Sunday, February 25, 2007

news and complexity theory

Where do we get ideas from? How do we comprehend news? And what role can design play in creating a fresh paradigm in our evolving news environ?

At the University of East London I was invited to a gathering
magic in complexity consisting of PHd and practicing media artists and designers, many connected with Smart Lab - a brilliant schollarly playground where ideas are transformed into a cacophony of practical devices.

It's easy for news managers to be cynical about "thinkers", particularly when much of what might be discussed falls outside their sphere of importance and indeed influence.

The theme of the event: magic in complexity. Complexity theory is a brand of science which studies behaviour and seeks to deconstruct events and attributes which may seem vacuous, but are held together by models. In effect, those who generate ideas upon ideas may well have found a suitable template that allows that, whilst many of us might just say: I'm not creative; not so.

Ant hill colonies, tele-infrastructures, online gaming particularly and the way we access info all fall into complex theories which the Smart Lab unravels.

I was invited to share my ideas on the Outernet - a place I'm convinced the world is heading to too soon. Stephen Spielberg's Minority Report gave us a glimpse.

However I was more fascinated with some of the themes evolving from the debates, which inturn got me thinking about news structures. Cast your mouse around and all the major video play sites e.g. Youtube, Myspace, Ifilm are following a trend - a database -library look and feel.

Then examine our behaviour on these sites. Marketers call it the customer pathway. What seems obvious is the emergence in a short period a dominant look and feel, which may well come to characterise television in the near future.

The design process is often viewed as something designers do when instead, design is all about the dissemination of information in a more ergonomic aesthetic way. Exception, designers tend to think in spatial terms ( the architecture and the information) while most news managers are concerned with the content.

It's a real road to damascus to suddenly realise how we might better equip ourselves for the never ending comms tasks ahead of us, when we consider how much complexity theory may help.

I've shot some film which I intend to package into a short item soon. Within that we'll hear from Alison Waugh, a PHD reasearching ideas and space.

Question: where and when do you get your ideas?
Answer says Alison - from her research th three Bs: bath, bed, and bus.

Water is an incredible stimulus - just being in the shower creates an environment for the translumination of ideas. I'll come back to that word in my video package. Being on a bus, movement, provides another haven for ideas. Ergot she says, that's why it's a good idea to have the cofee machine down the coriddor. Bed, those twilight periods of just waking up are a major stimulating place where the brain sorts out complex behaviour.

Bath? I said in my best BBC Radio Today's John Humphrey's voice. "Oh yes", she responded. You can here more of how to get stuuck into complexities in a week's time on

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