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{ Rethinking Resilience, Part III } Falling into Traps

arcade claw game

Don’t Fall For Them

One of the sources of un-resilient thinking is our natural tendency to make inductions — that is, to reach general conclusions based on specific instances.

In many instances, induction is a useful form of reasoning: it helps us determine, for example, that a seemingly threatening situation is in fact dangerous and ought to be avoided in the future.

But in the case of adversity, our reliance on induction can lead to overwrought and inaccurate interpretations of difficult situations.

In The Resilience Factor, a 2006 book that I began to unpack in my last post, psychologists Andrew Shatté and Karen Reivich share Aaron Beck’s research on common “thinking traps” — cognitive shortcuts that we may not even be aware we are making.

The un-resilient and inaccurate beliefs we sometimes have when faced with an adversity (remember the ABC sequence of Adversity – Belief – Consequences?) occur because we’ve fallen into one of eight cognitive traps:

1. Jumping to Conclusions, ie, making assumptions without the relevant data

2. Tunnel Vision, ie, ignoring favorable feedback and seeing only the negative aspects of a situation

3. Magnifying and Minimizing, ie, emphasizing the negative aspects of a situation and de-emphasizing the positive ones

4. Personalizing, ie, reflexively attributing problems to deep-seated and immutable aspects of one’s character (this “why” belief tends to cause sadness and depression, as discussed in my last post)

5. Externalizing, ie, blaming problems on external forces, including other people (this “why” belief tends to cause anger)

6. Overgeneralizing, ie, explaining the cause of a problem by assassinating your own character or someone else’s

7. Mind Reading, ie, believing we automatically know other people’s thoughts, or expecting other people to know our thoughts

8. Emotional Reasoning, ie, letting our feelings create distortions in our thinking

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How do we avoid thinking traps?

Shatté and Reivich recommend analyzing a recent un-resilient moment to uncover the underlying Adversity – Belief – Consequences sequence. Using the eight thinking traps as a guide can make it easier to identify the inaccuracies  in one’s beliefs. 

I didn’t have to look very far to recall an un-resilient moment in my own life.

The Adversity:

Recently I took my daughter and two dear out-of-town friends, a brother-sister pair, to a movie. Afterwards all three kids clamored to play arcade games at the theater. Since this was a special occasion, I was happy to oblige. I distributed tokens to each of them. The sister tried a claw machine — the kind where you try to get a metal claw to grasp a stuffed animal. It ran for less than five seconds and hardly grazed the stuffed animals inside. So much for that game.

The kids were rightfully indignant, and the boy and my daughter searched for better games to spend their tokens on. The boy tried a similar game of a different design (poking vs clawing), but with equally frustrating results.

Seeing the looks on their faces, I shelled out money for more tokens. The boy used four tokens to play a driving game, which he enjoyed well enough. But the others didn’t want to try it, so his sister tried yet another claw machine. It was broken outright and stole her tokens. At this point, my daughter was looking around desperately for other options.

Not wanting to invite more disappointment, I suggested the kids all forget about the remaining tokens and take some silly pictures in a photo booth. They’d get a memento of the nice day we had just spent together — how could that go wrong?

After the first shot, it was clear that the forehead of the oldest child was the only thing high enough to be in the frame. “Stand up! Squeeze together!” I yelled. My daughter, being the smallest, wasn’t able position herself in the frame quickly enough for the second shot. While the others mugged for the camera, my daughter flung herself out of the booth in tears. I lifted her and tried to hold her in position so she would appear in the next shots, but she squirmed out of my arms sobbing.

We waited in silence for the prints. Shot 1: the boy’s forehead. Shot 2: blurry movement of everyone. Shot 3: the side of my daughter’s head up against the camera. Shot 4: a decent picture of the two bigger kids.

The Consequences:

Unable to keep my own disappointment in check, I said out loud, “Well, that was a disaster. Let’s go.” A very un-merry band, we left the theater. You never would have guessed the kids had just spent almost two hours watching a movie they loved and gorging on treats. And I was more bent out of shape than any of them.

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Shatté and Reivich say that most people fall into a few thinking traps repeatedly — though the traps often aren’t entirely distinct from each other. In this instance, it didn’t take much analysis to recognize all eight traps in my inaccurate Beliefs.

With the thinking traps as a guide, I was able to identify my beliefs — and perceive their inaccuracy — pretty readily.

My Beliefs:

Jumping to Conclusions and Tunnel Vision: I took the kids’ disappointment to mean that the entire afternoon was ruined, and that my efforts to entertain them had failed.

Magnifying and Minimizing: I immediately forgot that I had begun by warning the kids that they might be disappointed. And I overlooked the fun we all had as the boy played the driving game.

Personalizing (and Overgeneralizing): I took the games’ lousy design to be my fault. Had I been a more resourceful and quick-thinking grown-up,  I would have successfully prevented these problems.

Externalizing: I resented my husband for introducing our daughter to arcade games in the first place.

