Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘TED’

26 MARCH, 2009

The Library Rethought

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How to one-up the Greeks and what Shepard Fairey has to do with Copenhagen circa 1891.

Libraries have a special place in history as a hearth of culture that kindled the greatest feats of science and the grandest works of art. Yet today, they’re in danger of being left precisely there — in history. As our collective use of libraries dwindles in the digital age, five brave efforts are innovating the concept of “the library” in ways that make it as culturally relevant today as it ever was.

PENTAGRAM FOR L!BRARY

Almost nine years ago, NYC design studio Pentagram got involved with the Robin Hood Foundation in an inspired effort to build new elementary school libraries throughout NYC’s five boroughs — the best architects were to build them, private companies were to fill them with books, Pentagram were to design the inspirational atmosphere and craft the entire identity for what became The Library Initiative.

But they found something interesting — even though the libraries were mostly located in high-ceiling old buildings, shelves could only be as high as the kids could reach, leaving a lot of space between the top of the shelves and the ceiling. Pentagram saw this space as a canvas to fill with something wonderful, so they partnered with a handful of top-notch designers to create murals that are just that — absolutely wonderful.

Today, these inspired murals can be found in more than 60 libraries across the five boroughs, featuring the work of designers and illustrators cherry-picked by the Pentagram team — from a series of photographic portraits by Dorothy Kresz, to a visual interpretation of words through silhouettes by Rafael Esquer, to books hidden in images in the iconic illustration style of Christoph Niemann.

Needless to say, we love the idea. Design is only as valuable as the change it ignites — in our understanding of beauty and truth, our conceptual and aesthetic literacy, yes, but also in our greater social sensibility. And harnessing the power of design to enhance “literal literacy” by turning libraries into cooler, more inviting hangouts for kids, well, that’s just pure beauty and truth.

LIBRARY OF HUMAN IMAGINATION

We’ve featured philanthropic geek Jay Walker‘s Library of Human Imagination extensively before.

So for today’s refresher purposes, his fantastic TED talk should get the job done.

We’d love to see Jay open up his library to those with the greatest urgency of fostering the spirit of human imagination — children. Because whatever is behind the doors of our cultural library, a school bus should be in front of them.

THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS ON FLICKR

It’s always a delight to see the stiffest and most traditional of institutions embrace fundamental elements of today’s social spirit.

Which is why we love seeing The Library of Congress on Flickr. Their collection features nearly 6,000 images of historic hallmarks — from the evolution of the women’s rights movement to incredible World War I panoramas to a breathtaking century-old grand tour of Europe and the Middle East.

Go ahead, get nostalgic over ages you didn’t really live in to remember. It’s okay, we did too.

LIVE FROM THE NYPL

Turns out, you can actually talk in libraries. Some even hand you a mic — at least if you’re on one of the NYPL Live panels, a fantastic talk series by and at The New York Public Library. The events are available as free audio podcasts on iTunes, with short video highlights viewable online.

We were recently taken with NYPL’s REMIX event, an excellent discussion titled Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Moderated by cultural historian Steven Johnson and sponsored by Wired, the conversation between Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig and now-legendary street artist Shepard Fairey, whose Obama “HOPE” poster became the most iconic political design of all time, offered a fantastic discourse on the intersection of creativity and “fair use” — a particuarly timely discourse amidst the AP’s preposterous lawsuit against Fairey.

Watch the full program online for brilliant insight into the absurdities of today’s copyright legislature and the unnecessary ways in which it hinders the inevitable mergence of  today’s mashup culture.

INTERNET ARCHIVE

Web entrepreneur, activist and digital librarian Brewster Kahle, possibly the most influential figure in today’s digitization movement, is out to gift the world with universal access to knowledge.

Since 1996, his Internet Archive has amassed an enormous collection of cultural artifacts — text, audio, moving images, software, even archived web pages — offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars and anyone else interested in the cultural anthropology of our civilization.

We really need to put the best we have to offer within reach of our children. If we don’t do that, we’re going to get the generation we deserve — they’re going to learn from whatever it is they have around them.

