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SXSW

UNSPECIALIZE, THE MORE YOU KNOW THE LESS YOU SEE

Last year, we received an email from SXSW. Mildly put, SXSW Interactive in Austin is the annual gathering for everyone mad about mixing art, technology and design. The email said Daniel was selected to give a one-hour talk at SXSW!

At SXSW, Daniel explained why true discovery is not limited to scientists, inventors, artists. As an academic creative himself, he experienced playing with different levels of creativity: from logically analyzing a problem to designing user interfaces. Daniel addresses three phenomena in daily life that stifle creativity and discovery and how, through his work, these hurdles can be overcome.

Familiarity constrains discovery

The longer time we spend in a familiar environment, whether behind your desk or playing couch potato, the less we are inclined to discover something new. More importantly, we feel as if any sort of discovery is unattainable, because what’s left to discover in a familiar environment? Plenty, according to Daniel: “It shows how just two stickers can make you adopt a wholly new perspective and look at the world differently. That’s both stimulating and scary. Stimulating, because it’s liberating. Scary, because your own perspective might feel increasingly volatile.”

Knowledge has its limits

It’s not only being in familiar places, knowledge can also make you perceive your environment in a fixed way. Daniel: “The more I learned at law school, the more I perceived the world in legal terms. Of course, I am exaggerating when I say that witnessing people holding hands, I would only think about prenuptial agreements; or consider a restaurant’s food safety laws, when ordering a burger. But at the time, I might’ve focused more on what was legally agreed upon, rather than looking at emotional interactions.”

Most people use some sort of selection mechanism to make sense of the world around them. A filter shaped by what you’re specialized in, steered by knowledge and culture, to name a few. So when and how can you liberate yourself from such a subconsciously fixed perspective? Intersection Interviews is an attempt to do exactly that with a series of short interviews in the middle of the world’s busiest crosswalk. The selection of interviewees is determined by who’s crossing from the other side of the road and the time of the interviews is bound by 47 seconds of green traffic light. Afterwards, both continue into opposite directions, shooed away by honking cars. In such a short time span and when subject to such a level of randomness, there’s no chance for knowledge or culture to interfere the conversation.

Your phone, the connector that disconnects

The answers to the interviews showed that life in Japan is completely different from The Netherlands. It’s incredible to witness these vast dissimilarities. Throughout this wide diversity of cultures and professions one thing is strikingly similar: the use of smartphones. They enable us to access apps, books, podcasts, messages and the worldwide web on-the-go. But there also is a universal side effect. By using smartphones, people disconnect from their direct surroundings. Every spontaneous opportunity for discovery is overpowered by the urge to bow your head and look at your screen. Daniel set himself the task to use the smartphone as a playful instrument to reconnect you to your environment.

More on this project, Cucalu, you can discover here.