Mind Reading: I felt sure the kids were absolutely crushed.

Emotional Reasoning: Feeling powerless and frustrated made me think less clearly.

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So how do we avoid these eight “thinking traps” in the moment? Shatté and Reivich offer simple questions that help us avoid each of them:

Jumping to Conclusions: What evidence are you basing your conclusion on? Are you certain, or are you guessing?

Tunnel Vision: What is a fair assessment of the entire situation? What is the big picture? How important is this one aspect to the big picture?

Magnifying and Minimizing: Were there any good things that happened? Did I do anything well? [Alternatively, if you tend to dismiss the negative, ask: Am I overlooking any problems? Were there any negative elements that I am dismissing the importance of?]

Personalizing: Did anyone or anything else contribute to this situation? How much of the problem is due to me and how much is due to others?

Externalizing: What did I do to contribute to this situation, if anything? How much did others contribute, if anything?

Overgeneralizing: Is there a narrower explanation than the one I’ve assumed to be true? Is there a specific behavior that explains this situation? What does impugning my character (or someone else’s) buy me? Is it logical to indict my character and/or worth (or another person’s) based on this specific event?

Mind Reading: Did I ask questions of others or make assumptions about their thoughts? Did I make my beliefs or feelings known directly and clearly? Am I expecting the other person to work hard at figuring out my needs or goals?

Emotional Reasoning: Do my feelings accurately reflect the facts of the situation? What questions must I ask to distinguish fact from feeling?

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The challenge, of course, is keeping these questions in mind when you’re seized by emotions. Fortunately, making a habit of identifying the ABCs of difficult moments — noting the thinking traps you most often fall into — is the most effective way to develop more rational and accurate thinking in the heat of the moment. Keeping a record of challenging moments you face — and unpacking the ABCs so that you can observe how inaccurate Beliefs may have led to un-resilient Consequences in your behavior — is a key recommendation.

Other steps detailed in The Resilience Factor are specifically designed to help maintain resilience in the heat of the moment. I’ll be looking at them in future posts.

{ Learner Engagement } Christopher Emdin on Teaching “That Magic”

My research and coursework has been converging this semester around the concept of motivation and learner engagement. I’ve been thinking and reading about various models of motivation, specifically around expectations (whether a student believes she’ll succeed or fail at a given task) and how to change students’ mindsets such that they view failure as a necessary, important learning experience rather than something to avoid. I’ve been working on designing interventions that teachers can employ to help their students cope in the face of failure, which I hope to share here once they are a bit more flushed out.

HOWEVER, my fellow rethinkED…* member Karin shared this fantastic TED talk with me last week. Christopher Emdin is a professor at Teachers College, and I aim to take a course with him at some point before I graduate. He takes an entirely different approach to learner engagement. Rather than thinking about the science, he focuses on the art of teaching or what he calls, “that magic.” We all can think of an amazing teacher with “that magic,” who can keep her students rapt, wholly engaged and hanging on every word that she says.

Dr. Emdin’s claim is that this “magic” can be taught. He’s named his idea “Pentacostal pedagogy,” and its foundation is that many of the most engaging speakers are NOT in teaching positions. They are rappers, preachers, and storytellers. Focusing on urban education in particular, he suggests that teacher education mandate that future teachers get OUT of the classroom and into these spaces to watch and learn from community leaders and captivating speakers.

I love his idea and I think, while very different than my focus, it is completely complementary. To my knowledge, there is very little training in how to be an engaging speaker in current teacher education. Having worked in a Harlem elementary school, I believe strongly in the importance of understanding and joining a community that you plan to teach in. Furthermore, the idea of seeking analogous situations for inspiration is one that is fundamental to design thinking.

However, I would argue that while speaking with the cadence of a preacher from a Black church may resonate in urban education, this is not necessarily the only effective “magic” style, nor will it necessarily be as effective for students from other demographics or geographic spaces. One of my favorite high school math teachers was a fairly “nerdy” man who taught AP Calculus with such a love for math and respect for his students that we all held ourselves to a higher standard in his presence. He spoke quietly and every word he said was important.  I envision a course where future teachers are exposed to a variety of engaging speaking styles and allowed to experiment with each one until they find a voice that works for them.

An issues with the type of research I do which focuses on scale-up, empirical studies that could have wide implications for learning is that I often lose sight of the art that teachers employ day to day. Listening to Dr. Emdin’s talk, I’m reminded that there are many different ways to attack the issue of student engagement, and I’m inspired and excited that so many researchers are working towards this goal from a variety of angles.

{ Rethinking Resilience, Part II } Yes, You Are What You Think

You Are What You Think


In my last post, I wrote about positivity in the face of tragedy. And I wondered whether resilience amounts to a numbers game where positive thoughts outweigh negative ones. After all, cultivating gratitude helps offset negativity bias — our natural tendency to highlight and remember negative experiences more than positive ones. In some way that raises the possibility that giving time and mental space to happy, joyful thoughts reduces the impact of challenges and setbacks.

