Narrative Object

Objects tell stories. Stories get condensed into narratives. Narratives become objects. Yes, we are going round in circles here. Artists have transformed an old splendid atelier and factory building into a new gallery space for “Objects with narratives” in Brussels. We construct, reconstruct and deconstruct narratives almost continuously. However, if narratives are transformed into an object or objects they will become something tangible or a fixed expression of the moment or process. The concept of art objects with narratives invites us to look for the narrative linked to the object. Just like in other disciplines like economics we have ample dominant and heterodox narratives. It is important to reflect on narratives and empirical evidence in their support. When we look at the mountains of plastics and garbage on our planet we see how an economic narrative has been turned into nasty objects. Objects with narratives is also how future generations will confront us with the pollution and waste objects we left and still leave behind us. (Image Bussels Gallery Objects with narratives 2024-7-13 Exhibition Marius Ritiu.)

Family Kafka

100 years after Franz Kafka’s death nearly all facets of his life and writings have been analyzed. The archives of the editor Wagenbach and the publishing house have now opened an exhibition at the “Stabi Ost” in Berlin adding a family picture book description of Kafka’s life (Curator Hans-Gerd Koch). This is of interest because Kafka himself had written an extensive letter to his father (Brief an den Vater) in which he tries to understand his intricate relationship with his father and other family members.
Nowadays, some people would try to analyze Kafka’s life through the parapsychological technique of family constellations. The far-reaching and pan-European family networks of the Kafka (father) and Löwy (mother) families were more than just an excellent source of inspiration. 2 younger brothers died in their first year. 3 younger sisters followed more traditional evolutionary patterns within families. The television series on Kafka’s life add to the understanding of his sources of inspiration and “parallel worlds” he created and lived in. The exceptional “fictionalization” of his own life and existence in the spirit of André Breton’s surrealism remains a milestone in the history of literature.
Kafka himself thought he was not really “instagrammable”at the time, but his image has reached and still reaches millions of people (Link to Picture archive). He himself would probably have defended the thesis that the most powerful images are within us. … and they are hard to escape from.
(Image from Exposition in Staatsbibliothek Berlin 2024-4, QR-code links to reading in originals!)

Heroines

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

AI and text

The performance of large language models (LLMs) with respect to text recognition and drafting texts is impressive. All those professions that draft a lot of texts have often decades of experience with using word-processing software. The assistance of software in the field of texts ranges from immediate typo corrections to suggestions of synonyms or grammatical corrections in previous word-processing software.
The improvement of AI stems for example from the potential to suggest alternative drafts of the text according to predefined styles. A very useful style is the “use of easy language”. This rewriting of texts simplifies texts in the sense that longer and more structured sentences are split into shorter ones, lesser-known words or acronyms are replaced by more common or simpler words. Some languages like German have a particular need to use easy language when it comes to administrative regulations and procedures. Public services that aim for inclusiveness of for example older persons or youth can become much more accessible if the use of easy language is spread more widely. Just keep in mind the large numbers of so-called “functional illiterates” (OECD study “PIAAC”) in all OCED countries.
AI can do a great job in assisting to reach a broader public with texts adapted to their level of literacy and numeracy competences. Webpage Designers have made use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for years now. The most common way is to use frequently searched keywords more often on your website in order to be found more often by search engines like GOOGLE et al. Additionally, AI allows to explain keywords, sentences or even jokes to you (Spriestersbach 2023 p.111). This may help in situations when cross-cultural understanding is important.
We have made use of optical character recognition (OCR) for a long time now in public services as well as firms and for private archives. AI is taking this “learning experience” to the next level by making use of the content of the recognized text. Predicting the following word or suggesting the next sentence was only the beginning of AI with respect to texts. AI can draft your speech to plead guilty or not guilty in a court. But we shall have to live with the consequences of making exclusive use of it rather than referring back to experts in the field. AI please shorten this entry, please!

Cinema D

In terms of statistics cinemas are almost back to the pre Covid levels of spectators. The sector is worth in Germany close to 1 billion € in 2023. The price level has risen as well but many cinemas have upgraded their cinema experience as well in terms of comfort, audio and visual quality. Traditional houses provide chairs that compare well with home comfort and for a little more you can put up your feet as well after a long workday. Drinks and food may be served directly at your seats so the time to relax is guaranteed. However, this depends a lot on what type of movie you have chosen. The movie industry has adapted to modern technology and comfort. The turnover of a movie theatre is supported a lot by the consumption of beverages on site and they make huge efforts to prolong the visit beyond the screening of the movie. The competition for the time and money of the consumer is intense. The quality of the whole experience will determine the survival of the cinema. It is worth much more than a second best solution for rainy days or the cold season.

