Uncreative Writing

by Kenneth Goldsmith
August 20th, 2017

Best book in years, and translated by my dear friend Prof. Dr. Swantje Lichtenstein. You can not affort to miss out on this one.

Via Brain Pickings: "Goldsmith echoes legendary designer Charles Eames, who famously advised to 'innovate only as a last resort,' and writes:

Having worked in advertising for many years as a ‘creative director,’ I can tell you that, despite what cultural pundits might say, creativity — as [it has] been defined by our culture with its endless parade of formulaic novels, memoirs, and films — is the thing to flee from, not only as a member of the ‘creative class’ but also as a member of the ‘artistic class.’ Living when technology is changing the rules of the game in every aspect of our lives, it’s time to question and tear down such clichés and lay them on the floor in front of us, then reconstruct these smoldering embers into something new, something contemporary, something — finally — relevant.

In addressing the most common contestations to his ideas about accepting all language as poetry by mere reframing — about what happens to the notion of authorship, about how careers and canons are to be established, about whether the heart of literature is reducible to mere algorithms — Goldsmith seconds a sentiment French polymath Henri Poincaré shared more then a century ago when he noted that to create is merely to choose wisely from the existing pool of ideas:

What becomes important is what you — the author — [decide] to choose. Success lies in knowing what to include and — more important — what to leave out. If all language can be transformed into poetry by mere reframing — an exciting possibility — then she who reframes words in the most charged and convincing way will be judged the best. I agree that the moment we throw judgment and quality out the window we’re in trouble. Democracy is fine for YouTube, but it’s generally a recipe for disaster when it comes to art. While all the words may be created equal — and thus treated — the way in which they’re assembled isn’t; it’s impossible to suspend judgment and folly to dismiss quality. Mimesis and replication [don’t] eradicate authorship, rather they simply place new demands on authors who must take these new conditions into account as part and parcel of the landscape when conceiving of a work of art: if you don’t want it copied, don’t put it online.

Ultimately, he argues that all of this is about the evolution — rather than the destruction — of authorship:

In 1959 the poet and artist Brion Gysin claimed that writing was fifty years behind painting. And he might still be right: in the art world, since impressionism, the avant-garde has been the mainstream. Innovation and risk taking have been consistently rewarded. But, in spite of the successes of modernism, literature has remained on two parallel tracks, the mainstream and the avant-garde, with the two rarely intersecting. Yet the conditions of digital culture have unexpectedly forced a collision, scrambling the once-sure footing of both camps. Suddenly, we all find ourselves in the same boat grappling with new questions concerning authorship, originality, and the way meaning is forged.

The rest of Uncreative Writing goes on to explore the history of appropriation in art, the emerging interchangeability between words and images in digital culture, the challenges of defining one’s identity in the vastness of the online environment, and many other pressing facets of what it means to be a writer — or, even more broadly, a creator — in the age of the internet."

Filed under: Reading

Feel the feeling

A new study reveals the best coping mechanisms for stressed kids and teens
August 6th, 2017

Via Quartz: "'In this new work, we found that when the subjects used adaptive strategies, like looking at a problem in a different way, engaging in problem solving or pursuing constructive communication, they were better able to manage the adverse effects of stress,' Compas says. 'Those who used maladaptive strategies like suppressing, avoiding, or denying their feelings, had higher levels of problems associated with stress.' [   ]

'Stress is the single most potent risk factor for mental health problems in children and adolescents, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome, eating disorders, and substance use,' Compas says. 'But the good news is the brain is malleable. Once positive coping skills are learned and put into practice, especially as a family, they can be used to manage stress for a lifetime.'"

Related: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Jury @ Cologne Game Lab

Künstlerinnenpreises NRW 2017
July 20th, 2017

Had the honour to serve as a jury member for this year's Künstlerinnenpreises NRW 2017 in cooperation with Next Level 2017 – Festival for Games.

