To idle is to work on meaningful and varied projects — and also to take it easy. If you’re interested in my 2Q2014 projects, please keep reading; otherwise, don’t! The title of this series of posts refers to this self-proclaimed idler’s hypocritical inability to take it easy.
Note: There was no 1Q2014 Hypocrite Idler update.
SAVE THE ADVENTURE
During the first few months of 2014, the UNBORED team finished up the first UNBORED spinoff: UNBORED Games: Serious Fun for Everyone. In October, it will hit bookstore shelves everywhere!
Like our acclaimed, bestselling 2012 book UNBORED: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun, this book will be published by Bloomsbury. It was written and edited by yours truly and Elizabeth Foy Larsen (plus our expert contributors); it was designed and art-directed by Tony Leone; and it was illustrated by Heather Kasunick, Mister Reusch, and Chris Piascik. Our dream team.
In its 176 (full-color, richly illustrated) pages, UNBORED Games includes the rules to dozens of indoor, outdoor, online and offline games, including: back of the classroom games, bike rodeo games, jump rope games, alternate reality games, clapping games, apps and videogames, secret-rules games, drawing games, rock-paper-scissors games, card and dice games, backyard games, guerrilla kindness games, stress-relieving games, and geo-games.
Plus: Expert essays by gamers Chris Dahlen, Catherine Newman, Stephen Duncombe, and Richela Fabian Morgan; Best Ever lists (including Apps to Play with a Grownup and Cooperative Boardgames); DIY game-building projects (Beanbag Toss, Rocket Racing Game, Duct Tape Boardgame); Secret History Comics by Joe Alterio and Heather Kasunick; Q&As with Apps for Kids podcasters Mark and Jane Frauenfelder, Anomia inventor Andrew Innes, and others; Train Your Grownup features (including Dance-Off and Gamify Your Favorite Causes); classic literature excerpts; and brain-teasing Mindgames by Patrick Cates.
Also! This spring, Elizabeth and I began writing and editing a second UNBORED spinoff — it’s tentatively titled UNBORED Adventure. We’ll work on the book through this coming summer and fall; then, this fall and winter (2014–2015), Tony will design the book, and Mark and Heather and Chris will illustrate it. UNBORED Adventure will appear in Fall 2015.
In the meantime! Between the publication of UNBORED Games this Fall and UNBORED Adventure next fall, in Spring 2015 Bloomsbury will publish a condensed paperback edition of the original UNBORED. Eventually, we hope, you’ll be able to fill an entire shelf with UNBORED titles.
For years now, I’ve done both publishing work and semiotic analysis under the aegis of KING MIXER LLC. As of April, although I’m continuing to do publishing work as KING MIXER LLC, I’m now doing semiotic analysis as SEMIOVOX LLC.
For the past 15+ years I’ve worked in the emerging discipline of semiotic culture and brand analysis, which synthesizes methods from linguistics and structuralist anthropology. Researchers, marketers, innovation and branding experts, and others interested in the tangible benefits of applied semiotics for brands and businesses should click on the logo above — my new website offers answers to your questions. However, if you’re simply interested in my process, read on.
I first approach the cultural territories (e.g., freshness, optimism, Chinese-ness) and market categories (e.g., automotive, beverage alcohol, confectionery) in which my clients are interested from the outside-in, i.e., as a deconstructive analyst skeptical about a culture’s apparently permanent, natural, and inevitable norms and forms. This approach is an inductive (scientific) one: data is gathered, but no conclusions are drawn regarding what it means.
Only after this initial deconstructive analysis can the reconstructive work of identifying and classifying a territory or category’s form/norm constellations (“codes”) begin. Code identification and classification requires a deductive approach — i.e., more like a detective studying clues, or a doctor studying symptoms, than like a scientist. In this process I’m acting not as an outsider but as an insider, drawing on years of obsessive and expert attention to cultural and marketing memes and themes, in the light of which acquired knowledge I interpret the data gathered during the deconstructive analysis phase. NB: Although I’d love to persuade clients that I’m a Sherlock Holmes or House M.D. figure (who can take one glance at a clue or symptom and instantly deduce its significance), in fact I work hard during this phase. My efforts are supported, however, by (a) contributions from an ever-growing network of fellow semioticians and cultural experts from around the world; and (b) a database of 40,000+ meta-tagged cultural and marketing communications images that I’ve assembled during that same period — and which I continue to develop every single day.
Once I’ve completed the analysis and the identification-and-classification stages of my research, I’m in a position to interpret not merely what objects, actions, gestures, settings, utterances, colors, shapes, typefaces, facial expressions, music, mood, tone, design elements, and so forth mean (in the specific context of a cultural territory or market category), but more importantly how these phenomena mean. This final stage of the operation is a mapping exercise; the semiotician A.J. Greimas developed what’s known as a four-quadrant “semiotic square,” and commercial semioticians continue to use this format.
Although often at first baffled by the discipline’s part-scientific, part-intuitive methodology, the 100+ brand teams and marketing and innovation agencies with whom I’ve worked so far have found the insights I’ve surfaced invaluable and unique — because traditional consumer research is incapable of diving so deeply and schematically into the confusing welter of cultural norms and forms.
Although the above projects keep me busy, I continue to edit HiLobrow. Read the BEST OF HILOBROW: 1Q2014 and BEST OF HILOBROW: 2Q2014 posts for a full account of what we’ve accomplished in 2014 so far.
Posts I’ve written for HiLobrow so far in 2014 include:
In April, I kicked off the Code-X series, each installment in which will identify and limn a single code — e.g., Spirograph Futurism, Clarified Reality, Game Face. See all the posts in the series here. Read the series introduction for a fuller explanation of applied semiotics… and why the Code-X series is destined to be a disappointment.
Late in 2013, I helped promote a successful kickstarter for the Brooklyn-based bookstore Singularity & Co.’s new digital book club, SAVE THE ADVENTURE. The goal of the club is to digitize great but previously un-digitized adventure novels — whether from public domain or by acquiring the digital rights. Singularity & Co. asked me to be the club’s founding editor, so I’ve chosen a number of un-digitized adventure novels and Singularity & Co. is tracking down the rights to them now. I’ve also chosen a few un-digitized adventure novels that are in public domain; Singularity & Co. is scanning and OCRing those novels, and I’m doing the laborious work of cleaning up the resulting texts.
When will SAVE THE ADVENTURE launch? It’s unclear, to me. We were scheduled to launch in the spring, but now it’s summer. Hopefully soon! In the meantime, HiLoBooks has already begun serializing some of these previously un-digitized novels here at HiLobrow; and we will continue to do so going forward. See the BEST OF HILOBROW: 2Q2014 post for more info.
* Helped my son Max paint a set of LOTR-themed beanbog toss tables.
* Celebrated and mourned the final day of Pazzo Books.
* Gave a talk on “X” Books at Deb Con One. (I’m at almost-bottom right.)
* Struck a deal with BiblioBoard to distribute digital versions of HiLoBooks’ Radium Age Series books to libraries.
* Helped my son build and fly a box kite. With a lot of help from my brother-in-law Lawry.
* Pitched an UNBORED line of toys and activity kits to two toy companies.
* Trained (not very strenuously) for and rode in a 30-mile Bikes Not Bombs fund-raising bike-a-thon. My son and his friend and I raised over $1,200.00 for this excellent organization.