#btconf Berlin, Germany 11 - 12 Sep 2023

Joel Gethin Lewis

Joel is a consultant, lecturer and artist. He loves designing constraints and curating context for projects as well as being a catalyst for learning for both students and clients, helping them to build capacity and enabling them to pass on their knowledge to others. Joel particularly loves thinking about new uses of technology as part of a group and then helping to make those uses happen.

In learning he’s interested in connectivism, threshold concepts, open source and being anti-obfuscatory, or against the obscuring of communication.

Ever since Joel saw the Wizard of Oz he’s been interested in the mechanisms or systems that enable stories to be told or society to function. He’s interested in making work that allows for real-time interaction between people, places, stories and objects through the use of technology.

Currently Joel is researching solar-powered computing, the history of weaving and global scale augmented reality sculpture.

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With over 20 years of experience blending craft, design and technology to make new media, in this talk Joel will share some of the things that he's noticed along the way, including the power of kindness, what finding a practice means, the use of meditation and his journey from working for others, to making a studio, to teaching.


Thanks very much for being here and seeing my presentation.

It's great to be back.

As Marc said, the last time I presented at Beyond Tellerrand was in Dusseldorf in 2012 and a lot has happened since then.

So what am I doing now?

What am I here to do?

I'm a consultant, lecturer, and artist and I currently teach and lecture four days a week and then on top of that I consult for a lot of different people.

But because I can only do one day of work a week for them, I mainly help people at the start or the finish of their projects.

And the main thing that I do for people is I provide context or, as Marc was saying, their limitations for people's projects to help them make progress.

But I'll talk about that a little bit later on.

As I've said, I'm also an artist and I've only ever shown my work publicly once before, here also in Germany, a very artistic country.

So I'm very excited and nervous about that and I'll be showing you more of that later.

I just wanted to say this honestly.

Please please get in touch if anything that follows in this presentation is useful or interesting to you.

The main reason I said yes to this presentation is because I want to collaborate with kind and nice people and you're all kind and nice people, so I would love to collaborate with you.

So I'm not going to particularly do a portfolio show because you can go to my website to see that, but if any of these things that have been useful to me are useful to you, please get in touch.

So saying that I'm not going to do a portfolio show, here is some of my work.

So this is some of my work from my time working at United Visual Artists on the right here or founding a company with Zach Lieberman and Theo Watson called Yes Yes No and then down in the bottom right some work I did with my friend Pete Helicar.

We had a studio together called Helicar and Lewis and I realized the thing that unites all of these projects is my interest in the body and specifically this idea of kind of body mirrors or how you can use technology to make new kinds of interactions with the body that make new relations with yourself and each other.

Here's the last bit of portfolio work I'm going to show.

So this is one of the companies I'm currently collaborating with called Universal Everything where I'm the interactive creative director.

They've been around since 2004, but I've been working with them since 2019.

You can see me here modeling our latest iOS app.

It's called Super You and it allows you to remodel your body in real time.

You can see me modeling it there.

I'm also available for modeling if anyone would like to commission me.

Why is that funny?

I don't understand.

Okay, so yeah, portfolio show over.

Now, oh, are you going to do it?

I can feel everyone getting ready.

It's weird now I can never drink water again without having in public or anywhere without expecting a woo.

So what happened since the last Beyond Teller and that I presented at?

So I was running a studio with my friend Pete Helicar, Helicar and Lewis.

That shut down in 2016.

I got really depressed.

Then I got into teaching and then I got into arting and then I got into consulting and I'm going to give you my kind of journey since the last time I presented at Beyond Teller and so as I said, I ran a studio with my friend Pete Helicar from 2008 to 2016.

It was called Helicar and Lewis, our two surnames, not very imaginative.

We made open source interactive installations for brands and museums and charities and after it closed, I got depressed and I started teaching more.

I rediscovered my art practice and then I started consulting again with fresh energy, but I'm going to take you back to 2016.

So for 18 months after the studio shut down, I was in a depressed state, but I didn't realize it at the time and if any of you have gone through depression or are working with it at the moment, that's probably a familiar thing to you, right?

The thing you don't realize is at the time that you were depressed, it's very difficult to realize that you think that's just the way it's going to be forever.

So it's always the way and I was sitting in a pub, actually in a field outside a pub in East London called London Fields and I was drinking a pint of lovely beer and looking a bit sorry for myself and my friend Iris came up to me, an old friend of mine, and like a true friend, she said, hello Joel, you look like shit.

