I, Pencil – lovely little film about how everything is connected. Because, as Charles Eames famously noted, “Eventually everything connects — people, ideas, objects… the quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.”
Steven Johnson on the value of incremental progress. Johnson’s latest book, Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age, is an absolute must-read.
As Sir Francis Bacon put it in his essays centuries ago,“It were good, therefore, that men in their innovations would follow the example of time itself; which indeed innovateth greatly, but quietly, by degrees scarce to be perceived.”
Freestylers enter a “flow” state, which researchers described as a “complete immersion in creative activity, typified by focused self-motivation, positive emotional valence and loss of self-consciousness.” Their creative gate is wide open.
“It’s the absence of attention,” said [researchers]. “When the attention system is partially offline, you can just let things fly and let things come without critiquing, monitoring or judging them.” “It’s almost like you’re able to think faster. … You’re able to incorporate multiple perspectives without thinking about it.”
Once you see this pattern—a new story rearranging people’s sense of the possible, with the incumbents the last to know—you see it everywhere. First, the people running the old system don’t notice the change. When they do, they assume it’s minor. Then that it’s a niche. Then a fad. And by the time they understand that the world has actually changed, they’ve squandered most of the time they had to adapt. It’s been interesting watching this unfold in music, books, newspapers, TV, but nothing has ever been as interesting to me as watching it happen in my own backyard. Higher education is now being disrupted; our MP3 is the massive open online course (or MOOC), and our Napster is Udacity, the education startup.
The possibility MOOCs hold out isn’t replacement; anything that could replace the traditional college experience would have to work like one, and the institutions best at working like a college are already colleges. The possibility MOOCs hold out is that the educational parts of education can be unbundled. MOOCs expand the audience for education to people ill-served or completely shut out from the current system, in the same way phonographs expanded the audience for symphonies to people who couldn’t get to a concert hall, and PCs expanded the users of computing power to people who didn’t work in big companies.
Those earlier inventions systems started out markedly inferior to the high-cost alternative: records were scratchy, PCs were crashy. But first they got better, then they got better than that, and finally, they got so good, for so cheap, that they changed people’s sense of what was possible.
In the US, an undergraduate education used to be an option, one way to get into the middle class. Now it’s a hostage situation, required to avoid falling out of it. And if some of the hostages having trouble coming up with the ransom conclude that our current system is a completely terrible idea, then learning will come unbundled from the pursuit of a degree just as as songs came unbundled from CDs.
If you read one thing this week, make it the always-brilliant Clay Shirky on what the collapse of the music industry teaches us about the future of higher education.
How Jack Kerouac wrote On The Road, part of designer Johnson Banks’ fantastic poster titled The Power of Creativity
Remember David Friedman’s video portraits of inventors? He has now taken them to PBS in a new series, appropriately titled Inventors. The debut episode tells the story of mechanical engineer Donald Scruggs, who counts among his patents a screw-in coffin buried vertically to make better use of space — a fine addition to these unorthodox design ideas for death.
David Byrne on how technology affects music and the way we listen. For a deeper look at the intersection of technology and creativity, see his fantastic How Music Works.
Art makes questions, and leadership… is asking a lot of questions.
John Maeda on how art, technology, and design empower creative leaders. His latest book, Redesigning Leadership (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life), is a must-read.