Archive for the ‘Social/Politics’ Category

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The Biology of Ideology: The anatomy of politics

July 16, 2014

A popular political advertisement from early this summer begins with US President Barack Obama addressing a crowd of moon-eyed supporters. Suddenly, the screen goes dark to a crescendo of minor chords. Phrases such as “Fear and Loathing”, “Nauseating” and “Divide and Conquer” flash onto the screen, along with video clips of commentators complaining that Obama has used scare tactics to manipulate voters. In the final scene, the iconic poster from Obama’s 2008 election campaign appears, the word HOPE transforming into FEAR as it bursts into flames.

The advertisement, produced by the conservative organization American Crossroads in Washington DC, is typical of those that have come to dominate the US airwaves and YouTube in preparation for next month’s presidential election. Emerging from both the right and the left, these commercials increasingly resemble horror films as they seek to sway voters by triggering basic emotions such as fear, anger and disgust.

That strategy fits with emerging scientific evidence about how people acquire their political beliefs. In the past, political scientists agreed that social forces — most importantly, parents and the childhood environment — strongly influenced whether people became conservative or liberal, and whether they voted or engaged in politics at all. “We now know that it is probably not the whole story,” says John Jost, a psychologist at New York University.

Read Full Article at Nature

Also:

Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative

The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science

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The Promise of a New Internet. It’s not too late to rebuild this thing for the people.

July 14, 2014

People tend to talk about the Internet the way they talk about democracy—optimistically, and in terms that describe how it ought to be rather than how it actually is.

This idealism is what buoys much of the network neutrality debate, and yet many of what are considered to be the core issues at stake—like payment for tiered access, for instance—have already been decided. For years, Internet advocates have been asking what regulatory measures might help save the open, innovation-friendly Internet.

But increasingly, another question comes up: What if there were a technical solution instead of a regulatory one? What if the core architecture of how people connect could make an end run on the centralization of services that has come to define the modern net?

It’s a question that reflects some of the Internet’s deepest cultural values, and the idea that this network—this place where you are right now—should distribute power to people. In the post-NSA, post-Internet-access-oligopoly world, more and more people are thinking this way, and many of them are actually doing something about it.

Among them, there is a technology that’s become a kind of shorthand code for a whole set of beliefs about the future of the Internet: “mesh networking.” These words have become a way to say that you believe in a different, freer Internet.

Read full article at The Atlantic

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The Drone Survival Guide

July 14, 2014

Our ancestors could spot natural predators from far by their silhouettes. Are we equally aware of the predators in the present-day? Drones are remote-controlled planes that can be used for anything from surveillance and deadly force, to rescue operations and scientific research. Most drones are used today by military powers for remote-controlled surveillance and attack, and their numbers are growing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicted in 2012 that within 20 years there could be as many as 30.000 drones flying over U.S. Soil alone. As robotic birds will become commonplace in the near future, we should be prepared to identify them. This survival guide is an attempt to familiarize ourselves and future generations, with a changing technological environment.

This document contains the silhouettes of the most common drone species used today and in the near future. Each indicating nationality and whether they are used for surveillance only or for deadly force. All drones are drawn in scale for size indication. From the smallest consumer drones measuring less than 1 meter, up to the Global Hawk measuring 39,9 meter in length.

Concept and design by Ruben Pater.

The Drone Survival Guide

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Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture

July 13, 2014

What makes the city of the future? How do you heal a divided city?

In Radical Cities, Justin McGuirk travels across Latin America in search of the activist architects, maverick politicians and alternative communities already answering these questions. From Brazil to Venezuela, and from Mexico to Argentina, McGuirk discovers the people and ideas shaping the way cities are evolving.

Ever since the mid twentieth century, when the dream of modernist utopia went to Latin America to die, the continent has been a testing ground for exciting new conceptions of the city. An architect in Chile has designed a form of social housing where only half of the house is built, allowing the owners to adapt the rest; Medellín, formerly the world’s murder capital, has been transformed with innovative public architecture; squatters in Caracas have taken over the forty-five-storey Torre David skyscraper; and Rio is on a mission to incorporate its favelas into the rest of the city.

Here, in the most urbanised continent on the planet, extreme cities have bred extreme conditions, from vast housing estates to sprawling slums. But after decades of social and political failure, a new generation has revitalised architecture and urban design in order to address persistent poverty and inequality. Together, these activists, pragmatists and social idealists are performing bold experiments that the rest of the world may learn from.

Radical Cities is a colorful journey through Latin America—a crucible of architectural and urban innovation.

