Heroines

In youth we are open for a wide range of influences. Heroines in children’s literature, picture book or cartoons look back on a long history as successful influencers. Creation, transmission and criticism of stereotypes are all part of the scientific reflection on heroines and heros. Nowadays, influencers have taken over picture books through the use of more compelling videos.
In the 1950s,1960s and 1970s picture books or cartoons dominated the influences before mass media like television became more absorbing, addictive and powerful influencers. Children’s books are passed on from one generation to next generation. The French-speaking world (and beyond BBC reference) has witnessed the success of the illustrated booklets of the young “Caroline” (Hachette) and “Martine” (Casterman) exploring the world. Parents passed on their collection to children and had their own parents read the stories to their grand children.
Well, that’s how intergenerational transmission of cultural heritage has worked for a long time. It describes the basic social mechanism. Nevertheless, new forms of influencing emerged with new technologies. Successful illustrated narratives like “Caroline” and “Martine“ were adapted as television series as well. In France you could chose your side of either explorations with Caroline and her group of animals or the adventures of Martine.
Ideally it would be an occasion for the families and friends to discuss pros and cons of each character and, thereby, become aware of what is a stereotype, at least at a later stage of the life course. Gender stereotypes have evolved and to observe 2 boys colouring Martine images in public (Brussels book fair 2024, image below) was a positive surprise. It almost felt like a real world experience of the AI-enabled Barbie explorations.

Wage Minimum

A wage at a minimum level is frequently lower than the minimum wage. Most EU countries have a legal minimum wage that should protect against poverty risks at low levels of wages. Over decades it has not yet been possible to raise all low wages to this level. Le Monde (Béatrice Madeline et Aline Leclerc) has published on April 3rd a comprehensive analysis of sectors and people concerned with this difficulty to make a decent living while earning the minimum wage. In France (La désmicardisation), as in many other countries, it is difficult to earn just a bit more as the minimum wage because both employers and employees may lose social benefits if they just earn some hundred € more than the legal minimum wage. For all those persons who do receive only a wage even below the minimum wage getting stuck in a poverty trap is very likely. The number of working hours is then often is the only option to make ends meet your needs. Put bluntly, you work additional hours and/or take a second job to complement the lack of earning a wage at the minimum level. Public procurement that makes the application of the minimum wage compulsory and controls this application effectively benefits society as a whole. Lots of infrastructure projects, urban and rural development receive public support. The conditionality to pay the minimum wage + X should be a „conditio sine qua non“. The millions of workers at the lower end of the wage distribution have a power at the ballot box, which continues to be underestimated in many European countries. The EP elections on June 9th will probably alert us about the lack of faith in a bettering of living and working conditions of those persons coping with wage minima.

Home Delivery of everything ! Working Conditions

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.

AI and S/he

There was hope that artificial intelligence (AI) would be a better version of us. Well, so far that seems to have failed. Let us take gender bias as a pervasive feature even in modern societies, let alone the societies in medieval or industrial age. AI tends to uphold gender biases and might even reinforce them. Why? A recent paper by Kotek, Dockum, Sun (2023) explains the sources for this bias in straightforward terms. AI is based on Large Language Models. These LLMs are trained using big detailed data sets. Through the training on true observed data like detailed data on occupation by gender as observed in the U.S. in 2023, the models tend to have a status quo bias.
This means they abstract from a dynamic evolution of occupations and the potential evolution of gender stereotypes over years. Even deriving growing or decreasing trends of gender dominance in a specific occupation the models have little ground for reasonable or adequate assessment of these trends. Just like thousands of social scientists before them. Projections into the future or assuming a legal obligation of equal representation of gender might still not be in line with human perception of such trends.
Representing women in equal shares among soldiers, 50% of men as secretaries in offices appears rather utopian in 2024, but any share in-between is probably arbitrary and differs widely between countries. Even bigger data sets may account for this in some future day. For the time being these models based on “true” data sets will have a bias towards the status quo, however unsatisfactory this might be.
Now let us just develop on this research finding. Gender bias is only one source of bias among many other forms of bias or discriminatory practices. Ethnicity, age or various abilities complicate the underlying “ground truth” (term used in paper) represented in occupation data sets. The authors identify 4 major shortcoming concerning gender bias in AI based on LLMs: (1) The pronouns s/he were picked even more often than in Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational gender representations; (2) female stereotypes were more amplified than male ones; (3) ambiguity of gender attribution was not flagged as an issue; (4) when found out to be inaccurate LLMs returned “authoritative” responses, which were “often inaccurate”.
These findings have the merit to provide a testing framework for gender bias of AI. Many other biases or potential biases have to be investigated in a similarly rigorous fashion before AI will give us an authoritarian answer, no I am free of any bias in responding to your request. Full stop.

Biographies

The biographies of painters, composers or artists in general can be reconstructed by use of their major works. The biography of René Magritte by Eric Rinckhout (2017) has chosen this way of a retrospective in images and explanatory texts. The biography is built around 50 major images starting with the first one by Magritte at the age of 28. “Les réveries du promeneur” (see below) deal with the confrontation of Magritte with death, suicide and the difficulty to find rational answers to all those questions of why this happens and what becomes of people who experience such a tragedy.
His own childhood was affected by such an event concerning his own mother who suffered from depression. Coping with the evolution of psychic illness over years and the absence of a supportive father have posed a steep challenge for the young person. Creation of art became a coping strategy as well as a relief for those who manage to eventually cross the bridge into their own life leaving behind the bad experiences. J.J. Rousseau was an influence on Magritte as well.
Finding your own destiny and your own style is a process. This process evolves over years. The chronological sequence of 50 images allows to follow the path taken. Thereby, it becomes possible to open up the personal learning and working trajectory of the artist. In retrospective perspective it seems often logical that one style or period of painting follows on from another one. However, in the forward living of the creative life many choices are heavily contingent on other circumstances. Influences of friends, exhibitions, reading, cinema, private or financial situations may determine the creative choices simultaneously or one at a time.
The chronological path of images writes a biography of a special kind. It allows to think in sequences just like in a sequence analysis as sociological methodology. Description, reconstruction, analysis, causality remain a challenge in our attempts to learn and understand more about biographies or the construction and reconstruction of life courses.

