5 Things I Am Thinking About

A bunch of different clever types have been writing posts about the things they are thinking about right now. I am not that clever, but I’m also not finding the time to write about these things the way I want to.

(Some of the reason is also just that I don’t think anyone who reads my blog is going to be interested in everything this set of topics – any one of them might have two or three people who are interested, but that just means I’m going to be boring the crap out of the rest of you. So I don’t write this stuff up in full. I may start doing these 5things things monthly, though.)

1) Cognitive Surplus.
I read Clay Shirky’s new book (and his old one as well, as a matter of fact) a few weeks back, and I watched Jane McGonigal at TED a while back, and I know it’s obvious to any thinking human with a brain that collectively we have an unprecedented amount of spare time, and can collectively do amazing things with it, but I’m sometimes a little slow. At the moment, some of my spare brain time is devoted to quietly working out what I can do to help other people use their collective surplus time. And some more is devoted to actually helping some people to do that. A standing offer: if you have an idea for an interesting website that will make the world a better place (that is: not a personal website), and you have no idea how to go about making it, you can always talk to me. I might or might not be able to help, but even if I can’t, I can probably help you work out who can. (I’ll also happily talk to you about personal websites, but am much less likely to be interested enough to give up my spare time.)

2) Motivation
I also read Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational” – a book on cognitive psychology and behavioural economics, which was fascinating, and I’m thinking about ways I can apply its behavioural insights into both interface design, and, er, LARP design.

3) The Interconnectedness of All Things
After reading Shirky’s books, I read “Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism” by Natasha Walter. It struck me that one of the insights in Shirky’s book was applicable to some of the questions posed by Walters – both in regard of why teenage/young adult men and women behave the way they do, and in regard of the ways we need to think about bringing about cultural change. (Essentially that human nature doesn’t change – the young men and women of today *aren’t* more sexist or more exhibitionist than they were a generation or two ago, it’s just that the opportunities for and benefits/penalties of certain behaviours have changed – we shouldn’t be asking “why is this happening now?” we should be asking “why wasn’t it happening before?”) This, in turn, got me thinking about the ways ideas feed into one another, and about cross-disciplinary thinking and studying, and wondering how we can promote more of it.

4) The Windrush Generation
I’m just starting the serious research for some writing I may do (the books arrived today, I’ll probably go finish the first one when I’m done writing this). Playing back into the interconnectedness of all things, I’m currently wondering if I can do something with the gap between desire and opportunity that was faced by those early immigrants, and the gap between desire and opportunity that faces many young people (from all sorts of backgrounds) today.

5) Revamping The Publishing Process
One of the reasons that book publishing has not been (as badly) hit by NooMeeja as music/film publishing is that some of the skills required by the process (that have traditional been part of the publisher’s work) are much harder to automate/amateurise – the editorial role, both as copy editor, and as curator. If the editorial hurdle can be overcome, though, I think the curatorial one will naturally wither. I think I’ve come up with an idea that will not entirely eliminate the copy of copy editing, but could possibly reduce the amount of time required to copy edit a novel massively (by crowdsourcing it). No idea if it’s got legs, but I’m still batting it around in my head, trying to make it work alongside points 1,2 and 3. And point 4, actually, come to that.