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Archive for January, 2016

Edition-49 of Delicacies: as usual, max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy! Much more of this in my weekly Revue summary. Subscribe at bottom of this post.

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan

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Way back in 2010, I wrote a post “Let me entertain you” inspired by one of Robbie Williams’ biggest hits. Some extract of the lyrics below:

Hell is gone and heaven’s here
There’s nothing left for you to fear
Shake your arse come over here
Now scream
I’m a burning effigy
Of everything I used to be
You’re my rock of empathy, my dear
So come on let me entertain you
Let me entertain you

Lyrics of "Let me entertain you" - Robbie Williams

I have evolved since then. The title of this post is inspired by a quote by Brian Eno in an interview in December 2015 with Steven Johnson about art, music, punch lines, and culture in general I would say.

 

“I don’t want to be entertained,

I want to be provoked.”

 

 

 

Here is the video on punch lines.

When I first read that interview, there was no transcript, so I transcribed it all myself (so I did not cut and paste from the site, and everything in this post is my own crunching through the story ;-). Now it’s all for grabs on Steven’s post.

I think Eno’s quote could be a great tagline for the way I think about “events”. I could do my Magritte trick here again and say “Ceci n’est pas un event”. As I have said so many times in the past:

“I am not in the events business. I am in the business of creating high quality feedback loops to enable immersive learning experiences”.

It’s about creating spaces and environments where people want to be provoked, not feeling comfortable, not being entertained. At the edge, but not beyond.

 

 

Exactly what architect Clive Wilkinson refers to in his talk “Designing The Theatre of Work”. There is indeed something (un)wise in this notion of “Theater of Work” or “Theatre of Change”. At min 11:30 of this video, he quotes:

“I don’t want people to feel comfortable, I want them to be provoked. I am not going to get great work out of people who are comfortable”

and also

“The architecture and the language of space is not something that is meant to make you go to sleep”

It’s only very recently that I realized the “creating high feedback loops and immersive learning thing” was only about the “how” and not about the “why” and “what” this is supposed to achieve.

I think I have a better hunch about that now: I believe it is about creating high quality change. Deep change. Not the Theatre of Change. Change that is in the first place based on high quality human alignment. Beyond the cognitive, and beyond the tactics of processes and governance. Beyond the illusion and entertainment of the innovation theatre.

I recently bumped into a colleague that is doing innovation work – or should I say theatre – for a big international automotive company. She was asked to give support in the design of a “disruption tour” that was organized for the members of the board in Silicon Valley.

I think we have all seen those disruption tours, where execs are flown into sunny California, get a week immersion, come back all excited as part of this elite club that got to see one or the other hotshot in the valley, and where the initial momentum ebbs away very quickly, usually already after two weeks, when we all go back to business as usual.

But the briefing for this tour was a bit different. She learned that the tour should not challenge any of the “what” and only focus on the “how”. So in other words: avoid in all circumstances that anything they will see and hear would challenge or disrupt their existing automotive strategy. What was asked for was “disruption without disrupting”. Or “Safe Innovation” as I read somewhere else this week.

In Hollywood this is called “entertainment”.

I kept delving in the Brian Eno’s story about entertainment vs. provocation, and found this audio ànd the transcript of the 27th Sep 2015 BBC John Peel Lectures with Brian Eno.

I am very much inspired by both Peel, who has this art of giving others “airplay” and Brian Eno, who really is a “curator d’excellence”, if you look back at what sort of magic mix of artists he brought together in his life, always remaining a “vanguard”, and his restless desire for discovering new places and more:

vanguard

“Vanguard” means forefront, advance guard, avant-garde. Has to do with seeing early signals, making sense of them. Not only seeing. Also building. Building something new. “World Building”.

World building, like the places children imagine. Like the emotional places where children imagine: who would not crave to be in that state all the time? In that sense, I believe my curation and events work is more and more about painting and architecting “states of mind”.

Happenstance that just this week @ribbonfarm had a fantastic post on this topic of “states of mind” titled “Productivity for precious snowflakes”

snowflakes

Two identical snowflakes, via NYT

He is talking about multi-finality (and not multi-tasking) and about the interest in the quality of the experience (and not the mere outcome), and about the source of creative being in the past.

It’s encouraging to realize that many of the states of mind we seek are not “out there” somewhere, to be hunted down and consumed. They are states of mind belonging to our past selves — we wouldn’t crave it if we had never experienced it. We have to go backwards and remember what we once knew, not forwards to some perfected version of ourselves. What would you pay to experience child-like wonder for a day? To watch Star Wars Episode IV for the first time again? To have the ability to snap your fingers at any time and see your writing, your painting, your app with the fresh eyes of a novice?