Zwangsarbeit

Die Annäherung an das Thema Zwangsarbeit ist nicht einfach. Auch heute prangern wir zu Recht Zwangsarbeit egal wo auf der Welt an. Die mit weitem Abstand grausamste und umfangreichste Durchführung von Zwangsarbeit haben die Nazis in Deutschland und von ihnen besetzten Gebieten vollzogen. Neben den Schrecken der Konzentrationslager mit dem millionenfachen Mord an Menschen jüdischer Abstammung ist die Aufarbeitung der Verbrechen in Zusammenhang mit der Zwangsarbeit lange in den Hintergrund getreten. Selbst die Zeitzeugen wie Francois Cavanna (2020, S. 10-11) vertraten die Ansicht, dass im Vergleich zu den Ermordungen und Kriegsopfern ihre Erfahrungen und Leiden im Zusammenhang mit der Zwangsarbeit in den Hintergrund traten. („… cela me rendit plus modéré dans l’expression de mes souffrances. … nous ne pouvons que fermer notre gueule. Ce que je fais. »).
Neben der systematischen Ermordungsmaschine der Konzentrationslager in der NS-Zeit verdient das millionenfache Leid und die Terrordrohungen und Anwendungen der Nazi gegenüber den ZwangsarbeiterInnen eine angemessene Bedeutung. Das Dokumentationszentrum NS Zwangsarbeit in Berlin Schöneweide bietet dafür eine hervorragende Ausgangsbasis. Die Ausstellung ist für alle Altersgruppen geeignet. Behutsamer Einstieg für Schulklassen ab der 5. Klasse und zum Nachdenken anregend für Erwachsene mit Informations- und Lerninteresse. Das Ausstellungskonzept mit seinen vielfältigen biografischen Materialien von Zeitzeugen erleichtert, neben der Faktenfülle, einen emotionalen Zugang zum Thema. Online lässt sich beispielsweise die Verteilung der Zwangsrekrutierten die Arbeitsdienst leisten mussten je nach Stadtviertel oder sogar Straße verfolgen (Link Datenbank und Map).
Die Löhne für deutsche ArbeiterInnen und Ost-ArbeiterInnen aus den osteuropäischen besetzten Gebieten waren fast zehnmal höher. Die in westlichen Besatzungsgebieten zwangsverpflichteten Personen oder selbst anfänglich mit scheinbar höheren Löhnen als vor Ort (Organisation Todt) üblich angeworbene Personen erfuhren die spätere Abwertung ihrer Entlohnung. Es bleibt die Betonung auf Zwang, Terror und Einschüchterung bei der Zwangsarbeit meistens in menschenunwürdigen Massenbaracken aus industrieller Massenproduktion. Einstieg in die Erfahrung: NS Zwangsarbeit Dokumenteationszentrum.

Police Violence

As a test of the viability of ChatGPT you might enter Police Violence. What you get in return is just a summary of some nice newspaper-ike editorial of a polite statement that this is a problem about everywhere and that the division of power will take care of it eventually. This is an unfair summary, but it highlights the risk of too many conservative editorialists in Europe that do not dare to take sides of the innocent youth that is at a permanent risk of police violence due them living on the margins of our modern, fast-moving societies that do not allow for lifestyles off-the-normal “protestant work ethic”.
Perceptions of what is fun and what is serious differ within societies, particularly between generations. Baby boomers have known and many experienced unemployment. Youth today has “precarious jobs” just around the corner. But just having “any” job without any career potential or,  at best, on the minimum wage is no longer enough. Social media show that there is much more to life than just a 8-5 normal job. High-streets are full of marketing tricks that solicit people into spending without cross-checking their red lines.
Police and the flourishing private security sector are then charged to ensure that boundaries of financial and spending power are respected. This is exactly where the capitalist market economy fails the people. Without a tough police, ensuring property rights, the system cannot survive. Social market economies claim to soften the borders between have-nots and have-too-much. This needs permanent readjustment. That is where many of our social market economies have failed the poor and even middle-class people threatened with economic and status decline (latest at time of retirement).
Reactions may turn out violent, and again, the police is sent in to “stop” violence. As it turns out police, being abused as “political weapon”, may then become overly violent as well. Not as an overall force, but specific units or just several individual persons who have been trained in anti-terror exercises and have “a license to kill” (007). French legislation has recently facilitated the use of guns to impose the monopoly of power. The probability of who constitutes a potential target might be interpreted by the police itself. A threatening situation is perceived differently by different persons. Too much room for interpretation.
The image of the French superpower that is threatened by a 17-year-old youngster is not credible. It is time to sharpen the control of the police also in France. ChatGPT only on special addition includes the social movement of “Black lives matter” in the return on police violence. If you know the topic you can make use of the AI tools in drafting on police violence for example. Rather than to spend billions on fancy Olympic Games in preparation for Paris 2024, youth programmes would be much better investments in the medium and long run.
Tourists cancel visits to Paris and France in masses already. That is probably the only lesson that receives sufficient attention in the current government and may lead to better control of violence not from some pick-pockets, but from the police as well.