In my rather unscientific way, I do believe in this possibility. If I burn my daughter’s birthday cake but immediately make an effort to reflect on her health and happiness, I know I can ward off my sudden urge to stomp around the kitchen. But too often my brain seems to short circuit, and I find myself indulging in behavior more appropriate to a six-year-old.

So this past week I turned back to a book I read five years ago: The Resilience Factor by researchers Andrew Shatté and Karen Reivich. I remembered that it offered helpful strategies for increasing resilience — and that it was a very, very dense read. My memory was right on both counts.

In an ongoing series at rethinked…*, I’ll be sharing my process of unpacking those strategies and putting them to use.

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Increasing resilience is a matter of constructively handling setbacks, challenges, and new experiences. Shatté and Revich put forward 7 steps for increasing resilience.

Three “Know-Thyself Skills” provide insight on how you see yourself and the world, and why you react as you do. They help you understand how your mind works and build self-awareness. They give you a map of your beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, and how they are interconnected.

1. When you are faced with an adversity, deconstruct the resulting thought process into Adversity vs. Belief vs. Consequence. Those beliefs often involve inaccurate and overblown interpretations of the adversity. (“Learn Your ABCs”)

2. Recognize common cognitive errors that lead to those interpretations (“Avoid Thinking Traps”)

3. Identify the core values that underlie those beliefs (“Detecting Icebergs”)

Four “Evaluation and Change Skills” identify the most realistic causes and outcomes of a challenge. They help you accurately assess a challenge so that you can make constructive choices about how to respond to it. They help you keep non-resilient thoughts at bay in real time.

4. Test the accuracy of your interpretation of the adversity so that you can address it more effectively  (“Challenging Beliefs”)

5. Avoid what-if “catastrophizing” by identifying realistic outcomes (“Putting it in Perspective”)

6. Sidestep stress and anxiety with breathing, positive imagery, and relaxation (“Calming and Focusing”)

7. Examine the situation realistically in the moment by engaging strategies 4, 5, and 6 before counterproductive thoughts take hold (“Real-Time Resilience”)

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I found Step Number One — “Learn your ABCs” — immediately useful. It provides a concrete framework for deconstructing the irrational thought process that challenges often cause. It helps unpacks the mental domino effect into a three-piece sequence: Adversity-Belief-Consequence

A: Identify the triggering Adversity 

Adversities can be major or minor: facing a test; doing poorly on a test; too many demands on your time; being late to an appointment; dealing with other people’s anger; burning a birthday cake. They can involve new experiences.

B: Identify the Beliefs you have about the adversity  

The authors call these “ticker-tape beliefs” — the running interior monologue that erupts when you’re faced with a challenge.

Let’s say I burn my daughter’s birthday cake. I’m instantly flooded with a tangled mess of beliefs: It’s completely unsalvageable. She’s going to be crushed. I’ve ruined everything. I always do this. How could I be so stupid? I’m a crappy mom. Why is it my job to bake this dumb cake anyway? 

And so on.

[Side note: Putting those beliefs in writing is instructive: In the momentthose inchoate thoughts feel inevitable and fitting to the utter disaster at hand. Now their exaggeration is objectively much clearer.]

The authors point out that are two types of “ticker-tape” beliefs, ones that look back and others that look forward.

i. Causal beliefs (or “why?” beliefs) look back. They give false explanations for the adversity. They operate along three dimensions:

  • Viewing the adversity as your fault or not — ie, me or not-me
    How could I be so stupid? 
  • Viewing the adversity as constant and permanent, or not — ie, always or not-always
    I always do this.
  • Viewing the adversity as all-encompassing or not — ie, everything or not-everything
    I’m a crappy mom. 

ii. Implication beliefs (or “what next?” beliefs) look forward. They often incorrectly anticipate the result of the adversity.

  • She’s going to be crushed. I’ve ruined everything. 

The key point is that it’s this tangled mess of beliefs  — all of them incorrect — that leads to C-Consequences — not the adversity itself, which is a slightly burned cake.

C: Identify the Consequences of A and B, above — ie, your feelings and behaviors

Something I find particularly interesting is the apparently universal correspondence between common negative emotions (Consequences) and specific “ticker-tape” Beliefs:

That’s not fair! —> Anger comes when we feel we’ve been treated unfairly or been thwarted in the pursuit of a goal. This is a “why?” belief that focuses on external causes, ie, by blaming others. (Why is it my job to bake this dumb cake anyway?)

Something’s been taken from me —> Depression and sadness occur when we believe we’ve lost something real — like a relationship, job, or loved one — or intangible — like self-worth.”  This is another “why?” belief, but it tends to focus on internal causes of problems.

I made a mistake —> Guilt occurs when we believe we have failed to self-regulate (by procrastinating, bingeing, failing to exercise, overspending) or when we believe we have broken commitments to others (by neglecting family and friends, and by cheating — ie, I’m a crappy mom.). Like depression and sadness, guilt stems from a why belief and focuses on internal causes. 

