robertogreco + memories + humans   8

BBC Four - John Berger: The Art of Looking
[video currently available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3VhbsXk9Ds ]

"Art, politics and motorcycles - on the occasion of his 90th birthday John Berger or the Art of Looking is an intimate portrait of the writer and art critic whose ground-breaking work on seeing has shaped our understanding of the concept for over five decades. The film explores how paintings become narratives and stories turn into images, and rarely does anybody demonstrate this as poignantly as Berger.

Berger lived and worked for decades in a small mountain village in the French Alps, where the nearness to nature, the world of the peasants and his motorcycle, which for him deals so much with presence, inspired his drawing and writing.

The film introduces Berger's art of looking with theatre wizard Simon McBurney, film-director Michael Dibb, visual artist John Christie, cartoonist Selçuk Demiral, photographer Jean Mohr as well as two of his children, film-critic Katya Berger and the painter Yves Berger.

The prelude and starting point is Berger's mind-boggling experience of restored vision following a successful cataract removal surgery. There, in the cusp of his clouding eyesight, Berger re-discovers the irredeemable wonder of seeing.

Realised as a portrait in works and collaborations, this creative documentary takes a different approach to biography, with John Berger leading in his favourite role of the storyteller."
2016  johnberger  documentary  towatch  simonmcburney  michaeldibb  johnchristie  selçukdemiral  jeanmohr  katyaberger  yvesberger  waysofseeing  seeing  looking  noticing  biography  storytelling  skepticism  photography  rebellion  writing  howwewrite  collaboration  canon  conspirators  rebels  friendship  community  migration  motorcycles  presence  being  living  life  interestedness  interested  painting  art  history  france  belonging  place  labor  home  identity  work  peasants  craft  craftsmanship  aesthetics  design  vision  cataracts  sight  teaching  howweteach  attention  focus  agriculture  memory  memories  shit  pigs  humans  animals  childhood  perception  freedom  independence  storytellers  travelers  nomads  trickster  dead  death  meaning  meaningmaking  companionship  listening  discovery  understanding  sfsh  srg  books  publishing  television  tv  communication  engagement  certainly  uncertainty 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Will Self: Are humans evolving beyond the need to tell stories? | Books | The Guardian
"Neuroscientists who insist technology is changing our brains may have it wrong. What if we are switching from books to digital entertainment because of a change in our need to communicate?"



"A few years ago I gave a lecture in Oxford that was reprinted in the Guardian under the heading: “The novel is dead (this time it’s for real)”. In it I argued that the novel was losing its cultural centrality due to the digitisation of print: we are entering a new era, one with a radically different form of knowledge technology, and while those of us who have what Marshal McLuhan termed “Gutenberg minds” may find it hard to comprehend – such was our sense of the solidity of the literary world – without the necessity for the physical book itself, there’s no clear requirement for the art forms it gave rise to. I never actually argued that the novel was dead, nor that narrative itself was imperilled, yet whenever I discuss these matters with bookish folk they all exclaim: “But we need stories – people will always need stories.” As if that were an end to the matter.

Non-coincidentally, in line with this shift from print to digital there’s been an increase in the number of scientific studies of narrative forms and our cognitive responses to them. There’s a nice symmetry here: just as the technology arrives to convert the actual into the virtual, so other technologies arise, making it possible for us to look inside the brain and see its actual response to the virtual worlds we fabulate and confabulate. In truth, I find much of this research – which marries arty anxiety with techno-assuredness – to be self-serving, reflecting an ability to win the grants available for modish interdisciplinary studies, rather than some new physical paradigm with which to explain highly complex mental phenomena. Really, neuroscience has taken on the sexy mantle once draped round the shoulders of genetics. A few years ago, each day seemed to bring forth a new gene for this or that. Such “discoveries” rested on a very simplistic view of how the DNA of the human genotype is expressed in us poor, individual phenotypes – and I suspect many of the current discoveries, which link alterations in our highly plastic brains to cognitive functions we can observe using sophisticated equipment, will prove to be equally ill-founded.

