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A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...



Posts tagged "visual thinking"

Feb 03, 2014
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Kathy Sierra on how she writes books:

thinkprocessnotproduct:

I write (books, non-fiction) starting w/ a storyboard. Each “cell” on the paper maps loosely to 1 page in book. I don’t “write” start-to-finish; I iterate over the “cells” adding details. The [table of contents] emerges last.

This makes me so happy. Show Your Work! in full effect.

via @seriouspony

Jul 27, 2013
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I took some apples out of a paper bag where they had been lying for a long time; I had to cut off and throw away half of many of them. Afterwards as I was copying out a sentence of mine the second half of which was bad, I at once saw it as a half-rotten apple. And that’s how it always is with me. Everything that comes my way becomes for me a picture of what I am thinking about.

Mar 27, 2013
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Bradley Campbell uses napkins to diagram the narrative structures of radio shows.

What’s cool about mapping structure like this is that the pieces are moveable. You can rearrange the parts like they’re Tinkertoys. In the Morning Edition structure, for example, you could open in a scene, then introduce two people with other views (like the lines on the right of Bradley’s napkin only on the left). Then the “V.” Then a return to the first character and the lines again. Or, maybe you start with the “V” then meet a character…. See what I mean?

Fantastic. See also: Vonnegut’s story shapes and John McPhee on structure.

Filed under: structure, storytelling

(Source: wnycradiolab)

Feb 21, 2013
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I have the pictures in my head!
Mel Brooks, convincing the studio to let him direct The Producers

Dec 18, 2012
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My friends need to stop writing so many books

I get sent a good number of books, which I love, but no matter how good they look, most of the time I don’t get around to reading them for a while. You can only imagine how guilty I feel when my friends send me books…

Wanted to call out these five books in my ever-growing To Read pile because they’d all make good gift books, they’re all by friends of mine who are super-smart visual thinkers, and they’re all either about — and/or excellent examples of — turning ideas into stories, pictures, or explanations that connect with an audience.

Check them out:

See also: 15 good books I read in 2012

Sep 22, 2012
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Don’t think, look!
— Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (via)

Aug 12, 2012
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Brian Eno draws and lectures on art and music

Wonderful talk in Moscow from 2011 about the evolution of music as a “plastic art” and the changes in art in the 20th and 21st centuries. Includes his ideas about “scenius” and “control vs. surrender.”

Having been trained at art school, Eno is also quite the visual thinker — I drew some of these ideas while listening to a radio program with him a few years ago, so it was a pleasure to him actually draw them out himself!

brian eno doodle

Watch the lecture→

Aug 26, 2011
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Aug 22, 2011
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William James’ attention exercise: “Draw a dot on a piece of paper, then pay attention to it for as long as you can.”

From Sam Anderson’s excellent, “In defense of distraction”:

James argued that the human mind can’t actually focus on the dot, or any unchanging object, for more than a few seconds at a time: It’s too hungry for variety, surprise, the adventure of the unknown. It has to refresh its attention by continually finding new aspects of the dot to focus on: subtleties of its shape, its relationship to the edges of the paper, metaphorical associations (a fly, an eye, a hole). The exercise becomes a question less of pure unwavering focus than of your ability to organize distractions around a central point. The dot, in other words, becomes only the hub of your total dot-related distraction.This is what the web-threatened punditry often fails to recognize: Focus is a paradox—it has distraction built into it. The two are symbiotic; they’re the systole and diastole of consciousness. Attention comes from the Latin “to stretch out” or “reach toward,” distraction from “to pull apart.” We need both. In their extreme forms, focus and attention may even circle back around and bleed into one other.

From James’ original text, Talks To Teachers:

From an unchanging subject the attention inevitably wanders away. You can test this by the simplest possible case of sensorial attention. Try to attend steadfastly to a dot on the paper or on the wall. You presently find that one or the other of two things has happened: either your field of vision has become blurred, so that you now see nothing distinct at all, or else you have involuntarily ceased to look at the dot in question, and are looking at something else. But, if you ask yourself successive questions about the dot,—how big it is, how far, of what shape, what shade of color, etc.; in other words, if you turn it over, if you think of it in various ways, and along with various kinds of associates,—you can keep your mind on it for a comparatively long time. This is what the genius does, in whose hands a given topic coruscates and grows.

William James’ attention exercise: “Draw a dot on a piece of paper, then pay attention to it for as long as you can.”

