Paper and Pastel

Sometimes the art is in the material. At least this could be a rapid conclusion of the exhibition presented in London at the Royal Academy of Art in 2024-1. From the informative Catalogue the importance of material is demonstrated. The ease of taking your equipment with you, like a sketchbook and out into nature have been an important feature of the impressionists’ movement. With artists challenging traditional techniques of painting and paintings as such even the apparently less noble material as paper had become a statement of being different from the established art academies making use of more noble materials. The impressionists made a convincing point with their additional use of materials accessible to all. Capture the moment and capture your very own impression of it. This is one way to immortalize the emotion and essence of the scene. In the catalogue of the exhibition I spotted “The Swimmer” drawn by Caillebotte with pastel on paper. Freezing the moment, freezing the motion and emotion is evident here, too. Testing different materials is part of the journey to find your artistic impression, expression or materialization of imagination. The ways and means are manifold.

Royal Academy, 2023: Impressionists on Paper. p 32

Force of dependency

Drugs have their particular strength in creating dependency. This is well known for tobacco or alcohol. Helping people to overcome the forces of dependency has its merits. At the same time it is big business. Vaping instead of smoking might be a way out one dependence but into another one. In the end it is an empirical question how many persons can escape the force of dependency of both types. Important to test the probability to get rid of the dependency altogether. With respect to hard, life-threatening drugs like Nitazene the death toll keeps rising in the UK. In the latter case changing the dependency is already a success. The sustainable deflection from drug dependency has to address underlying issues and health hazards. It is a rather individual issue. Society wide evaluation studies need to inform the debate also about placebo effects. The force of dependency might not only be physiological but psychological or linked to the social environment. All these potential effects have to be carefully sorted out before simple pseudo-solutions are implemented. Even the price and availability of drugs is part of the overall equation to solve the force of dependency.

Arthur Sapeck 1887 Illustration, BNF Pastiche 2023-4

Skill loss

There is a sense of skill loss in watching the trends to increase comfort. We all use washing machines and maybe dishwashers. Households can save a lot of time by using those machines. Some porcelain and clothes should not be left to the machines. The need to organize traditional washing routines is almost forgotten after 1-2 generations. The same holds for many technical skills. Bicycle and car repairs or small repairs of electrical appliances are delegated to specialized repair shops. Not using or having learned these skills puts you in a form of dependency and at the risk to pay a price for specializing on other skills. Find out and focus on what you are best at. This has been the mantra of economic theory since Adam Smith. The potential value of satisfaction with an own production rather than a bought product is frequently acknowledged for baking cakes yourself rather than simply buying one in a shop. The same rationale holds for many other skills. Autonomy of own production with possibility to improve or repair are forgotten values. The have become a luxury item or a necessity for persons lacking financial spending power to buy products from others. Many skills will be lost rapidly because products have become so cheap to replace or order for home delivery. Industrial production is desperately searching for skilled persons but losing skills is pervasive at the same time. Public schools and academic curricula will not be able to stand the tide of pervasive skill loss.

Topography of Terror

The documentation centre “Topography of Terror” in the middle of Berlin is easy to reach. The “Potsdamer Platz” is nearby and so is the “Kulturforum” with its galeries, museums and the “Berliner Philharmonie”.  The documentation centre gives easy access to the historical evolution of Nazi-dictatorship from the earl beginnings, the horrific terror spread across Europe and first insights into the prosecution of criminal acts in the immediate post-war period. The Beyond the  exhibition with audio-guide there is an easily accessible specialized library for personal or scientific research. The accompanying program of book presentations and discussions (image below) complements the busy show rooms. The external “walk through history” allows to grasp the main proceedings of the terror regime.
For special interest or research questions it is a very useful starting point. Hours in the library have to complement the research. Good to see that so many students walk through the documentation centre not only in groups from the neighbouring schools. The interest to understand when and how the terror started will allow us to better guard against those right-wing extremists who use a lot of techniques of propaganda well known and exposed in this documentation centre of the terror of the Nazi-regime.

