Transparent Publishing

New technology pushes transparency of publishing, journalism and science to new levels. Through the hyperlink structure of texts it is easy to link back to the sources of a text. What used to be long lists of references at the end of a text or in footnotes has become directly accessible through weblinks. Only paywalls may or may not restrict the fast and easy access to original sources. In writing online, this is a major additional feature of publishing in the last few years. Some online journals allow this for quite some time now, but there are lots of printed versions that stick to the read and be stuck approach of publishing.
In teaching I have been an advocate of “read the original sources” as the basic source of inspiration for authors. The transparency of the thought process and the evidence provided in whatever form should be traceable. In publishing this transparency allows to exclude the copying of thoughts or unreflected referencing.
However, the task to check for the validity of weblinks and the updating is an additional task. 500+ blog entries with an average number of 2 weblinks per blog entry makes this a job of its own. Testing of 1000 weblinks is something you need a software or plugin which alerts you to “broken links”. The maintenance of a webpage, therefore, increases substantially as the content increases. Reorganisations of webpages make the follow-up of links sometimes quite hard. Projects like the general archives of the web and webpages are very important to ensure the transparency of publishing in the short, medium and long run. The archives of today look more like machine rooms than the splendid archives or libraries of the past and present.

Citizens Gardens

There are multiple ways to link citizens to gardens. Most people would link citizens to the property of their own garden. This is more the perspective of people from the countryside. The aim of citizens who can afford it have a garden, many others wish to have one and all of them enjoy public garden spaces. An intermediate version of the public versus private property of citizens’ garden is the joint ownership of groups of like-minded people to work together in the shared property or rented garden space. The recreational and health effects are well documented, if care is exercised with utensils etc. Spring is the ideal time to join projects again as the results of a little bit of gardening will be visible and enjoyable for several months afterwards. Gardens are also meeting points for people of all walks of life as in the vicinity of the European Parliament in Brussels. The Citizens’ Garden has a different function to people gardening there. When you puzzled about Europe after a visit to the Parliament or the Museum of the History of Europe, then it is time for a stroll and relax in the garden nearby.
Alternatively, the Exhibition Centre of Tour & Taxis in Brussels not too far away from the North train station has an impressive indoor garden for the times of rough weather conditions. At the time of the book fair culture in the indoor garden made a splendid combination. There is a green version of Europe. It is like a small plant. It needs a lot of time and care to grow.

Causal Benefit Model

In the field of medicine we move more and more towards precision medicine. Previously, the term of personalized medicine was used which suggested to a certain degree that a personalization might be feasible. The budget constraints have forced us to change the term to avoid unrealistic, untenable promises. In the field of cardiology scientific advances advocate to shift from a risk-based model of treatment to a causal benefit model. (Kohli-Lynch et al. 2024 Link). Long-term benefits of a treatment are more promising, if the treatment addresses the causal mechanisms at work. It is wide spread practice to deal with general risk profiles as guidelines as the precision medicine based on a causal benefit model is far more laborious since to search the causal mechanism at work requires additional testing of hypotheses. This becomes immediately clear if genetic causes enter into consideration. Nevertheless, medical research advances more and more in this direction. Genetic testing has been shown to be useful in analyzing and treating issues like sudden cardiac arrest (in survivors). We are somehow aware that genetics may play a role here, but we shall need a lot of additional studies to make the causal benefit model a feasible option for widespread applications. Targeting research in this field will offer new avenues for precision medicine in the 2020s.

Series Evaluation

The monitoring of TV series is a serious science. The evaluation of so-called binch viewing has redrawn attention to the field of media studies again. We observe a bit across Europe, following the US experience, the change of TV productions into series that may run over several years. The successful format of a TV series draws advertising to the relatively constant audience. Most series have a particular age group as their target group. Viewing behavior determines time slots allocated. Each group has its own prime time. The publisher of books had their successes with similar series of for example children’s picture books or cartoons. Asterix, Martine and similar book series have basically applied the same “serial” mechanism before. Popular success creates its own dynamics. Therefore the evaluation of such serial productions should stay on our research agenda of the social sciences as well.

