Arts Politics & Society

Ai Weiwei: Art through suffering

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You can push a creative man into silence but all this does is fuel his creative output.

China held artist and “dissident” Ai Weiwei in captivity for 81 days. He nearly died.

Weiwei is now turning his jail time experience into a piece of art. For Weiwei, creative expression is more about storytelling than profit.

“Very few people know why art sells so high,” Mr. Ai replied. “I don’t even know.”

Still, his art sells for hundreds of thousands at Sotheby’s in New York.

Weiwei lived in New York for 11 years before heading back to China. The creative freedom he learned in New York shines through WeiWei’s work.

Weiwei teaches us to make something lasting, in good times or bad. As Neil Gaiman said in his commencement speech this week:

“When things get tough, make good art. Make it on the bad days. Make it the good days too.”

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Social Media

Is the airport a social network?

The airport may be the world’s biggest/smallest physical social network. The hubs in Atlanta, Heathrow, and Munich bring people from all across the world, speaking the same language in design.

Airport signs and rules are the same everywhere. You can figure out where you need to go just by following the terminal numbers. You can also ghost the herd of passengers and not talk to anyone.

Airports are symbolic of our online social lives: massive, interconnected and universal places where we’re surrounded by potentially thousands of similar interests. Yet we stick to our tribe, keep an eye on our feeds of people we’ve never met.

That’s what makes me so excited about ambient networking apps like Highlight. We can meet new people simply by being near them in reality, uniting physical and digital worlds.

Today, we connect through screens. Tomorrow we could connect through real audible conversations and shake hands. Face to face relationships is more valuable than ever because the Internet is making them scarce.

Silent networking is ok too. We can connect to a global audience on Instagram through an image which says a thousand words. But it’d be nice on occasion to ask someone like @juunn or @finn how they take excellent photos. Connecting in a lengthy conversation through Instagram is hard.

Google+, maybe?

Business Fashion


Creation emerges from need.  Find a hole in the marketplace and fill it.  You do the work instead of waiting for others to make it for you.

That’s the story of Abe Burmeister and why he co-founded Outlier.

The Internet enables niche products to find any audience across the world.  With a direct to consumer website, an awesome product, and some marketing to build awareness, one can make it happen.

We can’t always depend on large brands to tailor products for us.

If you can’t find something, take a stab at making it yourself and building an audience on the Internet that will buy your stuff.

You don’t need salespeople, just a product designer, a website, and someone to tell the world about it and field emails and calls.

Stand still at your own frustration or come up with a solution that solves a problem for you and many others.  You just might end up building a company.

Source: Uploaded by user via Wells on Pinterest

Photography Tech

The Conformity Crisis


If everyone has access to the same tools then everyone will become a producer. And all the art will look the same.

Take Instagram for instance. All you need is an iPhone and some cheap Camera+ editing app to clean up your images before you upload them to Instagram. You can also edit images on Instagram itself.

Since we all have the same tools we all produce similar-looking photos. This is why anyone that wants to stand out on Instagram should pick a style, theme.

First, choose an object or location that inspires you. Second, pick a consistent filter like black and white. Three, be different. Set your follower expectations in this step by step process.

One of my favorite Instagrammers takes a picture of a picture, a Polaroid over his object. You see his hand holding out the Polaroid covering the same image he’s capturing. Simple yet genius.

Stand out from the crowd

That’s the only way you’ll keep your identity on Instagram and in a world where creativity has amassed around the ease of tools and sharing.

Culture Tech

Why Twitter Is Good For Us

According to the bestselling author Jonathan Franzen, Twitter is “unspeakably irritating.”

Little does he know that Twitter is the greatest communications tool of our (mobile) time, driving people to read more, act more, and create more.

Twitter can also be the world’s greatest interruptor.  You really have to ignore it to focus on work and family.

But if we killed Twitter today, we’d go back in time to ignorance and silence.  We need noise.  

Here’s my notes and quotes from the New Yorker podcast answering the question “Is Twitter Good for Us?”  You sort out the good and the bad.

  • It allows students to flatter professionals.
  • Although no more than 140 character, it drives people to longer stories.
  • Spending 1 hour on a Tweet isn’t a waste of time.  It’s more thinking, more time in the “batting cage to get it right or wrong.”
  • Twitter is a “meritocracy” where good pieces get rewarded with shares and viewing.
  • “Compressed form” is a literary form.
  • Hemingway would’ve worked well on Twitter b/c of his brevity as well as Shakespeare.
  • We now learn to think in “epigrams.”  Simple and clear English like that that came out of the Civil War.
  • “Good journalism is always a good simulation of talking to someone.”
  • “Just because you’re good at Twitter doesn’t mean you’re good at another thing.”
  • Twitter is like the automobile of 21st Century, giving teenagers leverage like the car did in the 1920s.
  • Humans have “confirmatory nature” and so yes, they’ll follow people that confirm their beliefs.


