The Hero with a Thousand Faces

by Joseph Campbell 

Via Wikipedia: "The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949) is a work of comparative mythology by American mythologist Joseph Campbell. In this book, Campbell discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies.

Since publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell's theory has been consciously applied by a wide variety of modern writers and artists. The best known is perhaps George Lucas, who has acknowledged Campbell's influence on the Star Wars films. [...]

Campbell explores the theory that important myths from around the world which have survived for thousands of years all share a fundamental structure, which Campbell called the monomyth. [...]

In laying out the monomyth, Campbell describes a number of stages or steps along this journey. The hero starts in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events (a call to adventure). If the hero accepts the call to enter this strange world, the hero must face tasks and trials (a road of trials), and may have to face these trials alone, or may have assistance. At its most intense, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help earned along the journey. If the hero survives, the hero may achieve a great gift (the goal or 'boon'), which often results in the discovery of important self-knowledge. The hero must then decide whether to return with this boon (the return to the ordinary world), often facing challenges on the return journey. If the hero is successful in returning, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world (the application of the boon).

Very few myths contain all of these stages—some myths contain many of the stages, while others contain only a few; some myths may have as a focus only one of the stages, while other myths may deal with the stages in a somewhat different order. These stages may be organized in a number of ways, including division into three sections: Departure (sometimes called Separation), Initiation and Return. 'Departure' deals with the hero venturing forth on the quest, "Initiation" deals with the hero's various adventures along the way, and "Return" deals with the hero's return home with knowledge and powers acquired on the journey.

The classic examples of the monomyth relied upon by Campbell and other scholars include the stories of Osiris, Prometheus, the Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, and Jesus, although Campbell cites many other classic myths from many cultures which rely upon this basic structure. The alleged similarities between these shared hero legends is one of the basic arguments of the Christ myth theory.

While Campbell offers a discussion of the hero's journey by using the Freudian concepts popular in the 1940s and 1950s, the monomythic structure is not tied to these concepts. Similarly, Campbell uses a mixture of Jungian archetypes, unconscious forces, and Arnold van Gennep's structuring of rites of passage rituals to provide some illumination.However, this pattern of the hero's journey influences artists and intellectuals worldwide, suggesting a basic usefulness for Campbell's insights not tied to academic categories and mid-20th century forms of analysis."

Alsop, try to see Joseph Campbell's lecture series Transformation of myth through time. It is a life changing experience.

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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

by Robert Cialdini

Via Wikipedia: "Robert Beno Cialdini (born April 27, 1945) is the Regents' Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and was a visiting professor of marketing, business and psychology at Stanford University, as well as at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is best known for his 1984 book on persuasion and marketing, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. [...]
One of Cialdini's other books, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, was a New York Times Bestseller. [...]

Cialdini's theory of influence is based on six key principles: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking, scarcity.

Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. The good cop/bad cop strategy is also based on this principle.
Commitment and consistency – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. Cialdini notes Chinese brainwashing of American prisoners of war to rewrite their self-image and gain automatic unenforced compliance. Another example is children being made to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance each morning.
Social proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic. See conformity, and the Asch conformity experiments.
Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre.
Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Some of the many biases favoring more attractive people are discussed. See physical attractiveness stereotype.
Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a 'limited time only' encourages sales.

His 1984 book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, was based on three "undercover" years applying for and training at used car dealerships, fund-raising organizations, and telemarketing firms to observe real-life situations of persuasion. It has been mentioned in 50 Psychology Classics."

Thanks to William Bennett!

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Consciousness: Creeping Up on the Hard Problem

by Jeffrey Gray

Via Wikipedia: "In his book Consciousness: Creeping up on the Hard Problem written towards the end of his life, Gray summarised his ideas about brain function and consciousness. He took the view that the contents of consciousness are usually about something, and this is described as intentionality or meaning. He suggested that intentionality is another aspect of the 'binding problem', as to how the different modalities, such as sight and hearing, are bound together into a single conscious experience. Gray argued that without such binding, eating a banana could involve seeing yellow, feeling a surface, and tasting something, without having the unifying awareness of a particular object known as a banana. Without such unifying binding, he argues that objects would be just meaningless shapes, edges, colours etc.

