Black and White World Map

April 16th, 2014

Via Wallpapered: "This is a standard black and white terrain world map showing relief. It also includes country and city labels, so is the perfect educational tool for an office, study or bedroom."

Related, friends and totally fabulous: 5qm.

Filed under: Wunderkammer


April 14th, 2014

Via Wikipedia: „Homeostasis — also spelled homoeostasis or homœostasis (from Greek: ὅμοιος, hómoios, similar, and στάσις, stásis, standing still) — is the property of a system in which variables are regulated so that internal conditions remain stable and relatively constant. Examples of homeostasis include the regulation of temperature and the balance between acidity and alkalinity (pH). It is a process that maintains the stability of the human body's internal environment in response to changes in external conditions.

The concept was described by Claude Bernard in 1865 and the word was coined by Walter Bradford Cannon in 1926, 1929 and 1932. Although the term was originally used to refer to processes within living organisms, it is frequently applied to automatic control systems such as thermostats. Homeostasis requires a sensor to detect changes in the condition to be regulated, an effector mechanism that can vary that condition; and a negative feedback connection between the two."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Palo Santo

Limitless dimensions
April 12th, 2014

Via Wikipedia: "Bursera graveolens, known in Spanish as palo santo (holy wood) is a wild tree native from Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula to Peru and Venezuela that inhabits the South American Gran Chaco region (northern Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and the Brazilian Mato Grosso). It is also found in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and on the Galapagos islands. The tree belongs to the same family (Burseraceae) as frankincense and myrrh. It is widely used in folk medicine for stomach ache, as sudorific, and as liniment for rheumatism. Aged heartwood is rich in terpenes such as limonene and α-terpineol."

Thanks to Sandra Münchenbach!

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Workshop @ Academy of Art and Design Basel

Dazwischen – Want the gap
March 27th, 2014

Regine Halter invited me to give the 2-day seminar Dazwischen – Want the gap on March 28th and 29th at the Academy of Art and Design in Basel for their Conceptional Design Masterstudio students.
Have the great pleasure of co-teaching with Ralf Neubauer. In the two days of the seminar the students reflect, analyze and discuss inter- and transdisciplinarity regarding the challenges and advantages in the context of their own projects.

Filed under: Talks & Workshops

Let’s talk about search

by Lisa Gold
March 18th, 2014

Via Lisa Gold's blog: "Yes, it’s a truth universally acknowledged that most students are lazy and want to get quick and good enough results. But the problem is that they don’t know what they don’t know. (As the ERIAL researchers noted, 'students were just as unaware of the extent of their own information illiteracy as everyone else.') They have no idea that there’s a world of information out there that you can’t find through a Google search. Most of it has never been digitized and probably never will be (for lack of funding and copyright concerns, among other reasons). Some has been digitized but is locked in proprietary databases and the invisible web. Most books and articles published in the US after 1922 are still under copyright, so even if they’ve been digitized chances are they aren’t free (unless you borrow them from a library). Even if information has been indexed in Google, you may never find it if you don’t know how to properly search for it.

Google could certainly improve the situation, but it is a company of engineers trying to make search as easy and simple as possible for the vast majority of users, giving them a single magic box into which they can type anything and get results, even if they’ve spelled the keywords wrong or don’t really know what they are looking for. Some of the improvements they’ve made over time have made it frustrating for advanced users like me, such as ignoring the terms I’ve actually typed and substituting what they assume I’m looking for, or filtering my results based on my past search history. And if you want more advanced search options, Google doesn’t make it easy to find or learn about them, and their help articles often aren’t helpful at all. Search is not just an engineering problem to be solved– it is both an art and a science, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But no matter how good or flawed a tool like Google search is, anyone can learn how to use it well and get far better results.

A number of people have asked for some advice and tips on search, so here you go. [...]

A final note: Improving your search skills is important, but it’s even more important that you think critically and evaluate your search results and sources

Filed under: Wunderkammer


Your voice betrays your personality in a split second
March 14th, 2014

Via New Scientist: "We know that our voices can transmit subtle signals about our gender, age, even body strength and certain personality traits, but Phil McAleer at the University of Glasgow and his colleagues wondered whether we make an instant impression. To find out, they recorded 64 people as they read a passage. They then extracted the word hello and asked 320 people to rate the voices on a scale of 1 to 9 for one of 10 perceived personality traits – including trustworthiness, dominance and attractiveness.

Although it's not clear how accurate such snap judgements are, what is apparent is that we all make them, and very quickly. 'We were surprised by just how similar people's ratings were,' says McAleer. Using a scale in which 0 represents no agreement on a perceived trait and 1 reflects complete agreement, all 10 traits scored on average 0.92 – meaning most people agreed very closely to what extent each voice represented each trait."

