It’s not as mystifying as it seems

“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”

-Jiddu Krishnamurti

When I first saw this quote a few years ago, it was mystifying to me. I couldn’t reconcile decoupling evaluation from observation. But the more I considered the quote, and the more I familiarized myself with design thinking, the wisdom of this “ability” revealed itself.

I discovered that to truly understand an end-user, you must observe their actions with a beginner’s mind, and eliminate the constant urge to jump to conclusions about their intentions or behavior (that’s a step…

The culture industry’s warm cocoon

photograph of image painted by Marisa Kang @marisakang

Branding and the culture industry represent relatively simple, yet pervasive, causal loops that corporate media enterprises have learned to skillfully manage in their favor. When cultural values are connected into a causal system that is able to perpetuate itself and grow, the question of ethics — whether what the system is fostering is right or wrong — becomes comparatively inconsequential, because the vagaries and deceit of the logic become commonplace.

Yet ethics are intrinsically entwined into branding and the culture industry, even though the media oligarchy would seemingly prefer to propagate a belief that they are not — as they…

Different eras of media and a short list of some of my favorite shows when TV doesn’t exist anymore

“Forgotten television” by autowitch is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

How do you watch TV in the 2020s? As a Gen Xer in the United States, I’ve grown up experiencing different eras of media. In a sense, during each decade of my life, what we know as “TV” has gradually evolved — like a boiling frog. Arguably, in the 2020s TV doesn’t really exist anymore.

Here’s some viewing history. From three network terrestrial dominance (plus PBS) in the 70s and into the 80s, to cable TV and eventually the satellite dish from the 80s to 90s. The birth of Netflix as a digital Alexandrian library of DVD mail exchange in…

Musings on the facsimile of reality

“Eye” by hyfen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Photography and visual imagery are a facsimile of reality; a reality that can never convey the absolute essence of the present moment when an image was captured.

Photography tricks the mind into a bias. Context and framing are an image makers subjective tools used to convey meaning that will inevitably deceive. We cannot genuinely experience anything in the future or past, as a photograph would intend; we can only reflect or speculate — ultimately, we are prisoners of the present.

In Gunkel’s and Hawhee’s article in the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Virtual Alterity and the Reformatting of Ethics, many…

Mozi on leadership and utilitarianism in ancient China

A simple Chinese “proverb” transformed my credo for leadership — an interaction between the sage Mozi and his student.

The student asked Mozi a simple question:

“When is it proper to speak?” Mozi replied, “Toads, flies, frogs-they make noise constantly, and no one listens to them. But in the morning when the rooster crows everyone listens, and everyone goes to work. So when you speak, you don’t need to say much, just make sure you say it well.”

Mozi lived in China in the 5th century B.C.E. and he seemed to have one of the first utilitarian approaches to being…

And how do you optimize it?

Frolicking on a normal sunny day at the big lake

Normal is an empty container we think nothing of, while believing it represents something universal. Normal doesn’t represent anything at all, so there can’t be a “new” normal when nothing was ever normal to begin with.

That’s why the normal we know is contextual, cultural and philosophical, even when it’s taken for granted. It’s the opposite of abnormal; but your normal is not my normal, even though we might consider our normal to be the steady state. It’s an idea that only exists in the present moment. The breath we take, the feelings we feel, the focus we pursue.


Joel Van Kuiken

Thinker, doer, solver.

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