My fellow jury members, Dr. Ruth Seidl / Chair Frauenkulturbüros Krefeld, Denise Gühnemann / Grimme Institut, Prof. Björn Bartholdy / Co-Chair Cologne Game Lab, Manuel Fritsch / Games Journalist, Katharina Tillmanns / Researcher Cologne Game Lab, Fee Bonny / Frauenkulturbüro, and I awarded two outstanding women, one superstar in the realm of independent games with the main prize and a grant for an innovative young talent. The awards ceremony will be held on November 10th at NRW-Forum in Düsseldorf.

Filed under: Talks & Workshops

The UX in Motion Manifesto

Creating Usability with Motion
May 26th, 2017

Via Medium: "The following manifesto represents my answer to the question — 'As a UX or UI, designer, how do I know when and where to implement motion to support usability?' [...]

After over fifteen years studying motion in user interfaces, I have come to the conclusion that there are 12 specific opportunities to support usability in your UX projects using motion.

I call these opportunities The 12 Principles of UX in Motion, and they can be stacked and combined synergistically in a myriad of innovative ways.

I’ve broken the manifesto into 5 parts:

1. Addressing the topic of UI Animation — it’s not what you think
2. Realtime vs non-realtime interactions
3. Four ways that motion supports usability
4. Principles, Techniques, Properties and Values
5. The 12 Principles of UX in Motion"

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Mary Ellen Bute is the experimental artist we need right now

This Animation Pioneer Turned Music into Pure Light
May 16th, 2017

Via the Creators Project: "With kaleidoscopic and surreal imagery that dances across the screen in perfect succession to its musical accompaniment, the film and animation of Mary Ellen Bute puts the viewer in an alluring dreamlike world where music is not only heard but also seen. Active from the 1930s until her death in 1983, Bute was on a continued quest to unite images and sound through her work. In this pursuit she explored many different tactics of animation and experimental filmmaking, most famously oscilloscope-generated imagery. The latter practice involves using the oscilloscope, an instrument designed to observe and track electrical signals and use information about voltage and configuration gained from this process to describe shapes. Bute began filming the images generated by music she fed through this instrument. Cindy Keefer a curator, archivist, and director for the Los Angeles based Center for Visual Music (CVM) explains, 'She then combined those images with that same music and layers of animation. Other animators began to film oscilloscopes after this, but her work makes her one of the earliest, and a pioneer in electronic art.' [...]

As the rise of the internet and emerging visual and audio technology makes the relationship between audio and visual art more analogous, it's important to look back on the pioneers whose work paved the way for these developments. Mary Ellen Bute was not the kind of person satisfied with letting her ideas remain abstract thoughts, stating in 1936, 'We need a new kinetic, visual art form - one that unites sound, color and form.' Looking at her oeuvre in hindsight, it is clear the work is a well thought out experiment in seamlessly combining these elements."

Filed under: Visual Music

Luminous Rainbow Wheels

Russian composer Ivan Wyschnegradsky
May 15th, 2017

Via Slate: "Russian composer Ivan Wyschnegradsky was a 20th-century avant-garde pianist devoted to 'creating a work capable of awakening in every man the slumbering forces of cosmic consciousness,' according to his journal. To achieve this mystical ideal, he set out to create sounds that no one had ever heard before. His music was microtonal, a style that transcends the limitations of the 12-scale tuning system in traditional Western music. [...]

In the late 1940s, he translated his ultrachromatic compositions into these mesmerizing rainbow color wheels. He applied the concepts of synesthesia, blurring the line between sound and color. Each cell on these drawings corresponds to a different semitone in his complex musical sequences. If you look closely enough, you can follow the spirals as if it were a melody and listen to the scores they represent."

Thanks to Marcus Schmickler!

Filed under: Visual Music

The Future of Motion Design

Talk by Justin Cone @ FITC Toronto 2017
May 13th, 2017

Via YouTube: "Motion design (or motion graphics, if you prefer) sits at the busy intersection of graphic design, animation and filmmaking. Inextricably linked to technology, the discipline of motion design is constantly evolving, adapting to emerging media while pushing the boundaries of storytelling and communication.

Drawing on his 15 years as an enthusiast and professional working in the field of motion design, Justin Cone (founder of Motionographer), will gaze into his crystal ball and share his divinations with you. Expect practical, entertaining and possibly challenging insights. Also expect cats."