Filed under: Wunderkammer


by King Crimson
March 13th, 2014

"Now in this faraway land
Strange that the palms of my hands
Should be damp with expectancy

Spring, and the air's turning mild
City lights and the glimpse of a child
Of the alleyway infantry

Friends – do they know what I mean?
Rain and the gathering green
Of an afternoon out of town

But lord I had to go
The trail was laid too slow behind me
To face the call of fame
Or make a drunkard's name for me
Though now this better life
Has brought a different understanding
And from these endless days
Shall come a broader sympathy
And though I count the hours
To be alone's no injury

My home was a place by the sand
Cliffs and a military band
Blew an air of normality"


Filed under: Wunderkammer

Patrick Arnold

March 12th, 2014

This video documents the installation Neon by Patrick Arnold, exhibited in February 2014. The project focuses on four fluorescent tubes which are the driving force as well as the framework of the installation. The viewer experiences the effect of these tubes along with their analogue and digitally edited surround sound in relation to the subjective spatial perception.

Supervised Neon in my Visual Music class together with IMM assistant professor Andreas Kolinski at the Institute For Music And Media.

Filed under: Students

Why College Students Are Dying to Get

Into Death Classes
March 8th, 2014

Via The Wall Street Journal: "At Kean University, students are dying (as it were) to get into Norma Bowe's class Death in Perspective, which has sometimes carried a three-year waiting list. On one field trip to a local coroner's office, Dr. Bowe's students were shown three naked cadavers on metal tables. One person had died from a gunshot, the other from suicide and the third by drowning.

The last corpse appeared overweight but wasn't; he had expanded like a water balloon. A suspect in a hit-and-run case, he had fled the scene, been chased by police, abandoned his car and jumped into the Passaic River. On the autopsy table, he looked surprised, his mouth splayed open, as if he realized he had made a mistake. As the class clustered around, a technician began to carve his torso open. Some students gagged or scurried out, unable to stand the sight or the smell.

This grim visit was just one of the excursions for Dr. Bowe's class. Every semester, students also leave the campus in Union, New Jersey, to visit a cemetery, a maximum-security prison (to meet murderers), a hospice, a crematory and a funeral home, where they pick out caskets for themselves. The homework is also unusual: Students are required to write goodbye letters to dead loved ones and to compose their own eulogies and wills."

Filed under: Wunderkammer


The next big fashion movement?
March 2nd, 2014

Via The Guardian: "Blending in is the new standing out – and Larry David is this year’s unlikely style icon. Welcome to Normcore, where dressing like a tourist is the ultimate fashion statement.

Fashion, by its very nature, is a peacock of an industry – it is bright, extrovert and likes to show off. There is, however, always a minority that take a different approach to dressing – one that avoids the print-clashing, kerazy shades and artful poses of street-style photographer bait. They go for something that is – well, there’s no other way to put this – boring.

New York magazine ran an article this weekend defining the look as Normcore – clothes that are so anonymous that, as the article says, from the back their wearer could just as easily be art kids or middle-aged, middle-American tourists. [...]

This is an attribute of fashion that those working in it – who have spent the past 10 years at the bleeding edge of fashion as art – sometimes forget about. The flipside – function over art – feels new and a bit subversive.

Welcome to fashion, 2014 – where normal is the new cool. Good luck telling the tourists and top stylists apart."

Thanks to Manu Burghart!
And off we go...

Filed under: Wunderkammer

My favorite "Dear Coquette fun-sized advice"

If you have ever wondered
February 27th, 2014

Via Kateoplis: "Do you have general advice for seventeen-year-old girls?
As you develop your identity, seek as little approval as possible.

My boyfriend writes off everything I say under the guise that I read too many books. I can’t tell if I’m being a pretentious douchebag or if he’s just a little insecure. Who’s to blame?
He’s to blame for his ignorance and disrespect. You’re to blame for your shitty choice in boyfriends.

What is the cure to narcissism?

Which Girls character would you be?
I’d be the HBO executive who cancels the show.

Is it always a bad idea to forgive a cheater?
No, it’s actually a good idea to forgive a cheater, but that doesn’t mean forget, and that sure as hell doesn’t mean give back your trust.

How do you say no to someone who continuously asks you out and refuses to stop, even upon request?
Tell the creep to fuck off. Be rude. Be loud. Embarrass him for disrespecting you, and when he acts all butthurt and calls you a bitch, don’t feel the least bit bad about it.