Inspired by an inscription above the door of the Boston Public Library — Free To All — Kahle set out to, essentially, “one-up the Greeks” by building a hub of culture that puts Egypt’s Library of Alexandria to shame, using technology to bring all of the world’s knowledge to as many people as want to make use of it — everything that was ever published and meant for distribution available to anyone who ever wanted access to it.

Kahle’s TED talk is an excellent introduction to the many facets of this monumental movement, which will no doubt reshape today’s relationship with history and tomorrow’s conversation with today.

Explore the Internet Archive and, while you’re at it, consider that the very act and opportunity of doing so makes you the envy of the Platos and the Gutenbergs of history. And, really, how incredible is that?

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18 MARCH, 2009

How Happiness Happens

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What a 102-year-old Spanish man has to do with motion typography and the secret of happiness.

We’re going constitutional today — Brain Pickings is after the pursuit of happiness. And we’ve uncovered three gems that attempt to unravel the quintessential human mystery: What is happiness, and how the hell do we get our little hands on it?

COCA-COLA “ENCOUNTER”

Generally — and perhaps cynically — speaking, the goal of marketing is to show us all the ways in which we fall short, stealing happiness away from us only to sell it back to us at the price of the product. So when it comes to branding, there’s no greater feat of identity than owning the construct of happiness itself. Which is exactly the branding platform Coke has been building for the past decade.

But cynicism aside, Encounter, Coke’s latest spot from Madrid agency McCann-Erickson and director Andy Fogwill, is a delightful bag of mush, the kind that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside despite your every instinct to cringe at the underlying marketing ploy.

You may not be any more inclined to drink Coke now, but maybe you’re just a little bit more likely to, you know, go live the happy life. And isn’t that daily little bit all it comes down to?

via Creativity Online

AUTHENTIC HAPPINESS

Back in 2006, we were fortunate enough to study under Dr. Martin Seligman, not only a renowned TEDster but also former chairman of the American Psychological Association elected by the largest margin in history. More importantly, Dr. Seligman is the founder of the Positive Psychology movement, a nascent branch of psychology concerned with the empirical study of positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions.

The Authentic Happiness program is Dr. Seligman’s primary brainchild, a research-driven cluster of positive interventions aimed at increasing our level of happiness — our ability to feel more satisfied, to find more meaning in life, to be more engaged and present in the moment — regardless of our circumstances.

We couldn’t recommend the program enough — it’s free to join and easily the best thing you’ll do for yourself all year or, perhaps, ever. So go ahead and head over to the Questionnaires Center for an accurate assessment of where you fall on the happiness spectrum right now, what your greatest psychological strengths are, what you need to work on and how.

There may not be a blueprint for happiness, but these are the most powerful drawing tools and the widest canvas you’ll ever find.

TED ON HAPPINESS

What’s a Wednesday without some shameless chest-beating? Yep, we have a new episode on TEDify, a TED-based quest for the most sought-after piece of existential human truth, that most fundamental question: What makes us happy?

See the full list of speakers and catch up on the TED talks sampled here — take it from a cynic, happiness can be synthesized, but it requires that you unearth all the right elements to ignite the reaction. And we happen to think TED is the proverbial periodic table.

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11 MARCH, 2009

Interview with Chunnel.TV Founder Matthew Berman

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What Banksy, TED, and a global network of ad agencies have in common, or why the long tail is the shortest way to cultural revolution.

Today, we’re picking the brains behind Chunnel.TV — a revolutionary entertainment network for left-of-center creative content that acts as a global collaboration tool connecting underground artists and producers alike. A big idea, if we ever saw one.

q0

Hey Matt, good to have you. Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your brand of curiosity.

Thanks for this opportunity. I’d like to start by saying how impressed I am by your site, your dedication to Brain Pickings, and your general good-taste.

Chunnel.tv Logo I’m Matthew Berman, co-founder and CMO of Chunnel.TV, an online distribution network for independent films, music, art, and other unique content. I first came about the Chunnel working as a freelance music producer composing tracks for various new media projects. That’s how I met Jake Septimus, whom I ended up interning for and then eventually starting Chunnel.TV with.

I’m originally from New York, but I moved to New Orleans to attend university. This past year, I’ve been to the Middle East, South America, Australia, and Asia.