The neuroscientist Susan Greenfield has been prominent in arguing that our new digital lives are profoundly altering the structure of our brains. This is undoubtedly the case – but then all human activities impact upon the individual brain as they’re happening; this by no means implies a permanent alteration, let alone a heritable one. After all, so far as we can tell the gross neural anatomy of the human has remained unchanged for hundreds of millennia, while the age of bi-directional digital media only properly dates – in my view – from the inception of wireless broadband in the early 2000s, hardly enough time for natural selection to get to work on the adaptive advantages of … tweeting. Nevertheless, pioneering studies have long since shown that licensed London cab drivers, who’ve completed the exhaustive “Knowledge” (which consists of memorising every street and notable building within a six mile radius of Charing Cross), have considerably enlarged posterior hippocampi.

This is the part of brain concerned with way-finding, but it’s also strongly implicated in memory formation; neuroscientists are now discovering that at the cognitive level all three abilities – memory, location, and narration – are intimately bound up. This, too, is hardly surprising: key for humans, throughout their long pre-history as hunter-gatherers, has been the ability to find food, remember where food is and tell the others about it. It’s strange, of course, to think of Pride and Prejudice or Ulysses as simply elaborations upon our biologically determined inclination to give people directions – but then it’s perhaps stranger still to realise that sustained use of satellite navigation, combined with absorbing all our narrative requirements in pictorial rather written form, may transform us into miserable and disoriented amnesiacs.

When he lectured on literature in the 1950s, Vladimir Nabokov would draw a map on the blackboard at the beginning of each session, depicting, for example, the floor plan of Austen’s Mansfield Park, or the “two ways” of Proust’s Combray. What Nabokov seems to have understood intuitively is what neuroscience is now proving: reading fiction enables a deeply memorable engagement with our sense of space and place. What the master was perhaps less aware of – because, as yet, this phenomenon was inchoate – was that throughout the 20th century the editing techniques employed in Hollywood films were being increasingly refined. This is the so-called “tyranny of film”: editing methods that compel our attention, rather than leaving us free to absorb the narrative in our own way. Anyone now in middle age will have an intuitive understanding of this: shots are shorter nowadays, and almost all transitions are effected by crosscutting, whereby two ongoing scenes are intercut in order to force upon the viewer the idea of their synchrony. It’s in large part this tyranny that makes contemporary films something of a headache for older viewers, to whom they can seem like a hypnotic swirl of action.

It will come as no surprise to Gutenberg minds to learn that reading is a better means of forming memory than watching films, as is listening to afternoon drama on Radio 4. This is the so-called “visualisation hypothesis” that proposes that people – and children in particular – find it harder not only to remember film as against spoken or written narratives, but also to come up with novel responses to them, because the amount of information they’re given, together with its determinate nature, forecloses imaginative response.

Almost all contemporary parents – and especially those of us who class themselves as “readers” – have engaged in the Great Battle of Screen: attempting to limit our children’s consumption of films, videos, computer games and phone-based social media. We feel intuitively that it can’t be doing our kids any good – they seem mentally distracted as well as physically fidgety: unable to concentrate as they often look from one handheld screen to a second freestanding one, alternating between tweezering some images on a touchscreen and manipulating others using a remote control. Far from admonishing my younger children to “read the classics” – an utterly forlorn hope – I often find myself simply wishing they’d put their phones down long enough to have their attention compelled by the film we’re watching.

If we take seriously the conclusions of these recent neuroscientific studies, one fact is indisputable: whatever the figures for books sales (either in print or digital form), reading for pleasure has been in serious decline for over a decade. That this form of narrative absorption (if you’ll forgive the coinage) is closely correlated with high attainment and wellbeing may tell us nothing about the underlying causation, but the studies do demonstrate that the suite of cognitive aptitudes needed to decipher text and turn it into living, breathing, visible and tangible worlds seem to wither away once we stop turning the pages and start goggling at virtual tales.

Of course, the sidelining of reading narrative (and along with it the semi-retirement of all those narrative forms we love) is small potatoes compared with the loss of our capacity for episodic memory: would we be quite so quick to post those fantastic holiday photographs on Facebook if we knew that in so doing we’d imperil our ability to recall unaided our walk along the perfect crescent of sand, and our first ecstatic kiss? You might’ve thought that as a novelist who depends on fully attuned Gutenberg minds to read his increasingly complex and confusing texts I’d be dismayed by this craven new couch-based world; and, as a novelist, I am.