What do you do when you sorely miss a jerk you broke up with a few months ago?
Personally? I rebound date wildly inappropriate men until I’m filled with self-loathing and regret. I also tend to sublimate my frustration with exercise until I’m in really good shape. Do whatever you gotta do, babe, just don’t fall back into the jerk’s orbit.

Why am I attracted to guys who always have one foot out the door?
So that you can experience all of the emotional drama without taking any of the emotional risk.

What do you think about monogamy?
I think it’s limiting, problematic, and too often confused with fidelity.

Please introduce me to a new sex position.
Try the one where you make sober, unflinching eye contact with your partner while sharing a deep emotional connection."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

As the price of art rises, is its value plummeting?

February 12th, 2014

Via The Washington Post: "Going back as far as the Renaissance, artists have had an uneasy relationship to patrons and the money they offer. And the fear of mass commercialization has been a perennial theme of art at least since the days of the pop artists a half century ago. But something different is in the air today. The level of disgust is deeper and more visceral. The art world has collapsed into the world of commerce, and while there may be celebrations at Christie’s, there is an almost apocalyptic level of gloom everywhere else.

There are two basic critical responses to today’s art market. One argues that the market has nothing to do with art, and that whatever happens in the market is irrelevant to the actual content, meaning and love of art. Art is to the art market as sailing is to the business of hawking mega-yachts to multibillionaires. The other view, succinctly stated by Perl, is more pessimistic: The art market is ruining art, spiritually and as a cultural practice. In this understanding, the mega-yachts have taken over the bay and are crushing the finely wrought vintage sailing vessels beneath their hulking super-tonnage.

Both are true, in a way. If you retreat to certain museums that have kept their independence and stayed true to their values, it is still possible to tune out the noise of the market. But Perl is right, too, because the market isn’t just a distracting din of biennials and art fairs and blaring headlines about new record prices. The market is corrupting art, determining the kinds of art that get made and sold, changing the topics of art and ultimately controlling its future. In the worse case, it is also corrupting artists themselves, enticing them and rewarding them for bad, meretricious and superficial art.

Perhaps the biggest impact, however, is on the stories we tell about art, and today the only stories we seem to be telling are stories about the market for art. [...]

It’s a win-win for everyone. But not for art, if there is such a thing anymore."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

How Music Hijacks Our Perception of Time

A composer details how music works its magic on our brains
February 9th, 2014

Via Nautilus: "In recent years, numerous studies have shown how music hijacks our relationship with everyday time. For instance, more drinks are sold in bars when with slow-tempo music, which seems to make the bar a more enjoyable environment, one in which patrons want to linger—and order another round. Similarly, consumers spend 38 percent more time in the grocery store when the background music is slow. Familiarity is also a factor. Shoppers perceive longer shopping times when they are familiar with the background music in the store, but actually spend more time shopping when the music is novel. Novel music is perceived as more pleasurable, making the time seem to pass quicker, and so shoppers stay in the stores longer than they may imagine. [...]

But it is Schubert, more than any other composer, who succeeded in radically commandeering temporal perception. Nowhere is this powerful control of time perception more forceful than in the String Quintet. Schubert composed the four-movement work in 1828, during the feverish last two months of his life. (He died at age 31.) In the work, he turns contrasting distortions of perceptual time into musical structure. Following the opening melody in the first Allegro ma non troppo movement, the second Adagio movement seems to move slowly and be far longer than it really is, then hastens and shortens before returning to a perception of long and slow. The Scherzo that follows reverses the pattern, creating the perception of brevity and speed, followed by a section that feels longer and slower, before returning to a percept of short and fast. The conflict of objective and subjective time is so forcefully felt in the work that it ultimately becomes unified in terms of structural organization."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

The science of happily ever after

In love we only get three wishes
February 8th, 2014

Via New York Post: „To properly fall in love, you need to have sound levels of liking and lusting, Tashiro writes. It sounds simple, but maintaining both factors is complicated — especially when you take into account attrition rates.

Like and lust diminish over time, but at different rates. According to studies, liking declines at a rate of 3 percent per year, while lust deteriorates faster at 8 percent per year. Clearly, putting our eggs in the like basket is a much smarter investment strategy, Tashiro says. [...]

A grown-up love story should not be a fairy tale or a romantic tragedy, but instead should be approached as a mystery, he writes. If the goal is to find the truth in love, to search for love that is real and enduring, then love cannot be left to fate.

One thing you can do is to take seriously those early red flags, the peccadilloes in our loved ones we’re certain we can change.

If you choose someone with traits that drive you crazy or make you sad while you’re dating, then those traits will make you crazy or sad for decades to come
, he writes. So you want to choose well, because what you see is what you get.

