Member 2292
35 entries

Contributor to project:
What happened to nature?
Olena {The Wizard} Shmahalo (29)
New York
Immortal since Aug 5, 2009
Uplinks: 0, Generation 3

The Operating System
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    What happened to nature?
    How to stay in touch with our biological origins in a world devoid of nature? The majestic nature that once inspired poets, painters and...
    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    There's a general widespread anger about education lately, and not only that but the anti-intellectualism, the "blissful ignorance". Public education isn't accomplishing what we need it to; curiosity and experimentation are being killed off in favor of standardization, which doesn't even necessarily lead to real learning.

    "Democratic nations ... will cultivate the arts which serve to render life easy ... they will habitually prefer the useful to the beautiful, and they will require that the beautiful should be useful."

    — Alexis de Toqueville, in "Democracy in America"

    Utility is good, but when it gets in the way of creativity (which can lead to revolutions naturally) it can be a problem.

    ((Image related; crap (well-intentioned as it may be) like this fills classroom walls.
    I think I would have been a lot more interested in math during school if it somehow pertained to my curiosity, rather than required because "EVERY JOB NEEDS IT" ... I knew that, as an artist, I would hardly need higher maths. I was sort of right, but now that I'm out of school I regret my former disinterest, not because of my JOB, but for my life... for my mind, for what I could do with it, intellectually & creatively.))

    I feel it's the same (as Alexis described) with education; that is, because public school teachers are to cater to many students at once, the curriculum is instilled and this is not to make geniuses of any of us, but to create a well-behaved populace who knows just enough to "succeed", work a job, and know just enough to get by. I've heard a lot of complaints from smart kids who feel they're being ignored (especially lately, with cut backs in higher placement programs and honors classes — there is even one case currently in Philadelphia where the school board is attempting to cut Chemistry and Physics; the regular sort, not even honors or AP.) because the institution "panders" to the "average" student who just wants to pass the test and GTFO.

    There is nothing wrong with having non-educational interests or pursuing a "regular" life; it isn't that everyone should be under the pressure of trying to become a genius, but I think it's a sad state when higher ambitions are almost discouraged — that we are pressured, instead, into shooting for average because the ones who don't are singled out as "nerds" or "think they are better than everyone else" or what have you.

    Anyway, this clip from "Isaac Asimov on Bill Moyers World of Ideas" is absolutely beautiful, & addresses many of these issues. Isaac talks about how the internet will (& has; he was speaking in '88) revolutionize personal learning.

    Sun, Feb 7, 2010  Permanent link

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    Personally, I love having my stupidity handed to me on a silver platter every now and again. It feels good when it happens often, because I figure it must mean I'm learning something and it leaves me with the choice to either laugh about it and continue on, or stand there and cry for a while at the expense of blurring my own vision. I keep trying to choose the former, since it helps to see if you want to move forward.

    Anyway, it happened again. Not that I wasn't really aware of this, but I'd never seen it put forth so well, before. But I'll get to that.
    First, the premise: As a graphic design student, I've been doing some reconsidering of what my priorities are and how I will be able to contribute to both myself and the world, or at least my immediate vicinity/community/audience.

    For myself, I need the spiritual stimulation that comes with fine art as well as the monetary stimulation that is a byproduct of practical, commercial work. I thought being a designer would be a perfect way to mix the these, and then be able to give something meaningful and helpful to an earth that desperately needs it. I don't know what that third thing is yet, but I'm hoping to figure it out soonish.
    Unfortunately, being a designer often isn't really as glamorous or righteous or easy as that. I knew this already, even just from freelancing for a few years (Sometimes you want to give people telephones, but they just want a lobster. That kind of thing.) but it became even more apparent here in art school, and in real-world jobs. Lately I just find myself wanting to learn/read/study much more than to create anything.
    In the search for answers on how to proceed, I came upon (by teacher suggestion) the Project M. It's pretty well known by now, but if unfamiliar:

    We are part of a design movement. We believe that ability equals responsibility. And we are not the only ones. So, we built a lab where designers like you can make a difference. We are building the tools that will build the future.

    While poking around the PM site, I found this article:
    (What Your Students Want, Even If They Don’t Know It Yet)

    The author (E. Heiman) brings up a lot of good questions, and follows up by answering them... it's a recommended read if you're a design student or at all interested in the applications of design and how it can be brought up out of it's superficiality. Basically, what B. Fuller would have wanted.

