Posts Tagged ‘Social’

A Field Guide to Gay Animals

A fascinating and risqué new podcast from the creators of Canadaland. Some viewer discretion advised.

From gay swans to self-pleasuring elephants and amorous giraffes, they learn how scientists have been understanding and misunderstanding queerness in nature for centuries. And they introduce us to a bold researcher in the 1990’s who helped us see nature for what it is – queer as fuck.

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How the U.S. Is Destroying Young People’s Future

Your Undivided Attention on Social Media and Youth

As someone who is quite solidly anti-social media (this blog is the closest I come to taking part in social media), this episode of the Your Undivided Attention podcast is a sobering listen. It’s an interview with writer Jonathan Haidt, where they particularly focus on the mental health crisis among Gen Z, the first generation who have grown up completely in the social media era. Notably, Zoomers have much higher rates of anxiety and depression.

It starts with a sobering detailing of a slow educational crisis starting with Ben Z (generally considered to be kids born from the mid/late 90’s into the early 2010’s):

…humans had a play-based childhood for millions of years because that’s what mammals do. All mammals play. They have to play to wire up their brains. But that play-based childhood began to fade out in the 1980s in the United States and it was gone by 2010, and that’s because right around 2010 is when the phone based childhood sweeps in…

…scores in math and reading and those were all fairly steady, and then all of a sudden, after 2012, they drop. So that’s international. Around the world, our young people are… not learning as much as they would have a few years before.

Find The Episode Here →

Design Concept: VR Synesthesia Simulator

Synesthesia is a phenomenon where some people experience their senses intermixing with each other. They might see sounds, or hear sights, or even physically feel words. It’s a mental condition apparently attributed to many great artists, from Vincent Van Gogh to Billie Eilish to allegedly even Beyonce.

I have always wanted to experience synesthesia myself, but I always assumed it would be impossible. Certain pieces of art can give me a fleeting sensation of it—Van Gogh’s paintings and Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak come to mind. Visuals at a concert, when done well, can give a feeling of seeing the music. But that’s a sort of inferred collective synesthesia, where I can sense the impact of it on the work, but I don’t really get to experience it as someone with the condition would.

It occurred to me recently that augmented reality headsets like Apple’s Vision Pro, along with generative AI, could provide the technology to do a reasonable real-time synesthesia simulator. I’m adding it to the list of projects I’d undertake if I had unlimited resources, but for now it’s just a thought experiment.

The Vision Pro, along with generative AI, would fail to reproduce all iterations of the condition, but it could hypothetically reproduce the following types of synesthesia:

  • Grapheme Color Synesthesia, who see colours or shapes next to specific words or characters.
  • Number Form, who see particular forms or shapes for some numbers.
  • Chromesthesia, who sees sounds as colours or shapes.
  • Ticker Tape, who see strings of words scroll underneath people as they talk.

Here are some art/tech projects which explore other aspects of synesthesia. Google’s Play a Kandinsky is beautiful, but is again an interpretation of an artist’s view.

The game Audiosurf matches audio to visuals in a synesthetic way. A seemingly defunct smartphone VR app seemingly tried to accomplish the same concept, though it glitches on my phone and hasn’t been updated in 6 years. There are some fascinating video visualizations of synesthesia, like this YouTube video of a violinist who sees notes as coloured shapes.

My version would be real time, and importantly, individualized. You would choose the type of synesthesia you wanted to recreate, or even the specific artist whose synesthesia you wanted to experience, and everything you saw and heard would be filtered to recreate the look and sound of that type.

Israel and Gaza Breaking News Consumer Handbook

Excellent media/news criticism podcast (radio show?) On the Media has posted their Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook for the conflict in Israel and Gaza. This conflict has brought about a lot of misinformation and disinformation, and OTN is trying to help people try to navigate it.