In a radio discussion “France Culture” has juxtaposed the 2 currents of series evaluation in a concise way. One current of assessment holds the view that rather than high versus low culture, the debate should take popular culture seriously. It augments the set of experiences as the characters in a TV series live through a kind of “experimental setting” each time anew. The variety of experiences is catching popular attention as they are beyond the scope of the spectator’s usual life settings and thereby a learning opportunity. This highlights the value of the content in the evaluation. This requires a thorough scrutiny of that content to evaluate an emancipatory value of viewing it (Sandra Lauglier, 2023).

An opposing view is defended by Bertrand Cochard (2024) with reference to the conflict about one’ use of free time available to us and how we spend it. His criticism takes issue with the amount of time “lost” by viewers of series. Time is not spent twice. The loss of time alone or side by side rather than spending it with other persons or physically active constitutes a major risk to the social fabric of society.The jury is still out on the issue. We likely see the start of a series of entries on this topic as well.

AI and languages

A big potential of AI is in the field of languages. Translations have been an expert domain and a pain for pupils at school. In professional settings translations are an expensive extra service for some or a good source of revenue. AI has shifted the translation game to a new level. In terms of speed of translating large amounts of written text AI is hard to beat. In terms of quality the battle of translaters against AI is still on. For chess players the battle against AI has been lost some years ago already. It remains an open question whether translators can still outperform AI or just adapt to using the technology themselves to improve both speed and quality of translations. The European Union with its many languages and commitment to cultural diversity can serve even more language communities with documents in their own language than before at marginally higher costs. A panel on the 9th day of translations at the „foire du livre de Bruxelles” 2024 expressed their reservations with regard to the use of AI in translation of political text or speech. Misunderstanding and misinterpretation will be the rule rather than the exception with potentially harmful consequences. Checking the correctness of translations is a permanent challenge for translators and can be very time consuming. There is room for an AI-assisted translation, but similar to other fields of application of AI, relying exclusively on AI bears high risks as well. We should not underestimate the creative part of translators to do full justice to a text or speech.

www.flb.be 2024 Translation

Fertility Growth

The first association of fertility and growth is likely the growing of fertility rates in a country or region. Only macro economists associate the growth or decline of fertility with the macroeconomic consequences of more or less economic growth. Countries with higher fertility rates in most cases have higher growth rates as parents spend more on food, clothes, mobility and education. Accommodations are changed, adapted and refurbished. Estimates of increased consumption per child by economists range from 500.000 to almost 1 million in the highest developed countries. Children are a country’s wealth, but they also cost a fortune in monetary terms. Good news for the economy if families keep spending independent of economic cycles. More children keeps dedicated shops running or even a whole sector of the economy. In recessions the downward pressure in this sector becomes an additional challenge not only for the families but with ripples-on effects for the whole economy and society. If you see shops closing which has sold furniture for children for the last 15 years then the realization of an economic downturn becomes also more real. Sometimes the parallels in the news of declining fertility and increases in pensions do not square well with the fitness for the future or the future orientation of a society. Democratic voting rights that give families more weight in elections could change this. It is not yet on the political agenda.

Korallenriff

Kinder verstehen direkt, dass es sich lohnt, Korallenriffe zu erhalten. Plastikmüll in den Meeren gefährdet die Korallenriffe und die bunte Vielfalt an Fischen, die darin leben. Ein kleines Theaterstück dazu von Kathrin Brunner begeistert Kinder, weil es sie erleben lässt, wie einfach Lösungen aussehen können. Den großen Leuten zeigen, wie traurig die Welt aussieht ohne die farbenfrohe Pracht der bunten Fische, wird sie schon zu Veränderungen bringen. Das Theaterstück und Buch dazu wurde am 16.3.2024 im FEZ in Berlin aufgeführt. Das Figurenspiel mit überleitendem Refrain, das vom Publikum gleichsam der Promenade in den „Bildern einer Ausstellung“ (Mussorgsky) mitgesungen haben, bildete jeweils eine gelungene emotionale Überleitung und Aufmerksamkeitspause. Wir wünschen uns noch viele kleine und große Besuchende für diese Aufführungen. Die Kinder werden es uns schon lehren, den blauen Planeten noch zu retten.

