Thursday, February 24, 2005

Five Article Ideas

Places to go on the web

Would focus on websites that offer 360 degree views of places. Example:

http://www.westpier-trust.demon.co.uk/images.html


Top Ten Desert Island Disks

Would look at all the choices from ‘Desert Island Disks’ and compile them to form an all-time top ten.

Fourword

Would pick four words at random and a compile a list of trivia using the information gained from Google searching the four words. Eg. ‘was buried with his/her’ ‘gypsy put a curse’

My ‘Sergeant Peppers’

Celebrities would do their own version of the cover of Sgt Pepper’s by choosing the people who are their greatest influences, and the people they most admire

Ten Clever Questions

Would feature ten favourite questions set by quizmasters etc. Eg. Magnus Magnusson, crossword compilers, contestants from shows etc. These people would set questions in the style that they asked/were asked them.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Article Ideas

Now

An article about ‘now’. How many people being born now, how many dying, how many emails being sent, how many people flying in planes, how many committing suicide etc.

Money Facts

A page full of facts about money, including: numbers of notes and coins in circulation, total value of notes in circulation, value of notes destroyed each year etc.

Commercial top ten

Highlighting celebrities who do adverts: how much paid, how much to charity, how much they earn from other work etc.

Psychology profile

Highlights a celebrity or person in the public eye and gets a cross section of psychologists to give their verdict on that person.

The next...

Profiles people who, at some time in their early career, were labelled 'the next...' and sees if they lived up to their early potential.

All time top ten TV

Finds the most popular tv show of all time by cumulative viewing figures.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Peripheral Viewing: harnessing peripheral vision as a creative tool.

About this post

Type of technique: Random Stimulation

The post in a nutshell: Use Google to provide some random images. Don't look directly at the images but stare at a fixed spot and try to guess what the images are.


What is Peripheral Viewing?

Put simply, Peripheral Viewing is when the creative (ideas person, inventor etc) selects an image, ensures they do not look directly at the image (by choosing a focus spot away from the image) and tries to guess/deduce the content of the selected image.

The technique can be used in two ways:

1) As a listing tool, to list existing concepts and ideas

2) As a creative tool, to create new ideas

MAIN ARTICLE:

PERIPHERAL VIEWING: PERIPHERAL VISION USED AS A CREATIVITY TOOL

Peripheral viewing can be used as a listing tool and creative tool: this article is divided into two sections:

Section 1: Peripheral Viewing used as a listing tool

and

Section 2: Peripheral Viewing used as a creative tool

Section 1: Peripheral Viewing used as a listing tool

Listing is when the creative/inventor selects a concept or idea and then lists as many examples of that concept, idea or thing as possible.

This has three stages:

1) The accessing of a pool of images

2) The deciding on what examples of a concept/idea are required and the formation of a ‘Priming Question’ to clearly state this requirement.

3) Peripheral Viewing to see/find the information stated in the Priming Question.

The Images

The internet offers an abundance of diverse images through the ‘image search’ facility of search engines. Ideally the images displayed should be completely random and unconnected. This is achieved by using simple combinations of letters and/or numbers in the search request - such as “a 2”. If the creative/inventor is frequently using the technique then they can opt to use a sequence (“a1” then “a2” etc) in order to avoid repetition of images.

Priming Question

A Priming Question is devised by the creative which is used to express what information/concepts etc they would like to see/find in the images. There are two types of Priming Question: one for a general search (often used at the beginning of the Listing effort) and one for a specific search.

General Search

The Priming Question for a general search is:

What do you see?

Specific Search

With a specific search the creative defines a more specific target represented with a Priming Question in the format:

What ( X ) do you see?

where X is the specific information the creative would like to see/find in the image. So, for example, the resulting Priming Question could be along the lines of:

What (person) do you see?
What (activity) do you see?
Etc

The Peripheral Viewing

To Peripheral View, the creative focuses and fixes their gaze on a ‘Focus Spot’ on the page of images. The Focus Spot remains the same throughout the Peripheral Viewing and can be pinpointed by the use of a cursor.
An image is then chosen and the creative directs their attention to that image while being careful to continue looking directly at the Focus Spot and not at the image.

The creative then attempts to ‘identify’ the information: the creative is, in effect, guessing what is shown in the image. The creative can either reach a quick conclusion or alternatively spend more time guessing as to the image’s contents (or even attempt to recreate it by drawing). The final guess can be compared to the actual image (although this is only an option and not essential.) The creative then moves on to the next image.

More about the choice of Focus Spot

On a page of random Google images eight images (in boxes) should be visible on screen. The ideal Focus Spot is the image at the bottom left and this Focus Spot should be used for all the eight images. This has benefits:

The first image obviously will be looked at directly and the image can be reported literally (the use of images in creative thinking (for random stimulation and analogies) has been widely discussed).

