A Philosophy of the Moment · Experiments in Expression · Found in the Field · In Việt Nam · Mirror2018

Guest Post: ‘Sharing Stories’

TODAY, A GUEST POST from Sandro Gisler. DK got to know Sandro through a collaborative writing project of Kismuth Books, which culminated in the publication of a small anthology. More than a year on, as we reopen THE MIRROR, we asked Sandro if he felt like sharing his thoughts on being part of that journey, and where he is now. And, this.

Sharing stories

“THIS,” he says, “is precisely what campfires are for. The sharing of stories. There’s a spiritual connection between flame and narrative.” —V. M. Straka

CAMPFIRES. It has been a while. But the other day, I had once again the privilege to be a storyteller: My kids’ school hosted a Reading Night, and I volunteered to read a story. Equipped with a flash light, I sat in the dark in an old-school class room, a flock of five-year olds sitting cross-legged in a small circle, hanging on my lips as I told local folk tales.

Reading the Straka quote about the campfire made me reflect about Sharing Stories, and I soon realized: ‘Sharing Stories’ may be the most profound human experience. I have long held that language is at the core of what it means to be human.

Language can range from a simple tool for exchanging information all the way to provide comfort, to share value, to remember history and to form bonds. But in between, there is a wide spectrum of nods, of Hey-did-you-hear-about’s, of quick blurbs and fragmented reports. Standing at the water cooler, waiting at the bus stop, over dinner with loved ones.

Let me introduce at this point the Share button. Have you clicked one today? Several times? Was it a Share button that brought you here, to this post? Or did someone mention it at the camp fire last night?

What is the Share button’s value? Does it cut us off from others by driving us into Social Media isolation? Does it create that same social bond that the flames of a campfires or the shine of a flash light create?

Well, as much as I am a romantic sucker for camp fires and late night storytelling, I am also a pragmatist, and value a simple hug over a grand red carpet welcome. A quick coffee over an elaborate tea ceremony. That’s where the Share button comes in. The Share button is the global water cooler, the café at the corner of the universe, the pub of Earth’s town square.

Glimpses

THERE ARE FEW THINGS in the world I like better than sitting at a campfire. But let’s face it; had I only shared stories and formed bonds while sitting at a campfire, it would’ve been a lonely life.

I treasure the shouts, blurbs, dinner table fragments just as much. And likewise, the glimpses into the souls and lives of those I’m connected with through social media. Whom I would not see at a campfire or a dinner table any time soon. I want to know how they feel. About the bus ride that morning, about the election, about the refugees, about the lack of snow, about what will come next.

There is a value in every human interaction, no matter how mundane or how electronic. What matters is the connection. —Sandro Gisler (@sandrogisler)

 

A Philosophy of the Moment · In real life · In Việt Nam · Mirror2018 · The Muse

‘Light sticks:’ implements for generating sparks or flame

TODAY, A GUEST POST from Eric Chuk, who took me up on my challenge to write an answer to the question, ‘What is intrigue?’ 

This originally appeared in the final issue of the INTRIGUE sequence in our eZine, S. P. A. C. E.

Intrigue

Light sticks

A MATCHSTICK IS COMMONLY composed of a small piece of wood and an ignitable coating at one end. When struck against a suitable surface, heat generated by friction causes the coated end to catch afire.

This simple mechanism is actually the result of centuries of development, not counting the preceding usage of flint and steel or the later advent of portable lighters. These implements for generating sparks or flame make it easy to focus on the accomplishment — the activities that require a greater source of light or heat than a match. The substrate itself is often overlooked.

Yet ‘what is to give light must endure burning.’ If ignition can be a metaphor for all that inspire and impels, why not the kinds of things can be burned? Why praise the fire of creativity but not its fuel, intrigue?

By some considerations, artistic activity depends on creativity as the energy that sustains it, and intrigue is thought of more as the spark. But to define intrigue as a momentary thing, bright but so quickly expended, is to ignore the need to sustain attention even after the original impetus is gone.

