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The Creativity Melting Pot

Creativity is a funny thing. We owe the heights (and sometimes the lows) of human civilization to it. We see its effects in books we read, films we watch, advertisements we try to ignore, in buildings we live in, cars we drive and on and on.

And yet, where creativity comes from doesn’t have a clear universal answer. Some people seem to have a knack for it while others get demoralized the moment they’re expected to do something out of the norm. But what stimulates creativity? Where does the spark come from?

There’s plenty of answers out there for those questions, and many a self-help book, seminar and video has been peddled around assuring its readers the solution is at hand. For those of you who wish they would just get to the point and not charge exorbitant prices for their troubles, here are five useful (and free!) steps you can follow to find your creativity.

1. Explore yourself.

This is both simple and challenging, but introspection is the most necessary step for a creative person. Each of us is different. Beyond the drudgery of life, we all get pleasure from a whole multitude of things. It’s funny how rarely we actually pause to ask ourselves what do we enjoy? What has enjoyed us in the past? What did we like about them? Ask yourself and you may be surprised at the answers.

2. Seek the different.

If you don’t know many things that excite you, that give you pleasure merely by the act of doing them, seek them out. If you don’t really read, read more. If you only watch action films, watch dramas. If you’ve never painted or played a musical instrument in your life, why not try both? You’ll never know what might spark you. Sometimes trying one thing ends up leading you down the path of something seemingly irrelevant. You won’t know unless you try.

3. Schedule time for creativity.

The key for steps 1 and 2 is to give yourself time to do them the same way you give yourself time to exercise, go shopping or watch TV. Even dedicating a small slice of time a day or during weekends can pay off.

4. Act first, doubt later.

When we try new things we’re not very good at, or that perhaps seem pointless in our day to day lives, it’s typical of us to give up. Doubts are normal, but surrendering to them all the time shouldn’t be. Parking those doubts away even temporarily can sometimes have the effect of making them disappear altogether.

5. Share and communicate.

Now that you’ve expanded your inner horizons, extending them outwards can have positive effects. In our global digital age, you’ll always find others who share your interests and ideas. You can bounce thoughts, concepts, arguments…etc. off of them and vice versa. You might discover what you might be able to do better or what you can focus your attentions on. Doing so will only enhance your own creativity and that of others!

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A New Translation Frontier is Coming

Lingmo’s Translate One2One is available for $179 USD this summer.

The United Nations has 193 member states and six official languages. When a speaker delivers a speech to the UN in one of those six languages, a team of a dozen interpreters translate the speech instantaneously. It’s exhausting work. So exhausting that the interpreters apparently take 20 minute shifts before they switch out to give themselves a break.
This doesn’t factor in the countless journalists and media people who must translate the speech into the language of their respective countries’ publications and news organizations. Now imagine if all this work could be done by the headsets those diplomats, ambassadors and journalists may be using to receive the interpreters’ translations. Theoretically, it would streamline and speed up the process – and it would put all those interpreters out of work.
Now the theoretical is closer and closer to becoming a reality.
Companies such as Australia’s Lingmo and the US’s Waverly Labs have created affordable earpieces that promise simultaneous translation in multiple languages right in the recipient’s ear. Lingmo’s Translate One2One is available for $179 USD this summer. It utilizes IBM’s famous Watson supercomputer technology and translates across English, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, German and Chinese (no Arabic yet unfortunately). It does it in three to five seconds and claims to handle much of the contextual, cultural, dialect and slang elements of a language that make Google Translate practically useless for anything beyond basic word for word translation. Amazing, isn’t it?
Around the same time, Waverly Labs, a company specializing in wearable technology and speech translation, has come out with the Pilot Translating Earpiece. It is currently available for pre-order at $249 USD and won’t start shipping until fall 2017. The Pilot comes with free access to English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese translation, but you’ll have to pay extra for Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, German, Hindi and various other languages. One of the catches with the Pilot is you have to communicate with someone else who is also using a set.
The possibilities – and repercussions – are seemingly endless with this technology, which is still in the nascent stages. Who knows what future generations will be capable of? Its uses can obviously extend beyond UN speeches to business meetings, government negotiations, dating websites….and the list goes on and on. Instantaneous and accurate written translation doesn’t seem to be very far away at this point.
And while we’re not there yet, translators of the world could find themselves being replaced by AI much in the same way as factory workers have already lost theirs to automation and how taxi and truck drivers’ livelihoods are in peril with the emergence of self-driving vehicles. Will people even bother learning other languages when they have technology doing it for them? The frontier has arrived, and change is coming.