I can’t believe they saw me screw up like that —> Embarrassment occurs when we believe we have lost standing with people whose opinions matter.

This is going to turn out terribly —> Anxiety and fear occur when we anticipate that a situation is going to pose challenges or cause discomfort

Though a bit cumbersome, applying this analysis reveals how I went from a slightly burnt cake to a potent and paralyzing mix of anger and guilt.

The ABCs framework gave me a powerful tool for distinguishing between the adversity and the tangled mess of reactive beliefs that the adversity evokes. Once I make that distinction, I more readily see that my feelings of anger and guilt have little to do with a slightly burnt cake and everything to do with two strong, emotion-laden beliefs — it’s not fair! and I made a mistake — which I overlaid on the cake. As the authors put it:

With resilience, your feelings and behaviors in the face of an adversity will be productive, appropriate responses to the facts of the adversity. Without resilience, they may be knee-jerk reactions to your ticker-tape beliefs.

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Coda: A slightly-shaved-down birthday cake was given a generous overlay of frosting — and was met with wide, happy smiles.

Stay tuned for more steps for increasing your resilience.

In the meantime, let’s try to hold on to the moments in life when things turn out far better than we fear.

{ Music Machines } Exploding Our Most Basic Assumptions About Music …*

As some of you may know, it’s Lautréaumont/chance encounter week here on rethinked* Here are some ‘music machines’ for your browsing pleasure. I love how these projects and instruments explode our assumptions about all things music. So often in life we take the things around us for granted–both in terms of forgetting to be grateful for what we have, but also in terms of becoming complacent about questioning the way things are done. The projects and concepts I’ve gathered below rethink …* the concept of music–from how it’s created to when it’s enjoyed–helping us to rediscover the magic of music in our lives as well as the endless possibilities to make and enjoy it.

What are some of your favorite music machines?

Make, play, listen & rethink …


{ The Otawa – Mieru Record } a charming device that merges a mechanical organ with a Japanese manga to create an adorably analog multimedia experience. Created by Japanese design group Mieru Record, a collection of eleven artists who are all inspired by the idea of merging music and manga into an alloyed form.

Source: A Magic Box That Makes Music Out Of Manga via FastCoDesign, published December 13, 2013.


– Trees, Year Ring Data & RECORD PLAYER  –

YearsBartholomäus Traubeck } A record player that plays slices of wood. Year ring data is translated into music, 2011. Modified turntable, computer, vvvv, camera, acrylic glass, veneer, approx. 90x50x50 cm.


 – Rocks, Paper & Scissors –


 A song from my new album LIP BOMB. The beat was made exclusively using sounds from rocks, paper and scissors – including the melodic bits


– Music & Doodles –

{ Looks Like Music – Yuri Suzuki } Miniature robots turn colour into music in this installation by Japanese designer Yuri Suzuki.

Looks Like Music – Mudam 2013 from Yuri Suzuki on Vimeo.

[ Hat tip: Watch: These Brilliant ‘Bots’ Turn Doodles Into Music via Wired Design, published August 27, 2013. ]



– Graphics & Disk Readers –

{ Dyskograf – Jesse Lucas } a graphic disk reader.

Each disc is created by visitors to the installation by way of felt tip pens provided for their use. The mechanism then reads the disk, translating the drawing into a musical sequence.

The installation is above all a tool, which allows the creation of musical sequences in an intuitive way. The notion of a loop, closely linked to electronic music, is represented here by the cycle of the disk. The disk passes indefinitely in front of a camera fixed onto an arm. This substitution for the needle converts the drawing into sound by way of a specific application program (software).  Through this system, the sequential ordering of music is learnt in a playful way, at the same time creating a unique object, souvenir of the musical composition.

Dyskograf from Jesse Lucas on Vimeo.



– Vegetables & Drum Beats –

{ BeetBoxScott Garner } Playing drum beats by touching actual beets

BeetBox is a simple instrument that allows users to play drum beats by touching actual beets. It is powered by a Raspberry Pi with a capacitive sensing board and an audio amplifier in a  hand-made wooden enclosure.

The BeetBox is primarily an exploration of perspective and expectations. I’m particularly interested in creating complex technical interactions in which the technology is invisible—both in the sense that the interaction is extremely simple and in the literal sense that no electronic components can be seen. 

BeetBox from Scott Garner on Vimeo.


 – Awkward Exterior Space & Pipes –

{ The Lullaby FactoryStudio Weave }

Studio Weave has transformed an awkward exterior space landlocked by buildings into the Lullaby Factory – a secret world that cannot be seen except from inside the hospital and cannot be heard by the naked ear, only by tuning in to its radio frequency or from a few special listening pipes.

