Mastodon

In the Post-Twitter-world there is room for other platforms to take over the information function and opinion exchange on an international level. Mastodon has made a good start to fill this gap. The number of registered users has surpassed the 10 million users by large. If the anger about the union-busting and Trump supporter Elon Musk increases further, more and more people will join Mastodon as users and content providers. Advertisers will follow where they can reach their appropriate audiences. If you sell seats on a spacecraft to the moon you will advertise on eXit-Twitter. If you care about responsible investment you advertise on elsewhere or on Mastodon, because that is where your audience will be. Ethically responsible advertisers started to make such moves already. The decentralised structure to potentially filter human rights violating hate messages will need to grow accordingly on this platform. This is a challenge for all platforms and involves costs. To better understand the idea behind Mastodon, think of a platform which connects many other local networks or platforms. Yes, it is a platform of platforms. Decentralised instances provide and can remove access to the local platform. Even whole sub-platforms might be shut out. This increases the potential to build a “caring platform”. Decentralised organisation often incurs higher costs than a central instance that decides and administers a one-size fits all solution. But it is worth a try.
An example makes is more clear, what are the advantages of such decentral organisation to achieve more shielded privacy. For example, a small local chess club targeting primarily youth can open its own server on mastodon and admit only its known members to the network. It is easy to control who gets access to your posts of solutions to riddles or innovative game and learning strategies. Access to other Mastodon instances is an additional option. For enterprises or larger organisations, it needs the communication department to talk to the IT-service to get such a structure on its way. A dedicated person needs to monitor what content gets posted and what kind of “traffic” is generated. But this can largely be automated. In case you know your members of the local platform it is much less likely to occur than on the eXit-Twitter or other centralised huge international platforms.
Many federated structures will find it useful and part of their social-DNA to join the FEDIVERSE. We shall have to wait for some more time to get the so-called social media platforms civilised. These are social investments and learning processes which deviate from the profit-maximising rationale of other platforms. (Image: screenshot from @mastodon-user on 2023-11-30).

Civil Protection

A lot of important activities do not receive the attention they deserve. During a humanitarian crisis, Europe frequently acts with varying involvement of Member States. This holds true in droughts, inundations, earth quakes, civil wars or imperialist state conflicts. The extent and time of commitment are an additional and differentiating element. Coordination of such activities is important for those wanting to help and those asking or receiving assistance. Efforts, equipment and political support vary enormously as well. There is a need to approach this topic more strategically. The Union Civil Protection Knowledge Network (UCPKN) goes a long way to attempt to find a common language, data infrastructure and responses in this respect. It surely is important to go beyond the piecemeal approach of the past to be able to address emergencies in multiple kinds more effectively. It is, however, also in some instances a highly controversial issue as well. For each term in this old (Tschernobyl nuclear disaster) and still novel field (Fukushima) for joint activities, we have to come up with compromises of definitions.
For example, what constitutes an emergency? Does the climate crisis and disasters related to it already constitute an emergency now? Some say yes, we have to act now to avoid bigger floods and wild fires as of next year. Others, do not want to tackle the root causes, but rather focus on curing actual devastating effects of disasters.
We are back to a well-known topic of preventive rather than curative approaches. In the meantime, we are convinced that we have to commit more resources to both approaches: immediate relief and structural change to prevent an otherwise never-ending sequence of disasters in varying places.
Most important probably is the keeping of address books and fast digital networking facilities to react and communicate with the competent institutions and civil organisations. Beyond the involvement and linking of experts in the field, the larger public and volunteers make up for additional invaluable resources to act.
It is crucial to make it possible for decentral links between cities like in city partnerships to be involved. Building on existing human to human links motivates and mobilises huge additional resources. Of course, continuous training is a very important element in all those efforts. We should embrace it in the private and public sector, at school and in retirement even. (Image: Extrait de Peter Paul Rubens La chute des géants MRBAB, Brussels)

Art to People

It is a timely move to not only rely on people to come to exhibitions or a museum, but for art and artists to go towards people. Advertising exhibitions is a first step in this direction. As photography and selfies are all around us, it is a small step to get more people interested in art through photography. The treasures of archives and libraries complement the markets for art and photography. Susan Sontag has taught us the social sciences related to photography. Learning by looking is just like the well-known learning by-doing.

The BnF in Paris is advertising at the Gare de l’Est in Paris. Passing by the board might inspire thousands of travelers and commuters to stop for an instant. Eventually being bothered and to take notice of the intriguing image or images in this reproduction of a photograph or maybe 2 blended ones. A few might note down the address or take a screenshot with their mobile camera to remember. All these instances enlarge the audience for the exhibition or motivate people to go beyond the quick shot with their smartphone camera. The artwork related to photography mostly starts after the first shot. It is in fact sometimes quite a long journey to come up with the final image. Just go for it.

Gare de l’Est Paris 2023-11 BnF exhibition

Publishing in War

The right to publish without censorship is one of the first rights that suffers during wars. This has been the case since warfare has used communication as a strategic weapon. Therefore, it is important to research the often, subtle forms of control and censorship applied before and particularly during each war. The printed press was the prime target due to the scope of readers that can be reached timely and repetitively. From the history of how to silence critical voices we can learn about the proceedings, which even today find lots of authoritarian regimes copying these methods.
Using many illustrations from the 1st and 2nd world war in Belgium, 3 major forms of resistance to censorship become apparent. (1) The most obvious is closing down a newspaper rather than endure censorship and thereby being forced to contribute to war propaganda. (2) With risk to their own life, many people in the resistance movements relied on information to actively counter the worsening conditions of life and oppression of opinions or criticisms. (3) The third way at these times consisted in quitting the active contributions, but it incurred the danger that in fact the newspaper continued to appear as before, although with lenient journalists and editors. Today we would frame the latter form of continued appearance of a journal as “continued as fake news”. However, the issue is more complicated than that. Apparently, the readership needed still access to vital information of how to get access to food stamps or other day-to-day necessities including distraction from the horrors of war as it became an enduring feature of life.
This is my short summary of the inspection of some of the historical newspapers that are available with online access and the most valuable summaries provided by Emmanuel Debruyne and Fabrice Maerten in their blog entries on the overview pages linked to the “Belgian War Press” project. These are also valuable sources that hint at war crimes committed at these times as the collaborating press did not shun away from bragging about crimes. The clandestine press was also important to coordinate the various resistance movements and spread ideas of how contributions could be made to weaken the occupying criminal forces.
At times of communication via internet, in addition to the printing press, the war of communication needs much more resources above all digital-savvy resistance movements. A huge task to train people time to enable them to identify fake news and careful exercise of spreading correct and verified information nowadays.
Image Source: Extrait du « Bulletin Intérieur du Front de l’Indépendance », daté 15-11-1942, CEGESOMA BG85, Brussel.

Marathon Prep

Most people, including many sociologists, believe preparation for a marathon is a rather lonely exercise. During hot summers you get up early and run alone across the streets in your neighbourhood or in a green area. Even on weekends you tend to put on your running gear at least once to chip in a few extra miles or once or twice before the marathon a longer distance test run of 20, 25 or 30 kilometers. Just for the sake of testing to withstand more pain, like in the real event. Running guides in form of books, apps reach “cult status”. In sociology we teach students about the social trends of individualisation ever since the book by Putnam “Bowling alone”, which depicted the new kind of lonesome person going alone to the bowling hall for exercise, as social life seems to evolve towards “individualised” leisure time and social life. Social capital seems to get lost on the way.
The New York Times International” published an article and photo by Lauren Jackson on September, 27 (2023) page 17 in the sports section, which states the not so new phenomenon of “run clubs” (see extract on image below). These clubs bring runners from all walks of life together on a regular basis to train jointly and add a social function to the club as well. Just like previous sport clubs or socialising bowling groups did before, they meet and greet as well as party and celebrate together. Even travelling thousands of miles to distant events occurs in groups. Berlin seems to be a very attractive location for such clubs to go to. For some the sport stays in front of the activities, but for quite a few the social and party-like atmosphere is just as important. Even a local Berlin newspaper portrayed an older runner who stops in-between to have a small glass of alcohol-free beer on a terrace 2 steps from the official track with friends and family. Most people take their time record rather seriously, but the event is to enjoy community and celebration. Lauren Jackson even equates this to some forms of religious practice. I’s rather call this the other side of the same coin. Lone practice and meditation like running prepares a person to enjoy community (again). Extremes in both directions are part of the bell-shaped probability distribution of runners across the lonely-crowded spectrum of running experiences. The Marathon 42km 195m certainly has some historical even mystical connotation. While watching the finishing line at 42 km, just after the hypothetical run from Marathon to Athens in ancient Greece, you see many worn out persons, but also the many happy faces. After the run you meet your peers to exchange on stories and anecdotes around the track. Success and failure, just as in other team sports become a topic of conversation and shared experiences. These are community building events as wheel chairs and hand-driven bikes are part of the Berlin event as well as the in-line skaters the day before. In Berlin you get a feeling that running world records (women 2023, men 2022) can go hand in hand with the running fun for many. From “bowling alone” to “running together”. Sounds good to me.

Books

Some say, a book is a book, is a book. This is to reiterate the lasting effect a printed volume might have. Many books are a form of a documentation of facts. Creative writing in whatever form finds most of the time some way into a format of a book. For centuries books have facilitated the diffusion of myths and stories throughout societies including translated versions of the content. 2 aspects are constituent here (1) form and (2) content. Annual book fairs receive most attention for new content within more or less the same rectangular format. There are, nevertheless, interesting variations of the form to be discovered as well. Traditionally book binding was the art that gave shapes to the content. Images in form of film are yet another representation of the book content. All this is “dealt” with at the Frankfurt book fair #fbm23, particularly in form of dealing in and with copyrights. New forms of delivery of content, online or as e-book, have added to the variety of books. Pay as you go or as abonnement with monthly delivery is the old and maybe fashionable new way to digest abundant content. People trust in books. The format as book in general seems to remain an authoritative form to present content, irrespective of the truthful or fictional kind of the content. The more we live in insecure circumstances, the more we tend to be willing to hold on to a pile of paper nicely woven or clued. It is still a very powerful tool to guide imagination for all ages. It allows us to learn at our own rhythm as far as we are willing to go. We are, or seem to be, in control of the process as well as the likely outcome. And yet, the spice of life is the surprise. Book it.

Special

We all value special skills and specialists. In Berlin is a whole week devoted to the special event of the #SOWG. These are the special Olympics world games. Berlin is booming with special people all around. Already the arrivals of the athletes to Berlin tests the public transport system as much as private infrastructure to welcome persons with special needs. Rather than the waste that is produced for normal Olympic games the same incredible amounts of money should be devoted to make cities more welcoming to special people every day. We have become as societies so used to speed up things as much as we can that we have forgotten the value of allowing people to live their lives with their own speed and rhythm. Looking at the huge numbers of private sponsors for the SOWG it becomes obvious that many people care to support these special people on their journey. I am more willing to pay taxes for such efforts than the public money wasted for football, like TV-rights or stadium buildings. The joint experience of love and joy with these extraordinary persons makes us all happy and rich. Happiness is the new “wealth of nations”. Inclusion brings happiness to more than just the normal. We wish you all a happy #SOWG. The stars are you. 

Visual

Key visuals have the potential to appeal to us like an own language. From a communication point of view the message is simple. You send a message from your visual appearance even if you do not intend to do so. Hence, better think about it briefly before you go public. The receiver might interpret your visual statement differently from you or other peers, but you offer a coherent version of your activity or appearance. Be it politicians (Merkel) or others, frequently memory allows only for key visuals to make lasting impressions or for something or someone to enter into collective memory of a decade or even a century. Repetition, also from different sources, plays a major part in this. It is surprisingly still uncommon to hire persons in charge of key visuals for a person, an organisation or a festival. Haphazard treatment of key visuals as part of marketing is probably an underestimation of the lasting impact of a coherent visual message. Stability and repetition are key here, rather than the wide-spread ad-hoc approaches to marketing. Only on the margin of the exposition devoted to Philippe Apeloig “Des esquisses à l’affiche” (BnF) this lesson can be learned. The merit of the exposition is the opening-up of the process of creation. Posters, graphics and typescripts all contribute to the overall visual message. Achieving coherence in the thousands of choices demands an aesthetic point of view. This may blend aesthetic languages of a decade and reflections on the subject. Catching an audience at the time of affluence of images, movies and accelerated rhythms of daily life remains a challenge. For the “Fête du Livre” Apeloig has achieved this in a memorable way, well worth a tiny exposition of donations from a master in visual communication.