Month: October 2020

Monday Reads – 26/10

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Happy Dussehra to everyone celebrating!

This week’s articles largely focus on Design and it’s increasing impact / relevance in this ‘work-from-home’ lifestyle.

How ‘biophilic’ design can create a better workspace – A design philosophy that could make you more productive and happy at work, based on research that shows that ‘incorporating nature can help with things like decreasing stress and increasing productivity, creativity and attention span.

The Evolving Workspace – An article that takes a detailed look into how offices might have to evolve in the post-Covid world. ‘COVID is now a part of our story, and as employees return to work, they will be looking for reassurance about their safety and the values of their workplace.

The tyranny of chairs: why we need better design – Many of us who have been working from home for an extended period of time would, by now, have realised the importance of having an ergonomic chair. This article looks at the history of chair design.

Change Your Space, Change Your Mind – An interesting podcast on how you can change / design your space to help drive creativity.

How ‘Feierabend’ helps Germans disconnect from the workday – A challenge that many of us might have faced while working from home is how to disconnect ‘work’ from ‘personal time’. This article talks about how we could design our lives to create that clean break between work and life.

Impact of Streaming Services on Culture

At the outset, I must confess that I am possibly not the best person to talk at length about streaming services. I won’t consider myself as a regular user of any of the services such as Netflix, Spotify or others. However, since the start of lockdown, I, like many others, have started spending more time on these services. And this led me to think about the impact that these services could be having on Culture.

Culture is a very broad term. I will be using this term largely in the context of Arts and Entertainment, specifically music and video.

Let’s start with the consumer. I guess there can be no doubt that the consumer has benefited from these services. One is no longer bound by the dictates of local television channels or record stores, but has the ability to discover artists and shows from around the world. It is easier and cheaper to experiment with new stuff as there is no incremental cost of watching or listening to a song or show. And, just as important, one can carry around one’s ‘TV’ / ‘Audio System’ and listen to one’s favourite music / watch TV.

Has this benefited the artists? I am not an expert, but I can understand that this can be complex. On the one hand, all artists now potentially have equal reach and are not overly reliant on the TV Studio or Record Label for distribution. Also, to the extent that piracy is controlled, they can also more effectively monetise their output. However, I do not have details of the revenue sharing arrangement between all the parties involved to say if artists are better off financially with the increasing adoption of streaming services.

What about record labels / TV and film studios? Again, this is a complex area that I am now going to get into, simply because I have very little information on the relationships between them, the streaming services and the artists.

Coming to the crux of the article – What is the impact of the widespready popularity of these services on the nature of the work being produced? Are all the advantages of these services (some of which have been mentioned above) being made use of by the artists to come up with more and more unique, path-breaking work? Or is the prevalence of ‘algorithmic’ discovery leading to a standardisation of output to maximise views and listens?

I have just started researching about this topic. And so it will be presumptuous of me to claim any knowledge or understanding of this. The best I can do at this stage is to refer readers to some of the more interesting articles on this topic I came across. I would recommend beginning with Can monoculture survive the algorithm? Another one is Is Netflix Ruining Culture?

Monday Reads – 19/10

Photo by Nicola Nuttall on Unsplash

This week’s articles include topics such as Work From Home, Why Read, The Power of Place and The Algebra of Happiness. Happy Reading!

Is Silicon Valley Ready for WFH? – Last week, I wrote about Twitter’s plans for a permanent Work From Home policy. This article looks at how some other Silicon Valley organisations’ plans for WFH.

Why Read? – Some nuggets from Harold Bloom’s book on ‘How to Read and Why’.

The Power of Place: 8 Writers on the Destinations that Changed their Lives – Beautiful nuggets from some leading travel writers on places that inspired them, and literally changes their lives.

The Algebra of Happiness – Regular readers of my weekly column would know that I do like reading articles by Professor Scott Galloway. This, for a change, is a video, but a very nice one on what really makes us happy.

The Future of Travel Media?

