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The skill – taste gap: educating taste

What are you doing to improve your taste? I’m sure you have your own ideas, but here’s what I’ve been thinking about: to educate your taste with respect to a particular art form or practice (music, chess, economics, creative writing, programming, architecture, football, politics, whatever) you can start from two places, and move in two directions:

Begin with your own (current) taste

Start with what you like. Ask yourself why you like it. Ask other people why they like it, or why they don’t. What makes it good? Defend your cause. Articulate your point of view as clearly as you can. Make some assertions.

Start other people’s taste

Ask someone whose taste you respect what they like. Discover the canon. Grapple with what what bores and confuses you. Ask: “Why do people love this?” and “How does this shed light on what this practice is really about?” You don’t have to fall in love with Don Quixote (I’m still trying) but you should understand why some people do. Think / talk / write about what you’re learning: why Andres Iniesta is (apparently) a footballer’s footballer… or why everyone’s wrong to love Wuthering Heights.

Go backwards

A practice is always in motion, and so always has a history. Find out what came before. Where did the thing you’re looking at grow out of? What was it shaped by? What is it responding to? Step into the unending conversation and try to unpick the web of influence.

Go forward

Ask yourself what comes next. Where is the practice going? Where is it leading us? How is it changing? What’s controversial? The next chapter may already have been written – or that could be a job waiting for you.

Go together

A practice is maintained by a community. Find a scene: a bunch of enthusiasts egging each other on. Work out the shape of the network of people and institutions who maintain and sustain the practice, who love it and move it forward. Find amateurs, find professionals. Ravel the net. Who listens to whom? Start conversations. Make recommendations. Contribute.

See also:

The skill – taste gap: compromising taste

Ira Glass on the skill – taste gap (1)
Ira Glass on the skill – taste gap (2): Do it now

David Bayles and Ted Orland on art, saints, superheroes and (closing) the skill – taste gap
Mind at Work: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton, MVPs and innovation by accretion
Neal Stephenson on Speaking Arrangements; Art and Artists; Correspondence and Productive Writing

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...