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March « 2009 « Plebian Design: Blog

Archive for March, 2009

How do the systems for sharing get to be more successful than the business of hiding?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

(When) Did we replace models of sharing with models of hiding? ie, (When) Did we create soul-sucking machines of progress? Television, wall st, military industrial complex, big box stores, etc. We think these systems should be trashed? Or upgraded slightly? Does open information solve their problems? What is the future of large American institutions such as the banks, automotive, pharma, military industrial complex, media publishing, etc. Do you actively work to take them down? Or do you build something better nearby and assume that you can design safe evacuation for the participants?

How do the systems for sharing get to be more successful than the business of hiding? Or are they already with facebook, twitter, flickr, youtube, digg, reddit, craigslist, etc… Bill has left the building. Will Steve leave soon too? Will Linus or many others take over?
Do these ideas translate to physical domain already? Is the enlightened characteristic of “success” the ability to truly democratize content production and credit?
We believe in this thing, therefore we all should be engaged in a broader conversation about the process of sharing information, no?
Does frequency/unit of sharing affect reception and transmission? And when does knowledge “count”? Is it when one person knows? 5? Half? Or when we all know?

There are a bunch of people who are doing the sharing thing already so it shouldn’t be shocking for us to do it to, right? How can we be explicit about what is being done now in specific implementations and what is being done in meta analysis/trends? Should we use the tools of the ad agencies? Or we should invent new methods? What is the sustainable version of the superbowl ad that we use to sell news ideas and processes? Is “flat and peer-to-peer information transfer for all we do in life” the end goal? Does this allow both the capitalist idea of the market solving all with the communist idea of a public trust (all information)?

In terms of the practical and the now, what are the businesses or systems I am using that support sharing and have an ability to overturn an existing business leader?
I should mention that I regularly use firefox (vs safari or ie), openoffice (vs word, excel, etc), vlc (vs itunes, windows media player, etc). I am not using linux (vs windows/macos) but hope to have a linux machine soon. I use arduino and shop at adafruit. I am beginning to use gimp (vs photoshop) and inkscape (vs illustrator/corel). I have been a small user of processing, openframeworks, and codeblocks.
And corporate software I am using: I am currently happy with ableton live (~$400). I don’t like Solidworks (~$3500) and have looked for alternatives but haven’t found anything yet.

Can I actually make a living right now sharing? Or should I still be looking for work in the hiding businesses because that is the reality?

Not Art for Art’s Sake, Art for Life’s Sake

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

It’s been a century and a half since Darwin dropped the E bomb. It’s taken long enough, but people are starting to connect the dots of our gene culture co-evolution. Seventeen years ago, Ellen Dissanayake wrote a book called Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why in which she offers a species-centric view of art that digs deep into our evolutionary origins for answers.

She proposes that art, or what she calls making special, was an evolutionary adaptation. She frames art as a collection of activities that, by leveraging our innate aesthetic response, attached emotion and hence assured special attention to those things most vital to our survival as a species.

Art was a means of coping with an onslaught of existential anxieties that acccompanied consciousness. Artistic activities were a means of elaborating and shaping participants’ thoughts and emotions, providing an illlusion of control. In the context of ritual, making things special created a wildly positive feedback loop of group efficacy and cohesion.

There has been a hoopla of media attention surrounding Denis Dutton’s new book The Art Instinct. It’s heartening to see these ideas entering the popular sphere. Read Homo Aestheticus first, though. I will go so far to say that it is the most important art book ever written. Regardless of its pending verification by the scientific community, it opens our eyes to a deep trove of answers and understanding of the arts and emphasizes their integral place in the fabric of our species.

The Open Source Birthday

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Recently we at Plebian Design have been thinking about the creation of an Open Source Birthday Song. (The current birthday song is copyrighted) We’d like a community to consistently form better and better open-source versions of the birthday song.. every once in a while a more catchy version would catch along and that’s what you’d sing at the birthday parties. So, trends would happen. The song could be similar content but in a constant state of evolution. Would you like to participate? Let us know on the project page.

I just turned 31. My goals for this year:

  • Focus in the present as much as possible. Remember it is the motion around the sun that is important, not how many times you’ve gone around.
  • Focus on others’ perception as little as possible, while keeping in mind that their perceptions and my ‘masks’ can create possible connections where previously there were none.
  • Practice as much radical honesty as possible, in both business/art and friendship.
  • Share/collaborate as much as possible. Get everything out there, all the time. Put ideas out - information is free.

I recently wrote a short birthday poem for a friend Wes’s birthday. It is below, describes a rough draft of what I feel is important about the birthday process.

Originally for Wes Skiles:

The fundamental unit of time is not the second, but the day.
Every measure of human time is based on when we have light, and when it is dark.
Every rhythm in our lives is determined by the fundamental rhythm of the rotation of the Earth, and our daily view of the Sun.
There was a time in our history when we knew ‘day,’ but not ‘year.’
Every 365.25 days, we appear at a reference point in space.
It helps us keep perspective on gaining wider feedback loops,
of seeing our thoughts on multiple levels,
and how it is the process, not the result, to value.

How better to celebrate our lives
than to celebrate the journey around the source of our lives - marked periodically?

I Supposedly Wrote This When I Was 18

Monday, March 16th, 2009

The couch has become an impotent helm and the television, an empty sea unfit for exploration. As society gives us more external means of entertainment and exploration, we must look inward. We must unlock our potential for growth and search for an understanding of our world. In dealing with the various demands placed upon us by our schools, occupations, friends, parents, and most importantly, ourselves, we must also find constructive ways to vent our anxieties.

With the rapidly increasing power of the computer, electrical technologies are manifesting themselves in every aspect of our lives. There is no doubt about the benefits we receive from this technology. With the computer comes knowledge and power. The globe has become a smaller place where information spreads at unimaginable speeds.

