Archive for the ‘Social/Politics’ Category

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Happiness and Its Discontents

January 22, 2014

As a critical theorist working at the intersection of Continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, and feminist and queer theory, I make observations about human life that are speculative rather than empirical. That may explain why my definition of character pertains to what is least tangible, least intelligible about our being, including the inchoate frequencies of desire that sometimes cause us to behave in ways that work against our rational understanding of how our lives are supposed to turn out.

If identity captures something about the relatively polished social persona we present to the world, then character—in my view—captures something about the wholly idiosyncratic and potentially rebellious energies that, every so often, break the facade of that persona. From this perspective, our character leaps forth whenever we do something “crazy,” such as suddenly dissolving a committed relationship or leaving a promising career path. At such moments, what is fierce and unapologetic about us undermines our attempts to lead a “reasonable” life, causing us to follow an inner directive that may be as enigmatic as it is compelling. We may not know why we feel called to a new destiny, but we sense that not heeding that call will stifle what is most alive within us.

Text by Mari Rutti at The Chronicle Review. Continue THERE

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Economics as a moral science

November 1, 2013

INGRID ROBEYNS: For a while I have been working on a paper on democracy, expert knowledge, and economics as a moral science. [The financial crisis plays a role in the motivation of the paper, but the arguments I’m advancing turn out to be only contingently related to the crisis]. One thing I argue is that, given its direct and indirect influence on policy making and for reasons of democratic accountability, economics should become much more aware of the values it (implicitly or explicitly) endorses. Those values are embedded in some of the basis concepts used but also in some of the assumptions in the theory-building.

The textbook example in the philosophy of economics literature to illustrate the insufficiently acknowledged value-ladenness of economics is the notion of Pareto efficiency, also known as ‘the Pareto criterion’. Yet time and time again (for me most recently two days ago at a seminar in Oxford) I encounter economists (scholars or students) who fail to see why endorsing Pareto efficiency is not value-neutral, or why there are good reasons why one would not endorse the Pareto-criterion. Here’s an example in print of a very influential economist: Gregory Mankiw.

In his infamous paper ‘Defending the One Percent’ Mankiw writes (p. 22):

“Discussion of inequality necessarily involves our social and political values, but if inequality also entails inefficiency, those normative judgements are more easily agreed upon. The Pareto-criterion is the clearest case: if we can make some people better off without making anyone worse off, who could possibly object?”

Continue at Out of the Crooked Timber HERE

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The Untold Story of Che in Bolivia

November 1, 2013

The tribulations of Che Guevara, the T-shirt Christ, still continue to fascinate, almost half a century after he was executed in the Bolivian jungle; so, too, continues the hunt for the Judas who betrayed him. A prime suspect has long been the artist Ciro Bustos, who, caught by the CIA-backed Bolivian crack squad sent to track down the Argentinian revolutionary, was accused of providing sketches of his old comrades. A few weeks later, Che was captured and gunned down in cold blood. After a silence over four decades long, Bustos has produced his defence. It makes for a fascinating read, a beautifully written and melancholy tribute to the energy and madness that drove Che to help Castro to overthrow Batista in Cuba and led to his death in Bolivia.

Bustos does something else, too: he writes with real passion about what it was to be a child of the revolution in South America – the excitement, the glamour, the allure of trying to bring down capitalism – in that time as red in tooth and claw as can be. We first meet Che in the flesh in Havana when he is competing against a blind chess master: ‘the ceiling fans were working overtime trying to recycle the air, but it was like stirring soup in which the audience were cooking’. Bustos came to Cuba in 1961 packed to the gunwhales with enthusiasm, but even then he sensed Stalinist sectarianism gnawing at the revolution’s great heart. A woman warned him, ‘your disillusionment will be very painful, I’m afraid. Communists are coming out of the woodwork like mice, taking over everything, to get at the cheese.’ He writes that ‘the phrase remained engraved in my memory like a hieroglyphic chiselled in granite’.

Excerpt from a text by Ciro Bustos. Continue HERE

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Why Scandinavian Prisons Are Superior

October 22, 2013

It’s a postcard-perfect day on Suomenlinna Island, in Helsinki’s South Harbor. Warm for the first week of June, day trippers mix with Russian, Dutch, and Chinese tourists sporting sun shades and carrying cones of pink ice cream.

“Is this the prison?” asks a 40-something American woman wearing cargo pants and a floral sleeveless blouse.

Linda, my guide and translator, pauses beside me between the posts of an open picket fence. After six years of teaching as a volunteer inside American prisons, I’ve come from the private college where I work to investigate the Scandinavian reputation for humane prisons. It’s the end of my twelfth prison tour, and I consider the semantics of the question: If you can’t tell whether you’re in a prison, can it be a prison? I’ve never considered this in so many words. Yet I find that I know the answer, having felt it inside a prison cell in Denmark: There is no punishment so effective as punishment that nowhere announces the intention to punish. Linda is an intern working on a degree in public policy. Young and thoroughly practical, she smiles and says to the tourists, “Yes, you are here.”