As the other seven images are increasingly further from the Focus Spot they gradually become more ambiguous and thus the creative will experience (and can experiment with) differing degrees of recognition.

General Search and Specific Search

The Peripheral Viewing with a general search Priming Question (What do you see?) is straightforward, as the creative can literally repeat what they see. However, with a specific search Priming Question (such as: What (activity) do you see?) the following two points are worth remembering:

1) Suppose the Priming Question is:

What (great invention) do you see?

Obviously the random images will not be of great inventions. So, the creative adopts an attitude of presupposing/pretending that the images ARE of great inventions.

2) The creative may, in some instances, have a fairly certain idea of the contents of the image. In this case the creative treats the image as though it represents or hints at something. Again, using the Priming Question example:

What (great invention) do you see?

If the creative was fairly certain that the image was of a red balloon on a piece of string, for example, then they could, perhaps – among other possibilities - decide that the image is representing/hinting at the Montgolfier balloon. Or the creative could even reason that the round red shape is hinting at the Japanese flag and thus list a Japanese invention. Along similar lines, if the Priming Question had been “What (person) do you see?” then the creative could decide that the red balloon represented Richard Branson or Phileas Fogg, etc.

Examples of Peripheral Viewing (Listing) results

Section 2: Peripheral Viewing used as a creative tool

As with Listing Peripheral Viewing, there are three stages when using Creative Peripheral Viewing:

1) The accessing of a pool of images

2) The deciding on what new concepts/ideas are required and the formation of a ‘Priming Question’ to clearly state this requirement.

3) Peripheral Viewing to see/find the information stated in the Priming Question.

Stage 1 – the accessing of a pool of images – is the same as for Listing. However, Creative Peripheral Viewing has some changes.

Priming Question with Creative Peripheral Viewing

With Creative Peripheral Viewing, the creative simply changes the Priming Question to state that NEW ideas are required from the images. Again, there are two types of Priming Question: one for general search, and one for specific search.

General Search

The Priming Question for a general search is:
What (new idea) do you see?

Specific Search

With a specific search the creative defines a more specific target represented with a Priming Question in the format:

What ( new idea for X ) do you see?

where X is the specific new idea the creative would like to see/find in the image. So, for example, the resulting Priming Question could be along the lines of:

What (new idea for an invention) do you see?
What (new idea for a book) do you see?
Etc

The Peripheral Viewing for new ideas when Creative Peripheral Viewing

General Search and Specific Search

When the creative uses Peripheral Viewing for a general search or specific search the following three points must be considered:

1) Suppose the (general) Priming Question is:

What (new idea) do you see?

Similar to Peripheral Viewing used for Listing, the creative adopts an attitude of presupposing/pretending that the image IS of a new idea.

2) The creative should always attempt to complete the idea and guarantee newness, so that in EVERY Creative Peripheral Viewing of an image a new idea will result. The creative can also maintain an attitude that the final idea can be actually quite weak. This does lessen the pressure to think of the ‘great idea’ every time. (Over time, quantity should inevitably lead to quality.)


3) Again, as with Peripheral Viewing for Listing, the creative may sometimes have a fairly sure idea of what the picture actually is. Using the example Priming Question:

What (new invention) do you see?

If the creative was fairly certain that the image was of a red balloon on a piece of string , for example, they could treat the image as though it represents or hints at a new idea, and – ensuring they complete the idea and guarantee newness - reach ideas such as:

Make the string heavier so that helium balloons will not float off it a child releases the string

Print off a strip with the child’s email address so that other children can contact the child if they find the balloon

Etc.

Examples of Peripheral Viewing (Creative) results

Peripheral Viewing and social invention

The Global Ideas Bank

Obviously the Peripheral Viewing technique is relevant to the Global Ideas Bank and relevant to social invention.

The technique (when used for Listing) could be used to:

Example A) List and highlight problems with a Priming Question such as:

What (problem) do you see?

Example B) Fact-find and profile issues relevant to social inventions with a specific Priming Question such as:

What (thing associated with transport) do you see?

Also, the creative can build on a ‘germ’: a germ is a 'stalk' of an idea that can be made into a complete idea by finding specific information (by Listing Peripheral Viewing) to complete it. So, if the germ was “Centralised website for…” a Listing Priming Question could state:

What (situation) do you see?

And then the creative can consider if the situation can be used for a website or leads to an idea for a website.

(On one occasion I saw a crowded swimming pool in an image which led to this idea for a centralised website on overcrowding information:

A centralised website with crowding information )

Creativity, lateral thinking and chance/random factors

Students of creativity books will recognise the importance of random and chance factors in creative thinking. Those familiar with de Bono’s writings will know of the ‘random stimulation’ methods. The Peripheral Viewing techniques can be used in conjunction with this technique and others.