The Lullaby Factory, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children - Photo by Studio Weave

The Lullaby Factory, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children – Photo by Studio Weave



{the value of diversity for design} …musings on Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Something we at rethinkED have internalized is the value of diverse perspectives and minds when designing and developing. As part of the Design Thinking for Educators process (and I believe practically all design processes), designers are told to seek valuable insight from users and experts in the given field. For instance, if designing a new type of desk for middle schoolers, you should have designers, ergonomics experts, teachers, and actual middle schoolers intimately involved in the process. While this may seem obvious, far too-often products are designed either without direct consultation of the user base, or with the users being introduced into the process far too late to be of any use.

Additionally, rethinkED has aimed to recruit unique individuals who are joined in our interest in innovative education but diverse in our approaches to the issues and educational backgrounds. We are teachers, students, writers, designers, and administrators of a few different ages with diverse backgrounds. In our meetings we often discuss the benefit of bringing in people with unique and fresh perspectives to help us look at problems in new ways.

This is why I loved reading this article in Wired, titled “Nintendo’s New Key to Creativity: More Women.” It seems that in the highly male-dominated industry of game design, women are finally getting their time to shine, with clearly impressive results. Almost half of the game development team was female for the widely successful Animal Crossing: New Leaf game, and the producer and director believe that this is definitely related to their success. Highly popular with 19 to 24 year old women, this game has defied stereotypes that female gamers are “casual gamers [who] don’t need dedicated hardware”. Additionally, in the article, Kyogoku, the director of New Leaf, explains that she has seen a greater diversity of ideas as a result of adding women in a variety of roles to project teams.

The team was diverse both in terms of age and gender. Eguchi, the producer, explained that bringing in people with a variety of interests enables the team to discover “new ways of playing and new experiences to provide to users.” Seeing as this game has produced real results with appeal to a broad variety of audiences, hopefully other design teams will adopt this model.

As a more casual gamer who is slightly older than the 19-24 demographic, this is a game I would actually love to play. Check out a preview here:

{ Chance Meetings } Celebrating Lautréaumont’s Birthday & the Spaces Between Things & Ideas…*

“As beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.”
– Comte de Lautréamont

Today is Isidore-Lucien Ducasse, aka Comte de Lautréamont’s birthday. Lautréaumont is best known for his splendid story, The Songs of Maldoror, which was a major influence on the Surrealists. The quote above, which comes from The Songs of Maldoror has deeply shaped my sense of aesthetics. I often write about the immense potential for rethinking …* that connecting different ideas and disciplines can produce. In honor of Lautréaumont’s birthday I have compiled a little collection of projects and ideas, which I feel reflect this desire to translate, connect and blur ideas, mediums and spaces to produce something new, fresh and bursting with questions and possibilities. As I was trying to put this post together, I realized that I had lots of projects that I would love to include so I’ve decided to make Lautréaumont’s birthday a week-long celebration here on rethinked* Today, you will find a little selection of projects that cut across all boundaries and medium. On Tuesday I will share some cool “Music Machines” and on Thursday “Drawing Machines.” I hope you will find these projects and artists as fascinating and inspiring as I have. And please share with me your favorite “chance meetings.”

Delight, blur & rethink …* 

– Geese, Myth & Astronomy –

{ The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility (MGA) Agnes Meyer-Brandis } Agnes Meyer Brandis’ poetic-scientific investigations weave fact, imagination, storytelling and myth, past, present and future. In “THE MOON GOOSE ANALOGUE: Lunar Migration Bird Facility (MGA)” the artist develops a narrative based on Godwin’s The Man in the Moone, in which the protagonist flies to the Moon in a chariot towed by ‘moon geese’. Meyer-Brandis has actualised this concept by raising eleven moon geese with astronauts’ names and imprinting them on herself as goose-mother. They live in a remote Moon analogue operated from a control room within the gallery.

THE MOON GOOSE ANALOGUE – documentation from Agnes Meyer-Brandis on Vimeo.


– Graffiti & Stop Motion –


An unscientific point of view on the beginning and evolution of life … and how it could probably end.

BIG BANG BIG BOOM – the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.



– Garbage trucks & Cameras – 

{ Trashcam Project – Christoph Blaschke, Mirko Derpmann, Scholz & Friends Berlin and the Hamburg sanitation department }

Hamburg´s garbagemen portrait their city in the Trashcam Project – with their garbage containers. Standard 1.100 litre containers are transformed to giant pinhole cameras. With these cameras the binmen take pictures of their favourite places to show the beauty and the changes of the city they keep clean every day.

The Trashcam Project was developed by Christoph Blaschke, Mirko Derpmann, Scholz & Friends Berlin and the Hamburg sanitation department. Special thanks to Hamburg based photographer Matthias Hewing (www.matthiashewing.de/) for his professional advice and the challenging lab work with the giant negatives.

Trashcam Project

The fun fair “Dom” in Hamburg photographed with a garbage container by
garbageman Bernd Leguttky, Christoph Blaschke and Mirko Derpmann. Shot on a 106×80 cm sheet of ilford multigrade with ten minutes exposure time.


– Tattoos & Music – 

Reading My BodyDmitry Morozovа sound controller that uses tattoo as a music score – this is a special instrument that combines human body and robotic system into a single entity that is designed to automate creative process in an attempt to represent the artist and his instrument as a creative hybrid.