And I was like, thanks, Iris.

That's just what I needed right now because I'm feeling great.

And so she said, you know, why don't you come down with me this weekend?

I'm organizing this event called a nature inquiry where we're going to get out of London and we're going to go and spend two days together, a whole weekend with a bunch of other people and reconnect with nature.

So that weekend I spent a lot of time with 20 people I'd never met before.

I spent most of the time crying.

It was extraordinary.

I really found support there and I've been going back every three months ever since.

And it really helped me think deeply about what I'd been doing and what I should be doing.

And being introduced to different methods of meditation was the key to everything.

And I've realized that meditation is just about noticing things, right?

You can do a cleaning meditation or you can do a walking meditation or you can do any kind of meditation.

It's just a way of doing things while you're doing other things.

And this presentation is going to be about some of the things I've noticed up to now and I hope they'll be useful to you.

If you're interested in learning more about meditation and you don't know where to start, there's this fantastic book by Aline Snell.

This is her.

It's called Sitting Still Like a Frog and it's designed for eight years to 11-year-olds, which is perfect for all of us because we're all children in our hearts.

And it's designed for kids of all ages, I should say.

It's really good.

It's available on the web and all the recordings of the meditations are available for free.

If you just do a search for sitting still like a frog, there's about 12 different meditations there.

My personal favorite is the spaghetti test.

You may have another one.

So I can't recommend it enough.

Another thing that I did when I came back from the nature inquiry is I emailed 20 people that I trusted and I asked them what I was good at.

What am I good at?

And I really wanted to do that to kind of get my ego out of the way, to destroy my ego.

Because I think this is a challenging thing to do sometimes, especially for people who work in so-called creative fields.

I mean, I kind of hate that word, right?

Everyone's creative.

I kind of hate that binary.

Anyway, I really recommend trying this, right?

I think we had this yesterday where someone said text a friend and say, like, what can I work on emotionally?

I'd really recommend doing this is email people and say, you know, no harm, no foul.

What am I good at?

And it will be really eye-opening.

I guarantee it.

And I've put a lot of the testimony that I received from that up on my website, which is joelgethenlewis.com.

So that's all there.

It's a hilarious website.

I'm not a website designer.

It has no images whatsoever, only emojis and text, and it loads in about 0.005 of a second as a result of that in terms of efficiency.

And apparently uses 100% less carbon than any other website in the world.

So I put a little brand on the bottom for that as well, so you can go and check that out.

So one of the most popular answers that I got from people, or the one that came up the most was that I was good at explaining things in a way that other people could understand.

And a lot of people came back as well and said things like, well, Joel, you know, you're not the best coder in the world.

And I was like, ah, I studied math and computer science.

I thought I was a really good coder.

So that was kind of a good explosion of my ego.

But I also, I love this answer, right?

Because I've always struggled with this sometimes, understanding new concepts.

And I always thought I was slow or stupid or somehow not getting things.

But I realized that I was quite often getting to a deeper understanding than other people were.

And if I could pass that on to other people, that would be great.

So after I came back from the Nature Inquiry and emailed 20 of my friends to find out what I should be doing, I realized that teaching was a path that I should investigate more.

So I started doing guest lecturing.

It's stopping me from drinking water.

Bad, bad.

So there was this word that I kept on hearing when I was at the lecturing or guest lecturing at these universities.

And it was this word, practice, right?

What's your practice?

And I realized there were lots of different meanings of the word of practice for me, right?

So practice as in practicing to get better at something, making a habit of something, just doing something repeatedly.

Practice as in to give lessons or repeated instructions.

Practice as in the exercise of a job or occupation or profession.

But the one that's my favorite is just practice as in, hey, I'm only practicing so I don't have to be perfect.

And I love that, right?

And I love that way of thinking about what I'm doing.

Another thing I love doing is thinking about utopias, right?

Thinking about what a perfect world would look like to me.

And I think it's a really useful exercise to do.

And I realized that one of mine is the academy or a place where everyone's learning and teaching forever.

Like, that would be one of my perfect worlds.

And there's some teachers and teachers of teachers that I'd really recommend having a look at.

Has anyone here heard of bell hooks?


Did they change your life after you read them, right?

Just extraordinary.

Like, the most radically caring, fantastic person ever.

So read bell hooks, as it says here, to build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to undermine all the socialization that leads us to believe in ways that perpetuate domination, right?

