Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘sociology’

17 SEPTEMBER, 2009

Illustartion Spotlight: Every Person In New York


Nachos, modern art, and how to put yourself on the cultural map.

Jason Polan is after every living person in New York — with a pencil and a sketchpad. His ambitious illustration project, Every Person In New York, is an effort do draw New Yorkers — all 8.3 million of them. Since March 23, 2008, he has been drawing people daily, and uploading the results to his blog.

He draws in subway stations, museums, restaurants, street corners — just about anywhere. And he doesn’t discriminate — from junk food lovers to junkies to celebrities, his sketches span the entire social spectrum.

To increase you own chances of getting drawn, he even invites you — yes, you — to email him with a public location you’ll be standing at for a duration of exactly two minutes.

From the standard subway sleeper, to the typical pack of art-admiring MoMA-goers, to Kirsten Durst walking down Grand Street, Every Person In New York is part art, part sociology, part fascinating slice of the cultural anthropology of the world’s most vibrant city.

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04 JUNE, 2009

Emotional Cartography: Technologies of the Self


What hacking has to do with art, technology and being human.

If you enjoyed last week’s BioMapping project, it’s time we took it to the major leagues — of biometric visualization, art, and sociology, that is.

Emotional Cartography is an excellent, free book on emotion mapping, featuring a collection of essays by artists, designers, psychologists, cultural researchers, futurists and neuroscientists. Together, they explore the political, social and cultural implications of dissecting the private world of human emotion with bleeding-edge technology.

Greenwich Emotional Map

From art projects to hi-tech gadgets, the collection looks at emotion in its social context. It’s an experiment in cultural hacking — a way to bridge the individual with the collective through experiential interconnectedness.

Hacking is an idea, as well as a social movement, which is about subverting and reclaiming the tools and metaphors that we’re given. Hacking is a DIY culture of action — a very individualistic community, but still a community with a vision of shared benefits.

Download the book in PDF here, for 53 glorious pages of technology, art and cultural insight.

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26 MAY, 2009

Heart of a City: BioMapping


Why skin is the new heart and how your neighbors can change the way your feel about your street.

On the trails of yesterday’s fascinating exploration of cities as living organisms, today we look at another piece of high-concept urban portraiture that harnesses the power of art, sociology and technology to a brilliant end.

Since 2004, Christian Nold has been orchestrating Bio Mapping — a crowdsourced community mapping project, which wires people up to Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) devices, detecting their emotional arousal, and sends them on their merry way around the neighborhood. These states are then mapped onto people’s geographic location, creating a visualization of communal emotion.

Participants — over 1,500 of them to date — also annotate the data with personal observations, memories and thoughts they associate with each location, painting a rich emotional portrait of the social space of a community.

Perhaps most fascinating about the project isn’t the mere documentation of collective emotion, but how that awareness would change our perception of our community and environment.

Those who have been with Brain Pickings for some time may find Bio Mapping reminiscent of Swedish artist Erik Krikortz’s Emotional Cities project. But, as researchers, we love the idea of measuring emotional states via biofeedback rather than self-reporting.

After all, there’s often a gaping disconnect between how we publicly broadcast emotion and how we privately experience it.

via Very Short List

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29 OCTOBER, 2008

Chris Jordan’s Photographic Visualizations of Excess


What Van Gogh has to do with Big Tobacco and how piles of folded laundry put the prison system in perspective.

Skull With CigaretteThe best of art is about something bigger than aestheticism, something that reflects on culture and makes a social statement that moves people. The work of artist Chris Jordan does just that. It grabs culture by its most unsettling truths, then displays them in gripping visuals that are part data, part philosophy, part brilliant photographic art.

Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait, Jordan’s latest project, exposes those hidden layers of consumerism, the big truths we give little thought to, by putting the devastating scale of our cultural excess into perspective. A visualization of statistical data, the project attempts to bring a human perspective to the alienating world of numbers.

Each statistically accurate image is a collage of miniature photographs portraying a specific excess:  The 15 million sheets of office paper we use every 5 minutes, the 106,000 aluminum cans we chug every 30 seconds, the 3.6 million SUV’s we buy every year, the 2.3 million Americans in prison, and so forth.

Plastic Cups depicts the one million plastic cups U.S. airlines use every 6 hours. Looking at the image from far away, it resembles a neo-industrial landscape where factories are spewing filth into the sky. Closer up, it transforms into a series of interwoven pipes. And really close up, you realize these are all stacks of actual plastic cups.

Plastic Cups

Plastic Cups: partial zoom

Pastic Cups: full zoom

Barbie Dolls exposes the 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries performed in the U.S. in 2006 through an equal number of Barbie dolls. The soft natural curves of a woman’s body seen in the full-scale image stand in stark contrast to the plasticky unrealness of the dolls in the close-up.

Barbie Dolls

Barbie Dolls: partial zoom

Barbie Dolls: full zoom

Denali Denial paints a portrait of the parts of nature we’re losing thanks to our reckless unsustainable habits. The image is composed of 24,000 logos from the GMC Yukon Denali, equal to six weeks of sales of that model SUV in 2004.

Denali Denial

Denali Denial: full zoom

Watch Chris Jordan’s eye-opening TED talk where he talks about his art, probes uncomfortable truths, and compares public reaction to the 3,000 deaths in 9/11 with the lack thereof to the 11,000 deaths from smoking that day and every other day.

What we admire most is that his art doesn’t aim to point the finger but, rather, to put our individual role as change agents into perspective.

In a world where large numbers have become practically meaningless, it’s easy to glide over the piles of zeroes, but it gets a little harder when we’re looking straight at the building blocks of our apocalypse.

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