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Virtual Reality: An Untapped Content Creation Market

Virtual reality is a term popping up with increased frequency in the past few years, but what is it exactly? And what does it mean for content creation?

What is Virtual Reality?

It is simply a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.

The History of Virtual Reality:

Not exactly a recent innovation, virtual reality (VR) has been around in some form for decades. One early example would the creation of American VR pioneer Morton Heilig (1926-1997), who in the 1960s prototyped the Sensorama, a working (but commercial failure) device that screened 3-D images designed to trigger all the senses, from tilting the viewer’s body to accompanying sounds and aromas. Many people unfamiliar with VR imagine crudely drawn computer-generated worlds, limited by technology at the time. But this is all changing.

Virtual Reality Now:

Built on years of research and experimentation with VR headsets, full-body suits as well entire VR rooms, a headset called the Oculus Rift emerged in 2010, offering users an immersive and responsive 90 degree field of vision. All the major tech players have become involved in the past few years. Facebook purchased Oculus VR for $2 billion in 2014, while Google introduced Google Cardboard, a cheap fold-out that transforms your cell phone into a virtual reality viewing screen, also in 2014. 10 million units of the simple viewer have been shipped to date.

The Future of Virtual Reality:

But this is just the start, with similar headsets popping up left and right throughout the market. VR’s uses are seemingly endless. Videogames can offer an enhanced experience to its customers in the comfort of their own home with specially designed consoles equipped with headsets. One example would be the HTC Vive, which retails at 799 USD, offering consumers motion tracking handheld controllers and sensors in addition to a headset that can transform a living room into a variety of different interactive scenarios.

If people want to engage in a more social form of this, VR cafes could soon spring up around the world, perhaps being absorbed by internet cafes or becoming a special niche of their own. Some prognosticate virtual reality could also be something that wildly changes the landscape of cinema, giving viewers an interactive experience transcending anything 3D-screens or IMAX can provide.

And just to have some more tangible numbers for this market, it is estimated to reach $41.01 billion worldwide by 2023, up from $147.5 million in 2015. Clearly, the content creation possibilities with VR are limitless. Developers and artists can create entire worlds for their consumers with this technology, which is no longer hampered by the constraints of the past. The major players have already claimed their stakes, but as with any new business, there’s always a niche to be found or created!

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What Would You Say To Your Younger Self?

About this series of blogs:

We’ve done a series of Instiga-Views (instigation + interview) offering insight from people with experience to instigate positive action and reaction from younger generations toward building their own paths. We didn’t have any questions, rather we asked our interviewees to speak to their younger selves, to give us their honest, straight to the heart thoughts on two of the following seven “Instigators”: Breaking the Rules, Courage, Adding Value, Career Catastrophes, Fear, Censorship, and Play.

Here’s what Noura AlNoman had to say about Censorship and Play:

Censorship

As responsible parents we raise our children to understand wrong from right. As they grow older we give them more space to discover things for themselves. Upon adulthood, we trust them to make the right judgments, while being there to provide counsel and wisdom when needed. Sadly, in our part of the world, a citizen is a child forever. He is neither given a good education, nor raised to be a responsible adult. Never trusted to make the right decisions, not in his choice of education, marriage or anything to do with self-determination. The state goes as far as to decide what he cannot read or see, guaranteeing a lifetime of guardianship. I once worked as a censor, and ironically, I now look down upon a society which has no respect for its citizens to make decisions in their own private lives.