“Flexing our mental muscles” by imagining new worlds, and “when people synchronize themselves together”, says Eno.

He also introduces the topic of “exhaustion”. I will come back to the theme of exhaustion in another post, as I think it is key to the kind of problems we try to tackle today.

14th century

“We need ways to keep in synch, to keep coherent. That is what culture is doing for us.”

and

“Culture as a set of collective rituals to keep coherent, collective rituals that we are all engaged in”

book keeping together

Brian refers to the book “Keeping Together” by William Hardy. In that book, one of the most widely read and respected historians in America pursues the possibility that coordinated rhythmic movement – and the shared feelings it evokes – has been a powerful force in holding human groups together.

As an ex-DJ, I think my work is about creating rhythms. Architecting these “coordinated rhythmic movements and rituals” for “state of minds” and “states of intentions”.

Way beyond the entertainment. This is about “Creating scenius together”. Scenius is the talent of whole communities. Bringing them in contact with their talent, their potential.

“You simply can’t absorb this (change and exhaustion). You just have to do it collectively. Nobody’s going to be able to do it individually”.

These interviews with Brian Eno are from last year. Before Bowie sent us Lazarus and left us all alone on 10 Jan 2016.

 

 

My good friend Gary Thompson also leveraged Bowie’s death into an intimate and very inspiring blog post about “being provoked” and “being at a trailhead, at the start of a new year and being on a journey without a map”.

Tony Visconti, who produced several of Bowie’s albums, acclaimed Bowie’s visionary status.

“He always did what he wanted to do,” and “And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of art.”

Bowie and Eno are not entertainment. They are provoking art. Work becomes art. The essence of work is art.

“Art is everything

that you don’t have to do”

Brian Eno

At a reception earlier this week, I bumped into a friend who follows my blogs, tweets, and artwork.

She basically asked me “Quo Vadis, Peter?” and “What direction are you going with all this?” It’s a great question I am struggling with on an almost daily basis.

I will answer cryptically with the title of Otto Sharmer’s latest book “Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies”and with the last verse of Bowie’s Lazarus:

This way or no way
You know I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now, ain’t that just like me?

Oh, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh, I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me?

Enjoy!

 

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Edition-48 of Delicacies: as usual, max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy! Much more of this in my weekly Revue summary. Subscribe at bottom of this post.

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan

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Is there really nothing else to talk about? The intensity of the hype is getting to a point where conference organizers put a blockchain session onto their program “just to get people in”, in many cases because they have nothing else valuable to say. So they sell hype instead of substance.

ceci no blockchain

Magritte’s painting, freely adapted by Petervan

 

You know when you are at the top of the hype-cycle, when the topic hits the WEF agenda as a cure for “The 4th Industrial Revolution”.

David Birch nailed it this week in Finextra when he wrote:

“It seems to me that in a relatively short time the word blockchain has become detached from its technological roots and from its location in the spectrum of shared ledger implementation options to become one of those almost generic chromewash terms, like “big data” or “cloud” (there is no cloud, remember, it’s just somebody else’s computer) to deliver a superficial veneer of futurism.”

path

In the “Path of least resistance” (Amazon Affiliates link), Robert Fritz says:

We live in an era of platitudes and mottos. Many of them are designed to manipulate people into action: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”. This one, popular in he late sixties and late seventies, was clever. No matter what you did, you were involved in the conflict. And if you happened not to be directly involved, you were the cause of the conflict

And later;

So many of the notions in human growth are filled with these kinds of conflict manipulation. I suppose it is considered good marketing. Create a perceived need in the prospective client. Encourage a sense of urgency. Make it seem as if there is no choice. But conflict manipulation has a structure that cannot lead to growth just to more extreme oscillation. Thus many of the people who attempt to cause change, often with real sincerity, do not change and do not grow. The structure of conflict manipulation does not support change.

Blockchain is nothing else than code that seems applicable in many use cases. Code is language. Code is culture. The only way to understand and learn code, culture or language is to practice it. That’s exactly what many of our institutions do, and i think that is great.

But let’s not confuse symptom and cause.

As already mentioned in my blog post on Magritte and The Ages of Machines, the image of the pipe is not a pipe. The picture of the pipe stands for the hype. The hype is not the real world, not the real pipe. The hype hides reality. What is it hiding?