 

Virtual Sociology

Abstracting from the real world, the world we live in today or we lived in some time ago, is either speculation or maybe contribute to theory building. Virtual sociology has this potential. Exploring virtual worlds as in Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR) allows us to take on new roles or experience a wider range of social interactions. This could be the strength of a new field of Virtual Sociology.
In the project in the Jewish Museum in Berlin the composition of a composer murdered by the Nazis in Germany was revived and played in the virtual setting of today’s concert halls. The novel by Kazuo IshiguroKlara and the Sun” explores the interaction of a child with her robot friend, when the AI becomes and/or replaces a friend. Virtual creations allow to explore and test more degrees of freedom of social interaction. Experimentation of new social spaces and different forms of interaction need to be explored. It allows a new form of sociology, maybe similar to the 1960s and 70s social revolutions we studied for years to come. Virtual sociology is not a sociology while being on drugs, however interesting this might be for some.
Virtual sociology takes sociology into the virtual world and investigates the new social relationships with avatars or care robots. In programming different social roles (managers, employees) we create new forms of interaction and have an observer within the social world. We may eventually test the Weberian claim of a value-free scientific method of the social sciences. This will inform our need to “supervise” or to guide algorithms that are claimed to do “value-free” execution of rules.
In fact, they don’t. They just reproduce the value system that is installed into them by a “careless” programme (song youtube). The social in virtual worlds is opportunity just as much as risk, but we have to analyse it systematically. As our technological and social environment changes, we have to adapt topics and methods to make meaningful scientific analyses as well.

Sociology of the Virtual

Some programmers and artists would have been a great sociologists. As many social sciences embark on their experimental reorientation, many artists and programmers design and experiment already with new forms of social interaction. It is not only that sociology leaves the classroom, research labs or policy advice. Sociology is taken into museums and exhibitions. Learning about society through the lens of artists nicely complements the more boring form of teaching in the classroom. What is normal practice for art historians could benefit learning about sociology as well.
Virtual worlds of games and particularly so-called serious games take people into virtual worlds to learn, practice or exercise new forms of social interaction. This is indeed an additional form of experiments that can enrich our social practices. Medical applications start to spread to train persons to overcome phobia of all sorts.
In usual games we tend to defend the hypothesis that persons can uphold the differentiation of playing with arms in the virtual world and the real world. In medical or social games, we defend the hypothesis that it is easy, normal or natural to apply the learning in virtual constellations to the real-world-experience.
From a scientific perspective it is difficult to defend that a mechanism works in one direction and the opposite as well. Racing cars in inner cities seems to show that certainly not all of youth is able to make that distinction between virtual and real-world dangers for example. Alternatively, the mechanism at work might be that the virtual experiences lower thresholds of inhibition to take risks, to kill or to be exposed to spiders.
These examples are a starting point for a sociology of virtual experiences. Who gets locked into virtual worlds? Are virtual worlds an escape room or a realization of virtual freedom which is restrained in real life. Authoritarian regimes might lead more people to emigrate into virtual, free worlds. The inner-exile has been a refuge for many artists in the past. A lot we shall need to hypothesise and explore with empirical data. Dance with a virtual stranger might be the beginning of a new experience and virtual interactions. (Image: Wiels, Shezad Dawood, Night in the Garden of Love 2023-6, Game car race).

Political theory and inflation

A political theory in the area political economy is prone to be labelled as classical, neo-classical, Keynesian, Neo- or Post-Keynesian or heterodox economics. This is a university level course in the history of economic ideas, if you like this. Let’s try something creative here. We have unprecedented levels of inflation currently in Europe and many other parts of the world. Reasons for this are higher prices for energy, transportation and food. Anything else you need for life? You must be an artist or a priest, a bit off the normal, it seems to many economists. Add to this that, we want to foster strategic autonomy in Europe rather than anything from China that is cheaper and more polluting. In 2023 we have inflation stay with us for some years. Central banks give out warnings in this direction now as well, having negated the problem for far too long (their own statistics ECB on long-term forecasts of inflation).
Besides the ample economic advice (IMF), depending on which theory of money and the economy you adhere to, political theory allows a refreshing perspective on these economic facts and trajectories. (1) From an international strategic perspective, countries that have to renegotiate a lot of their debt or take new credits to finance imported food, energy or transport will run into insolvency rather quickly. Self-sufficiency becomes an economic asset not only a geo-strategic one. Turn around globalisation is a side-effect.
(2) Countries eager to build new public infrastructure, irrespective of concerns for bio-diversity, might reschedule or abandon huge projects, thereby reducing their CO2 footprint. This reduces the official counting of GDP, but has beneficial effects to save the planet in the medium term.
(3) Individuals and households will have to reconsider their consumption patterns: more expenditure for food, less for energy and/or transport. Behavioural changes might be induced by inflation. Less of some form of consumption, guided by inflation, will induce reductions in CO2 most likely as well.
So far this is only applied economic theory as in any textbook. A more challenging political economy question is to ask: can we come to like inflation? Can we change our preference set (ECB growth dogma) for economic variables? Southern countries in Europe seem to like inflation more than the North. Does this depend on historical experiences or is it cultural or personality trait? There is again a huge money transfer due to inflation within the Eurozone. The less indebted countries pay with loss of their purchasing power of their savings and indirectly pay for the highly indebted countries mainly in the South. European and international solidarity will be put to a tough test.
As governments fear of being voted out of power they tend to soften the price signals from markets. Again, it is cultural more than economic to what extent people are willing to accept state interference in economic affairs even of households need for food. From an ecological point of view inflation could be our friend due to the potential to induce behavioural changes. However, more expensive bio-products seem to get crowded out due to further price rises and many even middle-income households seem to return to cheaper non-bio food in many countries. The distributive effects of inflation are a major issue here. Same rationale seems to apply to transport. If you can no longer afford CO2 saving transport by train, since it has become overly expensive more people are likely to take a heavily polluting low-cost flight to your holiday location.
Hence, from a political economy perspective liking inflation might well turn out to be a rich, white man’s perspective on the economy as the global South is likely to suffer most having no resources left to invest in energy and CO2 -saving in general. Price signals may induce behavioural changes for the better of us all. However, the story it is not only about allocation of resources, but also about distribution. There we should embrace a renewal of trade union strength to correct imbalances in the distribution of earnings as the basis for consumption and investment of households as well. (Image: Tapta, at Wiels Gallery in Brussels, 2023-6, mostly untitled work, one with title: on the edge of time).

