Context is Everything

This remix of the Presidential debate highlights the power of context as a way to promote a new website called The Contrarian, which pulls together newsfeeds from different political positions for comparison.

[Something that definitely has a role in a world where Fox News isn't sued for its 'Fair and Balanced' tagline. People tend to only read news they already agree with.]

Chris Morris, who is the most important media commentator operating in the media, [he's been a little quiet of late, but if you've never seen The Day Today or Brasseye, go watch them now. You will never watch the news in the same way again.] used the same technique to create Bushwhacked, a recontextualised cut up of Bush's State the Union address.

You should watch it if you haven't seen it already.

It was only 6 years ago, but back then it felt like something you needed professional equipment to create and professional profile to publicise. The only way to distribute it was via downloadable files.

Context is everything.

Ideas are New Combinations

Bacon Bar

I was recently introduced to Vosges Chocolate by my mate Jenna.

They have a little shop in Soho a block from where I work. I have walked past it innumerable times and yet I have never seen it. I had seen the Molton Brown store, which is right next door.

I wondered about that.

I have had Molton Brown stuff before and I like it. It makes the bathroom feel fancy. I had never heard of Vosges. So perhaps there's some form of confirmation bias in operation here.

"It is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human understanding to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives." --Francis Bacon

We went inside and the people in the shop knew a lot about chocolate and were very nice. I had no intention of buying anything. It's very posh chocolate and I don't really eat chocolate much at all.

Then they gave us free samples. A bunch of them. They asked if there were any I wanted to try. I was fascinated by the bacon chocolate you see above. It sounded disgusting. My brain revolted.

[I have never understood how American cuisine blends sweet and savoury foods - bacon with syrup just seems wrong to me.]

I tried some. It was amazing. To steal from Joey from Friends [something which drags me back to an idealised verion of 90s NYC]:

What's not to like? Chocolate - good. Bacon - gooooood.

So I bought a bar. And gave it to a friend. And showed some other people the store.

[They had already been there. I assumed since it was invisible to me, it was invisible to everyone. This is also probably a form of confirmation bias.

Actually this might be related to another cognitive bias people exhibit - what I call the I'm Special bias.

Basically, I think asking people why they do things is pointless - they don't know and, worse, everyone in the world believes they are special.

[Some study I saw showed that 90% of people think they are above average intelligence.]

That said, people are very, very good at modeling other people's behaviour. So one way to trick the I'm Special bias is projective research - what do you think your best friend would do in this situation? Why did she buy X?]

So - the shop was nice to me and I now like them and actively advocate them. 

The ethic of reciprocity is a powerful human imperative.

But that isn't really what I wanted to talk about.

Their bacon bar is a new combination, which is one way of describing all ideas.

When genius steals, it builds on and from the elements. The more polarised the elements, the more interesting the combination.

Perhaps another good way of thinking about this way of thinking is what Matt Webb calls Idea Scaffolding - ideas supported by, built out of other ideas.

Like using movement as a generative metaphor for the web, which he does in that presentation.

Or the shift from web pages to a web of data, much of which we will be creating, passively in the physical world - personal infomatics.

And, as Tom and Matt point out in that presentation, everytime you combine one set of data with another, new kinds of services emerge.

And somewhere at the intersection, or combination, of SPIME [SPaceTIME] data and social data, lies the web/world equivalent of a bacon bar.

PowerPoint Art


[Copyright David Byrne - used without permission because it's cool]

PowerPoint is a medium - a vector for ideas - and as such it can be appropriated for aesthetic endeavours. In fact if you're a plannery type you have probably spent innumerable hours making beautiful slides because you know that how you say something can be as important as what you say.

But until I saw this from David Byrne it hadn't occurred to me that anyone would actually use it to make art.

I began to see PowerPoint as a metaprogram, one that organizes and presents stuff created in other applications. Initially, I made presentations about presentations; they were almost completely without content.The content, I learned, was in the medium itself.
[From a Wired piece years ago]

The medium is the message and that.

I'm hoping this will inspire me to make more beautiful slides, and not presentations about presentations.

Although if pop stars are making slides, perhaps we should try our hands at songwriting.