Text and Image via VERSO Books

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A Critique of Everyday Life

July 1, 2014

Henri Lefebvre’s magnum opus: a monumental exploration of contemporary society.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume One: Introduction. A groundbreaking analysis of the alienating phenomena of daily life under capitalism.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume Two: Foundations for a Sociology of the Everyday. Identifies categories within everyday life, such as the theory of the semantic field and the theory of moments.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume Three: From Modernity to Modernism. Explores the crisis of modernity and the decisive assertion of technological modernism.

Verso Books: Henri Lefebvre’s three-volume Critique of Everyday Life is perhaps the richest, most prescient work by one of the twentieth century’s greatest philosophers. Written at the birth of post-war consumerism, the Critique was a philosophical inspiration for the 1968 student revolution in France and is considered to be the founding text of all that we know as cultural studies, as well as a major influence on the fields of contemporary philosophy, geography, sociology, architecture, political theory and urbanism. A work of enormous range and subtlety, Lefebvre takes as his starting-point and guide the “trivial” details of quotidian experience: an experience colonized by the commodity, shadowed by inauthenticity, yet one which remains the only source of resistance and change.

This is an enduringly radical text, untimely today only in its intransigence and optimism.

Text and Images via Verso Books

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Why Did Borges Hate Soccer?

June 20, 2014

“Soccer is popular,” Jorge Luis Borges observed, “because stupidity is popular.”

At first glance, the Argentine writer’s animus toward “the beautiful game” seems to reflect the attitude of today’s typical soccer hater, whose lazy gibes have almost become a refrain by now: Soccer is boring. There are too many tie scores. I can’t stand the fake injuries.

And it’s true: Borges did call soccer “aesthetically ugly.” He did say, “Soccer is one of England’s biggest crimes.” And apparently, he even scheduled one of his lectures so that it would intentionally conflict with Argentina’s first game of the 1978 World Cup. But Borges’ distaste for the sport stemmed from something far more troubling than aesthetics. His problem was with soccer fan culture, which he linked to the kind of blind popular support that propped up the leaders of the twentieth century’s most horrifying political movements. In his lifetime, he saw elements of fascism, Peronism, and even anti-Semitism emerge in the Argentinean political sphere, so his intense suspicion of popular political movements and mass culture—the apogee of which, in Argentina, is soccer—makes a lot of sense. (“There is an idea of supremacy, of power, [in soccer] that seems horrible to me,” he once wrote.) Borges opposed dogmatism in any shape or form, so he was naturally suspicious of his countrymen’s unqualified devotion to any doctrine or religion—even to their dear albiceleste.

Read full article at the New Republic

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Class in America: The Fault Lines

June 17, 2014

From “trailer trash” to “the one percent,” the language of class tends to evoke divisions both stark and simplistic. It’s easy to discern the outward differences between a single mother living in squalor and a socialite in her Park Avenue penthouse. But the lived experience of class takes place on far more fractured terrain. The way we understand our own class—and determine the class of others—is as much about yesterday’s legacy as today’s money, as much about perception as reality.

In this special issue of Guernica, the second of four made possible through your generous support to our Kickstarter campaign, we offer stories beyond the sleeping beast that is the Occupy Movement. As with our previous theme issues, we hope to start conversations, not end them, exploring how class lives in our minds and manifests in imperceptible and unexpected ways. Class lines are fault lines: politically fraught and personally subjective, actual and imagined.

In this issue:

Features:

Margo Jefferson: Scenes From a Life in Negroland

Luis Alberto Urrea: Ghosts in the Land of Plenty

Rachel Riederer: The Teaching Class

Ann Neumann: How the Other Half Dies

Jessica Pishko: The Price of Freedom

Lauren Quinn: Which Side Are You On, Girl?

Interviews:

Servings of Small Change: Meara Sharma interviews Jane Black and Brent Cunningham

Going Through Customs: Hillary Brenhouse interviews Cristina Ibarra

Talking Clean and Acting Dirty: Katherine Rowland interviews Robert Bullard

Art:

Alex Zafiris: Sight Lines

Fiction:

Tracy O’Neill: Who Can Shave Thirteen Times a Day

Tracey Rose Peyton: More Than This

Poetry:

Abigail Carl-Klassen: Temporary People

Tommy Pico: Thems

Via Guernica. Read this Special Issue HERE

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A Visual History of Satellites: The ‘extended urbanization’ of space.

