Welcome, Members of Parliament

Welcome, Members of Parliament. This blog is designed to act as a student forum for anyone enrolled in my classes at a Dallas-area proprietary college, former students, and/or others who find our conversations interesting. The Parliament will be moderated to ensure civility and relevance. The directions we take, the paths we follow, and the concerns we address are all up to you.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Newest MacArthur Fellows

I don't imagine that many of my students are "tuning in" this week, but the Daily Good just hit my mailbox with a reminder that the newest batch of MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grants" have been awarded. Some of you probably have no idea of what I speak; if not, click the link.

The reason I mention them is that they represent the breadth and depth of creativity available in this country. The fellows include artists, writers, scientists, musicians, and all manner of creative folk. So, if you want to know what your education is helping to foster, these are the people you should be watching, rather than the latest pop-celebrity.

For an overview of the 2010 crop, go to Meet the 2010 Fellows and browse through their many, varied, and rather astonishing talents.

Here's a 2009 TED talk by a previous Fellow (2002), Bonnnie Bassler, from Princeton University, talking about how bacteria "talk" to each other:

The video's only 18 minutes long, and I promise you that watching it will make you smarter--and possibly jack up your creativity a little in the process.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Art, Science, Storytelling, and Life

I'm adding another TED lecture to your repertoire this week, namely one by Scott McCloud of Understanding Comics fame. Almost all of you should have encountered him by now, if not in your intro to design classes, or storyboarding, then in Writing II (or is it I?).

At any rate, I came upon it by accident when I was looking for TED lectures that might reference the Renaissance (one of the tags on the video, but not really referring to the actual period in art history). This turned out to be one of those wonderful moments of serendipity the web makes possible, because it's relevant to our class in several ways, even though it doesn't really have anything to do with the Renaissance.

One of the first things he does in his talk is to map out three kinds of vision: blind faith (things you believe in but can't see); stuff that's physically visible and thus manifest precisely because we can see it; and what's possible: what we can en-vision. These distinctions are useful, because they can help us talk about art through the ages, and begin to understand how people perceived art in different contexts.

Better yet are his principles for using vision: learn from everyone; follow no one; watch for pattern (where visions of the future begin to manifest themselves); work like hell.

Essentially what this leads to is a path toward innovation--making the new connections that make new stuff happen. In other words, it leads to creativity.

Later, in his discussion of the relationship between art and science, he notes a connection between vision and meaning that points directly to my lecture on the origins of writing: the rebus. Remember the rebus I showed you when we were talking about the origins of alphabets?

Well, this is a good example of the visual made audible--and the achievement of sound through vision. When you think about it, hieroglyphic writing systems depend on this marriage of the aural and the visual in order to make the transition that actually divorces sound from object.

One more thing: if you ever want confirmation that I'm not completely off my noodle about those infamous "rules of technological development," McCloud affirms at least one of them when he reminds us of the error Marshall McLuhan warned about: putting the content of new technology in the shape of the old. Or, according to Uhlmeyer's rule #312, "New technologies often follow the form of the old."

This video is longer than the previous one (about 17 minutes), so grab a snack and sit down for a few minutes. It's a bit dated (filmed in 2005), but quite enlightening nonetheless. Feel free to comment on interesting points you notice, or connections you make as a result of having watched.