I began writing my books on a manual typewriter at around the same time wireless broadband became ubiquitous, sensing it was inimical not only to the act of writing, but that of reading as well: a novel should be a self-contained and self-explanatory world (at least, that’s how the form has evolved), and it needs to be created in the same cognitive mode as it’s consumed: the writer hunkering down into his own episodic memories, and using his own canonical knowledge, while imagining all the things he’s describing, rather than Googling them to see what someone else thinks they look like. I also sense the decline in committed reading among the young that these studies claim: true, the number of those who’ve ever been inclined “to get up in the morning in the fullness of youth”, as Nietzsche so eloquently put it, “and open a book” has always been small; but then it’s worth recalling the sting in the tail of his remark: “now that’s what I call vicious”.

And there is something vicious about all that book learning, especially when it had to be done by rote. There’s something vicious as well about the baby boomer generation, which, not content to dominate the cultural landscape, also demands that everyone younger than us survey it in the same way. For the past five years I’ve been working on a trilogy of novels that aim to map the connections between technological change, warfare and human psychopathology, so obviously I’m attempting to respond to the zeitgeist using this increasingly obsolete art form. My view is that we’re deluded if we think new technologies come into existence because of clearly defined human objectives – let alone benevolent ones – and it’s this that should shape our response to them. No, the history of the 20th century – and now the 21st – is replete with examples of technologies that were developed purely in order to facilitate the killing of people at … [more]
willself  communication  digital  writing  howwewrite  entertainment  books  socialmedia  neuroscience  2016  marshallmcluhan  gutenbergminds  print  change  singularity  videogames  gaming  games  poetry  novels  susangreenfield  rote  rotelearning  twitter  knowledge  education  brain  wayfinding  memory  location  narration  navigation  vladimirnabokov  proust  janeausten  film  video  attention  editing  reading  howweread  visualizationhypothesis  visualization  text  imagery  images  cognition  literacy  multiliteracies  memories  nietzsche  booklearning  technology  mobile  phones  mentalillness  ptsd  humans  humanity  digitalmedia  richardbrautigan  narrative  storytelling 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Tupperwolf - A garden in Chelyabinsk and walking
"The small acts – where do they go? This garden, at this moment, found its way into a famous and stable repository of knowledge. Its neighbors in space and time did not, as far as I know. And even this moment of this garden has lost context. Are those blueberries or cranberries? Why? Who is the man in the white shirt? We could get some answers if we looked hard enough, but not all of them.

Most of life disappears. The small acts barely happen even once. They are unnamed, like gusts of wind. They are transient, like waves. They are mortal, like us.

Walking, because it happens in the ordinary human scale, puts you in these things. You pass gardens like this one, and friends chatting drowsily in the park, and alleys with kickstood children’s bikes, knowing that most of what you notice will never be felt again, by you or anyone. Your pace and your pulse go a little faster than a second hand, sliding the world into the past at comprehensible speed.

And it’s continuous. I can forget, after a plane flight or a car ride, that the place I come to is connected, physically, by a chain of real places, with the place I came from. It’s the realness of the between that I lose. Walking does not make me the perfect seer. It cannot balance me between identifying with the things I see and respecting their otherness. But it lets me try. I can’t look at this garden without imagining that I walked up to it."
walking  charlieloyd  life  moments  transience  ephemeral  slow  scale  huamnscale  2013  gardens  living  otherness  space  time  memory  memories  actions  acts  speed  travel  passage  place  human  humans  ephemerality 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Full Interview: Abigail Sellen on Total Capture and Human Memory - Spark - CBC Player
"Right now we are in the age of life-logging, recording every bit of information about a person's activities, behavior, and physicality. This behavior is also called total capture and Facebook’s latest Timeline feature, has introduced the idea of total capture to mainstream audiences. A Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, Abigail Sellen is critical of the modern conversation on life-logging and total capture and argues this technical handling of memories through indexing and metadata is just not how memory works."