Filed under: Wunderkammer

„Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam“

by Cato the Elder
February 1st, 2014

Via Wikipedia: "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam or Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem esse delendam (English: Furthermore, (moreover) I consider that Carthage must be destroyed) often abbreviated to Ceterum censeo, Carthago delenda est, or elenda est Carthago (English: Carthage must be destroyed) is a Latin oratorical phrase which was in popular use in the Roman Republic in the 2nd Century BC during the latter years of the Punic Wars against Carthage, by the party urging a foreign policy which sought to eliminate any further threat to the Roman Republic from its ancient rival Carthage, which had been defeated twice before and had a tendency after each defeat to rapidly rebuild its strength and engage in further warfare. It represented a policy of the extirpation of the enemies of Rome who engaged in aggression, and the rejection of the peace treaty as a means of ending conflict. The phrase was most famously uttered frequently and persistently almost to the point of absurdity by the Roman senator Cato the Elder (234-149 BC), as a part of his speeches."

Related: Zabriskie Point's Final Scene

Filed under: Wunderkammer


The Communicative Functions of Emoticons in Workplace E-Mails
January 26th, 2014

Via Wiley Online Library: "CMC research presents emoticons as visual representations of writers' emotions. We argue that the emoticons in authentic workplace e-mails do not primarily indicate writers' emotions. Rather, they provide information about how an utterance is supposed to be interpreted. We show that emoticons function as contextualization cues, which serve to organize interpersonal relations in written interaction. They serve 3 communicative functions. First, when following signatures, emoticons function as markers of a positive attitude. Second, when following utterances that are intended to be interpreted as humorous, they are joke/irony markers. Third, they are hedges: when following expressive speech acts (such as thanks, greetings, etc.) they function as strengtheners and when following directives (such as requests, corrections, etc.) they function as softeners."


Via Harvard Business Review: "What percent of your work day do you spend on email?
If you guessed 10% or 20%, sorry: Studies of office workers peg the average at 28%.
Maybe that’s average but that’s not me, you say? No need to guess. These days there are a number of auto-analytics tools that not only help you quantify how much time you spend on email, but also analyze other email behaviors to help you work more productively. Which of those tools offer the most potential? To find out we went to a scientist, founder and CEO of WolframAlpha, Stephen Wolfram. He’s undertaken a thorough “personal analytics” of his work routines. He told us about four analytical techniques that are relatively easy to use but provide new views into your mail habits that can help him tame the inbox."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Love, Sex, and the World Between

Susan Sontag's superb 1978 conversation with Jonathan Cott
January 19th, 2013

Via Brain Pickings: "In Susan Sontag: The Complete Rolling Stone Interview (public library) — the superb 1978 conversation with Jonathan Cott that ranked among the best biographies, memoirs, and history books of 2013 and also gave us the beloved author on the false divide between high and pop culture and how our cultural polarities imprison us — Sontag, one of the most celebrated minds of the last century, who spent decades contemplating love and being discombobulated over sex, zooms in with her characteristic precision on our culture’s impossible expectations of the relationship between the two:

We ask everything of love. We ask it to be anarchic. We ask it to be the glue that holds the family together, that allows society to be orderly and allows all kinds of material processes to be transmitted from one generation to another. But I think that the connection between love and sex is very mysterious. Part of the modern ideology of love is to assume that love and sex always go together. They can, I suppose, but I think rather to the detriment of either one or the other. And probably the greatest problem for human beings is that they just don’t. And why do people want to be in love? That’s really interesting. Partly, they want to be in love the way you want to go on a roller coaster again — even knowing you’re going to have your heart broken. [...]

I have loved people passionately whom I wouldn’t have slept with for anything, but I think that’s something else. That’s friendship — love, which can be a tremendously passionate emotion, and it can be tender and involve a desire to hug or whatever. But it certainly doesn’t mean you want to take off your clothes with that person. But certain friendships can be erotic. Oh, I think friendship is very erotic, but it isn’t necessarily sexual. I think all my relationships are erotic: I can’t imagine being fond of somebody I don’t want to touch or hug, so therefore there’s always an erotic aspect to some extent."

Filed under: People


by Lucy Glendinning
January 10th, 2013

Little bird up in a tree
Looked down and sang a song to me
Of how it began

Na na na na

The trout in the shiny brook
Gave a worm another look
And told me not to worry
About my life

Na na na na

Tree in my own backyard
Stands all alone
Bears fruit for me
And it tastes so good

Where's my pretty bird?
He must have flown away
If I keep singin'
He'll come back someday

Dawn, bird's still gone
Guess I'll go mow the lawn

What a day, what a day
Ooo, what a beautiful day this is

Via Wikipedia: "Little Bird is a song written by Dennis Wilson, Stephen Kalinich, and Brian Wilson (uncredited) for the American rock band The Beach Boys. It was released on their 1968 album Friends as well as being released as the B-side of the Friends single. The single peaked at number 47 in the US and number 25 in the UK."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

"The young artist... will discover out of ordinary things the meaning of ordinariness. He will not try to make them extraordinary. Only their real meaning will be stated."