It hides the underlying structural changes. Robert Fritz said :

“A change of underlying structure will lead to a change of behavior. Not your good intentions, your sincerity, your hopes, your goodness, or how much you care”

Structure drives behavior, and behavior drives culture.

The pendulum oscillates:

Capitalism > Postcapitalism

Platform Capitalism > Platform Co-operatism

Collaborative > Autonomous

Internet of Things > Interest of Things

But that underlying structural and hence cultural change is caused by ecological, social and spiritual divide (the three big divides in Otto Scharmer’s work).

That structural change becomes more and more visible in the evolution from centralized to de-centralized to fully distributed systems.

ottoFrom Otto Scharmer’s U.Lab

The above structural changes deeply impact our quality of attending, conversing, organizing and coordination.

These are the things we should discuss. How we participate, how we organize, how we coordinate, how we set norms and governance to tackle the three big divides.

On the governance and regulation of “centralized networks” and “distributed systems”, there was recently a great post by @nickgrossman GM of Union Square Ventures, referring to his great Regulation 2.0 Whitepaper

regulation 2.0

Figure by @nickgrossman

“This is a fundamentally different regulatory model than what we have in the real world. On the internet, the model is “go ahead and do — but we’ll track it and your reputation will be affected if you’re a bad actor”, whereas with real-world government, the model is more “get our permission first, then go do”. I’ve described this before as “regulation 1.0” vs. “regulation 2.0”

The point I am trying to make with this post is that the pipe is a big distraction for the real work that needs to be done.

The real work and our bigger themes of discussion should be (for example):

  • How to become better banks, better in the sense of better for the world
  • How to deal with the power shift resulting from the structural changes
  • How to move from platform capitalism to platform co-operatism
  • How we attend, converse, organize, and coordinate in this new medium

This is post-platform thinking. Where centralized networks (like Uber, AirBnB, etc) could/can/should get replaced by fully distributed P2P systems.

The market that can be addressed is huge. The frictions to be sorted out immense. This attracts entrepreneurship and investment.

But we risk having the same wet dream of freedom and self-realization as we had with the Internet.

In the end, powerful players stand up and try to control the market, trying to get a grip on it through monopolistic and hyper-libertarian behavior. Who will be the Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, Samsung, or Alibaba of this new monopolistic distributed nirvana?

The image of that pipe may create a big illusion of perceived freedom.

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Edition-47 of Delicacies: as usual, max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy and Happy New Year!

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan

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This is my first post of the year, and I don’t believe I properly closed the previous year.

fleches bxl

Surreal traffic sign in Belgium

On the last day of 2015 I paid a visit to the Magritte Museum in Brussels. It was one of those surrealist days, when the Brussels mayor has just announced the cancellation of the new-year fireworks, and the city was still under terror alert level-3, meaning that a threat is “possible and likely.”

magritte logo

I was early – just before the opening of the museum – and the city had something unreal. The air was fresh, the light was bright, everything was peaceful, and mainly Japanese and American tourists were hanging around enjoying the square.

The entrance of the museum also was surreal: visitors now had to go through a x-ray scanner, like in airports. I am pretty sure the place must be full of CCTV cameras, whose output is possibly most of the time ignored by human or more advanced computer vision systems.

I think we are overreacting here, and that it will get worse. There is a big disconnect between the reality and the perceptions created. And it changes my behaviour. Already now, I notice how I change my behaviour when entering in surveyed territories like airports (and now also musea): I don’t try to look into the eyes of the guard, maybe I dress more conforming, become submissive, and become more careful in the wordings and subjects of my posts and tweets.

I have become submissive.

Luckily, the queue at the museum was not long yet, and I could shrug off the defeat and start enjoying the museum tour.

The Magritte museum is part of a the complex of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, located in the heart of Brussels at the Place Royale. It is housed in the neo-classical landmark Altenloh Hotel, superbly restored in 1984. I had visited the Royal Museums complex before, but never the wing where Magritte is hosted.

The main entrance of the museum is via a big elevator (the museum is spread over three floors, and the tour starts on the 3rd floor). I go quite frequently to an exhibition and one immediately notices when you are entering a league in its own right. This is an absolute world-class collection and museum, I recommend it to anybody who visits our city and has a couple of hours to spare.

“The museum’s multi-disciplinary collection is unrivalled. It contains more than 200 works consisting of oils on canvas, gouaches, drawings, sculptures and painted objects as well as advertising posters, musical scores, vintage photographs and films produced by the artist.”

magritte headshot

Headshot René Magritte

René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fall under the umbrella of surrealism. His work is known for challenging observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality. (from Wikipedia).