As we increase our contact with the often commercial and generic nature of electronic media, there are things we must not lose sight of. We must not let the information age slowly devour our imagination. We must always have ways to express ourselves and strengthen our individuality.

In this spirit, and observer of advancing technology once noted, “One machine can do the work of 50 ordinary men, but no fifty machines can do the work of one extraordinary man.” One of the most important characteristics that distinguished a man as extraordinary is his ability to deal with the problems he encounters through spiritual means and this re-evaluation of himself.

The epitome of this spiritual evaluation is art. I have found artistic media to be the most effective outlets for emotion whether it is through music, writing, sculpting, painting, or design, art holds the keys to self-expression and a shaping of individuality. Art is a means by which to convey your ideas without limitations or restrictions.

In his relation of art to morals, Ruskin writes, “Life without industry is guilt, industry without art is brutality.” His statement describes the need for art in a technological society. It implies that without artistic distraction from the monotony of our daily routines, our lives will be filled with tedium and the void of civility. As Shakespeare once wrote, “Art is the imposition of order on chaos.”

Art has an enemy called ignorance. With its philosophical and sometimes quirky personality, are has been known to elicit ignorance. It is ironic that art also has the wonderful ability to make people aware of their society’s diversity by exposing them to new and foreign ideas. As we enter the next stage in our lives, we must keep an open mind to the unique experiences are can offer.

Art stares us in the face under its masks and churns within our minds under its chains. I cannot stress enough the importance of unlocking the creativity you all possess. Even for those of you who have already discovered constructive and satisfying means of venting your emotions and expressing yourselves I urge you to exercise your minds and unlock your potential through some artistic medium.

As states most simply by Longfellow, “Art is Power. Art is the power of understanding. It is the power to exercise the soul. It is the power to open your mind and speak you mind. It is the power to overcome ignorance and celebrate diversity.

(That was my Valedictorian speech from high school graduation.)

Thinking the unthinkable, information is free.

Monday, March 16th, 2009

A great new post from Clay Shirky on Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.

Those in the newspaper industry don’t know what to do with the free information distribution miracle that is the internet. It breaks the previous business models.

It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.

and the inability for us to predict what is next…

In craigslist’s gradual shift from ‘interesting if minor’ to ‘essential and transformative’, there is one possible answer to the question “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments, each of which will seem as minor at launch as craigslist did, as Wikipedia did, as octavo volumes did.

Of course, this is not just newspapers, this is the music industry, this is book publishing, this is magazines and publishing of any sort. But it does not stop at publishing. This affects everything from government to churches to cars to cameras to pharmaceuticals to art. It will just hit some later than others. If it hasn’t hit the industry you work in, don’t worry, it will.

Information is free. The true cost of sharing a story, photo, mp3, video, or abstract chunk of data is essentially zero. Companies that make their money off of hoarding and distribution are going to be history soon enough. And one way or another this will force every industry to rethink the general concept of “intellectual property” or “information ownership”. There are so many new tools and so many ways for information to get out there. We love to share. And we aren’t going to stop anytime soon. From leaked emails to napster to the pirate bay, someone younger and more clever than you will liberate the information. Sharing is the present and most certainly the future.

What is next? Well, there is no telling for sure but we can certainly try to celebrate and document those who are sharing right now. How are they making money? How are they adding value? Is it sustainable growth? How do we share more information?

Can we all stop building fences around our information? How do those of us who are more comfortable with this transition help others around us? How do we tell this story better to the general public? Can we ease the big companies out of this or will they come crashing down clinging to their old models?

Is radical honesty the best policy?

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Radical Honesty.Brad Blanton practices ‘radical honesty’ - not only completely honest about everything, but forthright. He claims that all sources of anxiety come from our inabilities in culture to remain completely honest with each other. At first, a somewhat reasonable initial proposition; upon some further reflection, this seems impossible to accomplish; and upon even further reflection, this seems almost spiritual in nature. More info on Brad Blanton here.

Does radical honesty enable us to completely focus on process instead of product? Maybe it is not the specific content of our interactions that matters as much as the continual process of growth and sharing [true intimacy] between people. And, that only by being completely open with each other, can we find true authenticity in our relationships. Also, being continually hurt and hurting others with full honesty allows us all to grow as individuals, and develop a much deeper sense of empathy. However, it is worth the pain caused in the process? I am slowly being convinced it may be so.

Is radical honesty the best policy?

things that animals do. extended remix.

Monday, March 9th, 2009

they dream
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2BgjH_CtIA

they make tools
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtmLVP0HvDg

they plan for the future
chimp created weapons hurl zoo vistors

they take drugs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUK3MkQDEOI

they build cities
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQERRbU23bU

what is left to only humans?

Robert Krulwich on Storytelling

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Robert Krulwich knows what he’s talking about. One of the best commencement addresses I’ve ever heard, from NPR’s Radiolab.

I just signed as a speaker with Jodi Solomon, to start lecturing to students, adults, children, etc.. and I’ve been trying to settle on what ideas are most important to share, and how best to share them. This corresponds extremely well with everything I’ve been thinking about - how to spread the love of science and how evolution adds to the beauty that we see in all things. Telling stories that show deeper beauties through science and through the process of evolution, in many contexts. Studying the most potent means of transfer of knowledge is an important field, one we as scientists can be more conscious of and try to improve. We deal with our ideas in a very closed mindset.

Very inspiring. “Take a chance. find the words… share the beauty… tell them a story.”

The Menu

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

We are open sourcing our process. More specifically, we are trying to put all our unfinished pieces and ideas online. We hope to encourage collaboration and strengthen our thinking process. We don’t claim ownership, we are just hoping to be a part of the greater dialog.

Is information free?