker’s new book ‘The Blank Slate” delves into this area, with mixed results according to the Guardian review:

“The notion of the tabula rasa, ‘the blank slate’, is utterly wrong, he insists. Human nature is not ‘unbelievably malleable’, as anthropologist Margaret Mead once claimed, but contains a set of inherited neurological instructions that direct us to seek status, to fight and to make peace, to make weapons and tools, to acquire a spoken language, to gossip, to use common facial expressions, to admire generosity, to adorn our bodies and to worry about the weather.”

Going to see Pinker debate “Social Nature vs Cultural Nuture” with Ian McEwan tomorrow evening. Should be a blast – I’ll try and get some notes up here.

» Guardian Unlimited Books | Hoist by his own polemic

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