Disclaimer: I work in Google's Policy Team, developing multistakeholder cooperations for internet governance & policy themes, hence I want to point out that all the opinions and ruminations on this blog are mine, not Google's.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

virtual xmas present & max' life's venture

It has become a tradition for me to share a mash-up of my "Best Brainfood of the Year" as my virtual present with my friends and peers. This year i selected books, videos, sites, and services waiting to be cognitively unwrapped right below the few paragraphs about what happened in my life in 2008:

My year was dominated by my experiences in the bay area (San Francisco):

Stanford's d.School
During my post-doc in Stanford i learned in & about the d.school, which is the best educational institution i have ever seen. Why is it so great? Because it is an environment where creative thinkers coach transdisciplinary teams of learners to design adequate innovative solutions (to any kind of problem) - they teach design thinking - hence d.school is a mindset and a set of solution development practices - @ d.school knowledge is created and enacted rather than consumed and memorized.

Startup Experience @ Supecool School
During my time in California i also met Steli Efti, the founder of SupercoolSchool. Steli became my best friend in the area and SupercoolSchool.com became "my first start-up". The idea is really really supercool: it's a webplatform that offers a marketplace for learning (it allows you to say i want to learn X and team up with others with the same interest). I am "only" an adviser to the company, but it really feels like my baby and it provided the opportunity to live the life of a silicon valley entrepreneur (meetings with venture capitalist, pitching, bootstrapping, networking, organization building...). If you are interested to learn more, I co-authored an article with John Seely Brown, and Howard Rheingold "Entrepreneurial learning in the networked age: How new learning environments foster entrepreneurship and innovation" where we discuss Supercool School. I also wrote several substantial pieces on our educational philosophy. It will be amazing to see our baby grow up! Please come and join our educational revolution!

Research @ Google
After a great summer Europe VW-bus road-trip to a friends wedding in Greece I returned to California to do a research project investigating learning & leadership development practices @ Google. During the two months there i interviewed more than 20 Googlers and Nooglers (new googlers) and deliberated with veteran managers on Google as a Complex Adaptive System - I'd say my initiation into Google culture and practices has been versatile & profound and i am now ready to roll up my sleeves and apply the insights gained. In short, my experience there was supercool and I am looking forward to work with my Google peers in 2009.

Oh and i climbed of course. Man, do they have great rock in Yosemite (some pics)! I spend almost every second weekend there and after adapting to the craziness of traditional climbing i slowly but surely did longer and longer climbs (up to about 1000m = 16 rope lengths = 16 hours) including my first big wall - where we slept on a little ledge at about 300m.

Internet Governance & Human Rights on the Internet & India
In 2008 i accepted to coordinate the Dynamic Coalition on an Internet Bill of Rights. It is a true challenge: super complex discourse space, globally dispersed volunteer participants, etc. etc. nevertheless for me it's the perfect cause. To contribute actively to the humanization of Internet Governance and thereby help shape how we participate in Cyberspace & network societies is for me the most rational citizen/netizen engagement. And it is highly rewarding; I learn and become competent in pragmatic leadership, political alliance building, (online) collaboration and community building, plus it is great for networking and social capital building. Lastly it is a fascinating field for academic reflection (I co-authored two papers and participated for the first time in GigaNet's conference planning committee).

The yearly gathering - the UN lead Internet Governance Forum (IGF) - happened to be in India. The timing was tight, but i squeezed in one week of travels before the conference. The quest was clear: full immersion in indian culture, "instant expert" in indian philosophy and of course inner peace and happiness in an ashram crash-course ... impossible to convey what happened in this mail, but we can surely have a good conversation next time we meet. In short i fell in love with the country, i feel humble (with regards to the insights of modern western philosophy) and a deep respect for the human centeredness and idealistic foundation of indian philosophy/spirituality.

Social Media & Virtual Communities @ UOC

In december Howard Rheingold and myself started to work with a team from UOC.edu to develop a Social Media & Virtual Communities Strategy and conduct 4 pilot projects to foment virtual community building and collaboration. So far the kick-off workshops went really good and i am looking forward to co-lead this knowledge entrepreneurship initiative meant to appropriate internet based innovations into a university (= my phd theme).