May 23, 2014

Right now, there about 1,100 satellites whizzing above our heads performing various functions like observation, communication, and spying. There are roughly another 2,600 doing nothing, as they died or were turned off a long time ago.

How did each of these satellites get up there? And what nations are responsible for sending up the bulk of them?

The answers come in the form of this bewitching visualization of satellite launches from 1957 – the year Russia debuted Sputnik 1 – to the present day. (The animation starts at 2:10; be sure to watch in HD.) Launch sites pop up as yellow circles as the years roll by, sending rockets, represented as individual lines, flying into space with one or more satellites aboard.

Read Full article at CityLab

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ARPA: Applied Research Practices in Architecture Journal

May 23, 2014

Architects experiment upon the world. Researchers extend outside the laboratory by co-opting existing structures of influence and crafting new techniques of engagement. Even the effects of proving grounds–from Coney Island to emergency drills–leak beyond their boundaries without any official sanction. Impacts are often unpredictable, but no less powerful. The practice of human subject research has yielded the benefits of the polio vaccine and the horrors of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, reminding us that, as a former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency once remarked, “When we fail, we fail big.”

‘Test Subjects’ focuses on the contended nature of application in architectural research. How do architects wield influence through research? As we weigh the risks and rewards of aggressive experimentation, how careful do we need to be? How do researchers maintain effects of their work, both intended and unintended? How does the agency of test subjects refigure the role of the expert in research?

ARPA

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University of the People – where students get free degrees

May 14, 2014

Ali Patrik Eid is a happy man right now. A few weeks ago he graduated from a university that he didn’t pay a penny for. He didn’t even have to show up for lectures.

And when his wife gave birth to twins shortly after he started his course in business management, it was no problem for him to take six months off to help take care of them.

He was attending the University of the People (UoPeople), one of a growing number of online universities which are opening new doors to people, particularly in the developing world.

“I have always dreamt about having a degree but I didn’t think I ever would,” the 34-year-old Jordanian told the BBC.

Online learning courses are not new – the University of Phoenix, for example, has been offering 100% online learning since 1987 – but the UoPeople is the first tuition-free online college that grants degrees.

Students are asked to pay a $100 (£58) fee for every exam they take but if they can’t afford it, they can take advantage of a range of available scholarships.

Read Full article at BBC

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How Technology Takes Over English Departments

May 14, 2014

article_inset_kirsch

he humanities are in crisis again, or still. But there is one big exception: digital humanities, which is a growth industry. In 2009, the nascent field was the talk of the Modern Language Association (MLA) convention: “among all the contending subfields,” a reporter wrote about that year’s gathering, “the digital humanities seem like the first ‘next big thing’ in a long time.” Even earlier, the National Endowment for the Humanities created its Office of Digital Humanities to help fund projects. And digital humanities continues to go from strength to strength, thanks in part to the Mellon Foundation, which has seeded programs at a number of universities with large grants—most recently, $1 million to the University of Rochester to create a graduate fellowship.

Despite all this enthusiasm, the question of what the digital humanities is has yet to be given a satisfactory answer. Indeed, no one asks it more often than the digital humanists themselves. The recent proliferation of books on the subject—from sourcebooks and anthologies to critical manifestos—is a sign of a field suffering an identity crisis, trying to determine what, if anything, unites the disparate activities carried on under its banner. “Nowadays,” writes Stephen Ramsay in Defining Digital Humanities, “the term can mean anything from media studies to electronic art, from data mining to edutech, from scholarly editing to anarchic blogging, while inviting code junkies, digital artists, standards wonks, transhumanists, game theorists, free culture advocates, archivists, librarians, and edupunks under its capacious canvas.”

Read Full Article at the NEW REPUBLIC

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AirChat: Free Communications for Everyone

May 14, 2014

Airchat is a free communication tool, free as in ‘free beer’ and free as in ‘Jeremy Hammond must be freed’. It doesn’t need the internet infrastructure, nor does it need a cellphone network, instead it relies on any available radio link (or any device capable of transmitting audio – we even made a prototype working with light/laser based transmissions).

This project was conceived not only from our lessons learned in the Egyptian, Libyan and Syrian revolutions, but also from the experience of OccupyWallStreet and Plaza del Sol. We have considered the availability of extremely cheap modern radio devices (like those handhelds produced in China), to start thinking about new ways in which people can free themselves from expensive, commercial, government controlled and highly surveilled infrastructure.

AirChat is not only our modest draft or proposal for such a dream, but it is a working PoC you can use today. we hope you will enjoy it and we also hope that you too will be able to feel the beauty of free communications, free communications as in ‘free beer’ and free communications as in ‘free yourself and your people forever’.