Play

Often, when I tell people I still play for fun, brows are raised, smirks are barely concealed, and some actually ask: “Aren’t you a little old for games?” No, you’re never too old for games. I love the fact that I can play anything I want and not feel ridiculous. What’s life without the creativity, the thrill of competition, and the freedom to have fun like a child? I have never stopped playing games, and it has kept my mind sharp. Not only is it a practice with many benefits, but it also keeps me connected with my children throughout the years of their development. Nothing beats the bonding we have when we play monopoly, or complete a 2000-piece puzzle. Recently, we’ve also started painting miniature armies together and competing in mock battles. I will keep playing games till my dying day.

Noura Al Noman

With a Bachelor in English Literature (1986) and a Masters in Translation Studies (2004), Noura Al Noman had studied language for years; but never expected to become a writer, let alone an author of books for Arab children. At the age of 45, she published her first two picture books for toddlers in 2010. “Cotton the Kitten” and “Kiwi the Hedgehog” were published by Kalimat in Arabic, and aimed to contrast how children deal with pets and wild animals. Noting the huge deficit in books for young Arabs (aged 15+), she wrote her first novel, “Ajwan”, one of a handful of science fiction novels in the Arab world, published by Nahdet Misr (Egypt). Noura believes that Arab youth are hungry for Arabic fiction. Ajwan won the Etisalat Children Literature Award, as Best Young Adult Novel, 2013. Although she has a full English translation of “Ajwan”, Noura has delayed publishing it to give a chance for the Arabic version to take a foothold. Book two, “Mandan” was launched at the Cairo Book Fair, January 2014, and she is working on the third book in the series.

Noura Al Noman is member of the Board of Trustees of UAEBBY.

 

Content vs. Clickbait

Odds are you know exactly what I’m talking about: Clickbait, the art of enticing a reader with irresistibly alluring sensationalized headlines and/or pictures.

Using clickbait is a powerful tool for content providers looking to drive traffic to their website and grow the online advertising revenue attached to that. Online ads will only continue to grow in the next decade as people abandon older content formats. Nowhere is this more evident than in news content.

In The Modern News Consumer, a 2016 report published by the Pew Research Center, surveys were conducted to determine how and where Americans get their news. TV still reigns king with 57% getting their news from cable, network or local stations. But a sizable 38% reported getting their news online. Of that 38%, slightly more than half (55%) get their news online while they are doing something else. This shows the power content providers can have in enticing an audience, whether it be on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, or major news websites like CNN or BBC.

In the case of social media, many people end up consuming content from shares from friends and family. And with so much information to scroll through, content providers don’t only need to compete with each other, but with funny cat videos, selfies, status updates and more. Catching the eye has always been a sophisticated practice that combines design elements such as font, font size and colour, but the content is what matters the most.

It’s easy then to see why clickbait is so heavily leaned on, but there are major differences between a clickbait headline and a legitimate eye-grabbing headline. When considering how to use a headline to grab readers, below are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Don’t mislead you reader.

    Headline your content with something that reflects and informs its substance. The worst types of clickbait sensationalize, distort and ignore context. Here’s a great example: “When You Read These 19 Shocking Food Facts, You’ll Never Want To Eat Again.”

  2. Don’t lose your reader’s trust.

    This is very connected to no. 1. Give your readers some credit. You may fool them once or twice, but your core audience will plateau over time once they figure you out. The bubble will eventually burst, as the once wildly popular media website BuzzFeed has discovered recently.

  3. Don’t forget to prize quality over quantity.

    It all depends on what kind of content you want to create. A high quality website offers visitors something they can’t get elsewhere. The example of a company like Slant News, reported to pay $5 for every 500 clicks, will give you writers aiming for clicks, not great content.

  4. Don’t forget there’s more to a story than a headline.

    This extends to video as well: “Hillary [Clinton] Caught On Tape Birthing Alien Life Form.” It’s definitely an…ahem…enticing headline, but is there anything beyond that headline in this video? You decide.

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YouTube: A Threat to Content Creation?

The fact that YouTube is one of the most massive websites shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. According to YouTube’s statistics, it has over a billion users, almost one third of all people online. YouTube accumulates hundreds of millions of hours of views every single day. And that’s the beauty of one of the most revolutionary forces in content creation in the past decade.