Text (Doran Larson) and Image via The Atlantic. Continue THERE

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Delivery For Mr. Assange, a 32-hour live mail art

October 22, 2013

«Delivery for Mr. Assange» is a 32-hour live mail art piece performed on 16 and 17 January 2013. On 16 January 2013 !Mediengruppe Bitnik posted a parcel addressed to Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The parcel contained a camera which documented its journey through the Royal Mail postal system through a hole in the parcel. The images captured by the camera were transferred to this website and the Bitnk Twitter account in realtime. So, as the parcel was slowly making its way towards the Ecuadorian embassy in London, anyone online could follow the parcel’s status in realtime.

The parcel was a REAL_WORLD_PING, a SYSTEM_TEST, inserted into a highly tense diplomatic crisis. Julian Assange has been living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June 2012. Although he was granted political asylum by Ecuador in August 2012, he is unable to leave the embassy premises for fear of being arrested by UK authorities.

We wanted to see where the parcel would end up. Whether it would reach its destination. And which route it would take. Would it be removed from the postal system? Or would it successfully complete the system test and reach Julian Assange.

After aprox. 32 hours and a journey in various postal bags, vans and through delivery centers, the parcel was delivered to the Ecuadorian embassy in London in the afternoon of 17 January 2013. By that time several thousand people had gathered on Twitter to follow the tantalizing and intense journey. The experiment was crowned by Julian Assanges live performance for the camera.

Text and Image via !Mediengruppe Bitnik. See +++ THERE

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Jellyfish are taking over the seas, and it might be too late to stop them

October 16, 2013

Last week, Sweden’s Oskarshamn nuclear power plant, which supplies 10% of the country’s energy, had to shut down one of its three reactors after a jellyfish invasion clogged the piping of its cooling system. The invader, a creature called a moon jellyfish, is 95% water and has no brain. Not what you might call menacing if you only had to deal with one or two.

En masse, jellyfish are a bigger problem. “The [moon jellyfish swarm] phenomenon…occurs at regular intervals on Sweden’s three nuclear power plants,” says Torbjörn Larsson, a spokesperson for E.ON, which owns Oskarshamn. Larsson wouldn’t say how much revenue the shutdown cost his company, but noted that jellyfish also caused a shutdown in 2005.

Coastal areas around the world have struggled with similar jellyfish blooms, as these population explosions are known. These blooms are increasing in intensity, frequency, or duration, says Lucas Brotz, a jellyfish expert at the University of British Columbia.

Brotz’s research of 45 major marine ecosystems shows that 62% saw an uptick in blooms since 1950. In those areas, surging jellyfish numbers have caused power plant outages, destroyed fisheries and cluttered the beaches of holiday destinations. (Scientists can’t be certain that blooms are rising because historical data are too few.)

The proliferation of jellyfish appears in large part to be related to humans’ impact on the oceans. The toll we take on the seas may augur a new world order of jellyfish disasters, which, in turn, could devastate the global economy.

Text and Images via Quartz. Continue THERE

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A Search for a Radical Cartography

October 9, 2013

A number of recent map publications have incorporated terms like Radical, Counter, and Alternative in their titles, but it is unclear exactly what a radical (or counter, or alternative) cartography would be. This paper postulates some characteristics such a cartography (termed radical for convenience) might possess, and explores analogous phenomena in other fields, in search of a paradigm or model for recognizing cartographic radicality.

The term mapicity is proposed to instantiate that quality which all maps must possess in order to be recognized and employed as maps, and the term radicality is introduced to identify a quality that would set a radical cartography apart from one that was not radical.

Three collections of maps that are identified by their authors or publishers as radical are examined for traces of radicality as defined in this paper. In addition, the early Twentieth Century painting movement Analytic Cubism (approximately 1907–1914) is forwarded as a model or paradigm for radicality.

Read paper by Mark Denil HERE

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Over 400 great social change documentaries–free to view online.

October 9, 2013

Film offers us a powerful tool to shift awareness and inspire action. It offers a method to break our dependence on the mainstream media and become the media ourselves. We don’t need to wait for anyone or anything.
Just imagine what could become possible if an entire city had seen just one of the documentaries above. Just imagine what would be possible if everyone in the country was aware of how unhealthy the mainstream media was for our future and started turning to independent sources in droves.

Creating a better world really does start with an informed citizenry, and there’s lots of subject matter to cover.

From all the documentaries above, it’s evident that our society needs a new story to belong to. The old story of empire and dominion over the earth has to be looked at in the full light of day – all of our ambient cultural stories and values that we take for granted and which remain invisible must become visible.

But most of all, we need to see the promise of the alternatives – we need to be able to imagine new exciting ways that people could live, better than anything that the old paradigm could ever dream of providing.

