Don’t underestimate science fiction…

I came across a great article by Neil Gaiman on what science fiction, reading and exercising our imaginations via daydreaming can do for us. Here is a very striking quote:

I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed? It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls. Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.

This certainly rings true for how science fiction and fantasy helped to make me the person I am. Though being the person I am, I also have to wonder how far the causality goes the other way…. are the kind of people who would anyway have been drawn to creativity and innovation, esp of a technological sort, also just the kind of people that will get into reading SF&F if it’s around? My guess is it’s probably a bit of both. One issue I’d take with the article is the wording “an obligation for all citizens”. Obligation is a killer of playfulness, and it’s playfulness that is the most fertile ground for creativity. In fact too much emphasis on the value that can be gotten from things like reading, daydreaming and playing is going to undermine that very value! (see also)

Do it, encourage it, but don’t get overly serious and worthy about it I say!

Creative Blogger Award

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Blogging award memes seem to travel in packs. Recently I was tagged for the Liebster (read my post for that here) and now I’ve been tagged for the Creative Blogger Award.

Is it excessive to do two such similar memes in quick succession? I don’t know, but I’m going to go ahead and do this one, and for two reasons. Firstly I have two blogs, and I’m not sure a lot of people read the other one. So that means most people didn’t actually see my Liebster post, including even people I mentioned in the post. The second reason is that I was nominated for this one by the most excellent Braxwolf, and who am I to ignore a nomination from such an admirable quarter?

This meme apparently has certain rules, and one them is to share the rules, namely…

  • Nominate 15-20 blogs and notify them via their social media/blogs.
  • Thank and post the link of the person who nominated you.
  • Share 5 facts about yourself to your readers.
  • Pass on the rules.

However for all I know Braxwolf just made up those rules! It’s not as if I have carefully traced them back to their source and established their legitimacy. Of course Brax wouldn’t dream of doing anything like that, but it’s quite easy to imagine a bit of Internet Chinese Whispers developing with such things. And now that I think of it, it’s quite tempting to insert a rule for the heck of it. Something along the lines of “Share your favorite example of goat-based mime” I’m thinking. There are few things that make me laugh more than the concept of goat-based mime.

Anyway, back to the point.

Thanks Brax!

It’s nice to nominated for this award, and doubly nice to be nominated by Brax. Not only is he a great blogger and podcaster, he is also a fine human being. I’m in awe of how he manages to produce so much material of such high quality alongside of being a father of four, a major DIYer, and someone who takes their fitness very seriously. And those are just the things he does that I know about!

Like Brax, while I think I produce a blog of good quality I’m not sure that I should count as a “Creative Blogger”. I suppose writing is in itself a form of creativity, but then all bloggers should be considered creative by definition, and the term “Creative Blogger” would be a tad redundant.

Enough of quibbling about the definition, let’s press on with the meme.

Five Possibly Interesting Facts About Me

1)

Flight Simulator 2
I’ve had a brief go in a 747 flight simulator. (That’s the real kind that pilots train in, not a piece of PC software.)

2)

Barcellona_ramblas_2004_09I was pickpocketed in Barcelona, but when the pickpocket realized she’d only gotten my passport she threw it down on the floor, tauntingly. (I’d suspected she was up to something and was shouting to make a scene and attract attention.)

I was reminded of this by Brax’s mention of an incident in Spain. Anyone might think the place was crime ridden!

3)

House_Fire_with_Fire_ChiefWhile I was at college I did some volunteering for a mental health charity. Among other people I met someone who’d set fire to his home because he’d believed his mother was trying to poison him.

Bonus fact: I was one of the designated fire wardens at one of my early jobs, so I’ve had some training in the matter of fires and how to handle them.

4)

Newspapers_of_Japan_20090831
I was once interviewed by a Japanese newspaper.

5)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I own a slide rule. Admittedly it’s not likely to prove of much use except in the event that I find myself in a post-apocalyptic scenario with no electricity and still need to do some trigonometry. However I think it’s cool and rather lovely and wouldn’t like to part with it.

Nominations

Although the rules say to nominate 15-20 bloggers that seems over the top. I’ll go with Brax’s lead and nominate five:

  • Tsuhelm. I nominated him for the Liebsters too, and you can check out his answers to my questions in the comments to my post. If there’s any such thing as a creative blogger it has to be Tsu, the Salvador Dali of LOTRO blogging. I wouldn’t be surprised if some actual goat-based mime turned up in his posts one of these days.

  • My Inner Geek. Another who was also Liebstered. Jo is very creative in a number of forms (writing, visual art, photography, game design and more). Lots of interesting thoughts on varied topics, and has invented post types like Celebrate the Small Things, a very neat idea in my opinion.

  • FlamingBard. Ranni blogs on her life as well as games, and it makes for fascinating reading, what with the grandbaby and all. Also lots of tempting giveaways. I resist them only because I know I’m not likely to get around to playing, so better to let someone win that will be able make the most of them. Not that it’s easy to resist mind you!

  • Ravalation. I Liebstered Rav but I don’t think she ever found out about it. A super-nice person who blogs on assorted MMOs esp SWTOR and GW2. I’ve not been talking to her as much of late because I’m playing those games even less than I’m playing LOTRO currently, so I don’t have much to say on the topics that come up.

  • I Have Touched the Sky. I Liebstered Rowan also, and I think he may not have seen it. Or possibly he was already Liebstered before that, being very prominent in the blogging community, and had already been there, done it and got the T-shirt. It does seem rather presumptuous that I’m tagging someone that everyone probably already knows! Anyway, an excellent, interesting and varied blog.

PS. You can see more blogs that I rate highly via the list in my post for the Liebster meme, and in the sidebar widgets of this blog.

Play is more than just fun

I’ve mentioned before that I think play is an important and much underestimated part of our lives. Here’s a TED talk by Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and researcher into play, that has lots of interesting things to say on that topic.

Some points that struck me

There’s a useful transcript of the talk on the TED site, and here are some key points taken from that, which were interesting to me…

  • “So what does play do for the brain? Well, a lot…. Nothing lights up the brain like play.”

  • JPL, NASA and Boeing, before they will hire a research and development problem solver — even if they’re summa cum laude from Harvard or Cal Tech — if they haven’t fixed cars, haven’t done stuff with their hands early in life, played with their hands, they can’t problem-solve as well.”

  • the opposite of play is not work, it’s depression

  • “So I would encourage you all to engage not in the work-play differential — where you set aside time to play — but where your life becomes infused minute by minute, hour by hour, with body, object, social, fantasy, transformational kinds of play

  • “And this is where my chasing animals for four, five years really changed my perspective from a clinician to what I am now, which is that play has a biological place, just like sleep and dreams do.”

I’m going to be looking more into Stuart Brown’s work, so expect more posts about this in the future.

Tales of Creativity and Play

One of the themes of this blog is that play is an important part of our lives, and playing matters more than many people think.

Here’s a TED video, from the Serious Play Conference of 2008. The main focus is on how playfulness is important for creativity, and it shares many examples of the use of play in designing better products and services.

MMO players might find the section on roleplay, starting at 19:40, especially interesting, though the whole video is well worth a watch. And fittingly it’s a fun watch as well.

MMO game companies and the gaming community might also want to think about the importance of a safe, non-judgmental environment for fostering playfulness. Worrying about what people will think of you isn’t conducive to play or creativity, but our game servers can sometimes be pretty judgmental places with trolling, one-upmanship and such.