Photo

Photography has captured our imagination for years already. It is now a daily activity of many people to “capture their experience”, if not even their existence in some photographed way. Susan Sontag (1977) coined the phrase that photography “feels like knowledge – and, therefore, like power”. You are in a relation to the world. Taking the photograph in my view is the Mephistopheles moment. You are in control of the object taken by the camera. Arranging the scenery, waiting for the perfect moment, expression, light or colours is like mastering a situation, an atmosphere, an emotion. Photographs have the power to work as document. Editing has become easy and pervasive with digital tools. However, it was always present in the traditional technical parts of shooting and developing subsequently in the dark room. Being taken on a photograph is more like the Faustian moment of realising that you are manipulated, or at risk of being made use of for some purpose unknown to you at that moment. Beware, a photograph is always just an image of an image. The photographer is the intermediate person using a specific technology to transform his perception or vision of reality into another image of it, creating a some form of virtual reality. In addition to this twofold transformation, the third transformation is historically the technical development of the negative into the print (see below). Nowadays, this is the compression and editing into a specific format. Despite these transformations, a photograph is admitted in court cases as providing evidence of guilt or to identify an illicit act (excess of speed limit). Infringements on privacy are the rule rather than the exception. Who is that person sitting next to you and at what time of the day?
I apply photographs like note-taking for my research to capture spontaneous ideas or associations which await further interpretation or serve as inspiration. Painting has been an elitist artistic practice for many years. Taking photographs has democratised the image-taking art forms. Instead of originals we have collections of photos from museums around the world. We take photos of photos to reveal the world around us and reflect on values. The social construction of the world is directly visible through the process of taking, collecting and curating photographs. Construct your own world or the world will construct or deconstruct you instead. Politicians (e.g. Angela Merkel), John F. Kennedy or historical figures, all had their defining moment condensed into one or several photographs, paintings before. Susan Sontag wrote 50 years ago: “… a photograph can be treated as a narrowly selective transparency”. The third transformation of developing and/editing shown in the images below explain what she might be understand from this citation in a technical sense. Just as courts have to evaluate whether a proof is admittable and contributing to finding the truth. Viewing photographs is a balancing act between art and truth. “Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience.” (Sonntag, p.6). Photographs document sequences of consumption, CO2 footprints we should frame this in the 21st century. Restricting print to a few “best of” was necessary to reduce the dirty footprint of photography, particularly since photos have become a mass media as much as the preferred media of masses. With photos we certify our own certificates for job applications or passports even. The “cosmopolitans accumulating photograph-trophies” we encounter in all instagram-able locations. Taking photos is like a “friendly imitation of work” (p.9), you do something useful in documenting the images of a world in danger of being lost. We can give importance to otherwise forgotten realities, attach importance even immortality to something or someone of our choice. We make history through it or try to make it at least. “When we are afraid, we shoot. But when we are nostalgic, we take pictures.” (p.9) Sontag defines photographs as part of the repertoire of surrealism (p.77 ff), “to finding beautiful what other people found ugly or without interest and relevance …”). We at risk to mistake photographs as reality and experience the original as “letdown” (p.147). The return to polaroid instant photography brings us back to the authenticity of the orginal, unique moment with supposingly unfiltered not-edited images. The true moment of having had fun or joint experience without photoshopping the missing member. I take photos, therefore I am, has become the mantra of modern societies. We tend to ignore that we are taken on photos a million more times than we take some ourselves. A question of power in the end. Edit yourself or you become edited.  (Prix du Tirage photographique BnF 2022 Laurent Lafolie, photo below).

Linguistics

The urge to program human language originates for some in the quest for better explanation or understanding, for others in the improvement of communication. Both approaches have witnessed rapid evolution in recent years. Based on linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics or neuroscientific advances, the potential of knowledge creation and communication has risen due to computational models and applications to linguistics. ChatGPT3 and Neuroflash allow us to play around with the commonly available AI-applications. Construction of a linguistically informed Glossary of political and social ideas is a specific application case. In addition to the subject/object list we may add predicates or verbs to link subjects and objects. For this purpose, we construct a basic alphabetical list below which draws mainly on action verbs and is embedded in the socio-cultural environment of the sciences in general. A categorised list of verbs, like the one from Purdue University, is helpful to draw on several relatively distinct fields. With perspective on labour market or societal relevance the list focuses on verbs related to skill sets: administrative/managerial; communication; creative, information/data; caring/helping; efficiency; research; teaching/learning; technical. The categories are not mutually exclusive and may well be supplemented by additional categories like relational skills and transformational skills. Computational psycholinguistics (Crocker, 2006 pdf-file) differentiate the “principle of incremental comprehension” (add one word at a time) from the “concentric theory of complexity” (start from complexity to specificity or vice-versa) and the “deductive sentence processor”. ChatGPT is built on the incremental approach, supposed to be the fastest and probably a more reliable computational approach. We could just attempt to use the other approaches in the simple ABC glossary of subjects, objects and predicates to test for the possibility to build no-nonsense short sentences using random choices as starting points. The Oxford handbook of psycholinguistics highlights in the final chapter the theoretical alternative of connectionism (p.811). Symbolic computation construes cognition as mental states that are symbolically represented. The sequence of operations then runs from one representation to the next one. However, the connectionist model operates more like a neural network and proceeds with the parallel processing of notions, relations or patterns. A list of predicates or verbs might do the trick: Chose a subject, chose a predicate and an object to start playing around: Subjects: action balance  corruption democracy enterprise freedom god health imagination joy knowledge law memory nature optimism policy question repairing society time union value war xeno yinyang zero.
Predicates: applies broadens creates directs establishes forms generates helps induces jeopardises  keeps likes moderates needs opposes prioritises qualifies represents strengthens tests uses varies weighs x-outs yields zigzags.
Objects:  freedom god health imagination joy knowledge law memory nature optimism policy question repairing society time union value war xeno yinyang zero action balance  corruption democracy enterprise.

Writing

New research on the fabrication of writing allows to debunk some of the received ideas about writers as living and drafting in a solitary space. However, the facts frequently show something different. In the journal of the BnF (images 2022), (Chroniques des la BnF Nr. 95 p.9 pdf-file) the BnF makes transparent the creative cosmos of Marcel Proust (Exhibition closed). From correspondence and other influential images, we learn about the “fabrique de l’oeuvre”. Far from writing his books from front to end in a linear fashion, Proust drafts “isolated sequences which he mounts, demounts and regroups sometimes even years later. These clippings of text are arranged by him like a patchwork, a collage rather than following a linear progression. Just peeping into the writer’s studio, drafting style and “paperoles” is fascinating. What a mess, some would say. What a huge imaginative space he has been living in, despite being reported to draft most of his work while actually being in his bed (Lire Magazine 12-2022). Beds are not always for sleeping, only. Today’s start-up enterprises frequently start from home, a century ago Proust demonstrated a lot can result from a very tiny physical space, but an enormous space in mind.

Syntax

Syntax is just one of the categories of linguistics. Carl Lee Baker (1989) wrote a whole book 500 pages on just English syntax, can you imagine. I like his modesty in the introduction stating that English syntax is just a subfield of linguistics (p.12). Other languages have different structures, some might be very different from our ways to communicate even. The ways how animals or plants communicate is an exciting subfield of linguistics, psychology and biology (Carrie Fidgor, Pieces of Mind). The SPO structure of sentences is only one simple way of constructing sentences. Syntax is much more complex. The sociological aspect of linguistics and syntax lies in the “acceptability judgements”, which are present once we establish rules and sort phrases into correct or incorrect sentence structures. Norms and standardisation as well as authority to decide on correctness becomes an issue. Countries used to many dialects or multilingual populations are confronted with these issues on a daily basis. Linguistics as basis of communication is continuously present even in the mental structure. Bilingualism, tri-lingualism and their effects on minds, competences, behaviour, culture and societies are own thriving research fields. Building a sentence or a phrase, following Baker, is built around a head and their complements. Such minimal phrases are comparable to what we coin in a simplified manner the subject-predicate-object structure of a sentence. The definition of the nucleus of the structure of a sentence is also about conventions and acceptability. Staccato speech and rap-music are examples of forms of speech, which are often considered beyond the normal. Computer voices are becoming more normal as we are faced with chat bots all around us now. The image below reflects the simplified “representation of syntactic structure” (p.48 The Cambridge grammar of the English language 2002 review here). To play around with “Clause”, let us analyse the clause: I bought a shirt; I wonder what I bought. You know what I mean Klaus, it is a clause, or is it Dady gone gaga = DADA?

Hypertext

Linking information, explanation and entertainment is the power of the world wide web. The tool used for this is the hypertext format of texts and media in general. Wittgenstein was already dissatisfied not to be able to show the steps of his thinking more explicitly. In the “Tractatus logico- philisophicus (Link to pdf-file de/engl” he uses the a cube (5.5423) to explain that we see to different facts depending on our point of departure of our vision. Try it with the logo of www.schoemann.org you should realize how our vision swops from one way of viewing the cube to another. The white corner is once in the front of the cube and appears to be in the back, when you move your vision further up. In general this leads us to be careful with the choice of our point of departure, not only for our vision. Context, some say background, is important to determine starting points. Adding the hypertext markup language to a document, like in a blog entry, allows readers (+algorithms) to see the cognitive structure surrounding a text as well. Potentially as a reader you enter into a multidimensional space with each blog entry. Any encyclopedia, glossary or index has an apparent alphabetical order to entries, but the links between the multiple entries remain hidden at first sight. With use of hypertext this has changed and each entry is turned into a 3-dimensional space, for example. Additionally, all entries have different numbers of links to other entries including dead-end entries. With the structure of links it is interesting to learn about the self-referencing just as much as about the disciplinary locus of a text, chapters, a book or a library. This helps to still see the forest despite all those trees in front of us ,or we see the geological structure of the mountain while in the middle of the forest. Happy travelling in our new knowledge space!

Inspiration

Artists and scientists, all have their sources of inspiration. The most beautiful way of putting this is   contained in a poem by Jacques Prévert. “Moi aussi, comme les peintres, j’ai mes modèles…”. The source of inspiration varies from physically present models to imagined ones. Painters and sculptors, we imagine, have their models right in front of them and  build on their specific kind of observation, view and vision, seeing more or differently from others, at least since modern times. Poets and authors are believed to draw inspiration from abstraction and imaginative description and narration. Musicians tend to rely on hearing fine-tuned or creative tensions, as much as the resolution in harmonies through sequences of sound. All seem to have a sensitivity beyond the normal and a skill to find a way to transmit to others. Photographers catch representative moments or visualize artifacts and combinations of them in new ways. Scientists are not so different as we might think. Imagination of new hypotheses in established fields is part of their skill set. The transversal skill in all these processes of inspiration is the openness to cross-discipline fertilization. So-called Polymaths reached excellence in more than one field of science, “Polyartists” touch several fields of different arts. Further new innovative combinations of disciplines like they are practices in “centres of advanced studies” are a first step to brings down walls in mindsets and disciplinary ivory tower practices. It will take only a tiny little step forward to come back to the practice of royal courts. The person called “fou du roi” had an important role to play, not only in the game of chess, but in questioning and entertaining leaders. I wish universities, science centres and ministries would allow themselves more of this kind of inspiration. Inspiration is considered here as a source of questioning your own approach from another perspective. Look at your phenomenon of interest with a different model or imagination in mind. New synapses will follow. Let us welcome them to make the world around us a better or more beautiful place. Wait, is more beautiful enough already? Is this a contradiction, better versus more beautiful, or is the latter a subset of the former, or is a tautology anyway? The catalogue of the exposition “Archives des rêves” du Musée d’Orsay gives plenty of insights into images as sources of inspiration for people of all walks of life.

Employment

Employment is back on top of the agenda. Not as we used to think, though. Previously unemployment had dominated societal concerns. Now it is the lack of persons seeking or available for employment. What has happened? The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the need of persons qualified to work in the health sector. From health care and urgency care, we are short of personnel in all these fields, everywhere. Then we discovered the role of essential services and the need to equip crucial infrastructures like ports, transport, shops, schools and ambulances with service persons resisting despite work overload. Larger cohorts leave employment to retire, some even early due to illness or burn-out. Additionally, war is back in Europe. Military personnel is in high demand again, drawing largely from younger cohorts. The need for conventional weapons. long thought to be oblivious, is forcefully back on the agenda.
Growth potentials are everywhere. However, these pre-modern facts encounter a population in the western democracies that insists on new approaches to employment. Beyond hard and soft skills, recruiters seek atypical skills, competences and trajectories. A parachute jump from an airplane, cooking and dining experiences, caring spells, periods in self-employment, all are directly or indirectly relevant for employment and teamwork. So, what is your specialty? Collecting stamps? Surely you are able to spot tiny differences in images with specific content. Fake news and fake image detection or video surveillance is in high demand, just try an application and discover the employment potential of your MAD skills. Sounds crazy? No joke. Skill needs are everywhere, just give it a start again and again. Read a serious newspaper regularly (here LeMonde 19.1.2023) for inspiration.

Relation

Several inputs from logic will assist us to establish relations between 2 objects, 2 subjects or 1 subject and 1 object as in simple relationships to form sentences. The most obvious is A = B. The most common, depending on definitions, A is not equal to B, hence A >B or B>A. Medieval logic adds the consideration of consequences and suppositions to relationships. A determines or leads B. We might suppose that A is a precondition for B.  Logical arguments often attempt to explain. Mathematical proofs chose ways to deduce or induce, whether a statement is true or false. To reduce the number of lines to explain a theorem is a mathematical virtue, just like in a game of chess to find a check and mate in fewer moves.
Leibniz increased the repertoire considerably. In geometry objects are parallel or in the infinitesimal calculus they approach each other without ever reaching each other. With the art of combinations he describes a language than contains groups and elements. The binary revolution, to express numbers, letters, images in form of pixels as multiple assemblies of 0 and 1, has revolutionized our potentials. Beyond these determined relationships there are stochastic relationships, they happen more or less likely. The centre of logic relationships remains deductability = to deduce, consistency = to consist of and completeness = to complete (Encyclopedia Universalis 14, p.653). Time adds another dimension to our concern to exemplify relations. A pre-empts B, or B follows A in time, but not in respect of deterministic logic. Additionally, locations in space of 2 objects allows us to imagine additional abstract forms of relationships, artists play around with this continuously. Some artefacts have created fantastic new ways to challenge our learned ways to consider relations. Last but not least, sound has contributed to how we perceive relations. To superpose, transpose or dissociate relations leaves different emotions. Relations are all around us. They certainly link subject and object in a sentence in multiple ways, copying or imitating nature. For further reading: HERBERT HOCHBERG; KEVIN MULLIGAN. Relations and Predicates. Frankfurt: De Gruyter, 2004. ISBN 9783110326536. Disponível em: https://search-ebscohost-com.kbr.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=603683&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Acesso em: 23 jan. 2023.

Deconstruction

Deconstruction is a powerful tool or even method. Beyond imagineering, deconstruction in the literal sense means take to pieces. In most cases a physical object consists of several objects or parts. By deconstruction we attempt to understand the whole object as the sum of its parts. Before a new product or design is created, many scientists, engineers and artists start to deconstruct existing artefacts. Understanding how the object is assembled, for example, allows you to play around with pieces and maybe come up with an alternative way of constructing the object. The architecture of “deconstructivsm” has left us fantastic buildings. In furniture design there are also nice examples of deconstruction. Paris is a good place to study deconstruction (Explained), perhaps many still read Derrida there. It is a fruitful method beyond its engineering sense for example in law, literature or many other social science disciplines. If you are not mad yet, visit the MAD in Paris to see examples of deconstruction or construct your own deconstruction. Both have a dialectic relationship to each other anyway.

 

Sound

Each society has its sound. Each person lives in her/his sound cloud or bubble. Cities are generally noisy places, Lots of traffic, mobility and moves leave sound bytes all over the place. Each city though has its own sound and spectrum of frequencies. Libraries, museums, places of worship, all build their special atmosphere due to specific sound design. The Singing Project by Ayumi Paul (Gropiusbau Berlin) created its own sound environment. Reminding us to consciously design our exposure to and experience of sound is welcome. John Cage started to build his very own language of music, similar to Schoenberg, from scratch. His writings Empty Mind explain his view and techniques a bit. Starting with silence and the time between sounds we recreate our own sound experience. Notation of it comes second in place. only for the potential to repeat the experience notation is useful. But it is only one form of conservation for posterity. Noise canceling is the amazing tool from sound physics which allows you to neutralize noise by adding specific frequencies to noise which cancel out each other. Design your personal sound experience beyond noise if you like. Nature recordings or familiar person voices allow you immersive experiences when and where we want. your home sound can be everywhere nowadays.

Action Verbs

Action words are in other words called action verbs. Each complete sentence has one. Hence, they are part and parcel of the basic construction of sentences.
“The purpose of an active verb is to create a clear, concise sentence. By using an active verb, you can eliminate unnecessary words and make your writing more direct. In addition to making your writing more concise, active verbs also add punch and clarity. They can make your writing more interesting and persuasive. Additionally, active verbs can create a sense of immediacy which is often useful in persuasive writing.  When it comes to writing, there is nothing more important than using strong, active verbs. Not only do they make your writing more interesting and engaging, but they also convey a sense of confidence and authority. In addition to being more descriptive, active verbs also add a sense of movement and action to your writing. Rather than simply stating that something exists, you can use active verbs to show how it exists. For example, rather than saying “there is a chair in the room,” you could say “the chair sits in the corner of the room.” This may seem like a small change, but it can make a big difference in how your writing comes across. Finally, active verbs can also help to set the tone of your writing. If you want to convey a sense of wit and humour, then using playful, lighthearted verbs is a great way to do so. On the other hand, if you’re aiming for a more serious tone, then using powerful, authoritative verbs will help you achieve that.”
After the 3rd sentence this blog entry (Link) has been written by the artificial intelligence app “Neuroflash”. They promise that it is not just copy and paste, but rather written following some instructions I gave like title, table of content, style and then selected among several choices. It makes sense to me, although it is just like many other textbook entries I have found on the web. It may well serve as an introduction. Lazy journalists, priests or lawyers in case they do little research will be replaced soon by AI, who else, who is next? Big brother drafts the brave new world for us already.

ABC Overview

Digital formats allow flexible organization of lists like alphabetical lists. Opening several pages, at the same time, of the same dictionary is easily feasible. In science the proceeding in this way is coined the inductive method. The entries of each letter stand on their own, but jointly they form a whole set of topics. Random choice is facilitated this way. New sequences or preferences of topics are the way forward. Alphabetical order or chronological order are only one out of many variants of possible sequences. Chose your own 3 favourite topics, maybe. On a big computer screen you might even organize your own poster – beam it on the wall – walk in the virtual exhibition of the metaverse with it. It could feel like you are strolling within parts of my brain. Frightening? For whom? The universe is within us.

action health optimism value
balance imagination policy war
corruption joy question xeno
democracy knowledge repairing yinyang
enterprise law society zero
freedom memory time
god nature union

V for Value

 

Value in its singular form refers for most people to the value of things. Since Karl Marx we have been fighting about the surplus value of a worker’s work. Nowadays, we have to deal with speculation bubbles on the value of property or even basic elements of nutrition (Water, wheat, energy). Max Weber introduced us to the rigorous analysis of value judgements. In political science the plural “values” refers to basic human rights as fundamental values of humanity. Many other associations with the letter V pop up and arouse emotions: victory, video, view(s), vision, visit, voice, vote, vulnerability.
Creating lasting value seems to transform itself into part of our system of values later on. The longitudinal dimension of value is often neglected, particularly in the short-term focus of much of economic reasoning. Value over time, in addition to the distribution question, or as part of distribution over time, excites researchers of inequality and policy design for generations. Approaching the end of the alphabet increases the stakes of the “endgame”, it seems. Value for me, might not be of value for others. I hope you have found a person that values much of the same as you do yourself.
Interpersonal value, value exchange and intertemporal value are  own fields of research. Since the Scottish enlightenment and Adam Smith’s work on “The theory of moral sentiments (TMS)”, reciprocity in value exchange has been an issue, well before the utilitarian turn in his own writings on “The wealth of nations”. Even Adam Smith refers to happiness and interest as a kind of value and “very laudable principles of actions” (part VII.ii.3.15 in TMS).
Children learn and experience value as natural part of growing up. Material things which you valued highly as toddler, you are ready to trash or exchange a couple of years later at much lower prices. Above which monetary value are you ready to trade in your humanitarian values? Never? History and bargaining theory is full of experiments and experiences that teach us otherwise. Corruption is the prominent example of exchanging or trading material value against immaterial values. Reading Kwame Anthony Appiah on “Experiments in ethics” is highly instructive. This bring me back to the economist joke I used to tell in lectures: You know that you’re an economist, if you ask your child, whether s/he prefers 20 Euros in cash, a trip to an adventure park later, a basket ball set or a pizza party for the next birthday. Economists do all this to find out about the value of each item, the preferences, the time frame of delayed reward or discounting of value also called the net-present value. Reading up to here is equal to the value of, maybe, an online bachelor in economics or social science. In your very own life review of learnings you then can estimate the value of your readings to you, your community or humanity. Alternatively, enjoy the joy of just living in peace with optimism.

U for Union

Union, understanding, undo, unknown, uncertainty, universe, urbanization, use, u-turn. All those u-words spark imagination. Additionally, the short forms of u as abbreviation for you, ur = your, youth and smartphone typing are creating for us abbreviations to communicate even faster and shorter via social media. Union is my favourite of this list for several reasons: (1) Marital union, passionate topic not only for family sociologists, (2) trade unions, as collective form to organize solidarity in and across societies, (3) European Union, the formidable tool to create, conserve and ensure peaceful developments in Europe. We have to prolong this list with the union jack, the united states, the united nations and …, please continue the list.
For me, in union I see a whole film running, a process proceeding, or persons uniting. Unionization, just like two persons deciding to pass more time together, has some magic in it. Match making is the modern term for it. No Union without reunion,  dissolving a union might be part of the process as well, as painful it can turn out to be. Most of the times we grow throughout the process. Forming a union, in all senses of the word and of all sorts of forms, is a kind of teleological urge of us as a species. We share this with many animals but have also developed strategies and weapons to force others into union. Unfortunately, no u-word without its potential to be used in the sense of abuse. Unite to defend the union of fans of unions. (Evolution of Union of Tweets own Video 12-2022). IMG_4611

T for Time

The times they are a changing“, end of blog entry T.
We live time forward, but we seem to understand it only backwards or in retrospect. Towards the end of each year, it is common practice to look back and review the last 12 months. Then we imagine what will the future be like. Our concept of time is past, present or future oriented. In classical physics we reflect this with a depiction of time on a linear axis. However, modern concepts of time include Einstein’s relativity theory, whereby in 2 different places time may run with different speed. Similarly, quantum physics allows that the causal relationship between 2 physical states is no longer observable in a logic that follows linear time. A particle may exit in 2 states in parallel. Hard to imagine, maybe, but demonstrations of these effects are found in textbooks for pupils already. Our grasping of the world around us is enhanced through scientific rigour.
Story-telling also plays with time frames. Analepsis and prolepsis are common techniques constructing a story, a film or any form or narrative. We tend to perceive chronological time even as boring. Our memory is also playing tricks with us on time scales. When was …? Additionally, we have multiple clocks ticking away. Time to submit a report, pay taxes, until the next medication or the psychological concept of “time until death”. Strangely enough, depending on which ticking clock we focus most, our behaviour is likely to change. Mobile time management tools have been created for centuries for us to handle all this jazz (call them a watch). They all have not changed our concept of time, only the precision to measure and cramp more activities or the same one faster into our daily life. Happier since? Test your self-efficacy, more general than time management! Try meditation to slow down the pace, use an app!? I started to clone myself with a virtual presence to experience the quantum effect of my life. Podcasts are played with 1,5x the normal speed now. Rhythm and music are the remaining traditional metrics of time. Even there, John Cage’s piece “silence” managed to abandon the time reference, partly at least. Okay, time is up, next letter, please.

Digital Technology

Im Februar 2018 hatte ich auf dieser Webseite eine kleine Veröffentlichung mit dem kurzen folgenden Text angekündigt.
“A new research paper dealing with digital technologies is now published in the Open Journal of Social Sciences. The major impetus of the small scale project was to identify the potential of digital technologies to foster democratic procedures and decision-making. The paper investigates the role of new technologies to support employees and the trade union movement.”

The pdf-download free of charge is here.

Fast 5 Jahre später bräuchte das Paper eine Ergänzung, denn es gibt wohl eine interessierte Community dafür (1000+ Downloads, 3500+ online views-reads). Insbesondere sind neben die sozialen Netzwerke diverse mediale Platformen dazu gekommen, wie TiKTok, Mastodon, Twitch, Instagram und fast schon wieder vorbei  Twitter. Ergänzen würde ich wohl auch die Notwendigkeit, digitale Technologie einzusetzen  in der Bekämpfung von Korruption. So ließe sich automatisch in einer großen Menge an Zahlungen Auffälligkeiten wie hohe Bargeldsummen leicht identifizieren und Alarmsignale senden. Ebenso (Gruppen-) Reiseaktivitäten und zweifelhafte Abrechnungen könnten leichter zu Aufmerksamkeit führen.
Eigentlich freue ich mich bereits, dass dieser Artikel in eine damals recht unbekannten, aber eben “open access publication” doch eine so große Reichweite von aktiv Suchenden und Lesenden gefunden hat. Gut, gleich im Internet zu veröffentlichen und nicht in einem überteuerten Sammelband oder wissenschaftlicher Fachzeitschrift mit Bezahlschranke versteckt zu bleiben.

S for Society

At least since the “Greek Polis” became a subject of science, the study of society has filled libraries around the world. To catch up with the social sciences view on society, we may start with foundations based on Max Weber, Niklas Luhmann, Jürgen Habermas, Ulrich Beck to then move on to my predilection with micro-level foundation of social theory based on work from James Coleman. The history of sociological ideas runs from the protestant work ethic, autopoiesis in systems theory, ethics of discourse and communicative action, risk management to “1 to 1 relationships” as pillars of theorising about society. 10.000 pages later on, you might still ask yourself the question: what practical knowledge have I gained from this. Well let’s see. Imagine you want to learn about a friend and whether s/he is really a friend. Nowadays we would start with an online-search to find profiles of a person (facebook, Instagram, linked-in, twitter, twitch, mastodon). When the first entries pop-up, we start to learn about interests, looks, friends and preferences of the person. In which social media the person is (or not) participating tells a lot. We start to build an image of the person and her/his networks and communities. Soon we start comparing the person’s world reference framework with our set of values and characteristics. Welcome to thinking about society in small, and interactions within society or between groups of society. Adding some solid knowledge about statistics and you’re ready to start the science of society.
Yet, so many still open questions. When talking about society, we have to think about the trend of individualisation and ways to keep society together despite increasing plurality of life courses. “Solitude versus loneliness” is as much a social as it is an individual based issue. Community-building with inclusion, staying-on and exclusion processes have to be studied in detail. The whole process of civilisation or the study of suicide has been a sociological topic since its inception by Emile Durkheim. Imagineering is an additional tool to speculate in a systematic way about the past and future of society. That’s where all the arts come into the picture as well. The history of art is full of perspectives on society, its splendour, the misery of individuals, communities and societies. An emotional starting point is a very valid starting point, the science of society then moves on to abstraction and generalisations as well. The challenge is, to capture audiences emotionally, with short reflections on society.

R for Repairing

Without noticing for many people, we have shifted into the repair mode. Our planet needs repair work. Well beyond the less plastic, CO2, less oil, gaz and pollution in general, we have to actively repair what we have damaged, certainly since the industrial revolution. With nuclear waste we have entered into a phase, in which repairing is not really feasible. Areas around Tschernobyl and Fukushima speak for itself. However, we seem to leave the repairing to future generations. Whereas for us currently it is an option, later on it will be an obligation.
The bionic interest has already turned to the Axolotl and Polycarpa mytiligera. Both species can repair themselves after the loss or a malfunctioning part of their body. Rather than producing externally, growing the spare part is a promising healing device. Nature provides many fabulous insights, if we were able to preserve the biodiversity. Repairing biodiversity is difficult, impossible for lost species which we do not even really know. Start to repair and build awareness that repairing can be fun. Beyond the gender stereotypes, men repair cars, women repair clothes, we have to learn from each other how to use our repair knowledge for many other things and devises. This applies even to our social, legal or economic systems. In addition to reimagining, we need repairing everywhere. I have lots of stuff to repair at home. When do you start repairing? Welcome to the next trend: the joy to repair, repairs even joy.

Q for Question

Quality and quantity or queer and query could have made valuable entries here as well. Common to all is the underlying process of questions. Questions put to oneself, to others, society or supra natural or supra national instances. Can quantity turn into quality? Is a queer perspective a new one? Is a query in a programming language the beginning of each algorithm? Questioning is a child’s “natural” approach to understanding the world. This does not stop soon after childhood, but it is occupying, if not haunting, us until the end of our life. When is this exactly happening – the end thing? Are we free to chose this? Just try to answer one of these questions and you’ll find out how one question leads to the next. We are all the same in this behaviour. However, we all find different stopping rules to the query algorithm. Religion is a fast shortcut to stop further questions. Sciences are the never, ever, ending type of questioning. Mathematics solved part of the problem. For a lot of series we are able to calculated the limit value towards which the series evolves circumventing the lack of a stopping rule. Fundamental human rights are such a far-reaching stopping rule. Just like after the French revolution, the question was, how to quickly spread the message of human rights. Didactic and paedagogics evolved in parallel. From “cogito ergo sum” to “rogatio ergo sum”.

P for Policy

Politics and policy are key elements of democracy. Agreeing that we might strongly disagree, is a virtue of democracy, particularly in order to avoid a confrontation using force. Dialectic thinking builds on the confrontation of opposite opinions originating even of the same factual knowledge. Based on different theories the same evidence will be interpreted differently. Hence, in the field of politics, where disagreement is part and parcel of the game to build majorities, policies will change. This then leads to the belief that we need a policy in each and every subject of the alphabetical list we are about to create.  There is a high risk, if you are not having a digital security policy, you will be at high risks that crucial infrastructure might not work in case of a major internal or external conflict. Candide in his small garden might run out of water to water the plants or climate change is threatening the species growing until recently. Young startups, just like ageing enterprises, persons or societies need a policy  to take care of survival, not only of the fittest. As the challenges and stakes of humanity rise fast, a revival of the policy sciences is dearly needed before the pervasive skill shortages creap into the fields of social sciences as well.

M for Memory

Besides the English term memory, which refers to a huge scientific literature starting with cognitive psychology, I like the French version of “mémoire”, because it is more comprehensive with additional meanings, nicely represented by Wikipedia.org. On the German Wikipedia-page you find first the reference to the children’s game memory, turning around images and memorising where the counterpart is/was (play pairs). This diversity hints towards a cultural element in memory. There is a person’s memory or mental capacity to recall and ways to remember. The latter term refers a lot more to collective memories and becomes a more debated issue. Danny Trom uses the term “split memory” in a chapter on France and the “myths of nations” (p.129-151). In David Brook’s reader on “the social animal” he states that grandmasters in chess (p.88) were long believed to have superior memory. This is actually not true as memory experiments showed, but they rather saw formations and “internal connections forming networked chunks of information”.
“Mémoire”, on the contrary, refers also to the writing of a person’s own biography. Nowadays, book shops contain whole sections of autobiographies, the most sold appears to be the one by Michele Obama recently, if I recall correctly. Among the most scandalous is the publication of the “Journal pour Anne (Pingeot) 1964-1970” by Francois Mitterand. All the autobiographical documents make explicit major parts of what might form collective memory later on.
Memory has found its way into engineering and computing. The memory effect in batteries or being “out of memory” frightens users in computing or programming. In short, I wish you the best of memories reading this page and stimulation by visiting memorials (image: Jewish Museum in Berlin 2022, Ullmann exhibition).

K for Knowledge

Readers of the sociology and/or the philosophy of science or knowledge have a hard time. Each discipline is evolving at such a high speed that is terribly hard for humans to follow more than 1 or 2 fields. Perhaps the choice of Karma instead of knowledge would have made it easier here. Alternatively, in German it is easy to find many nouns starting with a capital K. Kapital, Krieg, Kritik or Käsekuchen would have been popular, I guess. Soon I shall open the comments for suggestions for additional nouns, as part of the empirical “swarm knowledge strategy” rather than the theory-driven deductive method applied in knowledge generation on my side so far.
But wait, we are already in the middle of the unsatiable quest for knowledge. On a meta-level we would deal with the multiple ways to acquire knowledge and create new knowledge. Artifical intelligence is certainly one of the hypes at the moment. New data and new combinations of data drive us forward in the expanding universe and knowledge space. We have witnessed the disappearance of the thick printed encyclopedia in most households, replaced by specilised digital dictionaries or the network society’s shared knowledge base of “wikipedia“. Knowledge is linked to the history of ideas and Peter Burke is a prominent figure to rely on as a reference in this field. 20 years after “A social history of knowledge: From Gutenberg to Diderot” he published the much acclaimed: “The Polymath. A cultural history from Leonardo da Vinci to Susan Sontag” in 2020. To synthesise across the many “monsters of knowledge” over centuries is a daunting task. I like quotes like the one from Leibniz (p.77) “the horrible heap of books that is constantly increasing” and then his own continuation: “Printing, once viewed as a solution to the problem, had become a problem itself”. The whole section is devoted to information overload. Fragmentation of knowledge into disciplines and, much worse, the manufacturing of false knowledge create new challenges to knowledge. Maybe transforming the term to “knowledges” rather than knowledge is likely to capture better the differences between artificial knowledge, created by artificial intelligence and specialised algorithms, and human based knowledge. In knowledge storage we have lost the race with computers, but in deciding what are promising combinations between different fields of knowledge, we are still a wee bit ahead of the machines. Klara tell me, where is the exit, or your synthesis of the whole lot. Meanwhile I continue to read – what? books and the like.

I for Imagination

We are all full of imagination. The human brain hardly can do without it. It could be understood as if thinking of oneself is a continuous process of imagining and reimagining oneself. We just developed or were forced to suppress imagination at various instances throughout our lives. Day dreams are rarely tolerated, starting at school, then on the job and probably for a long time also about the way we imagine our own ending or life after death. Just trying not to think, like in meditation, seems to be a very hard exercise and it demands long practice to arrive at longer durations. Abstraction is one of the ways of art to allow imagination to rule the process of creation. In view of the anniversary of Pablo Picasso in 2023, the Brussels Royal museum of fine arts is presenting a paedagogic reflection and demonstration how Picasso emerged on his way towards abstraction as his preferred way of imagination and reimagination as part of the realisation process of his art work. As part of the Cubist revolution Picasso is quoted in this exhibition on how he paints: “Je ne peins pas ce que je vois, je peins ce que je pense.” and “Chez moi, un tableau est une somme de destructions.” Nice imagination, reimagination and de-construction I would say. Like the imagination depicted above from Paul Klee reflects the accomplishment of a new form of pictural language. Try imagination, it isn’t hard to do, “John Lennon” sang once. In Brussels you can try seeing the cubist way in the Picasso exhibition, a good way to prepare yourself for the next visits of fabulous exhibitions in honor of Picasso in 2023.

H for Health

Health is not just a personal issue. Of course, in modern times most people are primarily concerned with their very own health. Particularly, if pain is involved, we tend to put ourselves first. Only various religions and ideologies put God or some other bigger thing, for example identity, in front of personal pain. This bigger thing is believed to decide wars, like Russia trying to anihilate Ukraine. Russia’s military agression stands against the fight for freedom, democracy and perpetuates corruption.
At the beginning of the Corona-Crisis most persons and societies still believed health and infections are only a very personal issue. Researchers with knowledge about “public health” knew already, viruses have accompanied humanity since its beginnings and maybe continue to do so even beyond our disappearance. Hence, addressing the topic of society and health from a public health perspective has become much more popular as prevention is key to fight pandemics as early as possible. However, for prevention to work you have to involve and rely on individual behaviour. As soon as we leave the personal issue of health, we have to address a whole set of other topics like patient – carer relationships, cooperation, interdisciplinarity, public expenditure, public-private partnerships, corruption or behaviour of large crowds.  We have developed antidotes against most difficulties, probably the strongest one is solidarity. Social systems that address inequality of provision (e.g. between regions) or inequality in access to and quality of medical services (e.g. doctors, care or pharmaceuticals) have a strong role to play. Structural, financial and political issues play a powerful role in health. As we think more about prevention and costs we start to understand that we have to start with nutrition, mobility, mortality and our western style of life in more general terms, particularly if we think about health on a global scale. There is no planet B where we could travel to, once it has become impossible to lead a healthy life on our planet. Topics of health over the life course or ageing will need a lot more attention. Findings on the risk of suicide after onset of physical health problems (Link to study) asks for fast responses. Access to digital tools might be part of the solution like “Sympatient” as well as being part of the problem like data leakage.

E for Enterprise

There is a new start-up scene in development in Germany. Interesting to witness the new entrepreneurial spirit. Many of the youngsters grow out of their peer community, wanting to try new ways of working and living together. The new bottom-up or grassroots form of growing a business out of a subculture seems to be an adequate response to the growing diversity of societies and easier ways of community building through online social media. Name it “reach” today, it is similar to what you previously called having a customer base. The new element refers to a blending of cultures. Learning through being online connected to the world, yes, the whole world, allows wide-spread influences from other sub-cultures, be they American, Asian or African. The young are open-minded to new stimuli like “Ikigai” from Japan and, of course, the life histories of founders and individual biographies from entrepreneurs like the legend of Steve Jobs, Apple’s legendary founder. Imagineering has become part of the movie-influenced influencers. Short clips out of a longer story build communities. The witty comment, like at school, gets more attention than the long boring story of the preacher, teacher or the mansplainer. The experience of “flow” is all around these communities and this creates the specific magic of the start-up scene. They take each other to new levels, mutually, reinforcing their preferences and life-styles. They are well aware of the risks they are taking. “Keinhorn” German short for “not an Einhorn”, the one billion value threshold for super successful enterprises taught them crucial lessons. The “ecology of organisations” which I referred to in my courses at the now renamed “Constructor University” previously “International University Bremen”, then “Jacobs University”, (let’s see what comes next?) is an important complementary research tradition to assess the “survival” of enterprises. I still recommend this University, which I quit to start new endeavors. It carries in its several “names” the important message:
start, fail, change, (repeat).