And here are my brainfood recommendation:

Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis - a man who lives his life to the fullest, a man who acts, a man with a examplary life philosophy; a great book about the flow, the energy, the unplanability of life; a book of down to earth pragmatic philosophy of the heart not the lofty intellectual philosophy of the post-modern refelctive citizen. [This book is considered THE modern greek classic]

Goodbye Tristesse by Camille de Toledo - the first intellectual social-critique of substance i read who is my age (30). The book is fun to read, because he uses our language, because he sees the world through the eyes of someone who came of age between the 9th of November 1989 (when the Berlin wall came down) and 11th of September 2001. Sarcastic post-modern french intellectual.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera superb Kundera style tales of life; Kundera has a unique skill to mash psycho-analysis with rich and engaging stories that hit the essence of what's "really going on" when people accept, revoke or shape their destiny.

When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom entertaining (fictional) contest and dialogue between Nietzsche's radical life-philosophy and (Breuer/Freud's) psycho-analysis; wrapped in a well designed storyboard situated in Freud's Vienna.


The City Of Lost Children (1995) if you liked Amelie and Delicatessen this one is right down your ally. Rather sur-realistic somehow darkish fairytale.

Into the Wild - i guess it comes as no suprise that this movie about a guy who leaves civilization to live in the wilderness of alska speaks to me, and i believe most of you will like it (at least as a thought experiment)

Tropa de Elite (2007) same atmosphere and intensity as City of God. Hard core, hyper-real impressions from Brazil's social dillema.

Serenity (2005) - really nice Star War's style science fiction

Maria Full Of Grace (2004) - this one is heart breaking. Story of a young columbian girl who becomes a coke smuggler. I don't know why exactly, but this movie was really really intense. I guess it was because the main actress does an outstanding job and the director manged to produce a super credible setting.

No Country For Old Men - Coen brothers at their best; modern city-cowboy adrenalin with strangeness mix

Charlie Wilson's War (2007) - tells the story of a politician who runs the US foreign affairs committee on afganistan in the 70/80ies and describes how he created a war there. I am not sure how much of the movie is based on historic facts, but the movie claims to be based on a true story.

I.Heart.Huckabbes (2004) - surrealistic funny - something for the whole (post-modern) family

- drop.io is a place where you can drop up to 100MB files (or you can fax, email, call to the "drop-box"), no registration, but password protected if you want, and the best is it's sooooo simple everyone can use it instantaneously

- Ubiquity - the modular mash-up web we will take for granted in a couple of years - http://labs.mozilla.com/2008/08/introducing-ubiquity/

***The apple side of life (Best Free Mac Tools):***

- Copy & Paste Pro - is a tiny tool that remembers the last 30 things (text snippets, pix, files) you copied and gives you a shortcut (double paste) so you can select which one you want to paste - i experiment with many services over the year, Copy & Paste Pro is by far the most useful new tool i have adopted this year. I use it about 100 times everyday.

- Quicksilver - makes starting all programs much faster - ctrl + space and the first letters of the program name replaces looking and clicking around before you found the right launch icon.


Best documantary about kids' internet use: FRONTLINE: growing up online: watch the full program | PBS

Supercool videos explaining social media, wikis etc. so your grandma will understand: The Common Craft Show | Common Craft - Explanations In Plain English

A real utopia! 1800 people who live together in india Where is Auroville and how to get there?

Does the internet change the way we perceive the world? Is Google Making Us Stupid? (New York Times article)

TED videos are cult: Clay Shirky on institutions vs. collaboration | Video on TED.com

My good friend and mentor: Howard Rheingold on collaboration | Video on TED.com


I hope you find something meaningful amongst the recommendations above!

and i am of course looking forward to hear from you and hopefully spend some time with you in 2009

happy holidays


Anonymous said...

Gute Idee das. Schön, ein wenig davon zu erfahren, was Sie im letzten Jahr so "unternahmen".

Viele Grüße
Hans G. (Bln)

SSingla said...


It's so good to see all this from you and I'm really happy to be able to contact you this way (I'm not sure what your e-mail address is now?!)

I'm in London and I'm very interested in some of the stuff I've seen here. Perhaps we can find a time to talk?