Opportunity Costs

Skiing in winter is a pleasure that has become more elitist. The downhill skiing has always been an expensive sport, but affordable school holidays gave the sport a more accessible touch. The cheaper version of long distance skiing or skating on larger trails involves much more endurance. The report of the French Cour des Comptes in 2024 questions the sense of the huge investment that is still devoted to save the pleasure of the few. I
nstead of investment to the benefit of relatively few persons, these funds could put the money into a more sustainable, socially and ecological productive purpose. Installations could be used all year round rather than in the few weeks at best months with snow. It is remarkable that the court has highlighted this kind of opportunity costs of such installations. Instead of investing in soon to be obsolete infrastructure at lower altitudes like water reservoirs and water canons, this money could already start the eventually necessary transition process. Each € spent is not only lost for the transition, but might create additional environmental liabilities and damage.
From economists it is to be expected that they mention competition in their arguments. Not all stations of skiing will survive. Put more dramatically, in the process of closing skiing at lower and middle level altitude, competition intensifies between stations and of who can survive. Public funds should not be misused in this endeavour. Lobbying is strong and political incumbents tend to favour the merit and legacy of digging for the white gold. Changes of mind sets, investment narratives and decisions are tough. From much downhill skiing we might soon remember only the downward slope before the healthy aspects of climbing a slope takes the upper hand.

POSSE

for a German speaking audience POSSE stands for a farsical popular drama of the 18th and 19th centuries. Nowadays POSSE has particularly in the English speaking world a completely different meaning. POSSE is short for Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Everywhere. In other words publish your own creative work, text, tech or melody on your own website first before spreading the content on other platforms. By this strategy you make sure your content stays your content even if a platform like eXitTwitter disappears or the hype has passed like with facebook. And if at any point in time you decide the whole internet is a farce, you will be able to edit the content from your own webpage as a book or audio version as an edited volume. Do not make yourself a modern slave of tobacco, drugs, alcohol or platforms for whom you create (mostly unpaid) content they use to sell advertisements with huge untaxed profits. With POSSE you can make an end to this farce. We still rely on search engines like QWANT, Ecosia, duckduckgo or Mozilla’s Firefox, to name a few less well known web searching tools. They ensure that other people find your webpage beyond the elephant in the room called Google.

Examples of search engines of the internet

Priming

Nicht nur PsychologInnen müssen über den „Priming Effekt“ Bescheid wissen. Ein vorhergehendes Wort, Bild oder eine kurze Geschichte oder eben ein Blog-eintrag können in der Erinnerung Assoziationen hervorrufen, die das Verständnis oder die Einordnung der neu hinzukommenden Information (Wort oder Bild etc. ) wesentlich beeinflussen.
Bei dem Blog-eintrag zu „Barbie“ kann das relativ einfach nachvollzogen werden. Mit einem Bezug auf die Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, über Täter und Opfer sowie Strafverfolgung und Gerichtsbarkeit als Vorgeschichte oder Vorlektüre wird bei dem Wort „Barbie“ schnell die Assoziation Klaus Barbie in Erinnerung gerufen.
Ein anderes Priming im Kontext von Geschichten zu Geschlechterrollen, Kinderspielzeug, Kleider anziehen, Schönheitsideale sowie Mode erzeugen mit dem nachfolgenden Wort „Barbie“ unmittelbar Assoziationen mit dem Konsumartikel der Barbie als weiblicher Spielfigur bei den meisten Personen. Unser Gedächtnis oder vorherige Informationen lassen uns nicht mehr unabhängig oder unvorbereitet neue Information aufnehmen. Dieser psychologische Effekt auf unsere Meinungs- und Informationsfreiheit kann rhetorisch oder strategisch zum Beispiel in Zeitungen genutzt werden. Wird Ökologie im Politikteil, Wirtschaftsteil oder dem Wissenschaftsteil einer Zeitung aufgeführt, wird bereits eine vorher bestimmte Erwartungshaltung der Lesenden erzeugt, der dann einfach entsprochen wird. Die transdisziplinäre Natur des Begriffs geht dabei schon weitestgehend verloren. Priming ist überall, das fängt wohl schon mit dem Wecker morgens an. Wie gut, dass die Snooze-Taste schon erfunden wurde. Zumindest kurz können wir uns der Illusion hingeben, noch für eine kurze Weile, dem allgegenwärtigen, alltäglichen Priming zu entkommen.