Cultural evolution of emotional expression in 50 years of song lyrics. Authors: Charlotte Brand, Alberto Acerbi, Alex Mesoudi.

Emotional expression in 50 years of song lyrics

Cultural evolution
April 25th, 2019

Via Center for Open Science: "The cultural dynamics of music has recently become a popular avenue of research in the field of cultural evolution, reflecting a growing interest in art and popular culture more generally. Just as biologists seek to explain population-level trends in genetic evolution in terms of micro-evolutionary processes such as selection, drift and migration, cultural evolutionists have sought to explain population-level cultural phenomena in terms of underlying social, psychological and demographic factors. Primary amongst these factors are learning biases, describing how cultural items are socially transmitted from person to person. As big datasets become more openly available and workable, and statistical modelling techniques become more powerful, efficient and user-friendly, describing population-level dynamics in terms of simple, individual-level learning biases is becoming more feasible. Here we test for the presence of learning biases in two large datasets of popular song lyrics dating from 1965-2015. We find some evidence of content bias, prestige bias and success bias in the proliferation of negative lyrics, and suggest that negative expression of emotions in music, and perhaps art generally, provides an avenue for people to not only process and express their own negative emotions, but also benefit from the knowledge that prestigious others experience similarly negative emotions as they do."

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From an altitude of 255 miles, an Expedition 59 crewmember photographed the Richat Structure, or the "Eye of the Sahara," in northwestern Mauritania. The circular geologic feature is thought to be caused by an uplifted dome—geologists would classify it as a domed anticline—that has been eroded to expose the originally flat rock layers.

Paradoxical thinking

Inner Peace
April 14th, 2018

Via Quartz: "...a team of psychology researchers began to challenge his ideas using a technique called paradoxical thinking. The premise is simple: Instead of presenting evidence that contradicts someone’s deeply held views, a psychologist agrees with the participant, then takes their views further, stretching their arguments to absurdity. This causes the participant to pause, reconsider, and reframe their own beliefs."

Related: "Bazon Brock: Affirmation – Die stärkste Kraft des Widerstands ist das Ja-Sagen."

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My pyramid
March 30th, 2018

Presence [anwesend sein]
Honesty - Humor - Love
Humility - Openess - Intuition - Trust - Flexibility - Empathy.

Take another step toward what matters.

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"When the Organ Played 'O Promise Me' " (1943) by Cecil Stokes.

"When the Organ Played 'O Promise Me' " (1943)

Auroratone by British filmmaker Cecil Stokes
March 27th, 2019

Via YouTube: "This is an Auroratone produced and created by British filmmaker Cecil Stokes for use in the treatment of mental disorders - definitely a kinder, gentler alternative to the electric-shock treatments which were then in vogue! The soundtrack features Bing Crosby and organist Eddie Dunstedter. An online biography of Bing Crosby notes that he was a shareholder in Mr. Stokes' Auroratone Foundation. It also notes that Mr. Crosby made exclusive recordings of Ave Maria, Home on the Range, and When You Wish Upon a Star, for Auroratones, but there's no mention of this film's soundtrack When the Organ Played Oh Promise Me. It's possible that Mr. Stokes used a recording that Bing and Mr. Dunstedter had made several years earlier. [...]

Regarding the films themselves, I've found scant information other than a few mentions in psychiatric journals from the period. Several websites devoted to experimental film do mention Mr. Stokes and briefly describe his work and technique, but none of them offer any visual examples at all. One website promises to teach you how to create The Auroratone Effect for a fee - but its preview shows a modern re-creation only. It appears that my YouTube clip is currently the only example of an original Cecil Stokes Auroratone that exists on the internet anywhere."

Thanks to Jan Wagner !

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Anna Karenina is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer based in São Paulo, Brazil.

Do you say “sorry” too much?

What to say instead
March 23, 2019

Via TED: "When we needlessly apologize, we end up making ourselves small and diminish what we’re trying to express, says sociologist Maja Jovanovic. [...]