Family Music Days

Kids are queens, kings and princesses as well as princes at the family music days in Berlin at the FEZ. Kids can enjoy the full spectrum of musical experiences from just listening to playing themselves, if they feel like it or dare to risk a sound. Just making noise is okay, too. Building your very own version of a musical instrument is a great learning experience for the young. To make music it doesn’t always have to be an expensive instrument. Your own imagination assisted by persons with patience and passion creates marvelous sound experiences. Initiating kids to the endless worlds of sound is having lasting effects on them. Great to see a concert hall full of young enthusiasts. Learning is so much fun, if taught in accessible and inclusive ways. Professional instructors joined by many volunteers make the world go round for kids. Wish you we here. Let’s spread the message.

Berlin FEZ 2024-3-16

Schubert Franz

Franz Schubert hatte ein kurzes Leben. Geboren in 1797 verstarb er bereits mit 31 Jahren. Seine Lieder werden nach wie vor viel gehört und aufgeführt. Mit 10 Jahren wurde er vom Hofkapellmeister Salieri in Wien bereits als Sängerknabe in die Hofkapelle aufgenommen, was gleichzeitig die Aufnahme ins Stadtkonvikt bedeutete. Seine Lieder wie „Der Lindenbaum“, „Die Forelle“ oder „Die Rose“ blieben lange Standards in den Musiksalons und Konzerthallen. Beeindruckend bleibt auch die Schaffenskraft des jungen Schuberts der in seinem „Liederjahr“ 150 Lieder komponierte. Seine Versuche eine Oper zu schreiben waren weniger erfolgreich. Das hat dann fast 200 Jahre gebraucht bis die Pariser Opéra Comique diesen Traum Schuberts erfüllt hat. Vielleicht hatte es etwas mit seinem Lehrmeister Salieri zu tun oder den hohen Ansprüchen der Wiener Klassik in der damaligen Zeit. Friedrich von Flotow hatte den Weg nach Paris gefunden und war sich der Bedeutung des ausdrucksstarken Librettos bewusst. Orchestrierung zur Verpackung der Lieder wird dabei bedeutsam. Flotow sollte das Oeuvre Schuberts bekannt gewesen sein. Erfolge mit eingängigen Melodien haben beide feiern können. Jeder auf seine Weise.

Schubert Sekundärliteratur

Cancer Inequality

Inequality is a hugely important topic for societies. Inequality has many different dimensions and differential longitudinal patterns. New data in this field of social research are helpful to inform on possible ways to prevent increasing inequality. At the same time, it is important to reflect on factors that may reduce inequality in and between societies. Inequality in health is both an outcome of inequality experienced during previous stages of the life course as well as a factor in causing inequality in the evolution of the life course later on. Disentangling the factors is a difficult research issue.
A first descriptive pattern across Europe allows to get a snapshot impression of the status quo as a first indication of what health inequality looks like. Cancer is a major cause of mortality across Europe and by 2045 it is estimated to be the leading cause of mortality.
Without precisely analyzing the causal factors the overview across European countries allows to give a first impression on fields that need more policy attention and more in depth studies. The European Cancer Inequalities Registry and the ECIR Data Tool is based on data from 2019  (Link). The overview matrix by employment status reveals the highest prevalence of smoking among the unemployed (followed by the employed, not shown in figure) and the frequency of alcohol consumption is highest among the employed. Low physical activity is mostly prevalent among the retired.  This has consequences for cancer and gives hints to how an intensified prevention may work.
The OECD report (Link) based on these data and additional country case studies and policy data base reiterates the known prevention recommendations: Reduce smoking, alcohol consumption, air pollution as well as more physical activity. The dimensions of inequality are gender, age, employment status and most of years spent in education. The curing of cancer also suffers from inequities as to the amount of and access to screening of cancer. Cost coverage and shortages in medical personnel add to multiple sources of inequality in treatment of cancer within countries by regions and between nation states. The Lancet Public Health editorial contributes to the spread of the awareness among scientists and the medical profession.
(Image: ECIR data tool download 2024-2-22)

