Art for Thought

Conversations about ‘what is art?’ bore me. Conversations about ‘what is art for?’ on the other hand, I find arresting. I have a simple answer that works for me: in the ‘food for thought’ metaphor, art is the vitamin A. It is what enables your mind to see. This is not an original take on art — there is a beautiful little book by John Berger called Ways of Seeing that explores this attitude. Let me develop this theme by way of an extended riff on three pieces from the art of Amy Lin (all images used with permission. You can see more of Amy’s art at her Website).

Amy Lin Affinity Space Unknown

Left to right: `Affinity 4.1′, `Space’ and `Unknown’

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Jump Point by Tom Hayes

Tom HayesJump Point, a recent addition to the emerging World 2.0 canon presents an argument that evokes a foggy sort of deja vu. If you’ve been keeping up with the literature, you’ll probably frown a bit and think, “wait, this is familiar, somebody’s said this before.” But as you process the argument, you’ll realize that though it is fairly straightforward, and something others have flirted with (The World is Flat and Wikinomics being the prominent ones), nobody has said it quite this way before. The argument is this — we won’t feel the full-scale impact of the Internet until penetration levels are near complete. At that point, we’ll see a massive structural impact on the world that will make what we’ve seen so far pale in comparison. For Hayes, the critical moment is the moment when the 3 billionth human gets connected to the Internet (which current projections suggest will happen around 2011). The number 3 billion isn’t arbitrary — it is roughly the size of the global workforce. So Hayes’ argument is that something dramatic will happen when the world’s workforce gets completely wired. What and Why are the subjects of the book.

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The Sage of Ribbonfarm #3

Sage 3

Have a gag to suggest? Send it in with a quick description of the visual, along with your punchline.

Ronald Coase and Salvation from Anthropological Economics

Economics as a subject has never enjoyed healthier times — a universe of Freakonomics clones is appearing and the subject is galloping along in popularity as an undergraduate major. Yet, these are also the most worrisome times ever for the subject, because it is in danger of losing sight of the big mission — building conceptual models of the economy at large — that makes it so valuable to the rest of us. I’ll explain why it is a problem, and how the coming of The Chosen One, a descendant of Ronald Coase, can get economics back on track addressing the important problems of our century. Let’s start with a little family tree.

Economists Social Network

(portraits by Yurij Alexander)

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The Sage of Ribbonfarm #2

Sage 2

Have a gag to suggest? Send it in with a quick description of the visual, along with your punchline.

A Map of the World 2.0 Canon

I have been reviewing a good many books that fall into the loose category of ‘World 2.0.’ Books that attempt to organize our understanding of the impact of Web 2.0 and social media. Structure the blooming, buzzing confusion, so to speak. So I thought I’d go meta and attempt to visualize this emerging canon. This graphic started as a tangent while I was making notes for my review of Tom Hayes’ Jump Point. Here’s the graphic (click for full-size), with an explanation and links to reviews below.


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The Other Games Indians Play

A few months ago, I read a thoroughly depressing book by V. Raghunathan, Games Indians Play: Why We Are the Way We Are. That book is a game-theoretic exploration of Indian weaknesses. Being a strengths-oriented guy, I am offering up a much more energizing look at real Indian games and what they reveal about us. I’ll talk about three games — Kabbadi, Kho-Kho and Lagori — and tell you how these games, viewed as business metaphors, help explain some widely-recognized Indian strengths, particularly in the area of management thinking. I hope it provides some introspective fun for my Indian readers, and some insight into the Indian psyche for my non-Indian readers worrying about outsourcing decisions.

Kabbadi Khokho Lagori

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The Coming Triumph of the Strengths Movement

A few days ago, in the course of some routine correspondence at work with a colleague at another company, I noticed his email signature: “Win Over Others | Communication | Strategic | Analytical | Activator.” In my reply, I included a postscript, “p.s.: I’d be Intellection| Strategic | Input | Context | Ideation.” If this exchange sounds obscure to you, it’s because you haven’t taken the Clifton StrengthsFinder personality test, which is currently undergoing a fax-machine effect of sorts, creating a whole new language of interpersonal communication. The two sets of five words above are “themes” the test reveals. Chances are, you’ve taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test at some point in your career. I suspect the MBTI is currently the most widely-used test of its sort. Today, I make a prediction: the Clifton StrengthsFinder will displace the Myers-Briggs by 2011. Let me tell you why (and why you should care).

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The Sage of Ribbonfarm #1

Sage 1

(Ribbonfarm is insanely proud to debut a weekly comic panel, inspired by R. K. Laxman’s style. You can contribute your own 1-panel gag ideas through the contact form. The only rule is that the gag must be generally about research and innovation, and that the black-curly-haired guy must be in every scene. Describe the visual and punchline in your suggestion).

The New Location, Location, Location

So far in my series on virtual geography, I have talked mainly about relative location — the 50-foot-rule, the Twitter Zone and the notion of ambient presence are all about where a is in relation to b, in cognitive and physical ways. What can we say about absolute location? The man with the best (and I believe, right) answer is Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, The Flight of the Creative Class and now, what might be his Magnum Opus: Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life

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