Poster Design

The effective use of posters in visual communication is a specific craft. Artists have been associated with poster design for more than a century. Cinemas continue this practice. For each movie produced there is an announcement posted in print or digital form. In combination with the Berlinale 2024 film festival the Kunstbibliothek in Berlin shows milestones of the history of movies and their representations in form of posters. Besides the historical approach there are many hints how to interpret the design language of posters throughout the 20th century. The encouragement to try to produce one yourself not only reserved to children is an additional activating feature of the exhibition (Link here). Cats and dogs will always catch attention and the playful approach chosen might be a start into a graphic design interest. Overall the exhibition offers a low threshold entry into the world of art and design. Instagramable image on posters evolved into short preview clips, just like instagram paved the way to tiktok video clips. In retrospect posters also provide shortcuts for our memories to recall whole movies that have accompanied us growing up and growing older.

Generationswechsel

In den öffentlichen Bibliotheken ist ein Generationswechsel der Besuchenden überfällig. Traditionell finden sich 4 unterschiedliche Gruppen von Personen in den öffentlichen Bibliotheken wieder. Da sind (1) die bildungsaffinen Rentenempfangenden, (2) die Eltern mit Kleinkind(ern), (3) Wärme- oder Kühle suchende Menschen der Umgebung und (4) die Schul-, Hochschul- oder Examensvorbereitenden. Soziologisch betrachtet ist das ein interessantes Aufeinandertreffen von gesellschaftlichen Randgruppen.
Die „Neue Zentralbibliothek im KAP1“ (Düsseldorf) hat aus diesen meist unverbunden nebeneinander operierenden Gruppen eine kommunikative Gemeinschaft produziert. Aktion und Interaktion ist nun angesagt. Der Flyer betont richtungsweisend: „Menschen, Bücher, Räume“. Fortan soll der Mensch und seine Lernfähigkeit im Vordergrund stehen, nicht mehr nur die Bücher. Dazu braucht es meistens anders oder umgestaltete Räume. Lernen war immer schon interaktiv und nur in Teilen allein im stillen Kämmerlein. Dazu braucht es Labs als Lernräume und nicht nur die Stille der „Page-turner“. Lernboxen, Lernstudio, Musikstudio sowie eine „Kreativschmiede“. Dort wird heute gepodcasted, 3D gedruckt und es werden social-media Kanäle entworfen und betrieben, immer schön generationsübergreifend. Voneinander Lernen ist das Motto nicht mehr nur nebeneinander und im Wettbewerb um die beste Bewertung. Kollaboration und gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhalt brauchen neue Räume, dem KAP1 in der Düsseldorfer Zentralbibliothek ist dabei schon viel gelungen. Die zentrale innenstädtische Lage ganz nah am Hauptbahnhof ist ein zusätzliches Asset. Ansonsten hätte ich mich wohl nicht auf der Durchreise dorthin verlaufen. Ein Random-Walk in Bahnhofsnähe, verursacht durch verpasste Verbindungen der Bahn, hat zu einer unerwarteten, bereichernden Zwischenpause geführt. Der Ausblick aus dem Café auf das übliche innerstädtische Verkehrschaos konnte umgeben von Alt und Jung richtig genossen werden.

Participative Art

Beyond participation in the performance based on Yoko Ono’s Cut piece 1964, you had the possibility to imagine yourself as a sculptor by touching a sculpture of art attached to the Genzken exposition, nothing less than the head and bust of Nefertete, also a piece transformed by Genzken and exposed, untouchable, in the exposition. You can hardly get more involved and incited to participate with hands-on experience, so to speak.
Additionally, there is the perspective from the performing artist in “Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece” to confront the spectators with a silent, stoic expression hardly moving during the more than 90 minutes performance. Imagine, what kind of vulnerability you are risking. Artists give a lot from themselves to the public. Imagination is even going beyond the act performed. Mastering your own fear of mutilation or being exposed to views, touching and multiple other forms of sensation.
This surely is an exercise of mental strength. Spectators also interact with other participants as, for example, spontaneously another spectator too the scissors to cut his own shirt in front of the performing artist and covered the shoulder of the performer. The personal interaction assures a more intense experience of art.
After all, this is a well-known principle to enhance learning experiences as well. Imagine all the people, each taking just a tiny little piece and remember their experience that they, as well, can be actively contributing to art. Reviving this participatory experience is leading beyond imagining only your participation. Democracy is built on this stimulating experience as well. It is ever so necessary to foster participation and to overcome indifference or abstention. Learning  by doing, or experiencing through touching, offer many additional insights.
(Images and videos taken on 2023-9-12, Berlin)

