The book of songs #2: ‘Gentle hand’

THE BOOK OF SONGS, meanwhile, is coming together as a collection. It’s going to be a modest size but an honest gathering of notes, stories, poetry, and artwork from this time here in Scandinavia. Inspired by the music, art, and maybe even the food here where I am. So that would be… six weeks, I think, if I can hold through December.

imageIT IS 4 DEGREES. Celsius. I can’t remember the last time I had this many layers of shirts (5) and socks (2). Maybe it was when I was a kid in Michigan, bundled into snow boots and a big blue coat I still remember the smell of. Musty, but somehow solidly that of winter. A briskness of cold, an ice-tinged cold that’s unforgiving, and mocks the ego of a floral spring, who has sung her medley too long ago now for us to recall it fully. Somewhere in the eaves and folds within folds, there it is, the echo, but now just a bitten, mitten memory, of something felt, once, yes, it had been, but now the exact shape and color of it is too easily forgotten.

Coordinates (0,0,0)

NIGHT IS ALREADY HERE, almost. I can feel it. It is 3:43PM here, or as they would say, 15:43 (such economy!). Let me now discover where there might be somewhere to do some more laundry. And put away these eggs. One of them broke on impact with a sleet sidewalk, waiting for the bus, which brought me to a station, which brought me somewhere else, and so on, to here.

The ‘Book of Songs (USD $15, limited edition),’ meanwhile, is coming together as a collection. It’s going to be a modest size but an honest gathering of notes, stories, poetry, and artwork from this block of time here in Scandinavia. So that would be… six weeks, I think, if I can hold through December.

Winter is what I came to see, I guess. I suppose that the chill without only makes it much clearer that there is, and greatly, a giant swarm of warmth, within. Maybe in that inner someplace, there will be a gem, a nugget, of poetic form that gives the Book of Songs what she hasn’t been aware that she’s been looking for. —DK

What is NOW? by ‘N’ Bangkok

FB_IMG_1444538773539‘NOW’ IS AS EPHEMERAL AS EVER. Am I doing what is important to me, making the most it? Can I at least help someone else to answer ‘yes’ to that question? And would it be okay to just relish in not being exhausted for a moment, now?

Editor’s note: This is a joint essay by guests who had attended ‘N’ in Bangkok in October, 2015. Images and words came from them, in response to our theme, ‘What is NOW?’

BUDDHISM AND CONSUMERISM are both trendy right now, if you really stop and think about it. But they also go against the idea of the ‘now.’ Some say one’s cool and the other’s nuts. But now can you be both, at the same time?

NOW: the idealist keyword for change and peace, but what is NOW for the capitalist? ‘How do we benefit now?’  The soldier asks: ‘how do I survive now?’ And if a meteor hits earth, NOW is gone. Poof, just like that. So what is now is simply none other than a belief in which one places weight, and  considers, earnestly, to be truthful. Or?

NOW: accepting ‘that in which it is,’ and doing one’s best to balance the equilibrium.

There are so many kinds of weights pulling and shifting, in flux, constantly—but what is alive and felt, and perceived in the moment, what is heard—like that thing about the tree that falls in a wood without people around to hear, would it make a sound? Like that. What is going on, just immediately, in this NOW?

 

*

 

I THINK TIME is like a big rain cloud with infinite drops. The nowness is when it rains

the drops of time and we are aware of it. If we’re not aware that the time is falling, it is

impossible to catch up with time, and then there’ll be no concept of ‘now’ at all.

Everything will end up on the ground, in the past. All we’ll have then are documents, like snaps. Speaking of which, what is a photograph? Is it really a piece of frozen time? A preserved form of ‘here and now’? Or just the past haunting us? Coded, strange.

banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana jackfruit banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana

 

*

 

WHAT IF ‘NOW’ equals ‘happiness.’ Paying attention to your life, the creaks and groans of your own body, the taste of passionfruit, the sound of your son watching YouTube in the bedroom. A deep breath. You are alive. And this moment is all we have. Let it wash over you.

Is arriving at that awareness a kind of, what do they call it… enlightenment? Perhaps that’s too esoteric. But, is that it? The noticing of NOW, the framing of the urgency of the moment, is that what we’re here to achieve? I confess I’m not sure.

[Gosh, it’s cold in here with the aircon on full blast. Very annoyingly, some keys on my laptop have been broken by our kids, so sorry I went over the word limit. Maybe it’s because I am a bit hung over. Can’t think. :)… ]

 

*

 

STRIKES ME THAT ‘Now’ is the realm of feelings, where ‘Past’ is the realm of the facts, and ‘Future,’ of imaginations. No wonder I have a hard time living the now—being distracted by the future and the past can be an addictive, escapist habit.

Wait, what was the question? Constraining to 50 words is a good thinking exercise. I did a few of them. I guess I’ll go with the ‘abstract and asking existential questions’ one:

‘Now’ is as ephemeral as ever.

Am I doing what is important to me, making the most it?

Can I at least help someone else to answer ‘yes’ to that question?

And would it be okay to just relish in not being exhausted for a moment, now?

Questions, questions.

But also, a poem. Untitled, as of yet, but I might call it ‘is-ness.’

Now I am
Now I know, now I sense and feel
Yesterday I was
And yesterday is over for now
Tomorrow I will be
Tomorrow I don’t know
So I hold onto this moment of today
Opening myself up to the experiences of this day
To the awakening of my senses
And to the energies… of today
Of now … just as it is
Breathing in and out this is-ness

Know what? On my 30th birthday, I gave myself the below lessons:

  • live with consciousness
  • live for yourself and worry less
  • help others as much as you can
  • avoid what hurts you
  • live to work, not work to live
  • don’t waste too much time on negative people
  • ‘no’ is a complete sentence
  • life is too short to wait, if you want to do anything, do it ‘now’.

