Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘remix’

29 JUNE, 2011

7 Platforms for Collaborative Creation for the Post-Industrial Age

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Reining in the maker movement, or what 3-D printed bikinis have to do with adjustable-height dog dishes.

In general, we espouse a less-is-more model for living here at Brain Pickings. And while collaborative consumption is making it ever-easier to own less, collaborative creation is enabling us to make what we do own more meaningful, thanks to a host of platforms and services that transform the things of our imagination into 3-D reality. Here are seven companies and initiatives shaping a new movement of makers.

THINGIVERSE

The granddaddy of this latest generation of DIY makers,Thingiverse is the Brooklyn-based brainchild of Zach Smith and Bre Pettis, whose awesome Done Manifesto we featured on Brain Pickings a few months back. Founded in 2008, Thingiverse is a platform for artists, designers, and engineers to share digital design files via Creative Commons or General Public Use licenses. Its companion site, Makerbot Industries, sells machinery (including the fantastically carnivalesque Thing-O-Matic) and hardware necessary to manufacture the goods themselves.

Thingiverse got The Colbert Report treatment earlier this month, but gave back just as as good: Pettis oversaw the real-time creation of a bust of Stephen Colbert himself.

QUIRKY

Since 2009, Quirky has sought to bridge the gap between inventors and their inventions using a crowdsourcing model. Each week, Quirky’s community votes on the hundreds of submitted ideas to narrow them down to 10, two of which are then selected by an internal team of designers, engineers, researchers, and marketers. Anyone can consult on details throughout the development process, such as color, fabrication, and logo design; contributing to ideas makes users “Influencers” in Quirky parlance, who eventually earn a percentage of the finished products’ eventual revenue.

Imagine a day not too far a way when you’re riding in a subway, taking a bus ride, or walking in the park. Out of the corner of your eye you see something familiar. You see something beautiful. You see something that didn’t exist a few short months ago. Something that you helped create.

After confirming a predetermined number of orders, products go to market for sale in the Quirky shop as well as selected retail partners. With a focus on functionality and clean design, Quirky currently offers 150 items with more inventions to come.

ADAFRUIT

Like hard candy for hackers, Adafruit provides electronics kits and parts for original, open-source projects. Its M-O is DIY, that is, empowering users to create everything from bots to wearables and anything in between that they might imagine. At Adafruit‘s site your inner geek will be in heaven, surrounded by circuit boards, sensors, and wires.

All of Adafruit‘s parts and plans are available via Creative Commons license (all that is, except the ingredients and recipes for a blinking LED Christmas tree). For the latest hack-it-yourself project, check out the unbelievably cool, programmable iCufflinks, below:

SHAPEWAYS

Shapeways is your go-to guide for 3-D creation. As opposed to using laser-cutting techniques, 3-D printing is an additive process that builds items up by accumulating layers. The Shapeways platform offers three ways to bring models to market: users can upload their own digital designs for one-time production or to sell to others; or for the non-CAD savvy among us, the platform will pair would-be makers with designers to realize their vision.

With 850-plus items currently for sale online, Shapeways biggest splash this season is the N12 printable bikini–the maker movement’s never looked so hot.

LITTLEBITS

Through intuitive and playful design, littleBits takes engineering, usually reserved for experts, and puts it into the hands of artists, designers, makers, and anyone with curiosity about how things work. littleBits, the brainchild of MIT Media Lab alumna Ayah Bdeir, produces libraries of preassembled electronic circuits that can be snapped together to create tiny circuit boards. Held together via magnets, the discrete electronic parts are color-coded, making assembly a bit like playing with LEGOs — if LEGOs could light up, play music, and sense solar power.

Although its designs are all available via Creative Commons, you can also preorder littleBits starter kits for $99. Production is currently being completed in small batches, with the first prototypes shipped earlier this spring.

PONOKO

Branding itself as “the world’s easiest making system,” Ponoko launched in late 2007. An online platform for bespoke design, Ponoko hosts tens of thousands of user-generated designs, customizable for on-demand production. In addition to M-I-Y (make-it-yourself) templates that guide you through the design process, the site also lets creators bid on bringing ideas to market.

CLOUDFAB

Another platform for 3-D product printing, CloudFab lets professional creators make prototypes — from one to thousands — of goods using a distributed network of fabricators. The two-year-old company matches designers with digital manufacturers, trading on the idea of excess market capacity. From “Day 2 Night Convertible Heels” to an exoskeleton for DARPA, CloudFab lets product designers test the tangibility of their creations, no matter how unique.

While a 3-D printer in every pocket may still be a few years away, practical alternatives to mass production are finally a reality, offering hope for a new frontier of changing our relationship with conspicuous consumption through conspicuous creation.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

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20 JUNE, 2011

Everything is a Remix, Part 3: The Elements of Creativity

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What Gutenberg has to do with Thomas Edison and the secret sauce of Apple.

Kirby Ferguson’s excellent Everything is a Remix project is, as I’ve previously written, one of the most important efforts to illuminate the mechanisms, paradoxes and central principles of creative culture in modern history — an ambitious four-part documentary on the history and cultural significance of sampling and collaborative creation, reflecting my own deep held belief that creativity is combinatorial. Today, Kirby releases the highly anticipated third installment in the series, titled The Elements of Creativity.

Enjoy — this is a cultural treasure:

The most dramatic results can happen when ideas are combined. By connecting ideas together, creative leaps can be made, producing some of history’s biggest breakthroughs.” ~ Kirby Ferguson

From derivative work in art to incremental innovation in technology, Kirby tells the lesser-known stories of history’s greatest innovators to illustrate the point that creativity builds on what came before rather than crystallizing from thin air under the touch of a mythical muse.

Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb — his first patent was “Improvement in Electric Lamps,” but he did conduct trials with 6,000 materials for the filament until he created the first commercially viable bulb. Apple didn’t invent the first desktop computer — it copied Xerox (oh, the irony…), but was the first to combine the computer with the household appliance, sparking the personal computing revolution.

What started it all was the graphical interface merged with the idea of the computer as household appliance. The Mac is a demonstration of the explosive potential of combinations.” ~ Kirby Ferguson

Creativity isn’t magic: it happens by applying ordinary tools of thought to existing materials. And the soil from which we grow our creations is something we scorn and misunderstand even though it gives us so much — and that’s… copying.” ~ Kirby Ferguson

The fourth and final episode, coming this fall, will tackle the most complex question of all: How our legal, ethical and artistic burdens are hindering our collective ability to embrace technology as a true enabler of creativity. You can support the project here — I happily did.

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26 MAY, 2011

Michael Meets Mozart: Piano, Cello and Mashup Magic

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What’s wrong with copyright law, or how neurological supremacy channels 100 cello revelations.

This week, a new study suggests musicians’ brains may be more developed than other people’s. And while I’m all for a healthy dose of skepticism in reacting to research headlines, terrific performances like this Michael Meets Mozart gem by pianist Jon Schmidt and cellist Steven Sharp Nelson make it difficult to believe that just any old brain is capable of such creative enormity. Jon and Steve blending the piano with over 100 cello textures never thought possible and creating extraordinary sound effects with just the instruments featured in the video: piano, cello, mouth percussion and kick drum.

After the enthusiastic reception of their Taylor Swift / Coldplay mashup, Schmidt and Nelson set out to do a hip-hop/classical remix. But when they couldn’t get permission to use the two tracks they had in mind — this right here, by the way, is a powerful and tragic testament to the brokenness of today’s copyright law and the need to find new ways to foster remix culture — they decided to create an original tune instead, weaving together inspirations from a handful of known influences, including Michael Jackson, Mozart and U2. The result is nothing short of magic.

If this has you hungry for more virtuoso mesmerism, you won’t be disappointed by Herbie Hancock and Lang Lang’s duet at the Royal Albert Hall in London or this fantastic take on Beethoven reimagined as jazz.

via Wimp

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04 MAY, 2011

6 Popular Business Books Adapted as Comics

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What 6th-century Chinese military strategy has to do with the art of closing a deal.

Comic books resonate so deeply with us because they speak to our brains’ fundamental visual bias, known as the pictorial superiority effect. A new series of books by SmarterComics is harnessing this human predilection and doing for nonfiction what The RSA has done for lectures, adapting popular business and strategy books by iconic thought-leaders into visually-driven narratives. Here are the first six of the series.

THE LONG TAIL

Based on the 2006 bestseller of the same name by Wired editor Chris Anderson, The Long Tail explores a counterintuitive side of business profits as Anderson declares the death of “common culture” and makes a case for the multiplicity of small niches, as opposed to the high-volume peaks of the mainstream, as the sweet spot of market opportunity.

THINK AND GROW RICH

In 1937, Napoleon Hill wrote what’s commonly considered the greatest wealth-building guide of all time. SmarterComics breathes playful new life into the now-iconic Think and Grow Rich, a blueprint for improving your life through the practical power of positive thinking, a cognitive toolkit to which many of modern history’s most famous millionaires and billionaires point as the secret to their success. A self-help book for the hard analytical types, Hill’s classic is considered a landmark publication in success philosophy and has shaped generations of subsequent business books.

MI BARRIO

Entrepreneur Robert Renteria grew up as an infant sleeping in a dresser drawer, then got drawn into drugs and gang violence as a teenager. But rather than letting his circumstances dictate and define him, he let them become a part of him as he grew from a childhood of poverty and abuse into a successful businessman and civic leader. In Mi Barrio (My Neighborhood), Renteria turns his story into a modern-day, real-life fable of persistence and hard work, extending an invitation to all of us to transcend the limitations of our circumstances and the burdens of our past.

HOW TO MASTER THE ART OF SELLING

Since its original publication decades ago, Tom Hopkins’ straight-shootingly titled How to Master the Art of Selling has remained true to — and widely acclaimed for — its title’s promise. Among the many sales scrips and tactics on everything from building trust to closing elusive deals are also a number of anecdotes, which seem to lend themselves particularly well to the storytelling format of a comic book.

OVERACHIEVEMENT

Originally written by performance coach and psychologist John Eliot in 2004, Overachievement offers an ambitious look at what it takes to be exceptional. Eliot explores a number of cognitive performance enhancers used by Olympic athletes, business moguls, surgeons, salesmen, financial experts, and rock stars, pointing to the importance of intuition and what he calls “the trusting mind” — the same idea, no doubt, that inspired Nike’s iconic “Just do it” slogan — as the fundamental make-or-break point of success.

THE ART OF WAR

Chinese military treatise The Art of War (not to be confused with Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art), attributed to philosopher and military general Sun Tzu, is one of the world’s oldest and most successful books on military strategy, dating back to late 6th century BC. The wisdom from this 2,500-year-old text remain required reading for today’s MBA classrooms, offering history-tested insight on how to prevail in any conflict, be it in on the battlefield or in the boardroom.

Besides the traditional printed editions, the books are also available in a variety of eletornic formats on the SmarterComics site.

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