I currently live in New Orleans, a city of dark whiskeys and dimly lit taverns, but our main office is in NYC. My passion is in music, guitar playing, composing, and recording.

q0

What was the first inspiration behind Chunnel? Take us to that very first brainstorming session, the proverbial paper napkin on which you jotted down the original idea.

The Chunnel evolved as a series of informal discussions between Jake Septimus and myself. On one hand we were noticing the proliferation of digital media tools, a rise in the quality and quantity of independent content, and a soft-spoken backlash against mainstream content (i.e. reality shows, teen dramas, etc).

On the other hand we were witnessing a rising trend towards video on the internet. There was so much content available on the web that neither one of us really knew how to cut through the static.

q2

The concept of “underground” is very murky these days. Even Banksy has a website. How do you define “underground” content in Chunnel terms?

We see “underground” media as being far on the fringe of mainstream, such that a majority of people wouldn’t know it exists — yet. The beauty of the internet, however, is that major communities can form around these seemingly niche concepts.

q3

We’re big believers in the power of human-curated content here. How do you decide what makes “the Chunnel cut” and what doesn’t? Your editorial filtration system, if you will.

Basically, the content has to pass an internal test. We have a team of hip, creative and unique people, and if we all think a piece of content is hot, interesting, or Chunnel-worthy, then we’ll post it up.

q4

What’s your relationship with WPP’s United Network? Does it predate Chunnel, or did they reach out to you once you were up and running?

WPP’s United Network gave us the money to start the site. Chunnel.TV was incubated from the NYC office of Berlin Cameron United, of United Network. Jake (Septimus) was working as Creative Director when I started doing intern/music work for him, so the relationship did exist prior to launch.

They don’t dictate what we put on the site, but they might have some pretty dope techie tools for us to experiment with in the future. We retain creative control and try to bring the user the best possible experience.

q5

It’s tricky to talk about commercial work in the context of “underground” culture, but you have a Commercial channel. We love seeing that – it shows the complex relationship content consumers have come to have with creativity in all its forms. How do you think people’s perception of creative authenticity has evolved in terms of all the great work out there that still falls within the commercial realm?

Banksy himself said:

The thing I hate most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative, and ambitious young people leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.

While I think most people find the majority of advertising to be nothing more than an annoyance, the stigma of ‘selling out’ has definitely dissipated within society. I also think creative authenticity depends on the product, budget, and client. People will give premium liquor or perfume ads more creative leeway than say Pine-sol, allowing the advertisers to do some really interesting work.

That being said, if an advertiser really gets pop culture they could create truly brilliant ads with nearly any brand.

q6

What’s your long-term vision for Chunnel and its growth as a cultural agent? Any exciting developments in the works?

We’d like Chunnel.TV to fill the void MTV left when they went mainstream. We hope to capture the imagination of the culturally curious, and introduce people to art, music, film or other content they might not have otherwise seen.

We’re working with indie filmmakers to bring exclusive shows to The Chunnel. Our first batch of shows are Reel Review, Jamaica Originates, and Duncan and Eddie, and we expect to have more.

We’re also going to open up our platform to guest bloggers and our user base. People are going to have the ability to post articles up on Chunnel.TV, which will be put up on review before published. Also, we’d like to implement a lot more interactive features so us like-minded people could better communicate.

It’s going to be an exciting few months for Chunnel.TV.

q7

If you could speak at TED, what would the title of your talk be? Will you get a Standing O?

Haha, I see you have a TED talk fetish as well. My favorite TED talk is Benjamin Zander on music and passion, so I’d like to perform in a similar vein. My talk would focus on leadership, the benefits and hardships of standing above the fray, and would end in a slow blues jam.

I think I’ll call it Electric Ladyland — unless that’s already been taken. As for the standing ovation, one can only hope.

q8

Well, thanks for letting us pick your brains. Any last thoughts left unpicked?

Again thanks for your time, I really do love your site.

As for everyone else, please check us out at Chunnel.TV and follow us on Twitter or MySpace. I can also be contacted at matt[at]chunnel.tv.

Take care.