Tracking and Demoscene discussion.

The paradox of getting less done with no limitations

The paradox of getting less done with no limitations

Postby organic io » Fri May 06, 2011 11:39 am

Continuing the discussion from the one liners because I'm really interested in this kind of stuff. I pasted the one liners about this with the oldest at the top so they read top to bottom in chronological order:

»05/04 02:34PM Sonicade: It's interesting how taking away the limitations can make it harder for some folks. Regardless, 5 entries is a solid turnout. Can't wait to hear 'em! Voting / Commenting starts now! :D I'm off to work..!

»05/04 04:30PM ambtax1: Yep. Less is definitely more 'Cade. Does this mean we can have a samplepack round next dude? :)

»05/04 05:14PM organic_io: It -is- an interesting paradox. But I think we are able to find challenges, and subsequently focus ourselves better with limitations, even if they are self imposed [X]

»05/04 08:36PM chunter: Perhaps both, but I think free rounds tend to happen when there are holidays and have lower participation

»05/04 06:05PM Airmann: is it really the limitation or maybe easter holidays ?

»05/05 02:25PM Sonicade: I've noticed free rounds generally having a less entries. I've always attributed it to the samplepack giving people inspiration / ideas, as opposed to free round being like a blank slate.



I have a hypothesis behind this phenomenon, and it relates to the psychology concept of "Flow" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29)

In essence, when we find appropriate challenges for ourselves, we can become fully immersed in the activity. The Wikipedia page describes Flow as "completely focused motivation", and "single-minded immersion". Some people also describe this state of mind as "The zone".

I think all of us here have entered this state while tracking (not necessarily every time), and if not then certainly at least at some point in your life while doing some activity you enjoy -- Whether it is sports, video games, etc.

I think the reason for the lower turnout in an open round is because it may take longer for people to "grasp on" into that state of flow - I agree with what Sonicade said about a "blank slate" -- Because there is such a vast number of options for what to do with your song. You might say "OK, I can use any vsti" and then you go looking through your list of vsti's.... Open up one, start messing with some presets. Don't find one that inspires you, so move to another vsti. and so on and so forth. Unless you make a conscious effort to make an "executive decision" (so to speak) and say something along the lines of "yes, this synth pad gives me an idea and this is the direction I want to take the song", then it is possible that you will continue without direction and eventually give up writing any song because you haven't really "done anything" yet.

However, limited samplepacks can focus our attention quicker because there are much less options to choose from, so it forces us to make those "executive decisions" about song direction a lot sooner. So people get started actually tracking rather than "just messing around" a lot sooner, and therefore challenge themselves and are more likely to get into a state of flow.... And subsequently finish and submit a song.

But !!!

On the flipside, I've noticed that too many restrictions can also negatively affect the turnout. For example it seems like rounds with an official theme have not generated much turnout even if they have a set samplepack -- For example round 5 had an Adventure theme, and it only had 5 entries... Ended up being one of the lowest turnout rounds along with the current round 57.

It is possible that it stifles peoples' creativity to force them to write in a specific style or theme.... Alienating some competitors altogether who wouldn't want to do that style.. And then even those who would want to do it, may shoot down their own ideas or concepts quicker than they would if they were just freely creating something with no theme in mind... Because they may start something and then think "Well, I like this but it doesn't sound adventurey enough ... " ... So then they scrap the idea and start over again --

Once again, this makes it more difficult to enter the state of Flow.

So I think in order to maximize turnout, there needs to be a balance between too many limitations, and not enough.

Most of the samplepack rounds or rounds with only a few vsti's allowed do this pretty well.

So it's not really a "problem", per se, just a phenomenon worth discussing.

But that's just my take on it.

Discussion is welcome!

Also if the concept of Flow intrigues you at all and I haven't already convinced you to read it yet, I highly recommend the book entitled "Flow" by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, which is not only absolutely fascinating, but caused me to have many profound insights and I would say has changed my life much for the better.

Being a non-religious person, the book has as much importance to me as the Bible would to a Christian. In fact last year I gave a copy to a young fellow who works at a local grocery store (who looks like he is lost in his life) and told him "I wish someone had given me this book when I was your age" (He's about 10 years younger than I am). I'm not sure if he took it well, but at least I tried. Spreading the gospel of Flow. :) I'm going to get some more copies soon and do it again :)

Rambled way too long as usual. Apologies

I'll be outta town this weekend but will reply to any responses on Monday. Peace
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Postby Airmann » Fri May 06, 2011 4:40 pm

Interesting theory. I agree that too much features and perfectionsm can kill the creativity. But won't do necessarily. I think it also depends on what kind of person you are. For example I love to play with new features and gadgets. New Renoise versions motivate me to find out what I could do with stuff. Also a nice sounding reverbs or a cool compressor gives me good feelings while producing.

