MA (間)

Friday, January 28, 2011

“Jobs's immersion in Zen and passion for design almost certainly exposed him to the concept of ma, a central pillar of traditional Japanese aesthetics. Like many idioms relating to the intimate aspects of how a culture sees the world, it's nearly impossible to accurately explain -- it's variously translated as "void," "space" or "interval" -- but it essentially describes how emptiness interacts with form, and how absence shapes substance. If someone were to ask you what makes a ring a meaningful object -- the circle of metal it consists of, or the emptiness that that metal encompasses? -- and you were to respond "both," you've gotten as close to ma as the clumsy instrument of English allows.

While Jobs has never invoked the term in public -- one of the aspects of his genius is the ability to keep even his most esoteric assertions in the realm of the instantly accessible -- ma is at the core of the Jobsian way. And Jobs' single-minded adherence to this idiosyncratically Japanese principle is, ironically, what has allowed Apple to compete with and beat Japan's technology titans -- most notably the company that for the past four decades dominated the world of consumer electronics: Sony.”
Via: How Steve Jobs 'out-Japanned' Japan (full article.)

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