- Oct 2022
here are several ways I havefound useful to invite the sociological imagination:
C. Wright Mills delineates a rough definition of "sociological imagination" which could be thought of as a framework within tools for thought: 1. Combinatorial creativity<br /> 2. Diffuse thinking, flâneur<br /> 3. Changing perspective (how would x see this?) Writing dialogues is a useful method to accomplish this. (He doesn't state it, but acting as a devil's advocate is a useful technique here as well.)<br /> 4. Collecting and lay out all the multiple viewpoints and arguments on a topic. (This might presume the method of devil's advocate I mentioned above 😀)<br /> 5. Play and exploration with words and terms<br /> 6. Watching levels of generality and breaking things down into smaller constituent parts or building blocks. (This also might benefit of abstracting ideas from one space to another.)<br /> 7. Categorization or casting ideas into types 8. Cross-tabulating and creation of charts, tables, and diagrams or other visualizations 9. Comparative cases and examples - finding examples of an idea in other contexts and time settings for comparison and contrast 10. Extreme types and opposites (or polar types) - coming up with the most extreme examples of comparative cases or opposites of one's idea. (cross reference: Compass Points https://hypothes.is/a/Di4hzvftEeyY9EOsxaOg7w and thinking routines). This includes creating dimensions of study on an object - what axes define it? What indices can one find data or statistics on? 11. Create historical depth - examples may be limited in number, so what might exist in the historical record to provide depth.
(2) A second technique which should be part of theintellectual workman's way of life consists of a kind ofrelaxed browsing in libraries, letting the mind play overbooks and new periodicals and encyclopedias. Of course,I have in mind the several problems on which I am activelyworking, and try to be passively receptive to unforeseenand unplanned linkages.
"Relaxed browsing and allowing the mind to wander" as a method of thinking and work is stated differently, but is highly related to the idea of diffuse thinking or working as a flâneur.
- The Sociological Imagination
- trend analysis
- building blocks
- compass points
- sociological imagination
- devil's advocate
- information visualization
- historical context
- diffuse thinking
- combinatorial creativity
- thinking routines
- historical perspective
- mind wandering
- Sep 2022
Joey Cofone: Are there laws to creativity?
Joey Cofone, author of the upcoming book The Laws of Creativity, is selling the idea of "float" (in comparison to Mihaly Csikzentmihaly's "flow"), which is ostensibly similar to Barbara Oakley's diffuse thinking framework, Nassim Nicholas Taleb's flâneur framing, and a dose of the Zeigarnik effect.
I'm concerned that this book will be broadly prescriptive without any founding on any of the extant research, literature, or science of the past. I'll think more highly of it if it were to quote/reference something like Merton and Barber's The Travels and Adventures of Serendipity: A Study in Sociological Semantics and the Sociology of Science.
Following on the above:
David Allen (of GTD fame) indicates that one should close all open loops to free up working memory, but leaving some open for active thought, follow up, and potential future insight creation can be a useful pattern too. (2022-09-09 9:05 AM)
- May 2022
new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to seewhether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, andpeople will say, “How did he do it? He must be a genius!”
You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a
Gian-Carlo Rota, Indiscrete Thoughts (Boston: Birkhäuser Boston, 1997), 202.
Richard Feynman indicated in an interview that he kept a dozen of his favorite problems at the top of his mind. As he encountered new results and tricks, he tried applying them to those problems in hopes of either solving them or in coming up with new ideas. Over time by random but combinatorial chance, solutions or ideas would present themselves as ideas were juxtaposed.
One would suspect that Feynman hadn't actually read Raymond Llull, but this technique sounds very similar to the Llullan combinatorial arts from centuries earlier, albeit in a much more simplified form.
Can we find evidence of Feynman having read or interacted with Llull? Was it independently created or was he influenced?
I had an example of this on 2022-05-28 in Dan Allosso's book club on Equality in the closing minutes where a bit of inspiration hit me to combine the ideas of memes, evolution, and Indigenous knowledge and storytelling to our current political situation. Several of them are problems and ideas I've been working with over years or months, and they came together all at once to present a surprising and useful new combination. #examples
Link this also to the idea of diffuse thinking as a means of solving problems. One can combine the idea of diffuse thinking with combinatorial creativity to super-charge one's problem solving and idea generation capacity this way. What would one call this combination? It definitely needs a name. Llullan combinatorial diffusion, perhaps? To some extent Llull was doing this already as part of his practice, it's just that he didn't know or write explicitly about the diffuse thinking portion (to my knowledge), though this doesn't mean that he wasn't the beneficiary of it in actual practice, particularly when it's known that many of his time practiced lectio divina and meditated on their ideas. Alternately meditating on ideas and then "walking away" from them will by force cause diffuse thinking to be triggered.
