February 2008


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Todd deKoker is one of those yet-to-bust out artists in Toronto that anyone in the visual arts, design and, yes, even branding scenes should keep an eye on. He’s already put commercial jobs galore under his belt with his work at Imagine That! and now, after announcing he’d get to it a few months back, he’s ready to go public as a (non-commercial?) artist. Above is a copy of the flyers he’s shipping round to friends and family. Hey, he said I could forward it to friends, right?

Trying to keep up the 3 week tradition of posting the big choons for the beginning of the week. And I didn’t even know there was a ‘video’ for “No Wanga Gut,” the Tiger song that was among the very first dancehall hits to get me hooked back in the late 80s. Odd, but those of you who already appreciate will…appreciate.

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We’re living in a liminal time. As anyone familiar with that most numinous of concepts introduced by Arnold VanGennep and later refined by Victor Turner knows, time, when liminalized, is neither now nor then, here nor there. That’s exciting because, in the spirit of Turner, it suggests we’re living in a time that is potentially hugely transformative. Welcome to the betwixt-and-between!

No longer one to get 100% caught up in the frenzy of the moment, I’ll be the first anti-pundit to say that other times have been transformative. But the current and emerging intersections between Web 2.0, Design 3.0 and the social, political, environmental, corporate, consumer and other worlds they’re out to tweak are changing the game in a way that could make vinyl records, film and TV appear as blips on the cultural radar screen.

If you followed Idris Mootee’s Advanced Branding Master Class held this past summer via his blog, you’ll know I’m down with the idea (and practice) of co-design and transformation. In response to one of Idris’ questions concerning the future of ‘brand’, I suggested brand(s) could/should enter a performative phase.
Brand as performance, I wrote, would

– be a celebration of cultures and meanings made as much (if not more) by consumers as by boardrooms

– be more collaborative, more about opening participatory folds of design, packaging, retail, advertising, marketing etc within and between (how consumers actually consume) brands

– generate symbolic, ritual power through play and display by providing a stage for social dramas: scenes, parties or spontaneous mobs that – on streets or online – forge greater alliances, extend word-of-mouth through the tribe, make meaning through co-participation and can be fun

– use that power to mobilize corporate and consumer communities for social transformation; above donations or sponsorships, beyond Just Do It and Be All That You Can Be and with accountability becoming more central to success than authenticity, take a leadership role in championing causes and affecting them.

I know many in the design/web world share a similar thrill for what’s just over the precipice, especially all you corporate ethnographer’s trapped in the anti-liminal zone of ‘actionability’. So, just in case you missed some recently posted guides to help you on your way towards transformation (can we add transcendence to that?), a few candles lighting the way….

The 10th anniversary conference on Participatory Design: Experiences and Challenges takes place from September 30 to October 4 in Bloomington, Indiana. This meeting of minds – known as Participatory Design (add PDs to your EAs, IAs, BDs, PhDs, CEOs and such) – represents “a diverse collection of principles and practices aimed at making technologies, tools, environments, businesses, and social institutions more responsive to human needs. A central tenet of PD is the direct involvement of people in the co-design of things and technologies they use.” Check their site for info about key speakers Natalie Jeremijenko and Finn Kensing, get your bosses to pay for the trip, and consider their core questions before hopping on the plane: What are the important trends, phenomena, developments, and views on participation and design etc., which in so many different ways challenge our traditions, our experiences and/or the current ‘wisdom’ within the field?

And then there’s NextDesign, the folks behind exciting projects, including a new GoogleGroup called Transforming Transformation. Co-founder GK VanPatter recently posted a lengthy discussion there in which he wrote, “As part of Design 3.0 we are no longer just interested in understanding users (outbound awareness). We are also interested in understanding the project team and even the client team (inbound awareness) as part of the transformation equation.” Wow! As part of their transformation equation, NextDesign is currently seeking non-profit organizations who have complex organizational challenges and seek FREE confidential strategic innovation help” from their Complexity Navigation students. Check out their site to learn more.

When I launched Ape I planned to drop a motivation piece of music/vid every Monday to support the troops. Woops! Too busy this week. So instead, start your weekend with a little Ninjaman.

For those who don’t know the Phenomenon One aka Desmond Ballantine aka Brother Desmond, he is – hands down – one of the great, unsung performers of the 20th and 21st Centuries. A big boast, I know, but when it comes to the many layers of what performance means (and there are many), few performers, Jamaican or otherwise, peel the onion down to its social-cultural-musical-physical core like Ninja.

Apologies for any elements some find vulgar and/or tasteless. Like the UFC (see below), real performance ain’t always pretty. Case in point: Super Cat does take a likkle beating.

Considering the ‘test version’ of the front page that popped up today, throwing up a LinkedIn visual on this post just isn’t worth it.

Now, as a major LinkedIn fiend over the past month’s (successful, thanks!) job quest, I’ve become very intimate with the day-to-day shiftings of my Connections, using my Connections list to access my favourite blogs (Dino and Idris!), checking out how many times my name appeared in search engines, checking who visited my profile, back-door Googling my way into viewing all the details of the Private profiles (it’s easy, if you haven’t tried) and so on. So when I discovered this 1.0 spin on a site that, from searching their own Jobs postings, I know are in a major redefining phas, I was very disappointed. That’s all, that’s it on the critique: all I’ll say is this shit looks almost as dull as Lyro.

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One of my favourite brands is finally coming to Canada. After grappling with various athletic commissions through the years over the weight of gloves, the ‘brutality’ of the sport and a few dodgey illegal fights on a First Nations reservation or two, the UFC (that’s Ultimate Fighting Championship) storms into Montreal’s Bell Centre on April 19 for the welterweight fight of the century (so far): Saint Isidore, Quebec’s Georges St. Pierre vs. Long Island, New York’s Matt Serra.

If you’re not one of the 13,000 fans who purchased tickets on the first day (eat that UFC record Mandalay Bay!) or one of the millions more across North America (the huge Spike TV and PPV market) or the U.K. (another PPV market), you probably don’t care. Maybe you even find the sport tasteless, too violent, etc. etc. Fair enough. It’s not always pretty. But it is exciting, especially from a brand/business perspective: underground to mainstream, controversy to commercialism, the ‘end of boxing’ etc. etc. If you have any doubt, just check out the rush of sponsors jostling for space on Spike’s ad breaks, on the Octagon’s mat and on the T-shirts of fighters big and small.

You can get a sense of the rise of Zuffa (UFC’s company) and my own struggle over the pain-pleasure principle of why some love the battling brand in a cover story I did last year on Georges St. Pierre (before his shocking title loss to Serra) for my old gig with Peace Magazine. And you can check out my GSP update, complete with an exclusive Matt Serra interview and double-welterweight photo shoot by Craig Boyko in the mag’s March ’08 issue.

That’s right, after handing in my resignation and sending notice of it round the world, Peace publisher Harris Rosen new my weak spot to get a contribution out of me. I can’t quite explain why it worked. I’ve interviewed thousands of people in my life, a range of folks that reads something like Iron Maiden-Shabba Ranks-Debbie Travis-Bryan Adams-Paul Oakenfold- Jodie Foster’s Army-Slayer-Gregory Isaacs-DJ Keoki-Nate Dogg-Hizb ul Mujahideen-hundreds of ravers-a few CEOs-and beyond.I’d thought I’d finished doing it in the pop realm, but there’s just something exciting about talking to one man about punching another man out, and what kind of a life that man leads. Extreme interviewing?