Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death—Neil Postman 1985
I have been reading works by Neil Postman. Amusing Ourselves to Death:Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business and Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology sprinkled with a past reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. The interesting part of these readings is how prescient they are even when writing before the data deluge and technical armageddon we are all navigating decades and decades later.
Everyone has the answer. Udemy, Linkedin Learning, I have lost track. You can tell we were all taught to hold our hands in view of the camera and to count with our fingers when highlighting something “important”.
It isn’t all milquetoast. I have found great learning on Youtube.
Qiusheng Wu Google Earth Engine, Spatial Data
Dunder Data (Ted Petrou) Python
But it is more than just videos. It is about availability and desire to help. Both Qiusheng and Ted have authentically created resources that help—for free. Although to be clear, Qiusheng is an assistant professor and Ted does have worthwhile courses for purchase. I have taken at least two of them (live and online).
Perhaps what is missing with most people is intention. Often, marketers have hopes of a potential sale in their crosshairs. Stupidly, many of them have that in their tagline on LinkedIn. I see it and I know if I agree to connect, an unsolicited message will appear proclaiming successes as a life coach, business entrepreneur, or banker wanting to guide me in my financial decisions.
The intention of effective marketing in the era of Seth Godin and permission marketing should be connection. Period. You need to be in it for the long haul. Show up everyday and be of service. Take all this with a wee grain of salt because I know nothing about marketing. But I am an expert on what it feels like to be bombarded with insincerity and false claims. If I am a marketer than I must be a sucky one. I hop on airplanes and talk to people about bias in algorithms, data solutions, and geospatial analytics. I am writing a book with another already in proposal development. There is an easy greased lane a few feet away—give them what they want. But I want to earn it. I am not a fan of repeating the well-worn tropes and pretending you know the solutions.
There is only one problem. Big loud data is getting bigger and louder.
Living successfully in a world of systems requires more of us than our ability to calculate. It requires our full humanity—our rationality, our ability to sort truth from falsehood, our intuition, our compassion, our vision, and our morality. — Donella Meadows
What can we do about it?
This might sound like a dumb realization from someone who came up through bench research but I wasn’t necessarily putting in the effort. This month I have added research as a scheduled activity on my calendar. I read through the stacks of books until “I get the joke” and then I move on.
What should we do then with the noise and distraction that surrounds us? Well, I had an idea. Periodically I plan to share resources that made a difference in how I work or see the world. In December I am taking the core of the talks I will be giving next quarter and distilling them down into a live conversation. Because of how close the ideas are to how I work and write—there is a nominal fee.
Otherwise I don’t feel like it is fair to preview material for free when it is created for a paying conference crowd. We all know how resource heavy it is to travel to conferences—and that was pre-Covid.
The money will cover the copyrights and proprietary data I will be sharing. I feel comfortable sharing these thoughts and workflows because you are vested in the exchange as well.
“. . . . My challenge has been to make this history, which has been described in words but remains unpictured, somehow tangible, and to visualize the landscape in a way that resonates in our moment.”-- Dawoud Bey
Pre-covid and what seems like an epoch, Jane Friedman dropped by The National Press Club and chatted with us about her work as an independent writer. Since then, every email she sends is read and tucked away in a folder. I finally asked her if she would mind if I share her wisdom. Here is one of her classes that I think might resonate with some of you.
Maybe we can amuse ourselves in worthwhile pursuits. Learning how to do something better or just different. One good thing about our connected world is the ability for us to reach out and have conversations.
We can walk alone—without our phones—and wander. I was gifted a mala today. Meditating on one bead per breath allows you to time your focus without being disturbed by a pinging phone or cellular distraction.
I will allow the slow breath and incantations to amuse me—with the intention of becoming enlightened.
I don’t read for amusement, I read for enlightenment—Joyce Carol Oates