Spaceman

I’m looking for a new outlet. A new way to communicate. A new form, style, point of view. I’m looking for more space.

Writing a blog is not like writing a book. It’s a process. There’s no definition of done, no deadline. So it tends to shift shape as you go. Read a couple of my early posts, then read a couple of the more recent ones. I think my writing is snappier now, but the topics have changed too.

The shape-shifts take time and tend to emerge gradually. A blog is the sum of its posts. Over time more and more posts accrue of a certain type or on a certain topic, and that accretion defines the direction the blog has taken in the past.

But it also defines the direction that the blog will take in the immediate future. The accretion of types and topics sets the vector for the blog – its trajectory.

I do intervene periodically if I’m unhappy with the trajectory; e.g. my recent decision to write more short-form posts. But the combination of these gradual shifts in trajectory + my occasional interventions is unlikely to bring about a radical change of direction. The process of accretion defines a directional spectrum which limits the degree to which the blog can change course at any given moment, or even over a given period.

So this post is an attempt to shift direction more radically. I don’t find this blog as creatively fulfilling as I want to. And I feel a tension between privacy and revelation: the most powerful posts are the ones in which I turn myself inside-out, but there are some people with whom I am uncomfortable sharing those stories, and (since I am naturally rather shy and prefer to be self-effacing), my personal stories tend towards sadness rather than celebration.

Time to slow down. I’ll post less, and experiment more.

So this post marks a hiatus; and perhaps an end to this blog in its current form.

It also means a new beginning, both for this blog and – perhaps – for a fresh project.

What does the next version of this blog look like?

The answer will lie in the trajectory of the next set of posts.

To-do lists

In a world of to-do lists, the hardest thing is to ignore them all.

Us and the Universe

We are the universe experiencing itself

–Carl Sagan

So, what did you do this weekend?

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Image from Nick Sagan’s blog. Happy All Hallow’s Eve!

The rest is bullshit and you know it

Opening lines to Mean Streets (1973), read by the film’s director, Martin Scorsese:

You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it.

 

Bergkamp on control

Splendid interview in The Times on Saturday with Dennis Bergkamp, an absolutely sublime footballer.

What Bergkamp cared most about wasn’t scoring goals.

He cared about control. Beautiful control might lead to a goal – but without the control, there could have been no goal.

He took delight in the process. Sometimes that is hard to do.

Slides: How Data Can Make You More Creative

Slides from a talk I gave to the 3rd-year media students at Regent’s University in London a few days ago. Lots of examples from TV and from my own experience.

Aim is to offer advice to anyone who is working in / wants to work in a creative industry.

In short, data is important.

Mishit

My big chance! And I messed it up.

I was ten and at the county tennis trials. All the kids were lined up on the side of the court.

“Bounce the ball across these three courts, turn round when you reach the fence, then come back.

“But you can’t use the strings. You have to bounce it with the edge of the racket, on the side of the frame”.

Uh-oh. Never done this before.

“Ok – go!”

The other kids threw down their tennis balls and started bouncing them across the the courts.

I dropped mine, twisted my racket on its side, and tried to knock the ball down and forwards so that I could set off too.

Ding! My ball hit an edge on my racket and shot off to the left.

I chased it, grabbed it, and tried again.

Bing! This time I’d hit it squarely but too far back on the frame – it bounced back into my stomach.

The other kids had already crossed the first court.

Ok, and again – thock! I caught it too far forward on the frame and the ball whizzed ahead of me up the court. Phew, at least now I could move off the starting line.

The charade continued for what felt like an hour until someone merciful called a halt. I hadn’t yet made the fence, never mind turned around and come back.

Twenty years later, I still feel embarrassed about it.

You can’t prepare for everything, and you won’t always have the talent to wing it first time.

But that’s ok. I can bounce the ball with the side of the racket now.

I got there in the end.

Changing normality

Being messed around in a relationship is normal, until you meet someone you love and who loves you back.

Being in a job you hate is normal, until you find a job that’s interesting and fun.

Being in a miserable flat in a crappy area is normal, until you find a place you call home.

What’s normal changes – faster or slower, sooner or later.

LAUNCH – mediademic

I am a time traveller!

I went to an academic conference this summer and it was like going back to 2010. All the talk was of cookies, CRM, and targeted advertising… academic discourse can be little behind the times.

But there is loads of really interesting stuff to be found in academia too – like the journal article that helped me understand the strange user acquisition patterns in Scoreboard, and the quote I found in another article about Norwegians who liked to text in to TV shows that told me something new about viewers’ motivations.

And while I don’t want to be a full-time academic, I don’t want to be a full-time industry worker either if it means I don’t get to do academia too.

So I’ve decided to try to bridge the gap. I taught a course at a university last year, did a bunch of one-off lectures, and wrote an article that I hope will soon be published in a journal. But that isn’t quite enough – so I’m starting a new blog alongside this one.

It’s called mediademic – i.e. media + academia. In each post I look at something academic – an article, an essay, an idea – and analyse it in the context of my own experience in industry.

Academia offers depth and complexity, but sometimes it is dangerously disconnected from industry. Life in the media industry is fun and moves fast, but it can be difficult to see longer-term patterns or to think more deeply about what you’re working on.

Mediademic is my attempt to bridge the gap between the theory and the practice. I hope to do so in way that illuminates a little of both.

We’ll see :)

Check it out now – nine posts up so far – at mediademicblog.com

Monk-ey business

The bones of four thousand dead friars line the walls of this Capuchin Crypt in Rome.

They want to remind visitors of the brevity of life on Earth:

We were like you once. Soon you will be like us.

Cheery stuff, thanks lads! There’s lots of this kind of thing around – ‘Do it now, don’t wait’ / ‘Carpe diem’ / ‘YOLO baby!’.

It’s easy to scoff, because scoffing is easier than acknowledging it’s true. Tick-tock, time keeps marching on. Time never comes to an end, but you and I will.

The consequences of embracing this idea are unsettling: every second is precious, so every second is under pressure.

But this quickly becomes impractical. This had better be the best shit of my life!

The feeling of living on limited time might put getting older into perspective. Those years ain’t coming back, and my inevitable demise draws ever nearer.

But in the past month I’ve started a new blog, had a mad idea for a pizza festival, and put my name to a funding proposal for a digital history project at a London university.

So long as things like that keep happening, you’re all good. It’s only when they stop that you notice the time passing.

Today’s my 30th birthday. Can’t hear a ticking sound just yet…

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