Friday, May 18, 2007

Trees, Design, and Inspiring Conference Lectures

I think that I shall never see
a poem lovely as a tree.
-- Joyce Killmer
A quote from systems sustainability expert William Mcdonough, during a TED conference lecture:
Imagine this design assignment. Design something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, acrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates micro-climates, changes colors with the seasons and self-replicates.
Watch the video here.

I highly recommend watching all TED Conference videos for inspiration. My friend Nick is lucky enough to have attended several of these invite-only $6000 conferences, but fortunately for the rest of us, the lectures are made available for free to watch online. You can watch them at the TED website or via iTunes podcast.

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posted by Brian at 12:57 AM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Stovepipes" and Culture

Global Province is a management consulting group with an enlightened viewpoint. In its Letters From the Global Prince section of its website, there are often eye-opening observations about the world around us. Here's a blurb about culture and the lack of communication between subgroups:

Stovepipes. We emphasize that culture is a mosaic, a quilt of widely different strands running through society. It’s not painting, or music, or spices, or a night at the opera, or rap—but all of these woven together and more. Today it’s inextricably global, for culture of any merit no longer respects borders.

It is a catalyst because of ‘stovepipes.’ ‘Stovepipes’ is consultese-shorthand that describes the structure of old-style companies where the different parts or departments don’t converse with each other very well. It’s an American Express where you may have to talk with 4 people—instead of one—when you want to find out about travel, or hospital insurance, or about the points on your credit card, because the company is so compartmentalized that the left hand does not know what the right is doing. It’s every telephone company where you are lucky to be able to talk to anyone (all the telecoms are very understaffed in customer operations, maintenance, and several other areas), and you may talk to as many as 5 people trying to discover your service options if you need to telephone Paris a great deal. The consulting firms themselves are full of stovepipes, and knowledge is not shared well between different practices.

That said, the ‘stovepipes’ that really matter in modern commerce are not those inside companies but those strewn through society and scattered about the world. Neurologists understand very little chemistry—an impediment to research advances. Boutique businesses have a primitive understanding of internet commerce—without which they cannot survive. The U.S. knows little about Indonesia, the world’s major Moslem country, and even less about the Bandas where Ms. Alwi grew up. The more complex the society, the more numerous its stovepipes.

Culture weaves together the world as it is, bringing together spices, the Bandas, cooking, New York, a host of media, and much more. It provides the neural circuitry along which ideas can move. Culture knocks down stovepipes, so that a society can become interactive.

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posted by Brian at 10:26 AM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, July 21, 2003

Comic Con: a microcosm. Part I
The eco-system of Comic Con is much like any other, filled with swarming lifeforms engaged in life and death struggle. For nearly a week, this throbbing orgy pops into existence, thrives with unrivaled furor, then dissipates, leaving only barren Mrs. Fields cookie booths and signs for $20 Snapples.

On the Exhibition Floor, for example, reefs of sellers attract hordes of sack-laden creatures walking or even rolling in a turbulent morasse. Like filter-feeding barnacles, these multicellular organisms waft about hoping to extract nutrients from passerby creatures in exchange for parts of themselves. Often they will hand out attractive objects or remove protective coverings to entice an exchange.

Around the floor and outside in various corridors, autograph hounds carry sketchpads and objects to be marked, striving for good spots in queues where their prey are sitting helplessly. At other times, they seize prey as they walk out from panels. Panels are unusual social gatherings in which speakers of various species communicate with large groups of organisms. Some of these are there to gain knowledge. Others wish to express their praise or dissatisfaction to the speakers. Still others are there to rest after a hard day of hunting. Photo snappers (often enlisting the help of spontaneous accomplices) stun their prey with an intense light, capturing the victim's image while immobilizing it with a quick arm hold to the neck. For reasons not entirely understood though, the victim is nearly always set free. Meanwhile, wannabe artists flash reams of paper filled with patterns at mature artists as part of a bizarre ritual to impress and ultimately join their tribes. Schmoozers approach prominent members of tribes with bits of paper and verbal discourse, in hopes of reciprocation. Toy collectors ravage the reefs until their sacks are full, after which, having no more room, they return to their temporary nests to empty them. Periodically, they will invite others to view their catch.

more later...


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posted by Brian at 1:25 PM 0 comments links to this post