All text and images via Airchat.

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THE END OF FACEBOOK. I know you know…Just reiterating.

May 14, 2014

Sure, at this point we just continue with Facebook because it is interesting to see the collapse of a city, we were brought into, from within.

“It is very unnerving to be proven wrong, particularly when you are really right and the person who is really wrong is proving you wrong and proving himself, wrongly, right.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”
― Leo Tolstoy, A Confession

“So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”
― Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

“It is not truth that matters, but victory.”
― Adolf Hitler

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Cradle of Civil Disobedience: Gandhi Before India

May 10, 2014

At the end of the 19th century, Mohandas Gandhi was a young lawyer living in Durban, South Africa. He left his house in Beach Grove every morning for an office on Mercury Lane, where he spent much of the day helping his fellow Indian immigrants navigate the onerous colonial bureaucracy. He kept meticulous records, including a logbook of correspondence — from an English missionary and local planters, and a series of letters exchanged with the Protector of Indian Immigrants about the treatment of indentured laborers. In January of 1897, and again a few months later, he heard from another lawyer who was, like him, a Gujarati who had studied in England and then struggled to establish a practice in Bombay. The contents of these letters are unknown. In a remarkable new biography, “Gandhi Before India,” Ramachandra Guha gingerly speculates about what they might have been. Expressions of support for Gandhi’s nascent activism? Or perhaps “explorations of interest in a possible career in South Africa”? Guha wisely stops there. What is not in doubt is the name in Gandhi’s logbook — “M. A. Jinnah,” Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who would become the founder of Pakistan. “All we now know is that, a full 50 years before partition and the independence of India and Pakistan, the respective ‘Fathers’ of those nations were in correspondence.”

Read Full Article at NYT

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Death Is Not Final

May 10, 2014

If consciousness is just the workings of neurons and synapses, how do we explain the phenomenon of near-death experience? By some accounts, about 3% of the U.S. population has had one: an out-of-body experience often characterized by remarkable visions and feelings of peace and joy, all while the physical body is close to death. To skeptics, there are more plausible, natural explanations, like oxygen deprivation. Is the prospect of an existence after death “real” and provable by science, or a construct of wishful thinking about our own mortality?

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The making of a Marx: The life of Eleanor Marx, the mother of socialist feminism

May 4, 2014

When I set out to write the life of Eleanor Marx in 2006 some friends worried that yet again I’d been seduced by an unfashionable and overly abstruse biographical subject. Either that, or they just said: “Who?” A Marx? The mother of socialist feminism? It didn’t sound catchy in our new century.

Yet Eleanor Marx is one of British history’s great heroes. Born in 1855 in a Soho garret to hard up German immigrant exiles, her arrival was initially a disappointment to her father. He wanted a boy. By her first birthday Eleanor had become his favourite. She was nicknamed Tussy, to rhyme, her parents said, with “pussy” not “fussy”. Cats she adored; fussy she wasn’t. She loved Shakespeare, Ibsen, both the Shelleys, good poetry, bad puns and champagne. She would be delighted to know that we can claim her as the first self-avowed champagne socialist.

Yet during the journey of writing the life of Eleanor Marx I discovered that I was writing about an increasingly topical subject. Friends sent me articles about the resurgence in the reading of the primary work of Marx and Engels amongst the under-50s, particularly in countries where there are currently new movements for social democracy.

Read full article at the Independent

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Arvo Pärt on the Creative Process. From an interview conducted in November 1978

May 4, 2014

The following interview with Arvo Pärt was conducted at the composer’s home at Mustamäe, November 28, 1978. Filmed by Andres Sööt, the dialogue (at times, Arvo’s wife Eleonora seconds his husband behind the screen) and the rehearsal of the soon-to-be-premiered ‘Italian Concerto’ at the concert hall “Estonia” became the basis for the film-portrait entitled, suitably, “Arvo Pärt in November 1978″. The conversation, which lasted more than an hour (for the transcription of which we thank Jaak Elling), has been edited in order to make it more readable. Text from the actual film is in italics.

In February 1980, Arvo Pärt moved abroad with his family. His music stayed in his homeland as did two films by Andres Sööt about him: “Arvo Pärt in November 1978″ (Eesti Telefilm, 1978) and “Fantasy C-dur” (Eesti Telefilm, 1979), which haven’t been aired since the name and the compositions of Arvo were banned in Estonia.