THAT’S THE REPORT I’ve got for you. For now.

Next stop, London. Or Copenhagen. Or Hanoi. Depending on the people, and the dates that the guests of each will choose together. Let’s see what happens?

—N

 

An evening of jazz and conversation this Friday in Bangkok

This Friday, DK and jazZ happens! present 'The Book of Blue'THIS FRIDAY, Design Kompany and jazZ happens! present ‘The Book of Blue,’ a once-off evening of jazz, collage, and conversation

JAZZ, COLLAGE AND CONVERSATION have something in common. You experiment, you play, and when you ‘hit’ the right idea, you go with it. When things go well, there’s high-quality communication. Flow.

This Friday, Design Kompany and jazZ happens! present ‘The Book of Blue,’ a once-off evening of jazz, collage, and conversation inspired by the color blue.

THE BOOK OF BLUE
Friday, October 16
jazZ happens!
7-9PM

Related: Facebook event page >

Sixteen people in Bangkok are gathering soon for ‘N’

the best isyetto come.IT IS SET.

IT IS SET.

Tickets booked. Transportation sorted. Even a place to stay.

This is way, way different from other things I’ve been doing.

HOW IT WORKS. Guests for ‘N’ Bangkok all had to commit to a ticket BEFORE we picked a date. Then, we chose together. This process took a little bit of time. Of course it did. But you know what? It wasn’t about the actual event itself, or the ‘what am I gonna get out of it’ thinking that will block us all from exploration, and lateral thinking, and going outside the lines—the very stuff that systems thinkers say you HAVE to do if you want to find new ways to approach (and even, let’s be big picture about it, REDEFINE) the problems and difficulties and hardships that exist. If there’s a knot in something, you don’t have to just untangle that knot. You can look for places where the real stressors are, and then you can—

But wait.

Before I turn this into a shout-out for the benefits of doing things you’d never do SO THAT you can DISCOVER new approaches, perspectives, people, and ideation methods, I will just say this.

OMW Bangkok, I can’t wait to meet you again. I’m so looking forward to the conversation about ‘NOW.’ It’s been really fun meeting so many people online ahead of ‘N’. I’ve learned so much about the way it’s very, very different from real life. I’m much better in real life, so it was hard! But I didn’t want ‘N’ to be about ‘packing it up,’ as much as about Open Space, in which ‘whoever comes is the right people’ is a major tenet. Did they WANT to come? This is something you have to pre-commit to, so that means, no deciding at the last minute, and for me, as host, no entertaining the kinds of people who just want to use everything as a networking/date-finding opportunity, or who are bored and come along at the last minute as a ‘favor’ to you. Blech. That’s not ‘N’ at all. ‘N’ is much much more than that. It’s why it’s so special to me, personally, and why it made magic, in my opinion!, on April 26, 2015 in Phnom Penh. No giant corporate sponsor, no beer company, no obligation to buy buy buy something from someone. Just conversation. Pure. It’s like inviting you to my house, but of course, I don’t have a house in Bangkok. But because I’ve laid quite a few ground rules and talked extensively with the venue, everyone knows that for the time frame I’ve booked for ‘N’, it IS kind of like my house. And I will welcome my guests as though they are my real houseguests. Remember when we used to have people over, and talk, and just enjoy the art of conversations? It’ll be like that, if you are old enough to recall a time when we didn’t leave things open without RSVP’ing ‘no,’ and we didn’t cancel on the fly. In my growing-up time, these things were considered ‘rude.’ Because it’s so normal now, and because I can’t stand that, I made ‘N’ to push back on the culture of maybe.

SEE YOU SOON, BKK ‘N’ GUESTS! Maybe we were talking online, for a while, or maybe we met once, or maybe we were there for a small moment of shared space. ‘N’ is designed space. ‘N’ is just for you. Thank you, to the 16 people who have trusted me to hold the space.

See you soon. Agenda to follow. I’ll email, of course, with that. —AS

November 17: FLOW. Hit your peak productivity with this workshop in Malmö, Sweden

MOST IMPORTANTLY, what we care about most now is co-designing space with people in locales around the world. But not just any people. People who are interested in connecting in real life, connecting with one another, eye to eye so that we can have some good old fashioned human style conversation. It really is awesome when it happens. We get into it. There is a sparkle.

imageThis week in Malmö, Sweden, we are hosting our first-ever workshop on productivity. It’s called FLOW.

GREETINGS FROM SCANDINAVIA, ladies and gentlemen. DK is ambling about here for a spell, bumping into people and places so as to make space for real life. Workshops and conversation salons, that is, for people we are meeting in Malmö and Copenhagen.

(It seems pretty wacky to be writing that, but then again, it seemed weird to be hosting tweetups in Hanoi and esoteric salons asking, ‘Is the medium still the message?’, like we did with Aether, in New York’s Bryant Park, and other stuff. So much to share about past stuff, and how we are changing towards more conversation-space design in 2016, but the present moment is pressing upon us and so let me not get carried away reminiscing or projecting.) For now, it’s really about happening upon an insight: what we care about most now is co-designing space with people in locales around the world. But not just any people. People who are interested in connecting in real life, connecting with one another, eye to eye so that we can have some good old fashioned human style conversation. It really is awesome when it happens. We get into it. There is a sparkle.

