Cultivate curiosity.
Create possibility.

Design-Observer’s One Voice. One Idea. One Minute. New Podcast Insights Per Minute.

Unknown-2A few weeks ago, The Design Observer Group debuted a new podcast series: Insights Per Minute.

The show features thinkers who share their ideas for 60 seconds on a chosen topic. Design Observer believes this is a powerful format for new, uncluttered insight.

As is often the case, the insights that are shared seem to come out of questioning assumptions about the states of various things, thus creating the opportunity to see things in new ways.

The show is so interesting, and indeed, insightful, that we wanted to follow it, and include it in our philosophical, therapeutic meanderings about possibility. So, each week we will summarize the 60 seconds of insight we hear on the podcast. If you find it interesting, perhaps you will listen too.

And maybe you can add to the discussion by leaving a comment below. We hope after each 60 seconds, we will have more, and new questions to ask, and spark our curiosity and yours.

What would you share if you had only 60 seconds to help someone see anew?

Here is the starting lineup:

Jessica Helfand on Brevity

Helfand begins her 60 seconds on brevity by asking: what ever happened to shorthand? The long since left, time saving gimmick that made us feel so helplessly modern? The desire for brevity predates secretarial efficiencies—Cicero, Martin Luther, Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway—all talked about it. But brevity isn’t enough anymore. Now, something meaningful has to happen in 140 characters, 6 seconds of video—60 seconds of a podcast.

Brevity seems to be getting more and more brief—what she calls a cultural epidemic of impatience. She reminds us that just because you can be extremely brief with all of today’s technology and social norms, doesn’t mean you have to. She says, “Just because you have to go short, doesn’t mean you can’t go deep.”

Helfand brings the soul to our attention, and the mysterious human qualities that separate people from the mechanized efficiency of so many brevity-embracing apps.

She leaves us with a very compelling question: “What are we really doing with all that saved time?”

Rob Walker on Seeing

Rob Walker begins his 60 seconds by referencing an article by New York Times technology writer Nick Bilton wherein the redesign of Flickr was critiqued. Bilton complained that the new design wasn’t social enough. Users couldn’t immediately see how many followers each Flickr account had. Without seeing how many followers these photos have, how is one supposed to know who is worth following?

Walker asks, do people filter their TV viewing through the Nielsen ratings? Do they decide what book to read after researching book sales data?

Walker’s suggestion is this: If you are exploring Flickr, the only signal you need in order to determine if something is worth following is the photographs. Look at the photographs.

Walker ends his 60 seconds by saying, “What the crowd thinks should be the last thing on your mind. If you like what you see, you’ve found something worth seeing. “

Ralph Caplan on Titles

Ralph Caplan says that when people ask, “what do you do?” it is almost never the question that they want to ask. He says what they really want to know is “what are you called?” They want a label. He suggests that if you aren’t in a talkative mood, to claim a profession unlikely to be related to their own lives. He warns against Marriage Counselor (they’ll tell you about their marriage) or Mathematician (they’ve confess flunking math in the 10th grade). Caplan says it’s better to say you are a Theoretical Physicist. This can serve as an excellent conversation stopper so that you can peacefully enjoy your drink, or relax  in silence.

In his 60 seconds, Caplan manages to convey the frivolity of titles, and give a humorous (and perhaps a bit snarky) lesson on how to use them to your advantage.

Nicholas Christakis on Networks

Nicholas A. Christakis has an interesting take on groups. He points out that how people are connected gives those people special properties—properties not present to each as an individual, nor reductive to the individuals. You can take a group of people and connect them one way, and they are able to do particular things and you can connect them another way and they are able to do different sorts of things. To his eye, social networks are like carbon. You can take carbon atoms and connect them one way, and you get graphite, which is soft and dark—or another way and you get diamond, which is hard and clear. Just like carbon, how you connect people together determines the properties of the group.

We at The Possibility Practice are big fans of groups because the interplay between and among people creates exponential possibilities for who you can become.

Alice Twemlow on Home

Alice Twemlow left home in England fifteen years ago and headed for New York. Despite her job here, American husband, son, and friends—she still feels like an outsider on certain levels. Yet, traveling to England makes her feel as though she is a visitor. Where is home?

Twemlow believes home is not a binary choice between one’s place of birth and one’s current address. It’s a shifting kaleidoscope of experiences, quickly accessed through air travel.

When seeking to understand what home is, Twemlow  feels an affinity toward Philip Hoare’s definition as read in, “The Sea Inside.” He writes, There’s no such thing as home, and we live there, you and me.”

Ricky Jay on Collecting

Ricky Jay is a collector. He asks, what criteria does one use when adding to collection? How far is one willing to stretch when an irresistible urge to own another item arises?

Jay references a purchase he made to offer insight into the mind of a collector. It was a sheet titled, “To the Curious: The Word Scissors Appears Capable of More Variations in the Spelling of Any Other.” It was from the 1830s and included 480 ways to spell one word.

Why did he buy this, not being particularly interested in orthography? Turns out is was the absurdly humorous description given by the bookseller.

He’s since lost it. He’s not interested in locating it, but rather is content with the fact that it will give him great joy when it turns up again.

My sense is that collectors have an exorbitant amount of curiosity.

In 60 Seconds future podcasts listed below:

Wendy MacLeod on Fasting

Having never been a monk or a model, Wendy hadn’t fasted until age 50 when facing her first colonoscopy. The hunger and headaches were the least of it. The true sacrifice was structure.

How do you shape your days without the punctuation of meals? Dusk is depressing enough without the promise of supper. The night before her colonoscopy, watching her husband eat felt like looking from the River Styx at the land. She believes meals offer more than fellowship, “they are the high points of our days.”

Do you agree?

John Maeda on Loops

John Maeda leads us through the progression of technology he has owned starting with his first computer in 1980. The progression of each device was similar—starting with text, to images, to CD quality music, to watching videos. He references Moore’s Law, a law that states processing power doubles every eighteen months—which means that technology has grown at leaps and bounds. He believes that where culture lags, art and design have to pick up the slack.

John Maeda says that art and design must evolve in tune with the speed of this age.

Joanna Radin on Potential

Joanna Radin spends 50 seconds of her minute sharing a list of things such as, the detection of doping, the African origins of AIDS, therapies for Sickle Cell & other forms of anemia, genetic genealogy, the vaccine for Hepatitis B, the inheritance of complex traits like diabetes, hormone therapy… the list goes on. Here’s what Joanna wants us to know: “Each of these ideas has depended in some way on freezers full of human blood.”

Marvin Heiferman on Photographs

Marvin Heiferman explains that tidy narratives about photography are impossible to construct. There are multitudes of people taking pictures for multitudes of reasons. That’s what makes photography fascinating—and unruly. It makes us greedy to see more pictures. We make a billion more pictures every day, any one of which can span the globe in seconds, as well as any number of startling pictures that are being made of us. As photography is being transformed—so are our relationships with reality and with each other.

Heiferman believes we need to do now in museums, at home, in schools, with our kids, is rethink what photographs are and what they do. As photography changes, the conversation about photography should change too.

Their next series will include Mark Lamster, Thomas Fischer, Chip Kidd, David Womack, John Foster and Sandy McClatchy, among others.

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Karen Steinberg