Gray thought that intentionality was based on unconscious processing. The processing in the visual cortex that underlies conscious perception is not itself conscious. Instead, the perception is argued to spring into consciousness fully formed, including the intentionality of what the conscious perception is about. In arguing for this, Gray uses the example of pictures that can be either of two things, such as a duck or a rabbit. They are never hybrid, but are always completely duck or completely rabbit. The perception of a duck or a rabbit is argued to be constructed unconsciously up to the last moment. Gray's conclusion from this part of his discussion is that intentionality arises from the physical and chemical structure of the brain, but also that if intentionality can be constructed out of unconscious processing, it is unlikely to produce a solution to the 'hard problem' of how consciousness arises. [...]

Gray disagreed with the functionalist theory of consciousness. He described the position of functionalism as saying that consciousness is the nature of certain complex systems, regardless of whether they are made of neurons, silicon chips or some other material. The underlying tissues or machinery are irrelevant. Further to that consciousness relates only to functions performed by the brain or other system, and does not arise as a result of anything that is not functional. For any discriminated difference in qualia, there must be a difference in function. It is also claimed that for every discriminated difference in function, there is a difference in qualia.

In discussing this question further, Gray looked at synaesthesia, where he described modalities as becoming mixed, as when numbers or sounds are experienced with colour. Experimentation in recent years has demonstrated that synaesthesia is most likely the consequence of abnormal projections into the V4 colour region of the visual cortex from other parts of the brain. Brain scanning studies have shown that when words are spoken, in addition to the normal activity in the auditory cortex, the V4 colour vision area in the visual cortex became active, in a way which does not occur in normal subjects. There was no related activation in V1 or V2, the earlier stages of the visual pathway. The conclusion drawn from a whole series of experiments was that the 'word-type' of synaesthete has an abnormal projection from the auditory cortex into the visual cortex causing the V4 colour area to produce consciousness of colour. However, there is no evidence that this colour sensation has any function.

Gray argued from these findings that there was no relationship between the occurrence of the synaesthete's colour experience and the linguistic function that triggers them. Gray argues that this phenomenon refutes the functionalist analysis of consciousness, because the theory claims that conscious experience relates only to functions performed in the brain, and does not arise as a result of anything that is not functional, as is claimed to be the case with this type of synaesthesia."

Thanks to Constantin Rothkopf!

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Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design

by Michael Bierut

Via Wikipedia: "Michael Bierut (born 1957) is a graphic designer, design critic and educator who designed the logo for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. [...]

Bierut was vice president of graphic design at Vignelli Associates. Since 1990 he has been a partner in the New York office of Pentagram. According to his Pentagram online biography: Bierut 'is responsible for leading a team of graphic designers who create identity design, environmental graphic design and editorial design solutions. He has won hundreds of design awards and his work is represented in several permanent collections [...]." Bierut is also known for his involvement in the film Helvetica.

He has published a book called Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design, which was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2007. Bierut is a senior critic at the Yale School of Art in Graphic Design and co-edits the anthology series Looking Closer: Critical Writings on Graphic Design, published by Allworth Press. Bierut is the co-founder of the blog Design Observer and his commentaries about graphic design can be heard nationally on the Public Radio International program Studio 360."

Every year I read the chapter My Phone Call to Arnold Newman (page 44) to my students. It reminds me to try and stay humble.


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Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre

by Keith Johnstone

Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre is in my Top 10 of best books of all times. A live changer.

Here is the full English text.

Via Wikipedia: "Keith Johnstone (born February 1933) is a British and Canadian pioneer of improvisational theatre, best known for inventing the Impro System, part of which are the Theatresports. He is also an educator, playwright, actor and theatre director. [...]

Johnstone co-founded the Loose Moose Theatre, and invented his system of training that has been influencing practice within and beyond the traditional theatre for over 50 years. [...]

Johnstone has written two books about his system; the 1979 Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre, and the 1999 Impro For Storytellers. He is known for slogans that encapsulate his philosophy of improvisation, and include:

You can't learn anything without failing.
Please don't do your best. Trying to do your best is trying to be better than you are.
Go onto stage to make relationships. At least you won't be alone.
It's not the offer, but what you do with it.

Thanks to William Bennett!

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