by David Pescowitz with the collaboration of countless others

"No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind." --Napoleon Hill, "Think and Grow Rich"

All of us have worked "together" at some point. Since childhood, we have organized ourselves into "groups" to complete learning exercises, artistic endeavors and business projects. We collaborate.

"Let me run this idea past you." "What do you think?" "Comments and suggestions are always appreciated." --common phrases that call up the Third Mind (or Fourth or Fifth, etc., depending on how many people are involved).

We listen to the collaborators' suggestions, apply or dismiss them, contribute our own thoughts and start the process all over again. The "final idea," or the thought that has evolved to the point where we are ready to take some form of action, is a product of the Third Mind. (See Interaction #1) When an individual gets a "bright idea," a symbolic light bulb flashes over their head. When this happens in a group setting, the light bulb becomes a halo binding the group together. The Third Mind experience is a collective "Eureka!"

"A group of brains coordinated (or connected) in a spirit of harmony will provide more thought-energy than a single brain, just as a group of electric batteries will provide more energy than a single battery." --Napoleon Hill, "Think and Grow Rich"

For the Third Mind to manifest, the individuals' minds "must come together," as Hill writes. We know it when it happens. Sometimes, we call it "good chemistry." Two decades ago, Beat writer William S. Burroughs and avant-garde artist and poet Brion Gysin were so impressed with the power of this approach they appropriated Hill's words to name their collection of collaborations The Third Mind. Together, Burroughs and Gysin explored the "Cut-Up," a simple method where words, images and sounds are physically cut up and rearranged at random for new connections to emerge. (Cut-Ups and their application in new media will be further explored here in the future.) Astounding ideas developed out of the "chaos" and Burroughs and Gysin evangelized their process.

"It is not the history of a literary collaboration but rather the complete fusion in a praxis of two subjectives, two subjectives that metamorphose into a third; it is from this collusion that a new author emerges, an absent third person, invisible and beyond grasp, decoding the silence." --Gerard-Georges Lemaire on Burroughs and Gysin's The Third Mind.

This fusion may occur in any situation, from boardrooms to bedrooms, but creativity often flows most freely during informal social gatherings. One successful example of this kind of "Third Mind environment" was Andy Warhol's Factory loft, during the late 1960s. Amidst a never-ending party, early "multimedia" artists, creators of static visual art, musicians and film-makers experimented together to push the creative envelope. At the same time, a similar phenomenon was happening on the West Coast with the psychedelic Acid Tests and "happenings." Those kinds of celebrations evolved into today's underground Raves, multimedia dance parties often held in warehouses where new technologies and art are converged to create a whole Third Mind thoughtspace.

"Raves galvanized everyone together. Virtual Reality pioneers, psychedelic gurus, artists, DJs and cyberpunks were all mashed against each other. There was a sense of something happening. Now we know something is definitely happening. The question is what do we do next?" -Nick Philip, Digital Artist

The next step, of course, is to bring that energy, that celebration of collaboration, on line. In the last few years, the Internet has become an extremely effective tool, or medium, to manifest the Third Mind. E-mail was the beginning--ideas could be sent back and forth in seconds and virtual "creative collectives" frequently developed. (See Interaction #2) On-line services like the WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) helped popularize this concept of a "digital salon," where a sense of community is fostered and collaborations constantly occur. The Third Mind is further encouraged with new real-time global-telecommunications applications for the Internet, like CU-See Me, DigiPhone and PowWow. You can now spend an evening mingling with citizens of the Global Village, without ringing up a massive telephone bill. (See Interaction #3) The Internet, itself, is becoming the Third Mind and we are its brain cells.

The medium is the message ---> integration and interaction.
The process is the product ---> creativity and collaboration.

All of us remember collaborative experiences when we did not seem in touch with the Third Mind. Perhaps one person did all of the work, mental or physical, and others contributed little. Why does this happen? What stories do you have of successful collaborations? Why do you think they were successful? Post your experiences and thoughts for others to feed off of and into in edge-dialogue1.

Take a simple idea you may have about a piece of art, a business possibility, or a cultural or political theory. Create an e-mail list of two or more friends, preferably from all over the world. Send them the idea and ask for their input. Read and keep the responses. If you like some of the suggestions, build them into your original idea. Send the evolved idea back to your friends again. Let the idea grow in the direction that the "Third Mind" takes it. When you feel the idea has reached its peak, look back at all of the e-mail. Notice how the idea has taken on a life of its own. It may have changed only slightly or it may be drastically different from your original concept. Not long ago, your collaborators would have been limited to those in your town, in your limited "salon." Consider how ideas evolve differently as they filter through different cultures and different tunnel-realities. Post your experiences and thoughts for others to feed off of and into in edge-dialogue2.

Download and run CU-See Me, DigiPhone or PowWow. Because these applications are far from becoming the "standard," your are primarily limited to choose the person you communicate with from an on-line list of other experimenters waiting to try out the technology. This in itself is revolutionary. How often do we pick up the phone and call a random number in Tokyo just to "talk?" Or even more simply, how often do we sit down next to a stranger on the bus and start a conversation. What ideas are the people you meet working on? What do they think of your ideas? How are the ideas different? How can they combine and recombine to create new and better ideas? Post your experiences and thoughts for others to feed off of and into in edge-dialogue3.]-[

Works Cited:

Warhol, Andy and Pat Hackett. POPism: The Warhol Sixties. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980.

Burroughs, William S. and Brion Gysin. The Third Mind. New York: The Viking Press, 1978.

Hill, Napoleon. Think & Grow Rich. New York: Ballantine Books, 1960.

Palmer, Robert. "Rolling Stone Interview: William Burroughs." Rolling Stone 11 May 1972: 48-53.

Wolfe, Tom. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. New York: Bantam, 1969.


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Image by Annie Phyo.