Brushing up my knowledge of Australian art

Standing in the middle of Burlington House courtyard I gazed across at each wing of the building, each supporting a learned society of some sort. My rather eccentric purple shirt and multi-coloured tie seemed entirely appropriate in the courtyard of academia. Yet, that wasn’t what brought me to the courtyard. Instead I had received an invitation to see a sneak peak of the Royal Academy of Arts Australia exhibition.

The exhibition which opens its doors to the public tomorrow is the largest exhibition of Australian art to be displayed outside of Australia. With over 180 pieces spanning across 200 years of history, it’s clear to see why. As one the Directors at the RA said in her speech, “Over the next few months the exhibition is set to bring Australia to the forefront of the British public’s mind.” With an average of 1.2m visitors to the RA each year, the UK view of Australian art will inevitably change.

The exhibition draws particular attention to the Papunya artists showcasing the works of Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri amongst others. Work by Albert Namatijra, Djambawa Marawili and Rover Thomas including his work depicting Cyclone Tracey are all open to the British public.

You can read my full post about my RA visit on the Keene Blog here.

Thinking fast and slow in Mallorca

From the sodden shores of Britain, to sunny Mallorca; holidaying not only provides much needed bodily rest but also acts as a pilgrimage for the mind. The 24 second news cycle and inundation of ‘online updates’ makes focused attention near impossible in London, making travel a real catalyst for original thought. When you’re in the right part of Mallorca, it is a beautiful place and last week I enjoyed being completely detached from technology. Instead, I buried my head in books and enjoyed all the activities making a good old holiday.


It took me by surprise just how easy it was to completely drop social networks for a week, even more so by remembering just how much I enjoy reading. I usually have at least one book on-the-go but working in the media requires them to be replaced by newspapers the majority of the time. So when I had the chance catch up with some reading I avoided the fictional books and opted for factual.

When it comes to factual books, the good ones give you a real taste of an author’s mind, the best will challenge the way you think. Psychologist and Nobel Prize winner, Daniel Kahneman has written such book called ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’. If you consider yourself to be a rationalist then his research into cognitive bias, prospect theory and happiness is essential reading. It will inspire your inner psychology student and make you approach questions and intellectual snags from unthought angles.

Where a clear overlap appears with my own day-to-day activities, is on research into human judgement. A handful of PR practitioners in the wider industry suspect that part of the industry’s success will lie in automation. This isn’t original thought, retailers acted on this insight in the mid-1990s with the growth of online shopping. What exists to be automated is another question altogether, probably one that studious PR folk will master one day.

When you consider any algorithm, the majority are designed to replace human thought and action. The best algorithms calculate stock market trading driven by millions of different variables, understand the forces of a car so that a corner can be tackled smoothly at speed or allow a checkout at a supermarket to be automated. These are all cases when logical scripts have been designed to replace human thought and action. Some of the best algorithms are the simplest (it’s not difficult to think of how simple mathematical calculations have solved many arduous tasks).

In the field I work in, digital has countless algorithms all designed to make our lives easier. Operating a search engine could be likened to a librarian identifying a book, then locating the exact chapter and paragraph being searched for. Constantly revolutionising the field requires a mix of improved and new algorithms, better designs and standards to support both. If you’re serious about digital, then you’re deeply technical and W3C is your bible.

drinks in mallorca

Isn’t the above scene beautiful? When I was looking out at the sea I had three questions running through my mind:

1)      Of the theories discussed in Daniel Kahneman’s book, what can the media industry learn?

2)      When considering cognitive bias and illusion of control, how much impact does PR really have?

3)      From the way I coordinate myself, what has ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ taught me?

The first two questions are the start of a dangerous journey into improvement, revolution and reinforcement that some of our work is already better than it is poor. The final question is easy to answer… I feel more aware of the choices I make. Whilst it’s impossible to personally analyse all the factors I’m careful; I must avoid fallacy of thought, being swayed by optimism, not substituting hard questions with easier ones and not anchoring myself to irrelevant factors.

I already have another blog lined up on several of these factors and how, I believe, it is impacting the PR industry. For now I leave you with this post outlining by basic thoughts. More to come.