Thanks to Alexander Hanowski!

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Talk @ Hochschule für Musik und Tanz, Köln

A Perfect Match? On the Alliance of Sound and Visuals
April 10th, 2017

On 18 April 2017 I will be giving a presentation at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz, Germany's largest music academy, in Cologne. Prof. Michael Beil, chair of the renowned Studio for Electronic Music, invited me to talk about the historical development of my discipline, Visual Music.

I will be focusing on the significance of the close interrelation between sound and images. As founder and chair of the Visual Music major concentration at the Institute of Music and Media (IMM) at the Robert Schumann music academy I am also editor-in-chief of the highly praised Visual Music Archive online forum.

Filed under: Talks & Workshops

3 Simple Ways to Get More People to Respond to Your Emails

The right way to write emails to keep those responses coming
February 27th, 2017

Via Inc.: "Thankfully, the folks at Boomerang, a plug-in for scheduling emails, did a little study to see if the language people use to close their emails has any effect on the response rate. 'We looked at closings in over 350,000 email threads,' data scientist Brendan Greenley wrote on the Boomerang blog. 'And found that certain email closings deliver higher response rates.'

'Emails that closed with a variation of thank you got significantly more responses than emails ending with other popular closings,' Greenley writes. Here are the exact numbers: Emails that ended in Thanks in advance had a 65.7 percent response rate. Of emails that ended in Thanks, 63 percent got responses. The third most effective closing was Thank you with a 57.9 percent response rate. Across the board, Boomerang found that sign-offs that included some sort of expression of gratitude had a 36 percent relative increase in average response rate.

It's also worth exploring a couple of the lowest-performing sign-offs on the list. It turns out that ending your email in Regards or Best could be dooming your response potential. In the 350,000 email threads they examined, Boomerang found Best was the worst performer of them all.

Of course, the subject line, tone, length, and content of your emails matters too. You can't write a long-winded, confusing, and unkind email, then simply end with 'Thanks!' and expect a reply."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

End of 2016

Celebrating ten life moments
31st December, 2016

Concert Matias Aguayo texted me an invitation to his Matias Aguayo & The Desdemonas concert at Gewölbe. I was kind of hesitant because of too much work... but it turned out to be the best concert for this year. Once again he reinvented himself. The crowd was around my age, and I am pretty sure we all flew in a kind of unheard, totally contemporary Joy-Division-ish nebula, and loved it.

Death Two of the musician who shaped my 20s died this year. Sometimes it snows in April is the anthem to the darkest hours of my twen love, but also to the rocket launch of some of the most amazing adventures I had in my life... yet. Outside is as bold as it gets using the mainstream media and music industry to show them the finger and feel self-confident in a creative, splendid, witty way. Cheers to everyone cottaging out there. Never bogart the J, my friend.

Encounter As an aging designer it is difficult to find something truly fresh or inspiring in design because I have seen so many ideas already. But David O'Reilly surprised me many, many times. That is why I am a huge fan. This year I met him in person at the Clash of Realities conference. My longtime comrade Björn Bartholdy introduced us. Thank you!

Film To see Toni Erdmann was a relieve on many levels. On one level I laughed so hard it really hurt – I was shaking, and released much stress at the same time. On another level it was a joy to finally see a good German movie. It has been years, or even decades?

Flashback Spend several days in Wuppertal this summer to visit my father at the hospital. Among other things I took a ride with my niece on the famous Schwebebahn. It has been three decades since I studied at the University of Wuppertal. The biggest impression this time were enormous road constructions which divide the whole city.

Master We have been talking for a couple of years but this year we finally nailed it, and the new Klang und Realität master program will start in April. It means a lot to me, and I am convinced that we created a contemporary piece of teaching. Thanks to Julian Rohrhuber!

Prodopa Went to a quit-smoking-session at Cologne's university hospital. They promised a massive flow of Dopamine if we would quit. I did, and am still waiting for the Dopamine... Thank you Ulli Schumacher for believing in me!

