The Side View – A Call for Contributors

The Side View Logo Final V1“Attention is an art form. We explore how people shape their minds to become expert perceivers and doers.”

I’ve been working on a new project as of late. I’m calling it the Side View. It’s a media organization (podcasts, essays, interviews, books, events, that sort of thing). The basic premise—to study the skills of perception in action—is one that grows out of the work I’ve been posting about here for the past several months, but it’s much more than that. It’s a whole media environment.

The official launch is several weeks off yet. I’m aiming for Fall 2017. However, the major components of the website are already in place and I’ve been working with a graphic designer on logo and branding elements. I also have a sound engineer helping me set up and use the recording equipment for podcasts, and I already have several contributors ready to go. Things are shaping up.

The Side View will be larger than a blog or a podcast. I’ve been running my own editing business for a few years now, so I’m well-placed to produce quality books (electronic and hard copy) and other media materials. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which means there’s plenty of opportunities to throw live events related to the Side View themes. Stay tuned for more info on that.

All of this is to say that moving forward I’ll be scouting for contributors who are looking for a venue for their work—for short written pieces, art pieces, training or teaching programs, podcast contributions, and things I haven’t thought of yet. Trained and expert modes of perception, along with the practices that deliver them, are the uniting theme, and as people will see this broadly includes the insights of philosophers, athletes, meditators, artists, crafts and tradespeople, musicians, designers, engineers, psychologists, and more.

I’m pasting in below the general description of the project. Feel free to share it widely with folks you know who may be interested. If you have an idea for an essay or a podcast episode drop me a quick line at arobbert84(at)gmail(dot)com. I can respond there with more details about the style guide, appropriate length, publishing schedule, and so on. I can also share with you the website URL, so that you can see how our work will be presented.

Finally, I just launched two social media channels for the Side View, on Twitter (@TheSideViewCo) and Instagram (also @TheSideViewCo). While the official launch is still weeks off, you can follow these accounts for updates leading up to our first podcasts and publications. I’ll be doing a more sustained push for followers and so on then.

Please get in touch if you’re interested in collaborating! Details below.

The Side View

What We Do

The Side View explores how people shape their minds to become expert perceivers and doers. We see attention as an art form, as a craft or skill of the whole person.

Our Work

The Side View media environment features a blog, a podcast, a journal, a book series, and live events. Follow along with us, and explore your own conversions in perception.

Our Contribution

The Side View focuses on the transformations experts undergo to see the world in new ways. We describe how experts learn to make the implicit explicit in their work.

Who We Are

The Side View features a rotating cast of philosophers, athletes, artists, designers, meditators, scientists, and engineers based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Our Approach

The Side View is about the knowledge and intuition we use to navigate the world. It’s about how we come to be expert perceivers and doers, people who know, in the moment, the right details to attend to and the right responsive action to take. In this sense, the Side View is about how the mind meets the world. But it’s also about how the mind, when properly trained, modifies the possibilities of the world it comes to perceive.

Today it’s common knowledge that the world shows up differently to different people. The details we notice and find important vary based on our backgrounds, beliefs, and expectations. So what, then, does the world of the expert look like? How, for example, does the designer see space? How does the artist see color and shape? How does the meditator see inner states? How does the athlete see movement?

These and more are the questions the Side View explores. The central idea is that perception of whatever kind is never given without effort. Perception on this view is rather a hard-won achievement, a result of diligent exercise aimed towards a goal; it is itself a kind of practice, a work of attention trained up through effort and repetition. From this perspective, the expert lives in a different world of possibility, operating with a level of detail and discernment gained only through years of training.

Take the expert rock climber as an example. When they look at a rock face before making their climb, the details and contours that show up for them are not the same ones that present themselves to the beginner. In other words, the same rock face shows up in different ways depending on the abilities of the climber. New possibilities for ascent become possible as the climber trains up their perception. The same can be said of the painter, the psychologist, and the carpenter—all have heightened levels of perceptual ability, cultivated through practice, experience, and learning.

To explore these ideas, the Side View draws from philosophy, science, meditation, athletics, art, and more to discover how people understand, and then transform, their worlds. It connects these disciplines through the idea of practice, emphasizing the skills that lead people to become masters of their art in the first place. The ancient Greeks used the word askēsis, meaning exercise or training, to describe this process of personal and collective transformation. The Side View uses this concept to explore the experience and training required to produce great thinkers, creators, and doers in any craft.

MEA Conference Outline

michael-d-beckwith-217144The 18th annual Media Ecology Association conference is coming up this Friday and will run from June 22–25 at Saint Mary’s College of California. I’ll be speaking on Friday (I think around 1:00 pm).

Feel free to drop me a line if you’ll be there and want to connect. Below I’m including the outline and notes for my talk. I’ll likely submit the final paper to the MEA’s journal, Explorations in Media EcologyMore on that soon.

Media Ecology and Bios Theoretikos: Philosophy as Extended Cognition

– In this talk I draw on the work of Peter Sloterdijk to suggest that philosophical ability is closely tied to modes of training (askēsis) that aim to transform awareness through self-overcoming (metanoia). Specifically, I explore the media environments that facilitate philosophical activity and the practices that enable philosophical understanding.

– Philosophy on this view is facilitated by an intricate ecology of affordance spaces—academies, libraries, monasteries, and more—whose design helps train up the individual’s capacity to perform certain maneuvers in thought, maneuvers that make apparent the environments required for the bios theoretikos (the life of contemplation).

– To make this point, I start not with humans and our practices, but with spiders and theirs. As I will show in my talk, when we think of philosophy as an instance of extended cognition, we can draw many parallels between our practices and those of nonhuman species, who like us build artifacts to deepen their perception and understanding. Continue reading

The Knowledge Ecology

tumblr_mguzssszB41r87i11o1_500[Image: Henrique Oliveira]

I’ve been moving towards a description of the role concepts and knowledge play in action and perception. To this end, I’ve worked my way through the contributions that philosophers like Hubert Dreyfus, John McDowell, Barbara Gail Montero, and Alva Noë have made in these areas. In my most recent post, I suggested that Noë’s descriptions of concepts as bodily skills offers a compelling way of mediating between Dreyfus’s nonconceptual account of action, where action is guided by environmental solicitation in an intentional arc that progressively gears the agent into its environment, with McDowell’s view of action as concept-mediated through and through. I concluded that post by suggesting the intentional arc requires for its success some amount of conceptual content in order for it to yield the increasingly rich surplus of detail that it generates in the agent. In other words, I argued that repetition in the intentional arc must be knowledge directed.

In this post, I continue to investigate the role of knowledge in action. To repeat the claim I expressed earlier, the role of judgment in intuition implicates knowledge in the structure of our responses to solicitations. Knowledge on this account must be more than mere trial-and-error repetition because it must also include a decision about what and how to practice and repeat. Knowing what to practice and how to practice correctly goes beyond mere repetition and invokes the knowledge needed to judge the what, when, and why of a situation, all knowledge-derived and goal-oriented decisions. This accumulation of intuitive ability gained through correct practice and judgment means that the iterative pattern of acquiring new intuitions should not be thought of as merely an aggregate of past scenarios (i.e., as contextual memories), but as repetitions that, when practiced correctly, involve judgment and meaningful discrimination exercised throughout the process of training and skill building.

Continue reading