Posted by: Liz Massey | June 10, 2008

Surf’s Up: Creativity Links for June 10, 2008

An essay on supporting freedom of expression for photographers who work in public places, a report on the health benefits of blogging, a look at a breathtaking new form of digital art, and a blog post the use of design to make a better world are all on the plate for this week’s “meal” of tasty creativity-related output.

1. Bruce Schneier has written a deeply thought provoking piece over at the UK’s daily paper, The Guardian, on the post-9/11 suspicions cast upon photographers who do their work in public places. He notes that, despite the increasing concern about photography of large public forums and structures, none of the terrorist plots that have been carried out over the years (or foiled) have revealed a shred of evidence that the perpetrators photographed their targets first.

“The 9/11 terrorists didn’t photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. Timothy McVeigh didn’t photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The Unabomber didn’t photograph anything; neither did shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Photographs aren’t being found amongst the papers of Palestinian suicide bombers. The IRA wasn’t known for its photography.”

So why does the idea that public photography equals terror plot persist? It’s a movie-plot threat.

Bruce explains:

“Terrorists taking pictures is a quintessential detail in any good movie. Of course it makes sense that terrorists will take pictures of their targets. They have to do reconnaissance, don’t they? We need 45 minutes of television action before the actual terrorist attack — 90 minutes if it’s a movie — and a photography scene is just perfect. It’s our movie-plot terrorists that are photographers, even if the real-world ones are not.”

Bruce’s article includes links to photographer’s rights wallet cards, to be shown to those who would squelch the right to point and shoot for unclear or unfounded reasons.

(A big tip o’ the blog to The Online Photographer for posting links to this article to their blog first.)

2. Finally, after the spate of articles on the “health risks of blogging” spurred by a controversial article in the New York Times, Build a Better Blog highlights a report in the latest Scientific American that reveals that blogging can have therapeutic value, primarily because of its potential as a tool for self-expression.

Jessica Wapner, writing for Scientific American, notes,

“Self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery.”

The article goes on to mention a study in the February issue of the Oncologist, which reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not.

One of the most exciting tidbits in the article for me was the note that hospitals are now beginning to offer patient-authored blogs on their websites. Nancy Morgan, lead author of the Oncologist study, notes that blogging provides all the benefits of traditional expressive writing, plus the bonus of interacting with receptive readers in similar situations: “Individuals are connecting to one another and witnessing each other’s expressions—the basis for forming a community.”

3. What do you get when you cross the Wii hacking skills of a tech-master with the creativity tools of a great artist? Digital Wheel Art— a wheelchair that uses a hacked Wii Remote to help disabled people make paintings.


The video, which I found by way of the excellent TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) site, features the work of inventor YoungHyun Chung, who showed off the device at the Maker Faire in NYC last week. Amazing!

4. Coroflot’s Creative Seeds blog posted an excellent discussion recently about getting one’s sustainable design ideas implemented.

Post author Carl Alviari notes,

“Much of the discussion within the creative community is couched as if designers don’t know how to make their projects more sustainable… But talk to practically any student or recent graduate, and nearly all of them will attest that they want to improve the world, solve problems of waste and poverty through better design, make a positive impact, make a difference.

“Even kids who want to do nothing more than draw cars and shoes all day will light up when explaining the fuel cell technology that drives their roadster, or the compostable uppers on their high-tops. This was true when I was in school, five years ago, and if you ask someone who studied a creative profession 10 years ago, it was mostly true then.”

Who needs to do more to get sustainable product design ideas enacted? Designers? Management? The public? Go to Creative Seeds and put in your two cents!

BONUS: I was going to call this “dessert,” but it’s more than just tasty, it’s good for you! (My most common dessert is an apple or another fiber-laden fruit, so that should tell you something about my tastes.) Katherine Tyrrell from the Making a Mark blog has developed a Squidoo page dedicated to covering copyright for artists.
Katherine’s comprehensive and informative site includes information on “orphan” works, ones where there is no clear entity to award copyright to (even when the creator is known), which is a hot topic of debate in the legal world these days. All in all, her guide is helpful, and will be a boon to all who create.

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