The advantages are clear to see: YouTube provides a content creator with essentially free distribution. Anyone can upload a video accessible to anyone else with an internet connection. Content creators can also monetize their videos, allowing them to reap the rewards of adverts placed before, during and after their content is playing. A person with a camera, time and dedication can now make a living, simply via this monetization of their YouTube videos.

Swedish YouTuber Felix Kjellberg, also known as PewDiePie, is the pinnacle of successful examples, earning $15 million in 2016 alone. How? By finding an audience entertained by simply watching him playing video games and vlogging, amongst other things. But Kjellberg found himself in a swirl of controversy in the past few months, accused of exhibiting anti-Semitism in a number of his parody videos. He had a major television show cancelled due to the media backlash, and the whole ordeal brought renewed focus on YouTube’s approach behind selecting what it deems as “advertiser friendly” (in other words, monetized) content.

Due to the countless number of videos being uploaded every day, it’s impossible to watch and vet every single one. YouTube relies on keywords and algorithms and user flagging to do much of the heavy lifting on this front. But YouTube’s approach has arguably done more harm than good. For example, completely harmless videos are often demonetized due to a potentially controversial word in their title, such as “Christianity.” Parody, satire and political videos are particularly vulnerable to this approach, seeing as they tend to cover touchy subjects even if they aren’t controversial themselves.

This has shed a light on a big problem YouTube has: how to properly manage what content is being played along with an advertiser’s commercial, without destroying the livelihoods of its content creators.

But what are the risks that YouTube and its content creators now face?

1. Creating only to appeal to advertisers

By giving advertisers the power to select what kinds of videos their commercials appear in, this means that content creators will be incentivized to make videos that play it safe and guarantee they won’t displease anyone. It’s a compromise many will find hard to make.

2. Workaround approaches work both ways

There are methods of avoiding getting flagged and circumventing YouTube’s system, for example, by removing potentially inflammatory keywords from the title and tags of a video. But this is an approach everyone will soon figure out, including those with legitimately offensive content.

3. The death of freedom of speech

This is a centuries old problem: how to make a living as a creator without censoring yourself? YouTube has a responsibility to not allow content creators to be silenced unfairly, even if the expense is exorbitant and unwieldy. Otherwise, true freedom of speech and expression on its website will quickly die.

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A Universal Language

The Tower of Babel – Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1563. 

The concept of a universal language transcending borders and ethnicities has been with us throughout the length and breadth of written history. Human beings have a need to connect, to communicate. This need is an irrevocable part of us; we are social animals after all.

Look no further than the story of the Tower of Babel, which tells us of a human race unified after the flood that swept away all but those on Noah’s Ark. With a single language to bond them, they strove together to build the city of Babel with an edifice high enough to reach the heavens until God struck it down and scattered peoples throughout over the world, divided by language as well as geography.

But the idea of a universal language remains with us today, especially as technology has shifted us closer together, making the once isolated regions of the world more interconnected than ever before.

And yet, language is a most peculiar thing. Complex, constantly evolving and full of perils. Distinct dialects emerge if one simply travels from one town to another, let alone one end of a country to another. Look no further than the hundreds of unique mother tongues within India, or the countless variations in dialect in the major Sinitic languages of China. Such a rich variety inevitably stalls communication, causing confusion and enmity in mistranslation. The United Nations, with all of its 193 members, still selectively and biasedly sticks to six official languages. It would be impossible to efficiently include them all, it seems.

So is a universal language possible in our future? Is a universal language desirable?

ESPERANTO:

Attempts have been made to create a universal language, with one noteworthy example being Esperanto. A constructed language created by Polish doctor L.L. Zamenhof, its aims were the following, as quoted by Zamenhof himself in his 1887 work, Unua Libro (First Book):

  1. To render the study of the language so easy as to make its acquisition mere play to the learner.
  2. To enable the learner to make direct use of his knowledge with persons of any nationality, whether the language be universally accepted or not; in other words, the language is to be directly a means of international communication.
  3. To find some means of overcoming the natural indifference of mankind, and disposing them, in the quickest manner possible, and en masse, to learn and use the proposed language as a living one, and not only in last extremities, and with the key at hand.