Recht auf Wohnen

Das Recht auf Wohnen ist ein Grundrecht.
Grundrechte sind nicht verhandelbar, so wie die unveräußerlichen Menschenrechte. Selbst unsere Wohlstandsgesellschaften tun sich recht schwer damit, ein einfaches Wohnrecht für alle zu verwirklichen. Ganz besonders in Städten, die eine hohe und stetig steigende Nachfrage nach Wohnungen verzeichnen. Da will viel geplant und gebaut werden. Dennoch läuft das Angebot an Wohnungen der Nachfrage ständig hinterher.
Nicht überall (nur ein kleines Dorf in Gallien). Weite Landstriche leiden am beständigen Fortzug von Jungen, die eine noch stärker alternde Einwohnerschaft auf dem Lande zurücklassen.
Das atemberaubende Großstadtleben hat viele Vorzüge. Bildung, Wissenschaft, Kultur, internationale Unternehmen und höhere Toleranzschwellen. Nach solchen Erfahrungen fällt die beengte Dorfgemeinschaft schwer, selbst wenn viel Platz, Luft,Wasser und Wohnraum preiswert zur Verfügung stehen. Gute Verkehrsanbindung des ländlichen Raumes an die Innenstädte mit ihrem vielfältigen Angebot ist ein zentraler Lösungsbaustein. Das Häusle in der Vorstadt, abends in die Oper, morgens im See nackt baden und mittags nach Smoothie im Himalaya Restaurant vegetarisch speisen. Die neue Bohème gleich in vielen Aspekten den Eliten der 20er Jahre. Schön und gut.
Die Kehrseite der Medaille (Avers – Revers) waren die großen Wohnungsbaugesellschaften der 10er und 20er Jahre, beispielsweise in Berlin, die für wachsenden und erschwinglichen Wohnraum sorgten. Die großen Firmen der Epoche haben bei den neuen Siedlungen kräftig mitgeholfen. Es gab Zeiten, da haben Arbeitervereine und Gewerkschaften gemeinsam in die Hände gespuckt und sich staatlich unterstützt, preiswerten Wohnraum selbst geschaffen. Eine Gefahr von Korruption besteht, kann aber kontrolliert werden.
Die Herausforderung durch die hohe Inflation steht im Untertitel des Zeitungsartikels der Berliner Zeitung: „Die sinkende Reallohnentwicklung“ führt zu zusätzlichen Ängsten und realer Bedrohung für die vielen Geringverdiener, Arbeitslosen und Integrationsbedürftigen. Das braucht rasche Antworten, nicht nur von den Parteien, die „sozial“ in ihrem parteipolitischen Namen führen. Obwohl, schnell geht im Bauwesen selten etwas. Großspurige Ankündigungen werden nur selten eingehalten, besonders bei Wohnungsbauprojekten. Das Recht auf Wohnen bleibt ein Beispiel für die Notwendigkeit und für die Herausforderungen einer sozialen Marktwirtschaft.

Touraine

Alain Touraine hat die französische Soziologie entscheidend geprägt. Aus seiner außergewöhnlichen Biografie wird rasch ersichtlich, wie er nicht nur seine Leben, sondern auch seine Art der Soziologie „von untern“, vom Individuum her, gedacht hat. Gerade der Prozess der Subjektivierung, die Autonomie des Subjekts betonende Sichtweise bildet ein Gegengewicht zu dem systemischen Blick auf Gesellschaft, beispielsweise von Luhmann. Soziale Bewegungen, die auf dem Engagement von Personen gründen, sind unverzichtbarer Bestandteil von Demokratien.
Neben Begriffen wie die post-industrielle Gesellschaft oder neue soziale Bewegungen hat Alain Touraine weit mehr als die “Sociologie du Travail” in Frankreich geprägt. Bereits seine Dissertation über « L’Évolution du travail ouvrier aux usines Renault“ in 1955 unterstrich sein Interesse an den Lebensverhältnissen der arbeitenden Bevölkerung. Der Umfang seiner soziologischen Studien, die schon früh große Umfragen beinhalteten, war im besten Sinne des Wortes problem-orientiert, besser noch politik-orientiert. Dabei übernahm er immer Verantwortung, seine Lösungsansätze politikberatend einzubringen.
Die Würdigung von Alain Touraine in einer Podcastserie von 5 x ½ Stunde aus 2019 bei France Culture gibt einen groben Überblick über die prägende Wirkung von Alain Touraine jenseits von seinen soziologischen Arbeiten. An dieser Persönlichkeit wird zusätzlich deutlich, wie sprachliche Grenzen, selbst in den Köpfen von soziologiebetreibenden Forschenden selbst im 21. Jahrhundert fortwirken. Das hat selbst Alain Touraine mit gut 90 Jahren an sich kritisiert. Asiatische, arabische und afrikanische Denkanstöße kamen wenig in seinem Werk vor. Vielleicht reicht ein Leben nicht dafür, zumindest die Zugänglichkeit der Weltliteratur hat sich erheblich erweitert. Bleibt die Frage nach der Zeit und dem Willen, sich auch andere Denkgebäude, -begrifflichkeiten und -kulturen zu erarbeiten.

