Playfulness, toasters, negative space, Gatsby (and no witchcraft or Egyptian archaeology): last night was the TED Salon in London, down at the Unicorn Theatre, near Tower Bridge. The topic for the evening was “Re-framing” with 15 speakers over 5 hours (including the usual networking breaks that are de rigueur at such events ). As ever, each talk delivered something of interest, but their effectiveness to me was increased by SENS Foundation‘s current re-framing of its mission and message (see posts passim). I have a small programme for the evening with more pencil scribblings on it than original ink. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of some of the talks, in as much as they resonated with me, with links where appropriate. (There’s no ‘best of’ intent here: these are just the ones for which my notes translate into something for the blog, rather than something to be integrated into calendar 2011 operations.)
Jon Kolko, Associate Creative Director, frog design – “Framing, Constraints and Play: The Role of Personality in Creativity”
The great thing about this talk was its highlighting of the ways in which playfulness – and approachability – could come through in interactions with others. For the Foundation, I found myself thinking about enabling the organization itself to be portrayed as the mature, serious and authoritative non-profit which it undoubtedly is, whilst its representatives can allow their characters to shine through; the two sides – personal and organizational – playing off each other to reinforce an overall message, rather than undermine it.
Thomas Thwaites, Designer, The Toaster Project
Is it possible to build a toaster from scratch? You know, from the actual raw materials that come out of the ground? Thomas Thwaites has been trying to answer that, and you can read more about it on the Royal College of Art site, and Thomas’s own site. Joyous.
Kate Havnevik, Norwegian Singer/Songwriter
Sublime, beautiful, stunning, adjective, another adjective, yet another adjective… oh, just go and listen.
Matthew May, Author – “The Art of Subtraction”
Tao Te Ching: Chapter 11
translated by Ursula K. Le Guin (1998)
meet in the hub.
Where the wheel isn’t
is where it’s useful.
clay makes a pot.
Where the pot’s not
is where it’s useful.
Cut doors and windows
to make a room.
Where the room isn’t,
there’s room for you.
So the profit in what is
is in the use of what isn’t.
Then read Matthew’s book, In Pursuit of Elegance (currently on a Kindle near me). Actually, this video, hosted at Amazon.com, contains some of the slides from this talk (with a rather inelegant musical backing which I suggest muting).
Personal lesson taken away? I talk too much. Er, and some deeper thoughts, of course.
Sarah Churchwell, Literary Critic – “A Season in 1922 – and Why It Matters Today”
(Not to be confused with the Salem woman accused of witchcraft. No, no, not Christine O’Donnell.) She is the person who wrote this article about The Great Gatsby for The Times, and it’s her research into the book which formed the basis for her talk. There are, it turns out, remarkable modern-day echoes of 1920′s societal concerns and mores: internet and ‘new media’ replace the rise of broadcast radio; celebrity culture replaces, well, celebrity culture; and other examples abounded, including mobile telephones.
(I can’t find anything on the web about this, specifically, by Sarah, alas. But! I did find Howard Carter’s diaries and journals. The first excavation season in the tomb of Tutankhamun, on the website of the Griffith Institute, Oxford. And that started on October 28th, 1922. And it’s interesting. Honestly.
Feverishly we cleared away the remaining last scraps of rubbish on the floor of the passage before the doorway, until we had only the clean sealed doorway before us. In which, after making preliminary notes, we made a tiny breach in the top left hand corner to see what was beyond.
You know you want to read on.)
Theresa Senft made me frighteningly (more) aware of the lack of privacy that the internet brings to the world; Mike Dickson made me want to be more generous (Free blog post, anyone?); and Martin Jacques said very informed, and very thought-provoking things about China.
So, thanks TED Salon; here’s to next time.
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