Processed food

We eat a lot of pre-processed food. Our busy work schedules allow us to take only short breaks for meals in order to get more work done while in office or at work in general. The intensification of work has reached the next level and we move from pre-processed food to ultra-processed foods (UPFs). In medical journals and nutrition recommendations the warnings to not eat too much ultra-processed foods are abundant. The signs of obesity in societies reach higher levels from year to year. Especially younger people seem to be at higher risks to consume a lot of ultra-processed foods. Freisling et al. highlight the “risk of multimorbidity of cancer and cardiometabolic diseases” due to UPFs. The discussion between scientists is a lot on which UPFs are most harmful (beyond animal origin or and artificially sweetened beverages) and/or whether it is the combination of UPFs that additionally increases the danger of UPFs. Preventing the “too much of each” is probably the safest recommendation. Being able to read the nutrition information on the labels is already a difficult task. Just making the information abundant and very small print discourages most efforts to compare across products. Learning about basic human needs like food has never been more difficult. Combined with “shrinkflation” we have a hard time to make informed choices of what to buy and eat. There are many hurdles to overcome for a healthy meal.

AI and Behavior

We start to analyze the impact of AI on our behavior. It is an important question to be aware of not only how we interact with AI (Link), but also what effect the use of AI (disclosed or not) will have on our social behavior. Knowing that AI is used might change our willingness to cooperate or increase or decrease pro-social behavior. The use of AI in form of an algorithm to select job candidates might introduce a specific bias, but it can equally be constructed to favour certain criteria in the selection of candidates. The choice of criteria becomes more important in this process and the process of choosing those criteria.
Next comes the question whether the announcement includes as information that AI will be used in the selection process. This can be interpreted by some that a “more objective” procedure might be applied, whereas other persons interpret this signal as bad sign of an anonymous process and lack of compassion prevalent in the organization focused mostly on efficiency of procedures.  Fabian Dvorak, Regina Stumpf et al. (2024) demonstrate with experimental evidence from various forms of games (prisoner’s dilemma, binary trust game, ultimatum game) that a a whole range of outcomes is negatively affected (trust, cooperation, coordination and fairness). This has serious consequences for society. The social fabric might worsen if AI is widely applied. Even or particularly the undisclosed use of AI already shows up as a lack of trust in the majority of persons in these experiments.
In sum, we are likely to change our behavior if we suspect AI is involved the selection process or content creation. This should be a serious warning to all sorts of content producing media, science, public and private organizations. It feels a bit like with  microplastic or PFAS. At the beginning we did not take it seriously and then before long AI is likely to be everywhere without us knowing or aware of the use. (Image taken on Frankfurt book fair 2017-10!)