Sei ganz ruhig

Sei ganz ruhig. So heißt das kurze Gedicht von Angela Krauß und auch die erste Zeile. Es hat mich seit einiger Zeit schon begleitet.
Gerade der Eintrag zum Himalaya und den Besteigenden des Mount Everest hat mir die Zeilen erneut in Erinnerung gebracht. Für einige wenige besteht das Leben immer noch aus Sensationen. Immer höher, immer weiter, immer schneller. Dabei wissen wir, unser Planet hält das nicht aus.
Unsere Einkaufsmeilen suggerieren uns ein Übermaß an verpassten Gelegenheiten, wenn wir jetzt nicht zugreifen. FOMO (fear of missing out) ist allgegenwärtig und ein viel zu erfolgreiches Marketingkonzept, dem sich kaum eine Person entziehen kann. Die Selbsteinschätzung der Zeit, die uns verbleibt bis zum Tod (perceived time till death) oder unseres spezifischen Sterblichkeitsrisikos bezüglich Vermeidbarkeit oder allgemeinem Risiko, beeinflusst „unbewusst“ unser Verhalten. In Vergangenheit verhaftet sein, ist keine Lösung. Das Leben wird vorwärts gelebt, und rückblickend verstanden.
Bei einem gelegentlichen Rückblick wird vielen bewusst, es hat sich viel angesammelt (nicht nur im Keller). Aber mehr, muss es nicht werden, anders schon, besser vielleicht. Als Hommage an Angela Krauß mal ein 7-Zeiler, beeinflusst von der Konferenz im Europäischen Parlament „Beyond Growth“ im Mai 2023. Ruhig werden und ruhig bleiben, sollten wir beständig versuchen.  Klein- statt Großschreibung, flache Hierarchien, Gleichstellung bei Wörtern und Sätzen. Warum noch Satzzeichen? Denk dir deine Welt, wiedewiede wie sie dir gefällt.

bleib ruhig
bleib einfach ruhig
la vie est belle tel quel
hab keine angst was zu verpassen
es bleiben jahre zu verweilen
schau mal umher
da ist viel

Indigo Waves

Indigo“ is an almost mystical colour. Its deep blue nature refers to profoundness and in combination with oceans to a surprisingly still largely unexplored world of biodiversity. Additionally, in association with endlessly forthcoming and retreating waves, indigo reveals its many possible shades. Oceans separate or link continents and it is this feature of Oceans which is explored in the exposition “Indigo Waves and Other Stories” (Gropiusbau). Beyond our all to common focus on the transatlantic relationships, “Indigo Waves” explores the links between the African and Asian continents. Embarking on a new narrative for the Afrasian Sea, i.e. the Indian Ocean, we are taken to new horizons through the continuous challenge to our value systems, comprehension of art, poetry or culture more generally. The exposition, through multiple challenges, succeeds in displacing us into the context of other perspectives. Following Oscar Murillo, imagine to view the water roses from Claude Monet (Les Nymphéas) from below the surface. What do you expect? In Europe? Near a barrier reef in the Indian Ocean? Beauty is often not visible at first sight, yet it is co-determined by the currents that build and potentially destroy it (compare photo from exhibition below). The balance of social ecosystems is easily messed-up just like the beauty of ecosystems in nature. “Indigo Waves and other stories” tells us other versions of the colonial stories most of our history books told us for centuries. It is an eye-opening exposition, but probably not the way we expect. Following a poem towards the end of the exhibition by Tishani Doshi “Do not go out in the storm”, we are drawn into the ambiguity of our existence irrespective of the continent of origin. Jack Beng-Thi preserves a poem from Jean Joseph Rabearivelo in his artistic book creation and installation to bring to light “indigo waves”. “vos yeux clignotent dans l’azur, et je les appelle : étoiles. ” (Translated suggestion: “your eyes blink in the blue sky, and I call them: stars).

Archer

The Archer is a recurrent topic in art. We find lots of examples around in Berlin just as in front of the National Gallery. Historical references are manifold, too. The exhibition in the Martin-Gropius-Bau with works by Daniel Boyd adds temporarily 3 paintings. But wait, beyond this shared anthropological phenomenon across continents, this exhibition challenges our western, imperialist perspective on human existence.
Please take of your shoes, at first entry into the museum entry hall. Unsettling for most of us, we are continuously confronted with our narrow perspectives on perceptions. Poetics, philosophies, perceptions and cultures are all to easily classified and devalued.
This exhibition achieves to surpass our traditional western concept and empathy for land, room, light, air and water. Eurocentric narratives still dominate the world of art and art history.  Daniel Boyd manages to unsettle this through his relentless effort to differentiate from this narrow perspective. Aiming for a difficult to accomplish solidarity across resistance movements, he highlights the common injustice “First Nation People” had to go through. These original inhabitants of continents claim their right to own languages, customs and spiritual or spatial perception. It remains a challenge to start to like the notion of opacity (Éduard Glissant) rather than our western aim for transparency, associated with the enlightenment philosophical tradition. The archers in Boyd’s work aim into the, maybe opaque water, maybe clouds, maybe into the twilight. It sometimes seems more like a ritual than a weapon. Family histories find their way into his works based on photographs of grandparents. The images are different from our conventional depictions of First Nation people, just to highlight the limitations of our western photographer’s eye and mind.

