Sarah Maple, The Worlds as we know it, 2020.

Zoom fatigue

...and their simple fixes
March 6th, 2021

Via Stanford University: "In the first peer-reviewed article that systematically deconstructs Zoom fatigue from a psychological perspective, published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior on Feb. 23, Bailenson has taken the medium apart and assessed Zoom on its individual technical aspects. He has identified four consequences of prolonged video chats that he says contribute to the feeling commonly known as Zoom fatigue. [...]

1) Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense.
Both the amount of eye contact we engage in on video chats, as well as the size of faces on screens is unnatural. [...]
Solution: Until the platforms change their interface, Bailenson recommends taking Zoom out of the full-screen option and reducing the size of the Zoom window relative to the monitor to minimize face size, and to use an external keyboard to allow an increase in the personal space bubble between oneself and the grid.

2) Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing.
Most video platforms show a square of what you look like on camera during a chat. But that’s unnatural, Bailenson said. 'In the real world, if somebody was following you around with a mirror constantly – so that while you were talking to people, making decisions, giving feedback, getting feedback – you were seeing yourself in a mirror, that would just be crazy. No one would ever consider that,' he added. [...]
Solution: Bailenson recommends that platforms change the default practice of beaming the video to both self and others, when it only needs to be sent to others. In the meantime, users should use the hide self-view button, which one can access by right-clicking their own photo, once they see their face is framed properly in the video.

3) Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility.
In-person and audio phone conversations allow humans to walk around and move. But with videoconferencing, most cameras have a set field of view, meaning a person has to generally stay in the same spot. Movement is limited in ways that are not natural. 'There’s a growing research now that says when people are moving, they’re performing better cognitively,' Bailenson said.
Solution: Bailenson recommends people think more about the room they’re videoconferencing in, where the camera is positioned and whether things like an external keyboard can help create distance or flexibility. For example, an external camera farther away from the screen will allow you to pace and doodle in virtual meetings just like we do in real ones. And of course, turning one’s video off periodically during meetings is a good ground rule to set for groups, just to give oneself a brief nonverbal rest.

4) The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.
Bailenson notes that in regular face-to-face interaction, nonverbal communication is quite natural and each of us naturally makes and interprets gestures and nonverbal cues subconsciously. But in video chats, we have to work harder to send and receive signals.
Solution: During long stretches of meetings, give yourself an audio only break. 'This is not simply you turning off your camera to take a break from having to be nonverbally active, but also turning your body away from the screen,' Bailenson said, 'so that for a few minutes you are not smothered with gestures that are perceptually realistic but socially meaningless.' [...]

He notes that humans have been here before. 'When we first had elevators, we didn’t know whether we should stare at each other or not in that space. More recently, ridesharing has brought up questions about whether you talk to the driver or not, or whether to get in the back seat or the passenger seat,' Hancock explained. 'We had to evolve ways to make it work for us. We’re in that era now with videoconferencing, and understanding the mechanisms will help us understand the optimal way to do things for different settings, different organizations and different kinds of meetings.' "

[ Latest additions ]

American Magus (2002) is a documentary by Paolo Igliori about Harry Smith (1923-1991) – compiler of a famous three-part folk album, film-maker, painter, anthropologist, obsessive collector and thinker.

American Magus (2002)

Rare documentary about Harry Smith by Paola Igliori
Febuary 21st, 2021

Via MUBI: "A documentary about the brilliant and versatile cult figure Harry Smith (1923-1991) – compiler of a famous three-part folk album, film-maker, painter, anthropologist, obsessive collector and thinker."

Via Wikipedia: "Paola Igliori (born in Rome, Italy), is a poet, writer, photographer, essayist and publisher. She became a resident of New York City from the 1980s, when she first moved there, until 2003 when she returned to her home country. [...]

In 1996, she edited and published American Magus: A Modern Alchemist, a book about then largely unknown (though well known among artists, since the 1950s) American artist, painter, poet, film maker, essayist and collector Harry Everett Smith. Igliori had developed a strong personal relationship with Smith, who, by some accounts, died in 1992 in her arms "singing as he drifted away", at the Hotel Chelsea.[3] In 2001, she wrote and directed a documentary about Smith, titled American Magus."

Thanks to Cindy Keefer at Center for Visual Music!

[ Latest additions ]

Can't Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World is a six-part BBC documentary television series created by Adam Curtis. It was released on BBC iPlayer on 11 February 2021.

