Ahoy! I’m Kevin McGillivray (he/him). I’m a web developer, writer, painter, and convivial home kitchen saucier. For me, this is the year of the gnome.
The long fermenting, low simmering questions I care about are…
- What is creativity? What stories do we tell about creativity? How might we practice it in its full nuance and complexity?
- How might we co-create neighborly, healthy, sustainable communities? What paths and patterns do we perceive between our homes, neighborhoods, towns, and the web? How can we co-create an ecology of public and private life, accessibility and inclusion, human-scale networks and identity, across online and offline spaces?
- How might we center around the Quality Without a Name? Where does the Quality emerge and how do we enchant it in our days and works?
As a web developer, I work on projects that help me explore these questions. I like to focus on the things that grow with the grain of the web: accessibility, progressive enhancement, and open standards. Right now I’m building products and platforms to make public information systems more valuable at Column.
I’m currently writing The Code Gardener’s Almanac, a guide to programming as a creative practice and making enchanting software. I write articles to help people learn web development, and have had the pleasure of working with dozens of wonderful programmers through one-on-one mentorship. I’m sometimes able to offer guidance or mentorship for folks looking to learn web development or cultivate a creative practice. I won’t pretend to know any definitive answers, but if you think it might help, I may be able to share encouraging questions.
An address for convivial correspondence
I love corresponding with a convivial crew of colleagues and comrades. If you’d like to chat about curiosities and co-creation or inquire about web development projects or mentorship, you can reach me via email or Twitter and I’ll send a signal back as soon as I can (which may not be so soon after all).
The Half-Hidden Campfire
Ahhh, now that the more condensed and obscured summaries are out of the way, we can relax for a while and tell stories by the campfire. I’ve always been curious about about pages—they’re the only page on the entire web that’s all about you. So if you’re interested to know more about me, here’s a constellation of stories. If anything here resonates with you, please do reach out so I can learn the lore of you, too.
I’m grateful for and lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from many great teachers, not only teachers in school, but in my family, career, and friendships.
Growing up, whenever I started to have questions about a new curiosity, my parents would pull a book off their shelf on that exact topic. Looking back, I can see that I was following in the footsteps of their educational exploration, following paths that many have walked before, and making new discoveries on my own. In school, I admired my teachers—their enthusiasm, the way they introduced me to new ideas in inspiring and interesting ways, the way they dedicated themselves to the personal development and fulfillment of each student, and held us to high standards of thinking, expression, and personal responsibility.
I’ve often played teaching roles as a web development mentor, a piano teacher, or helping other students at my college’s writing center. At times when I wasn’t directly involved in a learning context, I found myself looking for ways to join one again. I’ve realized that I’m happiest when I’m both helping other people develop and explore their creative skills and doing so myself in a co-creation of practice.
I believe the best education is deeply interdisciplinary, defined mainly by enthusiasm and curiosity, and that education is the “practice of freedom”.
“The best teacher in the world is somebody who loves what he or she does and just loves it in front of you.”
Study (verb) – based on Latin “studium”, meaning zeal or enthusiasm.
Textspaces, Textscapes, and the Web
Programming is a seed that grew slowly in my interests for many years before rapidly and unexpectedly expanding. When I was twelve, my dad taught me a bit of HTML. It wasn’t much, but it planted the seed for web development in my future. I continued to have an interest in technology, played a lot of text based games, first on MS DOS and then online (which I only later realized was great training for the command line), and generally wondered about computers. I grew up with the internet-as-sibling-and-playground, visiting it as a portal to interact with and learn about the world, and watching it evolve as I did.
Programming took a back seat to music after that. Playing the piano was so much fun that it took the majority of my focus for the next nine years. Of course, later I realized that music theory and music composition are very similar to programming, and my love of writing and studying music is the same interest that later attracted me to programming—the skills I learned while studying music would be very helpful for programming.
In college, I took a web design class and decided I would try my hand at building a website. Ever since that class, my curiosity to explore web development has grown deeper and deeper. I’ve always loved the web for it’s openness, it’s quirkiness, and it’s dazzling vastness, and I love to contribute to its collection of human culture.
I didn’t expect my educational journey through the arts and humanities to lead me to a seemingly technical subject like programming, but it’s become an essential way for me to explore and connect all of my interests.
I never knew you could love a beverage until I met Alex. In 2010, she would make tea while we worked on homework, and just like programming, that planted a seed that would quickly grow into a wild enthusiasm.
On January 5th, 2011, I spend my first day studying abroad in Liverpool. Due to jet lag, I woke up around 3:30 AM, and I was starving. I had no food, so I wandered down the security room by the entrance to my campus, and I asked the security guards, Geoff and Malcolm, if they knew of any places nearby that were open where I could find breakfast or anything edible.
Of course, nothing was open, but they had me come in and they made me tea and gave me some biscuits. Maybe it was my need for sustenance, or maybe it was my pre-existing dedication to embracing all things British, or maybe it was some kind of symbol to do with survival and care across cultures, but I’ll never forget that cup of tea. At that moment, my curiosity and desire to learn more about tea grew even more.
“Strangely enough humanity has so far met in the teacup.”
—Okakura Kakuzo, the Book of Tea
Paint, ink, and graphite
I paint and draw. I’m not sure I can say much about this except that one time my teacher told me that once I finished his course in college I had a duty to continue to paint and draw. It’s a duty I can’t help but fulfill. It goes like this:
- Look at something.
- Record your perceptions.
Teacher: Are you thinking about making art?
Teacher: Don’t. Art just happens.
A key thread that has tied together all of my interests and projects has been the desire to understand and practice creativity. What is creativity? How does it work? How can we get better at it?
In high school, I needed to write a song for a school assignment. It was painful. It had to be about Romeo and Juliet. I struggled. Then my teacher decided it would be a good idea to play the recorded song during our final exam. Mortifying.
But, it planted another curiosity. How do people do this? Why is it so hard? What are the challenges and skills involved in writing a song, in creating anything?
I started to read, bolstered by my parents’ library. I picked up a lot of advice and tricks of the trade, reading books about the “creative process”, advice from writers, artists, musicians, anyone who had any kind of creative practice. I started to pick up on themes that were found across all creative disciplines. I would read about how to write novels, and translate those tips and perspectives into writing music. I was a sponge and a translator, studying the skills of creativity that are universal to every creative field.
But I still struggled to actually put the advice into practice. I could see the truth in the words, but doing it was another thing entirely. Ever since then, I’ve been practicing, learning bit by bit, exercising my creative muscles. It hasn’t become any less challenging, but it seems I’ve made some progress.
I believe that everyone is creative. I believe that creativity can be learned and taught. I believe that it’s a misconception that some people are born creative and some people are not, and that creativity is an innate talent that cannot be taught, learned, or improved. I believe that you can practice creative skills and apply them to anything from cooking to coding. In my own work, I’m committed to uncovering and practicing the wisdom and skills of creativity and helping others learn and practice them as well.
This blog will self-destruct in…
I try to make this site unabashedly my own—a messy mix of all the things I’m interested in. It can be a little disorganized but that’s how people are. I hope you find something useful or interesting here!
Letters in bottles
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