::vtol:: “reading my body” from ::vtol:: on Vimeo.


– Scent, machines & Memories –

{ The MadeleineAmy Radcliffe } an analogue odor camera.

Based on current perfumery technology, Headspace Capture, The Madeleine works in much the same way as a 35mm camera. Just as the camera records the light information of a visual in order to create a replica The Madeleine records the chemical information of a smell.

If an analogue, amateur-friendly system of odour capture and synthesis could be developed, we could see a profound change in the way we regard the use and effect of smells in our daily lives. From manipulating our emotional wellbeing through prescribed nostalgia, to the functional use of conditioned scent memory, our olfactory sense could take on a much more conscious role in the way we consume and record the world.


[Hat tip: Scentography: the camera that records your favorite smells via The Guardian, published June 28, 2013.]


– Clothes & Poetry – 

{ Poetry BombingAugustina Woodgate } Clothing labels with poems printed on them are sewn clandestinely in local Thrift Stores. 2011

Places and Objects are alive, we make them alive, they tell our stories and tales. Sewing poems in clothes in a way is giving the garments a voice. We are in relation — with others, with things, with the world. This being-in-relation, is a way of perceiving, a mode of moving, a narrative of global truths designed by cultural fictions. Sewing poems in clothes is a way of bringing poetry to everyday life just by displacing it, by removing it from a paper to integrate it and fuse it with our lives. Sometimes little details are stronger when they are separated from where they are expected to be.

Poetry Bombing With Agustina Woodgate for O, MIAMI, published  April 27, 2011


– Architecture & Music –

{ Dithyrambalina: The Music Box and Beyond – an experiment to create Musical Architecture }

dith·y·ramb, noun: A chant of wild and abandoned nature sung by the cult of Dionysus to bring forth their god.

A host of international artists, musicians and inventors are creating Dithyrambalina – a landmark village of musical, playable houses. Invented instruments embedded into the walls, ceilings, and floors of Dithyrambalina’s architecture will support boundary-breaking musical performances and inspire wonder, exploration and invention in visitors of all ages. This New Orleans Airlift project is the evolving brainchild of artists Swoon, Delaney Martin, Taylor Lee Shepherd and Jay Pennington in collaboration with over 100 more artists and musicians to date. Last year they debuted THE MUSIC BOX, as a proof-of-concept for their vision.

Dithyrambalina: The Music Box and Beyond from TungstenMonkey on Vimeo.


– Blood, Resin & LIGHT –

{ Blood & Resin – Jordan EaglesJordan Eagles is a New York based artist who preserves blood to create works that evoke the connections between life, death, body, spirit and the Universe…

Blood, procured from a slaughterhouse, is the primary medium in Eagles’ works. Through his experimental, invented process, he encases blood in plexiglass and UV resin. This preservation technique permanently retains the organic material’s natural colors, patterns, and textures. The works become relics of that which was once living, embodying transformation, regeneration, and an allegory of death to life.

Jordan Eagles – Blood & Resin from Jordan Eagles on Vimeo.

[Hat Tip: Preserved Blood Paintings Seem To Glow From Within via PSFK, published June 18, 2013.]


– Biology & Architecture –

{ Bloom – Doris Kim Sung } Metal that breathes

Modern buildings with floor-to-ceiling windows give spectacular views, but they require a lot of energy to cool. Doris Kim Sung works with thermo-bimetals, smart materials that act more like human skin, dynamically and responsively, and can shade a room from sun and self-ventilate.

Doris Kim Sung: Metal That Breathes via TED published May 2012

[ Hat Tip: Biologist-Turned-Architect Invents “Breathing” Metal Building Skin via Architizer, published October 30, 2012.]


– TREES, WIND, CHance & INK –

{ Conversation With Trees – Shih Yun Yeo } a collaboration between artist Yeo Shih Yun and trees across Singapore.

A collection of tree drawings at different intervals over the two months( 01-11-2010 to 31-12-2010) , Conversation with trees is a collaboration between artist Yeo Shih Yun and trees across Singapore. In this exhibition, there is a multi-media presentation of drawings, photographs, silk-screen paintings and video installation.

In this latest series of works, Shih Yun tests the influence of external physical and metaphysical forces- wind and chance on the glorious mark-marking process. At random intervals, she attaches Chinese brushes dipped in Chinese ink to the tips of branches of trees in various settings across Singapore and allows the chance movement of the wind to create the marks. Each brush stroke created by the tree and wind is spontaneous, without the constraints of a limited visual vocabulary, creating drawings of absolute freedom and honesty. The resulting ‘tree drawings’ are then selected and transferred onto silk-screens. The silk-screens are then used by Shih Yun to create abstract paintings on linen of various sizes.

Coversations with trees from shih yun yeo on Vimeo.


– Robots & Movie Scripts –

{ Do You Love MeCleverbot & Chris Wilson } a movie written by a machine.