From Sam Anderson’s excellent, “In defense of distraction”:

James argued that the human mind can’t actually focus on the dot, or any unchanging object, for more than a few seconds at a time: It’s too hungry for variety, surprise, the adventure of the unknown. It has to refresh its attention by continually finding new aspects of the dot to focus on: subtleties of its shape, its relationship to the edges of the paper, metaphorical associations (a fly, an eye, a hole). The exercise becomes a question less of pure unwavering focus than of your ability to organize distractions around a central point. The dot, in other words, becomes only the hub of your total dot-related distraction.

This is what the web-threatened punditry often fails to recognize: Focus is a paradox—it has distraction built into it. The two are symbiotic; they’re the systole and diastole of consciousness. Attention comes from the Latin “to stretch out” or “reach toward,” distraction from “to pull apart.” We need both. In their extreme forms, focus and attention may even circle back around and bleed into one other.

From James’ original text, Talks To Teachers:

From an unchanging subject the attention inevitably wanders away. You can test this by the simplest possible case of sensorial attention. Try to attend steadfastly to a dot on the paper or on the wall. You presently find that one or the other of two things has happened: either your field of vision has become blurred, so that you now see nothing distinct at all, or else you have involuntarily ceased to look at the dot in question, and are looking at something else. But, if you ask yourself successive questions about the dot,—how big it is, how far, of what shape, what shade of color, etc.; in other words, if you turn it over, if you think of it in various ways, and along with various kinds of associates,—you can keep your mind on it for a comparatively long time. This is what the genius does, in whose hands a given topic coruscates and grows.

Aug 14, 2011
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Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage (1967)

Finally picked this book up because of this handsome, cheap reprint. Hard to believe this was written in 1967. It was my first time reading, but so much of it felt eerily familiar—I figure McLuhan has influenced so many modern thinkers that we’re all pretty saturated with his theories. Some favorite bits:

On parenting (cf. Jay-Z)

The family circle has widened. The worldpool of information fathered by electric media…far surpasses any possible influence mom and dad can now bring to bear. Character no longer is shaped by only two earnest, fumbling experts. Now all the world’s a sage.

On perspective and art (cf. Basquiat or Hockney):

Primitive and pre-alphabet people integrate time and space as one and live in an acoustic, horizonless, boundless, olfactory space, rather than in visual space. Their graphic presentation is like an x-ray. They put in everything they know, rather than only what they see. A drawing of a man hunting seal on an ice floe will show not only what is on top of the ice, but what lies underneath as well.

On humor:

Humor as a system of communications and as a probe of our environment —of what’s really going on— affords us our most appealing anti-environmental tool. It does not deal in theory, but in immediate experience, and is often the best guide to changing perceptions. Older societies thrived on purely literary plots. They demanded story lines. Today’s humor, on the contrary, has no story ine—no sequence. It is usually a compressed overlay of stories.

Amateur vs. professional:

Professionalism is environmental. Amateurism is anti-environmental. Professionalism merges the individual into patters of total environment. Amateurism seeks the development of the total awareness of the individual and the critical awareness of the groundrules of society. The amateur can afford to lose. The professional tends to classify and to specialize, to accept uncritically the groundrules of the environment. The groundrules provided by the mass response of his colleagues serve as a pervasive environment of which he is contentedly unaware. The “expert” is the man who stays put.

On visual thinking:

Most people find it difficult to understand purely verbal concepts. They suspect the ear; they don’t trust it. In general we feel more secure when things are visible, when we can “see for ourselves.” We admonish children, for instance, to “believe only half of what they see, and nothing of what they hear.” All kinds of “shorthand systems of notation have been developed to help us see what we hear.

We employ visual and spatial metaphors for a great many everyday expressions. We insist on employing visual metaphors even when we refer to purely psychological states, such as tendency and duration. For instance, we say thereafter when we really mean thenafter, always when we mean at all times. We are so visually biased that we call our wisest men visionaries, or seers!

On copyright:

"Authorship"—in the sense we know it today, individual intellectual effort related to the book as an economic commodity—was practically unknown before the advent of print technology. Medieval scholars were indifferent to the precise identity of the "books" they studied. In turn they rarely signed even what was clearly their own. They were a humble service organization. Procuring texts was often a very tedious and time-consuming task. Many small texts were transmitted into volumes of miscellaneous content, very much like "jottings" in a scrapbook, and, in this transmission, authorship was often lost…

…Xerography—every man’s brain-picker—heralds the times of instant publishing. Anybody can now become both author and publisher. Take any books on any subject and custom-make your own book by simple xeroxing a chapter from this one, a chapter from that one—instant steal!

Rad book. Get it for $10 on Amazon →

(Images via Brain Pickings)

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