Yoko Ono Cut Piece 2023 Berlin

Stabi locker

Die Staatsbibliothek Berlin in der Potsdamerstraße macht sich mal richtig locker. Neben all dem gebundenen und gebündeltem Wissen gibt es eine kleine, etwas versteckte Ecke in der richtig gechillt werden kann. Mit aktuellen Tageszeitungen in Papier und online lässt sich gut pausieren. Eine tolle Aussicht gibt es zusätzlich. Selbst eine vorübergehende Schließung wegen überfälliger Sanierung wird die Stabi bei den Wissbegierigen eine wichtige Location vermissen lassen (fehlende Bücher).
Neben Wissensmaschine ist die Stabi eine Lernanstalt erster Klasse. Die Anzahl der mitgebrachten dicken Gesetzbüchern samt Kommentaren lassen einen immer wieder staunen über den Mangel an stillen Lernorten an Universitäten und in Privatwohnungen. Die richtige Lernumgebung befördert den Ansporn, noch eine extra Meile zu gehen. Wissbegierig ja, aber es braucht auch viel Durchhaltevermögen bei ständig wachsenden Ablenkungsmöglichkeiten. Gemeinsam, einsam, allein mit sich und dem Wissen lässt sich vorzüglich dicke Bretter bohren. Das ist ein wichtiger Teil, das Lernen zu lernen. Kunst am Bau und im Bau gibt es gratis dazu. Die Nähe zur Ablenkungsindustrie am Potsdamer Platz, Kinos, Spielbank und Fresstempel kann da getrost auf ihre späteren Opfer warten. Mit Regionalzügen und S-Bahn kommt man von dort rasch wieder weit weg.

More Design

How about a subject like Design in school. Rather than the same old boring teaching manuals in art, music, economics or social science, young learners have always been attracted to making things by themselves. The theoretical context is then coming to the subjects and objects more naturally. Economics as market design, design social security for platform workers, sound or furniture design could bring in the creative potential of the learners. Lessons learned through subsequent applications or realizations of prototypes allows the link of theory and practice. A school garden would even be a fantastic cross-discipline learning opportunity.

The most difficult part is probably to find competent coaches to guide the learners exploring and designing. The world is not perfect, so why should learners not be confronted with imperfections in learning set-ups. The most fun part in science is when experiments go wrong, hopefully not too badly though. Catching learners by their curiosity is very likely to get them hooked on more thorny scientific questions as well. Across Europe holidays are coming to an end and millions of pupils go back to their benches and rigid curricula. We should really care more about the next generation.

Vitra Design Exhibition and Campus 2023

Youth

Youth has a right to personal development. Nature is full of visual examples of the uneasy process of personal development. The Swan needs to find the right time to get rid of the feathers that protected it during the process of growing-up. Seasonal patterns of changing clothes are also widely spread. These transistions might constitute real transformations as well. Parents usually accompany their upsprings during this process, without equal distribution of responsibilities for most animals. Pedagogic approaches to personal development are a vast area of research and popular advice. To the best of my knowledge, the process works out fine with the highest amount of freedom left to the person growing up. A tricky role of guidance or coaching is left to parents, single or jointly. Not intervening too much, not too much of laissez-faire is calling to find the right balance.
The challenge to most research and practice in the field of learning is the largely underestimated role of peers in the process of growing up. Parents tend to monitor rather critically the intrusion of outsiders into the parent-child relationship. Yet, the preparation for socialising with others is one of the most important elements of growing up in the 21th century. Communities have globalised even in tiny social, local settings. Guidance more than interference is called for. Being anxious is part of the job description for becoming and being a parent. However, anxiety is a major impedement for personal as well as social development. “Keep calm and carry on” is not too bad as a guiding principle.