Social Media Tech

Reward Psychology

On the human addiction for digital rewards:

Today, technology companies are creating new habits by running users through a series of desire engines—and variable rewards fuel the chain reaction.

Companies like Kiip, Zynga, and American Express drop pellets. Every time we use their services we get something back like points and even discounts.

A like, comment, or a badge on Foursquare create similar gratification. There’s even email games that test your inbox management against friends.

Every app, game, or company incentives us in one of three ways as Eyal points to.

The Tribe. Social networks fuel our emotions with constant positive feedback. We get annoyed when no one likes or comments on posts.

The Hunt. We need to find the next thing whether it’s through search or an article in our RSS feed. Discovery feels good.

The Self. Rewards keep us coming back. Any positive return even if it’s a point increases happiness.

Mash all three together and we’re in a never ending need for appeasement.

This is why I quit video games years ago. There’s not any substance to easy points. And this is why recently I’ve become just as doubtful over likes. They really are a passive way of affirmation and don’t really show commitment.

Many people delete their Instagram photos after getting no likes in the first minute of posting. We’re addicted to positive feedback even if it’s trifling.

Yesterday at the grocery store I saw $15 Facebook Credits. Yes, people actually subsidize their digital points.

I don’t think the rewards system ever stops in the digital world. It’s too easy and costs virtually nothing. The main challenge is really for the the company giving our the rewards. Do these rewards get people to use the product, create a memorable experience, and generate sales? That’s the end goal, anyway.

Social Media

Pinterest Edging Tumblr In Pageviews

gif via Mashable

Cheers to the web prodigy @shl for the tweet.


  • Pinterest focuses on one thing only, images.  Simplicity like Instagram.  Tumblr allows posts on text, quotes, pictures, video, link, chat, and audio.
  • “Repin” conjures quickness.  Publish, boom, we feel like contributors.  “Reblog” sounds lengthy.  Internet denizens have 3 second attention spans.
  • Pinterest is a Facebook Timeline app which means your pins show in the real time ticker.  Log into Facebook, you can’t miss your friends’ pins.  Tumblr awaits.
  • Pinterest is searchable.  Tumblr search is confused by the plethora of mixed media content and too many tags.  Again, simplicity.
  • Pinterest users all have the same looking template.  Like Facebook.  Tumblr has 1000+ designs to choose from including create your own.
  • Pinterest is a girl’s world.  Tumblr is for “Teebowing.”

Compare stats.


Utilize Platforms To Revitalize Learning

Academic papers:

“…feels to many like an exercise in rigidity and boredom, like practicing piano scales in a minor key.”

Amazing things happen when you change the platform.

Instead of a structured term paper, tell students to write an extensive blog post or use the new iBooks Author software to create an interactive report.

When Pages and Keynote came out, I was 5x more excited to build presentations rather than using Word and Keynote.  I couldn’t wait to show my understanding through mixed media, a combination of diagrams and pictures that augmented text.

The trick to reversing rote education is using the latest technology tools to galvanize creation.  Make the students feel like they’re painting.

Schools need to make the classroom experience interactive too.  Use social media to allow students to leave classroom feedback or provide real time comments.  Encourage the quiet kids to ask questions and tag others to answer.  Post anonymously to the whole class.

Education needs to keep up with Web.

Creativity Quotes Tech

MLK’s Tech Revolution


“There can be no gainsaying of the fact that a great revolution is taking place in the world today. In a sense it is a triple revolution: that is, a technological revolution, with the impact of automation and cybernation; then there is a revolution in weaponry, with the emergence of atomic and nuclear weapons of warfare; then there is a human rights revolution, with the freedom explosion that is taking place all over the world. Yes, we do live in a period where changes are taking place”.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

Prescient, a man that saw the intersection of freedom and technology.

Imagine the power of his words in 140 characters.


Mass creators

If 2011 was the year of the consumer, 2012 will be the year of the creator.

Mobile is the impetus for this change.

Last year, 15 million people jointed Instagram on iOS. These people are all content producers with state of the art cameras and filters (effects) that can make a brick wall look interesting.

Last year, Apple included Twitter in its iOS software. People are now one click away from sharing influential moments, content that they own.

Even content we reblog or repin is our content referral. We’re rewarded with likes, the free social equivalent of a finder’s fee.

All of these are one share away from Facebook. But a part of the new creation age is mass. Facebook may have open public options but it’s still regarded as a closed, private network.

More people will be interested in sharing stuff everywhere and to anyone.

The ease of technology and app filters make us look professional, to which we want to look our best when we share with the world.