Friday, 12 February 2010

140 Characters Conference

Ajit Jaokar is speaking at the 140 characters conference in Barcelona next week and a blog post of his drew in a comment from a reader, Alok Tripathi, who wrote:
What makes Twitter unique?
---- any magic sauce in their technology that can't be replicated?
---- a unique business model strength?

I don't see anything unique but fail to understand the hype and extensive media coverage.

Failure to understand the "hype and extensive media coverage" is to fail to understand that Twitter is not purely a technical and commercial activity. It is a catalyst for social media (i.e. people!) and that is where the real disruption occurs. If individuals engage big time then it has the potential to challenge established social, technical and economic constructs. I am not saying anything new here as many others articulate similar views - however part of the crisis we face at the moment appears to be that we are living in an interregnum between a collapsed communist system, a collapsed capitalist system and some new horizon yet to be determined. The conversations are being had but it will take many years for it to codify into something of our own history. Ajit: as Brian Eno would say it is a Long Now!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Social, individual or a mix of both?

Neil Perkin recently highlighted the Mark Earl's book "Herd" on his blog as a useful read in the current social media whirl. Neil has even blogged about it here recently which reminded to to put keyboard to screen and try to say "hey now wait up"!

In reading Mark Earls' book I recognise I am one of those people who do not totally agree with the concept that we are purely social animals - it smacks of pure Darwinism to me. Whilst I agree we socially relate there is a case for the individual. If you read the work of Frankl, to quote the sleeve of "The Doctor & the Soul", he "...retained the belief that the most important freedom of all is the freedom to determine one's own spiritual well-being."

A dramatic example would, I believe, be our own death-bed - it will be the finality of that experience that will drive home the fact that for all our social relations we are left with our self.

It is in that context we can see the challenges of the internet and how we relate to known people and unknown folk through the intermediation of Facebook, Myspace, Twitter etc. using in some instances the technology of video cameras. It is fascinating to see Michael Wesch's work at Kansas, especially the initial reactions of individuals speaking to camera - without a clear social signal of who they are speaking to they are left with the raw sense of themselves. I would suggest that this is what might be considered for many, "a threshold experience" as they move to a true awakening of a sense of self. Michael Wesch in his blog piece pointed this out when he said,
"Hallway conversations [@ Personal Democracy Forum] were different than your typical conversations. Instead of lots of people saying, “You know, somebody should … ” there were lots of people saying, “So I did this, this, and this, and now I’m working on doing this, this, and this and we should collaborate … ” In other words, it was a bunch of people blessed with what I once heard Yochai Benkler and Henry Jenkins call “critical optimism.”

So we go from "others" in the social "should" to individuals feeling empowered to do something, "I did". To say that it is all social misses the point that it is only through individual's (first) acting in a social context does that social context comes alive.

Sunday, 26 April 2009


Reading around the subject of semiotics the discussion of course turns to signs and symbols and before long you get involved with trying to comprehend simulacra. A definition from the web suggests:

SIMULACRUM (simulacra): Something that replaces reality with its representation. Jean Baudrillard in "The Precession of Simulacra" defines this term as follows: "Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.... It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real" (1-2). His primary examples are psychosomatic illness, Disneyland, and Watergate. Fredric Jameson provides a similar definition: the simulacrum's "peculiar function lies in what Sartre would have called the derealization of the whole surrounding world of everyday reality" (34).