That's something that really struck me when I first read bell's work was this idea of realizing that we're in a society, a consumer society or indeed a capitalist consumer society that has domination as its main motivation, right?

I win, you lose.

I succeed, you fail.

This kind of binary of win or lose that isn't helpful for anyone.

And as she goes on to say, dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity.

Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, reveling in our differences.

This is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values of meaningful community.

So yes, read bell hooks and then read some more.

Another person to read is Mark Fisher, who was an extraordinary cultural researcher and a study of scenes.

So scenology was a thing that he was really interested in.

How do little cultures come up?

How do they enable themselves like the Flash community or the Drum and Bass community or any of these other fantastic artistic creative communities out there?

And this is a quote that's written up at Goldsmiths University in London, where he was a teacher.

Emancipatory politics must always destroy the appearance of a natural order, must reveal what is presented as necessary and inevitable to be a mere contingency, just as it must make what was previously deemed to be impossible seem attainable, right?

So it feels like in our world, it's impossible to create change.

We all know the changes that need to happen in our world, but a big part of the world that we're in is all of these things.

Well, yes, of course, we'd love to change these things, but I'm afraid they're necessary and inevitable, but that's just an illusion.

So yes, read Mark Fisher.

And as 2023, I've been a course leader in a lecture series called The Diploma in Apple Development.

So now four days a week, I teach students at the University Arts of London.

And you might say, hey, Joel, you've been talking about all this hippie shit and open source and stuff like that.

Like, you're doing a course in Apple development?

Aren't they like the biggest trillionaire company in the world?

What the fuck?

And the reason I'm teaching Apple development is because I spent a lot of time looking at where my students were spending their time.

All of my students that I was teaching in all these other universities all across London were spending a huge amount of time on their iPhones.

Now that may be because I'm a very boring lecturer.

They're all like, whatever.

But anyway, that was the sample I was drawing for them.

So there you go.

And I was also very curious to see if I could give artists and designers this difficult knowledge, this secret knowledge of writing software, and also show them that they didn't just have to be consumers of apps, that they could make apps as well.

And there was a place for them on the home screen, as it were.

So every year I set two briefs.

One about care and one about play.

And this was inspired by this person.

I've only showed dead people so far.

I think there'll probably be some alive people later on in the talk, if you wait.

There's a QR code there from the fantastic David Graeber.

He gave a talk from managerial feudalism to the revolt of the caring classes, which is all about this idea of the only two sustainable activities that we've ever discovered as humans are care and play.

And if you're not doing those, then you should probably be doing something else.

But play, not just as in games, but singing, making music, sculpting, playing with the past or remixing or playing with the future, making speculations about how the world can change, or care, not just as in medical care, but caring for buildings or archives or knowledge.

So I want all of you, after this talk, to go out into the world and build a playful or caring practice.

But it was also interesting because I set the challenge for the first half of the year of like, I want you to make an app for your iPhone that's a caring app.

And it was weird because everyone in the room suddenly was like, wow, I've never seen a caring app before.

And it seems so crazy that we talk about this multi-billion dollar industry of software, and yet nobody makes apps or software that makes you feel better after you use them.

Seems pretty obvious.

Anyway, here's a video of some of the projects that my students made in their first year of development.

So I only had five students because it was a course that only got announced two days before, two weeks, sorry, before the series, the year started.

Is this going to play?

Yes, it's playing.

And so these were the playful apps.

And this was in collaboration with an amazing bakery across the road from Camberwell College where I teach called Toad Bakery.

They're amazing.

If you're ever in Camberwell in South London, incredible pastries, go check them out.

And I was getting pastries from them every morning and I was like, hey, what about if my students made some apps for you?

And they were like, that sounds weird.

Do that.

And I was like, great.

And then we had the first lecture with them showing them the projects.

And the main feedback they came back with was, we love all the work you've done so far, but we want the apps to be much more cursed and totally non-commercial.

So I was like, perfect, exactly my kind of brief.

So this was the first project from Zach.

He made a two-bit, an eight-bit kind of game where you could run across the road and pick up pastries.

This one was from another student, Sophie, and she did a survey that would tell you what kind of pastry you should buy.

So what is the best kind of band?

What's your favorite kind of meow, meow, meow, wolf, wolf, wolf?

Strange responses.

And then you could see the result in augmented reality and stick that up to your socials, of course, because that's the main point of doing anything anymore.

God, I sound old.

This is Maria.

