John Lobell addresses how new technology changes our consciousness, which in turn leads to cultural paradigm shifts. He received his degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and is a professor of architecture at Pratt Institute. His interests include creativity, architecture, cultural theory, consciousness, mythology, and movies. He has lectured throughout the world and is the author of numerous articles and several books.
Our world is no longer what we have thought it to be, and a new world is struggling to be born.
Visionary Creatives are driven to bring this new world to all of us.
20th February 2014

Why The Liberal Arts

Recently the President made a remark critical of art history education, like you might get a better job in manufacturing.

So then critics piled on. Hey, the teaching of liberal arts is a massive industry that receives massive federal subsidies. Go gore somebody else’s ox.

People speak up for the study of art history in particular, and the liberal arts in general, but few say why we should study these things.  Indeed, the liberal arts are under question in American education, and the defenses of it I have found over the past few years say little that is meaningful.

So here is an explanation of what an art history education should provide. This explanation is a model of what I expect from other defenses of the liberation arts, but I am not holding my breath. Read the rest of this entry »

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1st December 2012

Vincent van Gogh and Doctor Who

Let’s imagine we could ask van Gogh if he would trade his life of suffering for one of feelings of contentment, satisfaction, wellbeing, pleasure; a positive emotional state. We know how Nietzsche would answer. I suspect van Gogh might answer the same way, declaring himself with William Blake:

“As I was walking among the fires of Hell,

delighted with the enjoyments of Genius;

which to Angels look like torment and insanity.”

And we can imagine van Gogh reflecting on Nietzsche’s admonition, to participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.

Doctor Who is a long running British television science fiction series about a Time Lord, Doctor Who, who travels through time in a phone booth. In an episode titled “Vincent and the Doctor,” Doctor Who and his companion, Amy, travel to Provence in the south of France in 1890 to enlist van Gogh’s aid in fighting a space monster. They form an affection for van Gogh and in an attempt to relieve him of his despair, take him to our present to see an exhibit of his work in Paris. Van Gogh is overwhelmed by the enthusiastic reception for his paintings. Read the rest of this entry »

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28th September 2012

Steve Jobs, Design, and Visual Thinking

Since his death, Steve Jobs has been put at the top of many lists of the most important CEOs of our time and also on top many lists of our most creative figures. And deservedly so. Jobs’ contribution was to culminate one era and to help launch another.

The field we call industrial design grew out of the industrial revolution, and our current approach to industrial design originated at the Bauhaus, a school active in Germany between the world wars. The Bauhaus philosophy was that the design of an object—a tea kettle, a lamp, a chair, indeed anything—should reflect how and of what materials it is made, should indicate how to use it, and should communicate the spirit of its time. Jobs recaptured that Bauhaus ideal and brought it to new heights. In so doing, we can say that one of his achievements was a culmination of the industrial age. His other achievement, in the adoption and forwarding of the graphical user interface that is now ubiquitous on computers and mobile devices, was to move us deeper into our emerging era of visual thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

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29th June 2012

What are we to make of the Jonah Lehrer thing?

It’s all over the news. The Big Idea journalist, Jonah Lehrer, fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan in his best selling book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. You can follow the breaking news on Google. (Note that Imagine is one of the books I reference on this site.)

What to make of this? Lehrer’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, has recalled the book. You can’t even find it new on Amazon. Wow! As of this writing three used copies are being offered—is everybody else hanging on to their copies in hopes they will increase in value? And Lehrer resigned his new dream job as a science writer at the New Yorker. And there will surely be more to come. Discoveries of other problems with Lehrer’s books? An in depth mea culpa from Lehrer? We will see.

But there is something else going on here. It has always been hard to write a real book. Now it appears that many people can no longer even read a real book. Read the rest of this entry »

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21st June 2012

Creativity and Discontinuity

On this site, and in my book, Visionary Creativity, I say that creatives swim in the culture of their day and manifest in their work the spirit of the age. The things they create—in art, design, science, technology, business—embody that spirit, and at the same time are a little off center for us, somehow not what we expected, presenting a discontinuity that stretches us, restructures our consciousness, pulling us into the future.

What do I mean by discontinuity? Let’s start by flipping through the pages of an art history book. The most obvious thing we notice about art is that it changes. For example in modern painting we see the change from the realism of Courbet, to the everyday subjects of Manet, to the Impressionism of Monet, to the Post-Impressionism of Cezanne, to the Cubism of Picasso. What is the reason for these changes? Read the rest of this entry »

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19th June 2012

Creativity and Happiness

In the June 28, 2012 issue of The New Republic, Deirdre N. McCloskey, who teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Gothenburg, published an article titled “Happyism: The creepy new economics of pleasure.” In it she describes the truly scary social “science” of “hedonics,” the supposed study of what makes people happy, and proscriptions for social and even governmental policy to enforce happiness.

Later she writes, “… nowadays there is a new science of happiness, and some of the psychologists and almost all the economists involved want you to think that happiness is just pleasure. Further, they propose to calculate your happiness, by asking you where you fall on a three-point scale, 1-2-3: “not too happy,” “pretty happy,” “very happy.” They then want to move to technical manipulations of the numbers, showing that you, too, can be “happy,” if you will but let the psychologists and the economists show you (and the government) how.” … Some of the quantitative hedonists have taken to recommending governmental policy for you and me on the basis of their 1-2-3 studies; and some of them are having influence in and on the Obama administration.

She writes, “The knock-down argument against the 1-2-3 studies of happiness comes from the philosopher’s (and the physicist’s) toolbox: a thought experiment. “Happiness” viewed as a self-reported mood is surely not the purpose of a fully human life, because, if you were given, in some brave new world, a drug like Aldous Huxley’s imagined “soma,” you would report a happiness of 3.0 to the researcher every time. Dopamine, an aptly named neurotransmitter in the brain, makes one “happy.” Get more of it, right? Something is deeply awry…

McCloskey’s critique of hedonics is devastating. But how should we understand happiness? Read the rest of this entry »

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15th June 2012

The 10,000 Hours Thing

In the past few years several writers looking at creativity have relied on the work of psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, finding that mastery of just about any discipline requires ten thousand hours of “deliberate practice”—working on technique, seeking feedback, and addressing weaknesses. Problem is, mastery is not creativity. Read the rest of this entry »

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1st June 2012

Creativity and The Real Meaning of Facebook

Over the past few weeks we have seen extensive news coverage of the badly handled Facebook initial public stock offering. What we have not seen is discussions of what Facebook means.

Facebook is involved in the creation of a new… a new what? A new industry? How about a new way of being in the world?

In my book, Visionary Creativity, I write: “Visionary Creatives feel that our world is no longer what we have thought it to be and that a new world is struggling to be born. They wonder what is wrong with others that they do not also feel this and they are driven to produce work that will help others feel what they feel. As Shelley wrote, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Read the rest of this entry »

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