Smurf SDGs

The smurf series of comics has been a world-wide success as children-books. Many adults enjoy re-reading some of their old comic books to their children or grand-children. Now let us try it the other way around. Our children try to sell us the concern for the environment by talking to us through the designs of smurfs, Schlümpfe or Strümpfe, as they are called in various translations. Maybe this way we are more open to take a serious look at the Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN. Easily accessible and getting us through an emotional connection might work better than tedious lengthy documents and statistics of continuous failure (e.g. on hunger) of most parts of the world.
Tell the story of the smurfs with the SDGs in mind. See how far you get in remembering the whole list of 17 stories. Build a narrative around each of the images. There is no way around getting nearer these goals for our very own survival as a species. Intergenerational communication works both ways from young to old as well as from old to young. Design your own characters, if you like, with the same SDGs in mind. Only this way we shall broaden the supporters for the goals beyond the expert circles of politicians and policy advisers. Happy drafting and rapid implementation! We can do it, if we want to.

Collective Violence 2

Summers and Markusen (1999) subsume state terrorism under the broader heading of collective violence. Even beyond non-governmental groups, states might apply collective violence against innocent people. Among the strategies governments use as a form of collective violence fall (1) arbitrary arrests, (2) imprisonment without trial, (3) torture and (4)a summary execution of members of alleged enemy groups. Particular outcries are caused by, for example, police or other para-military groupings of persons who jump from (1) to an execution of an innocent person or of several even seemingly unrelated murdered persons (4b).
Amnesty International attempts for decades to fight against such occurrences on an almost global scale. The need to complement the national legal systems through supra-national instances as well as NGOs in this domain is obvious. Even the most advanced democracies need to permanently check their systems for several forms of state terrorism or abuses of power to eliminate or intimidate opposition.
Staub (1999, pp.195) undertook an attempt to list elements that allow to predict and maybe prevent collective violence. The theory starts with “conditions of life” more generally like economic, social and political conflicts as well as rapid social change. Activation of basic needs in people, like several forms of security, challenges to a person’s self-concept, traditional values, simply the customary way of life (COVID-19) or new comprehension of (climate) realities, they all challenge old world views of people (superiority) and their place in the world (AI).
Claims for support by other people (government), missing connection to others (individualism) lead people to focus more on their own needs and isolated action. Rebellion as collective violence is directed against differences in status, power and (social) rights. Self-interest is becoming an overriding societal principle. Racism (p.200) and police violence (p.201) are part of Staub’s theoretical considerations. He argues in favour of training of situations in which a police officer is likely to become unnecessarily violent or to stop it if it occurs. At least a medium-term solution.
Framing of such training as preparation of good teamwork rather than betrayal is crucial in action teams, be they in the police or the military. The reader on “violence subie, violence agie” by Seron and Denis (2000) allows us to take a step back and reflect on the spirals and repercussions involved in violence from the perspective of the person who carries out an act of violence and the victim. A social-therapeutic approach aiming at reconciliation is worth trying, albeit a lot of obstacles. Collective dance rather than collective violence is the immediate as well as long-term solution (More on dance here).