Regarding flow: funny, we had a christian event here which was called "phlow". Well, I really have to read this book some time.

Otherwise I want to bring in a very different view of "thin" turnouts.

SD Compo isn't changing very much. It's mostly the same hard core bunch of people that participate every month.

But it's actually necessary to invest and change things from time to time. Otherwise you get stuck in tradition and things probably go down.
Especially it's vital to motivate and integrate new people. Also it's necessary to modificate things, to keep it interesting. E.g. that's why Blizzard steadily updates WOW and Starcraft.

On the other hand I know how hard this is. If the horse is still running - why change that ?
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Postby paulnewns » Fri May 06, 2011 5:12 pm

I definitely agree that too many options can dilute the creative process. It is analogous to having 25 types of paper, chalk, pens, paint, watercolours etc when you are trying to paint a picture. If someone gave you a plain piece of paper and a standard pencil and told you to 'draw me happiness' you would much more likely produce something artistic.
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Postby Airmann » Fri May 06, 2011 6:49 pm

A nice citation regarding flow:

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." — Jack London
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Postby juolac » Fri May 06, 2011 7:37 pm

...and the sample/VST-pack is our club! (in double sense :wink: )

:idea: But I still would love to have a "Spy theme songs"-comp.
Take inpiration from James Bond, Mission Impossible, Pink panther, Austin powers and stuff like that.
There are quite big freedom and openness in that genre, and combined with a pack it would be great. Not sayin I nessessary would be able to submit but I would definitely try! :D
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Postby Airmann » Sat May 07, 2011 7:21 am

juolac wrote:...and the sample/VST-pack is our club! (in double sense :wink: )

:idea: But I still would love to have a "Spy theme songs"-comp.
Take inpiration from James Bond, Mission Impossible, Pink panther, Austin powers and stuff like that.
There are quite big freedom and openness in that genre, and combined with a pack it would be great. Not sayin I nessessary would be able to submit but I would definitely try! :D


would be ok for me
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Postby fbjon » Sat May 07, 2011 8:57 pm

Airmann wrote:I agree that too much features and perfectionsm can kill the creativity. But won't do necessarily. I think it also depends on what kind of person you are. For example I love to play with new features and gadgets. New Renoise versions motivate me to find out what I could do with stuff. Also a nice sounding reverbs or a cool compressor gives me good feelings while producing.

Otherwise I want to bring in a very different view of "thin" turnouts.

SD Compo isn't changing very much. It's mostly the same hard core bunch of people that participate every month.

But it's actually necessary to invest and change things from time to time.

Regarding new users, keeping something running takes time and effort, keeping it fresh takes even more. I was just thinking that the rules might be daunting to read through. Also, the voting could be easier. For example, new users could be exempt from the absent-vote thing for a while.

Basically, the whole process of participation should be as streamlined as possible. Well, ideally at least.

organic io wrote:You might say "OK, I can use any vsti" and then you go looking through your list of vsti's.... Open up one, start messing with some presets. Don't find one that inspires you, so move to another vsti. and so on and so forth. Unless you make a conscious effort to make an "executive decision" (so to speak) and say something along the lines of "yes, this synth pad gives me an idea and this is the direction I want to take the song", then it is possible that you will continue without direction and eventually give up writing any song because you haven't really "done anything" yet.


I pretty much followed the process you describe: flip through presets, note down interesting sounds and then just mess about. Eventually I hooked onto an idea and went for it. It didn't seem to affect my flow, or "zone" this time.

You'r'e right that a samplepack cuts down on the decision-making, though. It's like it inherently provides several themes or ideas of sorts, but in a more accessible way than an official theme can do.

Now, a basic samplepack compo with no frills is probably a familiar base to start from for many, and it does feel easier for me to get started on those rounds. But on the other hand, a more open round can allow for a better song once I get going. Perhaps a samplepack raises the probability of participation, but I can't say that either way is better.

On the whole though, I must say other life considerations play a larger part in whether I end up participating in a particular round than the rules. I think there's a fair amount of coincidence and random variance in the turnout.
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