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A bit back I was made aware by the ever-curious Grant McCracken of his latest project on culture entitled “Culturematics.” Culturematics are “little machines for making culture.” And while not actually small industrial devices, culturematics are nevertheless “ingenuity engines.”

Grant had developed a blog for people to post their newly minted culturematics: quick, inexpensive prototypes of ideas that are likely to fail, but that just might take off and get picked up by people and become part of our cultural milieu. By sharing ideas, the jist is that these ideas will evolve quickly. Many ideas will not be picked up and die off. But a few are likely to be adopted, and transformed in the process through iterative innovation into something that has the possibility of making its mark, or better still, transforming society, i.e., an “app for creating the world anew.”

In today’s fast and furious world, culturematics give one the opportunity to either take the reins and lead the charge in the creation of their own culturematic or at least participate in the process and contribute to one’s development.

In the end, while you may not create the next Google or Starbucks, Grant allows us to participate in the mysterious process of innovation. If nothing else, it will stir one’s curiosity and allow you to dip into a creative pool of interesting people. Fun and relevant.

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Forget the aesthetic of 180-gram vinyl. So yesterday on yesteryear. And nevermind the Internet when it comes to co-creation and consumer ownership of the creative process. The ultimate music aficionado and audio cultural curator is (still) the master of the mix tape. Yup, the cassette. Never has there been a sign of personal affection and affinity for one’s friends and loved ones than taking the time to blend them a mix tape. It take a lot of thought and even more time. It’s a creative pursuit that aurally profiles one’s persona.

And never has there been more of a resurgence of casette-focused labels than today. Just check out: GoldTimers, Hyperdelic, and Retrograde Tapes to start. And of course the granddaddy of them all, ROIR, who’s been issuing cassettes for over thirty years.

Where unfettered creativity still percolates two standard deviations out, and out of view from most. Personal creativity, created alone, shared with another, small group of friends, or like-minded aficionados.

Yesteryear’s castoffs become our cheap tools to craft new and evocative expression. The personal. The building blocks of aural culture. Like today’s fashion designers surreptitiously trolling vintage stores, picking over yesterday for tomorrow’s haute couture, later reconstituted for the H&M and Target racks.

They never left us, we just think we keep leaving them.

It’s that dead week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and here I am at the office. Trying to work (promise), but having a really hard time staying focused on the tasks at hand what with all the thoughts of champagne, crackers, and long weekends dancing through my head.

As it turns out, this is not necessarily a bad thing. A recent study issued by the Chinese Academy of Sciences indicates that daydreaming has a beneficial effect on the brain’s ability to forge disparate neural connections and possibly contributes to higher IQs. As Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide, puts it, “It turns out that cultivating an active idle mind, or teaching yourself how to daydream effectively, might actually encourage the sort of long-range neural connections that make us smart.” Because such flights of fancy – often unrealistic, even ridiculous – increase communication between remote areas of the brain, they lead to a generally greater level of activity incorporating richer and more diverse synaptic ‘conversation’.

On a related front, another recently completed study from Harvard University established a connection between a person’s freedom to mentally drift and their emotional state. Participants were asked to report upon the various activities they engaged in during their waking hours, to what extent it was necessary to focus on that particular activity, and a corresponding rate of happiness at that point in time. The study found that the more room participants’ minds had to wander, the happier they reported feeling.

When considered in tandem with our culture – with its great emphasis on efficiency and productivity (the early bird gets the worm; early to bed, early to rise; and so on) – it seems that daydreaming is getting short shrift. Contemplation is not indolence. And besides, our service- and idea-based economy relies inherently on the inspired creativity of leaders. The ability to conceptualize elegant,  unexpected, and even obscure combinations or recombinations is a driver of our economic engine. So, altogether now – Get up. Get out. And do…nothing. Except maybe contemplate the sidewalk, or consider whether that fern really does look like your Aunt Bertie. Feels good, doesn’t it?

This image of a quote transcribed from a 2004 Jim Jarmusch interview has been circulating online for a couple of weeks, but it’s lingered in my mind. Thought I’d join in the stealing and sharing…

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