I believe that the skill to “challenge observers’ preconditioned perceptions of reality” – in other words curating, creating, and making sense – is becoming more and more important is this age of rapid change, where shortcuts and platitudes are rather the norm, in stead of depth in our reflections about cultural change.

Robert Fritz said: “Structure determines behaviour, and behaviour drives culture”.

book marvelous clouds

In that context, I highly recommend the book “The Marvelous Clouds” by John Durham Peters, who starts where Marshall McLuhan left it in 1964 (that is now more that 50 years ago), when he coined the phrase “The Medium is the message” in his most widely known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

McLuhan proposed that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. He said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.

When I start playing and mixing with Fritz and McLuhan, I get to something like:

“The medium informs the structure,

Structure informs behaviour,

Behaviour informs culture”

A significant part of the structure we operate in is made of media. Media as in plural of medium.

The air is medium, water is medium, the Internet is medium.

But like Magritte, we are unaware how easily the medium can be tricked. Is what we see real, unreal, surreal, or pure illusion?

Check out this great post about Adversarial Machines by Sanim on how easy our machines can get fooled by adversarial robots.

“At the heart of many modern computer vision systems are Convolutional Neural Networks. On some vision tasks, CNNs have surpassed human performance. Industries such as Web-Services, Research, Transport, Medical, Manufacturing, Defence and Intelligence rely on them every day.”

And

“Adversarial Examples are a fascinating area of ongoing research. They highlight limitations of current systems and raise a number of interesting questions. While industries are racing to include visual intelligence systems in mission-critical infrastructure, looking at edge-cases and exploring solutions is a productive path. 

The discussion in that post – and especially the part on generating adversarial images and “mangas” – is fascinating. And should us make think very carefully how all this can be used and misused in a medium of networks, CCTV cameras, and online and offline surveillance.

airport

trump

In other words, the image of the reality is not the reality.

The map is not the territory (Alfred Korzybski in 1931), meaning:

  • A map may have a structure similar or dissimilar to the structure of the territory…
  • A map is not the territory.

In The Medium Is the MassageMarshall McLuhan expanded this argument to electronic media. Media representations, especially on screens, are abstractions; are virtual “extensions” of what our sensory channels, bodies, thinking and feeling do for us in real life (Source: Wikipedia)

Which brings us full circle back to our friend Magritte who hits the nail – or should I say pipe – in many of his paintings, the most famous work entitled The Treachery of Images, which consists of a drawing of a pipe with the caption, Ceci n’est pas une pipe (“This is not a pipe“).

pipe

The spirit if Magritte is still very much alive. In true surreal traditions, Belgians started posting pictures of cats during threat level-4 in November 2015.

cats

These are deeply human and intended reactions to ever more chaotic environments and media.

I believe it is very important to nurture these human intentions, and the arts of humor, surrealism, and deeper languages than pure digital representations of reality.

Yes, we are talking here about the language of art.

Brian Eno recently defined art as:

“Everything that you don’t have to do

In that spirit, I leave you with some quotes from Magritte. They are displayed across the three floors of the museum in the same typography of “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” All quotations are consolidated in a nice PDF that you can find on the museum’s website, with the original French version, and translations in Dutch, English, German and Spanish.

quotes

Many of the quotes are very powerful. Here a selection of my personal favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

I wish for real love, the impossible and the utopian. I fear knowledge of my exact limits.

To be surrealist is to banish the notion of ‘déjà vu’ and seek out the not yet seen. By this I mean this moment of clarity that no method can reveal.

The real value of art is measured by its capacity for liberating revelation.

Nothing is as strong a defense as love, which allows lovers to enter into an enchanted world perfectly formed for them and where they are protected admirably by isolation.

Rebellion is a reflex of the living man.

Liberty is the possibility of being and not the obligation to be

All that I desire is to be enriched by intensely exciting new thoughts

Please do share with me your intensely exciting new thoughts. Onwards for a fantastic 2016. Happy new year !

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Edition-46 of Delicacies: as usual, max 5 articles that i found interesting and worth re-reading. Handpicked, no robots. Minimalism in curation. Enjoy and Happy New Year!

If you can’t get enough of these and want more than 5 articles, I have created an extended version of Petervan’s Delicacies in REVUE. If you want more than 5 links, you can subscribe here: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/petervan

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