Tag Archives: creativity

Slack(er) in the system

Someone told me recently that there is no point in ‘knowing’, as other people only value you for what you ‘do’. While I’ve been writing, the two have been intimately linked.  I’ve experimented to confirm my hypothesis that the less focused I am, the more conceptual connections I make and creative ideas I have, suggesting that in any period of time, productivity and creativity lie in opposite directions. I grow ever more certain that creative ideas are what allows humans to make our great leaps forward, so that things we thought needed to be done efficiently become irrelevant.

Society should be more tolerant of us slackers, dreamers, artists, pure researchers, collectors of tales; those who are interested in odd things to an unhealthy degree. Productivity kills innovation. Efficiency drives stifle improvement and increase entropy.

WARNING: Too much ‘management’ may be harmful.

The Construction of a Subatomic Idea Collider

For a while now, I’ve had the idea of artificially generating creativity by deliberately colliding bit-streams at high speed. As reported here, my thinking was refined recently by the charitable donation that ideas may not only exist in atomic form but as subatomic (or “half-arsed”) ideas, out looking to hook up with a partner (whether they know it or not!)

About a week ago, I became aware of the visit to Birmingham by canal and bed of ‘The Artist Currently Known As Bill Drummond’. Now this originally confused me greatly, as I already know a Jim Drummond and 2 Ben Drummonds of and around the Birmingham music scene but consequential tweets by Eastside Projects convinced me that this was not a text-merge but a fourth, unique Mr. Drummond and I was directed to his bed-making activities https://twitter.com/eprjcts/status/451346186814099456

From there, I was sufficiently intrigued by the antics of a fellow loon to go here http://www.penkilnburn.com/paintings/twin/words.php and discover his inventive kettle-twinning project, in the suburbs of Kensington(s).

So, what might look to the casual observer like “a wasted morning” has “in fact” led to the birth of the idea that ‘The Collider’ may not be a solely scientific endeavour but that it has the makings of a polymathematical extravaganza. I don’t know quite what that is going to look like but I’m game if you are.

Let’s look at “The Facts”:

  • I’m already collecting evidence of coincidences during research, to use in my book(s)
  • I want to learn more about web technologies
  • I constantly see connections between apparently disparate areas of my life and the lives around me. I don’t think this is ‘fate’ but an emergent behaviour of the human creative impulse. I’d like to play with that a little, rather than just think about it.
  • I have a visual creative side that is long over-due for a work-out

I don’t know quite where I’m going now but…

This morning, I watched a Status Quo video on YouTube, posted by ‘resting’ God Damn Guitarist Dave Copson. Next to it was a new video by The White Stripes which showed a non-Newtonian fluid on a speaker, as I once saw in a video by Kate Spence in an art piece at Trove. I tweeted Kate to show her, because we last spoke about her organising an air-guitar competition and I think she’d appreciate a bit of Jack White.

My mind is now full of a complex network of past connections and coincidences between the people I’ve mentioned and others who I haven’t. My worry is that I may not be able to keep up. Branch, merge and mutate. You heard it here first.

My Mindmap Wants To Womble Free

I’m writing ‘a book’ (possibly four) at the moment. I’ve already made public my idea that the ‘social networks’ that we’ve knitted out of the Internet can be used as an “idea collider”, to generate creativity; in the same way that particle accelerators are used to increase the rate of improbable collisions and accelerate scientific data collection and discovery.

Last night I read a tweet from Dave Winer. He both wrote and uses the outline editing tool Fargo to collect his creative sparks. Dave linked to an article by Alex Hillman on ‘Lifehacker’, which suggested that we should all keep such a ‘spark file’ for our light-bulb moments. This excited the idea particles floating in my brain. You might say it dropped a ‘spark’ on the dry tinder I’d been collecting and I replied. Dave didn’t understand a word I said. This post is an attempt to clarify what I think, at least to me.

What I didn’t look at last night was the embedded video, ‘outlining’ Steven Johnson’s book. It ends, “Chance favours the connected mind”. Steve smashed into my thinking the notion that we are not colliding ideas but idea components. We may not be bouncing ideas off one another, hoping for more sparks but fusing together half-baked ideas to make a whole. Almost like ‘society’ still exists on the Internet. Yikes!

Fargo is a web-accessible, scriptable, outlining tool that uses Cloud storage. “An outliner is a text editor that organizes information in a hierarchy”; what we often call a tree but is more often represented as a root system, drawn from the side.

Trello is one of many software implementations of ‘Kanban boards’. The idea was adopted from the Japanese automotive industry to become very popular with Agile software developers and several other more specialised software implementations exist. Trello’s blog proposed “The great horizontal killer applications are actually just fancy data structures. Spreadsheets are not just tools for doing “what-if” analysis. They provide a specific data structure: a table.” Trello’s specialist data structure is ‘List of lists’.

My own brain problem is not memory fragmentation but memory capacity. The fire-bucket I’ve used to catch my sparks for the last few years has been Mindmapping. A mind-map is a tree (or root) drawn from above (or below.)

The first point I failed to express last night was that ‘outlining’, Kanban boards and mind-mapping are topologically equivalent activities.
Hierarchies, list of lists and mind-maps are sylistic variations of exactly the same idea. My Spark File tool of choice is a mind-mapper called Freemind. I particularly like it because (it’s Free, ) it is graphical and allows links between branches, at any level. It breaks the hierarchy. The results are often ugly – just like reality.

Albert Einstein said that a model should be as simple as possible but no simpler. Human society is not a hierarchy but a complex network built on personal relationships interspersed with imposed structure. One of our favourite models is a delusion. If you doubt this, look at a platypus. Yes, I believe there is a better model but I’m still Wombling for half-baked ideas.

References:
Dave Winer’s tweet that started this <https://twitter.com/davewiner/status/448587642813546496
Alex Hillman on Lifehacker <http://lifehacker.com/5941997/defrag-your-brain-with-a-spark-file, including the video outline of Steven Johnson’s book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’.
Trello blog entry on data structures http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2012/01/06.html

Tools:
Outline Editors http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outliner
Fargo http://threads2.scripting.com/2013/april/introducingFargo
Kanban boards http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_board
Trello http://blog.trello.com/trello-ios-2-5/
Mindmapping http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map
Freemind http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

Creating the optimum conditions for Noticing Things

Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

This morning, during his Reith Lecture on BBC Radio 4, I tweeted “Grayson Perry reported a student saying that contemporary art is about noticing things, as @robinince reported Darwin said about himself” after discovering the mechanism of Evolution.

This afternoon, in ‘Costing The Earth’, also on The Wireless, Tom Heap talked to Eben Bayer, who has developed a replacement for polystyrene, made from mushrooms and agricultural waste. He said “Invention comes from putting two very disparate ideas together”

Are ‘creativity’, ‘discovery’ AND ‘Innovation’ simply about colliding ideas and noticing things? That sounds like you could apply ‘The Scientific Method’ to them, IF we had some sort of “idea collider”, a “notion accelerator” perhaps?

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

Steve Jobs

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/stevejobs416925.html#8f4zv5vPx69IxQ76.99