Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘media’

15 DECEMBER, 2010

The Best Books of 2010: Business, Life & Mind

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Time thieves, irrational pragmatists, and what bike-sharing has to do with coming out in science.

We reviewed a lot of books this year and here are our 10 nonfiction favorites in Business, Life and Mind, a continuation of our end-of-year best-of series. (Earlier this week, we covered the best albums and the most compelling long reads published online this year.) Tomorrow, we’ll be complementing with the best books in Art, Design and Photography, so be sure to check back.

WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM

Steven Johnson is one of our favorite cultural synthesizers, the prolific author of some of the best nonfiction of the past decade. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation is practically a manifesto for the founding belief of Brain Pickings — that creativity is a combinatorial force — and traces the building blocks of innovation throughout all of human history. Where Good Ideas Come From was one of our 7 must-read books by TED speakers and you can sample it visually here.

COGNITIVE SURPLUS

Clay Shirky may just be the Marshall McLuhan of our day, only with saner vocabulary and less of a penchant for LSD. (At least as far as we know.)

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, one of our 5 curated summer readings, takes a fascinating look at how new media and technology are transforming us from consumers to collaborators, harnessing the vast amounts of free-floating human potential.

WHAT TECHNOLOGY WANTS

Futurist Kevin Kelly may be best-known as the founder of Wired, but he’s also one of the most compelling big-picture thinkers of our time. What Technology Wants begins with a brilliantly broad definition of “technology” — encompassing everything from language itself to augmented reality — and unfolds into ten insightful universal tendencies that give technology direction.

Kelly and Johnson (see above) discussed the role of technology in innovation and the origin of good ideas in this excellent Wired article — we highly recommend it.

WHAT’S MINE IS YOURS

We’re big proponents of de-ownership. Or, as we called it in one of this year’s most-read articles, having more by owning less. The lovely and brilliant Rachel Botsman went ahead and wrote a book about it: What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption — a compelling investigation of the emergent cultural shift from consumerism to community. From bike-sharing to house-swapping to book exchanges, the book concocts a potent antidote to the modern maladies of wastefulness and access, a bold and hopeful constitution for a new era of relating to the world and one another.

I LIVE IN THE FUTURE & HERE’S HOW IT WORKS

From New York Times columnist Nick Bilton comes an ambitious exploration of where the media landscape is going and how our brains are adapting to it. I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted dissects our analog past to find the roots of our digital future and our ambivalent present, illustrating with meticulously curated historical anecdotes that new technology has always been met with resistance but has inevitably effected progress that betters human life. People didn’t resort to never leaving their homes again when the telephone came out, as the front page of The New York Times declared that year, nor did the invention of the phonograph lead to mass illiteracy at the abandonment of books. These fears, Bilton argues, were natural but unfounded, as are their contemporary counterparts.

It’s the necessary antidote to Nicholas Carr’s decidedly techno-dystopian (and, we dare add after years of neuroscience studies, largely misinformed) The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

THE UPSIDE OF IRRATIONALITY

After the Predictably Irrational slam-dunk, behavioral economist Dan Ariely outdid himself in The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home — not only a powerful research-driven look at the practical applications of irrationality, but also a personal story of the youthful accident that left Ariely scarred and sent him into years of painful physical therapy. We featured the book as one of our favorite 5 perspectives on the psychology of choice.

THIS IS NPR

Since its inception in 1970, NPR has “always put the listener first” — a mission not always friction-free at times of political turmoil, government overregulation and divided public opinion. This year, the iconic public broadcaster celebrates its 40th anniversary with This Is NPR: The First Forty Years, a beautifully designed anthology of behind-the-scenes photos, essays and original reporting, and NPR: The First Forty Years, a companion 4-CD compilation featuring some of the most memorable moments from 40 years of news, culture, conversation and commentary. We reviewed it in full, complete with a video trailer, here.

A LAB OF MY OWN

Dr. Neena Schwartz is one of the world’s most influential reproductive biologists, whose seminal work in endocrinology has changed the way science thinks about the relationship between the brain and the reproductive system. A Lab of My Own, is cultural landmark not only as a fascinating look at the feminist plight in science, but also as Schwartz’s deeply personal, powerful and graceful coming out story, with six decades of secrecy revealed for the first time on the pages of the book. We reviewed it in full here.

