Should we be dandelions?

This one is old by now (in internet terms, at least. It’s from way back in April), but that doesn’t make it less interesting (and I forgot to write about it when I first watched it).

Author Neil Gaiman gave a talk at Digital Minds Conference on being a writer in a digital age.

You should probably watch it (Jenn Falls even made a full transscript, if you’re more into reading).

Gaiman says many things, that greatly resonates with me and the way I work.

The core theme of the talk is change:

“People ask me what my predictions are for publishing and how digital is changing things, and I tell them my only real prediction which is it’s all changing. I don’t know what publishing’s going to look like five years from now. Anyone who says they do is probably lying to you. I don’t know, neither does anyone else. Amazon, Google, all of those things – probably aren’t the enemy. Big publishing – probably isn’t the enemy. The enemy right now is simply refusing to understand that the world is changing.

Change is not inherently bad, nor is it inherently good. It’s simply change, a condition we need to accept and understand.

As a metaphor for the important ability to adapt to new situations, Gaiman keeps returning to dandelions:

try everything. Make mistakes. Surprise ourselves. Try anything else. Fail. Fail better. Succeed in ways we would never have imagined a year ago or a week ago. I think it’s time for us to be dandelions willing to launch a thousand seeds and lose 900 of them if a hundred or even a dozen survive and grow and make a new world. And I think that’s a lot wiser than waiting for 1993 to come back around again.

Quite often, the major barrier to change is the fear, that we won’t succeed. We could greatly reduce this fear by embracing the idea, that not succeeding is no problem at all. In fact, it’s to be expected in many cases. If we’re so hell-bent on not failing, we’ll probably never succeed.

What does it even mean to succeed? And to fail? Let’s revise our use of these terms.

I can’t help but consider life one big experiment. The same goes for education, society, anything. We keep trying to get it just right, but it can’t be done. There’s no one right answer, no one right way.

Nonetheless, we have to keep experimenting.

By Mathias Poulsen

PhD student at Designskolen Kolding. Studying how we might design for playful, embodied and speculative democratic participation. Founded CounterPlay and the Danish Play Think Tank.

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