Just finished Neil Postman’s The Disappearance of Childhood.
Postman is a wonderful writer, and the first part, about the historical invention of childhood is truly breath-taking. Just chock-full of amazing insights about the relationship of culture and technology.
I particularly found interesting how the same "dangers" are re-purposed again and again for each technology.
(Narcissism is, apparently, particularly popular, possibly because of the built-in hubris of any technological revolution. I’m sure the discovery of fire and the wheel promoted narcissism too. What with firelight being so complimenting and making us see human faces 24 hours a day and the wheel making us strong and taking us places… But I still need to think this bit through…)
However, as he moves to describing the disappearance of childhood he largely misses the mark.
Not because of his somewhat luddite view of technology or conservative views of society (you expect that from Postman) but because although the phenomena he describes to support his arguments are largely true, he completely overlooks the emergence of teenage culture as a transient stage between childhood and adulthood (quite odd for someone who was merely in his thirties in the 60’s). As well as the increasing importance of this stage. And while this stage is "blurred at both ends" to our day ("tweens, anyone?"), and especially into adulthood, you can still see marked distinctions between the culture of prepubescent children (e.g. "toddlers"), pubescent and post-pubescent teenagers.
And any cross-overs don’t change the fact prepubescence is protected on many levels and teens are often overprotected, regulated/policed by adults, and frequently demonised by the media.
Ah well, thankfully today we have people like Danah Boyd who approach youth with insight and empathy.
(Make no mistake, this book is still worth your time. All his books, with all their flaws…)
A couple of months back, I was once again falling down the rabbit hole that is the theory of creativity. While revisiting the useful and inspiring concept of “Mental Flow” I discovered a later book by the psychologist who coined the term, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
The book Creativity : Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (previously titled: Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People) contains an exploration of the common personality traits of creative people. The traits are articulated as a series of ten paradoxes. Before listing them, he writes:
Of all human activities, creativity comes closest to providing the fulfillment we all hope to get in our lives. Call it full-blast living.
Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. Most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the result of creativity.
What makes us different from apes–our language, values, artistic expression, scientific understanding, and technology–is the result of individual ingenuity that was recognised, rewarded, and transmitted through learning.
You’ve got to love the man, I’m sure he’d be against speculative work and 6-way creative pitches.
The list itself is delightful on its own, and will feel intuitively familiar to anyone who has an appreciation for creativity and creative people. An interesting thing, is that while going through the list you discover that the principles apply not just to creative individuals, but also to innovation and to creative companies and organisations.
So here are Csikszentmihalyi’s Ten paradoxical traits of the creative personality, translated to the the traits of creative companies.
1. Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they’re also often quiet and at rest. Continue reading →
I’m reading Tina Fey’s book “Bossypants”, it’s quite light, but also funny, smart and human as expected, and contains many gems.
“In most cases, being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.”
I agree. This way has proved itself for me when working with design teams as well as, a long time ago, when I was hiring my team at IOL (Many have done exceptionally well in their careers, such joy…)
“Almost everyone [women] first realized they were becoming a grown woman when some dude did something nasty to them.”
Sadly accurate. So far the book is full of feminist observations that while not ground-breaking, are well articulated, heartfelt, opinionated and a joy to read from someone so bang in the heart of mainstream.
Last one, on the cult-like experience of studying and practicing improv comedy:
“Studying improvisation literally changed my life. It set me on a career path towards Saturday Night Live. It changed the way I look at the world, and it’s where I met my husband. What has your cult done for you lately?“
(the Hebrew version after the fold)
I lost my identity card /Yehuda Amichai
I lost my identity card.
I have to write out my curriculum vitae
all over again for many offices, one copy to God
and one to the devil. I remember
the photo taken thirty-three years ago
at a wind-scorched junction in the Negev.
My eyes were prophets then, but my body had no idea
what was happening to it or where it belonged.
You often say, This is the place,
This happened right here, but it’s not the place,
you just think so and live in error,
an error whose eternity is greater
than the eternity of truth.
As the years go by, my life keeps filling up with names
like abandoned cemeteries
or like an absurd history class
or a telephone book in a foreign city.
And death is when someone keeps calling you
and calling you
and you no longer turn around to see
who it is
Continue reading →
A Skype chat log from 2007.
Me: Hey, listen – do you think any of the net-savvy literary theorists that you’re connected to has ever mentioned the connection between Bakhtin’s phatic function of language and things like twitter and other instances of ambient intimacy? [link, now broken]
She: could be, but I’m on the phone and then have to run. I’ll get back to you. Hi, by the way!