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Nowadays information doesn’t only travel by text, but also by video. Now we all know that there are thousands of ‘How to’-videos out there to help us filleting fish or tie one’s tie. But this isn’t all. Thinking also has found video to be an interesting format – look at the fantastic animation of this Zizek lecture or at Hannah Arendt blowing smoke at Günter Gaus in 1964, for example. The Suhrkamp Verlag takes this development quite seriously. It has not only one but even two video channels on YouTube, on which you find its authors like Rainald Goetz reading/talking. And as my former flatmate Nikolaj Belzer is an upcoming and talented director (who in the past often used our old apartment as a set) I decided to ask Suhrkamp, if they would be interested in us producing a video to summarize the book. What can I say, our idea fell on sympathetic ears. So here you go:
Many thanks to Robert Lippok, who allowed us to use one of his tracks from his excellent album “Redsuperstructure” released on Raster Noton – if you are into abstract minimal music, you definitely should get it. Yes, I am a big fan. Also many thanks to the director Nikolaj Belzer, who knows how to make my apartment telling its own story of the book. Finally, thanks to my apartment for keeping us warm. I hope you enjoy the outcome – feel free to share it.
When I came home yesterday night from a horribly gone astray Lufthansa flight, I found this addition to the family! I can tell you that mother and child are doing well, and you can visit them printed here, and in a Kindle version here [funnily enough for one cent less than the printed 14€]. I hope you will aquire a liking for them.
A new century needs new efforts, and this will be an important guide for everyone eager to understand digitalisation: Gilbert Simondon, the French philosopher who’s book on technology has finally been translated. Up till now you could only download the first few English chapters of his book ‘On the mode of existence of technical objects’ here. Then Dan Mellamphy recently made the effort to translate the important last part. Now it has also been published in German by the bustling editors of Diaphanes. Autumn may come, willing to stay in now!
… and then the Olympics took your hand and dragged you along, out of the helicopter of a preconceived opinion and into the crowd: even people who had decided they were going to hate this entertainment spectacle, started raving instead of ranting. And rightly so. Danny Boyle’s interpretation of social achievement was so much more than glorifying the idea of a nation set up for sponsors to display their logo.
Not only that there was an entire deaf and hearing children choir called CHAOS singing the National Anthem in their pyjamas, while the recreated hill of the Glastonbury Tor made all the officials look a bit lost in the green. To a certain extent it also gave history back to those who made it, and suddenly we found the workers of the industrial revolution alongside its engineers. Here history isn’t just made by outstanding heroes. We as a society rise, too. And suddenly it all came clear: fascinating about the Olympics is that deep down in the architecture of the games we find a transcendent gesture.
(If it doesn’t work, try this)
Let’s be honest: we humans like the idea that we can rise – who wouldn’t want to -, and the idea that we are able to has many places in the games. Not only because athletes rise above their limits, but also because it was always meant to be an event in which nations are coming together to leave all national trouble behind. This moment that we can rise and overcome, now playfully hopped, in Boyle’s version, from scene to scene: it got picked up by James Bond, the Queen and her lovely chubby corgis, all four larger than life of course; it got enacted by books and musicmusicmusic and dancers all able to perform the trick of erecting a different world in the existing; it was displayed in the ethereal cyclists with glowing wings, as well as in the national praise of a choir of deaf children; and by a National Health Service taking care of a gigantic sci-fi baby, too – stop! Okay, let’s consider this for a moment .
As all the excited tweets made apparent, here the ceremony had its truly transcending moment: giving health service a place among the historic achievements of our societies. Boyle is right, when he says free universal healthcare is “an amazing thing to celebrate”. As it hasn’t a single hero, it often gets forgotten in history. Also it isn’t easy to put into a narrative and storify, which shows that we sometimes need an artist to help us see (let’s call it: Boyle’s Eisenstein moment).
But it is important: it embodies the values of our society, for we do not only help when paid with money and profit but when help is needed. Never would it have occurred to me that the NHS could be Pop. Bonkers! It has changed our societies definitely as much as the industrial revolution or digital technology, and reaches out to millions of people much like a live-tweeting Tim Berners-Lee. By the way, digital technology has proved that even though we live under the reign of entertainment, there can be a mass secret. While 60,000 people saw the dress rehearsal two days before, its story stayed secret. Amazing, isn’t it?
Finally, there is one element in the choreography of the Olympic opening ceremony that I can’t get out of my head: the fact that during the never ending march of all the national teams in their funny dresses more athletes hold a camera in their hands than flags. As if we can see the rise of a new transcending element: in leaving our individual borders to belong to something bigger, soon technology will be as connecting as the idea of a nation. Not a bad thing, I suppose.
I’ve been in Vienna yesterday to discuss the future of digital advertising with some interesting guys from Spotify and play.fm (the advertising summit was happening in this massive gorgeous place, the Hofburg, sort of like the Buckingham Palace of Austria). Back in London, I entertained my travel from Heathrow back home to Hackney with some news. Among them I found the following two news items: The London Games called the army for security help. And the gorgeous museum in Berlin, the Gemäldegalerie, plans to relocate its 500 year old masters to make way for a €150m donation of modern classics that would attract more visitors. Question: What do these two news items have in common?