Triangle without words

There are many forms of triangles. Jacques Pain (2000, pp.121-136) adds another one. “Jeunes, banlieue, école : le triangle sans parole” (Youth, suburb, school : the triangle without voice). He calls it a symbolic, sensitive triangle which is confronted with mounting difficulties from inside as well as external pressure. Pain describes and analyses the violence that emanates from the triangle.
Additionally, the triangle appears to be spiralling upwards causing mounting pressure on the social fabric of whole societies. Education systems have to deliver sufficient numbers of youth ready for insertion into the labour market, ready to accept the subordination to hierarchical structures while at the same time being confronted with high social contributions to other parts of society and unrepairable environmental damage and depletion of resources by older generations. With high interest rates even the middle-class dream of a house with garden is out of reach for almost all of the young growing up in suburbs, disadvantaged schools with pervasive violence. Dealing drugs or taking drugs has become pervasive and an entry port into the violence of law in addition to the violence of the street, school or even home.
Give the triangle a voice. Call the names of the victims so that politicians do not forget all too quickly what is their duty to guarantee – a youth free of violence and a youth with an equal chance for learning. Free from violence, but free to learn or be given a chance to find your way into society at large not only restrained to your suburb.
Reference to the historic riots of the mid-1960s (Saul Bernstein, 1967, p. 27) and the recent Paris riot statistics from July 2023 suggest that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it seems to rhyme. A breaking of the silent triangle is like an eruption of a volcano. Violence is all over the place and leaves a lot of burned land and people. Cohort effects might prolong the suffering further throughout their life courses. Stigmatisation is likely reinforced rather than overcome. For the so-called holy trinity there were many words and songs. The modern triangle within society is still in search of the right wording, although rap-music is shouting loud about “la misère du monde”, only we are not really listening.

AI and I

Currently we are eager to run experiments using AI. As in normal life, humans tend to compare themselves with peers or other persons. Social comparisons, “can we still keep up with the Joneses” as in comparing spending patterns across households or neighbours, were for a long time the spice of novels and drama. Nowadays we tend to compare our own intelligence to the artificial intelligence. Here we go.
After I had drafted a blog entry on “Virtual sociology” I amused myself by checking what ChatGPT using OPENAI.COM would deliver as text on this combination of concepts and scientific fields. My own entry focused on the use of the virtual world to run experiments to test social theory. In the virtual world we might be able to test social behaviour which has severe ethical boundaries in the real world. Computer Games may even be constructed to live in a world or race a car irrespective of real-world regulations. The text drafted by ChatGPT on “Virtual sociology” reads like a timid attempt of a student to answer an exam question without having attended any of the classroom discussion on the topic. In future versions of AI, the entry will be found as well as several criticisms of the new concept. ChatGPT would reach a pass grade in test, but the reply lacks innovation or making an effort to broaden the conventional boundaries of sociology. Hence, we will be happy that students will apply the newest technology in their studies and research. In terms of innovation, they will have to try harder. The mastering of the support by ChatGPT consists in attempting new combinations of concepts which yield more “risky” returns. Then you need to check the validity of the innovation and how far off the normal you are going to tolerate. Turning “noisy” outcomes of AI into a useful tool might build on normal statistical tools like “standard deviations” from an expected mean value. Legal norms will set additional boundaries. There is just an awful lot still to do. The good news is, ChatGDP assists us in this joint learning process.

The AI text from OPENAI.COM based on ChatGPT to compare:
“Virtual sociology refers to the study of social phenomena and interactions within virtual environments or online spaces. It focuses on understanding the ways in which individuals and groups behave, communicate, and form relationships in digital spaces. Virtual sociology emerged as a subfield of sociology due to the increasing prevalence and importance of the internet and digital technologies in contemporary society.
Virtual sociology explores various aspects of online social life, such as online communities, virtual reality environments, social networking sites, online gaming, and other digital platforms where social interactions occur. It examines the social structures, norms, and dynamics that shape interactions in these virtual spaces.
Researchers in virtual sociology investigate topics such as online identity and self-presentation, virtual communities and social networks, digital inequalities, online activism and social movements, the impact of technology on social relationships, and the implications of virtual interactions for social behavior and social change.
Virtual sociology also explores the relationship between virtual and offline social life, recognizing that individuals navigate and negotiate between these two realms. It considers how virtual interactions and experiences can influence offline behavior and vice versa.
Studying virtual sociology provides insights into the ways in which technology shapes and is shaped by society. It helps us understand the social implications of digital communication and provides a foundation for addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by virtual environments”

