Hello again after a hiatus of some months. I hope you’ve been well. The process of writing this newsletter had become an exercise in blood-letting, so I stopped. I think I was holding it too tightly, without even knowing what I wanted it to be. And I was also knee-deep in project work. So from here on, I’ll write lighter. That’s all I can afford. Yet I have an inkling that a lighter method will allow as much idea refraction with half the effort. Let’s see.
The purpose of this letter is to explore what I’m thinking by writing it down. That’s it. I’m interested in trying to find the big picture by connecting the “inbetweens” with either my work or what I see within behaviours, culture, the internet’s graph mind, and so on. With that in mind, here’s a few fast thoughts…
Erik Hoel has invented a most perfect word to describe our appetite for novelty as a collective consciousness: supersensorium. “Enter the Supersensorium” is about stories as carbs — like carbs, stories were once scarce and are now ever abundant, at our fingertips. It’s a classic article, something you’ll keep referring back to. Here’s a few choice quotes.
We find ourselves strolling the aisles of a vast sensorium. … What had previously been accomplished for food through the distribution of supermarkets has now been done with experience itself.
Deprived of bottom-up input from the senses, dreaming seems to be the natural state of the brain … The connection between dream and wake is so close, in fact, that the transition to wake, if allowed to occur naturally and spontaneously in the absence of alarm clocks, is almost always from REM. It is like an already online consciousness gets off to a running start by swapping out random sources with real input from sensory organs.
Our hunger for stories helps us to practise dreaming of future circumstances we haven’t yet encountered. “dreams are the exercise of consciousness.”
…we’ve explored those horrific experiential landscapes, or ones close enough to them, in the safety of dreams. … Dreaming, then, isn’t about integrating new memories or processing the day’s events; it’s rather a necessary technique for ensuring a healthy waking consciousness, one that can navigate possible experiences.
Shamans, and then storytellers with their myths, and then poets, writers, directors—all external dream makers, producing superior artificial dreams.
Netflix, then, becomes a supersensorium—a bazaar of infinite dream stories—such that “the biological urge to dream the monomyth grows to eat the world.” You can summarise this Supersensorium epoch with this beautiful line:
…our now endless ways of telling “how she loved him”
In the end, if we wish to choose the stories we incorporate into ourselves, Hoel calls for personal aesthetics as the solution. Entertainment contains. Art expands.
In a world of infinite experience, it is the aesthete who is safest, not the ascetic. Abstinence will not work. The only cure for too much fiction is good fiction.
See also my short “Watching” notes below.
My half year review (only 2 months late). I wrote up a short, cathartic half-year review post. Context: I’m a designer who also codes because I think this is the best way to create tangible outcomes in websites. As a freelancer, it becomes easy to take on more work. Yet, especially because I already gave myself two jobs, it’s very easy to have too much to do. The trick I’m learning is to continually search for better people to work with, so I can do less with more focus.
I found myself in emotional agreement with Jim Antonopolous about the Creative Director being a dead duck. So I published my thoughts and experiences on the topic. The long and short of it is I think Creative Directors in this day and age are a wee bit useless if they don’t have digital literacy, and they should at least be familiar with what Information Theory is.
I’ve finally managed to fully replicate the Jekyll paradigm using Vue.js on my personal website. I was previously using Nuxt.js (which I use for most of my client projects) but I think blogging needs to be much lighter. Vuepress and Gridsome aren’t quite laser-focused on markdown—the essential writing file format in my opinion—or aren’t quite “blog aware” enough. I was frustrated for some months until I stumbled across the excellent Saber framework. So now my site is now exactly I’d wished: just a folder of markdown files with a Vue.js presentation layer. The repo is open-sourced here in all it’s 18 branches of graceless ageing.
In Alan Jacobs “Snakes & Ladders” newsletter, he always ends with a status board. I like it, so I’m stealing his idea:
- Reading: Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and his Emissary. The first few chapters were a slog through a huge number of examples which have set the foundations for his arguments that are emerging in Chapter 4. My friend Malcolm Ocean recommended this book as a good pair reading with David Deutsch’s Beginning of Infinity, and I second that. Both are titanic reads that offer new ways of understanding the world that, so far, I feel can be not only complementary, but perhaps revolutionary.
- Watching: Wife and I watched Sharp Objects in consecutive nights. The opening credits of each episode use the same images but to a different tune with quite some effect (“words you notice consciously, music is subtler”, as John Berger says). Along with Chernobyl, there’s been some excellent TV this year, but it’s also very difficult to filter through a steaming pile of you know what to find the worthwhile.
- Music: I forgot about this record until an old record mate asked if I knew about it. It’s a Desert Island Disc, plain and simple. I’ve also been listening to The Index and Dark again after some years. Listen to Dark’s “Live For Today” — driven by a smooth bass fueslage and shards of piercing guitars, how can a song start so sweet and become that beastly-heavy? And what became of the band? “Only the builder still has a copy”.
- Work: Working on a writing app that provides a way to reply to information without losing context. Should be interesting.
That’s a wrap. This one has been longer than intended, yet still done within my allotted hour. Expect less next week.
There is much to talk about. Ping me on twitter, or reply back to this email. Your thoughts, tangents, criticism and breakbeats are welcome.