“Real Artists Ship”

Colin Johnson’s blog


Archive for May, 2009

Unplanned Obsolescence

Monday, May 25th, 2009

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” When I read that opening line from Neuromancer in the early ’90s, it conveyed a powerful image using a technology-grounded metaphor that set the tone for the whole book. Now, just 25 years after it was published, it is in need of a footnote: the reader reading that book today, and increasingly so in a few years time, will still get a powerful image, but the image is completely the wrong one! Instead of a bleak, fuzzy sky, the image is of a deep saturated blue, with correspondingly different figurative implications.

Fading Microcultural Phenomena (1)

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

I am interested in things that, from the point of view of a a generation or two hence (the people I sometimes refer to as “my hypothetical grandchildren”), will be completely lost or incomprehensible. One kind of thing is what we might call aspects of “microculture”; small parts of the day-to-day culture that just won’t be in the culture at all in 50 years time (there is a loose analogy here with Mark Penn’s Microtrends idea; see his book, ISBN 978-0446580960).

One example is a vague fear of mains electricity. People of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations were, on the whole, rather wary of mains devices. They would certainly turn things off at the mains, and frequently would unplug all the electrical devices in the house as part of the end-of-day routine. This is incomprehensible to me, but I at least aware of it as “something older people do”. To people a generation or two younger than me, I imagine that this would be something that they wouldn’t ever imagine would happen, and it will seem strange to suggest that people did this for more than a transitory few years as domestic electricity was being introduced.

Interestingly, some of this behaviour is returning, with a different motivation, viz. that of saving electricity for environmental or economic reasons.

Zeitgeist (1)

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Overheard metaphor: “falling faster than a bank”.

The Naming of Blogs…

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

I hadn’t really thought about names when I started out setting this up. I am aware that most blogs have names, but for a while just thought about calling it “Colin Johnson’s blog”. In the end I settled on “Real Artists Ship”, a quote from Steve Jobs about the importance not just of doing interesting creative work, but getting it out there (see Steven Levy‘s book Insanely Great for details). Two names that didn’t quite make the cut were “Talentless but Hardworking”, a phrase that I’ve liked for a while; and “Cakes and Ale” (after Shakespeare in Twelfth Night), more for the attitude than out of any especial liking either for cakes or ale.

First Post!

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Hello! I thought that it was time that I had a blog; I don’t really have a particular focus for this at present, but we’ll see what happens. I’d like to use this as a repository for random thoughts and observations. I’ll be interested to see what happens with this; I’ve made previous attempts to do this kind of thing, both in the form of computer files and physical notebooks, but they haven’t really had all that much staying power. Perhaps making this “public” will inspire me to add more.