The trouble with this territory is the lack of input of the idea of thinking and the part it plays in the whole relationship of percept and concept. Fascinating to read Rudolph Steiner's "The Science of Knowing - Outline of an Epistemology Implicit in the Goethean World View" (1886). In a section on "Thinking & Perception" he writes:

"We are used to seeing the world of concepts as empty and without content, and so used to contrasting perception with it as something full of content and altogether definite, that it will be difficult to establish for the world of concepts the position it deserves in the true scheme of things. We miss the fact entirely that mere looking is the emptiest thing imaginable, and that only from thinking does it first receive any content at all. The only thing true about the above view is that looking does hold the ever-fluid thought in one particular form, without our having to work along actively with this holding. The fact that a person with a rich soul life sees a thousand things that are a blank to someone spiritually poor proves, clear as day, that the content of reality is only the mirror-image of the content of our spirit and that we receive only the empty form from outside. We must, to be sure, have the strength in us to recognize ourselves as the begetters(Erzeuger) of this content; otherwise we see only the mirror image and never our spirit, that is mirrored. Even a person who sees himself in a real mirror must in fact know himself as a personality in order to know himself again in this image. " (pp57)

Now was there ever a gauntlet thrown down to ask us to break free of dualism? I would suggest this is the nub of the emergence of the internet where people are beginning to actually take hold of themselves, their thinking and their actions. (Thinking, feeling and willing!). A new responsibility based out of an awareness of the spirit of thinking.

Sunday, 19 April 2009


Here's a chance to take off on a road that has been apparent for some time but needed the words to articulate the experience: to evoke. When viewing a picture by Jane I felt that the picture portrayed something deeper than the picture at face value represented. The word that came to mind was it evoked something deeper. Now how do you capture the essence of evocation which is also defined as to "call forth"? Plenty of options to follow up here and no doubt will create a rich source of new entries on this blog - now all you philosophers out there have probably already been trained in this narrative but for me it is a pleasure to "face-up" to this essence of experience and to pin it down - if ever that was possible. More the opportunity to experience the oppositions of salt, mercury and sulphur - is evocation capturing that balance of mercury?

Anyhow Jasper Morrison says that "Haptic means to make the senses drool...." (Designing Design pp 80) The senses drool - something has been evoked.

What more is out there?

Saturday, 28 February 2009


Going on the hunt for some understanding of design - see the roundabout debate - the trip has found me watching and reading about Andrea Palladio and Palladianism. A recent programme on the BBC distilled the story quite well for a layman. Discussion went on to the Vitruvian Man and questions of symmetry and proportion. The latin basis being the three principles of: "firmitas"(strong), "utilitas" (useful) and "venustas" (beautiful). What a great triumverate to hold on to when critically appraising any design work. Robert Adam, the architect, discussed the "poetry of the rulebook" and said that, "...without rules you lose yourself in the labrinyth." Ah....the abyss by another name?

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Estonian cyber wargames hit the streets?

Travelling out of Heathrow on Tuesday I came across a large group of Estonian soldiers in combat fatigues. I know the Estonian's are very much up to speed with all things digital but hey! a fashion statement whereby soldiers clothing mimics a digital pattern? Is this virtual reality taking over reality? Is the designer having a laugh? Apparently not according to Wikipedia here and here - this opens up a hole can of worms or anorak stuff if you are not careful!!! What would Zizek say?

Friday, 6 February 2009

The Mystique of Purity

Back to the sense of roundabout symbolism. What is that powerful draw, that essence that is sought in the perfection of design? Has Poggioli at last provided a clue....

“… this does not mean that the iconoclastic attitude can always be reduced to a vulgar gesture of protest or a brutal act of vandalism. Its more profound root is sometimes the quasi-religious aspiration toward and absolute emotional and mental freedom, the desire to reacquire an ingenuousness and innocence of vision which modern man seems forever to have lost, the anxious will to discover the eternal laws of ideal or perfect form. There is no doubt that it was an aspiration or will of this type which led Picabia to display, as if it were a painting, an empty frame, hung in mid-air; this let Kandinsky’s famous revelation, when he became convinced that his true work of art, creative and not imitative, was what had appeared for the first time to his eyes when he beheld one of his own traditional canvases put, by chance, back to. Such examples demonstrate that iconoclasm can come to be seen as the negative moment of a tendency elsewhere discussed as the mystique of purity.”

The Theory of the Avant-garde
Renato Poggioli (1962) pp 181