Comics and the City: An Interview with Jorn Ahrens

The city as social realm strongly refers to communication via images. Comics help turning these images into cultural narratives and aesthetics and to create outstanding icons of modern identity, landmarks of our self-understanding that are, by definition, not bound to specific cities or nations.

via Confessions of an Aca/Fan: Archives: Comics and the City: An Interview with Jorn Ahrens.

Umberto Eco: ‚We Like Lists Because We Don’t Want to Die‘

What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries.

Umberto Eco: ‚We Like Lists Because We Don’t Want to Die‘.

Tolkien – Middle Earth Meets Middle England

[…] Tolkien’s most important contribution by far […] was his construction of a systematic secondary world. There had been plenty of invented worlds in fantasy before, but they were vague and ad hoc, defined moment to moment by the needs of the story. Tolkien reversed that. He started with the world, plotted it obsessively, delineating its history, geography and mythology before writing the stories. He introduced an extraordinary element of rigour to the genre.

China Miéville – Tolkien – Middle Earth Meets Middle England

Powerpoint – The Un-Sociological Software

There is simply no way to express precise, detailed and well-articulated ideas or subjects through Powerpoint. The presentations then give the illusion of mastery, comprehension and control over a subject matter. Which means, again, that the most serious issues cannot be discussed through that medium. There is no room for complexity, complicated relations between economic, cultural and political elements. Powerpoint stifles discussion and reasoned argumentation through the bullet point format. It is surface over substance.

So, paradoxically, at the same time as workers are enjoined to use their creativity, it is forcibly channeled through the most impoverishing format where all that matters are strong points, key concepts, and action plans. All neatly lined up. Quite often, after the presentation itself, the presentation is the only document of reference that is preserved (”I missed the meeting, can you send me the Powerpoint?”).

via Powerpoint – The Un-Sociological Software

Death metal, religion and the socialization of emotion

[…] Metal: the focus on end times and Apocalyptic violence, the intense moral outrage, the polarized, almost Manichean world view, the sense of awe and respect for ritualized group behaviour, imagery of damnation, focus on the individual as a flawed moral actor, even the disregard for a material world seen as hopelessly corrupt.

Greg Downey – Death metal, religion and the socialization of emotion

Detecting Social Media Bullshit: A Sociologist’s View

[S]ocial media bullshitters have no knowledge of social theory or methodology. Trust a person who provides no easy answer, who carefully selects their research method, and who understands complex concepts.

Sam Ladner – Detecting Social Media Bullshit: A Sociologist’s View

Ian Bogost – There are no Blown Calls in Football

[I]n World Cup football blown calls do not exist as a concept in the game. Short of financial collusion or threat, the refs‘ perspective on the game is a part of the game, no different than the quality of a cross or the accuracy of a shot on goal. This is quite a different attitude than other sports take regarding officiating. The idea that a sport could so willingly and systemically embrace perspective is beautiful to me. Not only because it highlights the changing specificity of moment-to-moment configurations of player, ball, and officials, but also because it underscores the role of unfairness and randomness in human experience.

Ian Bogost – There are no Blown Calls in Football.

What Kind of Card is Race? by Tim Wise

Nothing, absolutely nothing, has to do with race nowadays, in the eyes of white America writ large. But the obvious question is this: if we have never seen racism as a real problem, contemporary to the time in which the charges are being made, and if in all generations past we were obviously wrong to the point of mass delusion in thinking this way, what should lead us to conclude that now, at long last, we’ve become any more astute at discerning social reality than we were before? Why should we trust our own perceptions or instincts on the matter, when we have run up such an amazingly bad track record as observers of the world in which we live? In every era, black folks said they were the victims of racism and they were right. In every era, whites have said the problem was exaggerated, and we have been wrong.

What Kind of Card is Race? by Tim Wise.

Principles of Virtual Sensation

What is the “feel” of a game? Every gamer knows it and can easily recall the sensation, the kinesthetic feeling, of controlling some virtual avatar or agent. It’s what causes you to lean left and right as you play, swinging your controller wildly as you try to get Mario to move just a little faster. It’s the feeling of masterfully controlling some object outside your body, making it an extension of your will and instinct. This “virtual sensation” is in many ways the essence of videogames, one of the most compelling, captivating, and interesting emergent properties of human-computer interaction.

Steve Swink – Principles of Virtual Sensation.

James Wolcott on Reality Television

The influence of Reality TV has been insidious, pervasive. It has ruined television, and by ruining television it has ruined America. Maybe America was already ruined, but if so, it’s now even more ruined. Let us itemize the crop damage.

James Wolcott – I’m a Culture Critic … Get Me Out of Here!