Let’s have a look. With the London games the case is the following: The security company G4S was initially contracted by Games organizer Locog in 2010 to provide 2,000 security staff for £86 million. Meanwhile that figure has risen to 10,400 personnel in a contract now worth £284m. Unfortunately their eyes were bigger as their belly, so to say. They accepted the pitch to make more profit, and they were the most profitable bid for Locog who obviously missed out controlling if they were able to deliver. The result of all this money driven logic? Now the army is called for help. Great! Looking forward the games.
From the Olympic Games security disaster to a Berlin Museum
Meanwhile in Berlin, the Gemäldegalerie considers to kick out its old masters to put them partly in storage. The reasons: Collectors Heiner and Ulla Pietzsch have donated a new collection to the nation on the condition that it is put on display in its entirety (and not in storage). Of course, for most people surrealists and expressionists are somewhat easier to access than old masters from the 15th century, so away with the old stuff and in with the new. In Germany, museums have become the most lucrative entertainment after the movies, they attract more people than theaters or football. It seems that by now we need to please people, and that our public places are driven according to a head count. For sure, we have stopped to think of museums as places where we can learn and discover something about our human past, hereby making human history a place only for experts.
While at first glance, these two news don’t seem to be related, they secretly share one ugly gesture. Money is the logic that drives both, and where once politics have ruled, now rules an economic logic. Earlier on, the buzzing advertising summit with its Google and Blackberry booths erected in the middle of this beautiful baroque ceremonies hall also made this evident. While the summit has been full of discussions of high quality, way too often economy, once a lively debated subject, has much changed with entering the throne. We must have done something wrong. Discursively, it became a monolith whose only logic seems to be profit. That hasn’t always been the case, and it is not good for economy. As the case of the now in deep shit security company G4S makes apparent, to act more profitable isn’t always the best solution. By now, our Western societies badly need another buzzword to keep ‘profit’ in check.
PS: Sign this petition (click on the link) -> ‘Reconsider the plan to empty the Gemäldegalerie of Old Masters’
Imagine you are an alien, and your daily profession is to search the universe for intelligent life. There are a couple of options in the universe, you – an expert on pictorial intelligence – look at each day in your office. One day Earth is on top of your check list. A drone has just come back, which had collected the pictorial symbols and pictures that the humans have produced. Your device now automatically sorts them in a timeline. You look at the outcome.
It clearly indicates a strong self-interest: for centuries the humans have mostly made pictures of each other, apart from some animals. Their self-interest has been consistent, extends over quite a long period of time and the use of different devices – using earthy brown colours in caves, paint on canvases, and colour film in cameras. Then you frown. You notice that suddenly a fundamental change occurs. Your data visualisation shows a meteoric increase of pictures, after which the humans don’t seem to focus on each other anymore. Instead, the pictures show a world without humans but full of things, buildings and objects.
Have you noticed this, too? If not, look here: in order to verify this little story, luckily we don’t need a drone. You can simply scan the general picture stream on Instagram, Flickr, or Tumbr. And in case you want to check some of the more outstanding examples, look at the lovely picture blog of Soundcloud’s Katharina Birkenbach (who has now like many others moved on to Instagram). Or the Flickr account of both Matt’s from BergLondon’s (Webb & Jones). Or the brilliant stream of Plugimi, in itself a piece of art. Or this lovely one over here from Switzerland. Or … and so on, and so on. It seems as if we have left the portrait of the human to professionals like Hedi Slimane et. al. Everywhere else you find lot’s of pictures with nearly no humans in them. I am sure you can add yourself some examples. And you know what? This makes the once upon a time trained art historian in me quite excited.
For in the history of pictures, this is quite a new development. Up till now, in the hierarchy of genres pictures with humans were valued most. The more humans, even the better: the history painting was top-notch, followed by portrait painting, and third came genre painting which showed scenes of everyday life (still with humans), while animals and finally still life were last in the ranking. Such being the case, the rise of the human-less picture (or massive return of the still life, however you want to name this) is astonishing.
Recently I turned to Norman Bryson’s famous essays on still life painting, “Looking at the Overlooked”. Now surley, abundance and prosperity as reward of living a virtuous life isn’t the topic here. However, the new still lives also negate the human form: there is no narrative, and in most pictures nothing happens. There is no event, apart from the physical exclusion of the human which in this massive appearance becomes an event in itself. So what does this tell us about us? Well. Um. All right.
I decided to explore the explanation for this further. Starting with a list: Like: humans are harder to catch. Compared with architecture and food they never sit still. Or: we don’t want to make our friends upset by exposing them to the digital public. Or: our camera’s are not yet made for history painting pictures. Or: we only publish what is public anyway. Or: why worry, objects are human, too. Or: we are afraid to be sued for the right to privacy. Or: we all feel a bit disconnected.
Please, feel welcome to add. I am going to take this subject with me in my bag for a while to follow it up later.