Printing

Printing is a more than 5 century-old industry. The invention of the printing press is mostly attributed to Johannes Gutenberg from Mainz. However, the Asian precursor of mobile type letter printing of Cai Lun of the Jikji dates back to 1377 in Korea. These early masterpieces of the inventors of print can be inspected at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). The summary term for this technical innovation by historians is the “age of start-ups”. The procedure for Gutenberg to have 2 financing rounds with his “business angel” Johann Fust, who is later claiming even almost the full rights of the printed volumes, resembles the start-up spirit of today as much as that of the 15th century. Not belonging to the Patrician families, it was very difficult to defend your rights in courts of the gilds. The printers also became a very powerful intermediary themselves. They either sold pre-ordered books or had to take the risk of assessing the market for their product. The editors of today do much the same in the trading world of books and rights of authors and translators. Merchandising products of the church and later churches (protestants Luther Bible) had a particular value to both the clergy and its devotees, not to mention the shop keepers in-between as well. Pilgrimage business was another start-up industry still going strong in the 20th and 21st century and popular in all religions. The early prints and typographs applied are fascinating  in themselves, but there is a lot to be learned about the foundation of a new industries that still employs millions of people and is at the origin of learning revolution similar to the one we are living with the digital technologies today. The European languages with respect to printing had a certain competitive advantage, based on 26 letters of the alphabet, far fewer types were needed to print books than the more than a thousand different signs for printing a Korean text. In terms of printing this is cost-reducing and probably you do not need to be able to read yourself to be a printer or it makes proof reading more accessible favouring benefit margins. After all, the age of industrialisation probably had a precursor in the printing industry. The potential of the printing industry was only exploited much later to the full extent. Comparable to “peak oil” we hope to have reached “peak paper” at last as well for the sake of our planet and our own survival.

Architecture

Architecture is all around us. However, we rarely consider the build environment as “conditioning” feature of our life. Architecture is contributing extensively to our perception of “social space” (Bourdieu). Inner cities, suburbs or spacious residential areas have diverse impacts on our perception of, for example, security, modernity, health or sanitary sensations. The corona-crisis has made it clear to most people that a healthy environment is a very essential part of our perception of comfort. Here the psycho-social perception of living and/or working space enters into the co-creation of housing people. Technology is a big driver of change in housing, urban spaces and rural imagination. In order to avoid corona infections a new culture of working from home for the masses become a health-driven imperative. Payment without contact, home delivery of meals, food, books, medicine have changed the living style of many people. Too little movement for our bodies has caused another silent pandemic of obesity. Enough reasons to rethink architecture from a sociological perspective on it. This probably starts with speaking of architecture as architectures. By this we mean to think of architecture from its social origins, functions, impacts and perceptions. Great historical examples of architects have implicitly or explicitly formulated a social theory of architecture or space as the basis of their “concrete” realisations. The sociology of professions of architects and the many construction-related professions needs empirical foundation beyond the cliché of socialisation as artist versus technician. Still recent forms of participatory democracy as part of urban and rural planning as well as realisations. Participatory individual or community housing are likely to stay with us. People want to get involved in co-creating their living and working space as their social environment. Architecture as social process and specific layer of the network society will be the new mantra. It has always been there, implicitly. Up to us to strengthen the social discourse on architecture.

Wasser im Wald

Wasser im Wald hat viele Funktionen. Historisch erleichterten Wasserstellen an denen sich Wildtiere genüsslich im Morgengrauen laben, die Jagd des erschöpften Monarchen. Einfache Ziele, die jeder Jagende sich zu nutzen machen kann. Kleine Seen dienen aber auch als Wasservorrat beim Löschen von Waldbränden und nicht nur den Badenden im Sommer. Viele kleine Seen in Frankreich leiden an erheblicher Wasserknappheit. Wasserstände, die sonst im Spätsommer erreicht wurden, nach Trockenheit und Verdunstung, sind im Frühjahr 2023 berreits erreicht. Ein Waldbrand könnte kaum mit vor Ort vorhandenen Wasserreserven gelöscht werden. So hängen Feuer und Wasser im Wald recht eng zusammen. Austrocknende Seen vernichten zusätzlich die Biodiversität im Wasser, denn weniger Lebensraum im Wasser hat Konsequenzen. Das heizen mit den Motorrädern im Wald, hab ich selbst gemacht vor vielen Jahren, ist heute eh schon verboten. Aber Verbote und Jugend sind ein eigenes Thema. Wir haben der Jugend die Freiräume geraubt, die wir noch hatten und jetzt beschweren wir uns über die stubenhockenden Jugendlichen mit ihren Computerspielen und Social-Media-Aktivitäten!?! Ein völliges Überdenken des Wassermanagements ist von Nöten. Das sind wir den nachfolgenden Generationen schuldig. Welche Arroganz besitzen wir, dass die Jugendlichen von Heute viel klüger und noch schneller erwachsen sein sollen als wir selbst in diesem Alter. Aus Fehlern lernen wir, aber wir scheinen das Lernen, den späteren Generationen überlassen zu wollen. Leider funktioniert das so nicht, wir müssen schon an unser Verhalten ran und von uns verursachte Schäden selbst reparieren. Das Fegefeuer brennt schon, ob wir es noch rechtzeitig löschen können?   

