Surrenders to conventionality are what disciplines are. The disciplines are social systems that raise their partial ‘as if’ perspectives from mere conventionality to mythic proportions… We will find them all, these rites de passages, in examinations, in selection, promotion, and establishment, in the residence rules of departments and schools, in the special languages, in the professional taboos. These are ways of making a blinkered view of the world seem mythically true.

– Greg Dening, cited in Mark Minchinton, The World is Turning to Pus, http://www.doubledialogues.com/article/the-world-is-turning-to-pus-a-keynote-provocation/

refuses to disappear

For the body cannot be easily contained by the consumption imperative. It discovers its own sexual and political being and overflows autonomously in many other directions as well. Or, as in the case of the state policies of economic and cultural austerity that have increasingly been imposed upon a recalcitrant underlying population, the body refuses to disappear as a subject.

– Stanley Aronwitz, foreward Martin, Randy. 1990. Performance as a Political Act. New York: Bergin and Garvey Publishers. p.viii


green shifting, christian bale and success

There’s this phenomenon called green shifting which is a business or management term for the tendency to say things are fine when they are not. I first heard about it on a podcast called Accidental Tech Podcast. The guys on the programme describe it in relation to how the conditions of most organisations make it very difficult for people lower down in an organisation to clearly – and accurately – describe problems to people higher up.

And then, around the same, I watched this:

If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth every minute of your time.

Christian Bale and green shifting got me thinking about how projects succeed and fail. What does it take for someone to ask the most difficult questions? How am I responsible for creating conditions that make awkwardness – and friction – possible? How do my assumptions about my ability and role(s) infect and affect the people around me? Which lines need to be stepped over, and which ones should not be transgressed? I wonder also to what extent the conditions for success and failure in business are distinct from those in making art.

big data

A fascinating bit of writing about machines and our routine, non-routine, manual and cognitive jobs. Reminds me of the exquisite human-ness of dancing.

On the generation of data:

Big data isn’t just some buzzword. It’s information, and when it comes to information, we’re creating more and more of it every day. In fact we’re creating so much that a 2013 report by SINTEF estimated that 90% of all information in the world had been created in the prior two years. This incredible rate of data creation is even doubling every 1.5 years thanks to the Internet, where in 2015 every minute we were liking 4.2 million things on Facebook, uploading 300 hours of video to YouTube, and sending 350,000 tweets. Everything we do is generating data like never before, and lots of data is exactly what machines need in order to learn to learn.

On machines learning the feel of playing games:

Such confounding complexity [in the game Go] makes impossible any brute-force approach to scan every possible move to determine the next best move. But deep neural networks get around that barrier in the same way our own minds do, by learning to estimate what feels like the best move. We do this through observation and practice, and so did AlphaGo, by analyzing millions of professional games and playing itself millions of times. So the answer to when the game of Go would fall to machines wasn’t even close to ten years. The correct answer ended up being, “Any time now.”


paradoxes for students

I spent a couple of hours in a choreography class with first year undergraduate dance students at Coventry University last week. Here are the notes I sent to the group after the session. Perhaps of interest?

  1. Ideas. It’s the quantity of ideas, not the quality of ideas. Ideas have no value. They are neither good nor bad. The trick here is just to begin with your work/practice/writing/making and feed in more and more ideas. These, in turn, generate more ideas. Ideas are self-generating. See Johnson, S. (2010). Where Good Ideas Come From. London: Penguin Books.
  2. Imagination. What do you need to stimulate and nourish your imaginations? Films, books, conversations, music, observations, listening, seeing. What do you focus on and what do you notice in your periphery? See Casey, E. S. (2000). Imagining. Indiana University Press.
  3. Commitment and care. A key paradox (at University and perhaps even in life) is to be fully committed without caring too much. Commit. Don’t care. Of course I don’t mean don’t care because being committed is a sign of caring for something. It’s more like focus on the process of commitment, and don’t care about the outcome. This is hard at University because in the UK children are told from age 6 that you have to do certain things – and give certain answers – in order to succeed. This is a terrible lie that is sold to the young people of this country. The deepest challenge you will face at University is coming to terms with the opportunity provided in your classes to explore your ideas, imaginations and spirits with freedom and courage. If you succumb to the desire to get good marks you will miss an extraordinary opportunity to explore what you are capable of, what you are interested in, and just how committed you are prepared to be (the paradox is this will mean you are more likely to get good marks). The strange thing about commitment is that – like ideas – it feeds itself. We get better at being committed by practising being committed. See Ken Robinson TED talk: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY (you’ve probably already seen it)
  4. Text and iteration. This session was not about manipulating text. It was using text as materials in order to understand the principle of iteration. Change the word text for movement and this should be clear. See Kelley, T. (2007). The Art of Innovation. Crown Business.
  5. Liveness. What is alive in what you are making? (Maybe it’s just a little bit). How do you know if something is alive? I don’t know the answer to this question (because in part it’s about taste). One answer could be: You will just know. Don’t kid yourselves when it isn’t alive. Don’t pretend it is. It’s hard to bring back something from the dead. Better to keep feeding and nourishing new versions (or iterations).
  6. Swearing. Don’t ever ever swear. Fuck yeah.