And all of this knowledge and introspection, dreaming, questioning, and discovery is essential for a cultural transformation that addresses root causes. This knowledge is vitally necessary. Taken together, this knowledge, which is documented throughout the 500+ documentaries on the Films For Action website, will lay the foundation on which the next paradigm will be built, post empire.

So take this library of films and use it. Host film screenings, share these films with friends, buy and give copies to your elected officials and school faculty. Get this information out in to your community and you will be laying the foundation for a local movement for mass societal, environmental and economic change.

All text and Image via Films for Action. See the films THERE

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What does George Orwell have in common with Edward Snowden?

September 26, 2013

George Orwell was not a political thinker, exactly. Sure, he wrote books like 1984 and Animal Farm. Those books are political. Or better put, they are political thought experiments in novel form. Orwell liked to think about totalitarianism. He created fictional scenarios like 1984 in order to think through the logic of totalitarianism, to find out how it works. Orwell’s essays, too, are often about politics. He wondered if it was possible to create a decent Socialism in the aftermath of the debacle of real-life Socialism, as it existed in the Soviet Union.
The power of Orwell’s writing came from his honesty about the actions and motivations of human beings making decisions in a messy world. So maybe it is best to say that Orwell was thinking about politics without being a political scientist. He wasn’t good at looking at politics from a distanced, objective point of view in order to suss out general laws. That’s why one of his best political essays is a story about shooting an elephant in Burma. It is a story of Orwell himself.

As a young man, Orwell got a job as an imperial policeman in Burma. He was working for the British crown. This was the 1920s. The British Empire still lorded over many parts of East Asia. Orwell realized quickly that he was a symbol of oppression to most Burmese. He was harassed in the streets, especially by the young Buddhist priests who seemed to have nothing to do, “except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans.” This bothered Orwell, a sensitive chap with little taste for flexing his authority as a policeman. In short, Orwell felt immensely guilty about his role as a tiny cog in the British imperial machine. The guilt made him angry and the anger tore him in two. He wrote that he was “stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible.”

Excerpt from an article written by Idle Chatter at The Smart Set. Continue THERE

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Silicon and surveillance: A tale of big data and bigger conspiracies

September 24, 2013


Thomas Pynchon’s novels have several recurring themes: paranoia and conspiracy, pastiches of high and low culture, synchronicity and coincidence, shadowy networks lurking around every corner, and the impact of science and technology. With the coming of the Internet age and the surveillance society that sprang up in the wake of 11 September 2001, it seems as though reality has finally caught up with his vision. In his latest work, Bleeding Edge, Pynchon takes full advantage of this convergence.

The first question asked of a new Pynchon book is: is this one of the sprawling, spiralling, time-tripping monsters with innumerable characters and a plot that is tricky to bring into focus, like Gravity’s Rainbow or Against the Day; or is it one of the fun detective stories with a well-defined protagonist, like The Crying of Lot 49 or Inherent Vice? Bleeding Edge is definitely in the latter category. There is a colourful cast of memorable personalities, and high jinks often ensue, but the tale is told linearly, from the point of view of an acknowledged main character, with something approximating an explicit goal.

Excerpt from an article written by Sean M. Carroll at Nature. Continue THERE

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The Drone Philosopher

September 24, 2013

From the thumbnail headshot accompanying his essay in the Times, “the drone philosopher,” as I’ve begun to think of him, appears to be in his late twenties, or a boyish 30. In an oddly confessional-style first paragraph, he recalls what it was like to watch the second Iraq War from his college dorm television. He has clean-shaven Ken-doll looks and a prominent squarish jaw, recalling the former Republican vice-presidential candidate and representative from Wisconsin’s First Congressional District, Paul Ryan. I doubt the drone philosopher would be flattered by the comparison. The tone of his article makes him out to be a thoughtful liberal, more interested in weighing complexities than in easy solutions, simultaneously attracted by and wary of power, not unlike the commander in chief he hopes will one day read his papers.

I can make out a bit of wide-striped collegiate tie, a white collar, and the padded shoulders of a suit jacket in the photograph. I know I’m being unfair, but I don’t trust his looks. Since Republicans have become so successful at branding themselves the party of white men, I now suspect that any white guy in a suit may harbor right-wing nationalist tendencies, much as the CIA’s rules governing drone strikes have determined that groups of “military age” men in certain regions of Pakistan and Yemen may be profiled as terrorists. Even more unkindly, I catch myself thinking the drone philosopher’s portrait looks like it was taken for the high school debate club he surely belonged to. Maybe that was where — for competitions in dim auditoria from state to regional to national level, prepping in a series of carbon-copy cheap motels, four to a room — he first learned to be rewarded for making audacious arguments. It was like a job or a sport. Maybe there was one particularly formative debate, “Resolved: The United States was right to use the atomic bomb against Japanese civilians.” He would have parsed this proposition into a value, such as “Right Action” or “Justice,” made up of a checklist of criteria: saving American lives, the primary but not sole duty of the deciders; weighing potential lives lost or saved on both sides when contrasted with the alternative policy of full-scale invasion of Japan.