ON FRIDAY, DK GOT TO MEET SS, a photographer lately taking images of airplanes. They’re supersaturated pics, because they’re printed on metallic paper, I learned. He told me this and a lot of other things, things I was enjoying more than what the previous art reception (larger, boxier), had to say about anything. Oh, and how did I get to SS’s show? I followed some people out of the other place, a fancy gallery, one of those that I once thought were really cool but now see as institutions. This person I struck up conversation with invited me to hop into the giant bucket attached sturdily to the front of his bicycle. Why not?, and there I was, climbing in just like a kid might. Room to spare in this. Viking country.

So nested, I asked, ‘Um. So, where are we going?’

‘I’m not sure yet.’

I like this kind of party, already.

But we are going to meet SS, I find out.

Who will talk about planes and photoshoots with musicians everywhere in the world, but in a light, nonpretentious way that makes me feel glad that I came to Denmark. Then we will go on to philosophize, of course, about how to find the flow and make work that is truly interesting. Creativity, productivity, flow. Call it what you like. Portraiture comes up. Selfies. Chuck Close. ‘I like that Chuck Close quote,’ says S, ‘about working on things.’

I think he meant this one:

The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case. —Chuck Close

THIS SENTIMENT, interestingly, is also going to feature in our workshop this TUESDAY in Sweden. Who’s around? Stop by, say hi. 🙂 —DK

Flow Workshop
Foo Cafe, at the Media Evolution City building
17:30-19:00
Malmö, Sweden
‘Flow Workshop’ event page on Facebook > | Foo Cafe’s Flow Workshop registration page >


image

November 27: Drift & the Nomad conversation salon

ARE YOU THINKING of moving abroad? Meet others who also want to try out life on the road, or at a distance, with a couple of belongings and good wifi connections.

imageARE YOU THINKING of moving abroad? Meet others who also want to try out life on the road, or at a distance, with a couple of belongings and good wifi connections.

Hosted by Dipika Kohli, who is visiting Copenhagen (and presently based in Phnom Penh via Seattle, Tokyo and Cork).

image

Details

DRIFT & THE NOMAD
Friday, November 27
14.00-16.00
Cafe Paludan
Fiolstræde 10, 1171 København K, Denmark
DKK 90pp // EUR 12pp (Excludes food and drink)

Map.
Map.

What to expect

AN OPEN FORMAT conversation salon that will draw from the experiences and move in the direction that makes the most of who we meet together, on the day. We will enjoy getting to know about one another’s questions, interests, experiences, and understandings about the reality of living ‘on the road,’ and some of the myths, plus points, as well as sacrifices that this style of living and working necessarily entails. A low-key conversation that won’t require any special experience or background; it’s for those who want to come along and join, in the ‘Open Space’ style of hosting that says: 1) Whoever comes is the right people, 2) Whatever happens is the right thing to have happened. And some other things. Enjoy, connect, and let’s see what happens. When conversations are in flow, it is a lot of fun. Here’s a pic from a past conversation salon:

DK hosted Designers' Korner in Seattle on the first Monday of each month for two years.
DK hosted Designers’ Korner in Seattle on the first Monday of each month for two years.

Agenda

DRIFT & THE NOMAD
14.00 Introductions
14.10 Q&A
15.00 The Best Part
15.15 Values + 20Q*
15.30 Wrap

*To give you something to sink your teeth into, we will also distribute a simple questionnaire, ’20 Questions to Ask Yourself Before you Commit to Nomadic Existence’. To be shared on the day with those who join in.

How to register

Fee is DKK 90pp. You can register in one of two ways:

  • Secure your spot by registering in advance through this online ticketing link >
  • Send an email to designkompany [at] gmail [dot] com.

Is it on Facebook?

Yes, but we’re not big on FB, so it’s not going to seem like the giant awesome conversation salon that it will, in actual fact, be. 🙂

DRIFT & THE NOMAD on FB >

‘N’ says: ‘Hej København’

'N' is coming.A SPECIAL GUEST post, ahead of ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS. Coming here soon, from a friend in what he described at our first meeting to be ‘a small country, it’s called Denmark.’

'N' is coming.
‘N’ is coming. Read about 16N >
N
Read ‘N’ posts related to Copenhagen >

COMING TO COPENHAGEN SOON.

The way ‘N’ work is this.

When 16 people join ‘N’ we will fix the date, time, and place.

Because of this: it’s about the people. The exact set of 16 who will choose to join this conversation installation. It’s not really about anything other than the MOMENT in which we can align the stars (well, vectors), so that people converge. Once.

Yep. That’s what ‘N’ is—

‘N’ is about the people who choose to play.

How far are we from creating ‘N’ Copenhagen? 14/16ths of the way.

Looking forward, NEARNESS is our theme.

A special guest post, coming here soon, from a friend in what he described at our first meeting to be ‘a small country, it’s called Denmark.’

ARE YOU CURIOUS?

More about ‘N’ Copenhagen. More about ‘16N.’ —DK

Is it obvious? True validity isn’t about making bank

S. P. A. C. E. is for dreaming.IN THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS, for the eZine S. P. A. C. E., I’ve been thinking nearly continuously, like a long line from the intersection of Street 63 and Mao Tse Toung Boulevard all the way up to where there is supposedly a well-lit designer-y kind of space that one day I am recommended I ought to go and see. Oh, what have I been thinking on? One thing. VALIDITY.