Are there people for whom diffuse thinking doesn't work from a physiological perspective? What type of neurodiversity does this cause?
- Apr 2022
- Feb 2022
I don't think it's a surprise to anyone to know that there are certain activities that help create that space, and it’s been widely commented upon. Doing the dishes, walking the dog, cleaning the house – you need to be doing something.For me, pruning trees in our olive grove is perfect. It takes a little bit of attention, but not that much attention.
This is related to the idea of diffuse thinking caused by taking breaks or doing things that don't require extreme concentration. Flaneuring... walking, etc.
You want an activity that requires a little bit of attention but not too much attention. Doing dishes, walking, errands, etc. are good examples.
Relate this to the
- Dec 2021
In fact, the methodical use of notebooks changed the relationship between natural memory and artificial memory, although contemporaries did not immediately realize it. Historical research supports the idea that what was once perceived as a memory aid was now used as secondary memory.18
During the 16th century there was a transition in educational centers from using the natural and artificial memories to the methodical use of notebooks and commonplace books as a secondary memory saved by means of writing.
This allows people in some sense to "forget" what they've read and learned and be surprised by it again later. They allow themselves to create liminal memories which may be refreshed and brought to the center later. Perhaps there is also some benefit in this liminal memory for allowing ideas to steep on the periphery before using them. Perhaps combinatorial creativity happens unconsciously?
Cross reference: learning research by Barbara Oakley and Terry Sejnowski.
- Sep 2021
Brains don’t think as well in bodies sitting still as they do in bodies performing some sort of low-intensity motion. We know this intuitively — think of how many people, for instance, say they get their best ideas while walking — and yet so many classrooms and workplaces are designed to inihibit movement, designed on the premise that people think best while sitting still. Low-intensity movement improves attention and focus (as anybody who has used fidget toys during meetings knows), and yet we not only don’t design for it, we punish it. “Parents and teachers often believe they have to get kids to stop moving around before they can focus and get down to work,” Paul writes. But “a more constructive approach would be to allow kids to move around so that they can focus” (49).
Another example of encouraging walking to think
- Jul 2021
Most of this is material I've seen or heard in other forms in the past. It's relatively well reviewed and summarized here though, but it's incredibly dense to try to pull out, unpack and actually use if one were coming to it as a something new.
3 Productivity hacks
- Zen Meditation (Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryū Suzuki
- Research Process -- Annotations and notes, notecards
- Rigorous exercise routine -- plateau effect
The Zen meditation hack sounds much in the line of advice to often get away from what you're studing/researching and to let the ideas stew for a bit before coming back to them. It's the same principle as going for walks frequently heard from folks or being a flâneur. (cross reference Nassim Nicholas Taleb et al.) The other version of this that's similar are the diffuse modes of learning (compared with focused modes) described in learning theory. (Examples in work of Barbara Oakley and Terry Sejnowski in https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn)
I've generally come to the idea that genius doesn't exist myself. Most of it distills down to use of tools like commonplace books.
Perhaps worth looking into some of the following to see what, if anything, is different than prior version of the commonplace book tradition:
The Ryan Holiday Notecard System @Intermittent Diversion - https://youtu.be/QoFZQOJ8aA0
Article On Notecard System  https://medium.com/thrive-global/the-notecard-system-the-key-for-remembering-organizing-and-using-everything-you-read-4f48a82371b1  https://www.writingroutines.com/notecard-system-ryan-holiday/  https://www.gallaudet.edu/tutorial-and-instructional-programs/english-center/the-process-and-type-of-writing/pre-writing-writing-and-revising/the-note-card-system/
- Oct 2020
got immersed into a maze of down subway lines which left me plenty of time to reflect.
This sounds a lot like the experience I had with you at the IndieWebSummit where we got so engaged in talking and thinking while we walked back to the hotel one night that we easily got lost and walked twice as far as we needed to.
Are there any other texts that you would add to my list to guide my personal inquiry this year?
You might take a quick search into some of the writings of Nassim Nicholas Taleb relating to the idea. He mentions some of the benefits of being a flâneur interspersed in several of his books as side topics, but I'm sure he's got to have an essay or two on the overall topic.
He's one of the people I've noticed using the word (in his case as a title which he might put as a profession on his business card) in the past 20 years who seems to have brought it to the social forefront to the point that many of your other references have been influenced by it.
I think there's a lot to be learned about the overarching idea, so I'm interested to see what you come up with on an extended survey of the word as you progress.