Excerpt from an article written by MARCO ROTH at n+1. Continue THERE

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How We Learn To See Faces

September 24, 2013

Two eyes, aligned horizontally, above a nose, above a mouth. These are the basic elements of a face, as your brain knows quite well. Within about 200 milliseconds of seeing a picture, the brain can decide whether it’s a face or some other object. It can detect subtle differences between faces, too — walking around at my family reunion, for example, many faces look similar, and yet I can easily distinguish Sue from Ann from Pam.

Our fascination with faces exists, to some extent, on the day we’re born. Studies of newborn babies have shown that they prefer to look at face-like pictures. A 1999 study showed, for example, that babies prefer a crude drawing of a lightbulb “head” with squares for its eyes and nose compared with the same drawing with the nose above the eyes. “I believe the youngest we tested was seven minutes old,” says Cathy Mondloch, professor of psychology at Brock University in Ontario, who worked on that study. “So it’s there right from the get-go.”

Excerpt from an article written by Virginia Hughes at NatGeo. Continue THERE

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Long Lives Made Humans Human

September 20, 2013

The fundamental structure of human populations has changed exactly twice in evolutionary history. The second time was in the past 150 years, when the average lifespan doubled in most parts of the world. The first time was in the Paleolithic, probably around 30,000 years ago. That’s when old people were basically invented.

Throughout hominid history, it was exceedingly rare for individuals to live more than 30 years. Paleoanthropologists can examine teeth to estimate how old a hominid was when it died, based on which teeth are erupted, how worn down they are, and the amount of a tissue called dentin. Anthropologist Rachel Caspari of Central Michigan University used teeth to identify the ratio of old to young people in Australopithecenes from 3 million to 1.5 million years ago, early Homo species from 2 million to 500,000 years ago, and Neanderthals from 130,000 years ago. Old people—old here means older than 30 (sorry)—were a vanishingly small part of the population. When she looked at modern humans from the Upper Paleolithic, about 30,000 years ago, though, she found the ratio reversed—there were twice as many adults who died after age 30 as those who died young.

Excerpt from an article written by Laura Helmuth at Slate. Continue THERE

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The Turing Normalizing Machine: An experiment in machine learning & algorithmic prejudice

September 20, 2013

In the 1930s British Mathematician Alan Turing studied normal numbers. During World War 2 he cracked the Nazi Enigma code, and then laid the foundations for computing and artificial intelligence. In the 1950s he was convicted of homosexuality and was chemically castrated. And in June 7th 1954, depressed by the anti-homosexuality medical treatment, and alienated by the society who deemed him abnormal, Alan Turing ate a cyanide laced apple.

In the following decades many of Turing’s ideas have materialized through the digital revolution, while many of them are still being researched. Inspired by Turing’s life and research we seek to finally crack the greatest enigma of all:

“Who is normal?”

Learn more about this project by Yonatan Ben Simhon & Mushon Zer-Aviv HERE

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An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence by Bruno Latour

September 12, 2013

The result of a twenty five years inquiry, it offers a positive version to the question raised, only negatively, with the publication, in 1991, of ”We have never been modern”: if ”we” have never been modern, then what have ”we” been? From what sort of values should ”we” inherit? In order to answer this question, a research protocol has been developed that is very different from the actor-network theory. The question is no longer only to define ”associations” and to follow networks in order to redefine the notion of ”society” and ”social” (as in ”Reassembling the Social”) but to follow the different types of connectors that provide those networks with their specific tonalities. Those modes of extension, or modes of existence, account for the many differences between law, science, politics, and so on. This systematic effort for building a new philosophical anthropology offers a completely different view of what the ”Moderns” have been and thus a very different basis for opening a comparative anthropology with the other collectives – at the time when they all have to cope with ecological crisis. Thanks to a European research council grant (2011-2014) the printed book will be associated with a very original purpose built digital platform allowing for the inquiry summed up in the book to be pursued and modified by interested readers who will act as co-inquirers and co-authors of the final results. With this major book, readers will finally understand what has led to so many apparently disconnected topics and see how the symmetric anthropology begun forty years ago can come to fruition.

Text and Image via Bruno Latour

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Space Ownership and the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 by NASA

September 12, 2013

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967

Treaty on principles governing the activities of states in the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies.

