Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘media’

14 APRIL, 2010

The 2020 Project: Visions of the Connected Future

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What Scandinavian luminaries have to do with LEGO and the future of humanity.

There’s no question we live in an age where the cultural landscape is moving more rapidly than many of us can process towards something few of us can foresee. But an unlikely contender is aiming to construct a sober and visionary portrait of our collective future: Telecom giant Ericsson has launched the 2020 Project — a peek inside the minds of twenty of today’s sharpest thinkers for a glimpse of tomorrow.

Ericsson is asking these twenty visionaries to paint a picture of what the world will look like in 2010 in a series of video interviews that explore how connectivity and mobility are changing the world.

Though contributions so far come strictly from the (mostly Scandinavian) academia circuit — professors, authors, researchers — they are intelligenty curated in a way that offers randge and breadth of perspectives, covering everything from access to knowledge to female empowerment to sustainability to human rights.

Still, we hope to see some more diverse luminaries from less academic disciplines and the fringes of culture. It would be particularly fascinating to hear how artists, not ordinarily associated with technology, are being affected by the digital revoluion and how they see the future of communication.

The projet is part BigThink, part Sputnik Observatory, part new breed of realistic optimism for the future.

We can be the generation to end extreme poverty on the planet. No other generation before us could make that claim. No other generation before us had that power in our hands. What a thrill that we can be the ones to do it.” ~ Jeffrey Sachs

Our favorite, which we already raved about on Twitter last week: Blockbuster TED talk machine Hans Rosling, who explains the future of humanity in LEGO and a charming Swedish accent.

The weakest point today is the lack of global governance. Nation states are still very strong. We talk about globalization, but the fact is that nations are very strong. But we do not have a very strong united nation. We do not have a mechanism for governance. West America and Eastern Europe have to accept the world of equal nations. They have to accept that they have no given advantage over the rest of the world. And that’s good for them.” ~ Hans Rosling

Keep an eye on the 2020 Project as more interviews are being continuously revealed this month.

via Open Culture

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15 MARCH, 2010

Uncovered Gem: Marshall McLuhan’s Global Village

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Why tribal man is the future of communication, or what TED has to do with Playboy.

A few months ago, we raved about this brilliant Marshall McLuhan interview from a 1969 issue of Playboy, where the iconic media scholar and pop culture philosopher — a man most famous for his contention that “the medium is the message” — lays out his fascinating and radical theories about “hot” vs. “cool” media, the loss of identity in the age of “electric media,” and other cultural phenomena remarkably relevant in today’s social media landscape, some four decades later.

Today, we look at this uncovered gem from 1960, where McLuhan explores how “electric media” are turning the world into one global village, changing our relationship with print, and extending our sensory capabilities — all issues occupying the media theorists, publishing gurus, cultural anthropologists and iPad enthusiasts of today to an extraordinarily similar degree. And though the video cuts off abruptly, it makes up in brilliance for what it lacks in ending — if there ever was a real cultural Nostradamus, McLuhan would be it.

These new media have made our world into a single unit. The world is now like a continually sounding tribal drum, where everybody gets the message all the time. A princess gets married in England and — boom boom boom! — we all hear about it; an earthquake in North Africa; a Hollywood star gets drunk — away go the drums again.

We find this particularly relevant, after just having seen a fantastic SXSW panel on making content available in 100 languages, which covered TED’s Open Translation Project, the wonderful global conversation aggregator Global Voices, and Mozilla’s translation development platform — all brilliant tools enabling and democratizing the global dialogue, using new media as the vehicle for this powerful social movement.

How will you beat the global drum today?

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17 FEBRUARY, 2009

Vintage Design: Innovation Lessons from the Past

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Bleeding-edge art direction, what Obama’s agricultural policy has to do with vintage graphic design, and why 2009 is exactly like 1939.

It all began in the 1980’s, when editorial entrepreneur Janet A. Ginsburg stumbled upon a wonderful series of illustrations on a roll of microfilm while researching a story in the Chicago Tribune‘s library. The illustrations, titled “Robert and Peggy in a Century of Progress,” chronicled the adventures of a little boy and his sister at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Despite the poor quality of the microfilm, the artwork struck Janet with its aesthetic brilliance and intricacy, so she embarked upon a long journey to uncover the lost creative gems of the Chicago Tribune.

Art of The Message: The Story Behind the Chicago Tribune Collection captures Janet’s investigative expedition of trials and tribulations that eventually unearthed some of the 20th century’s most defining print design treasures. Gems like poster design so brave and groundbreaking it would be considered cutting-edge even by today’s jaded standards.

Pieces of history like the most pivotal moments of color photography — the first color photograph to be taken outdoors, away from the controlled environment of studio lights, which required elaborate three-plate filtering of the different colors and took technicians an entire night to get the engravings and half-tones just right.

