James Webb Young's " technique for producing ideas"

1. "Browsing" You submerge yourself in the detail of the subject your dealing with, with no attempt to form it into any kind of story. This is the first hurdle at which most projects fail. Young says: "gathering raw material... is such a terrible chore that we are constantly trying to dodge it. The time that oughtl to be spent in material gathering is spent in wool gathering. Instead of working systematically at the job of gathering raw material we sit around hoping for inspiration to strike us. When we do that we are trying to get the mind to take the fourth step in the idea producing process while we dodge the proceedings steps." Remember the importance of " physical thinking": find, and handle if possible, the actual things you're talking about, go to the places where they are used, go and talk to people who know about them - on their territory, not yours: People's environments are rich in information.

2. "Chewing it over". you tried to wrestle this material into some kind of an answer. You search the patterns, trying one piece of information against another. Young observes that: " you feel the information all over, as it were, with the tentacles of your mind." You jot down any ideas that come to you - however weird or embarrassingly weak they may seem. Eventually, you reach a brick wall (but this is where the professionalism comes in: like the long distance runner, the professional creative keeps on going till he or she really hits the wall).

3."Incubation". you walk away from it and do something else entirely, to give your unconscious mind the chance to do its stuff. Preferably (and this is interesting) do something that will stimulate your emotions. His example is Sherlock Holmes, who would drag Watson off to a concert, just when the case seemed to be most in need of decisive action.

4. "Illumination," or the " bolt from the blue". you come back to your desk and the idea hits you," out of nowhere." as long as you've faithfully performed the preceding three tasks to the best of your ability, this will happen.

5 "Verification." "in this stage", says young, " you had to take your little new-born idea out into the world of reality." you had to show it to people. Often, you find that it isn't as great as you thought, but other times," a surprising thing will happen. You will find that a good idea has, as it were, self expanding qualities. It stimulates those who see it to add to it. Thus possibilities in it which you have overlooked will come to light."

P 160 -161

this way of working seems very relevant to me, and to this project. The flash of creative inspiration comes after immersion. To a casual observer my art lessons may seem to waste time - I do not work to a tight plan, there is a lot of time were students can just sit around, play, create very little - but the creative work that emerges at the end of this process is the more creative for this I am sure.

Emotion is a tricky thing to bring into a business meeting but -- as the Buddhists say -- 90% of what we consider rational thought is rationalised emotion. We all know very well that disregarding people's emotions usually leads to disaster. Art is nothing without emotion. Most educators agree that engagement of emotion is vital to learning. Science is now proving that these claims are if anything too modest.

P 167

If my students are happy, they are going to be more productive and more creative, I can not coerce creative work from them, nor should they be at work as a response to fear, how creative could that work be?

Play seems to be a matter of exploring " possibility spaces"

Play, in the pure sense of simply controlling and manipulating things, in a safe environment, and no particular purpose, is crucially important that humans. For a very good explanation of this, see child psychologist Donald Winnicott's Playing with Reality: he treated many people who had been deprived of play as children and consequently became unhappy, dysfunctional adults. Play restored them. Many believe there is far too little outlet the playfulness pure and simple in the adult world, and always has been. Many people also believe that the computer is an ideal remedy. Ted Nelson says: " if the computer is a universal control system, let's give kids universes to control." (Dream Machines, p.131) " Pointless Playthings" are not as easy to create as you might think -- which may explain why there are so few of them around. Also, in this serious world of ours it is very hard to make a commercial case for things that are simply for playing with -- it has to be an accompaniment to something " serious" . Even children's software has a serious agenda: teach them basic math, or reading.

P 171

I really like the idea of ‘possibility space. I believe that this is what I am attempting to create - my classroom becomes a ‘possibility space’ in which creativity can flourish. I also like the premise of play for the sake of play. Children can be very cruel, they will sense weakness, the rule of the mob is close to the surface, as is a deep sense of what is unfair. I would like to be mistaken for a human being, in my classroom, depending on humanity, rather than depending too heavily on a structure of discipline.

" Pure fun blockbusters" are rare, but non-commercial examples are plentiful. All that they seem to lack is commercial justification: many of them offer " brief encounters" that are enjoyed and fully explored in minutes: they do not justify a whole CD-ROM. And their " used benefits" are not obvious -- even though they are so powerfully justified by mind science.

This put me in mind of the current craze for inane iPhone apps, such as ‘iPint and iFart. pointless but fun ‘one liners’ that have to be shared to be effective. I have a memory of sitting in a pub with the apple crew, before Apple had published it’s SDK, with Apple staff passing a ‘cracked’ phone around, with a copy of ‘iVibrate. Much laughter. I would like to my lessons to be punctuated with much laughter too.

May be " delivery media" is the problem here. We need media that allow small things to be distributed cheaply, yet profitably. This is, maybe, where the web and "micro-cash" will help. Ted Nelson's "Xanadu" ... would be the ideal delivery medium.

and Apple’s iTunes and App store have provided a workable manifestation of this

From theatre to carnival --Mikhail Bakhtin's "Dialogic Imagination"

it is also an idea that can help us think more clearly about many other things -- not just computers -- and it has deep roots. As often, there found in the Russia of the 1920s, where a remarkable literary scholar called Mikhail Bakhtin formulated his now influential theory of "carnival" and "multi-voiced texts" (called "hetroglossia" in English, by his translators) Bakhtin's ideas can sound almost mystical but in fact he is no more a mystic than Joseph LeDoux is, which is to say he looks at hard, verifiable evidence -- in his case, in novels.