Stroke

A stroke is a very serious medical incident. The NIH defines it in easy language as the the moment in which “blood flow to the brain is blocked or there is sudden bleeding in the brain“. Thanks to a European HORIZON project  forecasting models are produced to estimate the likely incidence until the year 2050 by age and gender within Europe. The good news is major regional imbalances of incidence and mortality have been reduced and will likely be reduced across Europe. The challenge remains the aging of societies which necessitates to address the issue of strokes in each single region of the European Union. We know that the shorter the time to treat a stroke immediately after its occurrence, the better the survival chances and the better the prognosis for (partial) recovery.
In the US the widespread use of blood thinners which tripled over 30 years has not lead to the reduction of intracerebral hemorrhage (Link to studies). High blood pressure and arhythmic heart beat are major causes of this often disabling medical event. The study by Wafa et al. (2024) uses age-pyramids to demonstrate the effect that as European societies are aging the incidence of intracerebral haemorrhage occurs with increasing age and even more so for women than men of 80 years and older.
Prevention of high blood pressure through walking or careful endurance exercise seems even more indicated for an aging society.
Image below from Wafa et al. (2024), The Lancet Regional Health, Europe.

Greedflation

The teaching of economics and socioeconomic policies has to deal with the topics around inflation and economic inequality for centuries. Greedflation has become a newly coined term for the rise of inflation due to greedy firms who use a window of opportunity to achieve extra profit margins or windfall profits. At a time of perceived price rises in many sectors, sectors that have no cost increases might still try to push prices higher simply because almost everybody else does so. Higher profits then show up in the reporting season of enterprises quoted at the stock exchange and the increase in inequality between wage earners and shareholders will rise. Greedflation is a summary term for it. The ECB European Central Bank has mentioned this and Reuters has reported on it as well end of June 2023. Since then a wait and see strategy has been adopted. Now in February 2024 we witness the wider spread of extraordinary profits of big firms not only in the fossil energy sector but also bog banks. The economies and societies suffer huge losses and a massive redistribution of capital. Subsidies introduced to lower the shock of the coronavirus crisis and the Russian aggression are unpopular to be scaled back. Employees and their trade unions have a hard time negotiating adequate wage increases whereas most companies use the momentum of seemingly general price rises to push profit margins. The translation of this mechanism to the political economy risks to jeopardize the support for capitalism and market forces in general. Another wave of increasing inequality endangers the survival of democratic societies. Countries with only a short experience of the functioning of market economies are at a particular risk. Germany’s decline into dictatorship in the 1930s after the severe economic crisis should be remembered as a major threat. Greedflation is a very serious and very real threat which we have to address with economic and social policies rather than waiting until the European elections have passed. Time to act, the thinking has been done. Evidence accumulates to make the political case.

Adolf von Menzel, The Petition, Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin

Timeless Values

The declaration of human rights is more than 200 years old. However, the need to stand up for the defense of these rights needs many people to act accordingly. Political parties and courts are not strong enough to be the only defendants of democracy and human values. Solidarity across generations is another part of the struggle to defend democracy. In addition to the broad movement of “Omas gegen rechts”, the age distribution has been further enlarged with the “Uromas gegen rechts”. This most likely the generation with first hand life experiences from Nazi Germany and they should have reached an enlightened view of the horrors caused by the Nazi-regime. Unfortunately there are still some who continue to be prisoners in a fascist “brown” cage of mischievous memories. The great grandmother who was present at the demonstration was clear in her statement to stand up against right-wing extremism. (Image: With the permission of the lady I am happy to have evidence of the presence of super-agers at the demonstration in Berlin).

Berlin 2024-2-3. Demonstration

Fighting Fascists

On february 3rd 2024 Berlin has seen the Parliament (Bundestag in the old Reichstag building) surrounded by young and old to raise their voice against the rise of right wing extremism in Germany. The broad alliance against extremism finds grassroots support from a very broad and diverse community. 1700 organizations have joined forces to send a strong signal that they are ready to act against the inhuman propaganda and persistent hate speech. The creativity to express the discontent in clear messages is impressive. Civil society is showing that diversity offers multiple benefits to find new ways to unite people. Great that European flags and balloons in Ukrainian colors where present as well. A movement of solidarity was felt with these people and that provides a strong message for the months ahead with so many elections taking place at the local, regional, national and European levels.

