Brain Pickings

MoMA’s Paola Antonelli on Humanized Technology

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What augmented reality has to do with farm animals and talking sidewalks.

We’re big fans of Paola Antonelli, MoMA’s brilliant and eloquent curator of Architecture and Design, whose work continues to be a beacon of where design is headed both as a creative discipline and as cultural currency for making sense of the world. Under her tenure, MoMA has made such thought-provoking acquisions as early computing ephemera, the @ sign and, as of this week, 23 digital typefaces, challenging the notion of what a design “object” is and how it interlaces with everyday life.

In this excellent interview, she talks about the vision behind her latest MoMA show, Talk To Me, while in her signature fashion interjecting higher-order insights about the role of design that transcend the immediate context of the exhibition.

Many people think that technology is a problem in that it dehumanizes people. And, instead, I think it’s a great thing because it humanizes objects.” ~ Paola Antonelli

Technology would not become life without design and design would not function without technology, because design is a matter of translating technology into things that people can use.” ~ Paola Antonelli

Paola mentions several Brain Pickings favorites, including Jonathan Harris’ I Want You to Want Me project and Christien Meindertsma’s ingenious PIG 05049.

See all the ideas tickling the brains of Talk To Me‘s curators here and tip them off to something worthy of consideration.

via @juliaxgulia / Creators Project

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Democratizing Publishing: TED Launches TEDBooks

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Yesterday, we were thrilled to hear that TED is launching TEDBooks — an imprint of short nonfiction books. Using Amazon’s freshly released Kindle Singles imprint for books under 20,000 words and designed to be read in a single sitting, the $2.99 books are available on the Kindle and Kindle Reader apps for iPad and Android.

The project launched with three promising all-star titles:

The Happiness Manifesto by Nic Marks of Happy Planet Index fame debunks the notion of using economic factors to measure a nation’s well-being and instead explores how people and nations can build real, lasting foundations for well-being — a timely addition to our selection of 7 must-read books on happiness released earlier this week.

Homo Evolutis by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans is a bold vision for the next human species, portraying mankind as a species in transitions not only through a life science map of evolution but also through a compelling discussion of how the core principles of our civilization — government, religion, social structures — are shifting.

Beware Dangerism! by Gever Tulley takes on the culture of fear perpetuated by mass media and often embedded in parenting, which he terms “dangerism,” with surprising statistics and insights indicating that play and pursuit of curiosity — something we’re big proponents of — is the better model for raising kids to be high-functioning, entrepreneurial, creative, successful, happy people.

The effort is an “idea worth spreading” in more ways than one — it serves not only as a powerful vehicle for some of today’s most compelling thinking, leveraged by the TED brand, but also bespeaks a new frontier of publishing that bypasses the stagnant traditional model of the industry to democratize how authors’ ideas reach their audience. Bravo, TED.

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The Black Book of Colors

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Today must be the day for tickling the outer limits of our senses. From the synesthetic explorations of sound through color earlier today, we take the creative mind-bending a step further: Experiencing color through the lack of color. The Black Book of Colors, from author Menena Cottin and illustrator Rosana Faria, is a remarkable book of simple, elegant illustrations of natural objects — from strawberries to rain to bird feathers — depicted not through color and shading but through embossed lines, inviting the viewer to experience them tactilely rather than visually.

The book is designed as an empathy tool that allows a sighted person to step inside the world of the blind, who experience the world through their fingers rather than their eyes.

Though intended for children, The Black Book of Colors is an absolute treat for adults — not merely as a feat of aesthetic elegance, but also as a beautiful philosophical metaphor for all those things in our lives that both are and aren’t, like the nature of reality or solitude or some great love we can touch with the tender tips of our fingers but never fully grasp.

Thanks, Kirstin

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Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.