CSS and Fashion

An intriguing question regarding the nature of aesthetics online; fashion vs function. It asks the question I dread  (as it suggests that I may have to upgrade to ‘Pro’ for my blogging needs) and that is ‘how much can code actually express’ (at the 2:45 min marker), and that code is art (in all CAPS, so it is ‘serious’ stuff).  I wish all discussion of code and style was this energetic and passionate, and littered with pop cultural references I instantly get, in contrast to the literature slog. There is nothing like memetics for that sweet heuristcal nuance (more on these terms soon). Let’s stay positive about digital expression people, youtube Idea Channel for the win! Gesamtkunstwerk!

ps. There is also a Brazilian band called CSS (cansei de ser sexy), whose track CSS suxxx (also the title of their blog, filled with cats) I have included for the sake of academic rigour, would not want to get them confused ;p


I know that feel Kochalka

On foot of my previous post on autotelism, I feel that the vulnerability that we all expose ourselves to online should be acknowledged. The risk of putting your thoughts, emotions and self + goals out there is very palpable. Having been stalked online back in the ‘ol days of bebo, and the frequent media exposure on bullying and such trollish behaviour online (as evinced by the gawker and reddit wars).

The firm nerves required to post and communicate online is another aspect that both the personal and the professional individual must develop within themselves. I find the honesty and mind-blowing longevity of the American Elf comic strip a curious blend of both the deeply personal and the mindful professional. Today’s strip titled ‘Happiness’ indicates this very issue of identity, and the internet and vulnerability; as Kochalka depicts himself as the titular American elf, even as the diary strip is based on real life events.

Loss of XML functionality at Kildarestreet.com

Apparently, the government has moved the transcripts of all Oireachtas business from debates.oireachtas.ie to a separate microsite, oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie. This has impacted on the site Kildarestreet.com, which had been a popular independent website that allowed users to track Oireachtas debates on any matter of their choosing. The loss of functionality has prompted Kildarestreet.com to launch a fundraising initiative to get the site back up and running. They are also adapting the site design so as to avoid this issue  re-occuring.

“Administrators are now looking to rebuild the website so that it can ‘scrape’ data from the new website, without the need to rely on any XML feeds produced by the Oireachtas authorities themselves. This, in turn, would mean the site could add to its own database of debates sooner after those debates happen, as the transcripts of parliamentary business are uploaded to the new Oireachtas site quicker than they had previously been. It would also, in theory, allow the site to extend its facilities – including the possible publication of a TDs’ voting records, which are built into the Oireachtas transcripts.”

The Journal.ie

The fact that such a useful resource is not only independent, but dependent on the public to fund its redesign is an uncomfortable reflection of the low-level of transparency and accessibility available from government sources. If you feel like supporting the redesign, please do so. It should be noted that kildarestreet.com does not receive government funding. If you want more info you can contact the moderator of Kildarestreet.com; his name is John Handelaar, he’s a self-employed web developer https://twitter.com/handelaar. They also have a twitter


What’s in a name?

Etymology: Greek autotelēs, from aut- + telos, meaning self + goal. (shout out to redbarn)

The Oxford English Dictionary cites its earliest use as 1901 (Baldwin, Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology I 96/1), and also cites a 1932 use by T. S. Eliot (Essays I. ii. 24).

The title of this blog originated from the book Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. Her book deals with the issues surrounding modern gaming and game design, and applying the theories associated with the field to issues in life.  The chapter on designing a game to assist her recovery from a head injury was enlightening and creative, yet bluntly honest with regards to the teething problems all interventionist systems can encounter.

McGonigal refers to positive psychology on a frequent basis throughout, and the work on the concept of flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Csikszentmihalyi became fascinated by artists who would essentially get lost in their work. Artists, especially painters, got so immersed in their work that they would disregard their need for food, water and even sleep. Thus, the origin of research on the theory of flow came about when Csikszentmihalyi tried to understand this phenomenon experienced by these artists.

It is found across history from the teachings of Buddhism and Taoism speak of a state of mind known as the “action of inaction” or “doing without doing” that greatly resembles the idea of flow. Also, Indian texts on Advaita philosophy such as Ashtavakra Gita and the Yoga of Knowledge such as Bhagavad-Gita refer to a similar state. Michaelangelo is now considered to have been in a state of flow when paining the Sistine Chapel.

More recently flow was used  in the theories of Maslow and Rogers in their development of the humanistic tradition of psychology. Flow can be identified across many areas; in education through overlearning and the Montessori method, improvisational music, sport psychology, religion and spirituality, gaming, occupational psychology. Flow  has also been implicated in the addiction process, as the neuropsychological components are becoming better understood. So how does semiautotelic fit into all this? There are 6 components in the flow process, the final one being the autotelic state; experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience.

The aspect of flow and the autotelic experience that captivated me personally related to the theories of happiness, within positive psychology. It states that there area many ways to be happy, but that we cannot find happiness.

“No object, no event, no outcome or life circumstance can deliver real happiness to us. We have to make our own happiness – by working hard at activities that provide their own reward.”

(Lyubomirsky, Sheldon & Schkade, 2005)

Those things which result from partaking in an activity which generates intrinsic rewards; positive emotions, personal strengths, and social connections that we build by engaging with the world around us. It’s not about the praise, or the payout (so how many of us does  the autotelic experience really occur within?). McGonigal contends that we undertake autotelic work because it engages us completely, and because intense engagement is the most pleasurable, satisfying, and meaningful emotional state we can experience.

Personally having experienced this state while painting (even when mixing colours), reading, gaming, or listening to music. In fact, the creative field is abundant with such autotelic experiences. The self-goal is at the heart of all creativity, be is within the humanities or the sciences. The crux of the autotelic experience is even more relevant in the Ireland that I live in, as the pursuit of the autotelic maintains that a person can be happy more often than not- no matter what else is going on their lives. It flys in the face of what most of us have been taught, that to be happy life must be a certain way, and that the easier life is, the happier we are. But the relationship between hard work, intrinsic reward, and lasting happiness has been verified and confirmed.

The challenge now is activating our own happiness through intense interaction in our lives, as represented by the title image; different aspects flowing in and out, connecting and changing. On this blog I intend to address those things that I encounter that are autotelic in nature, assist flow, or act as a barrier to it. The semi in semiautotelic indicates that the autotelic state is not always fully accessible, but that there still are moments of value and positivity to be cherished, and the manner in which the digital realm can assist, augment and emphasize these intrinsic events. Lets create a positive place in this corner of the online world.