Peripheral Hearing: a method to find inspiration when composing music

About this technique

Technique in a nutshell: Play some music. Sit in front of the speaker with a fan behind you. Fluctuate the volume at a very low level. Pick out melodies from the distorted sound.


Music composers can find inspiration for melodic ideas by distorting the sound of existing music while playing the music at a low volume and then allowing their ‘peripheral hearing’ to pick out new melodies.

The Method

To create the distortion, the composer can use the noise created by a normal desk fan. The composer sits in front of a speaker or other source of sound and places a fan approximately a foot behind them.

The composer then uses variations in the volume of the music heard to cause further distortion. There are three ways the composer can utlilise volume variation:

1) The composer starts with the volume on zero and fluctuates the volume, but ensures that the volume is always at a level where recognition of the track cannot occur.

2) The composer starts with the volume at zero but fluctuates the volume so there are split-second ‘bursts’ or music at a volume that would be high enough to recognise the track (but recognition does not occur because the volume returns to zero immediately).

3) The track is played at a steady very low volume without any fluctuation.

The composer can use these three approaches in combination. However, my personal experience has shown that approach one and two are the most productive.

The composer will find the method more effective if they do not allow recognition of the track to occur. Experience has shown that creativity CAN continue if the track is recognised, but the melodic ideas will often not be as interesting and are often too similar to the original track.

They will also find that skipping forwards and backwards through the track will help to avoid recognition.

Treatment of melodies heard

The composer should find that they pick out strands of melodies through the distortion. The composer then has a choice of either recording EVERY melody that they hear or wait until they hear a melody they like. When they hear a melody they can either record it directly as heard, or allow a little embellishment and creativity.

Variations

Switching the fan to a different power level has been shown to provide a freshness of melodies when the composer has been working for some time.

A different type of distortion and ‘feel’ can be achieved by using a pair of headphones as a source of sound instead of speakers. The headphones are placed in front of the composer. Again, the composer can switch to this method when they have been working for some time and would like freshness.

Distortion and source of sound can be produced from one source if the composer uses a badly tuned radio. The composer finds a frequency where there is much distortion and slight traces of melody and then they fluctuate the volume.

The composer can approach the split-second burst method by playing music at a very low level, covering their ears with their fingers and moving their fingers for a split-second.

The composer can play music at a low level and listen to it from another room.

It is worth noting that using volume fluctuations alone does not work well – a form of distortion is also needed to make the method most productive.

A suggested approach to using the method

The composer can use the following approach, consisting of three stages.

Stage 1) The composer plays the CD and applies the peripheral listening technique. Any interesting melodies heard are recorded (a Dictaphone is a good way for non-musicians to record ideas). The composer can opt to develop the melody a little or simply record as many different ideas as possible.

Stage 2) The composer listens to the ideas recorded at stage 1 and works the best ideas into structured songs. (A degree of ideas that sounded promising at stage 1 will be disappointing on a second hearing).

Stage 3) The composer can wait some time before listening to the songs from stage 2. At this point new ideas for the song may develop or the composer will think of nice extra touches.

Combinations of these three stages are possible. For example, The composer could be so inspired by an idea at stage 1 that they opt to develop and finish a song there and then.

What music to use as 'Inspiration Track'

There are three possibilities for the composer:

1) Use existing music from CD's etc.

This may lead to fears about plagiarism. Plagiarism should not occur unless too much of the inspiration-track is accidentally lifted. Experience has shown that often melodies are created that are completely different from those of the inspiration-track. (I have experienced listening to songs completed using the method and being totally unable to tell which song was used as the inspiration-track.)

2) Use the melodic ideas created at stage 1.

This has been found to be a very productive way of working. Using stage 1's ideas should end any fears of accidental plagiarism as the melodies created will, once again, be different from those created at stage 1.

3) Use completed songs created at stage 2 and stage 3.

Experience has shown that this is the most productive method of all, with most melodies heard being original and musically interesting.

Conclusion

Like anything, some people will adopt this idea with great ease and find it a productive method, while others will not find it to be productive. Some – like me – will see it as the pivot of their songwriting strategy while others will treat is as just another tool in their songwriting weaponry.

The discovery of this method was very much a Eureka moment for me. I was confident with my talent for crafting songs but lacked a means to provide inspiration. This method provided that.

Peripheral Viewing and Hearing

A couple of my favourite creative techniques were published this week on the Global Ideas Bank. The techniques: Peripheral Viewing and Peripheral Hearing are also published on this blog.

Peripheral Viewing put simply, is when the creative (ideas person, inventor etc) selects an image, ensures they do not look directly at the image (by choosing a focus spot away from the image) and tries to guess/deduce the content of the selected image

Peripheral Hearing is when a music composer distorts existing music - by using low volume levels and noise distortion - and tries to identify what they hear.