Berlin 2024-2-3

Modernism

More and more people move into cities. A modern way of living is more accessible there. Besides abundant car traffic public services of transportation like buses and underground are within easy walking distance. Culture, science and education offer attractive opportunities for learning, working and leisure. Diversity is an additional asset most people appreciate of cities. The chances to live your very own way of life are much easier to achieve and thrive in as in remote or rural communities. “Birds of the same feather flock together “. It is easy to find likeminded people among a million people than among a hundred particularly if you’re a bit off the mainstream or avantgarde. The excitement of birds passing the city can reach the emotional force of Hitchcock’s famous movie “The birds”. Even in the modern world we not quite sure what these creatures are up to. Is it a swarm of drones? Are they out of control? Modernism has brought us many amenities, we have to make sure that we really are still in control.

Berlin Kleistpark 2024-1

AI and We

Research is beginning to provide empirical evidence and experimental modelling results on the widespread use of generative AI. First results by Doshi and Hauser point at the individual benefits of using artificial intelligence but the widespread use of it is likely to narrow the scope of novel content. This research is particularly interesting because it deals with the micro level to macro level aggregation effects. It is fine for me to use AI. If it becomes a mass phenomenon, we expect in sum a negative outcome for society as a whole.
The example at hand deals with the capability to innovate or to come up with novel content. As more and more texts or newspapers are published with extensive use of genAI, the real element of creation will remain the domain of humans for quite some time.
In my opinion this is due to the difficulties for algorithms to differentiate between the positive and too risky negative aspects of innovative solutions. A query for AI might ask to come up with an innovative solution for auto-mobility of short distances. A human being might propose walking due to the additional health effects the AI might propose helicopter lifts. The not so stupid machine would need a lot of additional information about circumstances to generate useful solutions. Therefore it is not surprising that sometimes public transport apps propose to walk short distances rather than waiting for “delayed or unreliable services“ they provide themselves. Personal circumstances like mobility with children, other dependents or luggage are usually beyond the scope of the information base of the algorithms.
On the other hand, if the AI knows that 50.000 persons after an event want to take public transport at the same time the indication to walk or wait solves an aggregation problem of individual preferences to adapt to available capacities. Lots of issues to solve for AI and us or better yet, us and AI.
(Image creation: AI using Microsoft Dall-E Image creator: Prompt: a person with notebook in profile and in front of 5 other persons in Office with windows 26.1.2024, 8:24 PM)

Shrinkflation

Shrinkflation is a hybrid term that combines “to shrink” with “inflation”. The trick is to keep prices at the same level for a product, but to reduce the weight or amount sold at a constant price. The intention of producers is to indirectly increase prices without touching at price tickets on products. As consumer you are likely to remember the price tag of a product, but much less the unit costs. However, the unit price is the basis for fair comparisons. In supermarkets there is an obligation to print also unit prices (€/kg or €/L) next to price labels. Comparisons allow information irrespective of package size. In shrinkflation the higher unit costs of a product will drive the official measure of inflation (Destatis, 2024). In Germany inflation for food had the top inflation rate in 2023, surpassing even price rises for energy.
On the one hand, shrinkflation is cheating on consumers to sell them less for the same price. On the other hand, oversized products that solicit higher consumption are part of the health and environmental problems we face. The obesity pandemic is part of the XXL consumption hype the food industry and supermarkets have created. In this respect, more expensive food (Eurostat info) potentially may trigger the rethinking of consumption and nutrition. “Eating better instead of less” has always been more expensive.
Besides the profit-maximising logic of shrinkflation, there is at least a small hope that behavioural changes might be triggered to consume less, to use less detergent in washing, less sugar drinks, smaller size pizza and so on. Shrinking our food intake is part of the solution for many problems. In the end cutting out most convenience food will save you a lot of money. As a side effect of such behavioural changes, eventually prices are likely to come down some time later again.