Schaukel

Sagt die Lehrperson zur Schulklasse: Stellen wir uns alle jetzt mal alle eine Schaukel vor. Wie sieht die Schaukel denn so aus? Was gibt da so drumherum? Könntet Ihr nun bitte versuchen, die Schaukel auf ein Blatt Papier zu malen? Jeder hat seinen Bleistift und einige Buntstifte dabei. Einfach mal versuchen, es gibt keine Noten dafür. Es soll Spaß machen und wer möchte kann sein Bild anschließend den anderen zeigen. Schön, sofort wird es ganz laut in der Klasse und alle legen los. Naja, fast alle, das stille Mädchen aus einer der hinteren Bänke stockt und wirkt unruhig. Sie ist erst seit einigen Monaten in der Klasse und spricht noch nicht wirklich wie die anderen die Ortssprache. Da liegt wohl an der langen Reise, die die nicht mehr ganz so Kleine hinter sich hat. Die meisten Jungen und Mädchen erklären zugleich recht lautstark welche Schaukel sie malen werden. Die vom Garten hinterm Haus, vom Spielplatz nebenan oder sogar die Schaukel unterm Baumhaus im angrenzenden Waldstück. Bei den meisten Kindern steht rasch die Schaukel nicht mehr im Mittelpunkt der Kurzgeschichten, sondern die Freunde oder Kinder mit denen sie gemeinsam schaukeln. Nur unser stilles Mädchen erinnert sich mehr an ihren Reiseweg, bis sie dort in dieser schönen bunten Schule angekommen war. Das waren viele Stationen, von denen sie gar nicht erzählen möchte oder gar ein Bild malen möchte. Die meisten Erinnerungen war so, dass sie diese lieber für sich behalten wollte. Zu weit weg waren sie von den aufgeregten Erzählungen und fantastischen Geschichten der anderen MitschülerInnen. Doch dann hatte sie doch ein Bild vor Augen. Ein Spielplatz in einer großen Stadt, Berlin genannt, ist ihr in Erinnerung geblieben. Als sie diese Schaukel grob, ohne Farbe nur mit Bleistift auf das Blatt skizzierte, keiferte der Banknachbar schon: So sieht doch keine Schaukel aus! Die Neue kann noch nicht mal eine Schaukel malen. Das stille Mädchen blieb weiter still, wusste sie doch genau, dass ihre Schaukel eine Überraschungsschaukel war. In der großen fremden Stadt war ihr diese Schaukel aufgefallen, denn sie war fast so schön, wie die Schaukel an dem starken Ast des Baumes, im Garten ihrer Großeltern. Dadurch verknüpften sich ihre vielschichtigen Erinnerungen zu einem Bild. 

Monitor SDGs7

The complete monitoring of the SDGs of the UN for global development shows a surprisingly large coverage of topics. The search function is indiscriminate of some contradictions or returns the same entry twice like in sustainable industry. However, the simple check reveals frequent and less frequent entries. Entries  1 = Poverty, 6 = Water and 14 + 15 = Life on  Land and in Water received less attention. The agenda for the coming weeks is set.

 

Goals SDGs

The Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) date back to 2015 for their enactment. The goal setting is a routine procedure for the UN and its subsidiary international organisations. This makes a lot of sense, because if you do not name the problems, you are unlikely to address them in a systematic fashion. Quantifying the goals is then a much more difficult task and that then already part of the ensuing discussion about idealist, illusive or realist goals. Most diplomatic exchanges focus on this goal setting and scheduled monitoring as well as more comprehensive evaluations of goal achievement. The SDGs comprise another strategic twist. Rather than concentrating on national governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses were encourages to actively participate in the implementation of the goals. After more than 7 years the achievements of intended improvements should become visible. Well, goal setting and monitoring over the last seven years is likely to reveal failure on several of the 17 indicators. Covid-19, disruption of supply chains, wars causing recessions and high inflation are major factors to explain failure. However, knowing the reasons of failure is a substantial part of improving in the next coming years. Returning to cooperation rather than confrontation could do the trick. Even after wars cooperation to organise relief is the only way forward to come closer to achieving the SDGs.
Bold initiatives like the Marshall-Plan for Europe in the 20th century made it possible to rise from the ashes. Countries that have been in ruins at that time, now have important roles as financial contributors to support other regions. The goals remain the same, the challenges as well.