She was a specialist in 3D computer animation.

And she loved making beautiful 3D scenes.

So she spent a huge amount of time modeling the entire Toad Bakery as if it was actually run by toads.

And of course, made it in augmented reality as well.



Well done.


And we then went on to present all of these projects to Apple at their new Battersea headquarters in London.

And this is Emily's work.

I should make sure this one comes up.

She is working now or is going to be going into fashion merchandising.

And this is a genius project.

So she was using machine learning to recognize objects in the world and then take the first letter from them in order to solve a hidden letter or secret letter word game.

So it's kind of like, what's the New York Times?


It's like Wordle, but you have to find objects in the world in order to spell the letters.

I was like, oh, my God, you're going to go so far.

That's absolutely fantastic.

So this is them.

So Sophie wasn't able to make the final presentation.

So I got a cardboard cutout of her made and took her to the presentation at Apple because they have to be there as well.

That's Xiaowan, who's my co-lecturer.

She's amazing.

She's doing a PhD in machine learning around drum performance, which is the best use of machine learning I've heard in a long time.

And the concepts that I've developed around teaching after learning a little bit more about it is connectivism, threshold concepts, open source, and being anti-obsfucatory.

What does that mean?

Well, connectivism is a method of teaching which is really built for learning in the digital age, right?

So you realize that learning doesn't happen just within an individual.

It happens across networks.

Oh, my goodness, someone's calling me.


Oh, God.

I'll just put that there.




Threshold concepts.

What's threshold concepts about?

It's about teaching the threshold.

So instead of trying to teach an entire subject, you teach the troublesome knowledge, the thing that allows you to break through and make a new realization in terms of your knowledge.

One of the ones I do that with, particularly for computer science, is binary numbers.

So as soon as you know how to count in binary, you're able to understand a huge amount about the architecture of machines and things like that.

Open source, well, I know you all know about open source.

I open source everything I do.

So all my lectures are up online.

So if any of you want to do my diploma in Apple development, you don't have to spend 8,000 pounds a year to come and do it in London.

You can just do it for free online if you want to do that.

I probably shouldn't have said that.

And then anti-obsfucatory, it's kind of ironic because obfuscation is about obscuring the meaning of communication by using confusing and ambiguous language.

So obfuscation is obfuscatory itself.

Anyway, so jargon, basically.

I think this happens a lot in the creative technological industries where people use special words or secret words or acronyms, and that's actually a way of gatekeeping, right?

That's a way of keeping people outside for no reason.

Okay, so art practice.

I rediscovered my art practice, and it's another utopia that I love.

I would love it if everyone was an artist, right?

If everyone had an art practice, I think that would be a much better place.

The world would be a much better place.

And the thing that I hate the most is this myth that in order to be an artist, you've got to be a full-time artist, right?

Unless you're kind of starving and doing this thing that you could only think you could possibly do in the world, then that's not proper art.

I hate that.

I want all of you to have art practices because it's fun, right?

It's not about the destination.

It's about the journey.

So here are some quotes from some of my favorite artists.

So art is everything you don't have to do from Brian Eno.

So I'm sure there's lots of things that you don't have to do that you do.

So you're already artists, well done.

Alicia Cuare, extraordinary sculptor.

My work starts where I stop understanding it.

As a mathematician and a software engineer, or trained as those things, it was mind-blowing when I read that quote.

So it starts when I stop understanding what?

Agnes Martin.

The way of an artist is an entirely different way.

It is a way of surrender.

That also blew my mind, right?

That you give in, you release yourself from trying to understand what's going on.

And also the best of the two Albers artists, in my opinion, Annie Albers, well, you know how great work can affect you.

You breathe differently.

And that's the thing that I think is really true when you go and see a stupendous piece of art or discover it in your life.

You find yourself breathing differently.

And finally, Sarah Say.

Art is a timekeeper.

It endows breath into materials.

It is a traveling message between humans across centuries.

I think that's a really beautiful way to think about the things that you're doing.

That you're sending messages across centuries.

So how did I rediscover this art practice of mine?

It all came through Kerry Hand.

This is the extraordinary Kerry Hand.

She's someone who's mentored a lot of artists.

And I'd also recommend this, is it sometimes can be very difficult to make change on your own.

So don't be afraid of speaking to a coach or a mentor and connecting with them.

You don't have to do it forever.

It doesn't have to be there all the time.

But it certainly made a big difference for me.

