Deciphering Culture

Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Short takes: Derek Silvers “Anything You Want”

leave a comment »

I’m a little wary of touting the work of “success gurus” (I can’t help flashing on the Chris Farley SNL motivational speaker character Matt Foley) but I make a few exceptions — Derek Silvers is one of those and he has a great trailer for his new book, “Anything You Want” published by fellow guru Seth Godin’s Domino Project.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

June 29, 2011 at 11:25 am

Short takes: different types of “creative metropoles”

with one comment

Interesting project winding up in September 2011 looks at the different strategies taken by eleven European cities to develop and support their creative industries. The Creative Metropoles project is based on a premise I share and would like to see shared in the U.S.: “a facilitator of innovation, creative industries are essential for the development of other sectors.” The cities (as different as Berlin and Riga, Amsterdam & Warsaw) will each identify their own best practices and learn from each other’s experiences — “the ambition is not only to present the good practices but also deal with current problem issues and generate new knowledge and approaches.” The project is working in 5 policy areas:

1. structure of the public support for creative industries

2. business capacity and internationalisation of creative industries

3. space for activities by creative industries and creative city districts as creative incubators

4. funding schemes for creative industries

5. demand for the outputs of creative industries, including municipalities in the role of consumers.

The final report, particularly the appendices (Good Practices from European Cities) offers an interesting view of the diversity of approaches to developing creative industries that have had significant success and point to the need to both localize (i.e., collaboration for mutual benefit among Berlin) and reach across national boundaries (i.e., relationship building between artisans and designers in Fes, Morocco and Amsterdam). There’s a lot of material and I’ve just been browsing but my first impression is there’s a lot to learn.c

Short Takes: Ethnographic Fiction

with one comment

One of my fascinations is the ongoing development of ethnographic fiction as a means of capturing qualitative research that is more evocative and significantly meaningful than typical ethnographic prose. I noticed that there is an interesting workshop coming up down under on ethnographic fiction & speculative design. Outside the bounds of my travel budget but well worth checking out:

Ethnographic Fiction and Speculative Design is a full-day workshop at the 5th International Conference on Communities & Technologies–C&T 2011, in Brisbane, Australia, 29 June-2 July, 2011.

Goals of the Workshop

This full-day workshop aims to explore how grounded ethnographic and action research methods can be transformed into fictional and speculative designs that provide people the kinds of experiences and tools that can lead to direct community action in the development and implementation of new pervasive technologies.

And added to my reading  list is After Life: An Ethnographic Novel by anthropologist Tobias Hecht. From the blurb by Duke University Press:

Bruna Veríssimo, a youth from the hardscrabble streets of Recife, in Northeast Brazil, spoke with Tobias Hecht over the course of many years, reliving her early childhood in a raging and destitute home, her initiation into the world of prostitution at a time when her contemporaries had scarcely started school, and her coming of age against all odds.

Hecht had originally intended to write a biography of Veríssimo. But with interviews ultimately spanning a decade, he couldn’t ignore that much of what he had been told wasn’t, strictly speaking, true. In Veríssimo’s recounting of her life, a sister who had never been born died tragically, while the very same rape that shattered the body and mind of an acquaintance occurred a second time, only with a different victim and several years later. At night, with the anthropologist’s tape recorder in hand, she became her own ethnographer, inventing informants, interviewing herself, and answering in distinct voices.

With truth impossible to disentangle from invention, Hecht followed the lead of Veríssimo, his would-be informant, creating characters, rendering a tale that didn’t happen but that might have, probing at what it means to translate a life into words.

A call and response of truth and invention, mental illness and yearning, After Life is a tribute to and reinterpretation of the Latin American testimonio genre. Desire, melancholy, longing, regret, and the hunger to live beyond the confines of past and future meet in this debut novel by Tobias Hecht.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

April 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Social Connectivity & Innovation — “Where Good Ideas Come From”

with one comment

The trailer for Steven Berliner Johnson‘s new book, Where Good Ideas Come From, offers some food for thought on the role of social environments in the creation of innovative ideas.

The book is built around dozens of stories from the history of scientific, technological and cultural innovation: how Darwin’s “eureka moment” about natural selection turned out to be a myth; how Brian Eno invented a new musical convention by listening to too much AM radio; how Gutenberg borrowed a crucial idea from the wine industry to invent modern printing; why GPS was accidentally developed by a pair of twenty-somethings messing around with a microwave receiver; how a design team has created a infant incubator made entirely out of spare automobile parts. But I have also tried to distill some meaningful—and hopefully useful—lessons out of all these stories, and so I’ve isolated seven distinct patterns that appear again and again in all these innovative environments. (Each pattern gets its own chapter.) (from StevenBerlinerJohnson.com).