    Some content from the article:

    Until a design student has such an eye-opening realization, how can we expect him or her to create meaningful output? In our classrooms we stress form, content, typography, craft, professionalism, and probably most importantly, cultivating a personal design voice. But how can a design student cultivate a voice they don’t yet know they have, nor know how to access? We often ask our students to take a stand with their work, to be authors. Have we ever stopped to think that maybe they don’t know HOW to do this?

    Most of the graphic design in this country seems to fall comfortably into two categories: on one end of my personal all-encompassing design stick there is the market-driven commercial work; on the other, the more inwardly focused work that often comes from within academia’s walls or from the fringe realms of fine art. There is a small amount of work, though, being done in between these two poles that combines the consumer galvanizing motivations of the commercial with the self-initiated, critical mores of the academic.

    I am not condemning the work at the each end of this proverbial stick. I myself do both kinds, and appreciate what they provide spiritually and financially. But by only providing our students the abilities to articulate the shell instead of the whole entity, and worse, in a moral vacuum, this is all that they will do. Undergraduate design instruction that breaks down the wall between studio and the Humanities might help produce graduates that not only create more work in this aforementioned in between area, but also elevate the inquiry and quality of work on the two ends of this proverbial stick as well.

    The recent words of Milton Glaser tell us, “If our field aspires to be significant and worthy of respect, it must stand for something beyond salesmanship.” So should design education.

    Heiman continues to describe the current problems with design, which are the lack of focus on utility vs the overabundance of superficial "style". The condition is constantly being improved upon, but "FRESH!" is still a criterion.
    Amongst the "Wishes" ( WISH 1: Let’s get over this inferiority-to-artists complex. // WISH 2: How about some new dialogue! I think we’re in a rut! // WISH 3: Curiosity, Empathy, Humility. ) I found yet another article: Wonders Revealed: Design and Faux Science.

    (here's a hi-res of this :D )

    Hmmm... faux science. That rings a bell.
    Personally, I love science. I like to learn about new advancements, as well as study the progression of old ones. I'm fascinated with the universe, it's workings, how it's put together. I'd happily attend lectures or be lectured at by physics majors, if I knew any.
    Nevertheless, I'm guilty. And so are a WHOLE lot of other designers, thinkers, and artists as of late.
    It's a good read, only a few pages, but basically Jessica Helfand and William Drenttel critique the current state of affairs, like so:

    This new scientific style-seeking — let’s call it Faux Science -
    - is the antithesis of modernism: it’s form awaiting content, or worse,
    serious form retrofitted with interchangeable content. So DNA is used
    as a paradigm for business strategy, our genetic legacies reborn as
    branding schemes for bran flakes. Petrie dishes are procured as objects
    of desire, inhabited by blurry bacteria used to metaphorically
    represent everything from bus schedules to bleach advertisements to the
    end of civilization itself. Designers document and chronicle and
    organize and record and list and process and craft endless diagrams
    with carefully plotted line weights and meticulously managed color
    specs, but what do they really know about enzymes or molecules or the
    structure of an atom? What do they really know about the world?

    And aren't they right? It's altogether too easy to shoot for insta-credibility just by attaching some theory, numbers, and molecular blobs to an otherwise bland and useless project.
    Maybe I just haven't noticed other discussion on the matter (if that's the case, I'd like to know about it), but it seems like the fact that Science has become the "knee-jerk" go-to is the really gigantic, smelly "elephant in the room".

    So, how can we save ourselves and design from being arbitrary, useless, & just-for-show?
    From the pretentious cataloguing of dust bunnies?

    Is true curiosity coupled with motivation the key?
    Apparently it isn't hopeless yet:

    Science represents an enormous opportunity for designers, but not
    if their contributions remain fundamentally restricted by what they
    know. At the core of this critique lie serious questions about the role
    of education. Why don’t design students study music theory? Why aren’t
    they required to learn a second language? And why, for that matter,
    don’t they study science? “The difficulty lies not in the new ideas,”
    wrote John Maynard Keynes, “but in escaping the old ones.” In other
    words, design beyond reach.

    What do you think?
    Tue, Dec 15, 2009  Permanent link

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    “I cannot understand why human beings should be so little individualized. Why they should behave with such great collective uniformity.” He says, “I do not understand why, when I ask for grilled lobster in a restaurant, I’m never served a cooked telephone.”
    -Salvador Dali

    I loved this passage from Dali. He had a real savoir-faire.
    Where are our grilled telephones? Why not?