Third eye It opened when I was in Berlin to celebrate the 80th birthday of my professor, Bazon Brock. I beefed it trying to cross a street... Spend the day in a hospital in the Kreuzberg neighborhood waiting for my stitches. Awesome new look. Thanks to Tristan Thönnissen for being a real friend!

Tribute My blud Marcus Schmickler and I organized a week of concerts, and lectures to celebrate the 80th birthday of the great John Tilbury. It was simply mind-blowing, every minute of it. At the Cologne venue LOFT Tilbury played with Keith Rowe and Marcus Schmickler. The last 30 minutes of the concert were legendary. They played but they did not play, and the suspense almost killed the audience. In his last concert Tilbury played his Beatles adaptation for solo piano in the grand staircase of Museum Ludwig. We sat in the paradox of crying without being emotional.

Women of the world take over This year I supported three extraordinary women to become full professors. — Step by step, and we are not there yet. Consider Madonna's speech as Billboard Woman of the Year if you need more information.

So, here we are... And what is next?

Filed under: Wunderkammer

The Fortifying Commons

by George Monbiot
December 17th, 2016

Via George Monbiot: "We were promised unending growth on a finite planet. We were told that a vastly unequal system would remove all differences. Social peace would be delivered by a system based on competition and envy. Democracy would be secured by the power of money. The contradictions were crashingly obvious. The whole package relied on magic.

Because none of it works, there is no normal to which to return. [...]

How do we respond to these crises? Raymond Williams said 'to be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing'. [...]

There are many points at which I could begin, but it seems to me that an obvious one is this. The market alone cannot meet our needs, nor can the state. Both, by rooting out attachment, help fuel the alienation, rage and anomie that breeds extremism. Over the past 200 years, one element has been conspicuously absent from the dominant ideologies, something that is neither market nor state: the commons.

A commons is an asset over which a community has shared and equal rights. This could, in principle, include land, water, minerals, knowledge, scientific research and software. But at the moment most of these assets have been enclosed: seized by either the state or private interests and treated as any other form of capital. Through this enclosure, we have been deprived of our common wealth. [...]

The restoration of the commons has great potential not only to distribute wealth but also to change society. As the writer David Bollier points out, a commons is not just a resource (land or trees or software) but also the community of people managing and protecting it. The members of the commons develop much deeper connections with each other and their assets than we do as passive consumers of corporate products.

Managing common resources means developing rules, values and traditions. It means, in some cases, re-embedding ourselves in the places in which we live. It means reshaping government to meet the needs of communities, not corporations. In other words, reviving the commons can act as a counterweight to the atomising, alienating forces now generating a thousand forms of toxic reaction."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

The John Tilbury Tribute

As soft as possible
November 27th, 2016

Together with my longtime collaborator Marcus Schmickler I organized a festival to celebrate the year of John Tilbury's 80th birthday. It took more than half a year to prepare all events, but once John and his fabulous wife arrived all of that was forgotten. It was a profoundly inspiring week – we learned, experienced, and felt so much. Every single performance blew our minds. Little sparkling epiphanies, one after the other, strung like pearls next to eachother.
Thank you all, but above all: Thank you, John Tilbury !

Manu Burghart designed the poster.

Filed under: Project Archive > Research

How liars create

...the illusion of truth
November 20th, 2016

Via Mind Hacks: "Repetition makes a fact seem more true, regardless of whether it is or not. Understanding this effect can help you avoid falling for propaganda, says psychologist Tom Stafford.

Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth, is a law of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels. Among psychologists something like this known as the illusion of truth effect. [...] 

If repetition was the only thing that influenced what we believed we’d be in trouble, but it isn’t. We can all bring to bear more extensive powers of reasoning, but we need to recognise they are a limited resource. Our minds are prey to the illusion of truth effect because our instinct is to use short-cuts in judging how plausible something is. Often this works. Sometimes it is misleading.