Allan Kaprow
January 7th, 2013

While reading Christoph Schlingensief's Ich weiß, ich war's [I know, it was me] I was reminded of Allan Kaprow, who was an important influence on Schlingensief's still outstanding projects. Kaprow's thoughts about art resonate and I miss Schlingensief.

Via Journal of Contemporay Art: "Morgan: . . . that again gets back to the reference of life in relation to art, as opposed to art in relation to life.

Kaprow: Yeah. So what could we say about that? It is a matter of paradox; therefore, when I say I’m interesting in un-arting, that is to divest as much as possible in my own work what I know about art. It’s a paradox because I can’t do it any more than, for example, I could follow John Cage’s seeming belief that I could focus on the autonomy of the sound itself, divorced from context or memory.

Morgan: Well, it’s a pragmatic phenomenology, the way I see it. It’s a very practical, almost instrumental use of language and action that you’re dealing with; at the same time, you’re not imposing models from social science to the extent that it is going to dismiss any possibility, any rupture within the enactment of the piece. In other words, there is always room for slippage in your work.

Kaprow: There’s not only room, but I insist on it.

Morgan: When you talk about the absurd, or when I sense the absurd in your works, I don’t see your meaning of the absurd as an existential dilemma, but as another kind of absurd that is more within the process of daily life, the pragmatics of how we actually see reality or ourselves.

Kaprow: Let me give you an example. You’re waiting at a bus stop along with a few other people. You wait for a half hour. The bus comes along and you get on. The fare is a dollar fifty, and you reach into your pocket and you find a dollar and forty-five cents. You say to the driver, 'I only have a dollar forty-five. Will you cash a twenty dollar bill?' He says, 'We don’t cash twenty dollar bills,' and points to the sign on the coin box. And you have to get off. Now this is a typical example of what happens every day in our lives. And we often complain about these things: Why is the world this way? But what’s evident to me is that ninety-nine percent of the world is that way and there is no possible way to change that. Maybe there’s no need to change it, even though the more earnest of us and the world’s leaders keep talking about control and making things come out the way they want them or they think they ought to be. So it’s an attitude toward the world that is perhaps more permissive, a little bit more humorous, more gently ironical, more accepting, even though there is the apparent magnitude of suffering. Some will find this position of mine privileged, indifferent, but, in my point of view, this is the only route toward compassion, whereas insisting on fixing the world, as we see so far, is not successful. We haven’t prevented street people from being street people, or stopping the war in the gulf by the moralisms that abound today. So it’s a different way of looking at the kind of life we have."

Filed under: People

How To Stay Sane

The Art of Revising Your Inner Storytelling
January 6th, 2014

Via Brain Pickings: "Another key obstruction to our sanity is our chronic aversion to being wrong, entwined with our damaging fear of the unfamiliar. Perry cautions:

We all like to think we keep an open mind and can change our opinions in the light of new evidence, but most of us seem to be geared to making up our minds very quickly. Then we process further evidence not with an open mind but with a filter, only acknowledging the evidence that backs up our original impression. It is too easy for us to fall into the rap of believing that being right is more important than being open to what might be.

If we practice detachment from our thoughts we learn to observe them as though we are taking a bird’s eye view of our own thinking.
When we do this, we might find that our thinking belongs to an older, and different, story to the one we are now living.

Perry concludes:

We need to look at the repetitions in the stories we tell ourselves [and] at the process of the stories rather than merely their surface content. Then we can begin to experiment with changing the filter through which we look at the world, start to edit the story and thus regain flexibility where we have been getting stuck.

Complement How To Stay Sane with radical psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich’s 1948 list of the six rules for creative sanity."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