    Sun, Dec 13, 2009  Permanent link

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    My last contribution was about the futility of the American Dream, the endless circles of the pursuit of happiness; the search for "Walden".
    I've been thinking about the reasons why people like anything (ideas or objects or each other), psychological and biological and evolutionary — very simply, we want to live. It's that stupid pun: we're just dying to live. We love the things that bring us life; progress and the evolution of the Whole.

    It's an old, tired subject. Some people find the way by "dropping out", others within spirituality or religion, and still others within a lifestyle that allows for Love of some kind (of a partner, a hobby, a cause...). We all know this, these stories. They're especially prevalent in the entire money-suck industry of Self Help.

    But, I came across a documentary the other day. Regardless of all the repetition of this subject, this film caught my attention because of the sincerity involved. It details the lives of real people, stuck in the system by choice, running in circles trying to heal each other and themselves. Some have criticized it for not establishing any real conclusion about the situation, but I think that's where its strength lies — I was able to connect with the characters, to understand instead of judging them. The premise is very specific, but I found it to be very far-reaching and relatable even so.

    It's from 2006 so maybe it's old news, but I feel the need to mention it here because of the nature of the SC community and for those who haven't yet seen it:

    “People are not so strong… especially alone. People are lonely and sad. But they are wonderful and shining. They have warm hearts.”
    — from The Great Happiness Space

    Wed, Dec 2, 2009  Permanent link

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    From reddit:

    Gossip about celebrities exists for the same reason religion exists - because it is a very powerful meme. Humans evolved to fit about 150 people into their sphere-of-people-they-care-about (or monkeysphere if you're familiar with that article), and by gossiping about those people with others the people in a community are able to confirm their community's morals and standards. Most of us no longer live in small villages of about 150 people, so celebrities serve as a proxy - that is, while you and I probably don't know ANY of the same people, we both "know" a bunch of celebrities. By having a "national dialogue" (or gossipfest) about these celebrities, our society is working to preserve its "values" (e.g., adultery = bad). Similarly, when you and I talk about a celebrity, we are coming to a consensus that that type of behavior is bad (or good, or none of our business, or whatever we decide about it).

    Personally, (perhaps like many on reddit), I'm an introvert and have room for about 8 people in my monkeysphere, so I don't spend much time thinking about or caring about celebrities. I also tend to be progressive, so it is not in my nature to work hard to preserve status quo traditions through methods such as expressing alarm at 'immoral' celebrity behavior. But condemning people who use gossip as a method for attempting to preserve the status quo as 'silly' or 'stupid' or 'sick' seems to be ignoring the larger social purpose of the human fascination with celebrities.

    If you want to opt out of the meme, or even be agossipistic (if I may create an analogue to atheistic), great. But it might help to think about what you're opting out of, why it exists, and whether or not you are really opting out or just replacing the people you talk about with "other" people/things that fit better into your monkeysphere (e.g., can you think of one or two things that redditors essentially "gossip" about?).

    *monkeysphere = Dunbar's Number
    Tue, Dec 1, 2009  Permanent link

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    I was reading a post tonight, on one of my favorite forums, about someone who managed to live very cheaply without sacrificing spontaneity, happiness, wholesome meals, or mental health. He seemed to be... Free.

    I followed the posts to a link to "How to Drop Out" by Ran Prieur, and I found so much of myself in his writing that I wrote this mini-essay about my "American Nightmare". I feel too guilty and embarrassed to post it due to its honesty and probable naivete, but I wanted to post the link to Prieur's writing here in case anyone hasn't read him, and to ask for your thoughts on the subject:

    How to Drop Out

    and the part within which I found that strong relation:

    When you begin to get free, you will get depressed. It works like this: When you were three years old, if your parents weren't too bad, you knew how to play spontaneously. Then you had to go to school, where everything you did was required. The worst thing is that even the fun activities, like singing songs and playing games, were commanded under threat of punishment. So even play got tied up in your mind with a control structure, and severed from the life inside you. If you were "rebellious", you preserved the life inside you by connecting it to forbidden activities, which are usually forbidden for good reasons, and when your rebellion ended in suffering and failure, you figured the life inside you was not to be trusted. If you were "obedient", you simply crushed the life inside you almost to death.