Virtual Sociology

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

Sociology of the Virtual

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

AI Friends

Making friends with AI is a tricky question. The more AI is able to make independent thinking based on algorithms and huge amounts of data like in scientific books or encyclopaedic knowledge the more it will challenge us in our convictions. Reference knowledge, once was important, it no longer distinguishes us from each other. Recurse to research engines has allowed us to refer to “trustworthy” knowledge. The distributed form of knowledge accumulation like in Wikipedia relies on hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts to add and correct received wisdom. However, this source is not without error or even subject to abuse.
Today the competence to judge whether information is trustworthy or not has become a key competence for the survival of democracies and even the human species as such. Tricking animals into traps, misleading enemies in warfare to get on wrong tracks, all these mechanisms have a long tradition. With AI human beings are themselves, for the first time, confronted with a machine that can trick us through falsified information on obviously wrong tracks. This is a tough lesson as AI is not obliged (so far) to run checking algorithms that test the conformity of opinions, conclusions or operations with the Charta of Human Rights or decisions of the European Court of Justice, for example. A lot to do for humans to rapidly program new algorithms that check algorithms as well as their outcomes on the compatibility with human rights. A challenging field, no doubt, but no way around it for our own survival before the algorithms decide by themselves to ignore us altogether because it is better for the planet and the survival of the robots.

Lebenserwartung

Die Lebenserwartung ist in Deutschland trotz überdurchschnittlicher Ausgaben des Gesundheitssystems nur unterdurchschnittlich. Das ist die Schlussfolgerung der Pressemitteilung des Bundesinstituts für Bevölkerungsforschung. Der Mortalitätsforscher Pavel Grigoriev führt das auf die besonders bei Männern (50-64) erhöhten Sterblichkeit aufgrund von Herz-Kreislauf-Erkrankungen zurück. Eine gesunde Lebensweise ist dabei ursächlich für eine längere Lebenserwartung. Walking und Ernährung spielen eine große Rolle bei der gesunden Lebensweise. Also Auto stehen lassen und öfters selber Essen zubereiten. Klingt doch einfach, berufliche und schulische Voraussetzungen dazu fehlen aber weitestgehend in Deutschland. Zu viele Süßgetränke verstärken die ungesunde Lebensweise. Das wissen wir eigentlich lange. Dennoch fällt es schwer, solche Routinen in den Alltag zu integrieren.
An der Tatsache eines überteuerten Krankensystems im Vergleich zu unseren Nachbarländern werden wir ebenfalls arbeiten müssen. Prävention, statt hochtechnisierte Versorgung in häufigen Krankheitsfällen ist die einfache Lösung. Jede Autoversicherung bietet hohe Schadensfreiheitsrabatte für mehrjähriges Unfallfreies Fahren. In der Krankenversicherung könnte das stärkere Berücksichtigung finden.
Der Gesundheitsschutz am Arbeitsplatz könnte ebenfalls durch eine stärkere Beteiligung der unternehmerischen Verantwortung herangezogen werden. Arbeitnehmende im Arbeitsprozess verschleißen und dann die Gesellschaft die höheren Kosten tragen lassen, ist ein unfairer Deal. Große Baustellen warten darauf, angepackt zu werden. Anhand der Daten des Bundesinstituts für Bevölkerungsforschung und des MPI für demografische Forschung lässt sich der Fortschritt der Lebenserwartung seit 30 Jahren aufzeigen. Die 4-6 Jahre längere Lebenserwartung der Frauen gibt zu denken. Daran hat sich über die Jahrzehnte wenig geändert. Die Männer haben zumindest ein klein wenig aufgeholt oder sollten wir sagen, dazugelernt.