IN THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS, for the eZine S. P. A. C. E., I’ve been thinking nearly continuously, like a long line from the intersection of Street 63 and Mao Tse Toung Boulevard all the way up to where there is supposedly a well-lit designer-y kind of space that one day I am recommended I ought to go and see. Oh, what have I been thinking on? One thing. VALIDITY.

Following a hunch

SUPPOSEDLY I AM TO FOLLOW that vertical road’s line one of these days. To the end. Meet a person. Say some things. Do something. If I do, it will be just another opportunity to do the big work of ‘N+1.’ Go outside the comfort zone, see what’s there. Even if that means taking a risk. Getting lost, getting hurt, getting stuck in the rainy season flood, losing my shoe, getting caught out in a conversation that is no fun at all because the other person is a total narcissist, etc. etc. You can always opt to do the so-called safe thing, and stay where you are. But that would not be ‘N+1.’ It would be ‘N+0.’

And that doesn’t sound like it would really be that important, at the end of my life, to have been like, ‘N+0+0+0…’ I prefer growth. Conversations, high-quality, are good ways to make space for that to happen. So that’s what all this stuff is about. The ezine publication. ‘N’ the series of 16. And other stuff too that I’m sharing only with a very inner circle of people who ‘get’ it. It’s easier that way; because life is short and it’s simpler to talk in these embryonic stages of designing a thing that will evolve sooner or later from good to brilliant, to stay low-key about it. To keep it light, small.

Making space for ‘N+1’

I HAVE ALWAYS WONDERED how no matter which city in the world I wind up in, I start to get pegged as ‘that person who does things and gets people together.’ Sometimes, I would do this quite happily and voluntarily. It was nice to be the one person everyone at a party or gathering knew, and that really inflated my ego. Maybe it’s in response to all that overwhelming attention I got personally that I’m not talking too much with my real name. Because in the last year, everything I’ve learned from books, and smart people, and creative folks, and clients, is this. It’s sooooo not about ego. The best things happen when they’re not about you. Which is the case when you’re designing something for a client, of course, as well. You have to really let it be about the other person, if you want it to be truly great. But then, it’s sooooo hard to re-imagine ‘design’ as something that does the big work of ‘N+1,’ even though really, design is about making things way better by thinking them through completely and intelligently. Too often today design = photoshop, and that’s dumb. That’s why even though we have “design” in our name, we never, ever talk about us doing design these days. Can’t. The word’s been co-opted by the people who buy Illustrator and say, ‘Okay. Now I’m gonna do the thing I need to do for my creative outlet.’ Let them. That’s not what we’re doing, here.

OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS, the big partymaking (Dazzle, POP, Sugar, Flourish, Gather, Math+Jazz, etc, etc) have moved into a smaller space. Tiny, invite-only salonmaking. Because the partymaking of old days had happened in a city where people fan the flames, constantly, on the egomaking stuff. They like to collect you. Into their collections. Now its instafame. Then it was Facebook. How many followers? As if one’s inner sense of worth was reflected accurately in those numbers. As if the social proof which is so arbitrary and fleeting and tenuous and not even real, mattered more than everything. (Including actual worth).

So what IS value? What DOES count? Why? How do we think about this, about yardsticks and societies and cultures and breaking free to create our own dimensions of that which we deem to be hugely meaningful. Because isn’t that it? Isn’t value not a number, but a sense of something’s capacity to be interesting? (Our Sept/Oct series of S. P. A. C. E. will take as its—oh, my God! A cockroach! Okay, I have to wrap this pretty fast). Isn’t value about a person’s glistening, true, inner, powerful, capacity to give? To contribute? Is this not worth?

How VALIDITY became a theme for S. P. A. C. E>

TONIGHT IT IS LATE as I type this, and maybe that’s why I’m not going to hold back. There used to be times when I started blogging again here (very recently, as you may take note), that I would think, ‘But that’s more ME and not so much DK, is it? And so, where to put things? Which boxes?’ It turns out that there’s only one box. I really only care about one thing. It’s new. It’s this year. It’s something that I didn’t realize matters to me more than I ever imagined it could or would. It’s about questioning assumptions about what and how we measure as ‘worthy’ or ‘good.’

Turns out there are whole vocabularies around these ideas, and schools of philosophy, too. As a kind of pop philosophy person, someone who doesn’t get all up in the face of people and isolate certain areas of possible ‘issues to be taken with X or Y or J,’ but rather, someone who just wants cool ideas about things to get talked about a little more, and with more verse and rhyme and poetry, you know, well. That. That’s what I’m trying to make and do here.

So when the things got complex about what it is that we ‘do’ at this blog (because now it’s just a blog, like in 2006), what it is that we do became a question to many, I realized it’s quite all right to blog in the first person again, as I always did, and probably always will. First person is real. First person is honest. You can’t hide behind some kind of name (okay, guilty—I’ve been doing quite a lot of that in recent days and weeks and months), but you can’t, in first person, TRULY ever hide. I read somewhere that the computers can figure out your writing style, like in four milliseconds, if they had to crunch it. They could know. They could suss you out because, like DNA, the way we speak and how we write is unique.

What counts, then? What’s worthy? What’s valuable, what’s meaningful, what’s important? I read the best quote yesterday online. It was this anti-capitalist ‘love notes’ series, and one of them said: ‘You are worth so much more than your productivity.’