Cleverbot.com has been touted as one of the most advanced artificial intelligences ever. The website allows users to chat with the A.I. Cleverbot. But how good is it, really? I sat down with Cleverbot and collaborated on a movie script.

I tried to talk to Cleverbot just like I would with a human writing partner. I set up scenarios and Cleverbot provided all of the dialog content for the scene.

[Hat Tip: Watch A Hilarious Movie Written By A Machine via FastCoDesign, published February 14, 2013.]


{ Growth Mindset } The One Thing I Wish I’d Learned A Decade Ago …*

{ Growth Mindset } The One Thing I Wish I'd Learned A Decade Ago ...* | rethinked.org

Last week I wrote about a question- What’s the one thing that you learned in the last decade that you had wished someone had told you 10 years ago?– that Wooster Collective posed to several graffiti artists and curated some of my favorite responses. I’ve been thinking about how this question applies to my own experience of the past ten years and started brainstorming a list of possible key insights. After sitting with my list for a bit, I realized that most of the items on it were directly related to the concept of growth mindset, championed by Carol Dweck. Growth mindset is the belief that capacities—whether intellectual, emotional, physical, etc.–can be learned and acquired with effort over time. That potential is unknowable. Thinking back on the past ten years, I have no doubt that if I had known about and embraced a growth mindset, I would have saved myself much heartache and worry. I would likely have taken more chances and been more compassionate and patient with myself and others. I wouldn’t have been so bogged down by an unattainable quest for perfection, which means I would have procrastinated a lot less and not engaged in as many other self-sabotaging behaviors to save myself from facing my crippling fear of failure. I would likely have been able to keep things more in perspective. Learning about the growth mindset was an utterly transformative experience for me. It allowed me to translate what I know about motivation, effort, and goal-setting into tangible behaviors. But most importantly it has set me free emotionally—free to experiment and fail gloriously and free to find the strength and will to try again. In the words of Carol Dweck, “It’s a learning process—not a battle between the bad you and the good you.”

What about you? What’s the one overarching thing you wished you’d known a decade ago?

reflect & rethink …* 

{ Rethinking Resilience, Part I } Positive Thinking, Negativity Bias, and Why I’m Leery about Lear

Spalding High-Bounce Ball


I was a bit jarred this week by a New York TImes piece about kids in a Syrian refugee camp performing a Shakespeare play. King Lear, to be precise.

“‘The show is to bring back laughter, joy and humanity,” said its director, Nawar Bulbul, a 40-year-old Syrian actor.'”

Say what, now?

To be sure, teenagers and dark, depressing stories are often a good combo — but I think that the “dark” and “depressing” should be relatable. Had the Syrian kids put on Hamlet, Othello, or Romeo and Juliet — any of the tragedies that deal directly with power struggles, personal weakness, difficult parents, dishonesty, friendship, love  — I wouldn’t balk. I could even see many of Shakespeare’s history plays, often excluded from high school curricula, resonating with these young refugees, given their first-hand experience with suffering caused by political machinations. But the choice of King Lear distressed me.

I taught King Lear to 16-year-olds for several years. But, truth be told, I am not convinced that teenagers — even Syrian teenagers who are alternately scared and bored by life in a refugee camp — will be, or even should be, deeply or personally moved by a story that is largely concerned with filial impiety, physical infirmity, dementia, and mortality (mortality by natural causes, that is). Those are the concerns of old folk. It almost seems biologically right that teenagers would shrug them off.

rethinked...* logo

I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience lately. Or to put it more accurately: I’ve been thinking about other people’s resilience (on an epic scale) and my own (on a pretty mundane scale).

The epic scale came into sharp focus for me at a wonderful TEDx event I attended recently, entitled “Resilience: Consider the Uses of Adversity.” I would love to go into detail here, but I will wait until the event videos go online and you can watch them yourselves. In the meantime, if you need a gauge of what I mean by epic resilience, know this: one of the presenters was the woman whose three young daughters and parents perished on Christmas morning two years ago in a horrific house fire in Connecticut. Witnessing her strength, grace, and candor as she shared the painful and unfinished story of her survival — that was a once-in-a-lifetime gift I will never forget. Hers is epic resilience.

So the fact I can be felled by an overbaked birthday cake or a new dent in the car is a hard thing to accept — and a difficult thing to admit.

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The literature on fostering resilience emphasizes the importance of positivity and optimism. One widely accepted practice championed by Martin Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology Center at UPenn (the birthplace of Angela Duckworth’s research on grit in students) is cultivating gratitude. For now, I’m focusing less on the method itself and more on its underlying rationale.

Gratitude is an effective means of increasing resilience because it helps counteract an inconvenient quirk of our psychological evolution: negativity bias.

Negativity bias is our natural tendency to highlight and remember negative experiences more than positive ones. Taking the time to feel and express gratitude, then, deliberately and explicitly incorporates positive thoughts and emotions into our daily existence. This points to the underlying characteristic of all resilience training: emphasizing positive experiences and foregoing the habit of interpreting one’s actions and one’s circumstances negatively.