Can't Get You Out of My Head

An Emotional History of the Modern World by Adam Curtis
February 13th, 2021

Via The Guardian: "Examining the power structures and political intrigue that have shaped our world, the filmmaker’s new BBC documentary series is a dense, ambitious triumph. [...]

The power dynamic, how it shifts, how it hides and how it is used to shape our world – the world in which we ordinary people must live – is Curtis’s great interest. He ranges from the literal rewriting of history by Chairman Mao’s formidable fourth wife, Jiang Qing, during the Cultural Revolution to the psychologists plumbing the depths of “the self” and trying to impose behaviours on drugged and electro-shocked subjects. He moves from the infiltration of the Black Panthers by undercover officers inciting and facilitating more violence than the movement had ever planned or been able to carry out alone, to the death of paternalism in industry and its replacement by official legislation drafted by those with hidden and vested interests. The idea that we are indeed living, as posited by various figures in the author’s landscape and (we infer from the whole) the author himself, in a world made up of strata of artifice laid down by those more or less malevolently in charge becomes increasingly persuasive.

Whether you are convinced or not by the working hypothesis, Can’t Get You Out of My Head is a rush. It is vanishingly rare to be confronted by work so dense, so widely searching and ambitious in scope, so intelligent and respectful of the audience’s intelligence, too. It is rare, also, to watch a project over which one person has evidently been given complete creative freedom and control without any sense of self-indulgence creeping in. It is always exciting to be in receipt of the product of a single vision. Not quite singular, perhaps: I suspect a lot of men born, like Curtis, in the 1950s, harbour many of the same concerns and would make a lot of the same arguments, although most would lack the ability to enshrine them so accessibly or attractively. But nevertheless, a triumph. For Curtis, of course, but also for publicly funded broadcasting. No commercial channel would have touched this thing. Unless, of course, that’s just what Auntie wants us to think."

Watch it here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

On top of it Can’t Get You Out of My Head features music by fabulous composer Natalie Beridze.

[ Latest additions ]

Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders), Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Year of the Metal Ox

Starting now
February 12th, 2021

Via Wikipedia: "The Ox (牛) is the second of the 12-year periodic sequence (cycle) of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar, and also appears in related calendar systems. The Chinese term translated here as ox is in Chinese niú (牛), a word generally referring to cows, bulls, or neutered types of the bovine family, such as common cattle or water buffalo. The zodiacal ox may be construed as male, female, neuter, and either singular or plural. The Year of the Ox is also denoted by the Earthly Branch symbol chǒu (丑). The term zodiac ultimately derives from an Ancient Greek term referring to a circle of little animals. There are also a yearly month of the ox and a daily hour of the ox (Chinese double hour, 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.). Years of the oxen (cows) are cyclically differentiated by correlation to the Heavenly Stems cycle, resulting in a repeating cycle of five years of the ox/cow (over a sixty-year period), each ox/cow year also being associated with one of the Chinese wǔxíng, also known as the five elements, or phases: the Five Phases being Fire (火 huǒ), Water (水 shuǐ), Wood (木 mù), Metal (金 jīn), and Earth (土 tǔ). The Year of the Ox follows after the Year of the Rat (the first year of the zodiacal cycle) and it then is followed by the Year of the Tiger."

Thanks to Swantje Lichtenstein!

[ Latest additions ]

"Paper Sound" by Nikolai Voinov (1930), electronic music with animation, 4K restoration.

Paper Sound by Nikolai Voinov

1930s Soviet optical synthesis animation looks positively futuristic
January 18th, 2021

Via Create Digital Media: "It’s synthesis from paper – sounds crafted quite literally by hand, using drawn animation, then optically synthesized. But after this 4K restoration, it’s clear how much these 1930s inventors were ahead of their time.

I first saw this animation, like a lot of people, via Moscow-based historian Andrey Smirnov, who writes the following description of artist Voinov for Austria’s Institut für Medienarchäologie:

'Nikolai Voinov (1900-58) began his career as an animator in 1927. In 1930 he was involved in the production of the first drawn ornamental soundtracks at Avraamov’s Multzvuk laboratory. In 1931 he left and started his own research at the Cartoon Studio of the Moscow Film Factory as a developer of ‘Paper Sound’ techniques. These were based on the synthesis of sound waves by means of paper cutouts with the carefully calculated sizes and shapes produced by his newly invented tool, the Nivotone. (Andrey Smirnov)'.

You get a full roster of paper-optical synthesis. (It’s hard to even know what to call that – it’s essentially a hybrid of optical-analog synthesis machines and traditional cell animation or other hand-drawn techniques.)