So when we start to think about what value we can add to the world at large, what we can bring to society in the form of actual content, not just goods and services that people will buy because people will buy anything that is nicely packaged and overly done up even if they can’t be sure what they’re getting inside. People. Buy. Everything. They consume, left and right, and so do I, and we don’t even think about it. Critical things, like where is this food coming from? The way the young visitor who came here and celebrated an impromptu wedding (long story) on the upper levels of the building spoke of. Things like this. How we feel when we literally consume—partaking of chemicals that are buried in our food—didn’t occur to me since the days of reading Integrated Nutrition because I had a low iron count.

What I wanted to tell you that I haven’t yet is this. Work isn’t the only thing. Moneymaking is just one kind of way—a means, to an end. It’s not about what we have in our lives, but who. It’s about who we are, too, not just whom we’re around. You could get more philosophical here. You could even get pop philosophical. But I’ll save that for anyone who wants to meet me in S. P. A. C. E.

VALIDITY is here. —DK

Gearing up for ‘N’ Bangkok: our theme is NOW

16 people x 16 cities.THIS WEEK as I do some research to learn about what people in Bangkok think about NOW, I’m getting to meet some extraordinary people. I’ll be able to tell you about some of them, soon, in a blog post series that I hope will bring new voices into ‘N’, the project, and document along the way some of the learning that’s going on. This could start with the people behind a giant boxing match that just happened on Saturday; can’t think of anything more immediate about the physicality of NOW than a fight.

OUR THEME FOR ‘N’ BANGKOK is NOW.

NOW.

‘N’ is a conversation installation that gathers just 16 people. Just once.

16 people x 16 cities.
16 people x 16 cities.

It’s about the moment.

Right here. Right NOW.

IN THESE LAST FEW MONTHS as I have been talking in the back channels with more people than I realized I would when I dreamed up this project, I have been doing a lot of learning. About people. Being someone who has largely worked alone (writing, design work, the occasional art show), I find it really humbling. I have learned very quickly how to deal with the things that I heard happen. Passive-aggressives. Trolls. Those who are comfortable slamming you from the other side of a screen, but would never say those things to you, in real life. Never.

I get it. People don’t want to be pushed out of their boxes. Boxes are comfortable. (But they are stifling).

AT THE TIME of this writing, we have only six five spots left. Which is lovely and incredulous and beautiful and makes me want to say, ‘Thank you,’ profusely, to the 10 who have so far put their trust in me to design an ‘N’ that’s great. (I hope a few from ‘N’ Phnom Penh will share a couple of lines, telling Bangkok what to expect, so I can post here? Have been musing on a way to link the ‘N’ conversations, but not without losing the ‘onceness’ idea. Hard.)

Anyone working in creativity or something in the world of making and doing in this age already sees the value of this kind of opportunity. You know that new ideas don’t just fall onto your head like an apple. You have to go outside (metal landscapes, physical ones). And you have to talk to people. That’s what one of my editors used to say. ‘Get out of the office. Talk to people.’ They loved that ‘Man on the Street’ interview style and it was fun to do, too. I wanted to do more of those but you know, it’s so much easier to not.

What to expect now…

THIS WEEK as I do some research to learn about what people in Bangkok think about NOW, I’m getting to meet some extraordinary people. I’ll be able to tell you about some of them, soon, in a blog post series that I hope will bring new voices into ‘N’, the project, and document along the way some of the learning that’s going on. This could start with the people behind a giant boxing match that just happened on Saturday; can’t think of anything more immediate about the physicality of NOW than a fight.

But before that, a short Q&A with a Bangkok magazine editor, and what he thinks about the ‘Thainess of Thailand,’ as well as our theme. Here. Soon.  –DK

 

The best is yet to come, and this is why

Space to think.ENTER THE AGE of the conversation, here at our studio, and the new work to come. Don’t judge us by our past stuff on the internet. We were just kids, 20 years of trying stuff and making it up, emerging with homemade methods that started to work (and later we found out has been articulated by academics in a strange but intriguing form that they have named ‘design thinking’ but which we know is really just ‘design,’ heh), seeing how to flop and maybe nudge to better. All in the spirit of upping the ante, raising the bar, and doing the big work of N+1, together.

Space to think.
Bangkok, January 2015, This is where  S. P. A. C. E., an eZine, began.

NINE OUT OF TEN TIMES when I write here I am wondering, ‘Is anyone still there? Does anyone read this blog,’ as in, ‘Is it being received?’ And if so, what are your responses?’

I wish I could hear you.

This feeling is what inspired a shift here at DK two years ago from writing this blog to moving towards the subscription eZine, S. P. A. C. E.

Which is a conversation, because it’s two-way.


Ignore everything to date: NOW is yesterday’s future

Everything is perfect, but there is a lot of room for improvement. —Shunryu Suzuki-roshi (1905 – 1971)

I AM IN SEARCH of a contemporary style of making events, and creating high-quality ‘rooms’ for dialogue. So much happens in the interstices, I know, this is getting esoteric. Sorry. But it’s also really fun to get together with people and get out of our boxes. I mean, the usual ones, where we have to get something seemingly known, seemingly important ‘out’ of something. Or someone. The day of the transactional relationship, however, is over.

What people want now is high-quality experiences.

Not stupid stuff. Not dumb stuff. Not lame stuff, not boring stuff.

No one wants to waste their attention, or their time.

So where do you turn?

Before I tell you my personal fix for this problem, I’ll need to rewind a little and share some of what I’ve noticed from the past.

DID YOU NOTICE HOW the Western cultures love to reward the so-called ‘expert,’ the person who goes to the panel discussions and gets to sit at the front of the room, in a slightly elevated seat. It’s happening here in Asia, too.

