A Brief Visual Intro to Fertile Confusion – A SmartPen Pencast Demo

You can jump down to the Fertile Confusion Pencast if you don’t want to read this introduction to the technology behind it.

I don’t consider myself a techy geek. Still, I get enamored with useful, elegant technology that has the wonder factor – that is, it makes me say a wide-eyed “Wow!” like a golly-gee Sherman to Mr. Peabody. And Livescribe’s Pulse Smartpen has that wonder factor.

The Smartpen is a computer paper with an audio recorder. While you or a presenter or an interviewee speaks, you can take notes on special Livescribe microdot paper. The special paper is part of the wonder. It has a recording memory that synchronizes with the pen’s.

So, in the example below, I make audio notes on fertile confusion. As I’m talking, the pen and paper record my words and my pen marks. At a later time, I can click the penhead on any mark, and the pen’s audio will automatically start playing that portion of the recording.

Why is this useful?

The Smartpen encourages you to think by drawing and talking. Mounds of research show that movement, drawing, and talking aloud facilitate thinking and imagining. I use white board walls to draw out ideas for essays and book chapters – but I have no audio recording of my thoughts. I use a recorder when thinking aloud in a car – but I have no capacity to draw. The Smartpen lets me do both. AND I can record audio on one date and then go back and add notes that will be coordinated – or vice-versa.

No more tedious recording playbacks to get to the perfect quotation during an interview or lecture. In the past, I’ve recorded interviews with a pocket recorder and tried to make notes when the subject articulated key ideas or quotable points. But that process is clunky and time-consuming. The Smartpen lets me listen to my subject and write a word or draw a quick image while he or she speaks, and later I can tap on that word or image and get instant replay in seconds.

Quick pen-to-blog transcription. I have more to learn, but uploading and embedding the following “pencast” took only a few minutes for this non-techy to figure out.

So, without further delay: Here is the pencast introduction to the idea of “fertile confusion“:

Maybe that doesn’t make you “wow” the way it does me. Still, the Smartpen is a handy tool that I’ll be taking with me tomorrow when I go to the Google Creative Lab in Manhattan for a studio talk on “Creating Good Things That Matter” – part of Scott Belsky and Behance’s 99% Conference.I hope to send a pencast or two from the conference.

Do you have any feedback on this tool? Have you used it or something like it (if there is anything like it)?

See you in the woods,

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  1. Wow, I might be interested in this one. I found a great point on law and recording info though, as I love law as a paralegal I love this idea. Maybe they need to change this law to allow it.