Jovanovic, who teaches at McMaster University and Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, became interested in this topic when she attended a conference four years ago. The four women on a panel were, she says, 'experts in their chosen fields. Among them, they had published hundreds of academic articles, dozens of books. All they had to do was introduce themselves. The first woman takes a microphone and she goes, ‘I don’t know what I could possibly add to this discussion’ … The second woman takes the microphone and says, ‘Oh my gosh, I thought they sent the email to the wrong person. I’m just so humbled to be here.’' The third and fourth women did the same thing.

During the 25 panels at that week-long conference, recalls Jovanovic, 'not once did I hear a man take that microphone and discount his accomplishments or minimize his experience. Yet every single time a woman took a microphone, an apologetic tone was sure to follow.' She adds, 'I found it enraging; I also found it heartbreaking.' [...]

We can eliminate the sorrys from our sentences — and still be considerate. The next time you bump into someone, Jovanovic says, 'you could say, ‘Go ahead,’ ‘After you’ or ‘Pardon me.’ Similarly, during a meeting, Jovanovic says, 'instead of saying, ‘Sorry to interrupt you,’ why not try ‘How about,’ ‘I have an idea,’ ‘I’d like to add’ or ‘Why don’t we try this?’ The idea is to be polite while not minimizing yourself.

The sorrys that fill our written interactions also need to be noticed — and banished. For emails, Jovanovic says, 'There’s a Google Chrome plug-in called just not sorry that will alert you to all the needless apologies.' With texts, she points out, 'Every single one of us has responded to a text you got when you weren’t able to respond right away. What did you say? ‘Sorry.’' She says, 'Don’t apologize — say, ‘I was working,’ ‘I was reading,’ ‘I was driving, ‘I was trying to put on Spanx.’ Whatever it is, it’s all good. You don’t have to apologize.'

And, in some of the instances when we’d typically throw in a sorry, we could just use the two magic words: thank you.

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"Midnight Ballet"/ 24"x 24"/ oil on wood by Kisung Koh.

Deep Work

How to Actually, Truly Focus on What You’re Doing
January 27th, 2019

Via The New York Times: "The first rule is to 'work deeply.' The idea here is that if you want to successfully integrate more deep work into your professional life, you cannot just wait until you find yourself with lots of free time and in the mood to concentrate. You have to actively fight to incorporate this into your schedule. It helps, for example, to include deep work blocks on my calendar like meetings or appointments and then protect them as you would a meeting or appointment. [...]

The second rule is to 'embrace boredom.' The broader point here is that the ability to concentrate is a skill that you have to train if you expect to do it well. A simple way to get started training this ability is to frequently expose yourself to boredom. If you instead always whip out your phone and bathe yourself in novel stimuli at the slightest hint of boredom, your brain will build a Pavlovian connection between boredom and stimuli, which means that when it comes time to think deeply about something (a boring task, at least in the sense that it lacks moment-to-moment novelty), your brain won’t tolerate it. [...]

The third rule is to 'quit social media.' The basic idea is that people need to be way more intentional and selective about what apps and services they allow into their digital lives. If you only focus on possible advantages, you’ll end up, like so many of us today, with a digital life that’s so cluttered with thrumming, shiny knots of distraction pulling at our attention and manipulating our moods that we end up a shell of our potential. In Deep Work, I introduced this idea mainly to help professionals protect their ability to focus, but it hit a nerve, and eventually evolved into the popular digital minimalism movement that I’ve been writing about more recently. For example, I’ve never had a social media account, and though I may have missed out on various small advantages here and there, I’m convinced that it has had large positive impacts on my professional output and personal satisfaction. [...]

'Shallow work' is my term for anything that doesn’t require uninterrupted concentration. This includes, for example, most administrative tasks like answering email or scheduling meetings. If you allow your schedule to become dominated by shallow work, you’ll never find time to do the deep efforts that really move the needle. It’s really important, therefore, that you work to aggressively minimize optional shallow work and then be very organized and productive about how you execute what remains. It’s not that shallow work is bad, but that its opposite, deep work, is so valuable that you have to do everything you can to make room for it."

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Hundred Largest Islands of the World by David Garcia.

Advertising as a Major Source of Human Dissatisfaction

this isn't happiness
January 20th, 2019

Via University of Warwick: "Advertising is ubiquitous in modern life. Yet might it be harmful to the happiness of nations? This paper blends longitudinal data on advertising with large-scale surveys on citizens’ well-being. The analysis uses information on approximately 1 million randomly sampled European citizens across 27 nations over 3 decades. We show that increases in national advertising expenditure are followed by significant declines in levels of life satisfaction. [...]