Ideal City

Ideal City

Even beyond humans the issue of what constitutes the ideal city is a matter of historical as well as experimental significance. Science has recently uncovered a city like organization of habitats in the Amazon region (Link Science.org). The organization of the Greek city states has been the model for the development of democratic ideation. The Roman imperialism has thrived through the splendor of its cities and city lifestyle. No surprise that this continues to be a constant concern for humanity.
Rapid urbanization continues in Africa and Asia. Europe also struggles to keep pace with infrastructure development in every growing cities. Whereas the ideal city in the early Italian Renaissance was imagined without trees, we witness a renewed interest to bring back nature-like environments and architecture back into cities. Combining the best of 2 worlds seems possible. Redesigning inner cities remains a continuous challenge. It is much more than thinking about bricks and mortar. It is mostly about how we want to live, work and communicate together. Therefore, it concerns all of us. Paintings help us along in our ideation about where and how we want to live together. The linear views of the Renaissance appear hardly convenient after the experience of the 20th century.
(Image Gemäldegalerie Berlin, 2024-1, Raum XVIII, Ident Nr. 1615 “Ideal city” from ca 1490 attributed to Francesco di Giogio Martini and next to well-known ideal “Venus” painting by Sandro Botticelli 1490).

Ethics of posterity

We have not inherited the earth from our ancestors; we are borrowing it from our descendants. (native American saying). Adeline Johns-Putra (2019) states this early in her book on “Climate change and the novel.” Her concern is how to think and write about the ethics of posterity. Approaches of ethics in the sense of parental care (for the planet) or motherhood environmentalism do not suffice in view of overpopulation of our planet. Shifting our identity away from toxic production and consumption is advocated in many novels. Science and science fiction offer many dystopian examples.
De Shalit (1995) wrote early on why posterity matters. It is not the standard of living of contemporaries that matters but we should consider ourselves as a part of a transgenerational community. The time horizon of our decisions matters. In pursuing arguments by John Rawls who re-established a contractionalist perspective on justice, we have to include future generations into our contractual obligations. Following this approach we might arrive at Brundtland’s perspective on the ethics of posterity which is called sufficientarianism in opposition to simple utilitarianism. In sufficientarianism we owe future generations a just and decent living or at least the possibility to have similar starting conditions. Shifting beyond the apocalyptic view of environmental disasters Adeline Johns-Putra (2019) brings to the forefront that we have to substantially lengthen  our time horizon both for consequences of climate change and for dealing with it, albeit the fact that most destructive practices operate much faster than the re-establishing of greater biodiversity.
P.S.:Thanks to the curators of the Lese Lounge Staatsbibliothek Berlin for ease of access to the literature.
(Image: Natur & Kultur in “Extreme tension: Art between Politics and Society” Collection of the Nationalgalerie 1945-2000“. 2024-1)

On Justice

Justice is a topic a bit like democracy. Most people deem it possible to simply state something is just or unjust, democratic or undemocratic, black or white. Rather than such a binary perspective it is often more helpful to take the pains to differentiate the many facets of each term and the complexity to categorize or to subsume a case under one or the other label.
Additionally, there is an evolutionary perspective on these topics. Individual cases evolve in form of trajectories. The binary view of justice or no justice might become more clear or more blurred. The exhibition of the “Topography of Terror” in Berlin offers a well established and documented view of the NS-terror during the years 1933-1945. The examples of horrific injustices throughout the exhibition are abundant. To perform justice is a much more difficult exercise and encounters lots of impediments.
In January 2024 Christl Wickert presented her extensive research in archives which she published in the Metropol Verlag 2022 under the title “Keine Gerechtigkeit. Die ungleiche Unterstützung des KZ-Überlebenden Fritz Bringmann und des SS-Mannes Walter Filsinger nach 1945”. (engl. title and image below). Christl Wickert follows the life courses of the young Fritz Bringmann, prisoner in KZ Sachsenhausen and Neuengamme as of 17 years of age, and the life course of the SS member as of 17 years of age and SS soldier Walter Filsinger. Their life courses crossed at the concentration camp Neuengamme near Hamburg and perhaps later again in Hamburg Bergedorf. Whereas Fritz Bringmann had to struggle to get compensation for his injuries during imprisonment, Walter Filsinger managed through multiple manipulations of documents and dubious support from administrators as well as medical doctors to obtain war victim benefits.
From life course research we know that early disadvantages are hard to compensate throughout the following decades. This juxtaposition of 2 cases localised in the neighbourhood of Hamburg demonstrates this with full force. Injustice at the early stage of the life course is not compensated but rather magnified through the handling of each case through the proceedings of “administrative justice” in the institution building in the first few decades of the Federal Republic of Germany. The “thick description” as a scientific method is a lesson in unfolding as well as later on unravelling injustice.

