I have been thinking about where great ideas come from a lot lately – and I already have a strong feeling for the answer as I think about it – great ideas emerge from the Commons, the places where people come into contact and where ideas and memes are merged and spliced. One of those places is the market or bazaar. One is the pub.
Two articles in the Observer last week put forward the idea of the pub as a place of creativity, innovation, energy and insight.
One article called out at a punk professor and innovator, who just received the Descartes Prize. Professor Howard Trevor Jacobs, professor of genetics at Tampere University, Finland, is a leading light in mitochondrial analysis, dragging evolutionary biology out of a too simplistic analysis of DNA in gene activity and transmission. It turns out your mother was a more influential force in genetically shaping you than your dad…
This guy really doesn’t believe in the ivory tower –
“We are at our most productive when we share our thinking. One night of crazy brain-storming over a few beers is more likely to produce more exciting results than 20 years’ solitary study in the lab.”
Amen. i will drink to that. Jacobs follows a wilful strategy of engagement with the Commons. He is an agitator for greater information sharing and collaboration in European research.
The second piece is rather more blogospherish. In an article on gawker and the rise of Madison avenue blogs there is a quote from Nick Denton [irony alert - nick hasn't posted for about a month. evidently he pays others at gawker to actually blog. i wonder if is he like one of those CEOs that has a secretary to read his email?]. but anyway the quote was good.
I wanted to publish news and gossip that’s analogous to the conversation two journalists would have down the pub. It used to offend me that the best stories you heard were over a drink. The juicy stories that noone wanted to print, or stories that are too trivial to make it into the news.
If any publication nails this voice its the Register – which explains why they have millions of readers.
After a couple days without actually posting my thoughts on the Pub meme i now have a blog conversation to hang it on-emerging from the Global Voices conference, Votes, Bits and Bytes.
One of the leaders bringing/bridging Iranian voices with/to the west is Hossein Derakhshan, aka Hoder, who put forward some ways to think about blogs at the conference- as windows, bridges, cafes or taxi rides.
Using a window, you can see inside Iran, and Iranians can see outside of Iran. You can see changes in social expression and individual morality. You can discover that individual Iranians are far more tolerant, open minded, and cool than people might think they are.
Blogs can build bridges: bridges between genders, ages, and social class. Women in iran can talk about how they see the world and have these conversations, anonymously, with men. Parents and children can talk about shared and different values. Blogs build bridges between voters and politicians, like Iran’s former vice President Mohammed Ali Abtahi, who blogs in English, Persian and Arabic.
Blogs can be cafes – they create a social space for discussion that doesn’t exist any other way. In Iran, there’s no newspaper or TV channel that’s not controlled by the government. There’s a red-line you can’t cross: talking about Iran’s relationship with the US, or Iran’s relationship with Israel. Because of this red line, Iran isn’t engaged in a discourse about the nuclear program. Blogs are the only place where this discussion can take place.
Blogs have replaced “taxi talks” – in Tehran, five or six people packed into a shared cab, and political debate always takes place in cabs. (Incidently, the US elections were a hot topic in cabs. Turns oiut that the Iranian government was so against Bush that many Iranians were for him…)
So alongside these i would like to ad the pub – a place where people get together talk think relax and what not. Not that I am likely to find many Iranians down the pub–unless they are Christians or Zoroastrians, who allow alcohol consumption. blogs often do seem like a good night down the pub. Without the hangover. i would like an evening out with Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Johnson, Fritjof Capra and Jon Udell. I might not have any eureka moments but i a bet a million bucks these guys would…