End of 2013

Processing ten items
31st December, 2013

Anthems This year in retrospect seems to be all about letting go and change. Induced by the take-off of my soulmate on his hero's journey one Frank Zappa anthem popped back up into consciousness. At the same time there was another track that was played to me over and over again until it became an earworm.
Book Reading Barry Long’s clear words on sexuality made my jaw drop. It is all there in this little book and why did nobody tell us about it when we started? It literally belongs in the hands of every single teenage girl, now.
Bullshit Went to the viewing of a few dozen apartments and am almost ready to write a dissertation about it. Rents and letting fees risen insanely high. What you pay and what you get for it is way out of proportion and there seems to be quite some greed involved.
Concept The live experience of other minds and my own breaking out in laughter when a belief is tested through The Work by Byron Katie was amazing: Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true? How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? Who would you be without the thought? – Turn it around.
Concert Dean Blunt touched my soul and had me make peace with my New Wave induced taste. Found myself between panic attacks and the security of a best friend’s shoulder at Blunt's Cologne concert. Thank you Christian S for all the music and everything beyond.
Film First I thought of The Act of Killing because I just couldn’t believe what I was witnessing when I saw it for the first time but what really blew my mind this year were Terre Thaemlitz's films on his Soulessness publication. I am very grateful for the deep conversation with her this summer. Will stay true to my fandom.
Food and Friendship I made it through this 404 year above all because of the amazing food Manu Burghart provided and her knightly friendship. Very, very real witches brew.
Discussion Could and should computers and turntables be accepted as instruments into the qualifying exams at music academies? I still and firmly believe: Yes, they can and shall.
Speech I love to read the commencement speech This is water by David Foster Wallace to my students. To see excerpts of it made into a video is great. More of this, please.
Quote This too shall pass (An old sufi story) is a proverb indicating that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary.
So, here we are... And what is next?

Filed under: Wunderkammer

On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes

by Alexandra Horowitz
December 23rd, 2013

Via Brain Pickings: "'How we spend our days', Annie Dillard wrote in her timelessly beautiful meditation on presence over productivity, 'is, of course, how we spend our lives'. And nowhere do we fail at the art of presence most miserably and most tragically than in urban life — in the city, high on the cult of productivity, where we float past each other, past the buildings and trees and the little boy in the purple pants, past life itself, cut off from the breathing of the world by iPhone earbuds and solipsism. And yet: 'The art of seeing has to be learned,' Marguerite Duras reverberates — and it can be learned, as cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz invites us to believe in her breathlessly wonderful On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes (public library), also among the year’s best psychology books — a record of her quest to walk around a city block with eleven different experts, from an artist to a geologist to a dog, and emerge with fresh eyes mesmerized by the previously unseen fascinations of a familiar world. It is undoubtedly one of the most stimulating books of the year, if not the decade, and the most enchanting thing I’ve read in ages. [...]

Horowitz begins by pointing our attention to the incompleteness of our experience of what we conveniently call reality:

"Right now, you are missing the vast majority of what is happening around you. You are missing the events unfolding in your body, in the distance, and right in front of you.
By marshaling your attention to these words, helpfully framed in a distinct border of white, you are ignoring an unthinkably large amount of information that continues to bombard all of your senses: the hum of the fluorescent lights, the ambient noise in a large room, the places your chair presses against your legs or back, your tongue touching the roof of your mouth, the tension you are holding in your shoulders or jaw, the map of the cool and warm places on your body, the constant hum of traffic or a distant lawn-mower, the blurred view of your own shoulders and torso in your peripheral vision, a chirp of a bug or whine of a kitchen appliance."

This adaptive ignorance, she argues, is there for a reason — we celebrate it as “concentration” and welcome its way of easing our cognitive overload by allowing us to conserve our precious mental resources only for the stimuli of immediate and vital importance, and to dismiss or entirely miss all else. ('Attention is an intentional, unapologetic discriminator', Horowitz tells us. 'It asks what is relevant right now, and gears us up to notice only that.') But while this might make us more efficient in our goal-oriented day-to-day, it also makes us inhabit a largely unlived — and unremembered — life, day in and day out.

For Horowitz, the awakening to this incredible, invisible backdrop of life came thanks to Pumpernickel, her 'curly haired, sage mixed breed' (who also inspired Horowitz’s first book, the excellent Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know), as she found herself taking countless walks around the block, becoming more and more aware of the dramatically different experiences she and her canine companion were having along the exact same route:

"Minor clashes between my dog’s preferences as to where and how a walk should proceed and my own indicated that I was experiencing almost an entirely different block than my dog. I was paying so little attention to most of what was right before us that I had become a sleepwalker on the sidewalk. What I saw and attended to was exactly what I expected to see; what my dog showed me was that my attention invited along attention’s companion: inattention to everything else." [...]

“Together, we became investigators of the ordinary, considering the block — the street and everything on it—as a living being that could be observed.
In this way, the familiar becomes unfamiliar, and the old the new."

Horowitz’s approach is based on two osmotic human tendencies: our shared capacity to truly see what is in front of us, despite our conditioned concentration that obscures it, and the power of individual bias in perception — or what we call expertise, acquired by passion or training or both — in bringing attention to elements that elude the rest of us. What follows is a whirlwind of endlessly captivating exercises in attentive bias as Horowitz, with her archetypal New Yorker’s 'special fascination with the humming life-form that is an urban street,' and her diverse companions take to the city.

