Kath Murdoch on noticing

A reflection on participating in the ‘7 black and white photos in seven days‘ activity and the power of constraint and images.


My one word this year has been ‘intent‘. Although this can mean many things in different contexts, one of the things I have tried to do is participate in meaningful activities when they may arise.

I was therefore taken by Ian Guest’s invitation to participate in an activity focused around sharing photos of my life. The catch was there were a few constraints at play. The images had to be black and white, involve no humans and have no explanations.

Here then are my seven photographs:

Day 1
Day 1

Day 2
Day 2

Day 3
Day 3

Day 4
Day 4

Day 5
Day 5

Day 6
Day 6

Day 7
Day 7


What struck me about the exercise was how much more aware I felt of the world around me. Rather than be drawn into a podcast or simply lost in thought, I was instead thinking about what I could or should capture to tell the story of my life.

In addition to noticing the world, I was also forced to think more visually. Where I am usually dependent on words (or audio) to convey a story, I had to think differently about the story being told.

This experience reminded me of Alan Levine’s recent discussion of picking a noticing pattern, something that keeps the brain active and engaged. For Levine, the pattern is ‘106’:


“A House of DS106” by cogdogblog is licensed under CC0

Amy Burvall on the other hand is always open to creative pursuits. Rather than looking for something in particular, she recently celebrated ‘looking down‘ and capturing the serendipitous surfaces:

Amy Burvall's Unicorn
Twisted unicorn in Canberra

What each of these situations has reminded me is that creativity can be cultivated, nature is full of inquiry if we are willing to notice it and sometimes it just takes something to spark that intent.


NOTE: Without a hashtag, they can be hard to collect. Although John Johnston has collected his, many others have just left them on Twitter. If anyone has a collection that would like to share, I would love to see them.


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James Bridle’s book shines a light into the New Dark Age


Have you ever been to a movie that surprised you? Having seen the trailer and watched past movies from the same producer, you assumed that you knew what was going to happen. That is the experience I had with James Bridle’s new book New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future
.

When I read the title, I expected a book describing the coming collapse of Western civilisation. The problem is that this crash is already upon us. Whether it be the breakdown of infrastructure, Eroom’s Law, the unreliability of images and the rise of machine learning algorithms, the darkness is already here.

This book is less about the actual technologies at play and more about their impact on society. It is what Ursula Franklin describes as ‘technology as a system.’ Bridle’s focus is on new ways of thinking about, through and with technology.

In light of the recent revelations around Cambridge Analytica and GDPR, I recently reflected upon the importance of informed consent. I argued that we have a responsibility to:

  • Critically reflect and ask questions
  • Learn from and through others
  • Engage in new challenges

Bridle’s book starts this journey by actively informing us. He then puts forward the challenge of what next.

There is a kind of shame in speaking about the exigencies of the present, and a deep vulnerability, but it must not stop us thinking. We cannot fail each other now.

Although the book offers more questions than answers, it does it in a way that left me feeling somehow hopeful. Whether you are coming from the perspective of culture, education or politics, this book is a must read for anyone feeling at all dissatisfied with the current state of the world today.


For a different introduction, listen to an interview with Bridle on The Guardian:


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