Despite questions about its methodology, an attention-grabbing 2005 paper in American Psychologist that touted an optimal positivity ratio for flourishing — 2.9 positive exchanges for each negative one — is still regularly cited today. And not surprisingly — there is something comforting in the notion that resilience boils down to a numbers game, along these lines: Fill your mind with enough positive thoughts to outnumber the negative ones, and you’ll be more resilient. 

To be sure, not all positive thoughts are created equal. Hours spent watching cute cat videos don’t count. Conversely, not all negative thoughts are damaging. Sometimes they are necessary for our safety.

But within reason, it is safe to say that laughter and joy — and regular expressions of gratitude, which help maintain our ability to laugh and feel joy — constitute some of the best soil for seeds of resilience.

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Which brings me back to why I’m leery about King Lear.

I assume the director chose Lear as a reflection of the Syrian children’s suffering, which is tragically part of their day-to-day existence. And I accept the argument that such suffering can benefit from the affirmation and catharsis of expressing and releasing one’s own pain through the story of another.

As Edgar says in Act III of Lear:

When we our betters see bearing our woes,
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.

And to be clear, the Times piece gives plenty of evidence that the kids felt pride and value in the performance.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that a play of “laughter [and] joy,” which Lear simply is not, would have created sorely needed positivity for those kids.

Let’s assume a genuinely happy play would have led to positive thoughts outnumbering negative ones in the minds of those kids, even if only for a short while. For me, this presents two questions:

What benefits — what reframed perspectives, what relief from negativity and trauma, what new ideas and possibilities — might those kids have had access to?

To what extent does the principle of positive thinking mean that occupying a space of pain and suffering, even in art, may be counterproductive to healing? 

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In my next post, I’ll be looking at the seven steps for increasing resilience as laid out in Andrew Shatté and Karen Reivich’s underappreciated 2003 book The Resilience Factor. Reivich is a co-director of the Penn Resiliency Program, a “group intervention” and resilience training course for late elementary and middle school students.

In the meantime, I’ll also be looking for answers to those two questions above. If you have answers, I invite you, as always, to comment.

22 Questions For Business & Life From Roger Martin, Adam Grant, the Heath Brothers & Other Rethinkers …*

22 Questions For Business & Life From Roger Martin, Adam Grant, the Heath Brothers & Other Rethinkers ...* | rethinked.org

For this month’s issue, Inc. Magazine compiled a wonderful list of 100 “provocative questions for business owners”. Good questions are one of the greatest tools we have for making the ordinary unknown and rethinking our landscapes of possibility. Below, I’ve assembled twenty-two of the questions from the list that I found most compelling and which I hope will inspire you to question some of the things you may be overlooking or taking for granted in your life and business.

question & rethink …*


What counts that we are not counting? -Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality and head of global hospitality for Airbnb


In the past few months, what is the smallest change we have made that has had the biggest positive result? What was it about that small change that produced the large return? -Robert Cialdini, author and professor emeritus of marketing and psychology at Arizona State University


What prevents me from making the changes I know will make me a more effective leader? -Marshall Goldsmith, leadership coach and author


If no one would ever find out about my accomplishments, how would I lead differently? -Adam Grant, author and professor at Wharton


What should we stop doing? -Peter Drucker, management expert and author


What are the gaps in my knowledge and experience? -Charles Handy, author and management expert


What am I trying to prove to myself, and how might it be hijacking my life and business success? -Bob Rosen, executive coach and author


Who have we, as a company, historically been when we’ve been at our best? -Keith Yamashita, author and founder of SYPartners


Is there any reason to believe the opposite of my current belief? -Chip and Dan Heath, authors who teach at Stanford’s and Duke’s business schools, respectively


What would have to be true for the option on the table to be the best possible choice? -Roger Martin, professor, Rotman Business School


Am I failing differently each time? -David Kelley, founder, IDEO


What would I recommend my friend do if he were facing this dilemma? -Chip and Dan Heath


What is something you believe that nearly no one agrees with you on? -Peter Thiel, partner, Founders Fund


Instead of going to current contacts for new ideas, what if you reconnected with dormant contacts–the people you used to know?  If you were going reactivate a dormant tie, who would it be? -Adam Grant


Do you see more potential in people than they do in themselves? -Adam Grant


To whom do you add value? -Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood, co-founders, The RBL Group


What was the last experiment we ran? -Scott Berkun, author


What successful thing are we doing today that may be blinding us to new growth opportunities? -Scott D. Anthony, managing partner, Innosight


Do the decisions we make today help people and the planet tomorrow? -Kevin Cleary, president, Clif Bar


How do you encourage people to take control and responsibility? -Dan Ariely


How do I stay inspired? -Paul Bennett, chief creative officer, IDEO


What is our question? -Dev Patnaik, CEO, Jump Associates


Source: 100 Great Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask via Inc. published April 2014

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