You see all these tables set up in a way that lets you know just who is the person to pay attention to, and then you get these total narcissists up there spewing who cares what because they’re not listening to us in the audience. So then you know what happens? These events are TOTALLY BORING. And the reason I know this is because I’ve been one of those people on a stage, wondering, ‘When is lunch??’ I’ve loved the idea of being asked, previously, but now, I always say, ‘No.’ Because I prefer a conversation.

Inclusive. Relaxed, engaging, fun. Direct, honest, open, and SHORT. This artist statement I wrote ahead of a show at Form/Space Atelier in Seattle said: ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space, and comfort.’ That sentiment still holds, 110%.

But I’m not making art shows now.

I’m making salons, experiences, conversation-led space for mixing it up. In short, the kinds of engagements I would want to be at, personally. ‘Scratch your own itch,’ isn’t that what they say in the tech entrepreneurship community?

Give me something smart, elegant, but easy to take part in. Give me something that’s intimate, but not too intimate, because it ends pretty quickly and we all get to go home. Give me intellectual stimulation, great dialogue, honest people, and a good set of activities that will make me glad I was there. Teach me something but don’t pander. Don’t act like a big shot. Give me space, to do this how I want to do this, to be who I am. Don’t tell me what to do or who to be, but if you invite me, and you seem real, I’ll be there. Only. If. —Design Kompany


Paving the road to ‘N+1’

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
― Anaïs Nin

SO THE NEW STUFF HERE eventwise is all a bunch of stuff at a very small scale of engagement. So we can see each other. We can be there, really be there, and make it up together, on the spot. There are always going to be prompts because that’s just the nature of who I am, and what I do. I wish at my TEDx talk I had done this.

I wish I had said, in the middle of it, ‘OK, now I’ve talked a lot. Let’s spend five minutes just quietly talking to the person next to you about what you’ve heard, and seeing what you discover.’ Imagine! Yet this is how it works, in true dialogue.

And if it’s just me talking ‘up there,’ without any response, it’s not dialogue. And it’s not fun. For anyone.

'Bangkok' January 2015
‘Bangkok’ January 2015

Enter the age of the conversation, here at our studio, and the new work to come. Don’t judge us by our past stuff on the internet. We were just kids, 20 years of trying stuff and making it up, emerging with homemade methods that started to work (and later we found out has been articulated by academics in a strange but intriguing form that they have named ‘design thinking’ but which we know is really just ‘design,’ heh), seeing how to flop and maybe nudge to better. All in the spirit of upping the ante, raising the bar, and doing the big work of N+1, together.

Related: Check out Ira Glass’ talk on fumbling til you’ve got it in this visually illustrated video >

What’s ‘N+1?’ Gonna get better at articulating this in about a year, but for now, here is the working definition:

N+1: Make room for all of us to challenge ourselves, to grow out of our silos, to become better as people and human beings and friends, parents, givers, be-ers, community leaders, and wholly excited by doing the work we choose. To be the people we always loved most. To open the doors, to extend our limbs, to breathe with relish, and to jump. —Design Kompany


Meet me in S. P. A. C. E.?

S. P. A. C. E. is an eZine
S. P. A. C. E. is an eZine

HERE IS OUR new eZine, S. P. A. C. E. It’s a weekly, with the best-of highlights of everything we’ve learned from working on all sorts of projects for smart, open, and highly creative people around the world since 1995.

It’s snippets of great texts, tips on how to be better at creative thinking, some gleanings from our Phnom Penh work in innovation consulting, and of course, lots and lots and lots about design.

Related: What Neil Gaiman said about the mountain, and implied about artistic integrity >

The kind that we always knew was really Design. Which isn’t pixels, or Photoshop, or a logo. It’s actually, when done well, a conversation, beautifully expressed. Which is what makes this sort of design a form of art. —DK

What counts as remarkable, valuable, and real? VALIDITY is our theme for July and August eZine S. P. A. C. E.

Theme is VALIDITY for July and August series of weekly eZine S. P. A. C. E.
Theme is VALIDITY for July and August series of weekly eZine S. P. A. C. E.

WHEN I WAS A NEWSPAPER REPORTER, on staff at a daily in Seattle, my big day was Tuesday.

That was the day ‘my’ page came out. Page three. ENVIRONMENT, it said, right there at the top. My business card said, ‘Environment Editor.’ Showtime.

This was a trade journal, a daily. All week I would be working to gather just the right things to include, and only those that would be of interest to specifically the kinds of people who would pay for this paper, and that wasn’t everyone, not even a fraction of the mainstream, if you had to be honest about it.

Which is how I learned about niche publishing. How I got interested in, over the years, switching up from ENVIRONMENT to S. P. A. C. E. Maybe it was the architects DK (my after-newspapers and self-designed collective) worked for in Seattle, or the dreamers, artists, engineers, musicians, organization heads, and so many, many other people in the time since, but I got into it. Spacemaking. And that’s my newest, most favorite-ever beat.

Still gathering bits from people. Still getting wind of things through the Net. Trying to curate just the right set of stories, tips, resources and fine fragments, while also holding the safe space for true dialogue (the kind with a center, and not sides). Members of DK (who are those who pay dues) get S. P. A. C. E. every Tuesday at 7AM USEST. Today I’m gonna send one announcing the new July/August theme, VALIDITY.

That’s how things shift, isn’t it?

You find yourself doing what you know how to do (curate, edit, share), but for exactly the people who care about what you care about. Niche. It’s a real thing. Maybe S. P. A. C. E. isn’t for everyone, but what I learned from Seattle is that it totally doesn’t have to be for everyone, and it’s better if it isn’t.