Esperanto was designed to be easily learned and taught, with simple grammatical rules not beholden to perplexing exceptions and rules that reflect the convoluted development of most languages. With varying estimates of around two million speakers worldwide at present, it’s arguable whether not the lofty intentions behind the language ever had a feasible chance at success.

But interestingly enough, it encountered suppression in the past. The likes of Stalin and Hitler both saw fit to actively denounce it and persecute Esperanto speakers, and other countries such as France and Romania banned it in some form. The short history of Esperanto is an exploration of humanity’s resilient innate desire to communicate, to break down obstacles. And while the best we can do now is improve translation and learn more than our native tongues, it seems like a unified world, bound by language, will always be an elusive dream for some.

You can find out more about learning Esperanto here. And you can find a translation of Unua Libro here.

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What Would You Say To Your Younger Self?

About this series of blogs:

We’ve done a series of Instiga-Views (instigation + interview) offering insight from people with experience to instigate positive action and reaction from younger generations toward building their own paths. We didn’t have any questions, rather we asked our interviewees to speak to their younger selves, to give us their honest, straight to the heart thoughts on two of the following seven “Instigators”: Breaking the Rules, Courage, Adding Value, Career Catastrophes, Fear, Censorship, and Play.

Here’s what Elspeth Duncan had to say about Courage and Adding Value.

Elspeth and Venus on Rockley
Elspeth and Venus on Rockley

Courage

People often tell me that I’m ‘so brave’ or ‘so courageous’. But what does it mean to be courageous? It must be a relative thing, as is fear. I think if you see someone as having ‘courage’, it means they are doing or being something that you are afraid of doing or being yourself. But to them, that brave thing may be ‘nothing’.

Once I made a promise to myself that even if I felt ‘fear’ I would ‘go ahead anyway’. (Like that saying: Feel the fear and do it anyway). I don’t want to ever look back and regret not doing or being something because of ‘fear’. But at the same time I don’t want to feel ‘fear’ and then blindly charge into something just because I’m “feeling fear and doing it anyway.” So, I ask for Wisdom and Discernment to guide me.

Adding Value

I add value the more I am myself. The more I am myself, I become a living example. The more I become a living example, the more I inspire others. The more I inspire others, the more I am moved to continue doing what I do. The more I continue to do what I do, the more I encounter kindred spirits who share my visions. The more I encounter kindred spirits who share my visions, the further we go. The further we go, the more we spread the peace that comes with living personal truth. The more we spread the peace that comes with living personal truth, the more we experience love and harmony within, among and around us. The more we experience love and harmony within, among and around us, the more we trust the Universe, knowing that everything is unfolding exactly as it is meant to.

Elspeth Bio

Elspeth Duncan is a film maker, musician, writer/published author (find her novel ‘Daisy Chain’ on amazon.com) and KRI certified Kundalini Yoga instructor who has been practicing this form of yoga since 2000. She currently resides in Tobago, where she teaches yoga and facilitates yoga retreats through her company Thou Art Yoga, writes a weekly column (”Tobago Peeps”) in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper, and feeds and celebrates love through her intimate two-person restaurant, Table for Two Made for You.

Check out Elspeth’s websites & blogs:

DIFF 2016 Movie Preview: Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea
Playing: Wednesday, Dec. 14, 8:45 P.M.

Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s work tends to be emotionally wrenching, so viewers should be forewarned this won’t be an easy watch. Set in Massachusetts, the story begins when Lee’s (Affleck) life is thrown into upheaval after his older brother suddenly dies and he finds himself entrusted with the guardianship of his nephew.

manchester

Tabeer ; proud sponsors & official translators for DIFF2016.
Contact Us to arrange to meet us to discuss your content, design and translation needs for 2017.

Check out the full preview here. Leave a comment to tell us what you thought of the movie.

Ali Amad (MoviePulse.me editor)