It’s taken a few days for my hippocampus to process and tag all the choice nuggets shared during Interesting2008. And during that short time, stories from the day are already infusing the internet. Russell Davies (Interesting’s instigator) suggested the day would offer ‘guides to interestingness’. It certainly did that – and I’m still revisiting the places the 30-odd speakers guided me to.
Stories were told, not so much for meaning, as for possibility, and providing new perspectives. Like Daniel Raven Ellison‘s illustrations of the world map – moving away from a traditional depiction of landmass to representation of countries based on their ecological footprint. He explained that Salisbury’s ecological footprint is larger than Greater London, and that our present consumption rates mean we are exhausting at least 2.5 planets’ worth of resources. One explanation for this is our emotional and physical distance from the actual consequences of our excesses.
There were echoes of those themes in Matt Webb‘s inglorious tale about the Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia. Apparently, the Patagonian civilisation was moved towards great sophistication due to its science of optics. When vast mirrored spheres were raised over the giant edifice which comprised the legendary Library of Patagonia, people scattered smaller spheres outside windows and inside rooms, so they could view every mirroed piece of text, making the library visible from any point in the country. Effectively, cities and villages were connected through those lenses.
The imagery of this story hooked me, and I found myself wanting it to be true, even if there are some physical impossibilities to do with defraction. Of course, there’s always the reality of the internet and social network theory – not quite so mythical, but a clear metaphorical reflection of the network of spheres! Matt’s thoughts (written up in 2003) dovetail so well with ideas of perspective and distance:
“Can we ever learn to see as others do, and how many alternative ways have we destroyed in our reckless expansion and desire to observe? … We have much to understand. We have much to contemplate.”
Then Steve Hardy introduced the ‘creative generalist’. Someone interested in everything;a connector with eclectic curiosity. These people have a foot in so many different worlds they have the effect of bringing them together. (That sounds very much like the power of weak ties.) Someone with experience and empathy – which brings us back to perspectives and perception – about people, behaviour and motivations. In other words, being genuinely interested in other people’s points of reference.
After so many words, Jim Le Fevre titilated us with these fabulous images of little people doing their ‘things’:
I suppose it’s no coincidence that Penguin was giving away copies of “The Black Swan” during the day. I don’t know if Russell is an ornithologist, but he certainly does know how to bring about a rare event! (Thanks a mill Cybersoc for the ticket!)