Convalescence, the Internet and MOOCs

So, in between fever dreams over these past few flu-ravaged days I managed to miss work and my second Negotiations class with Misha Glouberman. Super choked as it was supposed to be a really excellent one where we would role-play a negotiations scenario and test our strategies. Alas, life and microbes had other plans for me.

However, thanks to the power of the internet I did manage to sign up for some awesome courses on Coursera, one of the key players in the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) movement. In a few days I’ll be starting my remote online course on, Foundations of Business Strategy taught by Michael J. Lennox, Samuel L. Slover Professor of Business, University of Virginia.

One of the benefits of being sick is that, in addition to feeling like hell, you have a lot of time to think. So what have I come up with? Well, gentle reader, I’ve decided (decisively!) that more is more – hence the MOOC courses (and whatever the hell else will end up on this blog). Who knows where this open education movement will take us. It’s exciting to be a part of this ongoing global experiment. My friend Vesna once said to me that, and I’m paraphrasing, there’s so much media to consume, but so little time. This is true of media and of life, but I wanna see and do it all so let’s get to it!

Harry Potter said it best, “We’ll take the lot!”…yes Harry, we WILL take the lot! LOL.

It’s not about running away. It’s TOTALLY about running away.

This weekend was exhausting, but in a good way. In addition to my unofficial, Toronto version of Cultivated Wit’s #whiskeyfriday (unofficial because it was really just a regular TGIF hangout session, super unofficial because I forgot to mention to the group that it was #whiskeyfriday), I went and checked out a film at the Canadian Art Foundation’s Reel Artists Film Festival at the TIFF Lightbox.

The documentary I saw was about photog. Alex Soth called, Somewhere to Disappear (directed by, Laure Flammarion & Arnaud Uyttenhove). The tag line for the film, “It’s not about running away, it’s about the desire to run away.” basically sums it up. I guess I was expecting a film that explores a romantic notion of escape – the flaneurs of the world losing themselves in vast expanses of space and time – dreams, cities and endlessly winding streets. This was not that.

It’s an interesting film though – slow, meandering, handheld, choppy. Somewhere to Disappear is a meditation on the desire to escape through a series of encounters orchestrated by Alex Soth as he travels around the U.S. is his minivan documenting various places of escape and the people who have effected their own escape.

The encounters that unfold are sometimes unsettling and often moving. On the one hand there’s the reality of (troubled) individuals who have chosen to foreswear society  for various reasons. On the other, there’s this artist who claims time and again that his project is not about actually escaping, only the idea of escaping. And yet, as the film ambles on the viewer gets the sense that Alex is himself on the cusp of disappearing.

As we follow him on his creative journey we are witnessing his actual escape into the world he constructs. You realize that although motivations for escape differ the end result is not romantic, rather, it’s lonely, isolating and ultimately that there may be no return.

Adhocracy NOW!

In the course of my morning routine of moping around until I find the perfect Songza playlist (today is Sunshine Indie Pop) I came across a new (at least for me) word – Adhocracy. Not only does it sound awesome, but there’s actually substance to its meaning. Once you read the wiki page for adhocracy, you’ll probably recognize a lot of its principles repeated in countless HR blogs and stuff you’d read about management and innovation on a daily basis on LinkedIn.

While the word is often used in theories of organizational management, I came across it because it was also the name of an exhibition for Istanbul Design Week (October 13 – December 12, 2012) that was showing at Galata Greek Primary School.

Exhibition view, Adhocracy. photo: flickr_Fablab Torino

Exhibition view, Adhocracy. photo: flickr_Fablab Torino

The spirit of adhocracy really resonates with me because it’s also what compelled me to start this blog and to revisit my creative practice. It’s process-driven, self reflexive, against bureaucracy and rigid structure, craft-based (as in artisanal, quality, opposition to mass produced), fluid and open. It’s an approach to work, and in the case of the exhibition – design, that while not altogether new is worth naming.

As Joseph Grima, co-curator of the Biennial notes, “Design is an act of observing, internalising, questioning and rethinking the prescribed responses to these queries, and thereby giving form to everyday life and collective space.”

So yes, adhocracy will be on my mind for the rest of the day…and hopefully something the Directors Collective will think on as we build something together.

Swoon from afar…

I’ve been monitoring Random International’s Rain Room at the Barbican Centre since it’s launch, secretly hoping that work, or personal life, would somehow contrive to send me to London. Alas, with 12 days left and counting it seems I’ll not be able to experience it for myself. Still, it’s one of the most innovative experiences I’ve seen in recent memory and trust me, I spend a LOT of time scanning the web for trends in visitor experiences.

I’ll sum up quickly what I think is most effective about Rain Room in three words: primordial, visceral, poetic. Random International takes something that we are all familiar with (rain) and makes it unexpected (ie – inside the Barbican Centre, and a rain that doesn’t make us wet). Conceptually simple, technically flawless. Perfection.

The Art of Talk

The day has just begun and already I’m mourning the end of this long weekend. But, it’s OK because tomorrow night is the first meeting of Misha Glouberman’s negotiation and communications course entitled, “How to Talk to People About Things”.

As an artist there’s nothing more comforting than taking a time-out from the constant banter of the world and locking yourself up in the studio. As a consultant, sometimes I have to talk whether I feel like it or not. I’m not often at a loss for words, but I’m def. looking forward to meeting some new people and learning some new ways of taking the art of conversation (and negotiation) to the next level.

The Globe and Mail recently interviewed Misha about the upcoming course. Check it out here.

Let’s all get happy with Stefan Sagmeister.

Took a break today from the slog to hit up the Design Exchange and Stefan Sagmeister’s The Happy Show. I wasn’t too sure what to expect. On the one hand, Sagmeister = automatic high expectations. On the other, a thematic show about happiness? Could go either way.

My friend probably summed it up best: “If it doesn’t make me happy I’m gonna punch Sagmeister in the throat!”

True to form it was a nicely designed show utilizing environmental graphics to full effect. It wasn’t so much a philosophical treatise on the nature of happiness (a good thing) as a light musing on the subject. Social scientific facts punctuated by Sagmeister’s perspective on work, creativity and what he’s learned about how to be happy. I think this exhibition will especially resonate with designers, artists and other creative types (I def. overheard a lot of murmurs of agreement), namely those who put their hearts on the line for a project/pay cheque.

It’s a good looking exhibit, there’s candy involved, and there’s a bike-powered interactive. Why the hell not? It runs until March 3, 2013.


We’re starting a Collective!

The Year of the Snake is off to an intense start (though equal amounts of intense activity and intense boredom). New art and research projects are on the go including this blog to track/manage and document the process of how everything unfolds.

One of the projects I’m most pumped about is The Directors Collective – an art making/gawking/designing/talking/eating/drinking/cycling/ironic-but-earnest thing involving myself and four others (more info. forthcoming). Will we seize 2013 by the proverbial horns and make some real shit happen? Will we lose interest in the notion of a Collective as has been the case for so many others? Who can tell? Maybe this guy.

One thing’s for certain – I’m about to be late to meet my fellow Directors to hash things out over a long drawn out session of DIM SUM! Stay tuned gentle reader.