That includes:
• Variophone – Evgeny Sholpo, 1930 Leningrad / Lenfilm (who also works with the legendary Georgy Rimsky‐Korsakov
• Working directly on optical track of the film – Arseny Avraamov (who also had his own 48-tone microtonal system) – he worked across the USSR and Germany
• Paper sound techniques – Nikolai Voinov (Nivotone)
• Anushen Ter-Ghevondyan – Armenian composer and audiovisual inventor based in Yerevan at the Soviet studio there (I have fairly sketchy notes, presumably worth a separate research), also worked with paper, animation, and optical synthesis [...]

The variophone itself was tragically lost in a missile attack in the Siege of Leningrad, meaning this is another thing to blame on Nazis this week – although futuristic electronic music sometimes had the Soviet bureaucracy as a foe, too. (So it is with those who advance culture, I’m afraid, generally.)"

Thanks to Phillip Schulze !

[ Latest additions ]

Keizo Tsukamoto, from JCA Annual 6 (1985).

Courage to change the things I can

Why being kind to others is good for your health
January 7th, 2021

Via BBC Future: "Studies show, for instance, that volunteering correlates with a 24% lower risk of early death – about the same as eating six or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, according to some studies. What’s more, volunteers have a lower risk of high blood glucose, and a lower risk of the inflammation levels connected to heart disease. They also spend 38% fewer nights in hospitals than people who shy from involvement in charities.

And these health-boosting impacts of volunteering appear to be found in all corners of the world, from Spain and Egypt to Uganda and Jamaica, according to one study based on the data from the Gallup World Poll."

[ Latest additions ]

End of 2020

Ten things I’ve learned this year
December 31st, 2020

Book 2020 I fell in love with Yotam Ottolenghi's SIMPLE recipes. I started at the beginning; just finished the Pasta chapter. It is a bit embarrassing to admit, but this is how I started to learn how to cook, finally.

Bubble Got ultra lucky and found myself in a pandemic lockdown bubble with two extraordinary artists, and their three year old daughter. Thank you Anke Eckardt and Marcus Schmickler for keeping me company in the weirdest of times, and trusting me with your best project so far.

Film To have a wild, almost alien creature teach you about communication, trust, and letting go seems like a huge privilege to me. I am amazed what Craig Foster experienced through his relationship with an octopus female, and that he was able to put it all into an intriguing documentary. My Octopus Teacher provided a lesson in humility for me.

Friends (1984) I don’t know why or how this song by Amii Stewart popped up in my playlist this year – so 80s... From now on it will remind me of a very unique summer in the middle of an international pandemic, including a friendly, short but energizing crush. No harm done ;-)

Lockdown After commuting with planes, buses, cars, etc. came to a shrieking halt the air pollution in my city started to improve a lot. As one of the consequences I can now experience the moon at night in 3D. Wow, I am very grateful.

Perception Children believe that everything is going to be alright, that their parents are almighty, that they themselves are almighty too (and therefore in the position to give advice), and they believe in justice. Now that I’ve grown up, I know that all four are perceptual illusions. A transformative teaching.

Quote All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks is full of important quotes. The definition of love which bell hooks uses in her book might serve this list best, but you should not hesitate to read the book in full.
"Imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition. The word 'love' is most often defined as a noun, yet all the more astute theorists of love acknowledge that we would all love better if we used it as a verb. I spent years searching for a meaningful definition of the word 'love,' and was deeply relieved when I found one in psychiatrist M. Scott Peck's classic self-help book The Road Less Traveled, first published in 1978. Echoing the work Eric Fromm, he defines love as 'the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth.' Explaining further, he continues: 'Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.' Since the choice must be made to nurture growth, this definition counters the more widely accepted assumption that we love instinctually."

Spazierengehen The streets in Cologne and also the parks became too crowed to take a relaxed walk and keep the required distance to others at the same time. So, my friends and I started to meet at local cemeteries, which were still pretty abandoned – thanks to society’s denial of death, I guess. Spazierengehen became my new clubbing. The most inspiring tombstone I saw simply says: HONESTY, PURITY, UNSELFISHNESS, LOVE.

Transmedia Forms It took me seven years to get the funding, and then build a new studio for the Transmedia Forms concentration at the Institute for Music and Media with it. At the end of 2020 the studio finally became a reality. I could not have done it without my amazing colleagues Carsten Goertz, Falk Grieffenhagen, Marcus Schmickler, and Martin Störkmann. I deeply appreciate their dedication and knowledge.

Word I know, there are still unsolved security issues, and Jitsi is the good sister. But in 2020 Zoom was where I did spend almost as much time as in my bed. I experienced meetings with one thousand people; that was mindblowing. To me therefore the word of the year is, to zoom.