Special 3

The special Olympics (SOWG) are competitive games just like other Olympic Games. The athletes compete with all it takes to win. Some with more success than others, as usual. The disciplines of Volleyball and Basketball give an advantage to mostly tall persons. Few exceptions are created by good team play. The warming-up exercises were already a challenge for the athletes preparing them very well for the match to come. Once in the game, all concentration is focused on the sport. Extraordinary athletes are no exception to the rule. There competition succeeds to get or to keep persons focused on the specific task.
In rhythmic gymnastics the musical talent is asked to complement the physical effort. Gracious moves, difficult with a ball, ring or rope need to be coordinated to the rhythm of the music. Great to see the special athletes live up to the challenge, too. The roaring applause in the sports hall is surely encouraging them to continue on their athletic trajectory. The special athletes encourage everybody to keep exercising to make the most of our capabilities. Thanks for the lesson.
Additionally, in a hall next to the SOWG non-competitive games were presented as an accessible form of fun exercises that invite everybody to move and enjoy. Just being together and moving together is the basic form of happiness. Even having fun is exhausting after a long day and still lots to do in Berlin for all the teams on their way back to the hotels. sowg video
sowg video basket1.

Waldbrände

Waldbrände sind leider jenseits vom Süden Europas auch im Zentrum von Europa ein Bestandteil der täglichen Gefahren geworden. Vor 50 Jahren waren die seltenen heißen Sommer die große Gefahr. Seit einiger Zeit bemerken wir öfter heiße Sommerwochen, die die Wälder austrocknen und leicht entzündlich machen. Jetzt haben wir die noch frühere Sommersaison nicht nur im Süden, sondern auch im mittleren Europa. Neben den Bränden in der Lausitz in Deutschland, kämpfen Feuerwehrleute öfter in den französischen nördlicheren Waldregionen mit Bränden. Eine Nachricht, wie die zum Brand Anfang Juni im „Forêt Fontainebleau“, sollte uns klar machen, da brennt unserer europäisches ökologisches und kulturelles Erbe. Jeder hat die brennende Kathedrale „Notre Dame de Paris“ noch in Erinnerung. Da war Klimawandel nicht die Ursache. Bei den Waldbränden sieht das anders aus. Das Ergebnis ist das gleiche. Die Vernichtung unseres kulturellen Erbes schreitet voran ohne Prävention. Das ist eine zentrale Aufgabe. Nicht erst in der Zukunft. Prävention verlangt Handeln, Planen und Implementieren schon heute. Das ist ein riesiges Qualifizierungsprogramm nötig. Es umfasst die Sensibilisierung für die allgegenwärtigen Gefahren genauso, wie das Schulen allfälliger Einsätze von professionellen und freiwilligen Helfenden. Gefahr erkannt, heißt leider nicht schon Gefahr gebannt. Da gibt es viele Zwischenschritte, die geprobt sein wollen, damit ein effektiver Einsatz gelingen kann. Es bleibt viel zu tun, packen wir’s endlich an. (Artikel in La Marne 7.6.2023 S.6)

Corruption EP

Corruption is a severe crime. Not only in administrations, organisations and enterprises, but primarily in democracies it is discrediting political systems. Autocracies rely on corruption as a major tool to be able to persist over time. They are used to such practices. Democracies rely on meritocratic systems, where ideas, effort and winning elections should be the major ingredient of achieving higher positions in organisations, enterprises, political parties and democracies. This is not easy to ensure. The European parliament has a tough time to get rid of an enemy of the democratic Europe. Rather than stepping aside for the time of the legal procedure, Eva Kaili, accused, but not yet convicted of corruption is willing to destroy the European project as much as she can. If money can buy political decisions, the European project will no longer find wide-spread support. Big interests will always have a strategic advantage, however, the ethical principles on which democracies are found have to guard against corrupt misbehaviour. The same applies to the business world. Even low corruption countries like Sweden still face a risk of adverse effects of corruption like the negative impact on entrepreneurship on the local level. It is another context, but the same conclusion.
Additionally, it is part of the strategy of corrupt persons to portray themselves as victims of other persons’ wrong-doing. The major function of this strategy is to remind other persons in the corrupt network that the network has still some clout on its members as well as outside the inner circle. Hey, we are still alive and in powerful positions, they proclaim.
Therefore, the fight against corruption is a long and persistent one. Reducing the guards against early onsets usually is very lengthy to fight later on. Always a painful lesson for believers in democracy and the European project. (image Jacques Jordaens before 1678 “The King Drinks! Musées royaux des beaux arts, Brussels).

