Author Archives: Simon

Why the world needs anthropologists.

I’m looking forward to speaking at this event in Amsterdam this autumn. The outline of my talk is below. ‘That full complement of riches’: the future role of anthropology in business and society ‘That full complement of riches’ is a phrase coined by … Continue reading

Anatomy of Distraction

Anyone who has a Smartphone or who lives with or mixes with people who own Smartphone – which is basically everyone in the Western world – will be able to relate to this nicely observed little film. An age old … Continue reading

Writing as a kind of observation

This is a piece of writing about writing. The original aim was simply to explore the thought that writing diaries, writing anthropological fieldnotes and maintaining blogs are  activities that share some important characteristics. My interest in all three genres, if … Continue reading

The Audience has an Audience

Interesting video by Kevin Slavin and Kenyatta Cheese

The Universal Machine

“It can be anything you want it to be. This is the nearest we have got to seeing what I would call a universal machine.” David Hockney, in a 2010 interview


From the 2012 Jefferson Lecture by Wendell E Barry  “The term “imagination” in what I take to be its truest sense refers to a mental faculty that some people have used and thought about with the utmost seriousness. The sense … Continue reading

Unaccustomed earth

“Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes … Continue reading

Mountains and Minds

I’m reading Robert Macfarlane’s Mountains of the Mind. A terrific books from which I could quote any number of passages. Here’s one nice passage: “Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are … Continue reading

Big data, asymmetry and business

[This post is a little longer than initially planned - it's about a 15 minutes read] It was of little surprise that big data figured as a major presence at EPIC 2013 in London last week. In a session devoted … Continue reading

The ageing process

A staggering 5 minute time lapse video of the ageing process showing the imperceptible transition from school child to old age, via The Verge, where you can learn more about how this was made.

Avatars of the political process

“Drones are avatars of the the political process: they are instantiations of a set of ideologies and beliefs, made visible by their reification in electromechanical systems. When we talk about drones, we are really talking about the politics that demand, … Continue reading

On numbers

“To depend on statistics is to asphyxiate the dynamic heart of the business.” Simon Marks, co-founder of the UK retail giant, Marks and Spencer, 1956.

Possessive companies

Typically sharp and incisive piece by Benedict Evans on the tendency for companies to think, and talk, about owning their customers. He relates this specifically to Google Glass but the point relates to all and every business that slips into … Continue reading

The said and the unsaid

When the FT Magazine did a special issue on visual design anthropologist Gillian Tett opted to highlight the influential thinking of Pierre Bourdieu and his concept of doxa as a way of showing how what is left unsaid is a … Continue reading

Salons: where good ideas continue to come from…

EPIC Salons: Creating spaces for ideas to flourish What do San Francisco in the 1960’s, Vienna at the turn of last century, Calcutta during the 1800s and London in the 17th and 18th centuries have in common? The simple answer … Continue reading

Design fictions

One of the sessions I’m looking forward to at EPIC is the Design fictions workshop with Nicloas Nova and Anab Jain. ‘Design fiction?’, you ask, ‘what is that?’. Science fiction writer and futurist Bruce Sterling answers that in question this … Continue reading


From Nigger of the Narcissus by Joseph Conrad: A gone shipmate, like any other man, is gone for ever; and I never met one of them again. But at times the spring-flood of memory sets with force up the dark … Continue reading

Orwell vs. Huxley

Since NSA surveillance became apparent with the leaks by Edward Snowden, sales of Orwell’s 1984 have leapt. Orwell’s view of the future was one in which power deprives us of our liberties. This nice comic strip, via Farnham St blog, … Continue reading

Facebook’s vision and it privacy

From a nice essay by Paul Ford in MIT’s Technology Review on Facebook, Facebook Home and its moral ‘vision’ Facebook’s self-reflexive utility explains why the company finds privacy so tricky. The freedom to read and experience things privately is essential … Continue reading

Austerity – the history of a dangerous idea

With a very punchy opening…

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