January 28, 2013

Why photos of One Direction wont save us from global warming | Environment | guardian.co.uk

The field of ‘climate communications’ is increasingly well developed, and campaigners spend a lot of time thinking about how to write their messages in a motivating way. But we haven’t seen much to suggest that much thought is given to the images that are used to communicate about climate change.

On of the papers’s authors, Dr Saffron O’Neill from the University of Exeter, told us:

“I don’t think there’s any ‘ideal’ combination of images for engaging people with climate change, as it depends what you are trying to communicate, why you are trying to communicate it, and to whom.

“However, our study does indicate that it’s important to decide first whether you are trying to increase peoples’ sense of saliency (how important they feel climate change is), or their sense of efficacy (whether they feel empowered to act). It appears images may be able to influence one (either saliency or efficacy), but none of the images seemed to be able to do both.”

Why photos of One Direction wont save us from global warming | Environment | guardian.co.uk.

January 18, 2013

Story and Conspiracy Theory

“We are hardwired to seek order in chaos, make meaning out of data noise, and it is paradoxically comforting to imagine that great tragedy is not just time and chance, but a function of some nefarious, pre-planned grand design.”

–D.J. Grothe, president of the James Randi Educational Foundation,

via Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theory Video Debunked By Experts.

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January 15, 2013

The Overview Effect

Edgar Mitchell, who was in orbit with the Apollo 14 lunar module while his companions explored the lunar soil, describes how he saw Earth, Moon and Sun passing by every two minutes or so, and how the study of astronomy and cosmology, where he learned that all the matter in the solar system, including ours, “was prototyped in some ancient generations of stars,” that is, it originated from stars that exploded billions of years ago, gave him a profound sense of unity with the totality of the cosmos, a feeling that can only be described as awe. “One of those words that you have a better understanding of when you see it too,” said Nicole Stott.

Spaceship Earth: Who Is In Control? : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR.

December 16, 2012

Telling Stories About Data

The creator of the infamous We Feel Fine visualization, Jonathan Harris, considers himself a storyteller first and a visualization designer second. He says that ‘the data is just part of the story. The human stuff is the main stuff, and the data should enrich it’.

via Narrative Structures in Data Visualizations to Improve Storytelling » OWNI.eu, News, Augmented.

December 14, 2012

What Lego Learned About Story

[Lego] bought the exclusive rights to Star Wars. If you want to build a Death Star out of plastic blocks, Lego is now your only option.The Star Wars blocks were wildly successful. So Lego kept going — it licensed Indiana Jones, Winnie the Pooh, Toy Story and Harry Potter.

Sales of these products have been huge for Lego. More important, the experience has taught the company that what kids wanted to do with the blocks was tell stories. Lego makes or licenses the stories they want to tell.

via Why Legos Are So Expensive — And So Popular : Planet Money : NPR.

November 5, 2012

Simon Callow on playing real people


“In every one of these [films and plays I was involved in] the author has used the character for his or her own purposes, while staying broadly within the parameters of the truth. In which case one’s primary loyalty is to the play rather than to the person…

[When I played Joe Berke in Mary Barnes] the primary loyalty was still to the event in the theatre…That it had to work in the theatre, otherwise we might as well be reading a book about it, d’you know?

And always, I think, in the theatre, you’re always trying to push towards some kind of archetype, in a character. So you’re not just presenting the man who’s called Joe Berke, as it happens in this, I’m not just presenting the man Joe Berke.

I’m actually presenting the healer who is Joe Berke and the therapeutic process that he’s involved in. Trying to sort of create the essence of that…”

One of the characters I played was a Trades Union official and the way that Joint Stock worked

was that we would go to meet an example of the character that we played.


So my Trades Union official…worked for the …National Union of Mine Workers.  And I spent, you know, two and a half hours with him. And I tape recorded our conversation and then I…sat in front of the group, and they asked me questions in character. And I could only answer from the information that I had acquired from him directly.

And when they’d sort of built up a picture of me, then somebody, it would happen to somebody else, [who] had gone off to meet somebody. Then they’d put me in my character and this other actor and his character together, talking to each other, and so we built it up. But still only using the framework of the facts.

And, of course, the author Barry Keeffe was there all the time and he made notes and sort of…But in the end, of course, his fantasy then took off and so the facts were left quite far behind by then. And you would not at all think that it was a fact based play.


Facts are just information.

I mean we call them facts in the sense of a fact being something which has been proven, but I mean you, you get your stimulation from wherever you can. And personally I…like to spread out my net very, very wide indeed.

And in the end all plays, I think, all plays, all films, fictional films are in the end a sort of a dream. They’re all dreams, they’re sort of dream characters, they’re…They’ve been dreamt by somebody, they’re not ever actually totally naturalistically real, even in what look like extremely naturalistic films. They’re still, they have to have some…They’re, they are poems in a sense.

It’s poetry that we’re dealing with and, whether it’s in verse or not is neither here nor there, it’s, it’s…it’s a sort of…The characters have got to be as much made  up of our unconscious as our conscious, but the difficulty with facts is that they, you know, they’re just the conscious.

But anything that really lives in the theatre has to come from the unconscious.


When I was doing Amadeus…I was stumped, I didn’t know what to do. I was just playing what was written and it…seemed silly, it seemed light and…[sighs]  without substance.

