Towards the next thing, 5N

IT MIGHT BE A LITTLE PREMATURE to start blogging about the next ‘N’ already, but it is here, in my heart, as soon as the last one finishes. There is, of course, the thank-you not that I am still writing. For those who joined us at ‘N’ in Hanoi… wow, just last month. At the very end of June, when we were all sweltering and wondering if we could really pull that off, must have been really surprising (as one guest told me, hello GN!) for some to see that we did get together, 16 of us, and then, we took a selfie.

I need to share that.

I need to do that right, but I am also realizing that there is no ‘right’ for things like this. Blogging, is it already old school to be a blogger? I do not do product placements. There are no sponsors. I feel sad when I go to a nice event only to see that it’s been co-opted by some giant car dealership or beer company, and it becomes, well, more of the same. The banal.

This happened before, when I would join events that were ‘free’ but turned out to be anything but, what with the snapping of photos for someone’s ‘promotion’ and the marketing materials that are shoved at you more subtly in 2017 then they were in the 1990s, they don’t print flyers and blast them at you, they just… what? Make weird psychological triggers, capitalize on your insecurities, make you feel like you need something (absolutely ‘must-have’ it), because you’re not complete enough without… But ‘N’, if you were wondering, ‘N’, I think, I believe, is a way to really come back to just being who we are, together in a small circle, small is important, but not too small, because… you need a mix of people and I’ve found 16 to be perfect.

Four groups of four, that’s a bit of a holdover from the days when I recall working with other consultants to bring the jigsaw method to play in experiential learning workshops that we would design together. To varying degrees of success, of course. It’s not trendy or sexy, what we’re making here, in S P A C E salons, workshops, magazine, print stuff, zines, eZines, and things to come. Things to come! There is always that wild card spot. ______. Anything is possible, anything anything.

‘N’ CPH. For ‘N’ in Copenhagen, so far we have 5 people who are ‘in’, and that’s exciting. Things have changed a lot since 2015, though, since that time when they said ‘yes’… Still. We have been in touch. Corresponding, from time to time. The theme is NEARNESS, and that means building trust, over time. Showing up, even ambiently on email, is important, I think. Learning, changing, as I go.

More patient, as I learned to be from those I met in Copenhagen in 2015, on a foray into that place to see about making ‘N’ happen. I got there and realized I didn’t have enough time to find the people I was looking for, that those whom I would meet would need time to meet again, that email wasn’t something people do anymore (this is just something I do, is it?), and that… you have to kind of know people before you can show up from out of town and throw together something as wacky and undefined as ‘N’. But… I have been… staying the course. I still did some small things, a little talk about productivity and a couple of salons: Internet I Hate You and Drift and the Nomad. Both were good. Small, clean.

OPTIMISTIC. For Copenhagen, for 5N, whenever it will be, and however it comes into shape when it does, I am optimistic. I have been practicing at this, just that… cultural differences. It is so not like America, you don’t just walk around handing out cards and putting up flyers and saying, ‘This. This is good. You should do this.’ No one takes that kind of craic seriously, there. And why should they? I like the place because people do show up when they say they will… no fuzzy cancellations or weirdness which happened so often here in Phnom Penh that I got riled up about enough to design ‘N’ Phnom Penh in the first place. That was when you had to get tickets ahead of the poll-making step, so you really had to commit before you even got to help select the date. Same with Bangkok’s ‘N’. And London’s. This time, though, in Hanoi, I thought it would be interesting to kind of wing it. Once you get there, and you start being yourself, and people can see that you are earnest about it, what you’re making I mean, then yeah. It works. It can, it does. It will, for CPH, too. (But if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too.)

IS IT WORKING? That’s subjective. Maybe people wouldn’t see the losses that are coming back financially as successes, but I, personally, find each ‘N’ moment to be such a magical one, such a gem, that I can’t help but keep motivated to carry forwards. ‘Success’ isn’t about ‘outcomes,’ it’s about paying attention, I think, to what you are learning as you go, and being able to adapt yourself so that you can, well, add to your life instead of simply check things off some list.) Is it working? Who knows. We are just 4N in. I am going to be writing more about Hanoi soon, and maybe I’ll share about Bangkok and Phnom Penh, too. There were ‘N’ events here I hardly wrote about, mostly because… new at ‘N’-hosting. New means… reluctant to share. Less so now. Less new, more open. Blogging again, weird, that. Anyway. Here’s to the journey. And very warm welcomes to those just joining us, in S P A C E.

This Tuesday, everything resets

FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS, we’ve been publishing a weekly eZine, S P A C E. There is a fee for this magazine. There are a very small group of subscribers. But that’s good.

I’m telling you this because we are at the verge of a new chapter, this junction of DK. It’s 2017. We started in 2006 in Seattle, as a humble LLC thinking that ‘making it’ was landing enough gigs to pay your bills. But that’s so… boring, just paying your bills. What about interestingness? Intrigue, learning, growth? Beauty. Over the years there’ve been many shifts, and this Tuesday, I press a big red reset button. Killing the mailing lists, outside of the new one. Many things. For sure. Are informing the downsizing of the ‘who I know’ database and an inward press to focus, instead, on just a handful of people with real attention, real is the important word here, real because there’s caring, and understanding, and mutual respect. No more ambient stuff. No more keeping in touch. I’m moving everything into the new box, the new S P A C E.

