[IMAGE: EYE OF HAINT]
Finally got round to reading all the great things about the Interesting 2007 gig – that'll teach me for not snapping up a ticket quick enough!
Amongst all of the brilliant blogging after thoughts, here, here and here for example, it’s got me thinking about the related concept of ‘interestingness’, which is something that Jeffre (here, here, here) and Russell (here) have discussed previously.
It might come as no surprise to even the passing title skimmer of this blog, that my humble contribution to the ‘interestingnessphere' (hey, just kidding!) comes by the way of dialling up the importance of culture in the mix. Specifically, it’s ocurred to me that interestingness is more or less akin to the cultural theorist’s favourite trump card: cultural relevance.
Here’s some thoughts why…
When something interests people on a global or national level it often goes on to become a visible part of mass culture.
If something interests people on a local or group level it can be considered to appealing to a sub-culture, micro-culture, or at least some kind of neo-tribe.
At an individual level (tying in with the above points), a person's cultural background and value system plays a crucial role in interpretation and ultimately what they find interesting.
Following ideas of the socio-cultural variety, what is interesting is never fixed, it is constantly in a state of flux. And even when things do stay interesting over a long period, most of the time it’s because they’ve reinvented the representation to keep it culturally relevant.
Rethinking, reimagining and reinventing culture is important, since something interesting is often interesting precisely because it usually contains an element of the re-familiar.
I used to have a quote on my blog title (I should bring it back) by George Washington Carver, who’s quoted as saying: “
“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”
This is something that is culturally relevant, innovative, and therefore, interesting!
I thought I’d be a bit adventurous and try running this quote through a trusty matrix to see what happens …
The outcome suggests that perhaps there are four main manifestations of ‘interesting’ (broadly speaking):
Common things in life in a common way
This is the very familiar, not particularly groundbreaking, but if it’s done better than everyone else (e.g. like the Japanese who value perfection and continuous improvement) it's interesting. Could also include icons, classics and vintage for example.
Uncommon things in life in a common way
The idea is new and unfamiliar, but the design/execution is familiar, so that people can still relate to it and find it interesting.
Common things in life in an uncommon way
The vision of George Washington Carver above. The idea is familiar, but the design and execution is renewed/refreshed. Quite possibly the holy grail of interesting to the mass market.
Uncommon things in life in an uncommon way
Abstraction and ambiguity. Because the idea and the execution are both unfamiliar, we have no direct frame of reference to guide an interpretation. More likely to interest imaginative artsy folk.
Also just to note that I’m not suggesting that something has a definitive classification here, or that it won't vary person by person. Further, idea and design/execution cannot be neatly separated – they are ultimately bound to each other. But sometimes it can still help to artificially split them - and then piece things back together again when no one's looking ;)