And so then I found a book by Otto Deutsch called  Mozart: A Documentary Biography, and it really contains everything that  anybody ever wrote or said about Mozart in his lifetime.

 And this was, this was my salvation because out of that I pieced together a man who might really have existed. And it was a bit from here and a bit from there and somebody’s memoir, a review of a concert, something  from the archives of the Archbishop of Saltzburg and so on. Bits and pieces that I just put into my stew.


HS: Is there a distinction to be made between impersonation and acting in the factbased work you have done?

SC: Well, of course, it’s very interesting this whole question…Impersonation is a crime, isn’t it? If you impersonate a Chelsea Pensioner until very recently you could have been hanged and  it sort of has a…sort of  overtone of being  suspect, doesn’t it?  Impersonation. Sounds like a sort of cheap trick.

There’s a better word which is ‘personation’.  Becoming a person. But what is implied in your question is that…It’s whether the externals are…Whether there’s a difference between acting which depends on externals, and acting which comes from within, as it were.

Athough, in fact, almost all acting is a combination of the two. But most recently the great American actor Frank Langella played Richard Nixon in a play about Nixon and David Frost, and Frank said, from the beginning, that he wouldn’t impersonate, physically, Nixon. ‘Cos the designers had come along with, you know, rubbery noses and adjusting his hair line, and all the rest of it. He said it was stupid because he never really would look like Nixon. You’d just sort of think, ‘Oh, he’s trying to look like Nixon.’

And…he carried it off triumphantly, you believed that he was Nixon absolutely, and he had nothing by way of make-up whatever [SC emphasis].  So in a sense it was in contradiction of the facts that we have, the visual facts. But he just took right into his brain…

[But] there’s such a thing as a visual fact. If you played Hitler…as a…a tall blonde man, would it be Hitler? You know, I don’t know, maybe it’s…You know, the theatre’s a strange place…the signs, the semiotics of things.”


Verbatim can never be a play because as soon as you start selecting you’re interpreting.

Audience issue – whether they are seeing truth or fiction. If they believe it’s true then stating the facts on stage can be sensational – the actor can be in a position of huge power. But if they don’t entirely recognise it as true then the image may be powerful but it has been received differently than if they were convinced it was true.

October 27, 2012

Does your culture affect how you respond to trauma?

“The Western models have also been criticized for their strict consideration of the person as a self-contained unity, an individual completely independent of others (Bracken, Giller & Summerfield, 1995).

The author Ethan Watters is a popular author and his viewpoint includes how rational is to apply the Western based PTSD concepts in other cultures. Ethan Watters writes:

After the 2004 tsunami in Asia, many mental-health experts agreed that a ”second tsunami” of mental illness in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder would strike the region. Like doctors rushing to the outbreak of an epidemic, American counselors and trauma researchers soon arrived on the scene hoping to pass on useful knowledge about PTSD. A few years on, however, their efforts have raised a troublesome question: Were they bringing the wrong treatment to the wrong people?

At issue is not whether tragic events like the tsunami trigger debilitating psychological distress and even mental illness — everyone agrees that they can. The question is over the extent to which survivors’ cultural beliefs shape their symptoms. If culture has the impact that some researchers suggest, the PTSD diagnosis may be of little help (and even do potential harm) when applied wholesale in other countries. (The Way We Live Now: Idea Lab; Suffering Differently -Ethan Watters / New York Times. August 12, 2007 )”

via LankaWeb – The Cultural Perspectives on Psychological Trauma in Sri Lanka.

October 27, 2012

The distance of time

It shocked me last week when historical footage of Sept. 11, 2001, suddenly looked, well, historical.

Eleven years ago, I thought that day never would age, that the film wouldn’t turn grainy and reflective of a decade’s worth of technological improvements in clarity, color and sound.

Yet, as I watched History Channel documentaries on the eleventh anniversary, the archived media reports seemed, all at once, from a different time.

Has it really been 11 years?

What surprised me even more, however, was having a conversation about 9/11 with my almost 12-year-old son, Ford, who had been just a baby when the World Trade Center collapsed…

I reflected on this with him while I drove him to school last Wednesday. He told me that he had gotten up at 5:00 a.m. and watched a documentary about 9/11 on television. My first thought: Who gets up at 5:00 a.m.? My second thought: My kid is old enough to watch the History Channel … voluntarily?

“And what did you think?” I asked him.

“It’s weird that all of it happened when I was a baby,” he said.

via 9/11 documentaries and a new generation — Living — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine.

October 26, 2012

Will Eno’s one man show is a comic tale of ordinary existence – Fulham Chronicle


“There are some kinds of people for whom there should be a newspaper in which every day the headline would be ‘there’s a world and it’s part of a solar system floating somewhere in the universe, and we have consciousness and life’.

“I’d like that kind of newspaper,” says Eno.

via Will Eno’s one man show is a comic tale of ordinary existence – Fulham Chronicle.

October 26, 2012

9/11 on TV: A Visual Essay

An interesting commentary on qualities of the TV footage that shaped peoples’ perceptions of  9/11.

The attack was designed to be telegenic, marked by visual and sonic spectacle. Yet much of the horror unfolded off-screen: inside the planes and buildings, on the ground immediately below the towers, and in desperate phone calls to loved ones and 911 operators.

For more: On suffering and human eloquence: commemorating 9/11, televised U.S. coverage in 2011 by Isabel Pinedo.