Further research remains desirable. Nevertheless, our empirical results are some of the first to be consistent with the hypothesis that, perhaps by fostering unending desires, high levels of advertising may depress societal well-being."

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Photograph by Octavi Serra.

Photograph by Octavi Serra.

52 things I learned in 2018

Januray 11th, 2019

Via Kent Hendricks: "Contrary to popular belief, violent movies actually lead to a slight decline in violence, because, even though people who are likely to commit violent crimes enjoy watching violent movies, they don’t commit violent crimes while sitting in a movie theater. Over a decade, the violent movies led to the direct decline of roughly 1,000 assaults every weekend. (New York Times)


The fake smile—the kind you do for a posed photograph—didn’t exist until the eighteenth century, when the upper classes could afford the services of dentists. (Lisa Feldman Barrett, How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain)


There are strict rules about conversation that cross all languages and cultural boundaries. Of all yes-or-no questions, 75% receive a “yes” and 25% receive a “no.” It takes about 150 milliseconds to respond with “yes,” or “no.” At 650 milliseconds the listener responds with “I don’t know,” and at 835 milliseconds, they’ll say “huh?” or the original speaker will repeat the question. Additionally, the words “uh” and “um” occur about once every 60 words (50 for men and 70 for women), and “uh” is followed by a 250 millisecond pause, while “um” is followed by 670 millisecond pause. (N. J. Enfield, How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation)


The surface area of human lungs is as big as a tennis court. (James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science)


People spend roughly one hour each day traveling or commuting, regardless of city size or form of transportation. This is called Marchetti’s constant. Whenever faster forms of transportation have been invented—the domestication of horses, the invention of trains, cars, and then planes—people do not reduce the amount of time spent commuting, they simply commute farther. Walking speed is around 5 km per hour, so the maximum size of a walking city is roughly 20 square kilometers; there are no large ancient cities built prior to 1800 larger than this. As transportation has become faster, and transportation networks have expanded, the physical size of cities has expanded in direct proportion. When people spend less time commuting or work at home, they make up for in it other days, including by going on walks that last as long as the remaining time that would be allotted for commutes. Even people stuck within the confines of prison spend around an hour a day walking around. (Wikipedia)"

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Photo by Maisie Cousins, 2018

End of 2018

The ten best experiences of my year
December 31st, 2018

Books While preparing my Transformats seminar for our Klang and Realität master program I came across the essay Must we burn Sade? by Simone de Beauvoir, and started to rediscover her. In this context Sarah Bakewell's At the Existentialist Cafe was another great discovery this year.
I believe that Simone de Beauvoir is the most important philosopher of the 20th century, and The second sex the most important book of that century – because something started to change.

Children I have not had the wish to reproduce, and I enjoy the company of young humans a lot. End of last year a one-year-old moved into my building, and in 2018 we spent quite some time together. She blows my mind, and to see how language and speech develop is an amazing experience – it teaches me humility.
Big shout-out to her parents for trusting me!

Concert This summer I went to see one of my all-time favorite pieces, I am sitting in a room, performed by Alvin Lucier himself, and afterwards my colleague Phillip Schulze introduced me to Lucier. A few days later a friend told me that Lucier said to them, it is his wish is to die while performing exactly this piece. Sawubona!

Client As a brand builder and creative catalyst it was an enormous inspiration to work with Reiner Michalke on his new music festival for Monheim am Rhein. Not often did I get the chance to work with a truly confident, intelligent, and sensitive client, who - because of this confidence - does really, really, really listen. This process might have easily been my favorite project in years.

Fandom Two of my favorite artists, Sarah Szczesny and Lena Willikens, joined forces for their Phantom Kino Ballett project. Saw them perform at Schauspielhaus Köln and was extremely impressed by the multitude of references, the energy of their choreography, and the composition altogether.
Here is a quote from their 2018 tape release, which I like a lot, "Phantom Kino Ballett is sound fragment and black theatre, Holly Woodlawn's nervous breakdowns, Taro's arpeggiated anime, Mario Montez' mobilee, Maria Callas' chiffre and Anna Opperman's eyelashes."