    Freedom means you're not punished for saying no. The most fundamental freedom is the freedom to do nothing. But when you get this freedom, after many years of activities that were forced, nothing is all you want to do. You might start projects that seem like the kind of thing you're supposed to love doing, music or writing or art, and not finish because nobody is forcing you to finish and it's not really what you want to do. It could take months, if you're lucky, or more likely years, before you can build up the life inside you to an intensity where it can drive projects that you actually enjoy and finish, and then it will take more time before you build up enough skill that other people recognize your actions as valuable.


    The opposite of hard work is quality work. Quality work may be done quickly, but it is never pushed. It arranges itself around the goal of doing something as well as it can be done, and it finds its own pace.

    Another opposite of hard work is playful work. Like quality work it may be done quickly but is never pushed. But playful work is indifferent to quality, or even to success. When you're doing playful work, you don't care if it ends in total failure, because you're having such a good time that you would look forward to doing the whole job again.
    Mon, Nov 30, 2009  Permanent link

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    ...But then I think, I've seen this before, too, in some or other form.
    This thing I'm looking at, whatever it is.
    And the realization is that it was never mine or theirs to begin with, but Ours.

    All of this is Ours.
    Sun, Nov 29, 2009  Permanent link

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    "We are made of Star Stuff."
    Carl Sagan

    This is an old exploration. God has changed, even grown, with our perspective — that is, from a man, to the sublime in biological nature, to this. What we see through the Hubble. What Einstein and Sagan understood; which is that reverence to the order of the universe and thus the willingness to give oneself, fearlessly, back to "the mother".
    To become star stuff again; that wouldn't be so bad.
    Fri, Nov 20, 2009  Permanent link

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    It's easy to consume, not necessarily passively, but extraneously... I notice it most when I visit one of those image blogs with the never-ending scroll bar, or when reading — it's even more difficult to put the thing down when it's actually informative, useful.

    To gain knowledge is a wonderful thing; to think is even better.

    “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without direction from another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolve and courage to use it without another’s guidance. Dare to know! That is the motto of Enlightenment.”
    Immanuel Kani

    But when is it time to choose and do?

    "'Is it a terrible prison, not to be able to move from the place where you're standing?' ... 'I told him that I am now more free than he is. The inability to move frees me from the obligation to act.' ... 'You who speak languages, you are such liars.'"
    O.S. Card, Xenocide

    There is the immaturity of denying one's own obligation in this way...
    but to be careful is a different monster - to first understand, to... think before you speak, so that even if it's still stupidity when it comes out, at least it's well-considered stupidity and therefore actually worth the effort of correcting:

    "You, however, understand the profound truth that you must reveal your stupidity openly. To hold your stupidity inside you is to embrace it, to cling to it, to protect it. But when you expose your stupidity, you give yourself the chance to have it caught, corrected, and replaced with wisdom."
    O.S. Card, Ender's Shadow

    Kant says we must trust ourselves despite humility.
    Some people have no problem with this — those contrarians, the punks. But I think the punks were doin' it wrong. Too loud, too barbaric. Is a fair intelligentsia ever convinced by barbarians?
    I prefer Sun Tzu's approach:

    "Let your plans be as dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt."

    It feels like a tightrope, between arrogance and sheepishness.

    “No—now you must take this phlegmatically. You had hoped you would qualify. You had feared you would not. Actually, both hope and fear are weaknesses. You knew you would qualify and you hesitate to admit the fact because such knowledge might stamp you as cocksure and therefore unfit. Nonsense! The most hopelessly stupid man is he who is not aware that he is wise. It is part of your qualification that you knew you would qualify.”
    -Asimov, Foundation

    So at what point do we put the books down and decide
    to invent, create, show, teach something worthwhile?
    Is it a conscious decision at all, or just a natural byproduct?
    Does a theorist set out to theorize once he feels he knows enough,
    or does he wait until it hits him, like Newton's proverbial apple?

    "But finally he realized: He had already understood it from the start. There was no secret that Bean just didn't get yet because he was only little."
    O.S. Card, Ender's Shadow

    Fri, Nov 20, 2009  Permanent link

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    I want to
    Consume Less, Create More;
    to Speak Less, Communicate More;
    and if “every child is an artist”, and
    if “An honest man is always a child”
    then I want to remain a child,
    and to become a man.

    Sun, Oct 11, 2009  Permanent link

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