It’s been a hell of a morning, D. I know you probably are like, why are you writing me a letter on your blog? Well. That is the nature of ‘N’. And I am inviting you. Starts here. The picture? That was me with a ticket from ‘N’ London, hanging out at a pub there, no wait, Sheffield, it was, right, just there, just talking to no one in particular, and, well… waiting for people to ask me, ‘So, what’s that?’, so I could invite them. Haha. (Yes, I do things like this.)
The journey of ‘N’, which began in 2014 in Phnom Penh, involves this sort of brute-force method of simply doing something, in this case sending point-blank invitations like this, over and over and over and over until you get it to ‘take.’
On the shape of uncertainty
I must have invited 116 people to that first ‘N’, and in the end we had a lovely group of opting-in people who made our 16-person blind date one of the most memorable ones of the lot, so far.
Who comes to ‘N’? A mix. A surprise. Every single time. And that’s exactly the beauty of it.
The people who come to ‘N’ are exactly the right people. I’ve hosted this in Bangkok, London, and Copenhagen (kind of), and so, now, here I am. In Vietnam. Again. Did it once, in 2017, in Hanoi too, forgot to say.
It’s not about who’s the most this or the most that. When I make these invitations, and yes, there are a lot of them, there is one thing that all the guests who say ‘yes’ will have in common. They are curious people. They want to know what it is. They want to take a chance. Maybe just once, this year, ‘go out of my comfort zone,’ as so many people tell me. ‘N’ is something people talk about, or hear about, and it changes some of us (me, included) and we go on with our lives like, Huh, that can happen.
In a world overwhelmed with communication channels but void of deep relating, in my opinion, I made ‘N’ because I wanted to host a space for people to really be there, together, really and truly in a way that I love: which is simply being there, being included, being seen and heard, and being welcomed. Welcome. That’s me: welcoming you to ‘N’. Not just you. You and about 30 people I have mentioned this to in Ho Chi Minh City, of whom, I hope, 4 will say ‘yes.’
One of them I met in the very place where I met you, for example. Another I just wandered in to her place of work and struck up conversation. This happens often for me. I did this also to invite the guests who are part of that 30-person list and today we will close the registration because I like advance bookings and if I know everyone personally I will host it at my house. Cause yeah. Personal. And I will make snacks. If I can find out what dietary preferences… and that’s why, too, I like to have plans in advance… who is coming, what will we make for them? Planning and anticipating, for me, is as much of the fun of making something happen as the thing itself happening. I guess that’s why I love ‘N’ so much.
And why, you may ask, is it it designed like this? All ‘just once’ and for ‘just four’, and stuff? Because: personalizing it, and small scale. I like that. It’s usually in semi-public space but I am getting tired of public spaces in Vietnam and my house has a semi-public spot in it, the Common Room, which is where I’ll do this. There is also some art. Art that isn’t mine. So yeah. Come and talk to us. It’s just… people showing up to talk. Together. But briefly, and once.
A lot of conversations happen at an ‘N’ and this time was no different. We are ready to share, meaningfully and not trivially, in the online follow-up sessions. They’ll be virtual so our ‘N’ guests from ‘N’ HCMC, which *happened* in the magic way only ‘N’ can, can see and discover others in our S P A C E programs, as we network, together, one designful moment at a time. It’s been fun, HCMC ! Thank you.
Is getting designed. It will take place this month. It will happen in HCMC.
Relational aesthetics x ‘N’..
I’ve sent, by now, more than 20 invitations here and there through the internet to people and most of those, of course, have gone unanswered. Though there is always the magic of the follow-up note, I’ve found, in my past explorations in hosting ‘N’ in other cities. Phnom Penh, to start, and then London, Copenhagen, Bangkok, Hanoi.
‘N’ is your masterpiece, DK
-AM, 2017, Phnom Penh
‘N’, an invitation, is here, if you are curious. I’m always open to hearing from people who just simply find out about it and get in touch. Cool! That’s what I do! So yeah. Most welcome to initiate a conversation with us, if you like what you see at the link.
Design is trying things,
then trying them again..