Opened for signature at Moscow, London, and Washington on 27 January, 1967

THE STATES PARTIES. TO THIS TREATY,

INSPIRED by the great prospects opening up before mankind as a result of man’s entry into outer space,

RECOGNIZING the common interest of all mankind in the progress of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes,

BELIEVING that the exploration and use of outer space should be carried on for the benefit of all peoples irrespective of the degree of their economic or scientific development,

DESIRING to contribute to broad international co-operation in the scientific as well as the legal aspects of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes,

BELIEVING that such co-operation will contribute to the development of mutual understanding and to the strengthening of friendly relations between States and peoples,

RECALLING resolution 1962 (XVIII), entitled “Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space”, which was adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 December 1963,

RECALLING resolution 1884 (XVIII), calling upon States to refrain from placing in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction or from installing such weapons on celestial bodies, which was adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly on 17 October 1963,

TAKING account of United Nations General Assembly resolution 110 (II) of 3 November 1947, which condemned propaganda designed or likely to provoke or encourage any threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression, and considering that the aforementioned resolution isapplicable to outer space,

CONVINCED that a Treaty on Principles Governing the Activitiesof States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, will further the Purposes and Principles ofthe Charter of the United Nations,

HAVE AGREED ON THE FOLLOWING:

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Shedding the Superwoman Myth

September 10, 2013

Debora L. Spar writes: In 2005, I was teaching a first-year class at Harvard Business School. As usual, slightly under a third of my students were women. As always, I was the only female professor.

So one evening, my female students asked me and one of my female colleagues to join them for cocktails. They ordered a lovely spread of hors d’oeuvres and white wine. They presented each of us with an elegant lavender plant. And then, like women meeting for cocktails often do, they—well, we, actually—proceeded to complain. About how tough it was to be so constantly in the minority. About how the guys sucked up all the air around the school. About the folks in career services who told them never to wear anything but a good black pantsuit to an interview.

Over the course of the conversation, though, things began to turn. The women stopped talking about their present lives and started to focus on their futures, futures that had little to do with conferences or pantsuits and everything to do with babies, and families, and men. Most of the women were frankly intending to work “for a year or two” and then move into motherhood. These were some of the smartest and most determined young women in the country. They had Ivy League degrees, for the most part, and were in the midst of paying more than $100,000 for an M.B.A. And yet they were already deeply concerned about how they would juggle their lives, and surprisingly pessimistic about their chances of doing so.

Continue text at The Chronicle of Higher Education

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Where do artifacts go when they are destroyed? | Journal #47 September 2013 | e-flux

September 7, 2013

Boris Groys
Becoming Revolutionary: On Kazimir Malevich

After all, what is revolution? It is not the process of building a new society—this is the goal of the post-revolutionary period. Rather, revolution is the radical destruction of the existing society. However, to accept this revolutionary destruction is not an easy psychological operation. We tend to resist the radical forces of destruction, we tend to be compassionate and nostalgic toward our past—and maybe even more so toward our endangered present.

Nato Thompson
The Insurgents, Part I: Community-Based Practice as Military Methodology
The US military is seductive and repulsive in its grandiose violence. But it is also a fruitful place to examine developing techniques for the manipulation of culture. Considering the sheer scale of the US military—with its colossal budget—it’s not a bad place to look for new ideas and new methodologies concerning tactics for “getting to know people.”

Amanda Boetzkes and Andrew Pendakis
Visions of Eternity: Plastic and the Ontology of Oil

If plastic appears irreducible—appears to be a constitutive basis, instead of having emerged from and subsequently effaced its earthly basis—then the challenge is to uncover what plastic so readily disguises. Plastic is a petroleum product that claims at least a quarter of all the oil extracted. More than this, though, it is through plastics that we begin to fathom the complete permeation of oil into every facet of cultural life.

Jon Rich
The Bachelor Century: Single Sinners Seeking God’s Job

A soldier in the battlefield kills indiscriminately—gunfire and stabbings directed at whomever happens to be present. In contrast, the target of the bomb in Hiroshima is entirely ethnic, akin to the way Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi’s chose his victims. It is a crime against the human race, or a part of that race, because the bomb acts without regard for the political views of its victims. To be murdered because you are American, or Japanese, or Kurdish, or Christian, or Muslim is fundamentally different from being targeted because you are a soldier.

Claire Fontaine
We Are All Clitoridian Women: Notes on Carla Lonzi’s Legacy

In the Italian feminist ultra-left of Lonzi’s time, a deep connection between knowledge of oneself—especially of one’s own pleasure—and satisfaction was regarded as the only way to reach autonomy. There was a vivid awareness that colonization operates through the mind and the body, and the only way to reach freedom was working on one’s own subjectivity.

Lars Bang Larsen
The Society Without Qualities

Money is the one thing that connects us and that we cannot truly have in common. In societies without qualities we can, in theory, have any number of things in common. However, after the decline of symbolic orders, it is an enormous effort to call them up and give them words and form. Remember, this is the desert of the real … So never mind good intentions, they won’t get us anywhere: when art addresses the future in (self-)skeptical ways, it refuses nostalgia and hope as sentimental compensations for an uncertain future.

Where do artifacts go when they are destroyed? | Journal #47 September 2013 | e-flux
Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle
Editorial

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Porno-graphics and porno-tactics: desire, affect and representation in pornography. An interview with Emilie Jouvet.