From interactive inserts inviting the reader to play with the medium…

…to conceptually and aesthetically sophisticated advertising, complete with brilliant art direction and stellar typography, standing as an antithesis to the generic cliches flooding the pages of today’s print publications.

Then there was the editorial side, framing compelling op-eds in gripping visuals — literally, like in the story of the last emperor of China.

But most fascinating of all are the Tribune‘s striking data visualizations, a pinnacle of bleeding-edge journalism condensed in a vessel of stellar graphic design. Something that lives at the intersection of Al Jaffe’s iconic fold-ins and Chris Jordan’s gripping data representations. Something today’s magazines often try to do well and only rarely succeed —  you might find it in Wired‘s visual exposés or on the pages of GOOD, where our present-biased generation gawks at it in marvel of the innovation. Which, of course, is hardly novel, given such executions can be traced as far back as the late 1920’s — executions no less, if not more, visually and conceptually compelling, made with every bit as much thoughtfulness and wit and an aesthetic sensibility, yet made without any of today’s bells and whistles. (Adobe CS4 and $40,000-a-year graphic design schools, we’re looking at you.)

But here’s the most interesting part: At the closing of TED 2009 a couple of weeks ago, when the audience waved their iPhones into the air lighter-style to Jamie Cullum’s rendition of “Imagine,” we remarked what a metaphor this was for the times.

We’ve come a long way technologically, yet the social and cultural issues John Lennon sang about in 1971 are every bit as relevant and pressing today.

In a lot of ways, the Tribune‘s data visualizations are a similar reminder that those biggest burdens of yesteryear have not healed but swollen into social abscesses. Case in point: This dissection, circa 1938, of what a billion dollars is, trying to put economic scale in a culturally digestible context.

Remind you of something? Or of something else?

The same is true of this 1936 farm plan, a striking prequel to today’s most heated debates on agricultural subsidies and sustainable farming.

And as if it isn’t eye-opening enough to see two of today’s most hot-button issues — the economy and sustainability — make waves decades ago, there’s the matter of the truly biggest one of all: The tensions of international politics and their propensity for armed conflict tearing the world apart.

The moral of the story, of course, is that we did not invent the wheel — in design, in journalism, or in cultural concern, for that matter.

And while we may have honed our skills with new and better tools — better graphic design software, new media platforms for journalism to play out on, more awareness and philanthropy efforts — we still have a long, long way to go before we can declare ourselves truly innovative and claim real progress.

Explore The Art of The Message, it’s one of those rare fresh perspectives you won’t find on the regurgitated pages of today’s mass publications and info-recycling blogs.

via @TrackerNews

24 NOVEMBER, 2008

6 Signs the Apocalypse Cometh

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Shortcuts to obesity, paid shamelessness, D.C.’s constitutional right to bitch-slapping, and a potent antidote to it all.

It’s been the year of tectonic shifts, good and bad. A very real recession is upon us, a presidential election just made history in more ways than we can count, and the climate crisis has reached catastrophic proportions. It seems like (almost) everything good and holy is falling apart.

But because the devil’s in the details, we’re seeing the signs of the apocalypse in all sorts of places — some serious, some not, but all a what-have-we-lived-to-see cultural forehead-slapper.

NO NEED TO GET OFF THE COUCH FOR PIZZA

You can now order it from your TiVo or right inside Facebook.

Domino's on TiVo

Because picking up the phone or typing a URL into your browser is too much work.

GUY KAWASAKI SWITCHES TO COMCAST

@guykawasaki Check.

Yep, we don’t get it either.

POLITICIANS OUTDUMB THEIR ELECTORATE

Elected U.S. officials score 44% on a simple civic knowledge test.

The uninformed commonfolk who elected them score 49%.

PAYPERPOST INFESTS TWITTER

Check.

It’s not how we roll.

POLYGAMISTS BAN GAY MARRIAGE

Chief Proposition 8 strategist Frank Schubert Check.

Don’t get us wrong, we have a couple of Mormon friends who are among the coolest people we’ve ever met. Which makes it all the harder to reconcile why their kind would try to deny others the basic human right to happiness they’ve been afforded themselves. Some, ahem, multiple times.

BEGGARS FLY PRIVATE JETS

The Big Three CEO's Big Three auto execs fly private jets — 3 separate ones — from Detroit to D.C. for their hearings before the Senate and House to beg for an additional $25 billion of taxpayer money, get bitch-slapped for ridiculously timed display of corporate excess.

Oh snap.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Yep, the world has gone mad. But we like to think that for every preposterous, shameless, or downright idiotic drop of apocalyptic poison, there’s an even more powerful antidote.

6 SIGNS THE APOCALYPSE GOETH AWAY

  1. Yes We Can.
  2. Yes We Can.
  3. Yes We Can.
  4. Yes We Can.
  5. Yes We Can.
  6. Yes We Can.