And also, you know, barter economy.

I'm sure a lot of the people in this room have very desirable digital skills.

You can basically email anyone on the internet and say, hey, I don't have any money, but I can build you a website or make you some motion graphics or whatever in return for doing what you can do.

You know, barter economy is the future in case of apocalypse.

Very useful.

And that's all we'll have, right?

That's all that will be there.

And so, yes.

So as a result of her help and her support, I made an art film.

And I'd love to show it to you.

I've only shown it to one group of people before.

So if it's okay, I'll show it to you lot now.

It's just under four minutes long.

And she really challenged me to kind of change my mode from being someone who explains things as a teacher.

But instead of doing that, just trying to communicate how I see the world.

So I hope you enjoy it.

Can we take the lights down a little bit?


I know what she means.

She's a killer.

She's a killer.

I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, You're one that's sleep-riding I'm purple masculine You've got von, I, I, I, I, I, Yes, I'm Grandmother...


You're beautiful...

You're beautiful...

You're beautiful...

You're beautiful...

You're beautiful...

You're beautiful...

You're beautiful...

You're beautiful...

You're beautiful...

You're beautiful...

You're beautiful...

You're beautiful...

You're beautiful... so a lot of heat, which is really annoying, and how to get those heat back.

So, let's get started.

♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Thank you. applause So I realized I'm a collage artist, and I'm a collage artist that collects concepts and films and music and other things that capture my attention.

And this is a quote from a brilliant book called Everything I Know About Life I Learned from PowerPoint from my friend Russell Davis.

And he says here, quoting Charles Simic, collage, the art of reassembling fragments of pre-existing images in such a way as to form a new image, was the most important innovation of art of the 20th century.

And there's some advice here in the same book as well about if you want to start, if you want to start a new artistic practice, a good way of doing that, from the point of view of a writer in this case, but I think it's generally true, is short stories, monologues, poetries, things that you can finish and show other people.

And that's very satisfying and necessary for a writer.

What we all need is the satisfaction of this little uplift that we get psychologically from finishing something.

So the process of being able to finish something, that film took me six months to make.

And then my next film took me a year, and the one I'm working on now is taking me a year and a half.

So I've been following exactly the opposite of this.

But I feel like I should at least attempt to go in that order.

And also I saw this one on Twitter a while ago.

I'm not going to call it X, because it's Twitter.

Post all of your art, even if it's bad, because one person will love it and another will follow you.

So let perfection go.

So don't worry about it.

Just put it out there.

Another person that I love is Fernando Pessoa.

He's an extraordinary writer from Lisbon in Portugal.

And he did loads of different stuff.

He was a poet, a writer, a literary critic, translator, publisher and philosopher.

But he was an amazing writer, but he didn't just do it under his own name.

He had 75 fake names that he published work under for the whole of his career.

Alvaro Queiro, Alvaro de Campos, Ricardo de Reis, just among some of them.

He didn't call them pseudonyms because he felt that this did not capture their true independent intellectual life, and he called them heteronyms.

So these imaginary figures sometimes allowed him to go outside of himself.

So I'd like you to think about that as well.

If you could create a heteronym for yourself, or even 75 of them, what would their names be and what would they be like?

They don't have to be anything like you.

And thinking of that for me really helped my practice.

Recently I watched a brilliant documentary by Ken Burns, all about Benjamin Franklin.

And he did so many different things in his life.

He was a writer, a scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher, political philosopher.

And he did something different every decade of his life.

And that really helped me think about what I've been doing as well.

So in my 20s I was working for other people, in my 30s I had my own studio, now in my 40s I'm teaching other people.

It's possible to change.

And that's what my 40s is all about now, it's in support of other people.

And balance is really important for that.

This is Douglas Bevans, who is alive.

Wow, first person that's alive in this presentation.


He's a bookbinder and calligrapher.

And when I first met him I said, you know, Douglas, you seem like a pretty happy person.

Like, what's the secret?

And he turned around to me and he said, the secret is never work anywhere more than 50% of your time.

Because that's where you can say no.

As soon as you work more than 50% of your time anywhere, then you're stuck.

Because then they've got the majority of your time.

And of course I'm a hypocrite, I'm teaching four days out of five, but luckily teaching is paid so badly that it's under 50% of my income.

So I think I'm still there.

This is Stuart Brand.

He was the person who founded The Well, the Long Now Foundation.