September 4, 2013

Pornography’s inscriptions in representation have troubled feminist writers, who since the 1970s have been critically addressing issues related to the presentation of the female body. Porn, it was contended, is for the most part a heterosexist genre, and its market circulation serves male libidinal pleasure, fixing the position of pleasure for both wo/men and abiding by patriarchal, gendered and sexually imposed norms. Later, the term was reclaimed under a critical re-perception of porn, cast as a gaze upon different others. This time race, religion, class came to the forefront. From Rosi Braidotti (m.s.) who addresses issues of racism in islamophobic representations such as the documentary ‘Fitna’, to the many commentators who related pornography to acts of torture, most notably in Abu-Ghraib (McClintock 2009) – pornography becomes a ‘concept metaphor’ that haunts autonomy (the laws of the self) through an heteronomous (laws of the other) affect (cf. Nancy 2007). Similarly, in debates over forced sex-work, the voyeuristic humanitarian gaze produces its Others either by sexualizing the other’s body, or by desexualizing the human in it.

On the other hand, many newly emerging artworks, documentaries, and porn productions, attempt to exscribe from porn its initial, normatively repressed qualities, and re-inscribe a feminist or queer perception of enjoyment and pleasure through feminine jouissance and the possibilities to push the limits of representation. In such tactics (de Certeau 1984), porn does not only become a concept-metaphor but, rather, it is being worked through a radical metonymic approach which seeks to transgress norms, explore desires and open up to affects. Tactics thus become tactile.

Continue Reading at Re-Public HERE

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Recover the Streets

September 4, 2013

Recover the Streets arises from the need to interconnect different European projects that work with urban art in their respective cities; the need to offer artists the possibility of interacting with other European creators, of improving their visibility and finding new expression formulas; the need to boost urban art as a regenerator of new city visions; to create participative processes that bring culture, and in this specific case, urban art, closer to population sectors that do not normally participate in cultural events.

Recover the Streets is a collaboration project between five European cities that, using urban art as a tool and common language, purport to interconnect artists and cultural agents from all these cities, promoting the exchange of artistic and social experiences; recovering, in each one of them, a debased space by means of a collaborative process that engages the social agents of the neighbourhoods where the activity takes place, and providing citizens with a new perception of urban art and its ability to activate social and cultural dynamics.
A project that will last for 8 months, which has united a total of six cities from different parts of Europe, where institutions and cultural agents have committed to promoting urban art, thus offering an open and diverse collaboration framework which has already given rise to sporadic collaborations outside the programme, among some of the cultural agents involved:

• Zaragoza (Spain): Sociedad Municipal Zaragoza Cultural
• Besançon (France): Association Juste Ici
• Toulouse (France): Mairie de Toulouse
• Colonia (Germany): Association artmx e.V / Cityleaks Festival
• Zagreb (Croatia): Association Centralna Jedinica

Know more HERE

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Zone: The Spatial Softwares of Extrastatecraft

September 4, 2013

“Today urban space has become a mobile, monetized technology, and some of the most radical changes to the globalizing world are being written, not in the language of law and diplomacy, but rather in the spatial information of infrastructure, architecture and urbanism. Massive global systems — meta-infrastructures administered by public and private cohorts, and driven by profound irrationalities — are generating de facto, undeclared forms of polity faster than any even quasi-official forms of governance can legislate them — a wilder mongrel than any storied Leviathan for which there is studied political response.

One of these meta-infrastructures is the phenomenon of the free zone — a highly contagious and globalized urban form and a vivid vessel of what I have termedextrastatecraft. A portmanteau meaning both outside of and in addition to statecraft, extrastatecraft acknowledges that multiple forces — state, non-state, military, market, non-market — have now attained the considerable power and administrative authority necessary to undertake the building of infrastructure.

The zone — a.k.a., the Free Trade Zone, Foreign Trade Zone, Special Economic Zone, Export Processing Zone, or any of the dozens of variants — is a dynamic crossroads of trade, finance, management and communication. If, in the contemporary scene, diverse spatial types demonstrate the ways in which architecture has become repeatable and infrastructural, then it is the zone that demonstrates the ways in which urbanism has become infrastructural. Though its roots are ancient, dating back to the free ports of classical antiquity, only in recent decades has the zone emerged as a powerful global form, evolving rapidly from an out-of-way district for warehousing custom-free goods to a postwar strategy for jump-starting the economies of developing countries to a paradigm for glittering world cities like Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. [...]“

An essay by Keller Easterling featured in Places. Read it THERE

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Curses! The birth of the bleep and modern American censorship

August 27, 2013

The Enlightenment sages who wrote the First Amendment into the US Constitution in 1791 created the most secure legal foundation for a real democracy in history thus far. By refusing to grant government the power to shut anyone up, no matter how obnoxious, the authors of the Bill of Rights ensured that even if the worst, most corrupt idiots managed to grab power they wouldn’t be able to silence their political enemies (in stark contrast to “the divine right” of kings, who dealt with the opposition by throwing it into a dungeon.) It’s just 45 words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

What the First Amendment really grants is the power of society to maintain its own standards over those of government. Over centuries, sometimes despite the most furious opposition, individuals have increased their participation and added the force of their lives, their words, and their ideas to the culture. And so the principle of free speech is growing, slowly and unsteadily, into the truth of its logic: each person, each member of the press, each citizen can believe, think, and speak independently and without fear of oppression. The same is true of Amendments Two through Ten: the Bill of Rights is a political structure built to safeguard a democratic state, but its implications in the personal lives of that state’s citizens are immediate and profound.

