Last November at TEDxAmsterdam, Christien Meindertsma presented the research of her book Pig05049 which tracked all the products that were made from one pig. Her inspiration was that, although the 12.2 million pigs in the Netherlands they’re never seen anywhere. This is also true for many of the products, which don’t appear to have anything to do with meat. From the different parts of the pig – skin, bones, meat, internal organs, blood, fat, and miscellaneous – a diverse range of goods are created, from beer to bullets and chewing gum to copper.
“It’s time to accept that there’s never going to be a perfect sea of endless days when i can write. I will always have other stuff to do. So if that’s the case, then i may as well just get on with it. I don’t want to be one of those people who talks about the book and never actually writes it. It’s time to face up to what’s really going on here – blatant fear of failure. Why do our creative dreams cause us so much angst? – and just start somewhere. Even if i do feel like my days are already full-to-bursting, I can still eek out some time. No more talk; it’s time to put my pen where my mouth is.”
Despite the fact that I actually write a lot — for work, research projects, on my blog, World Pulse, and a dozen other places — sometimes it never feels like it amounts to anything substantial. I have never published a book, although printing my MA thesis did feel like quite the accomplishment. All the research I do for clients is ‘protected’ under NDAs, never to see the light beyond internal boardrooms. Yet, as much as I relate to this observation, I can’t help but think perhaps we’re too hard on ourselves.
A recent article in Seed Magazine describes The Writing Revolution in which we all are now authors. Although their definition of an ‘author’ (someone who has written anything, whether a blog post or Tweet, that has been read by more than 100 people) needs some reworking, the point is that technological changes have enabled us to move from Consumers to Creators. The Seed article is reminiscent of the article We Are All Writers Now. With so many writers and authors running around these days, it’s hard for those of us who consider it our profession to not feel a rising possibility of failure. The quote is spot on with its conclusion. What other solution is there than confronting the creative angst and just getting on with writing?
I spotted this photo in my blog roll, blithely attributed to Ryan Paonessa. Ryan! One of my favorite perks of my job is that I get to work with a cool bunch of researchers around the world. Ryan pitched in on a year-long research project I headed up last year as our voice from Brooklyn. Not only is he taking great pics like this, but he’s also keeping a mobile photolog, OurMoFoto, with his girlfriend Morgan.
As Picnic came to a close, I finally was able to sit down with three speakers to have a conversation about their work with technology: Katrin Verclas from MobileActive, Jeremy Ettinghausen from Penguin Books Digital Publishing, and Greg Skibiski from Sense Networks. Video of the interviews will be featured on the Picnic website in the near future.
A recent NYT article about the rising field of sentiment analysis – translating human emotion into hard data – underscores the importance of sophisticated algorithms to analyze and understand the growing amount of information created by individuals online. Whether these new services and applications are tracking emotions or quantifying behavior, the consumer is taking center stage. I thought I’d list some that have captured my attention:
Sense Networks, recognizes patterns in behavior by tracking the path of mobile phone users and analyzes what those behaviors reveal about the user.
Wakoopa, a downloadable service that tracks the programs and applications running on a user’s computer, and other pertinent information such as the frequency and duration of use. From this, Wakoopa distills user habits about when and how they use certain programs and web services.
We Feel Fine, pictured above, explores human emotions by scouring blogs for the phrases ‘I feel’ or ‘I am feeling’ and presents these feelings as an online collaborative art project. While it’s not really quantifying its findings, it’s so beautiful.
Jodange, a service that filters traditional and social media to gauge the influences on consumer thought and opinion.
Newssift, a project by the Financial Times Group, that incorporates meaning, relationships, and sentiment into news with a business slant.
I’m in the midst of a research project for future technology and was reminded of this video, which I think perfectly captures the ambivalence many people feel about the role of technology in our lives.
A beautiful article in The Atlantic about a long-term research project at Harvard, explores the lives of 268 Harvard students over the course of 72 years.
“The study began in the spirit of laying lives out on a microscope slide. But it turned out that the lives were too big, too weird, too full of subtleties and contradictions to fit any easy conception of “successful living.” Arlie Bock had gone looking for binary conclusions—yeses and nos, dos and don’ts. But the enduring lessons would be paradoxical, not only on the substance of the men’s lives (the most inspiring triumphs were often studies in hardship) but also with respect to method: if it was to come to life, this cleaver-sharp science project would need the rounding influence of storytelling.”