Done! Finally I am about to leave the house in order to say hello to the summer. I have spent the last days drawing my powerpoint slides to deliver a follow up at the Berlin re:publica to this talk: How algorithms change our society. Or: What can we expect from the Internet of Things? Had quite some good discussions about its potential in the last days, and look forward to the talk now.
While teaching the bright young students at the art university of Linz and enjoying the fabulous pastries of the bakery Brandl, I noticed something quite interesting. In Austrian advertising, on the streets and in public life in general, everyone is looked at through a heterosexual filter. Sexual attraction is forced upon you as in a playful way you become a pick-up option. Even the Jehova’s witnesses guy greeted me with a twinkle in the eye the other morning: “Good morning Madam, are we in a hurry today?”
While in the past this would have made me feel uncomfortable, nowaydays I find it quite amusing. I play my role and enjoy to observe an evolutionary setting that has gone stray in a globalized world: the attraction to the other sex. I think as we became a global village this has become outdated. Or don’t you agree: even if we are heterosexual, we don’t like the other sex in general. For sure I don’t. In my utterly heterosexual life, I was never attracted to men in general, only to some of them. To live under the spell of a general male/female attraction is amusing. Here in Austria, I had the feeling you will never be alone. There will always be a mountain high, heterosexual matrix with you. And amazing pastry.
Currently I fight with facebook. There are two reasons for this: first of all, I try to bring the social network into the line of an essay I am writing. And as some of you know, thoughts never behave. They always dance out of the line, the more if you write about a network which doesn’t like straight lines anyhow. It will surely be easier to discuss the problems with facebook live at the upcoming UnlikeUs conference in Amsterdam to which I am looking forward to go.
Secondly, I am tired of facebook. Not because I suddenly despise it, not at all. I still think people who get all riled up about facebook should simply leave. For quite a while I liked it, but now I am utterly uninspired about what to communicate. However, I don’t want to leave because you only grow out of a relationship to replace it with a new one. Yes, this applies not only to humans but also to technology. We have started a blog which we later abandoned for a micro-blogging platform. Or we talked with friends on facebook which we are now about to leave for talking to them on Google+.
Interestingly enough, switching networks is not that easy. Which is why I thirdly fight with facebook. The problem is, you can’t just sign up to a new network and start a conversation right away. If you are new on Google+, for example, your contacts won’t pay attention, even if you are connected to a lot of people. Surely you have noticed yourself that people who do nothing but re-direct their Twitter feed to facebook barely ever get a facebook-comment.
Today, you need to cultivate a network like you cultivate a friendship. This is why most of us are whether on Twitter or on facebook or on Google+, but nearly no one actively handles all of them. Like friendships, we have a partiality for a certain types of computerized communication, and soon our preferred communication network will become part of our profile. Okay, back to facebook.
The empire is back! The new trend among news organisations: expansion. Britain’s Daily Mail, since last week the biggest online newspaper in the world when it surpassed the New York Times by 500,000 unique visitors, is a good example. After its editor-in-chief Martin Clarke took the US by storm with two offices in New York and Los Angeles, they now tackle the next English speaking realm, India, with a MailOnline India frontpage. So does the Wall Street Journal with an Indian edition and its Hindi blog, and the New York Times with India Ink.
Meanwhile, my lovely former employer The Guardian has launched an Arabic section of its site with articles on politics and current events in the Middle East as well as a series on football. The project to convert the large Guardian reading US audience into a more sustainable relationship is also making progress – last year my former MediaGuardian boss Steve Busfield packed his things to sport-blog from New York, from where the editor-in-chief of GuardianUS, Janine Gibson, subtly steers the digital US dinghy off to pastures new with a team of 10 editors. Which is a good thing: if journalism expands from foreign correspondent to flagship stores, the quality of journalism gains indeed as you always learn more on the ground.
The Huffington Post, on the other hand, goes the other way round with launching a British and now a French edition. Only it wouldn’t be the Huffington Post if they were not taking things even further, would it. Yesterday they announced a new thing: they will bring you Internet-TV with the Huffington Post Streaming Network. Sending live 12h daily from summer on, they plan to try something like “social media breaking news”, i.e. their journalists will pick up what is discussed on social media, and one third of the screen will display comments of Twitter and Facebook. That they take this project bloody serious tell the numbers: 100 journalists will be devoted to this.
Picture via TV Exchanger
Expansion is the new strategy but really, this seems a bit odd. Remember that last year we spend under the banner of the paywall? And anyhow, can expanding be an international trend? After all, it is tied to the English language, isn’t it? Indeed, in Germany, Spiegel Online just launched its own app for Spiegel Online International but it is doubtful that other media outlets follow that example. Smaller newspapers have to figure out their own way. Still, there are ways to grow, for example when expanding into new topics or – as the Huffington Post – new media. Thank you, internet, looks like 2012 will be an interesting year.
The following sentence weirdly hang about in Fyodor Dostoyevsky “The Possessed”, which I read between the years. Okay: still read, but it is nearly finished.
Daughters will grow up even in the most careful families, and it is essential for grown up daughters to dance. 418