[Direct link to podcast: http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/podcasts/bonussparkplus_20120112_51783.mp3 ]

[via: http://www.contemplativecomputing.org/2012/08/abigail-sellen-on-lifelogging.html via: http://www.contemplativecomputing.org/2012/09/the-future-of-memory-explored-in-crystal.html ]
sensors  infooverload  search  forgetting  recollectivememory  dataoverload  data  memorytriggers  reminiscing  prospectivememory  imagery  images  autobiograhicalmemory  psychology  experiences  norayoung  digital  facebook  human  humans  2012  totalcapture  memories  photography  memory  abigailsellen  lifelogging  from delicious
september 2012 by robertogreco
Why does the return journey feel quicker? - The Irish Times - Thu, Aug 16, 2012
"Finally, here is a “guaranteed” way to lengthen your life. Childhood holidays seem to last forever, but as you grow older time seems to accelerate. “Time” is related to how much information you are taking in – information stretches time. A child’s day from 9am to 3.30pm is like a 20-hour day for an adult. Children experience many new things every day and time passes slowly, but as people get older they have fewer new experiences and time is less stretched by information. So, you can “lengthen” your life by minimising routine and making sure your life is full of new active experiences – travel to new places, take on new interests, and spend more time living in the present – see Making Time by Steve Taylor."

[Update 2 Spet 2012: Goes with this: http://blog.jackcheng.com/dads-idea and this http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/eagleman09/eagleman09_index.html ]
psychology  biologicalcycles  biology  humans  human  danzakay  experience  routine  presence  present  travel  children  life  2012  perception  time  memory  memories  from delicious
august 2012 by robertogreco
2001: An Interview with Kathleen Dean Moore | Derrick Jensen
[via: http://randallszott.org/2012/07/05/philosophy-a-living-practice-grace-place-and-the-natural-world-kathleen-dean-moore-the-ecology-of-love/ ]

[broken link, now here: https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/303/a-weakened-world-cannot-forgive-us

and here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FDgoxH2-YWV1mqQH5mjNF3tvV_jLzgrcXmBTnb68SbM/edit (and a copy in my Google Drive)]

“Philosophers fretted that the world would disappear if they turned their backs, but when I closed their finely argued books and switched off the light, it was their worries that disappeared, not the world.”

"Not just our bodies, but our minds – our ideas, our emotions, our characters, our identities – are shaped, in part, by places. Alienation from the land is an alienation from the self, which causes sadness. And the opposite is true, too: there’s a goofy joy to finding ourselves in places that have meaning for us."

"So, to a certain extent, it’s your memories that make us who we are. For example, I am the person who remembers seeing a flock of white pelicans over Thompson Lake and the apple tree in the backyard of my house. And every time I notice something, every time something strikes me as important enough to store away in my memory, I add another piece to who I am. These memories and sense impressions of the landscape are the very substance of my self. In this way, I am – at the core of my being – made of the earth."

"Memories do live in places, and if you go there, you can find them. Sometimes, if your memory is as unreliable as mine, you can find them only if you go there."

"Environmental destruction is a kind of self-destruction. If we go around systematically destroying the places that hold meaning for us, that hold our memories, then we become fragmented and don’t have a sense of who we are."

"One of my colleagues says that, if there is eternal life, it isn’t found in the length of one’s life, but in its depth. That makes sense to me. I have no doubt that each life has a definite limit, an endpoint, but I don’t think there is any limit to the potential depth of each moment, and I try to live in a way that reaches into those depths. I want to live thickly, in layers of ideas and emotions and sensory experience. I recommend a way of life that is rich with noticing, caring, remembering, embracing, and rejoicing – in the smell of a child’s hair or the color of storm light."

"We lead lives of relentless separation – comings and goings, airport embraces, loneliness, locked doors, notes left by the phone. And the deepest of all those divides is the one that separates us from the places we inhabit. Everywhere I go, I encounter people who have come from someplace else and left behind their knowledge of that land. Universities, which should study connections, specialize in distinctions instead. Biologists in their laboratories forget that they are natural philosophers. Philosophers themselves pluck ideas out of contexts, like worms out of holes, and hold them dangling and drying in the bright light. We lock ourselves in our houses and seal the windows and watch nature shows on tv. We don’t go out at night unless we have mace, or in the rain without a Gore-Tex jacket. No wonder we forget that we are part of the natural world, members of a natural community. If we are reminded at all, it’s only by a sense of dislocation and a sadness we can’t easily explain."

"You have to be careful how you generalize about Western philosophy, because there are so many different branches of it, and what’s true of one branch might not be true of another.

That said, I think the problem is summed up by Socrates’ statement that philosophy seeks “the true nature of everything as a whole, never sinking to what lies close at hand.” A philosopher, Socrates said, may not even know “what his next-door neighbor is doing, hardly knows, indeed, whether the creature is a man at all; he spends all his pains on the question [of] what man is.”

