Today I’m working on taxes for our two college students’ FAFSAs and watching “Abstract: The Art of Design” on Netflix in the background. Christoph Niemann is both in his story and telling his story about craft and life. He is a character and an animated person with his character . . . and a voice.
Two of his statements struck me about the work I’m doing now on career and vocation exploration.
First: “Creating a process to do it allows you to do unembarrassing stuff on command is the only way you can survive . . . if you create an armor of craft around you.” This makes sense from other work on creativity and boundary-setting. We often can do better regular, daily work in creative spaces if we set hard edges around the work and create routine. Having the skills and letting them work in focused settings then lets creative work have a place to build.
Yet Second: “The one thing that is dangerous about working on your craft and the world around you is that it can keep you from asking the really valid questions . . . what is the real thing I’m trying to get good at?”
Intriguing question. It isn’t “what am I good at?” It is a sense of becoming in terms of craft, in terms of skills. What stands in my way to “trying to get good at” something? Fear? Practice? Focus? Direction?
I just went to a friend’s 55th birthday party last night, and we told stories of how old we were from when we all met decades ago. Travel and children were our benchmarks in the time road. “How are things?” “Great — I’m planning a trip to South Korea.” Is how we are doing a postcard or Facebook post about the event-based measures?
The party was at an improv club, which added an oddly critical narrative layer to our gathering. They quizzed the birthday girl about her daily life and then created an exaggerated parody of her life as a humorous struggle with time and interaction with others. It broke away pieces of an interaction and circular time life.
None of us in our stories of the evening told stories of Becoming.
Two nights ago I had the honor of talking about the social impact of technology on music with a private group in Century City. People stayed for hours, talking about our shared Becoming through streaming music’s transformation. We talked about the Becoming from our work in the world — and continuing the conversation afterwards.
How do we talk about Becoming with others? With ourselves? Can we get caught up in so many of our busy metrics with time in a busy personal framing that we (and I) lose track of our shared Becoming stories?
I spoke at SXSW Music again this year on my current favorite topic: Music 20/20 and how we can proactively affect the future. SXSW, however, is not just about speaking. It is about diving deeply into diverse ideas with diverse people. It is one of my annual addictions.
This is my 7th year going to SXSW — I think. They blur together. I started going to SXSW Interactive and enjoying the diverse voices, sharing areas I knew nothing about. I would go to session on digital changes in Latin America and Eastern Europe, meeting people I would never have seen otherwise. I learned about location-based mobile tools at SXSW first, learning what was being done on the ground from front-line users in arts, documentaries, and the like. I also hear dynamic voices that really resonate for me. I heard here first from Amber Case on tech anthropology. I first heard at SXSW about shifts in search engine trends. I first heard here about new heads-up displays for cars to keep the clutter down and compete with smartphone structures. I first heard at SXSW ideas about non-interface interfaces.
I also learned about breakfast tacos in the early years. Tacos? For breakfast?
My experience now is different. I don’t find many technologies I haven’t seen yet. Perhaps this is because I’m hip-deep in leading-edge technologies at other events from my current role at UCLA Center for Music Innovation. Maybe because the event is much heavier in startups competing for attention and big companies trying to get attention as well. The era of the breakout new tech service or product getting lots of buzz at SXSW seems to have made way for the McDonald’s custom burger, Mazda free rides, and esurance tech giveaways.
I do continue to get my favorite things from it: real-life implementations and dynamic voices. I enjoy learning from implementers on a local basis, running in-context, in-place real life examples of disruptive and collaborative tech — in use, with all its headaches and glory. I find that often the people drawn to the conversation IN the room are more intriguing than those on the dias, and conversations that follow provide all sorts of connected bridges to new engagement. In most rooms, the volunteer session wranglers needed to push everyone outside to finish conversations. . . not just about selling things and ideas to the speakers, but also to connect the folks who want to keep the conversation going in how these challenges apply in their own sector or local community.