What makes a story?

AS AN EDITOR and writer, I am especially intrigued by the following—one is a technique while the other is an open question about the nature of storytelling.

In writing, the technique of ‘showing,’ or describing using concrete facts, is known to be more effective than ‘telling,’ which is to rely heavily on adjectives and adverbs.

Of course there is subjectivity in all writing, even so-called factual writing, because writers choose which facts to include and thereby bend them to their purpose. So this implies that given a representative, well-sourced collection of facts and subjective observations, the reader is supplied with enough fuel to be intrigued, to read and form an opinion about the issue or the writing itself.

What makes a story? It is the difference between hearing that ‘the king died, and then the queen died’ versus ‘the king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ as explained by the novelist E.M. Forster. Although he calls the former a story (chronological sequence of events) and the latter a plot (causal, logical structure connecting events), the point remains–causality is intriguing, but more specifically, cases of human actions or occurrences causing a significant and relatable effect on some world-state.
I would say that grief, although a specific emotional implication in this example, can be generalized as the matchstick that begins to burn once we think about the relationship between the story characters and the people in our own lives who mirror them.But regardless of whether matches or sparks deserve further contemplation, my hope is to have outlined intrigue in terms that might lead to an even more universal definition; it is a force that focuses imaginative attention, not only on whatever is at hand but also toward vistas we have never before reached, with distant campfires waiting to be lit. —Eric Chuk

Published in S. P. A. C. E. 

A Philosophy of the Moment · In Việt Nam

Bitcoin 101: How does the alternative currency stack up?

This Q&A was originally published in DK’s weekly eZine, S. P. A. C. E.

RECENTLY ON TWITTER I ASKED about options for transferring funds online. That’s how I got introduced to cryptofinance expert Raffaele Mauro.

In an email Q&A, he helped me understand how Bitcoin stacks up.

Here is how our conversation went:

Easy Bitcoin
Easy Bitcoin

‘SMALL AND GEEKY.’ Learning about Bitcoin from cryptofinance expert Raffaele Mauro (@Rafr). Here is a Q&A, in which he helped us understand in simple terms why Bitcoin is misunderstood, and the vastness of its potential.

AS: What is the ONE thing you wish everyone could grok about Bitcoin, something that most people simply don’t see/know right now?

RM: The most important thing that most people don’t see is that Bitcoin is not just another form of money or digital currency. Potentially, it is the ‘economic layer of the internet,’ a new protocol with huge potential impact like SMTP was for email/messaging. Beyond that, the blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, opened a gigantic space of exploration for a new wave of decentralized applications.

AS: What hurdle is keeping us laymen from grasping the potential of Bitcoin?

RM: Four reasons: 1) Bitcoin is not the most convenient solution for most day to day, traditional transactions in developed countries; 2) The design of most Bitcoin applications is poor and not user friendly, complex operations are accessible only to techies; 3) Cool applications and platforms are still in their embryonic form and there are no standards; 4) The Bitcoin community is still small and geeky.

AS: I’ve been reading about blocks. What would you say is the drive for Bitcoin miners to do the work they’re doing? Will they stand to make a ton of Bitcoin? Curious what’s the incentive for people who are doing the work to lay the infrastructure for this. And is it big enough, I wonder, to build something truly interesting?

RM: Yes, today miners and mining farms are mostly motivated by the economic incentive. There is still a small number of miners who are motivated by the intellectual excitement (understanding software & hardware challenges) but generally speaking, small scale mining is not sustainable. On the other hand, there is an entire space of developers and contributors to the community where the intellectual challenge could be the main motivator with potential economic gains as a side effect (generating skills useful for Bitcoin companies).

AS: This next one is really open-ended. If you could change anything at all (sky’s the limit here) about the way people buy and sell and trade in any currency, what would that one thing be? Why?

RM: Currency operations should be like email: fast, easy and accessible to anyone.

AS: Sounds idyllic. Any drawbacks?