Text and Image via The Verge. Continue HERE

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Punk Anteriors: Genealogy, Theory, Performance.

July 26, 2013

As punk reformulated topics and modes of resistance in the late 1970s, the impact of wars in Southeast Asia, as well as continuing histories of imperialist aggression elsewhere, served as a way for Los Angeles’s racially and sexually diverse punk scene to imagine itself as resistant through (sometimes simultaneous) affiliation with and disassociation from the state, military, and acts of capitalist violence. This article reimagines the context for punk’s politics by following racial, residential, and economic patterns, the influx of refugees, and the subsequent reimagination of punk spaces such as Hollywood, the Canterbury Apartments, and Chinatown to trace themes of race, sexuality, and violence.

Text via Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory – Volume 22.
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Does Europe Exist?

July 24, 2013

The Hungarian philosopher Agnes Heller, in a chapter she contributed to a book published in 1992, stated with some confidence her view that there was no such thing as European culture. There was certainly, she wrote, Italian and German music, and Florentine and Venetian painting, “but there is no European music and no European painting”.

It is true that the history of art and culture was not really Heller’s field, but it would seem that those who, in the same year as she wrote her essay, framed the Maastricht Treaty, signalling the transition from European Community to European Union, at least partially agreed with her. The treaty was the first time the community had taken for itself significant powers in the cultural field. European cultures (note the plural), the relevant article stated, were to be understood as requiring “respect” – by which one understands freedom from too much supranational interference (“The Community shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity …”). At the same time however, the Community was to be entrusted with the task of “[b]ringing the common cultural heritage to the fore”.

Excerpt from an essay written by Enda O’Doherty at DBR. Continue THERE

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Introducing Culture Identities: Design for Museums, Theaters and Cultural Institutions

July 9, 2013

An inside look by designers and clients at graphic design’s main playground and proving ground–working for cultural institutions.

This book takes an inside look at graphic design’s main playground and proving ground—working for cultural institutions. One would be hard pressed to find another area of graphic design in which the work is so fresh and experimental and so often serves as a precursor for future visual trends.

Introducing: Culture Identities features outstanding poster campaigns, publications, and cross-platform corporate design for international cultural institutions by both young designers, who are striving to prove themselves creatively, and established studios, who are experimenting with new forms of visual expression. In the book, readers not only hear from designers who are especially active in the cultural field, such as Bureau Mirko Borsche, the New York-based studio 2×4, James Goggin, and Johannes Erler, but also from notables on the client side including MoMA, the Barbican, Van Abbemuseum, and documenta.

With its selection of striking collaborations between innovative designers and visionary cultural institutions, Introducing: Culture Identities presents the field of visual identities for cultural clients as a continuous dialogue that pushes the limit of what is possible creatively.

Text and Image via Gestalten

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Participatory Composition: Video Culture, Writing, and Electracy

July 9, 2013

Like. Share. Comment. Subscribe. Embed. Upload. Check in. The commands of the modern online world relentlessly prompt participation and encourage collaboration, connecting people in ways not possible even five years ago. This connectedness no doubt influences college writing courses in both form and content, creating possibilities for investigating new forms of writing and student participation. In this innovative volume, Sarah J. Arroyo argues for a “participatory composition,” inspired by the culture of online video sharing and framed by theorist Gregory Ulmer’s concept of electracy.

Electracy, according to Ulmer, “is to digital media what literacy is to alphabetic writing.” Although electracy can be compared to digital literacy, it is not something shut on and off with the power buttons on computers or mobile devices. Rather, electracy encompasses the cultural, institutional, pedagogical, and ideological implications inherent in the transition from a culture of print literacy to a culture saturated with electronic media, regardless of the presence of actual machines.

Arroyo explores the apparatus of electracy in many of its manifestations while focusing on the participatory practices found in online video culture, particularly on YouTube. Chapters are devoted to questions of subjectivity, definition, authorship, and pedagogy. Utilizing theory and incorporating practical examples from YouTube, classrooms, and other social sites, Arroyo presents accessible and practical approaches for writing instruction. Additionally, she outlines the concept of participatory composition by highlighting how it manifests in online video culture, offers student examples of engagement with the concept, and advocates participatory approaches throughout the book.