On Noise

The 3 authors Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, Cass R. Sunstein have published in 2021 the impressive attempt to sell statistics to non-statisticians. The grip on the topic: “Noise. A Flaw in Human Judgment” is a bit misleading. Even the German translation (“Was unsere Entscheidungen verzerrt”), in my opinion, is grossly misleading. The work deals with judgment, or arriving at a sensible judgment. Decision-making is only the next step with a lot of other intervening processes. The German philosophical term since the enlightenment period has been “Urteilskraft“. We are all more or less familiar with the notion “bias” in judgment. Me, originating from the Moselle, will always be biased in favor of a Riesling compared to other vines. In addition to this naive bias I may apply a more professional judgment on wine. Testing several wines even from the same small area from the Moselle valley and then repeating the tasting I might make a noisy judgment.  “When wine experts at a major US wine competition tasted the same wines twice, they scored only 18% of the wines identically (usually, the very worst ones).” (p. 80). In addition to the previously defined form of “level noise, pattern noise and system noise” (p.77), we have occasion noise, when judgments vary from an overall statistical perspective.
Having received a second dose of a vaccination yesterday and having spent an unpleasant night my judgment for this review might be biased, because of impatience. So in order to reduce bias and variants of noise I shall repeat the review at a later stage. Let’s see what this returns. But for today, the Epilogue “A less noisy world” (p.377) appears rather odd to me. It is probably an illusion to believe that we can create a less noisy world, even with the best of wishes. The authors abstract from any strategic use of noise to influence judgments. The political form of choosing judges for Constitutional Courts in the U.S. needs to be dealt with. Noise in judgments is an important element, but strategic use of bias might be more influential to impact outcomes. Noise, when faced with a judge who has a reputation to be very tough in sentences might be overturned in an appeal court decision. There are plenty of procedural ways to overcome noise in judgments. I agree with the authors that you better know about the noise in judgments than ignore it. Awareness of random errors and noise involved in grading exams and recruitment decisions have determined many excellent “failures” to leave historic contributions to our world. In music, maths or literature some splendid talents probably have been impeeded at earlier stages of their life to make average or normal careers. Some of them left us with fantastic pieces thanks to the noise in judgment of others.
There seems to be an age bias in the tolerance of noise in the acoustic sense. Noise in the statistical sense has left a strong mark on me when I learned about white noise as error or stochastic process.
Image Kahneman, Sibony, Sunstein 2021. p3.

Technology

Over the 20th century technology has pushed forward in many fields. As there were huge investments needed the public campaigns to support new technology without much further reflection of potential consequences have pulled many western societies into risky technologies. Except the Club of Rome there were very few to question the naïve beliefs that technological change will make societies rich and potentially even more equal. The recent report “Climate Inequality Report 2023: Unequal Contributions to Climate Change” has debunked both of these claims. More flying across the planet, particularly short city hopping, has allowed few persons to reap the benefits of the jet-set world, but contributed to climate change in excessive quantities. This is a fact when we compare major world regions among each other as well as within each country. It has to be the wealthy countries that have to shoulder the biggest share of the costs. It has to be the wealthy that pay higher contributions for their pollution. Society has to reign in technology more than ever before. Moreover, we still have to get the income and pollution distribution organised in a better way. It is not only an implementation challenge, but the major question of the 21st century to repair the damage largely caused throughout the 20th century.

20th Century

The 20th century has told us many lessons. History does not repeat itself, but it appears that new variants of old themes keep coming back. Slowly passing the century like a movie in decades instead of episodes, we witness socio-emotional tides. The first decade, the 00s intensify the beginning of urban planning and social revolutions. The 10s show the arousal and subsequent extinction of masses of people in trenches. The 20s were described as the Carefree Twenties. In the 30s we observed the rising tides of fascist organisations followed shortly afterwards by the disastrous 40s. After the Shoah and the World War the 50s were fabulous viewed from the U.S. and Western Europe. The 60s propagated sex, drugs and rock n’ roll spreading across continents. The wild 70s became almost inescapable through the continued rise of mass media. The 80s were depicted as the colourful 80s as the 2 previous decades had set the scene for psychedelic colours. The 1990s have been coined as the gay 90s by some. Coming out as a gay person became easier and Western societies more sensitive and open to diversity. The back cover of the recent publication by Aurélien Bellanger “Le vingtième siècle” (The 20th century) speaks of the book as “roman polyphonique virtuose”. I look back on the 20th century as “polyphone” in many respects. It would be an illusion to believe we can only keep the nice sounding harmonies without the tensions or dissonances.

Aphorismen L2

“Man soll öfters dasjenige untersuchen, was von den Menschen meist vergessen wird, wo sie nicht hinsehen und was so sehr als bekannt angenommen wird, dass es keiner Untersuchung mehr wert geachtet wird.“ (Lichtenberg S. 50). Eine eindrückliche Warnung sich nicht nur den großen Wellen und Wogen der Öffentlichkeit oder der Wissenschaften hinzugeben. Wo viele nicht hinschauen oder bewusst wegsehen, da gibt es meist einiges zu ergründen. Die Soziologie der kleinen Dinge, der Alltagsgegenstände bringt faszinierende Erkenntnisse hervor. Nehmen wir nur einmal die Bekleidung beim Kochen. Von der Kittelschürze zum gestylten Outfit für die Kochshow zum Gesellschafts-cooking“ haben sich Kleidungsstücke und Berufe in ihrer Funktionalität gewandelt. Dem Anlass entsprechend wird sich gekleidet. Kochen ist von den Hinterzimmern mancherorts ins Zentrum der Gesellschaft mutiert. Wertschätzung von Handwerk und delikate Zubereitung sollten Rekrutierung erleichtern. Bleibt nur noch die Arbeit drumherum. Einkaufen, Einräumen, Einweichen, Abtrocknen, Aufräumen. Die Arbeit geht uns nicht aus, sie verändert sich nur. Wertschätzung der kleinen Aktivitäten, desjenigen, „was von den Menschen meist vergessen wird, wo sie nicht hinsehen“ kann so aufschlussreich sein. Hinschauen und Verstehen lernen bleibt angesagt. Lichtenberg weiter: „Man frage sich selbst, ob man sich die kleinsten Sachen erklären kann; dieses ist das einzige Mittel, sich ein rechtes System zu formieren, seine Kräfte zu erforschen und seine Lektüre sich nützlich zu machen.“ Aphorismen können ein ganzes Forschungsprogramm auf den Punkt bringen und so die kleinsten Beiträge noch als nützlich erweisen. (Foto: Schreibatelier von George Sand in Nohant).