So lately my ‘Tuesday page’ is S. P. A. C. E.

Of course it’s not mine at all. It’s members’.

It’s what you tell me, and what you say, and how that fits into the big thing, that 100th monkey idea plus collective unconscious and other things that connect us, even when we aren’t right next to each other, face to face. Wish we could be, but this is a way to keep the conversation flowing, and to keep it progressing. Hard, when we are inundated with feeds, tweets, likes, links, kids, spouses, work, our own hangups, friends, not-friends, and more. Pro-tip: Declutter the channels. Go with what you like. And just that. Niche.

How to get S. P. A. C. E.

S. P. A. C. E., Design Kompany’s eZine ($), comes out on Tuesday mornings. Don’t miss the July and August series on VALIDITY. Join today: here >

A snippet:

TALKING TO PEOPLE offline a lot more in recent days. Getting back out there, fraternizing, seeing what’s going on.

A particular topic keeps coming up: What ‘counts’ as ‘worthy.’

So this July and August, let’s explore ‘validity.’ That is, let’s take a round look at the ideas of: remarkability, weightiness, validity, quality. Already a few friends here in Phnom Penh are resisting, but I think the challenge is part of this space. More on relationships and why I believe great ones come from a mutually inspiring push and pull, in a bit… —Read more when you join here >

The next ‘N’ is coming to Thailand, and this is why

'N' is coming to Bangkok
‘N’ is coming to Bangkok

A FEW PEOPLE ARE ASKING ME ABOUT the next ‘N’ event, since there will be 15 more to make to complete the series ’16N’.

The first one, ‘N’ Phnom Penh, took place at NUK Cafe in April. It was a test, of sorts. In today’s “Culture of Maybe” I’ve been feeling a little lost when it comes to creating events, and even when attending other people’s events; mostly, I think there’s a lot of great stuff that happens in real life, live and on stage, or when we are partygoers ourselves and enjoying the simple act of randomly bumping into those whose paths we may never have otherwise crossed.

PEOPLE HAVE FOUND CONNECTIONS that led to new housemates, romantic love, and even new jobs at some of the events Design Kompany has hosted in the past years (2006-present). But that’s not the objective, it’s just a natural outcome. You do the work to show up and you tend to meet other people who also think it’s important to do the work to show up. Most often, they’re curious. Open. Engaged. I know, I know. I’m biased because I like to host these kinds of parties. But even in Ireland, which pre-dated our time as Design Kompany LLC, even in West Cork, our party there, the dessert party on the farm in Shepperton? Maybe you were there. Maybe you remember. What a mix-it-up and what great craic.

Making space for great conversation to happen—spontaneously, in the round, and with a personal invitation that comes from a real person who thinks you’re just right for it—that’s what ‘N’ is about. Bangkok, being a stone’s throw from DK’s base in Phnom Penh, is the next place to head to because I adore this city. The theme is NOW.

I’d love to give you the password to this page, if you’re there, and interested in talking more.

I could expand, if you’re interested? Especially if you’re in Bangkok this summer, (or Copenhagen or London after that), do get in touch. Here’s how: Contact DK >

If you are wondering what ‘N’ is about, you are on the right track

'N '
‘N ‘

THIS IS A LONG STORY, but I’m going to try to keep it to less than 200 words. Hard, for me. I tend to like to ramble, something that, well, I’ll stop there with the intro.

Now, what is ‘N?’ You may be wondering. Perhaps you saw some images. Online, like on our FB or twitter. Or maybe I told you about it, in person. In real life. Real life is part of it. A big part. More importantly though is CONNECTION. As in, really looking at someone in the eye and seeing who they are there, not just these profiles we absorb in a passive way, but really relating. Relationally. Relatively. All these things are going to be explained in time here at this blog, but for now, I’m going to ask you to just trust me. Trust not me, that is, but trust the process. Experiential learning, some humanism, improv and play, creativity and innovation, some Jung stuff, there’s a lot here, but I don’t want this to become overly intellectual. I want it to be fun. Let’s play?

What to do now

I AM LOOKING FOR 16 people in 16 cities in the world who are open, curious, and ready to meet 15 others also interested in adventuring out of the comfort zone for a relaxed, easygoing evening of conversation. I’m also l looking for venues and co-designers to think with me on what kind of theme makes sense and what sort of setting, for the people in those cities. Every city will have its own theme, for example: Phnom Penh’s was NORMALITY, which we hosted April 26, 2015 at Nuk Cafe, and Copenhagen’s, this fall, will be NEARNESS.

Sound intriguing? There is more… Get in touch, and I’ll be happy to share. I’m learning as I go already that ‘N’ is far more than just a pushing back on the Culture of Maybe. I know it started there, but like ‘N’, the vector goes as it does and how it does. Secret: the line isn’t straight. Nothing interesting, however, ever seems to follow the linear path. Meandering is part of creative stuff, by design. —DK

What’s normal? by ‘N’ Phnom Penh

NORMALITY. A quality that can only exist in reference to other things – the past, other people, abstracted rules. A quality of the self-conscious ‘I’ rather than the present ‘I.’ As a substitute for balance, it’s a quality forever at war with itself.

Editor’s note: Guests of ‘N’ in Phnom Penh authored this essay, together. Read more about the project 16N here.

IN 2015, GIRLS WEAR PANTS, suits, have pixie hair, tattoos and even chase men. These are now normal.

Other normal situations are validated only when backed up by science, like what is a normal blood pressure? The rest are subjective. As Morticia Adams quoted: “Normal is an illusion.”

