The Side View

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The Side View (TSV) is an independent publisher and media environment that integrates theory and practice, while running parallel to academic and public conversations—run by Adam Robbert.

About: Attention is an art form. Perception is a skill. We explore how people shape their minds to become expert perceivers and doers.

Our Work: The site features a podcast, a blog, an essay series, and live events. Follow along with us, and explore your own conversions in perception.

Who We Are: We feature a cast of philosophers, athletes, artists, designers, contemplatives, and scientists based in the SF Bay Area.

The Story: The Side View is about the knowledge and intuition we use to navigate the world. It’s about how our minds meet the world, but it’s also about how our minds, when trained in the right way, change how we perceive what’s around us and within us. In other words, The Side View is about how we become skillful perceivers and doers, people who know, in the moment, the right details to attend to and the right actions to take. But The Side View isn’t just about expertise or getting more efficient at things; it’s about learning how to deepen our engagement with a complex world. The idea is that we can develop new ways of making sense of things, ways that change what we’re able to do in the world. From our perspective, sensemaking is its own kind of craft, and the medium of this craft isn’t paint or stone or wood, but your own perception. Perception on this view is a skill you can shape through practice. We see our ability to pay attention to things as an art of its own. It’s an art of looking at things in a certain way. These are good taglines for The Side View—attention is an art form; perception is a skill—but when we dig deeper into what this approach really means, to what it makes possible for us in our lives, we find something more interesting: When we start to look at our own perception in this way, we find that we can actually take hold of some of these dynamics and change them. In a way, the whole process of learning is about creating these transformations in perception. The Side View is about making sense of this process.

By looking at perception and experience, we’re making sense of how we make sense. We draw from philosophers, scientists, and athletes, as well as designers, artists, and contemplatives. What connects these approaches is the idea of practice, and the understanding that practice—in whatever discipline—is first and foremost about transforming perception and our ability to act in the world. Today there’s a tendency to focus only on the facts that experts produce, but we look at these people from a different angle. We study how they learn to see the world in new ways to begin with. Take the architect as an example. The architect sees with an eye for design that the rest of us do not have, with a capacity for understanding how we might shape the environment and how the environment might shape us.

There’s a level of understanding at work here that’s unique to architects, but we can say the same of carpenters, meditators, or athletes—they all have heightened levels of perceptual ability, and unique capacities for sense-making cultivated through practice, experience, and learning. The point is, this approach applies to practices of prayer and mindfulness just as much as it does to practices of athletics and engineering. The ancient Greeks used the word askēsis, meaning exercise or training, to describe this process of transformation. We’re using this concept to explore the training needed to create skillful means in any endeavor. This kind of practice happens in specific environments, with specific people, at specific times. Set and setting matter. Other people matter. Our hope is that when we understand the nature of this process, new possibilities will open up for each of us in our own lives, possibilities that would otherwise remain hidden or inaccessible.