If  you want a longer version, here’s a talk Johnson gave at TED, starting with the role the introduction of the coffeehouse (and the replacement of alcoholic beverages with coffee) had on the development of innovation in the U.K.

Related Articles

Written by Jeffrey Callen

September 28, 2010 at 9:11 am

Short takes — the music industry’s process of re-invention (@Hypebot.com)

with 4 comments

A great list from Kyle Bylin of Hypebot.com

12 Books That The Record Industry Needs To Read

Grab a book off the list and enjoy it.

image from tsaum.comOver the last few months, we’ve been asking some of the leading voices in our field to send in their summer reading lists for the Hypebot community. I won’t go as far as to say that this is a definitive list of the books that the music and record industries needs to read, but it’s certainly a good start. There’s a couple of great titles missing that I’ll try to call attention to in my own reading list. That is, when I get around to putting it together.

In this book, Johns explores the history of piracy and reveals that it is far longer and intertwined with our cultural lives than we had imagined. It explores the intellectual property wars from the advent of print culture in the fifteenth century to the reign of the Internet in the twenty-first. This title provides a needed context into the claims that the sky-is-falling on the recording industry and makes chicken little look like he’s been screaming bloody murder for centuries.

Communications scholar and online music fandom analyst Nancy Baym said itbest, “Like Kot’s book, this is a readable analysis of recent changes in the music industry, but where Kot focuses on case studies to make his case, Wikström offers a critical theoretically-grounded perspective and a rich analysis of the changing nature of the many industries involved in the industry.”

12 Books That The Record Industry Needs To Read:

1. Rework
by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

This book is written by the founders of the software company 37signals; it explores new ways of looking at working and living and challenges the behaviors we call normal. As well, the book gives a great overview into the reality of starting a company and the lack of resources that are needed with the proliferation of digital technologies and the emergence of the social web.

2. Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates
by Adrian Johns

3. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
by Seth Godin

Never one to mince words, Godin flat out tells readers that they are remarkable — that something that they do matters much, much more than they believe it does. After spending years in an education system that’s almost designed to squash out all creativity and uniqueness from people, preparing them for the ultimate corporate bargain, Godin urges us to wake up and use our full potential.  Not because we are some special butterflies, but because right now, in this instance, the world needs us to be remarkable and use those very talents.

4. You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto
by Jaron Lanier

Lanier has written a cautionary tale that challenges us to think about whether or not the web is transforming our culture and society for better or worse. He argues that we take every day technology for granted and don’t truly understand the biases of the mediums we use — that they were designed at very specific moments in history by people with specific intentions. The operating system that our world and computers work on is just one representation of reality and many minor design decisions in it have real and unintended consequences.

5. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age
by Clay Shirky

Whether you read this book shaking your head or nodding in agreement, Shirky provides much food for thought and interjects a theory about how the abundance of our free time could be used. In the digital sphere, we are active participates in our cultural lives and if we spend our surplus of downtime working on something that matters, rather than watching reruns of Lost, something great could emerge. If harnessed properly, we can produce value that benifits society as a whole and not just our own lives. Embbrace the chaos and don’t look back.

6. Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music
by Greg Kot

From the perspective of a music critic and journalist, Kot analyses the cultural and organizational shifts that underpinned the profitability of the record industry long before the proliferation of digital technologies revolutionized it. He weaves together a brilliant narrative about the decline of traditional social institutions and talks about how the young and the digital are redefining the roles of cultural creators and their art. Contrary to Knopper’s title, Kot explores the new music business from the musicians who shaped and changed it forever.

7. Fans, Friends And Followers: Building An Audience In The Digital Age
by Scott Kirsner

We talk about the DIY movement, but Kirsner goes into the trenches and gains insight into the careers of those whom are actually doing it and making a living off their works. Rather than relying on the gatekeepers of yesteryear, the people outlines in this book have gained access to the tools needed to produce, market, and distribute their work. This book features of range of interviews across a broad number of disciplines in the cultural industries; it provides practical strategies and resources for the reader to stand up and join the movement — if they so wish.

8. The Music Industry: Music in the Cloud
by Patrik Wikström

Communications scholar and online music fandom analyst Nancy Baym said itbest, “Like Kot’s book, this is a readable analysis of recent changes in the music industry, but where Kot focuses on case studies to make his case, Wikström offers a critical theoretically-grounded perspective and a rich analysis of the changing nature of the many industries involved in the industry.”

9. Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture
by Aram Sinnreich

I will admit, I haven’t read this title yet. So, I will have to leave you with the Barnes and Noble description: “Mashed Up chronicles the rise of ‘configurability,’ an emerging musical and cultural moment rooted in today’s global, networked communications infrastructure. Based on interviews with dozens of prominent DJs, attorneys, and music industry executives, the book argues that today’s battles over sampling, file sharing, and the marketability of new styles such as ‘mash-ups’ and ‘techno’ presage social change on a far broader scale.”

10. Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry In The Digial Age
by Steve Knopper

Knopper explores the rise and fall of the record industry through a people and executive driven narrative that gives insight into many of the organizational problems they faced. This provides a much more historical perspective into specific periods of time during the last few decades of popular music. He looks much more into the business side of recorded music than Kot and the many characters that drove it into the ground. This is a tale of short-sighted capitalism and greed and luddite ignorance, where Kot tells of the more music based story.

11. Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars
by William Patry

This book is still one of my favorites to date; it gives a scathing review of the cultural industries and tells how they often only want to give consumers what they want to give them — not what they actually want. It studies the language used in the Copyright Wars and gives an in-depth argument as to why those in the industries, whom piracy has been a problem for, tend to demonize their opponents, rather than answer the much broader question of why they refuse to innovate. Creative destruction is a force of change — lobbying government and issuing massive lawsuits are just methods to deny the future and hope that things stay the same forever and ever — freezing business models in the present.

12. Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music
by David Suisman

Suisman provides a much needed history of the rise of the commercial music industry, ranging from Tin Pan Alley to Black Swan, the first major black-owned record company, charting its immense complexity on the way. He tells of how music become a commodity in America and gives deep insight into the truth that the music that permeates in our everyday lives has much less to do with our preferences than of the deep pockets and marketing budgets and tactics that the record industry has employed for decades. In reality, it’s the music they want us to hear, not the other way around. Sadly for them, most of us quit buying it.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

September 16, 2010 at 10:52 am

Back story of the “Bed Intruder”s song

with 3 comments

Follow-up on a  post from September 13, 2010 — It’s a new game — the music industry’s process of re-invention (part 1). The Gregory Brothers talking about their surprise hit and their Auto-Tune The News project. Fascinating with some great quotes: “Joe Biden is the Beyonce of the Executive Branch” and great clips of “Bed Intruder” covers (I love the N.Carolina A & T marching band and shamisen versions).

Reposted from Hypebot.com

Video: Gregory Brothers Share Business Back Story On The Bed Intruder Song

image from www.tifr.usSouthwest Virginia’s Gregory Brothers, better known as the “Auto-Tune The News” band, shared the story of how they created and monetized the “Bed Intruder” song at Google’s Zeitgeist conference this week. “Bed Intruder” was the first totally d.i.y. tune to break Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart completely on the strength of YouTube play.

via MediaMemo

It’s a new game — the music industry’s process of re-invention (part 1)

with 3 comments

The changing face(s) of the music industry

The recording industry has always been dragged kicking and screaming to adopt new technologies and business models (see ). Often the big boys were educated to what was possible by the appearance of new competitors on the margins who responded to new opportunities provided by new technologies or new music markets the majors ignore (and sometimes both). Typically, the big boys eventually swallowed up their upstart competitors and the same thing may happen this time but it seems less likely. And some of the upstarts are convinced the solution must come from somewhere different this time. The memorable quote below comes from an August 22, 2010 edition of “Broken Record: Music in the Download Era”, the LA Times occasional column on the current state of the music industry.

“I don’t want to hear some guy chomping on a cigar in Beverly Hills telling me it’s all gone pear-shaped. The people who invented the paradigm and were trusted to run it let it run afoul. We have to fix it.”Jeff Castelaz, co-owner of LA’s Dangerbird Records quoted in L.A.’s string of indie labels succeeds with a jack-of-all-trades approach.

Castelaz’s Dangerbird Records is one of a new crop of independent record companies that have sprung up and are giving the majors (or what is left of them) a run for their money. And this time it is different — there are new big boys providing low-cost distribution: Amazon, I-Tune… — and new free or low-cost marketing outlets: Twitter, Facebook… It’s no longer simply the independents vs. the majors.

A little historical perspective from Mark Mothersbaugh (from Verbicide Magazine)

I’m in the music industry, so I’ve had to listen to people moaning, lazy record executives who are saying, “Oh no, people aren’t buying our records anymore.” And I want to say, you know what, that is not how people historically have disseminated and listened to music in the history of mankind. It has only been a really short window since Thomas Edison invented the wax disc and then the record companies could start selling platters and then tapes and then digital discs. It has only been a short time. Record companies could control the process of what kids could listen to, which influenced what artists were able or allowed to create. I think the internet… is the most amazing thing that has happened. As far as being an artist, I think now is the greatest time to be an artist…  Now, kids can wake up in the morning and say I want to hear some “cowboy Chinese computer death-metal.” You put those four terms into a search engine,something is going to come up. Some band is playing that kind of music. That is so amazing to me. That is so exciting. It is so inclusive… And now kids who are 16 have cell phones that have more powerful recording systems inside their telephone than the Beatles had to do their first album. The technology is amazing. And who needs a record company? You start a website and people from every corner of the planet now have access to your music.