He's also the person that persuaded NASA to release an image of the whole Earth, and basically started the environmental and ecological movement in the late 60s.

And there's a great documentary about him that's out there at the moment called We Are As Gods.

That's amazing, you should definitely go and watch it.

He had this theory called pace layering, which I really love, which is basically that this is how culture works, or a healthy society works.

You have fashion, as he called it, or art at the top, which is this crazy line that's just experimenting wildly.

And then it gets filtered down through commerce, infrastructure, governance, culture, slower and slower and slower until you get to nature.

And this is basically what our responsibility is, right?

We need to be experimenting wildly to then have it filtered through other things.

So, you know, wild experimentation creates all the new things in the world, so it's important that you experiment wildly, right?

I hate this myth that Google and Apple and all these other companies have, that they are in any way innovative, right?

There's all these companies that go, oh, we're innovative, we're innovative, we're doing all...

They're never innovative, right?

They're doing the most predictable thing that can then be scaled, you know, in a capitalist method to make the most money possible.

Anything you look at in the world, it is inevitable that an artist made it first, or someone engaging in artistic practice made it first, and then it was picked up by a commercial interest later on, and then used in an innovative way.

It's also a crappy word, innovation, it doesn't mean anything.

I saw this quote from the arts team at CERN recently, I really love this one.

Art is a knowledge-driven field, while science is an area that contributes greatly to our society and is a pillar of contemporary culture.

I love that, it's kind of like the opposite way around, but it feels like it's true.

William Gibson, one of my favorite writers, he had this fantastic quote about atemporality.

So atemporality, like asexuality is if you don't want to have sex, or you're not interested in sex.

Atemporality is putting yourself outside of time.

And so he said this brilliant quote, Very creative people get atemporal early on.

They are relatively unimpressed by the now factor, by the latest things.

They access the whole continuum.

Less creative people believe in ideas like originality and innovation, two basically misleading but culturally very powerful concepts.

Remember that your bleeding edge now is always someone else's past, someone else's 70s bell bottoms.

Grasp that and start to attain atemporality.

So basically, all periods of time are interesting, not just now.

That's just a myth of the capitalist consumer world that we live in, that you've just got to keep buying because look at how amazing this thing is.

Go into history.

So I don't think she's watching right now because she's probably doing a call somewhere else here.

But this is my fiance Jess.

And last year she said a very interesting thing to me.

She said, Joel, you treat your students like clients and your clients like students.

And I was like, oh, that's true.

But I probably shouldn't tell my clients that.

But it's true, right?

So I take what my students ask me to do very, very seriously when they come to me with an idea.

And when I work with clients in the commercial world, I try to make myself irrelevant, right?

I'm trying to make myself useless.

I'm trying to give my knowledge or ideas to them so that I can go and do something else and they can go and do what they want to do.

So the two things that I do as a consultant is I do context creation, which is basically someone comes to me with an idea and I say, look at all these weird references that are kind of like the thing you're trying to do, but not exactly it.

And then I also do constraint design, which is not some BDSM leather strap thing.

It's the idea of limitations.

So I design limitations for projects.

And the reason I do that is I use that to allow people to make progress.

So instead of trying to do everything, it's got to be blue, it's got to be made out of paper, and you've got to do it in a week.

And this was inspired by this incredible person, Mr. Chuck Jones, the creator of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

Likewise, we know the coyote's device will fail, so Jones can play this gag offscreen, which ends up making it funnier.

But there is a danger to this approach.

If you just focus on great jokes with the same well-defined characters, you can easily get trapped in a formula.

Sometimes I feel very sorry for the coyote.

Sometimes I wish he'd catch him.

If he caught him, there wouldn't be any more Road Runner.

You wouldn't like that, would you?

So to avoid this problem, Jones did something.

This is one of the defining aspects of his work.

It's a word that he uses and that other people use about him.

Neat, neat.

It also stands out as an example of the kind of discipline Chuck Jones liked to set for himself.

This is the vital factor in all comedy or all drama, is what are your disciplines?


The challenges and restrictions you set for yourself.

Like designing a character with no mouth.

Or no face.

Or using no dialogue except for this.

Hello, my baby!

Hello, my honey!

Hello, my ragtime gal!

Because animation lets you do anything, you have to think about what you won't do.

And in Jones' case, there were lots of rules about the world, the characters, and their behavior.

For instance, Bugs Bunny never picked a fight.

Somebody had to do this.

Kill the rabbit!

Kill the rabbit!

