Productive Procrastination #22 – Vacation Reading





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Productive Procrastination

August 2 · Issue #22 · View online

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Welcome back. 
I’m in Berlin again after a week in Sweden at a ridiculously beautiful place. I can now attest that this whole notion of a cabin by a lake is indeed relaxing. A week away is also very helpful, it seems, to get some business. I came back to a calendar full of meetings and project deadlines. Not complaining at all. See you on the other side. 

Vacation Reading
Recommended some time ago by Deb Chachra, I chose an odd week to read finally this manuscript of a series of lectures Franklin gave in 1989: I finished the book more or less on the same day, she passed away. This made it easier to dive deeper into her legacy with people linking to obituaries.
I’ll make this easy for you: read this book! Like the kids says: it is everything. Franklin looks at the influence of technology on society and provides tons of insights about how it affects the people who have the least say in it. Her frameworks are super helpful to analyze, criticize and improve technology. This is the book I will point to from now on when I’m asked to sum up what has been on my mind throughout the last years.
I have a particular bias towards “new” thinking, believing that our digital world is such a new thing that it also can only be examined by a new theory. This book is the perfect antidote to that bias. Not only did she give the lectures in 1989. She also refers to a lot of ideas and writing from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. The book feels like a treasure map to lost ideas, which could be rather helpful for our time.
Thus, I have my second book to re-read every year (the other one is Pattern Recognition).
This book explains a method, developed by some guys from Google Venture, to design, prototype and test ideas in just five days. I only half-joked on Instagram that, taken together with Franklin’s book, it’s the perfect description of how we work at Third Wave, combining deep thinking about the consequences of technologies with an agile, iterative approach to strategy development.
As far as methods go, this one is a pretty solid one. We’ve done quite a lot of workshop, and it’s clear that Sprint was refined endlessly. It’s also widely applicable, and one can only use parts of it for smaller tasks. Nevertheless, it’s just a method, not a savior. It’s not a magic ritual that will turn your stupid idea into a money-making machine. As with all these workshop techniques, it’s a fantastic help to externalize the capabilities of a team. Nothing more. That said, we will use it a lot.
Will switch to German for this book about the German parliament. Roger Willemsen hat sich für ein Jahr (2013) in den Bundestag gesetzt und seine Beobachtungen aufgeschrieben. Herausgekommen ist dieses großartige Buch.
Erste Erkenntnis: Fuck, Willemsen fehlt. Seine Beobachtungs- und visuelle Beschreibungsgabe sind so wertvoll. Zweite Erkenntnis: Ich habe immer gesagt, dass mit dem Ausscheiden der FDP aus dem Bundestag die liberale Stimme fehlt. Nach der Lektüre bin ich in erster Linie froh, dass die FDP nicht mehr drin ist. Welche menschenverachtenden Äußerungen Willemsen da teilweise zitiert. Dritte Beobachtung: Ich habe die Taschenbuchausgabe gelesen, in der Willemsen in einem Nachwort die Reaktionen auf das Buch beschreibt. Aufffällig dabei vor allem, wie die Hauptstadtjournalie die gleichen Kritikpunkte anbringt wie die Politik, was einmal mehr auf eine zu enge Verwebung zwischen Journalismus und Politik schließen lässt. Die Fähigkeit zur Selbstreflektion ist nach meiner Beobachtung einer der größten Probleme des deutschen Journalismuses. So lange ausgerechnet Thilo Jung der einzige ist, der dem deutschen Regierungssprecher auf den Sack geht…
Letztendlich war ich mir nicht sicher, ob Das Hohe Haus einen zynisch über den Politikbetrieb oder voller Hoffnung auf die nächste Generation zurück lässt. Eines aber ist ganz sicher. Es braucht ganz, ganz dringend einen Regierungswechsel, um die komplett eingefahreren Vorgänge aufzubrechen. Nicht nur deswegen kann ich das Ende der Ära Merkel kaum erwarten.
Ok, back to English. I’ve only finished half of Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (recommended by Paul Graham Raven). But I’m loving it already. Once again, a book from 1974 is making all the necessary points about naive utopias and political powers. This one will get a second reading soon with a marker in hand. 
Also read Warren’s Normal in the only correct way: by a cabin in the woods. As many have said, this one struck a little close to home. But more on that after I’ve read the fourth and final part. 
Reading Recommendations
I’m With The Banned
‘Hope is a​n embrace of the unknown​’: Rebecca Solnit on living in dark times
The Oppressive Gospel of ‘Minimalism’
Citizenship in the Era of Nation-as-a-Service
Lunch with the FT: Philip Tetlock
I’m having a ‘Digital Transformation’ right now
Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless
Favorite Quotes
“From earthworms we learn that before anything grows there has to be prepared soil. When we talk about the endless process of bringing briefs and information to government, the only thing that can keep us going is the notion that it prepares the soil. It may not change minds, but it will provide the arguments for a time when minds are changed. Unless there is that prepared soil, no new thoughts and no new ways of dealing with problems will ever arise.”
–Ursula Franklin’s earthworm theory of civic engagement
“We still live in a world haunted by demons—only the names have changed.”
Thank you
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