Thursday, 11 February 2010

The wisdom of the micro

TED University, day 2. Jonathan Klein from Getty, "What makes a photograph? The viewer, not the photographer," interesting premise (like my favourite, the "Observer Principle" - your camera affects the situation in front of you, no way around it. This should be the basis of representation in documentary film and photography) but not enough new to make a huge impact. Klein misses the point. It's not about what image you choose to hang on your office wall, but how that picture was taken. He was speaking too much as a collector, not a photographer.

Cindy Gallop unveils a website that tracks micro-actions, define yourself by your actions rather than your words (no matter how small). A lot of talk about accountability in many talks here, micro-actions reminds me of Blippy (what are your friends buying?) that tracks every credit card purchase you make. A culture of full transparency and traceability. Thank you Tim Berners-Lee...

And thank you, Rob Cook, for arguing against the "singularity delusion". There will not come a time when computers overtake humans in intelligence. Why? Because we underestimate how much we don't know. As knowledge increases, so does volume of the unknown, so does uncertainty.

The incredibly talented and generous Robert Gupta brings us to tears with his story of teaching Nathaniel Ayers how to play the violin. "Music is medicine" he says, and I understand what he means. The guitar is my second therapist. Sing for my sanity.

I start drawing people on stage at the urging of Ann Willoughby - she explains switching between drawing and writing activates a left brain/right brain dialogue. It encourages creativity. I could do with more creativity lately.

Somewhere between day two and three, wondering why I'm beginning to feel increasingly alienated. Is it all this talk of success? It's a difficult word for me to hear lately. Is it the very American-nes of TED, the optimism, the support, the enthusiasm that London has somehow driven out of? What a state of affairs when optimism become alienating, but London you have done your job well, suppressing creativity and replacing optimism with fear. Anxieties. I start to consider how I might leave here and go back to London if I had to. Start to consider that I don't belong here. (Yes, this was in an email from Logan - "warning: you will likely feel like a fraud, like you don't belong. Don't listen to this voice in your head.")

I don't, in the end, look for a way to escape back to London. I stay with it after several hours. I force myself to get over the anxiety and fear. It's a powerful thing. I often try to dismiss it as an affectation, but it has more control over me than I have over it, a fact that I hate to admit but must, at times like these. Still, my challenge is to stay, to force myself to talk to people and learn from them because I know - despite how difficult it can be - that it's good for me. This isn't the place to slip into depression again. Not with so much optimism around. Not with Robert's violin and Cesar's smile and Kate's impish laugh and Tom's hand pulling me through a crowd to say hello to someone I simply must meet.

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