The implication of his statement is that, if philosophy is concerned with big, abstract ideas, then it must be di-vorced from the details of our lives. I believe that is a huge mistake. If philosophy is about big ideas, then it must be about how we live our lives. If I find out what a human being is, to borrow Socrates’ example, then I will know what makes one human life worth living."

"Jensen: I would like a philosophy that teaches me how to live: How can I be a better person? How can I live my life more fruitfully, more happily, more relationally?

Moore: These are traditionally the most significant philosophical questions, but they’ve been washed off the surface of philosophy by the twentieth century.

It’s a failure of courage, I think. Real-life issues are messy and ambiguous and contradictory and tough. But their complexity should be a reason to engage them, not a reason to turn away. The word clarity has two meanings: one ancient, the other modern. In Latin, clarus meant “clear sounding, ringing out,” so in the ancient world, clear came to mean “lustrous, splendid, radiant.” The moon has this kind of clarity when it’s full. But today that usage is obsolete. Now clear has a negatively phrased definition: “without the dimness or blurring that can obscure vision, without the confusion or doubt that can cloud thought.” For probably twenty years, I thought that this modern kind of clarity was all there was; that what I should be looking for as a philosopher was sharp-edged, single-bladed truth; that anything I couldn’t understand precisely wasn’t worth thinking about. Now I’m beginning to understand that the world is much more interesting than this."

"I’m always surprised when a nature writer describes going off alone to commune with nature. That way of relating to nature is all about isolation, and I don’t have much patience with it. To me, that’s not what being in nature is about at all.

In my life, the natural world has always been a way of connecting with people – my children, my husband, my friends. The richness of my experience in the natural world translates immediately into richer relationships with people.

I think one of the most romantic and loving things you can say to another person is “Look.” There is a kind of love in which two people look at each other, but I don’t think it’s as interesting as the love between two people standing side by side and looking at something else that moves them both.

Let’s think about this in terms of what we were saying about memory and identity: If we are our memories, then to the extent that two people share memories, they become one person. The whole notion of the joining of souls that’s supposed to happen in marriage may come down to those times when we say, “Look,” to our partner, so the two of us can capture a memory to hold in common."
2001  well-being  fluidity  consistency  truth  landscape  connectivism  ecology  ecologyoflove  surroundings  education  learning  community  socialemotional  lcproject  relationships  nature  cv  philosophy  slow  local  highereducation  highered  academia  isolationism  loneliness  isolation  kathleendeanmoore  place  leisurearts  leisure  meaning  geography  memory  memories  space  sharing  environment  environmentalism  looking  seeing  noticing  sharedexperience  beauty  communing  identity  humans  humanism  canon  reconciliation  forgiveness  life  rivers  communities  dams  artleisure  socialemotionallearning  derrickjensen  from delicious
july 2012 by robertogreco
Thalassa: Nostalgia
"I was listening to the Brandenburg Concertos and got a sudden hit of nostalgia.

I think everyone in my gene set finds the idea of time outrageous. That things could get lost forever? Ridiculous! Poor design! And, above all, tragic.

I think of the moments of my own life that have been lost. Not because I didn’t appreciate them sufficiently. I think, in general, people do their best. But because my brain is a fragile vessel and the entire universe can’t be stuffed into it. …"

[Blog and post by Charlie Loyd's mom]
memories  humans  human  brain  2012  time  memory  nostalgia  from delicious
july 2012 by robertogreco
The taxonomy of the invisible - Bobulate
"Peter del Tredici, a senior research scientist at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and lecturer in landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, argues the wildlife that surrounds us every day often has an “image problem:” it goes unnoticed, unattended, and unvalued. “There is no denying the fact that many — if not most — of the plants … suffer from image problems associated with the label ‘weeds,’ or, to use a more recent term, ‘invasive species.’ From the plant’s perspective, ‘invasiveness’ is just another word for successful reproduction — the ultimate goal of all organisms, including humans…. The term is a value judgment that humans apply to plants we do not like, not a biological characteristic.”"
iphone  applications  location  lizdanzico  weeds  plants  invasivespecies  nature  naturedeficitdisorder  urban  urbanism  childhood  chores  memories  nostalgia  noticing  danhill  cityofsound  trees  treesny  nyc  life  systems  biology  glvo  srg  edg  humans  perspective  language  words  taxonomy  wildlife  cities  value  organisms  shrequest1  ios  from delicious
november 2010 by robertogreco

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