& New routes to success

Inspiration (local TV news) to Pop Song (“Bed Intruder Song”) to Viral Video (YouTube) to Internet Sales (I-Tunes) to Hot Single (Billboard Top 100)

New York Times coverage

More to follow — the game ain’t over yet

Written by Jeffrey Callen

September 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Keep your goals to yourself (@ DerekSilvers.com)

with 2 comments

A counter-intuitive lesson in fulfilling your goals from Derek Silvers (founder of CD Baby).  Silvers gave an elaborated version for TED** (video below — 3:16)

Shut up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them.

2009-06-16

Shouldn’t you announce your goals, so friends can support you?

Isn’t it good networking to tell people about your upcoming projects?

Doesn’t the “law of attraction” mean you should state your intention, and visualize the goal as already yours?

Nope.

Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen.

Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.

In 1933, W. Mahler found that if a person announced the solution to a problem, and was acknowledged by others, it was now in the brain as a “social reality”, even if the solution hadn’t actually been achieved.

NYU psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer has been studying this since his 1982 book “Symbolic Self-Completion” (pdf article here) – and recently published results of new tests in a research article, “When Intentions Go Public: Does Social Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap?

Four different tests of 63 people found that those who kept their intentions private were more likely to achieve them than those who made them public and were acknowledged by others.

Once you’ve told people of your intentions, it gives you a “premature sense of completeness.”

You have “identity symbols” in your brain that make your self-image.Since both actions and talk create symbols in your brain, talking satisfies the brain enough that it “neglects the pursuit of further symbols.”

A related test found that success on one sub-goal (eating healthy meals) reduced efforts on other important sub-goals (going to the gym) for the same reason.

It may seem unnatural to keep your intentions and plans private, but try it. If you do tell a friend, make sure not to say it as a satisfaction (“I’ve joined a gym and bought running shoes. I’m going to do it!”), but as dissatisfaction (“I want to lose 20 pounds, so kick my ass if I don’t, OK?”)

** TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and Open TV Project, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

September 11, 2010 at 11:16 am

“William Gibson On the Future of Publishing: Made to Order Books” (@ Speakeasy)

leave a comment »

Interesting interview with innovative author William Gibson (think cyberpunk) in the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog. Thanks to Julie Norvaisis of All This Chittah Chatter for turning me on to it.

An excerpt from the interview by the Wall Street Journal’s Steven Kurutz:

Will you mourn the loss of the physical book if eBooks become the dominant format?

It doesn’t fill me with quite the degree of horror and sorrow that it seems to fill many of my friends. For one thing, I don’t think that physical books will cease to be produced. But the ecological impact of book manufacture and traditional book marketing –- I think that should really be considered. We have this industry in which we cut down trees to make the paper that we then use enormous amounts of electricity to turn into books that weigh a great deal and are then shipped enormous distances to point-of-sale retail. Often times they are remained or returned, using double the carbon footprint. And more electricity is used to pulp them and turn them into more books. If you look at it from a purely ecological point of view, it’s crazy.

How would you do things differently?

My dream scenario would be that you could go into a bookshop, examine copies of every book in print that they’re able to offer, then for a fee have them produce in a minute or two a beautiful finished copy in a dust jacket that you would pay for and take home. Book making machines exist and they’re remarkably sophisticated. You’d eliminate the waste and you’d get your book -– and it would be a real book. You might even have the option of buying a deluxe edition. You could have it printed with an extra nice binding, low acid paper.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

September 11, 2010 at 8:01 am

The “HappyLife” home project (@FlowingData)

leave a comment »

How much knowledge is too much? (from FlowingData)

A house that knows when you’re happy and sad

By Nathan Yau – Aug 30, 2010

Auger Loizeau, in collaboration with Reyer Zwiggelaar and Bashar Al-Rjoub, describe their smart-home project Happylife. It monitors facial expressions and movements to estimate a family’s mood, displayed via four glowing orbs on the wall, one for each member.

We built a visual display linked to the thermal image camera. This employs facial recognition to differentiate between members of the family. Each member has one rotary dial and one RGB LED display effectively acting like emotional barometers. These show current state and predicted state, the predicted state being based on years of accumulated statistical data.

They also include a few quite beautiful vignettes from a family that has Happylife in their home. While there are no concrete metrics or instructions on how to read the displays, the family does draw some kind of emotional insights and sometimes finds comfort in the glow:

It was that time of the year. All of the Happylife prediction dials had spun anti-clockwise, like barometers reacting to an incoming storm. we lost David 4 years ago and the system was anticipating our coming sadness. We found this strangely comforting. (to read the rest, click here).

Written by Jeffrey Callen

August 30, 2010 at 10:34 am

%d bloggers like this: