compudanzas

On systems, dreams and practice - biosejo 120220511

Updates regarding systems I'm using, dreams that are coming back, and insights on daily practice.

Something I like about weekly processes like this one is the perspective it sheds to the arbitrary, human-decided period of seven days. I guess it's like some kind of prism or lens: it can be seen as too long, or as too short of a period.

I take several notes of the things I'm doing or want to be doing each day; this past week I made a new list of what are the things I want to be talking about in the post.

Systems

Going from more to less technical: Obsidian the tool, a thesis talk as a framework, and some new perspectives on reading.

Obsidian

I started using Obsidian.md, a text-editor focused on "interconnected note-taking" (my words).

Obsidian

I had read several good comments about it, but I thought it was yet another note-taking "app" with its specific database and probably non-compatible way of saving notes.

Last week I found out it uses a directory with plain-text (markdown) files, and that it was completely compatible with the way I started writing in ceti, my digital zettelkasten that I mentioned on biosejo 120220503.

Additionally, it has many nice features like link auto-completion, suggestion of possible backlinks, templates for new files, a nice way of previewing the markdown format, and the "famous" graph view to see the interconnectedness of the notes.

I decided to use it as an ergonomic way of getting my notes on "paper" (on file?) while at the same figuring out what are the features that I would like to implement on my own tool. Again, the fact that all of the notes are text files allows me to write on them "manually" or to use Obsidian as an interface.

Thesis talk

The doctorate school of my university is organizing a "Thesis talk" event, where PhD students/candidates present their project to a non-specialized audience in up to 3 minutes.

I thought it would be a great idea to participate! I saw it as a way of getting involved with the school activities even though I'm not "there" yet, and also (and maybe more importantly?) as an opportunity to have a deadline and push myself to define in a clear and concise manner the research project I'll be developing.

It happens that in June a requirement of the program is to present an initial research plan. I saw the Thesis Talk as a way to prepare for that!

My advisor approved the idea: now I am signed up for the event, and I have until the end of May to submit a video recording of my presentation. If I make the cut to the final event, I would be able to present it live on the end of June: In theory we should be there in the university by then.

I guess a past version of me wouldn't believe that I signed up for this: I'm glad I'm able now to bring myself to the table, and participate.

Reading

One way I see that the two previous points are connected is that I'm using my zettelkasten and the thesis talk opportunity as a way and system to figure out how to read better and how to map the different topics of the state of the art and also of my interests.

The past few days it happened to me that I remembered some specific diagram and framework from an article I had read before this system, and I had a little bit of a problem to re-locate it.

Thankfully, I'm using Zotero to manage my references and I could find it again.

However, I've been in similar situations before: reading something casually, thinking that it wouldn't be important in the future, and then weeks/months/years later having an insight related to that, but with the reference being.

This situation reminded me of that, and motivated me to keep my intention of growing this "external brain" in the form of my zettelkasten.

Now the thing to overcome is sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the thought of "reading right", with notes and so on; this feeling has happened a couple of times in such a way that it makes me prefer not to do it right now.

Dreams

This past week I had a very nice and useful insight about re-contextualizing my work.

Most of my life I have admired the work of Nintendo. Nowadays I'm not a fan of the ways they have been handling some things like anti-piracy. Regardless of that, even though I didn't have a lot of games, I've been a fan of how they use cuteness, humor and ingenuity in play.

I'm sure they are not the only ones who work in that way; let's say I'm only taking them as a referent. During my life there have been only very few big companies where I had said I'd like to be part of, and Nintendo is still one of them. For the record, Pixar would be the other one, although right now I wouldn't know what I'd like to do there.

The point here is that I realized that my PhD research project, based on playful computing for body games and experiences, could lead me to Nintendo.

Interestingly, that almost immediately changed the way I looked at the project, and allowed me to think of resources (like cuteness) that I wasn't probably considering yet.

The real insight came when I realized that I don't have to be working for three or four years towards that: I can work right now "as if I was" already there. Or, said in another way: I don't have to be ever there to work and create as if I was there!

I can keep analyzing what are the elements that I like about their creations and creative processes, and use them in my own way with my own team. The goal of eventually getting there is very nice and motivating, and I'm not discarding it as impossible or undesirable: it's just that I find it great how I can already feel very different and even more excited about my research right now!

I have found it very interesting how this perspective has allowed me to think beyond the arbitrary "academic limits" that I had unconsciously set for myself and the project, despite not having a lot of academic experience.

This new way of looking at things has been a nice counterpoint to some instances of self-doubt and of getting overwhelmed with all the topics and their interconnectedness.

One step at a time, as if I was already in the dreamt place.

Practice

For me, all of this connects to the idea of practice, and to how I've been traditionally attracted to the ideas of discipline, determination, daily practice, and to people that have their "own thing" that develop during all their life.

We watched Tony Hawk's documentary, Until the wheels fall off, and it made me think deeply again about these things.

Interestingly, I tend to feel as if I didn't have my "own thing" yet, but to my partner it's obvious it's "computers". And well, not only to them: cleaning up the house and getting rid of previous documents and school papers, I read many times that several instances of myself in the past ~16 years thought that they were "good with computers" and wanted to work and create with them.

I get a little bit intense and I think: "Well, if that's my thing, am I really practicing enought and getting better at it as time passes?"

I can recognize how there have been times where e.g. I had a 100+ days practice of generative art, but at some point I lost focus. I guess that when I think I don't have "my thing" it's because 1) I'd like to see it as a creative practice, 2) I haven't been able to feel like I'm pulling it off, i.e. consciously and constantly getting better at it.

In any case, I see now how the PhD project can serve me to have this focused framework and explore these ideas of practice. What would I normally do, if I was already "there" in the dreamt place? What would I practice? How would I enjoy and have fun?

Also, to help this, I think and I know I have to be careful with the resources I consume: reading a lot of critical theory paralyzes me and makes me feel I can't do anything because everything seems to be "wrong".

Similar to how performance allows us to enter in a state of "suspension of disbelief", I think I can find a way to enter a state where I can practice, play, enjoy, and have fun.

In any case, I know some "critical people" have argued for the importance of play and fun. For the moment, I'll let them do the arguing, and I'll stop thinking I have to justify myself.

One step at a time :)

As a final note, and as an intersting turn (?) of events, we have been playing with our NDS consoles, and I got a way to download and play even more games. Even though this could be part of the research I'd like to do, I prefer to think of it as just giving myself the opportunity to have fun.

Feel free to contact me to further discuss any of this. For the record, I'm glad to have this space to share!

See you next week!

incoming links