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Book: Saving Time

Much like her previous book, How to do Nothing, Jenny Odell seems to have a knack of picking topics that are incredibly timely (forgive the pun). Seeing as we’ve all collectively gone through the time dilation of the Covid-19 pandemic, this topic feels perfect for the current moment.

Like How to do Nothing, this book reads as a patchwork of loosely-connected ideas and references based around the central theme. To be honest, it reads almost more like a blog—jumping between historical events, philosophers, magazine articles, and even at one point going so far as to recount a comedy sketch from I Think You Should Leave which was loosely related to the chapter at hand. The book manages to build up these scattered and nonlinear thoughts and observations into something bigger, though I think some readers may not be as forgiving of the lack of structure.

The subject of how people experience and interpret time is a topic not unfamiliar to this blog. In the early pages Odell discusses Ancient Greek views of time:

In Ancient Greek, there are two different words for time, chronos and kairos. Chronos, which appears as part of words like chronology, is the realm of linear time, a steady, plodding march of events into the future. Kairos means something more like “crisis,” but it is also related to what many of us might think of as opportune timing or “seizing the time.” At the climate event, Salami described kairos as qualitative rather than quantitative time, given that, in kairos, all moments are different and that “the right thing happens at the right point.” Because of what it suggests about action and possibility, I too have found the distinction between chronos and kairos to be crucial when it comes to thinking about the future.

And finally, Odell touched on this again in an excerpt she included from the book Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World, which feels very much at home with with this previous post:

Explaining Aboriginal notions of time is an exercise in futility as you can only describe it as “nonlinear” in English, which immediately slams a big line right across your synapses. You don’t register the “non” only the “linear”: that is the way you process that word, the shape it takes in your mind. Worst of all, it’s only describing the concept by saying what it is not, rather than what it is. We don’t have a word for nonlinear in our languages because nobody would consider traveling, thinking, or talking in a straight line in the first place. The winding path is just how a path is, and therefore it needs no name.

Odell’s book is about much more than this, though these parts resonate with recent themes here. The book also covers capitalist views of time based from the early days of the Industrial Revolution, time zones, biological time, aging, and a lot more strands woven into one (somewhat messy) tapestry.

What to Do About Fake Drake

Friend of Elsewhat Sean Michaels has a piece up in The New Yorker this week about the intersection of AI and the music industry. It touches on tech, music sharing, sampling, and lots more.

Meanwhile, the pace of A.I. research has recalled the work of West Yorkshire rhubarb farmers, whose stalks grow so fast that they can hear the sound of them stretching. Tools with names like So-Vits-SVC, which has been used to generate A.I. facsimiles of Drake’s, Eminem’s, and Jay-Z’s voices, are introducing a new set of challenges to an industry that has barely recovered from covid-era concert restrictions. Musical artists, confronted by Big Tech’s tempo, influence, and affluence, have shown an understandable willingness to line up behind Big Media. Given a very real fear that generative tools will further erode, or permanently cripple, the already precarious economics of artists’ lives, why not allow globe-straddling labels, studios, and publishers to stand on their behalf?

Read it here →

Book: This Place, 150 Years Retold

A collection of illustrated stories by more than 20 indigenous authors and artists telling stories from history from the perspective of those who were here when Europeans arrived.

As can be expected, many of the stories are dark. Alicia Elliot sums it up well in the foreword:

As I was reading, I thought a lot about the idea of apocalypse, or the end of the world as we know it. Indigenous writers have pointed out that, as Indigenous people, we all live in a post-apocalyptic world. The world as we knew it ended the moment colonialism started to creep across these lands. But we have continued to tell our stories; we have continued to adapt. Despite everything, we have survived.

Deconstructing Power: W.E.B. Dubois Infographics at Cooper Hewitt in NYC

I’m lucky enough to be heading to this show in New York City this weekend. Dubois’ infographics are stunning and hugely important. On display until the end of May 2023. Learn more →

Cory Doctorow's Theory of Enshittification

Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

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Via Podcast On the Media.