Intend The Glitch

Watching a video on “Glitch Art” the other day I heard this phrase: you have to understand a system before you can break it. A glitch in computer code is an anomaly or mistake that creates a hiccup or break in the system. It is a mistake that can make some very interesting imagery. Glitch artists seek the mistakes. They seek the beauty that comes from what others might view as a problem. And my favorite artistic moment as expressed by the glitch artists: at some point they start creating problems in the code. They intend the glitch (which makes it no longer a glitch).

Penicillin is the result of a process glitch. Science is often the art of surfing for glitches, finding the anomaly within the pattern. The word “experiment” implies an orchard of happy mistakes that reveal new insights. The word “unique” means distinctive, exceptional, singular – something out of the ordinary. In other words, a glitch.

Art and Innovation (in the USA) are equated with the new. Artists and innovators try to help us see the world in a new way – or even better, they help us see the world anew. Seeing anew always requires pattern disruption. It requires a challenge to the assumption set, a smack to the status quo. It requires a glitch.

Consider this: learning – true learning (not the answer driven drivel currently running rampant in our education system) and seeing anew are fundamentally the same thing. To learn is to see the new or to see anew. At the heart of art and science – the reason for math and English, economics, politics, ethics, social science,…, is an orientation to the question (as opposed to the numbing notion of a right answer).

Like the glitch artists, no one simply finds the new. It is not something that can be sought or predetermined. It is something we bumble into. It happens when you one day ask, “Hey, I wonder why that happened?” Or, “I wonder if it would work better if…?” It begins with wonder. Wonder leads to experimentation and questions within questions within questions that lead to more experimentation and more questions. This is also a good definition for being vitally alive. Wonder and step toward it. Orient to the question, do an experiment, and tomorrow ask a better question. Do this everyday and someday, just like the glitch artists, you will find yourself doing what all artists know as life-giving: you will intend the glitch, play with the mistake, and learn to see the world anew again and again and again.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

2 Responses

  1. I really enjoyed today’s blog. Public education was a cornerstone of the founding of our country. Those who established this nation knew that only an informed (read that literate) populace can sustain a democracy. Granted at that time informed referred to the electorate who were male land owners. But the concept was still novel. The public schools were also seen as the vehicle (along with the churches) that passed the culture on from one generation to the next. Since the country became so vast and needed to minister to so many sub-cultures it was recognized as essential that education be a state responsibility. That was the case until the tidal wave of change that was ESEA in the mid-1960s. Suddenly the federal government (read that as the big camel) got its nose in the tent.

    So, by definition, education was meant to look back rather than forward. You don’t transmit cultural values from generation to generation by looking forward. You take from what exists.

    There is also the notion that in order to really advance forward, whatever that means, one has to have a thorough understanding of what exists.

    So where is the balance? Where I take serious issue with the current way of looking forward is that it is totally adult based. Rather than provide students with essential skills and then letting them loose with adult guidance. The adults all sit around tables and talk about what the future might look like. They get hung up on what is politically correct and the curriculum then moves into a passion play of moralizing. Individuality is sacrificed in the name of inclusion, multiculturalism, and not distinguishing anyone as different from another.

    As you know so well the notion of the adult giving up control, as if it is some God given right that comes with their teaching credential, is unthinkable. As I was ready to retire I came to the realization that educators still don’t get the difference between student centered and student driven.

    I have no idea where that rant came from. I’m just a retired education hack from the dark ages.

    Keep it up my friend.

    Much love,


    Sent from my iPad


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: