Linguistics2

Languages are simple once you understood the making of them. Take children, they learn the alphabet first, and use notions or images in alphabetical order, which you associate with this list of short words from A to Z in western cultures. From short words like “Cat” and “Dog” the learner moves on to longer ones like “Bird”, just 4 letters now. More advanced learners then use more letter words like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” invented for amusement in the Disney-film Mary Poppins. It sounds a bit like one of those never-ending long German words with lots of nouns just added on. This is exactly what we shall do in the following. A bit like in computational linguistics when ChatGPT is predicting the next word, we use algorithmic thining to form new combinations of an alphabetical list of notions. We start in the table below with column 1, then tell our spreadsheet to copy cells A1-01 to Z1-26 list and insert it in the second column just one cell below and insert Z2-27 at the place on the top of the list of column 2, which is A2-01. Then take this column 2 and repeat. Stop after, lets say the repeat counter is N=25.
The first 2 words combination then is “Action Zero”. Take this, enter it into Computer Search and take the top entry. “ActionZero” is an actual company name proposing actions to achieve  net-zero emissions. Following this, we produce a whole encyclopedia of pretty up-to-date knowledge from the WWW with hardly any humans involved anymore. We only need to cut out duplicates and nonsense entries. That’s what most editors or teachers are used to do. Knowledge creation might no longer be reserved to the human species. Oh my God – but the machine might eventually sort this word out as nonsense concept, too. The new mantra could be ZeroGod or let us try the reset like in GodZero. In other words we move from HamletMachine to our own KnowledgeMachine.

Romanatik2

Zur romantischen Periode gehören die bekannten Lieder von Schumann und Schubert. Meine Auswahl dazu liebäugelt besonders mit den Liedern zum Lindenbaum. Die Linde mit ihrem süßlichen Duft an warmen Tagen hat Malende der Romantik sowie die Dichtenden und Komponierenden betört. “Am Brunnen vor dem Tore da steht ein Lindenbaum …” kannte vor 50 Jahren jedes Kind. Etwas weniger bekannt sind die fabelhaften Rückert-Lieder von Gustav Mahler: “Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft …”. Für mich steht dabei die Atmosphäre in der Nähe der Linde im Vordergrund. “Unter den Linden” assoziieren viele nur noch mit der Verkehr in der Hauptstadt auf dem Weg zum Brandenburger Tor. Zum Reinhören und Reinversetzen in die Romantik sind die Lieder ein idealer Weg. Der Frühlingsglaube (Schubert Op.20.2) besingt die linden Lüfte und das Aufblühen der Natur. Es keimt die Hoffnung auf, dass sich alles zum Besseren wendet. Doch etwas Skepsis ist schon angebracht. Im Lied “Die abgeblühte Linde“, ebenfalls von Schubert vertont, ist dann das Altern und die Treue thematisiert. Der Zyklus der Natur und Jahreszeiten nimmt scheinbar unaufhaltsam seinen Lauf. “Nur der Gärtner bleibt ihr treu, denn er liebt in ihr den Baum”. Das weise Herz will Gärtnern und erhalten, was so viele Emotionen und Optimismus hervorgebracht hat. Wir müssen die Bäume retten, aus Pflicht die Romantik inklusiv und erlebbar zu erhalten. Dazu können wir mit den Linden ja schon einmal anfangen.

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).

Zigarre

Die Zeiten, in denen Zigarrenrauchen Schlagzeilen machten, sind eigentlich lange vorüber. Heute wundern wir uns lediglich über die Sorglosigkeit der Personen bezüblich ihrer Gesundheit. Friedrich von Flotow hat die Szene im Salon de Marquis de Custine (Paris) in seinen Erinnerungen vorzüglich beschrieben. Die Schriftstellerin George Sand hat die Gemüter mit dieser Rauchszene nachhaltig inspiriert. Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) hat an diesem Abend seiner (späteren) Mäzenin eine Ovation dargebracht. Flotow hatte sicherlich einen inspirierenden Abend verbracht. Seine unveröffentlicht gebliebenen Memoiren wurden von seiner 3. Frau publiziert. Ein Vorabdruck auf Schwedisch habe ich in der Svensk Musiktidning vom 15-8-1883 gefunden. Datiert ca 6 Monate nach seinem Tod, heute vor 140 Jahren, ist das eine Würdigung des Komponisten in Schweden und eine Anerkennung der Aufarbeitung und Verbreitung seines Werks durch seine Frau. Die Aristokraten und ihre Kreise waren Anregung für viele künstlerische Kreise. Das wohlhabende Bürgertum hat später diese Rolle übernommen. Heute brauchen wir zahlreiche öffentliche und private Stiftungen oder Crowd-Funding für diese Events und Inspirationen.
(Quelle: Flotow, Friedrich von. (1883). F. von Flotows minnen. II. En soaré hos marquis de Custine [Beskrivning av G. Sand (baronesse Dudevant) och Chopin]. Svensk musiktidning, 3(16), 121–122. )

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.

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.

Subject/Object

The 26 notions in alphabetical order may determine a subject and/or an object in a sentence. This is just the simple grammar of a language. Add a verb and we have a full sentence subject predicate object (SPO) as they say in English. In the philosophical sense the subject-object relationship is a bit more complicated. Beyond Aristotle’s objectum and subjectum, we think of Descartes “Cogito ergo sum” as the definition of the self as subject, rather than being an object of God’s will and creation. Kant then forms the couple of object and subject in the sense of objectivity and subjectivity. Pure reasoning is the abstraction of subjectivity to achieve an interpersonal objectivity. The master of dialectic thinking, Hegel, conceives an object as objective conscience and a subject as particular subjectivity. Having defined the extreme points of the spectrum makes you think about a joinder or the synthesis. Freud adds the object as result of sexual impulse. Wittgenstein then introduces a kind of hierarchy into the S/O-relationship. Objects become ultimate elements and indescribable in content as kind of basic notions. This follows the mathematical view of objects as indirect description of a mathematical object through axioms stating the basic principles governing the object and then deduce the logical consequences. Gödel’s incompleteness theorem , however, rejects this claim. This is the basis of, for example, algorithmic testing whether deductions are true or false. Condensed mathematics has relied on this testing approach as well.
A pragmatic perspective is added by Marie Gautier (p.719 “Notions”). If we want to reach an objective, we shall need others to realize it. By way of this imagination the S/O-relationship turns into an interactive relationship. Following Habermas, we might claim that the S/O-relationship is also a part of communicative action and therefore the discourse ethics. The definition of who or what is object and/or subject needs open discourse. The arena is not only the parliament, but larger audiences or the world wide web. Beware of the Luhmann systems theory, whereby for example the definition of what is a technical object is, is left to technicians, who then ponder in their self-reflective, reflexive circles amongst themselves. Techniciens in their circles tend to neglect the prime importance of society and laws to determine technological choices. Language with its constituent elements of subject, predicate and object (SPO) is one example of a knowledge system build on axioms or negotiated conventions for grasping and exchanging about phenomena. Nice, now we play around with it.
SPO => OPS.

Invent

The nice thing about mathematics is that it asks you to invent new ways of thinking. Numbers, percentages, Venn-Diagramms, infinite series etc. have accompanied us at school. The story is far from finished. Under www.spektrum.de there is a nice introduction to the new theory of numbers, called “condensed mathematics“.  Their lecture notes (pdf-file) are a tough read. My take home message simply is, the invention of new approaches to old problems, providing more general answers and/or unifying different fields are particularly rewarding. Maths is a fascinating discipline. You study abstract problems, hardly anybody else has had so far, but you are not considered strange as for example some artists at times. Imagine your new world in music, painting or the arts in more general terms or try to become a mathematician. Finding ways to communicate about your predilection and invention is the next challenge. Many scientist, inventors or artists found very few people to talk to about their new stuff. The internet and social media have changed this. Persons with interests or findings beyond the mainstream find colleagues in other parts of the world. Lighthouses from far away become visible through this. Navigation of other possible worlds turns into reality. These specialisations might turn out to be generalisations. The stretch between indepth knowledge and the polymath approach shall accompany us for a long time. Unified theories in several fields are indeed a step to be able to have an oversight about several, but not all fields. Polymaths probably start with condensed maths to move on to other fields of imagination. There is always a risk to get stuck somewhere on the road in a topological space.

AB with ABC

There are lots of ways to memorize the alphabet. We sing the alphabet with children to trick them from an early age into learning something useful, even if they do not fully grasp the immense power of the 26 signs or letters they are about to learn. It is a tool to construct images and stories of your own and exchange with others in speaking or writing.  We have come full circle with the subjects/objects addressed from C to A, more commonly described as from A to Z. With 26 subjects we have a long story already. With each different starting point from the alphabet a new story might be told. Proceeding in reverse order, from any letter, taking couples of letters as in the figure below yields a whole lot of new combinations to be defined. Taking 3 words from the alphabetical list is already a complex issue. Starting from a randomly chosen letter allows lots of additional combinations and topics. We start to grasp the difficulty a computer will encounter when constructing own definitions. Huge data bases of dictionaries will teach the programme to discard apparently meaningless combinations. However, humans might just enjoy creating new combinations. Machines don’t laugh, yet. Teaching artificial intelligence to produce jokes is probably a very difficult task. For the time being, we just continue to construct sequences of words, like the German language is perfect to do so, producing endless jokes with damn serious matter in the “Bundestag“: -Aufwendungsersatzansprüche, -Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz, -Brennstoffemissionshandelsgesetz, -Beweislastumkehr, -BeitragsbemessungsgrenzeUmrechnungswert (okay, I made up the last one).

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

B for Balance

To reach a balance, to keep the balance or one’s balance, this highlights the process nature of balancing. Even the old tool of a balance (scale for weights) very much reflects the evening-out of the balancing process. It seems like a temporary balance most of the time. We might evolve from one level to another one. Especially imagining ourselves on a (body weight) balance in the morning and then throughout the year or years, this appears like a dynamic trajectory. The nature and/or nurture connection is evident. Beware to search for synonyms of “balance” on the internet. You get more than 3000 synonym (Link) meanings and 30 suggestions for definitions (Link) to contemplate on. I like the nice physical experience of balance and the simple (a bit nerdy) explanation of it. Economist get very excited about balance of payments and the ways to achieve equilibrium or equilibria. Balancing personal accounts can be a bit painful at times, but balancing in the arts gets our imagination going. Dancing is about balance most of the time. Playing with your own balance, the balance when 2 or more persons are in action, how not to be absorbed by such experiences. In music, the balance is a primary issue since Bach’s “wohltemperiertes Klavier” and balance and tension are the origin of much jazz. An image or photo might be balanced, certainly architecture is playing with or restricted by balancing acts. Herta Müller’s “Atemschaukel” has thrown us off balance for a while. History we study often with a concern for a balance of power. In peace and war times, the balance of power within and between countries or superpowers are a long-lasting research issue. At times when this balance is at risk or completely out-of-balance we are deeply concerned about the return of a balanced situation. Babies and children draw comfort from being balanced. Adults as well. Let’s try again (chanson). (balance22-venice -video).

Y for YinYang

Y in maths stands for the phenomenon that is to be explained. If you are lucky, it is just one single Y. To explain this phenomenon, we usually have a multitude of different X-es and some random chance element. To complicate things a bit, we have X running over time. Example: Happiness at retirement age (66) might be explained by your earnings over years and marital unions/separations over time plus health over time and other random, not specified elements.
In my understanding of the YinYang philosophy of balancing the complementary of Yin and Yang, I probably should have thrived for a balance of earnings and health throughout my working life, to arrive at a happy retirement. Balancing not only among the X-es, but also between X and Y might even out the excitement about retirement. Additionally, this reasoning leads us to the more complicated case of multiple Y-s and multiple X-es. We can image the optimisation issue of y for 2 persons rather than just 1. Now, the maths starts to get more complicated without being complex in the mathematical sense. If you can solve such equations in statistics using different forms of random and not- so-random error terms, yr doomed for a Nobel medal in economics. What the heck, man this has to do with Yin and Yang? Beware of your work-life balance, be selective, I suppose. Breathe carefully, repair (YoYi) and read up on Chinese philosophy and maybe TCM, short for Traditional Chinese Medicine. Let’s try to re-balance in a lot of life-domains. We know our Western way of life (CO2) is not sustainable. Imagine 1 billion Europeans driving a diesel car on this planet and you have an idea about what hell might be like. An open mind to the Yin and Yang philosophy could be helpful for us, just as much as it would be for the leading Chinese politicians and their policies. Yes, Y in French is much more common than in other languages “Y avait …” is the beginning of chansons (ex 1 Aufray, ex 2 Kaas, portrait). Drawing YinYang using formulas is a bit like drawing or painting mandalas. It helps your inner balance. I am not quite there yet.

X for Xeno

Xeno is the root of the much more commonly used words of xenophobia or xenophilia. Xenos, in its Greek original, just means guest, strangeness or coming from another place. With the awareness of coming from another place or dreaming of another place we create the link Xeno-link to migration. Everybody knows about migration experiences, be they just from one village to the neighbouring one, rural- urban migration or beyond language or legal boundaries. Interesting new perspectives on the issue are rare. To view migration from an optimism or pessimism angle is a bit like a Picasso-like view on the century-old topic. Beyond out-migration and in-migration there is the population left behind in the villages, regions, countries or nations. Optimism seems to guide the outmigrants. Realizing to become viewed and stigmatised as an immigrant might reduce optimism considerably. Pessimism might spread among the persons who do not succeed locally or to migrate in those sending regions or countries. Migration is a selection process of multiple forms. The western view of in-migration has for most parts focused on labour market related preferences. Skill shortages urge us to accept the “being somehow different” more easily. Learning to cope with this is called “intercultural competence”. In Berlin this is accessible through learning-by-doing or going to cultural events. Even there, 2 further steps are needed:
First step ahead, have more diversity everywhere, including so-called high art or centers of excellence (video xeno video22). Second step, consider it strange, if diversity is not the standard or part of day-to-day or normal life.
The performance of Mozart’s opera “Mitridate” at the Deutsche Staatsoper with performers and creators (booklet!) from all continents might be a good start to nourish xenophilia instead of xenophobia.

W for War

In Europe many people were lucky to live without the existential threat of war for a long time now. Putin has stopped this with his land-grabbing in Ukraine. We wonder why, what, when and where? War is back in our minds again. Members of the birth cohorts of the 1920s, 30s or early 40s have direct experience our traumatic memories related to war times. Some later born cohorts suffered from various forms of deprivation . Economic reconstruction or even so-called miracles may follow and can soften the traumatic experience, often by way of focusing attention on repair and new investments.
The work by James HillmanA terrible love of war” has been a difficult read. To acknowledge that “war is normal” and our mindsets should take this into account, is hard to accept. Hillman cites Susan Sontag to state that “we cannot imagine how terrible war is – and how normal war can become”. We need a leap of imagination (p. 9) to grasp the mythical element about war which seems to be beyond the rational understanding of it. Greek tragedies told us, all along for more than 2000 years. The Romans exceled in it and German perfectionism and cold-bloodedness added the most horrible recent experience of war for millions of people. Memory and historical knowledge are important to activate recall for older and learning for younger generations. (short Video clip on war and UKR)

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

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.

J for Joy

Talking about joy is fun. Its feels better than just cracking a few jokes, and this is not bad at all. The starting point of much joy can be a simple joke, because of the simplicity of emotions and the bonding between persons. However, laughing about jokes is often abused in the form of laughing at the expense of someone or a specific group of persons (serious publication “L’empire du rire” CNRS, 998 pages). This explains to me the difference between a joke and joy. Joy is the emotion resulting of a joke, but also of many other experiences. The simple joy to meet another person, an animal, the sun, rain, wind, music, art or just less pain is more probably more intrinsic. To receive or to give a present is often associated with a joyful moment, sometimes lasting quite a bit. For some psychologists, emotions can be problematic, if a person can no longer regulate them effectively. Many persons tend towards excessive use of alcohol or other drugs to experience positive emotions like joy. Negative emotions of another person, strangely enough, may also contribute to the joy of another person (“Schadenfreude”), e.g., if a dictator is finally overthrown.
Much more inspiring is joy in connection with religion. As a critic of religious ideas, the attempts of religion to define joy for individuals and society probably explains the success of religions. Representations of Buddha, show the happy or joyful monk, Christians define joy with the advent and the birth of an unconceived child, fighting fiercely any modern forms of contraception and science advances for birth assistance. Restricting jokes and joy to the “carnival” period reflects the Christian doctrine to control and monopolise the definition of joy. Therefore, it is no surprise to witness that many persons feel more inspired by Asian traditions like “Ikigai” or “yoga” in their daily routines to experience joyful moments. I always found it very odd that Christian fundamentalists would not say Merry Christmas before the 25th of December after they have been to church at midnight. The priest or pope as the master of joy is a very strange idea. Affect inhibition or deferral is a powerful psychological tool. As in this blog entry I deferred my joy and laughter until the last line. So now, please join me in a wholehearted JOYFUL LAUGHTER, so the people around you may believe you’ve gone completely mad. It might be the beginning of more lasting joy, just keep practicing. Joy is within us not depending on outside stimuli,  joyful1  although they might help.

F for Freedom

This choice is no surprise, or is it? Who is longing the most for freedom? People in the so-called Western world are reported to score highest in the rankings of achieved levels of freedom. However, the longing for freedom often seems the strongest in countries, or regions within a country, where elements of freedom are restricted. Then fighting for freedom becomes an intense struggle, sometimes leading to outright war or fighting back like in Ukraine. Beyond the negative freedom (free from capital punishment) there is the positive freedom to express yourself freely. Both perspectives on freedom are crucial. Being free from prosecution is often only a first step towards the goal of being free to live your way of life as you feel it. It has always been a political struggle and will remain one today as well as in future. Less consensus reigns on the topic to what extent economic freedom is a constituent part of the term freedom. Far-reaching economic inequality within societies frequently limit persons at the bottom of the distribution to fully participate in society and excercise many components of freedom like decent food, housing, health and health care. All this remains the biggest challenge for humanity for years to come. We shall need a lot more heros in the name of freedom like the famous Nobel prize winners. Fighting for freedom in a peaceful way is probably the biggest challenge for humanity also in the 21 century.

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).