This is how our "exchange program" got its start.
In a recent conversation with designer David Armano, I asked him how many books he'd read in the past year. "Only a few. I've got too many demands on my time." Among these demands is mastering the various Web 2.0 tools that stimulate conversation such as Twitter.
I told David that he's wasting his time with Twitter. I said, "I've got enough going on with my own innocuous thoughts let alone a lot of other people's inanity."
I continued, "I'm trying to improve my attention span. If you want to create anything worthwhile, you need the ability to focus on what you're doing for a period of time."
David countered saying something to the effect that Twitter is right on the edge of . . . well, something, and he wants to be there to see it. He also mentioned that I was being too narrowed-minded.
I said to him, "Reading — especially fiction — gives you a much better sense of 'story' and 'narrative.' These are important aspects of the design process. You are short-changing yourself by not reading more books."
So we decided to have a "Digital-Analog Exchange Program."
Each of us assigned the other a task for the following week. Then we'll compare notes to see what each of us has learned.
I assigned David to read a novel. I thought about Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon (which I adored), but at 1,000 pages I thought it might be a little much. So, I picked The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason, which I read before I went to Burma last year. This is from Publisher's Weekly:
Edgar Drake lives a quiet life in late 19th-century London as a tuner of rare pianos. When he's summoned to Burma to repair the instrument of an eccentric major, Anthony Carroll, Edgar bids his wife good-bye and begins the months-long journey east. The first half of the book details his trip. Edgar then meets the unconventional Carroll, who has built a paradise of sorts in the Burmese jungle. Edgar ably tunes the piano, but this turns out to be the least of his duties, as Carroll seeks his services on a mission to make peace between the British and the local Shan people. During his stay at Carroll's camp, Edgar falls for a local beauty, learns to appreciate the magnificence of Burma's landscape and customs and realizes the absurdity of the war between the British and the Burmese.
I think David is getting the better end of the deal: he's going to enter the world of faraway, long-ago Burma. And I'm going to Twitter! I will keep an open mind.
Question: Who is getting the better end of this exchange? What kind of exchange programs would you recommend?