Once we know about the effect we can guard against it. Part of this is double-checking why we believe what we do – if something sounds plausible is it because it really is true, or have we just been told that repeatedly? This is why scholars are so mad about providing references – so we can track the origin on any claim, rather than having to take it on faith.
But part of guarding against the illusion is the obligation it puts on us to stop repeating falsehoods. We live in a world where the facts matter, and should matter. If you repeat things without bothering to check if they are true, you are helping to make a world where lies and truth are easier to confuse. So, please, think before you repeat."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Technology Will Replace Many ..., and Other Professionals

by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind
October 18th, 2016

Via Harvard Business Review: "The claim that the professions are immune to displacement by technology is usually based on two assumptions: that computers are incapable of exercising judgment or being creative or empathetic, and that these capabilities are indispensable in the delivery of professional service. The first problem with this position is empirical. As our research shows, when professional work is broken down into component parts, many of the tasks involved turn out to be routine and process-based. They do not in fact call for judgment, creativity, or empathy.

The second problem is conceptual. Insistence that the outcomes of professional advisers can only be achieved by sentient beings who are creative and empathetic usually rests on what we call the AI fallacy — the view that the only way to get machines to outperform the best human professionals will be to copy the way that these professionals work. The error here is not recognizing that human professionals are already being outgunned by a combination of brute processing power, big data, and remarkable algorithms. These systems do not replicate human reasoning and thinking. When systems beat the best humans at difficult games, when they predict the likely decisions of courts more accurately than lawyers, or when the probable outcomes of epidemics can be better gauged on the strength of past medical data than on medical science, we are witnessing the work of high-performing, unthinking machines.

Our inclination is to be sympathetic to this transformative use of technology, not least because today’s professions, as currently organized, are creaking. They are increasingly unaffordable, opaque, and inefficient, and they fail to deliver value evenly across our communities. In most advanced economies, there is concern about the spiraling costs of health care, the lack of access to justice, the inadequacy of current educational systems, and the failure of auditors to recognize and stop various financial scandals. The professions need to change. Technology may force them to."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Um, er...

How meaning varies between speech and its typed transcript
September 22nd, 2016

Via Cornell University Library: "We use an extract from an interview concerning gravitational wave physics to show that the meaning of hesitancies within speech are different when spoken and when read from the corresponding transcript. When used in speech, hesitancies can indicate a pause for thought, when read in a transcript they indicate uncertainty. In a series of experiments the perceived uncertainty of the transcript was shown to be higher than the perceived uncertainty of the spoken version with almost no overlap for any respondent. We propose that finding and the method could be the beginning of a new subject we call Language Code Analysis which would systematically examine how meanings change when the same words are communicated via different media and symbol systems."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

How to Know If You Talk Too Much

by Mark Goulston
July 23rd, 2016

Via Haward Business Review: "There are three stages of speaking to other people. In the first stage, you’re on task, relevant and concise. But then you unconsciously discover that the more you talk, the more you feel relief. Ahh, so wonderful and tension-relieving for you… but not so much fun for the receiver. This is the second stage – when it feels so good to talk, you don’t even notice the other person is not listening.
The third stage occurs after you have lost track of what you were saying and begin to realize you might need to reel the other person back in. If during the third stage of this monologue poorly disguised as a conversation you unconsciously sense that the other person is getting a bit fidgety, guess what happens then?
Unfortunately, rather than finding a way to reengage your innocent victim through having them talk and then listening to them, instead the usual impulse is to talk even more in an effort to regain their interest.
Why does this happen? First, the very simple reason that all human beings have a hunger to be listened to. But second, because the process of talking about ourselves releases dopamine, the pleasure hormone. One of the reasons gabby people keep gabbing is because they become addicted to that pleasure. [...]

In the first 20 seconds of talking, your light is green: your listener is liking you, as long as your statement is relevant to the conversation and hopefully in service of the other person. But unless you are an extremely gifted raconteur, people who talk for more than roughly half minute at a time are boring and often perceived as too chatty. So the light turns yellow for the next 20 seconds— now the risk is increasing that the other person is beginning to lose interest or think you’re long-winded. At the 40-second mark, your light is red. Yes, there’s an occasional time you want to run that red light and keep talking, but the vast majority of the time, you’d better stop or you’re in danger."

Filed under: Wunderkammer