Happy, so far, with the way it’s been a slow cook build. Because small is beautiful. We are consistently creating conversation-sparking instances, I think, really, it’s working. We aren’t overly in touch, but we are quality in touch. We are developing conversation space that is progressing, with richness and complexity. Delving deeper than the superficial, going beyond the happy facebook post and going into places that, for better or worse, are opening us up to one another, and ourselves. The online course SELF started it, then there was THE MIRROR, THE FORUM, THE VILLAGE, and some other things that were invitation only for just a handful of people because… I felt… they might like them.

S P A C E meetup in Phnom Penh, at Zino // Photo by DK 2017

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DK ARE STILL MAKING AND DOING. Thanks to our subscriber base, we can explore more interesting dimensions, and get to better and better ideas, which takes a lot of room and improvising and testing and… belief in the point of it all. Some of us are more interested than others in the pursuit of beauty, the search for meaning. And those are the people who DK now works for. It’s been quite a trip, discovering this. It’s been a long slow process of carefully and sometimes less than artfully letting go. Of the deadwood, that doesn’t contribute, but only takes. So Tuesday, I kill the mailing lists. I get started instead on who is newly arriving in the orientation rooms for S P A C E.

 

Outtake. Zine making and collating bits // Photo by DK 2016

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Who DK works for…

HERE’S WHAT’S COOL about the online programmes, to me.

‘So like how do you do that?’

‘What?’

‘Whatever you’re doing.’

‘What?’

‘Whatever it is. Does it pay the bills?’

Total stranger asks me this. Like it matters. Like anyone cares about the things I care about, and what matters to me, except me (and maybe 1-2 others whom I randomly find out of every 100 people I meet). Interesting, I thought. But I kind of just went all into it. I said, ‘You know what? You have to create your own value, now. You have to show up, and do great work. You have to deliver. This is the digital economy, now.’

 

First meetup in Phnom Penh of 2016, at SOR

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WHAT I DIDN’T SAY: Asking me about how to make money in this field (which is what, exactly, anyway?) is not just overly personal and out of bounds, but it’s okay, I’m over these things, being a self-employed person you get this a lot, but you know, boring. It’s just… such a 1990s question. DK are not making widgets (anymore. No more brand identity designs, those process books that we would deliver, they were about the conversations… the arrivals at terribly insightful moments of ‘yes! That’s IT!’… which was the fury and the love of doing these collaborations… but when we got googled about design and identity and Seattle, people saw the images and portfolio things, I think, at first blush as products to buy off the shelf... Only our clients at DK know how much time and energy went into the early part of the process… getting to know you, designing something uniquely authentic and… well, anyway, we’re not doing them, now. Around the time we finished up NUK Cafe we said, that’s enough).

The people who subscribe to S P A C E are the people who are making it possible for us to continue to conceptualize, design, develop, test, prototype, test some more, research, understand a glimmer of something about, but not fully, and that’s okay, because we can keep at it, we can fail flat, or flatter, and then, try againthey are the people who are supporting us, in the most important way (for viability, that is): capital. I used to think that the people I wanted to keep in my inner circle were those whom I had known the longest. Those who had, in some way, been part of my most intimate conversation spaces. But I was wrong…

WHY? Well. It takes years of life to learn that you were wrong, in a big way, about something you held as basic. People I imagined would be part of my S P A C E community, the one that matters to me the very most, were… those from my past. But I was wrong. Of course they weren’t. They were… the people I was finding now… in life, the world of this place and time, where I am. Bricolaging and finding us together, expressions of moments of exchange, collected instances, is my new work, now. And I can’t cling to the past connections, I can’t hold on to every single… old tie. Were we teenagers, hanging out getting tacos or ice creams or something bad for you, as teens do? Maybe we were in the same dorm, or maybe we shared some kind of experience, like a concert or a theatre performance, or something lifechanging like… well, you have yours and I have mine, right?

Too personal to share out loud, here. As so very much other stuff is, too. Work, life, family, relationships, conversations that happen in the private rooms of dialogue that go into weird and fascinating directions. Letters. Poetry slams. These kinds of things are not high-profit, but they matter. I think. I really, really do. Which is why I’m not going to break down and get some gig in digital things I don’t understand the point of. Why would I want to market someone else’s things, when I have S P A C E to send out into the world. Why???

I still want to make conversations happen, which is why we are hosting online programmes to continue the dialogues that spark an interest. If you are on for sharing with us more, then do consider applying for something, or show up for something when it comes around in your town (next stops: Berlin, Copenhagen, Budapest, maybe). Thinking. Planning. Devising. Dreaming. Here we go. Next!

READY TO CONTINUE THIS conversation? Good.

I invite you to S P A C E!… the orientation is free… just click any of the boxes to go to the page to add your name and contact. More from there.