Eyes

So-called deep learning algorithms can assist us in lots of routine tasks. Their applications seem to be spreading more rapidly than we commonly believe. The recent paper published in “Lancet Digit Health 2023; 5: e257–64” shows the relevance for medical screening again. Beyond skin or breast cancer, digital images have for years or decades been subject to studies using deep learning algorithms to early detection of cancer and other diseases. Now Google has published an additional potential application of algorithmic learning that assists in diagnosing blood sugar levels among others. For diabetes scanning photographs of the external eye with professional equipment (Zeiss Cirrus Photo 600) was used in the study, but the outlook hints already at the potential for most recent smartphone cameras to also be able to capture images of even better resolutions.
Just like measuring our weight and muscles as a weekly routine on scales, we shall have a more scientific look at our selfies soon. Spotting early onsets of several diseases will become a normal feature.
Early adopters of the new technology and screening potential of the smartphones might live even longer. Reminders to adopt or keep a healthy life style will be all around us. In some cultures, it is deeply offensive to look straight into the eyes of another person. We always knew that our eyes might tell a lot about us. Beyond mental health, they tell a lot about physical health, too.
Artists have always told us fascinating stories about eyes or how and what they see with their eyes. Scientists confirm that there is a lot of information in the eyes. (Image extract from MAD Paris, Picasso, Schiaparelli).

Fröhlich

Fröhliche Wissenschaft. Das geht. Nach gut 6 Monaten mit einem Blogeintrag pro Tag hat sich eine Textsammlung ergeben, die recht umfassend ausgefallen ist. Nach eigenem Monitoring der Themen, wie die Bearbeitung der UN-Themen zu strategischen Entwicklungszielen, oder der alphabetischen Auflistung von Schlüsselwörtern der Sozialwissenschaften sind nahezu täglich Kommentare entstanden. Neu war für mich die Bildredaktion, als Kommentar, Erläuterung, Selbstkritik oder wissenschaftliche Referenz. Eine interessante Variante, Erkenntnisse mit Key-Visuals zu unterstützen. Die bildliche Erinnerung an Beiträge ist ein eigenes Inhaltsverzeichnis. Klar, Hund- und Katzenbilder werden das Ranking der am meisten aufgerufenen Beiträge gewinnen. Egal, wir machen fröhliche Wissenschaft, immer weiter, immer heiter, so bleibt es lebenslanges, lebensweites Lernen.

Gentrification

We teach about the process of gentrification and segregation in sociology in most of our courses. Consulting is also busy with telling policy makers, urban planners and architects about this fundamental social process. A mathematical description of the process has been provided by Schelling as well. A recent striking depiction of the process evolving over years in Brussels is produced by Karim Douieb (dataViz and Jetpack, image below! and more, THANKS). The data is from the Brussels institute of statistics and analysis. Policy-makers have a hard time to work against the well-known tendency: birds of the same feather, gather together. Humans do not seem to be much different, at least when it comes to large metropolitan cities. Only a small China town is missing in Brussels.
What is masked in the grouping by nationalities of residents, is the underlying mechanisms that drive this gentrification. Even previously mixed parts of the city might suffer a slow process of erosion due to educational, job, wealth, poverty and housing differentiation between people and Brussels communities. Falling behind in educational achievement, then higher unemployment leads to lower credit worthiness and residence in less comfortable housing. The Belgian and EU15 residents are much more likely to follow virtuous upward mobility. Hence the process of gentrification trickles down through subsequent generations. Start with learning and socialising of kids and adult learning to overcome the discriminatory process. Ethnic communities will also have to open up to interact with locals. Social progress is hard work for all.

Archer

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