You try it, you find out what works, what doesn’t. You adjust and adapt the next set of things so that you optimize for what you want. In the case of ‘N,’ right from the start, I was designing for: making it happen. Who has time to send 67 emails trying to meet for coffee? Not me. So I just invited 16 people to meet at the same time and at the same place so they could all have the guesswork and admin time neatly removed from their lives and simply show up for a party. That. Was. The idea. And it still is, six years later.
‘N’ in Hồ Chí Minh
set for December 2020..
If you have already been in touch with DK about this, at some point in the months of September or October, when we hosted our small four-person meet ups, then you can come to this one and see what you missed. If you got an invitation, and were wondering, here is your second-chance. I don’t usually do that, but due to covid, 16N has been recast as a series of mini-parties instead of the giant ‘big blind date for 16 people’ that it used to be. Still and all, I’m curious to see what will happen when we do this, again, this month. Some are registering. Some are going to be there. Will we see you? Let’s find out. Email us back if you got the invitation, or just go through the links from the invitation page.
It’s a big day, here. I’m making gifts to give to our guests for the first-ever ‘N’ in HCMC. It’ll be just four people, instead of the usual 16, which works some of the time but not all of the time (Helsinki! Looking at you). That’s okay. We enjoy what emerges, as it begins, because each moment is unique. That’s the conversation I had last night with K and A, who are two very close, longtime friends. They met when they were six years old. And today, cool, I’m lucky to be able to converse with them, too, go into the spaces of unusual, remarkable conversations. In many ways, it was K who had first taught me how to do this, back in the days when we were students… in Kyoto… More there, much, much more, to share and talk about. Perhaps at the next ‘N’. (I’ll talk more about that, if you get in touch, with an invitation-request. Ask me anything. The way to do that is through the form here.)
‘N’. Not for everyone. Lol.
But for those who say ‘yes’ and come, it’s… well. It’s ‘N’!
See you tonight: you know who you are. (I hope you got the program password by email yesterday all right). See you in the alley. I’ll be there.
I thought I was done with ‘N’ for a while. I thought I had these rules around it: the old page for it and my best attempt to share the story so far, is here. (I had some other side sites going to “document the journey,” or whatever, but that became tiring. People wanted me to do that kind of thing, because they said it would be good, so sure, I was new at experience design project S P A C E jam stuff, back then, so I tried to do it their way.) Kind of went like this:
Them: ‘You need to explain it, DK. Don’t you have pictures? So they can see what it’s going to be like? You have to sell it to them.’
Me: ‘WTF, it’s art. You don’t explain art. You experience it. Then you decide for yourself what it means.’
‘Why am I even.. asking you? Gosh. You’re just not. Getting this, are you. F, f, f.’
‘Maybe I’m not that clever enough…’
‘You want to be spoon-fed or something?’
‘Yes! Tell it to me like–‘
UNDOCUMENTED. So mostly, there are no pictures. I think it gets in the way of the intimacy of the space. I do have one 16-persons-in-a-pic ‘N’ selfie. I did take a few shots in Phnom Penh and London, because, wow, it was just… beautiful to have the whole 16-way blind date idea in real life and so yeah, documented those but they’re like not that great of pictures because, iPad?, and also, dark. So? I have them. I have the memories, though, and I cherish those far, far more. I don’t have to share them anywhere. So yeah. I didn’t keep up with the whole side site journal documenting thing. Things like that to ‘maintain buzz’ and ‘include people who couldn’t be there’ got to the point where the mood to do that just… ended. So I casually was okay with it if I forgot the passwords or maintaining it got too hard and I just… let it go. These things happen, too. I said, after ‘N’ Penang: NOSTALGIA, that I was done for a while. That I would take a break.
But, then… I fell in love with a venue. Yeah, I did.
It just has that vibe.
It’s perfect, for ‘N’.
Yup, I found a crazy cool venue, with an ‘N’ in its name, in a city that has an ‘N’ in it, and *these are among the criteria* that I look for when I choose to throw an ‘N’ party. An ‘N’ party is a big blind date where 16 people show up to meet each other, in real life, to talk about a topic that starts with… guess what letter!
