Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Slow Thinking and the Pursuit of Empty-Headedness

In this GoogleTalk, UW Information School Professor David Levy speaks about how our culture is accelerating so fast that there is no time for creative, contemplative thought. Levy describes this as "slow thought"--the type of thinking that requires quieting down the mind to allow inspiration to arise out of the subconscious. I was reminded of my student days when my department chair, Noel Mayo, had an expert (one of the faculty, Winnie Winston*) teach us how to meditate. I wound up using it then (especially when working against a deadline) and I use it still, though not as consistently as I should, I have to confess.

Along with Vannevar Bush, whom he credits with the invention of the idea of hypertext and the web (in 1945, no less), Levy references Josef Pieper, author of Leisure: The Basis of Culture, who wrote about the need for contemplative thought in 1963. I think designers have no problem understanding the need for this sort of thinking, as we experience it (when we're lucky) in our creative process.

We might ask ourselves, however, if creative thought is as important as we say it is, are we allowing the place, space, quietude, and sanctuary to allow true creative reflection and engagement? Are we doing enough to move beyond having it happen "when we're lucky," to having it happen when we want it to?

As educators we might ask, Do we respect this, or just give lip service to the need for it, in the typical student project timeline?

* Winnie Winston deserves a post to himself. Stay tuned. An industrial designer (Royal Typewriters, Creative Playthings) and ID educator, but also an expert banjo and pedal steel guitar player featured on a number of top bluegrass albums (he was one of Bill Monroe's many "bluegrass boys" and is known by any pedal steel player who started playing from the mid-70s on as "the guy who wrote The Book"). He was also an internationally-known expert on homeopathy. 

No comments: