Via University of Warwick: "Advertising is ubiquitous in modern life. Yet might it be harmful to the happiness of nations? This paper blends longitudinal data on advertising with large-scale surveys on citizens’ well-being. The analysis uses information on approximately 1 million randomly sampled European citizens across 27 nations over 3 decades. We show that increases in national advertising expenditure are followed by significant declines in levels of life satisfaction. [...]
Further research remains desirable. Nevertheless, our empirical results are some of the first to be consistent with the hypothesis that, perhaps by fostering unending desires, high levels of advertising may depress societal well-being."
Via Kent Hendricks: "Contrary to popular belief, violent movies actually lead to a slight decline in violence, because, even though people who are likely to commit violent crimes enjoy watching violent movies, they don’t commit violent crimes while sitting in a movie theater. Over a decade, the violent movies led to the direct decline of roughly 1,000 assaults every weekend. (New York Times)
There are strict rules about conversation that cross all languages and cultural boundaries. Of all yes-or-no questions, 75% receive a “yes” and 25% receive a “no.” It takes about 150 milliseconds to respond with “yes,” or “no.” At 650 milliseconds the listener responds with “I don’t know,” and at 835 milliseconds, they’ll say “huh?” or the original speaker will repeat the question. Additionally, the words “uh” and “um” occur about once every 60 words (50 for men and 70 for women), and “uh” is followed by a 250 millisecond pause, while “um” is followed by 670 millisecond pause. (N. J. Enfield, How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation)
People spend roughly one hour each day traveling or commuting, regardless of city size or form of transportation. This is called Marchetti’s constant. Whenever faster forms of transportation have been invented—the domestication of horses, the invention of trains, cars, and then planes—people do not reduce the amount of time spent commuting, they simply commute farther. Walking speed is around 5 km per hour, so the maximum size of a walking city is roughly 20 square kilometers; there are no large ancient cities built prior to 1800 larger than this. As transportation has become faster, and transportation networks have expanded, the physical size of cities has expanded in direct proportion. When people spend less time commuting or work at home, they make up for in it other days, including by going on walks that last as long as the remaining time that would be allotted for commutes. Even people stuck within the confines of prison spend around an hour a day walking around. (Wikipedia)"
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Photo by Maisie Cousins, 2018
End of 2018
The ten best experiences of my year December 31st, 2018
Children I have not had the wish to reproduce, and I enjoy the company of young humans a lot. End of last year a one-year-old moved into my building, and in 2018 we spent quite some time together. She blows my mind, and to see how language and speech develop is an amazing experience – it teaches me humility. Big shout-out to her parents for trusting me!
Concert This summer I went to see one of my all-time favorite pieces, I am sitting in a room, performed by Alvin Lucier himself, and afterwards my colleague Phillip Schulze introduced me to Lucier. A few days later a friend told me that Lucier said to them, it is his wish is to die while performing exactly this piece. Sawubona!
Client As a brand builder and creative catalyst it was an enormous inspiration to work with Reiner Michalke on his new music festival for Monheim am Rhein. Not often did I get the chance to work with a truly confident, intelligent, and sensitive client, who - because of this confidence - does really, really, really listen. This process might have easily been my favorite project in years.
Fandom Two of my favorite artists, Sarah Szczesny and Lena Willikens, joined forces for their Phantom Kino Ballett project. Saw them perform at Schauspielhaus Köln and was extremely impressed by the multitude of references, the energy of their choreography, and the composition altogether. Here is a quote from their 2018 tape release, which I like a lot, "Phantom Kino Ballett is sound fragment and black theatre, Holly Woodlawn's nervous breakdowns, Taro's arpeggiated anime, Mario Montez' mobilee, Maria Callas' chiffre and Anna Opperman's eyelashes."
Manifest The last 25 years I sat in meetings in which, most of the times, I was the only, or one of the few women at the table. Sara Ahmed's idea and feminist manifest of the Rolling Eyes is a life changer and massively helpful. The idea is simple, when you see people rolling their eyes at you for raising a feminist point, you now know that this gesture is not personal, instead it confirms that you touched an important structural issue.
Memory lane Cindy Keefer, director at Center for Visual Music, invited me to give a talk at their CVM Symposium 2018 Exploring & Preserving Visual Music in Sonoma County on August 14th about my Visual Music concentration at the Robert Schumann conservatory. During the 90s I lived in San Fransico for year, and I was excited to see what has changed. Well, it became one of the most expensive cities of the world – a rather sad development, actually. At least the symposium was a success, and I had inspiring conversations with brilliant people like, Ilene Susan Fort (LACMA Curator Emeritus, CVM board member), Jack Ox (artist, Intermedia Projects, Albuquerque, N.M.), and Margaret Schedel (composer, Stony Brook University, NY). Thank you, Cindy!
Via Cambridge Core: "Given that the fictional narratives found in novels, movies, and television shows enjoy wide public consumption, memorably convey information, minimize counter-arguing, and often emphasize politically-relevant themes, we argue that greater scholarly attention must be paid to theorizing and measuring how fiction affects political attitudes. We argue for a genre-based approach for studying fiction effects, and apply it to the popular dystopian genre. Results across three experiments are striking: we find consistent evidence that dystopian narratives enhance the willingness to justify radical—especially violent—forms of political action. Yet we find no evidence for the conventional wisdom that they reduce political trust and efficacy, illustrating that fiction’s effects may not be what they seem and underscoring the need for political scientists to take fiction seriously.
Our research not only reinforces past work showing that people often fail to distinguish between fact and fiction in learning about the world, but also illustrates that the lessons of fiction may not be what they seem. […] Rather than creating political cynicism in readers and viewers or showing them that girls can be powerful too—both lessons that are at this point probably amply supplied by the American news media and lived experience—dystopian fiction seems to be teaching them a more subtle and perhaps more concerning message: that violence and illegal activities may be both legitimate and necessary to pursue justice. Dystopian fiction appears to subtly expand the political imagination of viewers and readers to encompass a range of scenarios outside the normal realm of democratic politics, and what people then consider reasonable and thinkable appears to expand accordingly.
These results should also highlight the peril for political scientists in assuming that fiction is just entertainment. The stories we tell ourselves have profound implications for how we think about political ethics and political possibilities, and as scholars of politics, we can and should do more to map out the effects of politically-inflected fiction and entertainment."
"Dusty Boots Line, The Sahara" by Richard Long (1988).
Do smart people have better intuitions?
We hypothesized that intuitive processes may differentiate high- and low-capacity reasoners July 29th, 201
Via National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine: "There is much evidence that high-capacity reasoners perform better on a variety of reasoning tasks (Stanovich, 1999), a phenomenon that is normally attributed to differences in either the efficacy or the probability of deliberate (Type II) engagement (Evans, 2007). In contrast, we hypothesized that intuitive (Type I) processes may differentiate high- and low-capacity reasoners. To test this hypothesis, reasoners were given a reasoning task modeled on the logic of the Stroop Task, in which they had to ignore one dimension of a problem when instructed to give an answer based on the other dimension (Handley, Newstead, & Trippas, 2011). Specifically, in Experiment 1, 112 reasoners were asked to give judgments consistent with beliefs or validity for 2 different types of deductive reasoning problems. In Experiment 2, 224 reasoners gave judgments consistent with beliefs (i.e., stereotypes) or statistics (i.e., base-rates) on a base rate task; half responded under a strict deadline. For all 3 problem types and regardless of the deadline, high-capacity reasoners performed better for logic/statistics than did belief judgments when the 2 conflicted, whereas the reverse was true for low-capacity reasoners. In other words, for high-capacity reasoners, statistical information interfered with their ability to make belief-based judgments, suggesting that, for them, probabilities may be more intuitive than stereotypes. Thus, at least part of the accuracy-capacity relationship observed in reasoning may be because of intuitive (Type I) processes. (PsycINFO Database Record."
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Image from the pilot episode from the 1960's TV show "Mission Impossible!" (1966)
Via Africa Knows: "The Zulu greeting, Sawubona means I see you and the response Ngikhona means I am here. Inherent in the Zulu greeting and in the grateful response, is the sense that until you saw me, I didn’t exist. By recognizing me, you brought me into existence. A Zulu folk saying clarifies this, Umuntu ngumuntu nagabantu, meaning A person is a person because of other people."
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“The Inflammatory Essays” (detail) by Jenny Holzer, (1979-1982), offset posters on colored paper, 17 x 17 inches.
Via Hyperallergic: "If there’s one work emblematic of the entire show, it is surely Gretchen Bender’s (1951–2004) extraordinary 1984 installation Dumping Core, an 'electronic theater' of rapidly cut and cascading film footage, corporate logos, computer animations, and crashing noise presented across 14 television screens. The work debuted at The Kitchen in 1984, where the artist described it as a response to the 'corporatization of culture.' Bender operated beyond the sphere of fine art, editing music videos for New Order, R.E.M. and Megadeth. She also produced the frenzied and nightmarish title sequence for Fox television’s America’s Most Wanted. 'Today legal questions concerning movies are generally related to pornography' a female voice declares during Dumping Core, '… but the violent cry over movie content continues.' The voices sampled in Dumping Core are frequently interrupted by audio glitches and violent sounds including crashing glass, broken synth music, and gun shots. The work is as engrossing as it is unnerving.
The primary takeaway of Brand New is how high the stakes of representation became during a decade of proliferating imagery and technology. Much of the work on display sought to disrupt the mass media’s ability to perpetuate and normalize discrimination. Julia Wachtel’s 1983 painting, Love Thing isolates cartoon characters from two separate greeting cards: a young Native American woman with an arrow shot into her buttocks, and a well-coiffed white woman brandishing a pair of scissors. Each are bent over suggestively, with their buttocks prominently raised. The decontextualization of each character emphasizes their respective stereotypes while also amplifying the underlying violence of each image. [...]
It is extraordinary how current Brand New feels, whether it’s the ongoing relevance of Holzer’s The Inflammatory Texts or the remarkable prescience of Bender’s Dumping Core. The ’80s were a political decade and Brand New is a political show. The art world as we recognize it today was largely manufactured by the decade’s commercial prowess, and we’re still grappling with its fallout. Jetzer’s exhibition is by no means perfect. It stumbles with its coverage of collectives and often foregrounds blue-chip work whose thematic relevance is obvious. It remains however, an engrossing exploration of art and commerce that deserves far more critical attention. The exhibition indelibly contributes to ’80s scholarship by foregrounding the talents of the decade’s less-appreciated artists."
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Peter Saville on Richard Hamilton's "Toaster" (1967).
Also known as the White Bear Principle April 28th, 2018
Via Wikipedia: "The Game is a mental game where the objective is to avoid thinking about The Game itself. Thinking about The Game constitutes a loss, which must be announced each time it occurs. It is impossible to win most versions of The Game. Depending on the variation of The Game, the whole world, or all those aware of the game, are playing it all the time. Tactics have been developed to increase the number of people aware of The Game and thereby increase the number of losses. [...]
The origins of The Game are uncertain. In a 2008 news article, Justine Wettschreck says The Game has probably been around since the early 1990s, and may have originated in Australia or England. One theory is that it was invented in London in 1996 when two British engineers, Dennis Begley and Gavin McDowall, missed their last train and had to spend the night on the platform; they attempted to avoid thinking about their situation and whoever thought about it first lost. Another theory also traces The Game to London in 1996, when it was created by Jamie Miller 'to annoy people'. Journalist Mic Wright of The Next Web recalled playing The Game at school in the late 1990s.
There is an underappreciated paradox of knowledge that plays a pivotal role in our advanced hyper-connected liberal democracies: the greater the amount of information that circulates, the more we rely on so-called reputational devices to evaluate it. What makes this paradoxical is that the vastly increased access to information and knowledge we have today does not empower us or make us more cognitively autonomous. Rather, it renders us more dependent on other people’s judgments and evaluations of the information with which we are faced.
We are experiencing a fundamental paradigm shift in our relationship to knowledge. From the ‘information age’, we are moving towards the ‘reputation age’, in which information will have value only if it is already filtered, evaluated and commented upon by others. Seen in this light, reputation has become a central pillar of collective intelligence today. It is the gatekeeper to knowledge, and the keys to the gate are held by others. The way in which the authority of knowledge is now constructed makes us reliant on what are the inevitably biased judgments of other people, most of whom we do not know. [...]
The paradigm shift from the age of information to the age of reputation must be taken into account when we try to defend ourselves from ‘fake news’ and other misinformation and disinformation techniques that are proliferating through contemporary societies. What a mature citizen of the digital age should be competent at is not spotting and confirming the veracity of the news. Rather, she should be competent at reconstructing the reputational path of the piece of information in question, evaluating the intentions of those who circulated it, and figuring out the agendas of those authorities that leant it credibility.
Whenever we are at the point of accepting or rejecting new information, we should ask ourselves: Where does it come from? Does the source have a good reputation? Who are the authorities who believe it? What are my reasons for deferring to these authorities? Such questions will help us to get a better grip on reality than trying to check directly the reliability of the information at issue. In a hyper-specialised system of the production of knowledge, it makes no sense to try to investigate on our own, for example, the possible correlation between vaccines and autism. It would be a waste of time, and probably our conclusions would not be accurate. In the reputation age, our critical appraisals should be directed not at the content of information but rather at the social network of relations that has shaped that content and given it a certain deserved or undeserved ‘rank’ in our system of knowledge.
These new competences constitute a sort of second-order epistemology. They prepare us to question and assess the reputation of an information source, something that philosophers and teachers should be crafting for future generations."