But… is it? Normal is something that has already been done, many times. The more something has been done, the more normal it is. Actually, there’s more. Way.

THE NORMAL DISTRIBUTION CURVE IS A GRAPH which shows the spread of random variables, or behaviours, in a population. It centres around the mean, or average, which is the sum of all expected behaviours divided by the population. 99.7% of all values are within 3 standard deviations of the mean. Like this:

Normal Distribution Curve
Normal Distribution Curve

When very recently I met with and tried to explain this concept of “normal” to DK, it was, um, funny. She didn’t quite know what I meant.

She had, I think, her own idea about ‘N.’ She said: “You mean, like the normal vector? Like, 90 perpendicular to the horizontal? And then when 16 voices converge, wham, on a plane, like this, see this animation? Yeah, like that, so when wham, that happens, that MOMENT, that’s when, whoo, you go UP, into SPACE, like 3D, like up the vertical that is the “NORMAL” vector!!! OMG!!!!”

Not quite, DK, but, that’s cool.

Then I thought, Morissey.

Morissey
Morissey

MORISSEY SANG ‘there is no such thing as normal’; a statement I believe and find comforting, in that I repeat it frequently whenever the need arises.

However, in recent years I have become more aware that a CONSTRUCT of normality exists, and if you don’t neatly fit into this, then prepare for questions!

‘We don’t have to agree’

NORMALITY IS WHAT YOUR ENVIRONMENT expected you to do or think, the referent environment mostly has referent expectation. With that in mind, here’s a thought.

We don’t have to 100% agree to someone, as long as we can find a common ground that’s acceptable to both sides. You get yourself an agreement. They said it right when they said: “Better communication skills will get a better outcome.”

May I be frank? Okay, these are my random innermost thoughts. Ready? I’ve never met a person who feels normal. Abnormal is normal. Normal for who? Dehumanizing in any culture is not normal. I don’t want a normal job or relationship. Describe life as vibrant, sticky, juicy, challenging, fluffy… my ideas about normality are negative. Is that my “normal” thinking pattern? Hm. Now I’m wondering.

Maybe it’s this, though. Normal is when we can live simply. Read books whenever we want to without being tested on. Paint because we want to, not because we’ve got something to prove. Enjoy the moment with no place to rush off to. We just want to be, boundless and infinite… Or? I’m still thinking…

—N

P.S. Some other things that came up after the event last Sunday, as I’ve been ruminating. Normality. Like the rest. Falling within a deviation determined by cultural narratives, science and, most importantly, perception. Normal shifts based on country, decade, household… Constantly changing, ever imperfect. It is those ideas and people outside the spectrum – that are abnormal – that are often responsible for greatness.

And this one: Normality. A quality that can only exist in reference to other things – the past, other people, abstracted rules. A quality of the self-conscious ‘I’ rather than the present ‘I.’ As a substitute for balance, it’s a quality forever at war with itself.

What do you think? What’s normal? Why do we think so?

Jai Ranganathan: ‘Sharpen and heighten’

OFFLINE CONVERSATIONS lately are turning to the process itself, and, to take it further, discoveries that happen on the way to ‘making.’ Maybe it’s in the air? Looking back on what creative people have told me about this work of making, I recalled something I learned from science podcaster Jai Ranganathan. (Find him on twitter at @jranganathan.) We had met at a science conference in NC’s Research Triangle Park. That was the kind of place where bunches of people convened to share tips on making science interesting to a general audience, more or less, and I discovered Jai was set to instruct scientists at University of California Santa Barbara on how to use social media.

Conversations about sharing discoveries inspired this interview with Jai Ranganathan.

DK: What do you need to think about when opening a wide-open project like a podcast? That’s a pretty big blank canvas.

JR: First, define your purpose. Then, what’s your scope? Do you want to be a local brand? Have a national audience? If you want a large audience, people really go for video.

DK: OK. So if you know your purpose, then what? Any tips?

JR: Sure.

  1. Think about where can you add value. Ask businesses, ‘What’s a problem you have?,’ and then share, ‘Here’s how we might solve it.’
  2. Give your product away so people want to know more.
  3. You can do latest tips. Interviews. You could have seminars.
  4. Just get started. Do it frequently. Keep it short—2 minutes.

DK: Wait, so you just have to be prolific?

JR: You don’t have to be flashy, or always funny, or the best-looking. But you have to be compelling in your voice. Be engaged, animated, and interesting.

DK: But what about talent?

JR: Talent is overrated. You have to be interesting/entertaining first, or else it doesn’t matter what you have to say!

DK: How do you do that?

JR: Boring podcasts are that way because people are checking boxes off a how-to list, as opposed to doing something that’s really them. Anything creative like this—podcasting, video, or writing—is about deciding what you want to say, and what’s your way of saying it. How to make that your own is key.

DK: How did you get into this?

JR: I was doing my postdoc in conservation biology. If you’re not a scientist, your job is to write papers. I was disenchanted after a while. How likely was it that what I wrote would lead to action? So as a hobby, I started interviewing scientists. I’ve always really liked radio. Someone found me and offered to pay me to do this, so now I have $2,000 broadcast-quality equipment and I make a good living. But, I had hoped more people would listen.

DK: What can others learn?


JR: It takes a while to figure out what you’re doing and why the heck you’re doing it. Don’t make it too scripted. You can have a script, but don’t read it. Imagine somebody giving a talk and reading a script–it’s death! And you know, you have to like doing it. And keep doing it, that’s key. Don’t wait to get good. No one sprouts out of the earth fully formed.

First published in S P A C E