Arroyo presents accessible and practical possibilities for teaching and learning that will benefit scholars of rhetoric and composition, media studies, and anyone interested in the cultural and instructional implications of the digital age.

Text and Image via Amazon Books

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What Is the International Community?

June 8, 2013

Despite the frequency with which the phrase “international community” is invoked, its precise meaning – like its origins – is difficult to discern. And, as France’s recent intervention in Mali has shown, this ambiguity lies at the root of many of today’s most urgent foreign-policy problems.

For some, an international community simply does not exist. For others, the term refers, more pragmatically, to all countries when they decide to act together. Still another, more accurate definition encompasses all countries with international influence – that is, any country whose identity and sovereignty is recognized, and that chooses to participate in global discussions and decision-making.

Beyond semantics lies the more consequential, but equally ambiguous, question of the international community’s role and responsibility. Just as too broad a definition could undermine a country’s sovereignty, too narrow a definition – like that which seems to predominate today – allows violence and instability to proliferate.

Excerpt from an article written by Michel Rocard, one of Europe’s leading statesmen, was Prime Minister of France from 1988-1991.
Continue HERE

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Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories

May 23, 2013

In the days following the bombings at the Boston Marathon, speculation online regarding the identity and motive of the unknown perpetrator or perpetrators was rampant. And once the Tsarnaev brothers were identified and the manhunt came to a close, the speculation didn’t cease. It took a new form. A sampling: Maybe the brothers Tsarnaev were just patsies, fall guys set up to take the heat for a mysterious Saudi with high-level connections; or maybe they were innocent, but instead of the Saudis, the actual bomber had acted on behalf of a rogue branch of our own government; or what if the Tsarnaevs were behind the attacks, but were secretly working for a larger organization?

Written by MAGGIE KOERTH-BAKER. Continue Reading at NYT

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A young Houston couple is planning to give away $4 billion—but only to projects that prove they are “worth it”. Can they redefine the world of philanthropy?

May 23, 2013

LIKE ANY POPULAR food writer, Gary Taubes gets more than his share of e-mails about his work. So he didn’t give it much thought one day two years ago when he got a five-line comment about a podcast he’d given the week before. It was plainly signed “John.”

The man was intrigued by Taubes’s theories on why people get fat—more specifically, the food writer’s argument that most of the science on obesity is either badly flawed or inconclusive. What was needed, Taubes had said, was a comprehensive experiment that can answer some of the key questions about how our bodies process food. The problem is that such a study is hugely expensive. “From the little I know about the science of nutrition, your study makes a lot of sense,” the listener wrote, adding that he ran a foundation focused on public policy.

Taubes noticed that the full name in the email was John Arnold, and a quick Google GOOG -0.75% search turned up a curious figure under that name: a wunderkind natural-gas trader at Enron who later founded his own hedge fund. The fund was secretive—little-known in its hometown, Houston, much less the rest of the country—but legendary in hedge-fund circles for its mega-returns. It was starting to get interesting.

Taubes passed the name onto Peter Attia, a medical doctor with whom he had recently founded a nonprofit focused on nutrition science.
Attia recalls that when he called to see if he could set up a meeting with Arnold, the response was, “First give us the names of 20 top experts in the field, half of whom think you are crazy.” A few weeks later, he found himself in a conference room located just off the trading floor at Arnold’s Houston office, during which it became apparent that Arnold and his staff had already spoken with most, if not all, of the experts Attia provided. And something else was apparent: Though boyish and just 37, Arnold was dead serious about launching the obesity study. Indeed, his ambitions couldn’t have been higher. He wanted to know if all the best and brightest food scientists got together—and had unlimited resources—what could they accomplish?

Continue Reading at Wall Street Journal

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Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization

May 13, 2013

Is the Internet a vast arena of unrestricted communication and freely exchanged information or a regulated, highly structured virtual bureaucracy? In Protocol, Alexander Galloway argues that the founding principle of the Net is control, not freedom, and that the controlling power lies in the technical protocols that make network connections (and disconnections) possible. He does this by treating the computer as a textual medium that is based on a technological language, code. Code, he argues, can be subject to the same kind of cultural and literary analysis as any natural language; computer languages have their own syntax, grammar, communities, and cultures. Instead of relying on established theoretical approaches, Galloway finds a new way to write about digital media, drawing on his backgrounds in computer programming and critical theory. “Discipline-hopping is a necessity when it comes to complicated socio-technical topics like protocol,” he writes in the preface.

Galloway begins by examining the types of protocols that exist, including TCP/IP, DNS, and HTML. He then looks at examples of resistance and subversion—hackers, viruses, cyberfeminism, Internet art—which he views as emblematic of the larger transformations now taking place within digital culture. Written for a nontechnical audience, Protocol serves as a necessary counterpoint to the wildly utopian visions of the Net that were so widespread in earlier days.

Text and Image via MIT PRESS