First, she takes a walk all by herself, trying to note everything observable, and we quickly realize that besides her deliciously ravenous intellectual curiosity, Horowitz is a rare magician with language. [...]

But as soon as she joins her experts, Horowitz is faced with the grimacing awareness that despite her best, most Sherlockian efforts, she was 'missing pretty much everything.' She arrives at a newfound, profound understanding of what William James meant when he wrote, 'My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which I notice shape my mind.':

"I would find myself at once alarmed, delighted, and humbled at the limitations of my ordinary looking. My consolation is that this deficiency of mine is quite human. We see, but we do not see: we use our eyes, but our gaze is glancing, frivolously considering its object. We see the signs, but not their meanings. We are not blinded, but we have blinders."

Originally featured in August, with a closer look at the expert insights. For another peek at this gem, which is easily among my top three favorite books of the past decade, learn how to do the step-and-slide."

Filed under: Reading

When You Criticize Someone...

...You Make It Harder for that Person to Change
December 22nd, 2013

Via HBR Blog Network: "If everything worked out perfectly in your life, what would you be doing in ten years?

Such a question opens us up to fresh possibilities, to reflect on what matters most to us, and even what deep values might guide us through life. This approach gives managers a tool for coaching their teams to get better results.
Contrast that mind-opening query with a conversation about what’s wrong with you, and what you need to do to fix yourself. That line of thinking shuts us down, puts us on the defensive, and narrows our possibilities to rescue operations. Managers should keep this in mind, particularly during performance reviews.
That question about your perfect life in ten years comes from Richard Boyatzis, a professor at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western, and an old friend and colleague. His recent research on the best approach to coaching has used brain imaging to analyze how coaching affects the brain differently when you focus on dreams instead of failings. These findings have great implications for how to best help someone – or yourself — improve.
As I quoted Boyatzis in my book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Talking about your positive goals and dreams activates brain centers that open you up to new possibilities. But if you change the conversation to what you should do to fix yourself, it closes you down. [...]

Bottom line: don’t focus on only on weaknesses, but on hopes and dreams. It’s what our brains are wired to do."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Time is on my side

Why Does Time Fly as We Get Older?
December 21st, 2013

Via Gaines on Brains: "We’ll probably never know why, exactly, but psychologists have put forth some interesting theories:

1. We gauge time by memorable events.
As William James hypothesized, we may be measuring past intervals of time by the number of events that can be recalled in that period. Imagine a 40-something mom experiencing the repetitive, stressful daily grind work and family life. The abundant memories of her high school years (homecoming football games, prom, first car, first kiss, graduation) may, compared to now, seem like much longer than the mere four years that they were.

2. The amount of time passed relative to one’s age varies.
For a 5-year-old, one year is 20% of their entire life. For a 50-year-old, however, one year is only 2% of their life. This “ratio theory,” proposed by Janet in 1877, suggests that we are constantly comparing time intervals with the total amount of time we’ve already lived.

3. Our biological clock slows as we age.
With aging may come the slowing of some sort of internal pacemaker. Relative to the unstoppable clocks and calendars, external time suddenly appears to pass more quickly.

4. As we age, we pay less attention to time.
When you’re a kid on December 1, you’re faithfully counting down the days until Santa brings your favorite Hot Wheels down the chimney. When you’re an adult on December 1, you’re a little more focused on work, bills, family life, scheduling, deadlines, travel plans, Christmas shopping, and all of that other boring adult stuff. The more attention one focuses on tasks such as these, the less one will notice the passage of time.

5. Stress, stress, and more stress.
As concluded by Wittmann and Lehnhoff (and replicated by Friedman and Janssen), the feeling that there is not enough time to get things done may be reinterpreted as the feeling that time is passing too quickly. Even older individuals (who are, more often than not, retired from work) may continue to feel similarly due to physical handicaps or diminished cognitive ability.

While the feeling may be inescapable, appease yourself by knowing that time is notliterally getting faster as you age. Take a moment to slow down this Christmas, enjoy time with your family and friends, and be assured that the fancy Rolex that Santa brings you next Wednesday is doing its job just fine."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

The British Library Puts 1.000.000 Images into the Public Domain

Making Them Free to Reuse & Remix
December 14th, 2013

Via Open Culture: "...the British Library came out with its own announcement on Thursday:

We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images to us, allowing us to release them back into the Public Domain. The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.

The librarians behind the project freely admit that they don’t exactly have a great handle on the images in the collection. They know what books the images come from. But they don’t know much about the particulars of each visual. And so they’re turning to crowdsourcing for answers. In fairly short order, the Library plans to release tools that will let willing participants gather information and deepen our understanding of everything in the Flickr Commons collection.