Kill the rabbit!

And only then would he fight back.

Kill the rabbit!

Ah, so good.

So that comes from the amazing online series Every Frame a Painting.

If you haven't seen the—it's on Vimeo, it's free.

If you haven't seen Every Frame a Painting, I'm really jealous.

They're about 10 minutes long.

There's like 20 of them, they're just perfect.

Really good to watch on a commute or something like that.

So I know we're very close to lunchtime, but I'm just going to take up a little bit more of your time.

And then I'll let you go and you can go out into the beautiful Berlin sunshine.

It feels like it's going to be the last day of good weather.

I heard that tomorrow, normal Berlin weather will resume.

So enjoy it.

But how to choose what to do, right?

You've got to think about your constraints.

You've got to think about your limitations.

You've got to be an artist.

You've got to meditate.

But how do you choose what you do?

And I'm going to show you a very depressing slide.

So this is a human life, a 90-year-old human life in months.

I'll just let that sink in.

So you haven't got much time, right?

So you've got to do something interesting, right?

So you have time probably, you know, I'm about here.

Most of you lot are probably about like here.

You all look like very beautiful, young, gorgeous people.

This was from an article from waitbutwhy.com.

I really recommend having a look at it.

So my two 10-year projects are Everywhere and Another Sky.

Everywhere is a solar-powered mesh network for community action.

So it's a caring project.

So I got really annoyed, like, why don't we have solar-powered computers yet?

You know, Apple keeps on going on about their freaking amazing laptops and everything else like that.

Why isn't this a solar panel?

I don't care that it doesn't work to power my laptop completely, but at least I should be able to leave my laptop outside and charge it up.

Like, you know, I think there's an Apple keynote this week, today.

It's going to be another fucking new iPhone.


Why isn't it solar-powered?

You could do that, Apple.

Don't tell me you can't.

I need to take over Apple.

Laugh now.

That would be so good, wouldn't it?

No, no.


No, that would be terrible.

And then another project is called Another Sky, which is I want to make a sculpture as big as the world in augmented reality.

So I want to make a sculpture that's the size of the Earth that you can view from anywhere on the Earth, and that's a playful idea.

If you're interested in collaborating with me on either of those projects, please email me.

Sustainability, ironically, isn't sustainable.

We must be regenerative, right?

This is the idea behind everywhere, right?

Everyone goes on about sustainability.

Sustainability is not a solution if we just keep things the same.

We've got to make things that when you do them or use them, they make it better.

And that also was a mind-blowing thing to me.

Like, what would an app look like that was regenerative?

So if you aren't doing things that make things actively better, don't do it.

This is an image from research by these two researchers, Ilya Solyov and Klaus Schulten.

I probably mispronounced those.

I'm sorry, you two, if you're here in the audience.

So they research bird navigation, and they discovered that birds have magnetoreceptors in their eyes.

So some birds can see direction.


So this is their interface that nature has evolved, which is basically a halo that points up when you're flying north, and when you're flying east, it's lower on the right, higher on the left.

Higher on the right and lower on the left if it's W, and it's like a smile if you're flying south.

So that's what it looks like when it's augmented onto bird vision.

Like, isn't that just the most beautiful interface you've ever seen for thinking about what direction you're going in?

It doesn't have any text, doesn't need any explanation, is consistent.

So, you know, the interfaces that we make...

Oh, how ironic.

As I'm talking about sustainable computing, the screen goes off.

I know I've got three minutes left, presentation gods.


It does need to reconnect, maybe.


So unplug it and plug it in again.

I don't know why.

It's too hot for the technology.

Yeah, exactly.

I'm putting out too many powerful ideas.

Oh, yes, there we go.

So, yeah, the interfaces that we make for this new augmented world should be at least as good as the ones that nature have evolved.

We've got no excuse.

By the way, also, enjoy this last summer that everyone or some people aren't wearing the Apple augmented reality glasses.

I shit you not, next summer there will be some very rich idiots walking around Berlin with their headsets on the whole time.

So this is your last summer, you know.

What's it going to be?

Okay, so now you know what you want to do.

You're meditated, you're an artist.

How do you get things done?

I'm going to zip through these ones.

So the best way to get things done is this method, right?

So not like this.

If you want to make a car, don't just try and make a car.

First of all, make a skateboard, then make a scooter, then a bicycle, then a motorbike, then a car.

So I always tell this to my students.

I want you to make skateboards.

Show me skateboards.