THE THIEF OF TIME

The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination is an absorbing anthology featuring essays by a wide range of scholars and writers spanning from the entire spectrum between theoretical and empirical. From the morality of it (is procrastination a vice?) to its possible antidotes (what are the best coping strategies?), the book is an essential piece of psychosocial insight. We first featured in one of this year’s most popular Brain Pickings posts, spotlighting 5 perspectives on procrastination, where you can find it reviewed in full.

PORTRAITS OF THE MIND

A remarkable intersection of art and science, Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century takes us on a gripping visual journey through humanity’s understanding of the brain, from Medieval sketches to Victorian medical engravings to today’s most elaborate 3D brain mapping. Author Carl Schoonover delivers a book that sources its material in solid science, roots its aesthetic in art, and reads like an ambitious literary anthology. Our full review, complete with stunning images from the book, can be found here.

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29 NOVEMBER, 2010

LoudSauce: Crowdfunded Advertising for Causes

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What bus shelters have to do with civic engagement and Marshall McLuhan.

The key folly of cause marketing can be reduced to low awareness and an unconvincing voice — weak, creatively uncompelling messaging that fails to reach a sufficient number of people and fails to engage those it does reach. Or, to frame it in Marshall McLuhan‘s famous medium/message paradigm, an insufficient medium carrying a toothless message. We’ve previously looked at how UK nonprofit DoTheGreenThing is solving the creative merit problem by borrowing talent from the traditional ad industry to reshape the message. Now, startup LoudSauce is borrowing, quite literally, media space from the traditional media industry to reshape the medium.

Dubbed the world’s first crowdfunded media buying platform, it does for causes what Kickstarter and other platforms do for creative projects, allowing fans and supporters to microfund media space for the causes they’d like to support who couldn’t afford it on their own. Part civic activism, part socialist capitalism, LoudSauce aims to give ideas that matter the share of voice they deserve, help bring smart projects to life and, ultimately, create a new market for conscious creative ad content.

Our vision is to transform the medium of advertising from one that primarily drives consumption to one of civic participation. What if we had more power to shape which messages were promoted on our streets? What if our billboards inspired us toward a future we actually wanted?” ~ LoudSauce

LoudSauce already helped Green Patriot Posters raise $3,200 to get beautifully designed sustainability PSA posters onto San Francisco’s bus shelters. This week, they’re helping Brain Pickings favorite The Story of Stuff microfund a teaser to reach 2 million people during A&E’s show about hyperconsumption, Hoarders.

If you have or know of a cause or pro-social message that needs to reach more eyeballs and eardrums, LoudSauce would like to hear from you. Meanwhile, browse the current campaigns to microfund and keep an eye on the site as it continues to grow — we think it’s a winner, and that’s our two-cent microcontribution.

Our only hang-up with LoudSauce is that, for a project that aims to up the ante on creative engagement in marketing communication, it suffers from tragically low production value and creative merit on its meta-communication, from the site design to the videos promoting the campaigns being microfunded. We wish they’d do a LoudSauce campaign for LoudSauce itself, getting funding to hire a good designer and a good microdocumentary filmmaker. We’d certainly contribute.

via TBD

In 2010, we spent more than 4,500 hours bringing you Brain Pickings — the blog, the newsletter and the Twitter feed — over which we could’ve seen 53 feature-length films, listened to 135 music albums or taken 1,872 trips to the bathroom. If you found any joy and inspiration here this year, please consider supporting us with a modest donation — it lets us know we’re doing something right.





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

08 NOVEMBER, 2010

Designing Media: Lessons from Today’s Greatest Media Innovators

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Design titan Bill Moggridge has formidable credentials — designer of the world’s first laptop, director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, co-founder of design innovation powerhouse IDEO, and celebrated as a pioneer of interaction design.

His new book, Designing Media, is exactly the kind of ambitious, compelling volume you’d expect from his reputation.

The book explores the evolution of mainstream media, both mass and personal, looking closely at the points of friction between old and new media models and the social norms they have sprouted. From design to civic engagement to the real-time web, Moggridge offers a faceted and layered survey of how our media habits came to be, where they’re going, and what it all means for how we relate to the world and each other.

To be fair, Designing Media isn’t exactly — at least not only — a book: The tome features a DVD containing 37 fascinating interviews with some of today’s greatest media innovators, including This American Life‘s Ira Glass, Pandora founder Tim Westergren, prominent New York Times design critic Alice Rawsthorn, Twitter founder @Ev, statistical stuntsman Hans Rosling, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The laws of narrative are the laws of narrative. What engages us is what engages us.” ~ Ira Glass

Designing Media is out via MIT Press this month and atop our must-read books list this season.

via @HelenWalters

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