Sunday, October 09, 2005

Stamp listing

About this post

Technique in a nutshell:

You write down a simple fact about something. Example: The football World Cup final has footballers. Then you list many examples of footballers (example: old footballers) and this becomes the new idea: the football World Cup final has old footballers (guest appearances by old footballers, perhaps). You can also step up the concept level: footballers = sporting stars. This becomes an idea: The football World Cup final has sports stars. (Perhaps suggesting that sporting megastars attend the final.)

Stamp Listing

Stamp listing is a simple creativity method for creating a number of ideas on a subject very quickly. It was inspired by one idea: that the mail service create a celebratory series of stamps that are replicas of stamps from the past such as the penny black.

To begin using the approach I pick a subject and list some simple information about the subject. I can do this by visualising the subject and taking a 'mental walk' around the area, or I can use the following approaches:

Profiling A Subject
Pangram Trigger Profiling
Category Headings With Pre-listing

Examples of possible subjects and listed information:

Envelopes have stamps
Biggin Hill Airshow has spitfires
The World Cup Final has footballers

I will use the Biggin Hill example. To use the Stamp listing approach, all I do is take the 'spitfire' and, forgetting about the Biggin Hill Airshow for a moment, I simply use Pre-listing or Pre-listing with google images for the subject 'spitfire'. Once I have made a sizeable list of spitfires I can refer back to the context of the Biggin Hill Airshow and see if any ideas are suggested.

So pre-listing for 'spitfire' could produce the following results, for example:

London spitfires, Norris spitfires, destruction spitfires, timid spitfires, meddling spitfires, linguistic spitfires, tip spitfires, garden spitfires, pi spitfires, technical spitfires, nasty spitfires, dial spitfires, allowed spitfires, wednesday spitfires, dip spitfires.

As discussed in the google images pre-listing post I will sometimes be more specific with an item or interpret it in some way. For example, with 'garden spitfires' I could (among many options) consider spitfires that are now in somebody's garden.

With this list of spitfires I can construct an idea using the original subject thus:

Idea: Biggin Hill Airshow has technical spitfires

Which makes me think that the airshow could have spitfires that are technically speaking spitfires. Spitfire simulators that the public can 'fly' perhaps?

'Garden spitfires' led to an interesting idea: the Biggin Hill Airshow could track ALL the spitfires from manufacture to the present date and provide statistics for each year. How many were flying in each year? How were they destroyed? How many are left? How many are still flying?

Stepping up the concept

I've found that the Stamp listing is most productive when I step up to a more general concept level. To help me do this I do I use an approach I call 'reverse reach'. With the 'spitfire' subject (from the 'Biggin Hill Airshow has spitfires' sentence) I will imagine that I have been set a general directive that resulted in the answer 'spitfire'. I imagine one word, two word and three words + directives. A one word directive that resulted in the answer 'spitfire' could be:

Name an aeroplane

A two word directive could be:

Name a war plane

Three words:

Name an old flying machine

Three words +

Name something that featured in battle in the last century

As an example, using the one word 'name an aeroplane' directive I take 'aeroplane' as the higher concept level and then pre-list or pre-list with Google for the subject 'aeroplane'.

Example results:

Blatant aeroplanes, loud aeroplanes, tacky aeroplanes, small aeroplanes, toy aeroplanes, smart aeroplanes, army aeroplanes, crashed aeroplanes, retired aeroplanes, early aeroplanes, udder aeroplanes, dense aeroplanes, tool aeroplanes, old aeroplanes, papal aeroplanes, gregarious aeroplanes

As discussed above and in the google images pre-listing post I will sometimes be more specific with an item or interpret it in some way. For example, with 'gregarious aeroplanes' I could (among many options) consider the planes that have a pilot talking to the control tower.

Now that I have a sizeable list of aeroplanes I can construct an idea using the original subject thus:

Idea: Biggin Hill Airshow has toy aeroplanes

This may be a good idea in itself, or I can use it to develop thought experiments. Maybe there could be a display of toy aeroplanes? Replicas of all the planes in the display for children to buy? Why not a model aeroplane equivalent of the Red Arrows? These models could do identical tricks to the real Red Arrows and perhaps they would become famous in their own right.

Further interpretation of pre-listing results

I created another interesting idea from the 'papal aeroplane' pre-listing result. Using the quota approach (as discussed in pre-listing with google images post) my first thought was 'aeroplanes that have been used to carry the pope'. My second thought was 'aeroplanes that are flying over the Vatican NOW'. This led to the idea that the Biggin Hill Airshow could provide a list of interesting statistics regarding flight now: number of planes in the air now, number of people flying now, total number of passenger planes on the ground now, etc.

Stamp listing and the fiction project

The Stamp listing approach can trigger ideas when writing stories. (See Superimposing Concepts post.) Say our heroes are on the QEII or some other large passenger ship. With the Stamp listing approach taking the concept level up to 'ship' and the pre-listing approach creating 'toy ship' then superimposing concepts would mean that the QEII would suddenly function as (or become) a toy ship. What would the consequences of this be? All the passengers would end up in the water - leaving the QEII an empty ship. There's a nice possibility for a story in this: whatever caused the mystery of the Mary Celeste could return with a vengeance or become stronger in the year 2005. The mystery would be solved or become deeper.

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