That's how you make progress.

Also, your project is already done.

You just need to unfold it.

This is the thing I call unfolding, right?

Try and make your project in an hour, then look at it, then unfold it, do it in two hours, then do it in four hours, then do it in a day, then do it in two days, then do it in a week, then do it in two weeks.

And at the end of that time, you've spent 40 days on it, a month, and you've made much more progress than you would have if you just tried to do it in one go.

So try and do it like that.

Okay, a few more slides.

I love this.

This is my favorite writer from The Simpsons, John Schwarzwelder.

He's the one who did the early episodes before it got crap.

Like, The Simpsons is still going.

What the hell?

They should have stopped that a long time ago.

But the way he writes all these scripts is he pretends he writes it.

So he writes the scripts all the way through on the first day and then putting in crappy jokes and patterned dialogue.

Homer, I don't want you to do that, etc.

Then I won't do it.

Then the next day, and I get up, and the script's done, right?

But it's crap.

It's a terrible script.

So I pretend like it's been written by a crappy little elf that's come into my room and then left this terrible script.

And then all I have to do is edit it and make it better.

And editing is a lot easier than writing, right?

So just think about this crappy little elf.

There's also this amazing crappy little elf that's available online now.

I don't know if anyone's used it.

It's called ChatGPT.

It's the crappiest elf ever.

It's a very convincing liar.

It doesn't tell the truth, but it's a good way of starting.

So try that.

Another way to make progress is to dance and fart around.

This is from Kurt Vonnegut.

So this is a quote from his wife speaking to her.

She said, oh, she says, you're not a poor man.

Why don't you go online and buy 100 envelopes and then put them in the closet?

So I pretend not to hear her, and I go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying an envelope.

I meet a lot of people.

I see some great-looking babies.

And a fire engine goes by, maybe a cute little very French Parisian one.

And I give them a thumbs up, and I ask the woman what kind of dog that is, and I don't know.

And the moral of the story is we're here on Earth to fart around.

And of course the computers will do us out of that.

And what the computer people don't realize or they don't care is that we're dancing animals.

And we need to move around.

And it's like we're not supposed to dance anymore.

So let's dance.

So I'm almost there.

Only four more slides.

So this is the most important slide of everything that I've showed you today.

It's the most important thing.

If you only remember one thing, it's this.

Now, who's this?


And what does Dory do?

Just keep swimming.

That's it.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

That's the most important thing.

I'm 43 now.

Astounding, I know.

But there's so many people that I now know that are the top people in a field, and they're not even that good, like me.

They've just been around for a long time.

They just kept swimming.

So that's a really key thing, is just to keep going.

And I'm lucky enough to have kept going.

And you can do that too.

Okay, last two slides.

So I realized in my 20s and my 30s, a lot of times I would end up depressed or unhappy with the work that I was doing because I was working with people and I was prioritizing projects or platforms.

So like, what's the idea of this?

So what platform could this be?

What's the potential of it?

And I would end up being disappointed again and again and again.

But now, in my 40s, I only ever want to work with nice people and kind people because life is too fucking short to spend your time with assholes.

And whatever project you end up doing with the nice or kind people, even if it doesn't really work or it's shitty, at least you've spent time with nice people, right?

At the end of it, rather than making a shitty project with awful people.

Like, that's the worst possible result.

So, last slide.

This is Niall Rogers.

He's from Chic, the band.

He's incredible.

He's a producer.

He's fantastic.

And I heard a story about him that really gave me that idea of nice and kind people, which is basically, he was being interviewed and the interviewer said, you know, Niall, how do you cope with it when you make an album with Madonna or something and it doesn't get a good chart position or nobody buys it?

And he said this brilliant thing, which was, very early on, I realized I had no control over how people would receive my projects.

I had no control if it would do well in the charts or whatever.

So I just concentrated on one thing, making the experience of making the thing the funnest thing possible, every day, as much fun as possible.

Because then if someone came up to me and was like, hey, Niall, that album you did with Daft Punk is shit.

They're like, well, I had a great time making it.

And then you're kind of invincible, right?

So, thank you all so much.

Thank you, Marc.

Thank you for your patience.

And most of all, thank you, Marc, because he bought me a train ticket on the night train from London to Berlin, which is now available.

And it saved loads of carbon, but it was way more expensive than a flight.

So, thank you very much, Marc.

Thank you very much.

Please email me.

Live long and prosper.

Thank you.