So, here we are... And what is next?

[ Latest additions ]

"Untitled (Greenwood, Mississippi)", 2001, signed William Eggleston and numbered 31/40 and also with copyright stamp on verso. Iris print, image 46 x 68 cm. From BAM Photography Portfolio II published by Serge Sorokko Gallery, San Fransisco.

Shout to the top

Does the human brain resemble the Universe?
November 28th, 2020

Via Università di Bologna: "An astrophysicist of the University of Bologna and a neurosurgeon of the University of Verona compared the network of neuronal cells in the human brain with the cosmic network of galaxies, and surprising similarities emerged. […]

The human brain functions thanks to its wide neuronal network that is deemed to contain approximately 69 billion neurons. On the other hand, the observable universe can count upon a cosmic web of at least 100 billion galaxies. Within both systems, only 30% of their masses are composed of galaxies and neurons. Within both systems, galaxies and neurons arrange themselves in long filaments or nodes between the filaments. Finally, within both system, 70% of the distribution of mass or energy is composed of components playing an apparently passive role: water in the brain and dark energy in the observable Universe. […]

Probably, the connectivity within the two networks evolves following similar physical principles, despite the striking and obvious difference between the physical powers regulating galaxies and neurons."

Always in deep appreciation for my favorite blog ever, the new shelton wet/dry. Love you!

[ Latest additions ]

Usagi is a careless fourteen-year-old girl with an enormous capacity for love, compassion, and understanding. Initially believing herself to be an ordinary girl, she is later revealed to be the reincarnated form of the Princess of the Moon Kingdom, and she subsequently discovers her original name, Princess Serenity.

All about love – new visions

by bell hooks
October 14th, 2020

Rereading All about love – new visions by bell hooks for one of my seminars. Again and again I find her words so empowering. What could be more important and appropriate today than considering love, again.

"Hence the truism: Love is letting go of fear. Our hearts connect with lots of folks in a lifetime but most of us will go to our graves with no experience of true love. This is in no way tragic, as most of us run the other way when true love comes near. Since true love sheds light on those aspects of ourselves we may wish to deny or hide, enabling us to see ourselves clearly and without shame, it is not surprising that so many individuals who say they want to know love turn away when such love beckons. "
(p.186, All about love – new visions by bell hooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 2001)

"We are all capable of changing our attitudes about falling in love. We can acknowledge the click we feel when we meet someone new as just that – a mysterious sense of connection that may or may not have anything to do with love. However it could or could not be the primal connection while simultaneously acknowledging that it will lead us to love. How different things might be if, rather than saying 'I think I'm in love,' we were saying 'I've connected with someone in a way that makes me think I'm on the way to knowing love.' Or if instead of saying 'I am in love' we said 'I am loving' or 'I will love.' Our patterns around romantic love are unlikely to change if we do not change our language."
(p.177, All about love – new visions by bell hooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 2001)

More by bell hooks: "Fools for love".

[ Latest additions ]


The visual identity for NICA artist development was created by Cologne art director Christian Schäfer.

NICA artist development

Outstanding jazz and contemporary music artists
September 15th, 2020

About a year ago Svenja Doeinck asked me to join her in the process to define the identity for a program, which offers outstanding musicians from North Rhine-Westphalia working in the field of jazz and contemporary music a platform for artistic profiling and professionalisation of their careers.

In our first sessions Svenja introduced me to Pannonica de Koenigswarter’s book Three Wishes: an Intimate Look at Jazz Greats. "Compiled between 1961 and 1966, it is a book of interviews with 300 musicians who told her what their three wishes would be, and is accompanied by her Polaroid photographs. The book was edited for publication by Nadine de Koenigswarter, whom Nica always introduced to people as her granddaughter but who was in fact her great-niece." (Wikipedia)

Svenja Doeinck and I explored the biography of Pannonica (shortened to "Nica" as a nickname), and quickly became obsessed with her character and legacy. It was obvious to us and felt inevitable that we had to name the artist development program, which was led by Svenja Doeinck and funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, after Pannonica "Nica" de Koenigswarter because she was the most fabulous and glamorous jazz patron of all times.

Later in the process art director Christian Schäfer took over and now works on defining and creating the visual identity for NICA artist development program based on our briefing.

The NICA program started with four amazing musicians, and I am so delighted to now support three of them. In our sessions we work on exploring their ideas concerning a public and visual communication strategy with their enchanted fans.


[ Latest additions ]