So yeah. I’m here, and I’m starting to go through the old conversations in old emails and seeing who might like to be part of ‘N’ in the secret city where I am going to be when it might happen. Yes! I am going to decide later! I am going to leave it open, for now. I am going to confirm, when I feel like it, when it’s closer to then, if it is happening or not. (To everyone, that is, who isn’t already ‘in’ on the conversations, where we confirm stuff and send agendas and meetpoints and homework. Not everyone needs to know. So I’ll be vague and casual and noncommittal with anyone who is not, of course, actually saying ‘yes’ to my direct invitation. If you just got email from me, this is the jam.
The hosting of an ‘N’
The people who come are the right people. The things that happen are the only things that could have. It starts when it starts (but we’ll probably say 7PM), and it’s over when it’s over (this can last years), and the last thing is, if you’re not having a good time or learning something, you can leave. That’s ‘the law of two feet.’ I didn’t make these up; these are the basic frame making rules of what’s called Open Space Technology, HT MC, who left the book Open Space Technologies on purpose for the random passerby to find it, in her cafe in Battambang, where said passerby (yours truly, DK) chanced to go (solo trip! Battambang 2014!!) and see it, read it, and begin to host everything in Open Space style, from that point on.
So… Who got my email? Email me back and I’ll send the next e-note in that sequence. I wrote it in 2014, but it still fits the mood of this cookie, and I’m ready to do an ‘N’ jam, again, with 16 people who are going to like what they see when they read this invitation and follow through the links.
Are you there, curious, reading, listening, and wondering? People have come from out of the city and out of the country to join ‘N’, so please get in touch if you are resonating with this. We’re looking for you, if yes. If you got the invite and said ‘no,’ that’s cool, really, it is, but, um, no way ever am I going to ‘keep you updated on future things!!’
‘N’ is a filter, for me. What kind of people say ‘yes’ to this wacky, crazy invitation to show up in real life for something that you don’t even know what it is yet?
My kind of people.
S P A C E kind of people.
Artful, curious, and ready-for-the-things people.
With that set, there’s no way that you can go wrong, as a host. Because the people who come, like Open Space says, are the right people. Guess what? We don’t care how popular or good-looking or smart or rich you are. We just want you to want to be part of it. That’s it. That’s the whole thing, the center of it. ‘N’ quests you.
Agile. Agile design, agile publishing, and agile ‘N’.
This is how we roll.
Comments are open for a bit, in case someone wants to say something about all this ? Email also open. The new new address, not the old new address. Tx.
A new set of things. A new chapter. A new beginning. And this week’s issue: a fresh new S P C.
I’m a big fan of smart science fiction, the kind that takes you places in your imagination and gives you a chance to think, widely and without regard for practicalities. Like, you know, gravity, or the way we haven’t figured out yet how to travel back and forth in time.
I remember having a conversation once with a medical school student, about this. It went:
‘But we can’t time travel!’ (Him.)
I go, ‘But how do you know?’
‘It’s not like you know what you don’t know, right?’
‘Well I do!’
‘I’m finishing my medical school degree, I’ve spent nine years on this and I’m about to finish. I know a lot about how medicine works, now.’
‘Dude. Have you ever heard of opportunity cost?’
This kind of conversation is normal for me, or well, it used to be. I was going around and talking to people, quite a lot, in order to find the fodder for much of what is to come now, in S P C. The effort to look in the field for the new and different, however, closed when Atelier S P A C E ended, and I am now working with the very select things (people, stories, ideas) and shaping the fresh new sets of chapters, in S P C. Always iterate, right? We’re going back through the archives, together, me and the team I have, and we’re fleshing out version 9.0 style works-to-come, but only for our members. More about that below.
AT LAST, the picture of our guests at ‘N’ Hanoi: NARRATIVE. What stories do we tell to the world? Which ones do we tell ourselves? In this brief encounter, 16 people whose paths might not have otherwise crossed conversed and wrote, read and listened, in a space of just 2.5 hours. A magic moment. *!