RM: Bitcoin has several drawbacks

  • Rigid monetary supply (on the same time a benefit and a drawback) and therefore high volatility
  • Technical vulnerabilities (examples: 51% attack, block size problems)
  • Transaction speed
  • Despite its decentralizations, there are strong network effects and “third parties” are still re-created
  • Inequality
  • More recently: flame wars among developers

AS: What can we expect to see next?

RM: I see 4 potential scenarios:

  • BASIC. Cryptofinance as sub-industry of Fintech innovation
  • OPTIMISTIC. Blockchain as the new payment layer of the Internet, like SMTP for email Internet of Things powered by blockchain technologies
  • PESSIMISTIC. Bubble & crash in cryptoasset (second mega-bubble) Bubble & crash in VC in vestments in Bitcoin startups
  • UTOPIAN/DYSTOPIAN. Decentralized technology radically disrupts governments, organizations and financial institutions


To learn more, check out at Raffaele Mauro’s Slideshare presentations >

Other thoughts?

What do YOU think? What else is out there, what’s on the horizon?

And if you are using Bitcoin, how is it working? Lessons learned? —AS

This Q&A was originally published in DK’s weekly eZine, S. P. A. C. E.

16N · A Philosophy of the Moment · In Việt Nam

What’s normal? by ‘N’ Phnom Penh

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?

A Philosophy of the Moment · Found in the Field · In Việt Nam

‘A sprinkle of magic dust’: guest post by idApostle on 25 years of logo design

Steve Zelle of idApostle comments about the creative process ahead of “Make.”

The Process of Imagination, Analysis and Action

By Steve Zelle

The creative process involves tangible actions juxtaposed with the intangible mystery of creativity. It often suffers under a linear approach and blossoms when you dare to ask “why don’t we try ….” It’s what makes something more than just an idea. It offers a result via the marriage of imagination, analysis, and action.

For twenty-five years, I have been involved in logo design. For the last year, I have also run a site that showcases the creative processes of other logo designers—sixteen to date. My intentions with the site were to better understand the creative process, improve my own and increase awareness about the value it provides.

After all this time, I have learnt that the creative process never looks like this:

The creative process never looks like this.

In fact, the creative process of logo design truly is impossible to diagram, although many of us try in order to put our clients more at ease with it. It can’t really be put into distinct phases although many of us also try to do this in hopes that potential clients will feel more comfortable investing their time and money. In truth, I have found that the creative process requires a leap of faith from everyone involved. Its elusive nature manages to move a project forward, backward and sideways simultaneously.Â

The creative process is chaos wrapped around structure and held together by a sprinkle of magic dust.

The studies on Processed Identity show that while all designers approach projects in a unique way, the creative process—the time spent reading, writing, having conversations, organizing, editing, prioritizing, mind mapping, creating mood boards, sketching—”is essential to developing a deep understanding of a client’s needs. It’s what inspires and enables us to create something beyond the generic and adequate. In my experience as a logo designer, the creative process has proven to be my most valuable tool. It’s also crucial to a wide range of other disciplines including science, philosophy, architecture, art and writing.

We have all experienced occasions where it is clear the creative process has been minimized. It’s not difficult to recall poor user interfaces, cliche solutions, and ideas executed with seemingly little thought as to how the end user will engage with them. In contrast, by embracing and investing in the creative process, it’s possible to create moments of joy, satisfaction, and delight.

It is unfortunate that the creative process is constantly in need of protection from budget cuts, deadlines and non-believers. It seems to be the first corner cut. You need clay to make bricks[*]. It takes time, energy, dedication, and the willingness to build, knock down and build again (over and over).

I have learned that I best serve my customers by looking at the logo as simply a by-product of the creative process. I have also learned that protecting the creative process is essential and non-negotiable.

About the Author

Steve Zelle is a logo and brand identity designer based in Ottawa, Canada. He operates as idApostle and is the founder of the community driven design website, Processed Identity. You can reach him through his website or on Twitter.

*Paraphrased from: “Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently, “I cannot make bricks without clay!”, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.