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I am a travel buff, and have been fortunate in being able to travel to many parts of India and beyond. And my love for travel also extends to consuming all forms of media on this topic.

My first love of travel related media is the humble map. As a child, I used to spend hours devouring maps, either in geography books, or stand-alone maps. It gave me such a thrill to ‘see’ different places and where they all fit in this beautiful world.

I think the next step for me was travel literature. I recollect going through a phase of voraciously consuming books by reputed travel authors and trying to imagine what they must have experienced during their travels.

I then discovered Travel Guides, specifically Lonely Planet. I used to enjoy browsing through their various titles, and drawing inspiration from them. It helped that my first job involved visiting many media stores (books and music) where I had the time to browse the book (and music) shelves.

Travel Guides, for me, are not just about specific information about a destination, but a way to learn more about a place in general – it’s history, culture, key highlights. I do have a small collection of Lonely Planet Guides in my library, with my favourite being the one on the Indian Himalayas.

Along with Travel Guides, I also started consuming travel magazines. This was the time when dedicated travel magazines were just being introduced in India, with Outlook Traveller being the pioneer in this space. I used to enjoy reading their issues, as well as the travel related books that they started publishing.

This was also the time when satellite TV took off in India, and we were suddenly bombarded by TV shows from around the world. One of my favourite genres was, and still is, the travel show. I particularly loved watching ‘Globe Trekker’. And it was a great joy to rediscover this during the lock-down.

And then the internet took off. Suddenly, it was much easier to access travel information from all over the world. I started reading online travel blogs, which provided a great resource to experience travel from the eyes (and words) of common travellers.

One of the first casualties (in my experience) of the rise of online travel media was the travel magazine. I didn’t need a physical magazine any longer to read about the latest hotspots.

The second casualty was books on travel. As I started traveling more and more (and writing occasionally about them), I found my interest in reading books about someone else’s travel experiences waning.

On the other hand, during the lock-down, I discovered travel podcasts. It was interesting to hear about the travel experiences of famous people, but I am not sure if this is likely to sustain for very long.

I still read travel guides and use them as reference material while planning a trip. The mode of reading has shifted from physical to online (e-readers) though.

Another genre that I discovered during the lock-down was the travel vlog. It is a bit surprising that I did not know about the existence of such a thing till this year, but then I was never much of a video watcher (till the pandemic enforced lock-down). Again, it is nice to be able to see places and journeys from the eyes of common travellers.

Looking forward, my sense is that the future of travel media is going to be greater and greater authenticity. By this, I mean that content generated by common people is likely to be more popular than the typical travel show where you have the same hosts talking about their visits.

Does that mean that there is no future for travel shows (or books)? I don’t think so. I believe there will always be an audience for quality long-form content. But the content has to move away from basic information about a place or journey to deeper insights and ruminations about the experience. One example of this would be Anthony Bourdain’s travel shows.

I am sure there would exist travel books on these lines as well, but I admit that I can’t recollect reading one. I have read a lot of travellers to Mumbai saying that ‘Shantaram’ was a great source of inspiration for them, so maybe that’s one example, but I can’t confirm because I haven’t yet read it.

Monday Reads – 12/10

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A few interesting articles from the world of Tech, and the city that’s probably highest on my bucket list of Indian cities to visit…

When the Dust Settles – A thought-provoking articles on who is likely to emerge as the winners in the post-pandemic ‘New Normal’ era…

Americans might never come back to the office, and Twitter is leading the charge – A detailed look behind the scenes of Twitter’s plans for indefinite work from home for its employees…

The disruption con: why big tech’s favourite buzzword is nonsense – This might not be a popular view, but it’s important to understand how others (non-tech folks) might perceive the tech world’s obsession with ‘Disruption’.

Hometown Discoveries: That Sweet Calcutta Cacophony – I am disappointed that, in my over 4 and a half decades, I have only visited Kolkata once, and that too, for a brief business visit. I would love to spend more time exploring this metropolis in Eastern India and soaking in its atmosphere. In the meantime, I have to do with reading such articles on the charms of the city.