You can jump into the entire collection here, or view a set of highlights here.

Thanks to Anne Ardina Brouwers!

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Inner voices

The science of how we talk to ourselves in our heads
December 10th, 2013

Via Research Digest: „Our inner voices usually sound to us like our external spoken voice - instances of inner speaking occurring in another person's voice are very rare. Just like our spoken voice, the voice of inner speaking can also express degrees of volume and emotion.

Inner speaking is perceived as wilful - something done, rather than experienced passively. There is huge variation in the frequency with which people speak to themselves in their mind. In one study with 30 participants that involved ten beeps a day for three days, some reported no instances of inner speaking at all, while others reported inner speaking for 75 per cent of the beeps. On average inner speaking was reported at 23 per cent of beeps, although note that doesn't mean people are speaking to themselves 23 per cent of the entire time.

Another curious variation in inner speaking is where people report its location.
Some people describe it as occurring in a particular location in their head; others say in their head but are no more specific; still others say their inner speaking occurs in their chest.

Also notable is some people's descriptions of inner speaking occurring while they are speaking aloud - with the two voices saying different things. There are also reports of inner speaking that has no meaning, and inner speaking that is at a much faster rate that would be physically possible for aloud speaking. [...]

Inner speaking is also different from unsymbolised thinking according to the researchers. Unsymbolised thinking is a thoughty experience about a distinct concept or issue but does not involve words, pictures or symbols. Inner speaking also is not sensory awareness - when we're focused on a specific sensory aspect of the outside world or our bodies."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Line Breaks & Other Violent Crimes

from Los Angeles
December 9th, 2013

Via Line Breaks & Other Violent Crimes: "It always happens this way. The kids start lining up in front of the school bus again and you think about dressing up for Halloween and fail to dress up for Halloween and you take a slow shower without shampoo and it’s December. The year-end lists start popping up everywhere and you don’t recognize half of the things on them. Your checking account looks sort of hungry and mopey but the screen(s) you’re sitting in front of are offering you hundreds of amazing deals on things you need to buy for all the people in your life who mean a lot to you. You haven’t read the book you wanted to read last summer, your feet are cold, you’ve forgotten to make a doctor’s appointment about that thing that’s been bugging you, you caught some sort of virus from an airplane trip, you’re eating too much but fuck it, you’ve gradually begun drinking two cups of coffee in the morning instead of one and now you get a headache if you try to go back. You had that one night full of soft lights and dancing and garlic toast and a coat that wasn’t yours. You have said I love you hundreds of times and actually meant it. There are songs in every car asking you to sing them and smile. You take a minute to sit down and it’s December. You remember how lucky you are. You realize it’s been a hard year. You think about all the things coming up next year that are going to make it an incredible one. You’ve stumbled over something full of grace. You’ve cried in different places every month of the last year. You think if you could collect all the tears in a big jar and pour them out over the balcony, yelling the whole time, yelling louder than you’ve ever yelled before, you might not have to do any of this again. You want to do all of this again. It’s December and the air is crisp and your arms smell like firewood. You’re tired. You’re still alive."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Pictures Of Sound: One Thousand Years Of Educed Audio: 980-1980

by Patrick Feaster
December 8th, 2013

Via Dust to Digital: "Using modern technology, Patrick Feaster is on a mission to resurrect long-vanished voices and sounds—many of which were never intended to be revived.
Over the past thousand years, countless images have been created to depict sound in forms that theoretically could be played just as though they were modern sound recordings. Now, for the first time in history, this compilation uses innovative digital techniques to convert historic pictures of sound dating back as far as the Middle Ages directly into meaningful audio. It contains the world’s oldest known sound recordings in the sense of sound vibrations automatically recorded out of the air—the groundbreaking phonautograms recorded in Paris by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville in the 1850s and 1860s—as well as the oldest gramophone records available anywhere for listening today, including inventor Emile Berliner’s recitation of Der Handschuh, played back from an illustration in a magazine, which international news media recently proclaimed to be the oldest audible record in the tradition of 78s and vintage vinyl. Other highlights include the oldest known recording of identifiable words spoken in the English language (1878) and the world’s oldest surviving trick recording (1889). But Pictures of Sound pursues the thread even further into the past than that by playing everything from medieval music manuscripts to historic telegrams, and from seventeenth-century barrel organ programs to eighteenth-century notations of Shakespearean recitation.

In short, this isn’t just another collection of historical audio—it redefines what historical audio is."

Thanks to Helga Szentpétery!

Filed under: Visual Music