I've just got back from the Steven Johnson and Brian Eno thing at the ICA. It'll be a very blogged event, the London twitterati were all there, and this'll be the picture everyone'll have. (Except they'll be better because I was at the back, shooting it with my phone.) It was really good. Entertaining and stimulating. And I suspect every blog will have a completely different refraction of the story, because of the range of stuff discussed. One of the dynamics in the room was the division between people who wanted to think about living in cities and the people who wanted to think about living in their computers.
So I thought I'd offer my little tangents by referring to the three things I noted on my phone:
Steven Johnson talked about John Snow as a typical Victorian amateur dabbler. Which struck a chord with me. It's another definition of the creative generalist. Someone who's interested in all sorts of things, the arts and the science. And he talked about the idea of consilience and how John Snow was able to think at all sorts of different scales about the problem of cholera - the microbial one (sort of, they couldn't really see germs then), the human one (he was trained as a physician) and the societal one (he could see and understand the effects on the city as a whole). This is a good thought. Because I bet a lot of the stuff we make that's no good; whether it's an actual product or a media product (like a brand) is no good because we've only thought about it at a single scale. We've only thought at a product level, or a target audience level or at a cultural level. But we've not hopped about from one scale to another. Whereas I be the stuff that actually works well is made by people who can naturally integrate all these different scales - individual, audience, culture. Just a thought.
When talking about the rise of the city, and of city-based social identities Mr Johnson also discussed the period after 9/11 in New York where there was a desire to make some kind of statement of solidarity but not exactly national patriotism. People didn't want to fly the stars and stripes but they wanted to fly some kind of New York flag. And I instantly felt like I'd like to fly a London flag. (And a Derby flag). Is there a London flag? There must be but I don't know what it is. Wouldn't it be good if there was a London flag we actually cared about? Must get one in time for the Olympics.
This is me paraphrasing Brian Eno paraphrasing Danny Hillis. But it's good isn't it? That resonates with me. (The quote direct from the man's mouth is here.)