It also continues to be a great mix of voices and use cases. This year, northern European languages abounded as people flew great distances to be in these conversations, with their own stories and questions. I met many executives and creative executives from Asia. On the US front, I met several mayors, many non-profits, and lots of university students, sharing ideas and interests.
As a result of my going to SXSWedu, Interactive, AND Music (two weeks in total), my highlights this year are a mixed bag.
Jane McGonigal at SXSWedu talking about how we can understand and think about the future. I do a lot of futurist work and hang out in that space. Her talk brought it into focus for folks wanting to understand how to be a Futurist in their everyday lives. That recording I have shared with a half-dozen people I’m working with and they are changing some of the questions they ask about the Signals they see.
The British Museum, with Samsung, using VR to take young students into the Bronze Age and see artifacts in context.
Lots of conflicting information and predictions in sessions on location-based mobile tools and big data about consumers.
Beacons, beacons, and more beacons. . . especially in retail.
New ways to make assets liquid, including MoveLoot, which helps you resell the used furniture in your home.
Battling apps about food — including finding food trucks, bringing us food on the spot, and in-app learning from videos of making food.
Cities wrestling with how to use big data and action research.
Local music venues dealing with the impact of streaming music and gentrification on local clubs.
I really enjoy the amazing speakers.
Brene Brown — live. I’m a big fangirl and have been consuming her books and audiobooks, so listening to her live was a real treat. I also brought along a friend from a big tech organization who needed to hear her messages. . . that week . . .
Ira Glass on the nature of hard work and creativity, and the difference between trying to edit documentary audio to elicit an emotional shift and writing it for feature film. (And how to make a balloon animal.)
Anthony Bourdain on how to urge your TV show crew to incorporate ideas from art films. . . and live a very big life.
Other take-aways were more contextual:
Joys of sitting in St. David’s waiting for a thunderstorm to clear while talking with 3 students and a record executive.
The crowded rooms that continue to see VR for the first time
Having people stop you in the hallway, bookstore, and bathroom to make comments and ask questions from your panel
The magic of good pulled pork and the challenge of keeping my breakfast taco intake low
The beauty of walking down a hallway in the Convention Center and despite there being more than 20,000 people in town for the event walking into people you know . . . from your own city . . .
Now back home for a short while, I think about the people I want to connect with further, to bring their local ideas into my local spheres, and ideas that I can play with and pitch for when when I come back again next year.
Happy New Year! I am filtering and sorting the past 3 years of my life in big piles this am. My family is putting up with piles of folders and papers, along with a big cup of coffee, on a portable desk and around my sofa while I watch the 2nd playing of the Rose Parade on TV.
2015 will be a harvesting year, so I’ll be sharing all my work on collaborative creation, learning, and future-building across lots o’ platforms. And drinking a lot of coffee and good wine.
About this time each year, I look at my stuff. Goodwill Industries gets a lot of my physical stuff, and gets a lot more this year as two of my three kids are ensconced in colleges not in this same town. My third got the last of her college applications out yesterday morning. So I’ve been donating the “parenting” pieces of my life to go to other families.
However, this also is the time of year that I re-open my paper and digital files and find things I wrote from years past. I seem to be a information hoarder. It is like an archaeological dig. I find the “me” of times past writing to the “me” of now. And I find that my themes remain the same — and yet I seem to not have been fully listening to the “me” of 2009 and 2011. She really wanted to build programs that I have yet to truly build.
I also made a big mess by pulling out my old project files from the past 3-4 years . . . and I find similar unrequited themes. I also found many of my files from the start of my doctoral journey . . . and other unrequited work. Time to requite this year!
My next saga over the next day or so is the same archaeological dig of my own digital life and work. . . the keywords and collections . . . the digital detritus of a live digitally lived. I’ve created new themes and gatherings of ideas for my planned 2015 work — I’ll see what the “me” of the past continues to say to “me” in the days ahead.