[via experiencefreak]

The Future is Open

[Via Gizmodo]

Interdependence isn't only desirable for individuals - it's how the corporate landscape is developing as well.

Increasingly companies are realising that they can't be all things to all people. Indeed, that it makes sense to outsource doing most stuff to experts and focusing on what they are best at.

In some ways this is nothing new - the Coca-Cola Company sells only syrup to bottlers  -  it is primarily a marketing organisation, because that's what it does best. [Although the decision was originally made because it couldn't afford to build the factories, back in the day.]

In Japan, interdependence and allegiance have been enshrined in kerietsu since the country bootstrapped itself into an economic powerhouse following WWII.

The successful corporations of today are increasingly open. This is especially true of technology companies - open platform APIs are the foundation of the web 2.0 mash-up - by giving people the keys to your kingdom, they can build on your foundations and create something new, increasing the value of what you have made.

Part of what has allowed Facebook to overtake MySpace as the web brand du jour is the fact that it opened itself up for 3rd party applications, leveraging a distributed network of individuals, agencies and start-ups to make it more useful.

This is the territory Nokia are claiming in the handset space in these new ads above. As Gizmodo point out, this is also a dig at Apple, because Apple represents an anomaly in this new open corporate world - they don't currently support 3rd party apps on the iPhone.

Despite being being the most loved technology brand, they are the antithesis of open - they provide end to end solutions, software and hardware, product and services and because it all works so well as yet this hasn't been a problem.

But as the world becomes more complex this leaves them open to coopition - their competitors working together to challenge them. Imagine a world of interoperability, where on once side you have Apple [or Sony], standing alone, trying to provide an increasingly diverse  suite of proprietary solutions that only work within the brand, and on the other, open multi-brand platforms that allow you to make your choice but have things work together.

[This reminds me by analogy of clients that become religious about their brands, becoming irate if you turn up to meetings sporting competitor brands. The idea that I'll only ever buy Apple will apply to very few.]

This model also applies to communication agencies working with specialist partners in collaboration to deliver solutions, rather than trying to own the means of production in an increasingly complex communication world.

The future is open.

SpiderPig - The Movie

My wonderfully talented mate Sarah just sent me this trailer she made for SpiderPig - The Movie in response to the previous post.  It's just brilliant. Thank you.

She's also written a great post about the power of polarisation in mash-ups and how it might correspond and contribute to a world less divided:

It’s not exactly rocket science. Getting people together is the first step in breaking down barriers and prejudices. And the beauty of the music mash-up is that the more diverse and polarised the collaborations are, the better they tend to work. It is a medium set up to bring the polarised together.

Read the rest here.

The more diverse the elements being remixed, the more satisfying the result. It's the tension in the juxtaposition that makes the mash-up, which is obvious [now it's been pointed out to me - the mark of a great insight].

Nature knows this - it's why you shouldn't procreate with your cousins - and poets and artists and musicians  picked up on it too.

As did De Bono, using random juxtapositions to stimulate creativity.

There's something in our heads that loves connecting disparate things - what are metaphors but remixed ideas?


Saw this today [although it's been around for months] and quite enjoyed it as a comic counterpoint to the adticipation building around the giant play-doh bunnies.

Imitation isn't the sincerest form of flattery, but maybe pastiche is. If you create a commercial that people are willing to spend time messing with, that's probably a good thing in and of itself but it also means that the ad has taken root in the popular consciousness - parody only works if people know what you're extracting the Michael from.

I'm looking forward to seeing what people do with the new one.

Stolen Originality


At some point I will tackle the titular thesis of TIGS and attempt to crystalise my belief in the inherently recombinant nature of creativity. Whilst I have little respect for ripping people off, the lens of reconstruction that pulls together different cultural strands into a new new thing is the act of creation.

Entirely original things make no sense - how would we understand them without any referents? 

The internet heralds the end of copyright culture, sealing creations for eternity, and opens them back up to the cut ups of ctrl c and v.

Imitation disguises the debt you owe, stealing takes and re-purposes with the acknowledgment of the source [LINK] being an integral part of the meaning being constructed, a sub layer of the text.

But until I do, it's good to know the kids agree.

[Stolen from Radar Research]