January 28, 2010

Blogger’s Quest(ionnaire): Thought Architect Venessa Miemis

Venessa Miemis describes herself as a “Futurist” and “Metacog.” She is an avid reader, from The Age of Spiritual Machines to her latest indulgence in complexity science. Adjacent to her reading appetite, she practices her hobby of picking up new hobbies like yoga and gardening, even beer brewing. She also takes full advantage of the highly diverse cultural scene of New York City. One of her pursuits is a Masters in Media Studies at the New School which shares space with Parsons. I discovered Venessa and her blog Emergent by Design via @designthinkers. It is where I discovered her insightful post about design thinking. Her blogging reflects her holistic attitude and practice, and her sustained web-based publishing experience may help your entrance into the blogosphere or further inform your current work in it:

Why did you create a Website of regular entries?
I had a lot of ideas swirling around in my head, and got really frustrated when I couldn’t articulate them to people in conversation. The process of putting it down on paper and figuring out how to communicate in a clear, simple manner has been incredibly helpful in understanding what it is I’m actually trying to say. It’s also intrinsically rewarding to have people come to the site and engage with the ideas presented there.

What Web-based solution did you select and why?
I’m using Wordpress because it seems to be simple and highly customizable. What I’d really like to do is a “blogazine” style, which would made the posts more visually interesting and contextual, but I don’t know anything about coding. I guess it’s something I’m going to try and teach myself this year.

What is your definition of a good blog and what are
three good blogs that you frequently visit?

A good blog is one that makes you think. I don’t have any three blogs that I consistently visit, because it all kind of depends on what I’m researching, but three that I think have interesting content and ideas are GOOD, Worldchanging, and Inhabitat.

How do you create content for your blog?

I try to notice emerging trends and to recognize patterns in information, and connect the dots in new or different ways. Often I’ll see a series of posts bubble up about the same topic within a couple of days of each other, and I check them out to see what’s interesting to people at the moment. Then I try to figure out how it might be related to something else that no one has mentioned yet. I try to put a new spin on it, and then leave it open-ended to let people draw their own conclusions about what it might mean. It’s a process that allows my posts to act more like primers, which ends up sparking some great conversations and comments.

How do you stay organized and motivated
to contribute to your blog?

The instant feedback alone is very motivating. I find out right away if a post “works” or not based on the traffic, comments and retweets on Twitter. But also, my blog is about my own personal exploration and development, so when I go too long between posts, I question whether I’ve gotten lazy or complacent in my thinking and learning.

As far as organization, I’m still working out a system. I bookmark articles for future reference in delicious, and have between 20 to 30 half-baked blog post ideas in my Google Docs at any given time. That seems to be working for now. I’ve heard people swear by Evernote, but I haven’t had a chance to experiment with it yet.

For those aspiring to make a Website composed of
regular thoughts and
/or images, what is your advice?
It sounds so cliché, but I think it really does come down to having a passion for your topic. I’ve tried starting a few other website/blog projects, but they’ve become more of a burden because my heart hasn’t been fully in them. On a more practical note, I think it’s really important to have a method for capturing ideas and information. For instance, I always have a notebook with me to jot down insights or ideas, and I take photos of random or inspiring things with my phone’s camera. I also think it’s good to make an environment where you can go to be creative, if possible. I have a workspace (below) in my house with my desk, bookshelf, and corkboards tacked with images I like and sticky notes of ideas. I know I can go there and have uninterrupted peace of mind to work out ideas for blog posts.

What is your quest in blogging?
Well, I started to lay out the purpose for the blog in a post titled A Metathinking Manifesto. But generally, I think we’re at a turning point in history, characterized by accelerating change and increasing complexity. Many of the systems that serve as the foundations for how we operate as a society are failing, (education, government, healthcare, etc.), and in turn creating a tremendous opportunity for us to collectively invent something new. It’s a tall order, and will probably require a fundamental shift in the way we think about the world and our place in it. I’ve always liked the Einstein quote, “The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” I agree. So how do we get there? That was the impetus behind the blog, and the suggestion in it’s title, “Emergent by Design.” It implies that we have a choice to be active participants in the process of constructing a better future. My hope for the blog is that it might serve as an inspiration to others and a challenge to see the world through a new lens.

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Photographs courtesy of Venessa Miemis.

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Read more of the Design Feast series Blogger’s Quest(ionnaire).

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