Listening session It was a pleasure and honor to work with two geniuses, Prof. Dr. Swantje Lichtenstein and Brigitta Muntendorf, on our listening session called Making the 3rd Ear (a quote by Maryanne Amacher), which we performed at NRW Forum Düsseldorf in December. We played music by ten of the best female composers of the last 50 or so years. Here is the PDF with all tracks we played.

Manifest The last 25 years I sat in meetings in which, most of the times, I was the only, or one of the few women at the table. Sara Ahmed's idea and feminist manifest of the Rolling Eyes is a life changer and massively helpful. The idea is simple, when you see people rolling their eyes at you for raising a feminist point, you now know that this gesture is not personal, instead it confirms that you touched an important structural issue.

Memory lane Cindy Keefer, director at Center for Visual Music, invited me to give a talk at their CVM Symposium 2018 Exploring & Preserving Visual Music in Sonoma County on August 14th about my Visual Music concentration at the Robert Schumann conservatory.
During the 90s I lived in San Fransico for year, and I was excited to see what has changed. Well, it became one of the most expensive cities of the world – a rather sad development, actually.
At least the symposium was a success, and I had inspiring conversations with brilliant people like, Ilene Susan Fort (LACMA Curator Emeritus, CVM  board member), Jack Ox (artist, Intermedia Projects, Albuquerque, N.M.), and Margaret Schedel (composer, Stony Brook University, NY). Thank you, Cindy!

Translation One of my oldest friends, Sandra Münchenbach, invited me to co-translate twelve of the beautiful Daily Reminders for Living a New Paradigm by Anne Wilson Schaef. I am very grateful for this experience, and all I have learned so far. Thank you!

Tribute Ralph Christoph asked me to give a speech at the c/o pop opening event in honour of Christa Päffgen aka Nico, who was born in my hometown Cologne 80 years ago. I convinced him to do a performance instead, and asked fabulous artist and friend Swantje Lichtenstein to write a piece for 11 voices and 2 narrators, which she called on c’s terms. heroine and sister. To top it, I invited ten powerful women to perform the piece with with me at the MAKK. We had a blast.

So, here we are... And what is next?

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"im here to learn so :))))))" is a four-channel video installation by Zach Blas that resurrects Tay, an artificial intelligence chatbot created by Microsoft in 2016.

It’s the End of the World and They Know It

How Dystopian Fiction Shapes Political Attitudes
December 23rd, 2018

Via Cambridge Core: "Given that the fictional narratives found in novels, movies, and television shows enjoy wide public consumption, memorably convey information, minimize counter-arguing, and often emphasize politically-relevant themes, we argue that greater scholarly attention must be paid to theorizing and measuring how fiction affects political attitudes. We argue for a genre-based approach for studying fiction effects, and apply it to the popular dystopian genre. Results across three experiments are striking: we find consistent evidence that dystopian narratives enhance the willingness to justify radical—especially violent—forms of political action. Yet we find no evidence for the conventional wisdom that they reduce political trust and efficacy, illustrating that fiction’s effects may not be what they seem and underscoring the need for political scientists to take fiction seriously.

Our research not only reinforces past work showing that people often fail to distinguish between fact and fiction in learning about the world, but also illustrates that the lessons of fiction may not be what they seem. […] Rather than creating political cynicism in readers and viewers or showing them that girls can be powerful too—both lessons that are at this point probably amply supplied by the American news media and lived experience—dystopian fiction seems to be teaching them a more subtle and perhaps more concerning message: that violence and illegal activities may be both legitimate and necessary to pursue justice. Dystopian fiction appears to subtly expand the political imagination of viewers and readers to encompass a range of scenarios outside the normal realm of democratic politics, and what people then consider reasonable and thinkable appears to expand accordingly.

These results should also highlight the peril for political scientists in assuming that fiction is just entertainment. The stories we tell ourselves have profound implications for how we think about political ethics and political possibilities, and as scholars of politics, we can and should do more to map out the effects of politically-inflected fiction and entertainment."

Copyright: © American Political Science Association 2018

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