Air quality EU

On some days of the year there is a cumulative effect of bad influences on air quality in Europe. Cold winter temperatures increase emissions from heating. Outdated heating with coal, still important in Eastern Europe, causes high amounts of extra particles in the atmosphere. In January 2024 a train conductor strike in Germany irrespective of the good reasons for it, makes people take their cars. Road blockades by opponents to reducing diesel subsidies to agri-business add to the pollution situation on a specific day. Overall the population suffers and breathes additional amounts of cancerous particles. Particles settle as dust on crop producing soil, of which we all feed ourselves. This is a vicious circle, which we need to break in the interest of all of us, particularly for the more fragile people and children. The latter start to crowd the medical doctors with sometimes lacking the delivery of crucial medicines for this target group. Where do we go from here? Compromises are key, security of supply chain and allowing, not too much, time for transition periods.

source aqicn.com 2024-1-10

Museum Orga

The cathedrals of modernity are under permanent scrutiny. The discussion in Germany was sparked by a recommendation of the scientific advisory council to the federal government (Wissenschaftsrat) to separate the Prussian heritage museums and institutions (SPK) in Berlin into separate entities that have higher autonomy to shape their individual profiles. Too much hierarchy blocks innovation and openness to new approaches that might not fit an overriding instance of decision making. The arts and sciences as well as their libraries need substantial degrees of freedom to flourish in their specific cultural and societal environment. The same discussion is currently occupying Paris and France, since overall the visitors after the Covid-19 crises have not yet come back to the same levels. Digitalization has opened up new opportunities and potentials to reach new audiences. This needed new resources even at a time of budget constraints. Museums have started to take their social functions more seriously besides their role to preserve the cultural heritage. Economic thinking in terms of scarcity of art works, competition between museums and cities or countries for tourism have entered the stages as well. Prices of entry and quantities of visitors have become additional concerns in the organization of the museum landscape. A lot to cope with and to balance multiple policy targets. Accessibility of those treasures is key. Opening up to broader audiences is costly but crucial to provide the justification of the public funds allocated. Great to see more complementary private investment in this exciting field. The prominent archers in front of the Berlin museums have moved ahead into a new round of competition in the organization of museums.

Sleeping

Sleep is a process. That is why it is best to talk of sleeping rather than sleep. There exists abundant research on sleep and more and more acknowledge the process-like characteristics of sleep. The medical literature deals a lot with sleep apnoea, which constitutes a serious health condition. Time use surveys establish links between daily activities and sleeping for example. The social context is another influence on sleeping. Friends and family co-determine sleeping patterns as well. The latest better understood impact on sleeping depends on the use of technological devices before and during sleeping. Smart phones reveal themselves as not so smart if it comes to the quality of your sleep. At least this the result of the study on „bedtime technology use on sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness“. It yet another field in which technology is slowly creeping under our skin and we have to learn how to handle negative side effects before they endanger our physical as well as mental health. Bedtime routines or reading without a screen before falling asleep appears to be a worthwhile way to improve sleeping. Worth trying out again and again.