Ivalo Randalu: I remember when you came [to the conservatory] in 1954 you had lots of blank sheets with you and you began to write a violin concerto. Then you had a very beautiful prelude a la Rachmaninov cis-moll, which you threw away after a year. You always changed, new qualities emerged. It led to your first symphony in your second year at the conservatory. And all those collages at that time. And then you had to turn again. What was it that made you change so much and move on?

Arvo Pärt: I think maybe the ideals that escort and accompany a human being in his life. Or let’s say – teachers, if we can say so. One has several teachers. One teacher can be the present and the people surrounding him – let’s say some school teachers belong there. At some period of time, a human is like inside these conditions and tuned to them. And then suddenly you discover another teacher for yourself – say, the past; great men of the past; all the cultural treasures of the past. It can happen that he becomes blind to all other things and fixes his view on the past only. And this certainly influences a man, gives a new tinge to his actions. Plus, there maybe exists the greatest teacher of all, I mean, the future – or let’s say, conscience. View yourself – what you’d really like to be. What you aren’t, but how you’d like to see yourself. We can say, it’s like a future we want to arrive at. Is that clear enough? Like an animal or, say, a little child chooses food.

Read fully HERE

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When Hitler Was Curator

April 27, 2014

Hitler loved art. His taste tended toward classicism. The Greek ideal of beauty was his general standard in aesthetics. He once wrote the following memorandum about how he guaranteed that he would get “good” art for the Munich Museum. “I have inexorably adhered to the following principle,” Hitler wrote.

If some self-styled artist submits trash for the Munich exhibition, then he is a swindler, in which case he should be put in prison; or he is a madman, in which case he should be in an asylum; or he is a degenerate, in which case he must be sent to a concentration camp to be “reeducated” and taught the dignity of honest labor. In this way I have ensured that the Munich exhibition is avoided like the plague by the inefficient.

And it was. I suspect a number of contemporary curators and museum directors feel roughly the same way Hitler did about artists who “submit trash.” But what made Hitler, Hitler — and not just your average Museum Director — was that he was willing to go that extra mile. He did, actually, send artists to prison, the asylum, and the concentration camp.

The current show at the Neue Galerie in New York City (“Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937”) mostly displays art that appeared in the now-infamous “Degenerate Art” exhibits organized by the Nazis in Munich and then taken to other cities around Nazi Germany. The point of the “Degenerate Art” exhibits was to demonstrate just how bad modern art had become, according to the Nazi sensibility.

In the late 1930s, Hitler made it Goebbels’ responsibility to purge art of degeneracy. Goebbels appointed Adolf Ziegler, who happened to be one of Hitler’s favorite painters, to the position of Director of the Reich Chamber of Visual Art. Ziegler looked around and declared many of the artworks of his time, “the products of insanity, of impudence, of ineptitude, and of decadence.” Ziegler went about the process of seizing much of this “degenerate” art, some of which appeared in the “Degenerate Exhibit” before being sold off to other countries or destroyed. The show at the Neue Galerie includes paintings by Max Beckmann, George Grosz, Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Paul Klee — to name a few of the most well-known “degenerates.” The Neue Galerie’s show also displays some of the work that Hitler and the Nazi apparatus liked. There is a painting by Adolf Ziegler himself, entitled “The Four Elements: Fire, Earth, and Water, Air” (1937). This painting was a special favorite of Hitler. He kept it hanging in his Munich apartment.

Written by Morgan Meis. Read full article at The Smart Set.

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The Reformation: Can Social Scientists Save Themselves?

April 18, 2014

Academic hoaxes have a way of crystallizing, and then shattering, the intellectual pretensions of an era. It was almost 20 years ago, for instance, that a physicist named Alan Sokal laid siege to postmodern theory with a Trojan horse. You may remember the details: Sokal wrote a deliberately preposterous academic paper called “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” He filled it with the then trendy jargon of “critical theory,” and submitted it to a prominent journal of cultural studies called Social Text. Amid worshipful citations of postmodern theorists and half-baked references to complex scientific work, the paper advanced a succession of glib, sweeping assertions (“Physical ‘reality,’ no less than social ‘reality,’ is at bottom a social and linguistic construct”). Social Text published it without demanding any significant editorial changes.

When Sokal revealed that his paper was a practical joke, the media went wild—or as wild, at least, as the media has ever gone over an academic prank. By successfully aping the methods and conventions of postmodern cultural analysis, and using them to serve intentionally ridiculous ends, Sokal had, for many in the public, exposed once and for all how unsound those methods and conventions were.

Continue this article at Pacific Standard.

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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