In a book of essays called The Dialogic Imagination Bakhtin shows that novel is not just one person's voice, but a riot of different voices, drawn from the entire culture in which the author lived -- from its remotest past to the living present. Authorship is more what we would now call a " collage" activity than a solitary, painful process of invention. The pleasure and power of authorship come from:

The possibility of employing on the plane of a single work discourses of various types, with all their expressive capacities intact, without reducing them to a single denominator. (Problems of Dostoyevsky's Poetics) and: The prose artist the world is full of other people's words... He works with the very rich verbal palette. (Ibid.)

Bakhtin Then argues that our whole culture is created by this " accumulation" and " recycling" process where, with each generation, new voices, commenting on each other, referring to each other, mocking each other, are added to the " rich palette" available to the next. In this way " mind" evolves, we free ourselves from the past, and are able to think new thoughts. Interesting, how near this is to Richard Gregory's ideas!

The " rich palette" is not just a textual one. We can see a whole environment this way. It is all " heritage," and it is meant to be used. Life is a carnival - and the dead are just as much a part of it is the living.

Bakhtin didn't know anything about computers (he spent much of his life in exile in Kazakhstan and southern Russia) but his way of looking at things is a gift to workers in the computer-medium.

This is the ultimate " multi-voiced" or " collage" medium, and it puts vast realms of " heritage" at our fingertips. This is like what Vannevar Bush had in mind -- and then some. It's also like what Ted Nelson has in mind at Xanadu- and adds great step to Brenda Laurel's idea of the " computer as community."

What you create is a carnival, and being here is often participation enough.


This quote rings true in relation the project in the park, pervasive media, and the playing of games, collecting, and the history of the gardens, I particularly like the last sentence. I make no great claims for the work that I am doing, but notions of collage, multiple voices and community all seemed very salient.

Norman's work on " natural affordances" has led some thoughtless people to take interface design a blind alley by assuming that we had to use " real world" objects, with well-known " affordances," in computer interfaces.

The Apple " Desktop Metaphor" has unintentionally provided ammunition of this view. Its success led many people to believe that " real world metaphors" are the be all and end all of computer interface design. It is assumed that people will not be able to understand what's going on on the screen, unless it's represented by some familiar, friendly item from the " real world."


As usual, Ted Nelson putted really well ages ago. He wrote this back in 1989 (the italics are his):

The metaphor becomes a dead weight. Once the metaphor is instituted, every related function has to become a part of it.


these quotes are very relevant to the work that I am doing on my school website, that relies very heavily on an arty metaphor, with paper, background, hand written like font, and various artistic implements as buttons. All this is an attempt to draw students to the site, as ‘real’ as a cartoon, and none the less for that, but indeed a dead weight attempting to maintain the illusion.

The concept of " information space" is absolutely fundamental. The human mind seems to have evolved finding our way around places. We can never see the places in their entirety so we make internal models of them, which we then referred to, adjust, etc. - largely unconsciously. Our " Spatial modelling software" is so fundamental that it gets applied to just about everything we encounter -- including multimedia applications. Good applications turn this powerful " software" to advantage, carelessly designed ones make it crash.


and this concept extends to include virtual space.

How short is the shortest possible narrative ? Apparently, somewhere between 15 milliseconds and about three seconds. Under 50 ms, events simply don't make it into consciousness... the Czech poet and scientist Miroslav Holub calls this timespan " duration of the present."

Why is this important? Because in interactive media the most obvious action is precisely in the sub-three-second domain: the way things respond to the user's actions, screen transitions and made, and information is fed back to the user.


A multimedia application is a bit like life: there is lots of it. You may be able to explore the information it contains by thousands of roots, of unpredictable lengths. Is it possible to design systems in such a way that whatever route to the user takes, and whatever its duration, it will have the characteristics of a good story: a beginning, a middle, and an end, with some delight provided? Is this an impossible goal?


When we make things, we focus consciously on getting the job done. Getting it done interestingly is every bit as important to human beings: makers and users alike.

P. 207

A good landscape has a distinctive " overall shape." there is no single " right shape" - but its shape tends to recur in tiny features as well as large ones. Hence, even a brief, easy stroll gives you a sense of " having been there."

The quotes above relate well to the creation of interactive and on line media - hyper text - the ability of a button to take you instantly from one place to another, that can be a higly pleasurable and rewarding journey, or a source of confusion and frustration, depending on how well the site is designed.


climbers don't bother with mountains that offer no challenge; new technology (new kinds of " protection", for example) make things safer -- but people respond by opening up harder routes. At the same time, you never take on bigger challenges than you can deal with. The criteria seems to be: do something that seems impossible, feel certain that it is do-able -- and carefully, logically restrict the possible damage if it isn't.

P 225

Do something that seems impossible, but with a safety net. Unfortunately, creating the safety net is often the most time consuming part of the project.

" people tend to imbue their managers with the powers of their parents," says Jim McCarthy. This is not surprising because creative work in childhood play have a lot in common, and both are very serious matters.

P 235

Stressed behaviour has a well understood neurological basis: stress hormones inhibit a person's conscious brain processes, and stimulate ingrained, unconscious, emotional ones. If that person is in any way fearful (and just about everybody is) they will react fearfully to every novel thing you do. They may constantly challenge, inspect, and try to control you -- as inadequate parents do -- or retreat into their private nightmare world, fiddle compulsively with their Gantt charts, and be neither use nor ornament. When we accused them of behaving childishly we are technically correct -- these emotional, unconscious behaviours are laid down in childhood. It is vital to suppress the urge to mockery or rebellion, which can only make them desperate. Short term, their desperation can wreck a project; long-term it makes them physically ill.

P 235

Both of the above I read during a very stressed confrontation at work.