Current discussions about art are very much centered on the question of art activism—that is, on the ability of art to function as an arena and medium for political protest and social activism. The phenomenon of art activism is central to our time because it is a new phenomenon—quite different from the phenomenon of critical art that became familiar to us during recent decades. Art activists do not want to merely criticize the art system or the general political and social conditions under which this system functions. Rather, they want to change these conditions by means of art—not so much inside the art system but outside it, in reality itself. Art activists try to change living conditions in economically underdeveloped areas, raise ecological concerns, offer access to culture and education for the populations of poor countries and regions, attract attention to the plight of illegal immigrants, improve the conditions of people working in art institutions, and so forth. In other words, art activists react to the increasing collapse of the modern social state and try to replace the social state and the NGOs that for different reasons cannot or will not fulfill their role. Art activists do want to be useful, to change the world, to make the world a better place—but at the same time, they do not want to cease being artists. And this is the point where theoretical, political, and even purely practical problems arise.

Each person must point out the way towards anthropological understanding through his field of work. That’s what life is involved with—politics too. If one of my students should one day rear her children in a better way, then for me that is more important than just having taught a great artist.

Joseph Beuys


When you think of God as nature what is the concept-thing like (if you don’t agree with my language to describe it no wonder you’re living in Hell)? Mine is a rainforest, or no, a single tree, a palm tree (without coconuts), bluish, including the bark, doing a wavy “ebb and flood” motion with all its magical little glowy bugs, yet standing still also. What is your “spirit landscape”? Get it? Instead of spirit animal? I’m making fun of God as nature because who knows what that even means? Don’t be shy to tell me about yours, though. Unless yours is a tundra (image in your head) because that just would be a maimed jagaloon with the intellect of a carnie talking to me.

According to new research from Boston University, young children with a religious background are less able to distinguish between fantasy and reality compared with their secular counterparts.

In two studies, 66 kindergarten-age children were presented with three types of stories - realistic, religious and fantastical. The researchers then queried the children on whether they thought the main character in the story was real or fictional.

While nearly all children found the figures in the realistic narratives to be real, secular and religious children were split on religious stories. Children with a religious upbringing tended to view the protagonists in religious stories as real, whereas children from non-religious households saw them as fictional.

BBC News - Study: Religious children are less able to distinguish fantasy from reality

Our Echo Chambers blog looks into a recent study about childrens’ belief systems and whether such research can be more than a political cudgel for both secular and religious groups

(via socio-logic)

Kerckhoff, Back, and Miller (1965) reach a similar conclusion in a different type of study. A Southern textile plant had been swept by “hysterical contagion”: a few, then more and more workers, claiming bites from a mysterious “insect,” became nauseous, numb, and weak, leading to a plant shutdown. When the affected workers were asked to name their three best friends, many named one another, but the very earliest to be stricken were social isolates, receiving almost no choices. An explanation, compatible with Becker’s, is offered: since the symptoms might be thought odd, early “adopters” were likely to be found among the marginal, those less subject to social pressures. Later, “it is increasingly likely that some persons who are socially integrated will be affected….The contagion enters social networks and is disseminated with increasing rapidity”. This is consistent with Rogers’ comment that while the first adopters of innovations are marginal, the next group, “early adopters,” are a more integrated part of the local social system than the innovators”.
 ”Central” and “marginal” individuals may well be motivated as claimed; but if the marginal are genuinely so, it is difficult to see how they can ever spread innovations successfully. We may surmise that since the resistance to a risky or deviant activity is greater than to a safe or normal one, a larger number of people will have to be exposed to it and adopt it, in the early stages, before it will spread in a chain reaction. Individuals with many weak ties are, by my arguments, best placed to diffuse such a difficult innovation, since some of those ties will be local bridges. An initially unpopular innovation spread by those with few weak ties is more likely to be confined to a few cliques, thus being stillborn and never finding its way into a diffusion study.
 That the “marginal” innovators of diffusion studies might actually be rich in weak ties is possible, given the usual sociometric technique, but in most cases this is purely speculative. Kerckhoff and Back, however, in a later more detailed analysis of the hysteria incident, indicate that besides asking about one’s “three best friends,” they also asked with whom workers ate, worked, shared car pools, etc. They report that five of the six workers earliest affected “are social isolates when friendship choices are used as the basis of analysis. Only 1 of the 6 is mentioned as a friend by anyone in our sample. This is made even more striking when we note that these 6 women are mentioned with considerable frequency when other bases for choice are used. In fact, they are chosen more frequently on a ‘non-friendship’ basis than are the women in any of the other categories”.

Mark Granovetter, The Strength of Weak Ties

Analysis of social networks is suggested as a tool for linking micro and macro levels of sociological theory. The procedure is illustrated by elaboration of the macro implications of one aspect of small-scale interaction: the strength of dyadic ties. It is argued that the degree of overlap of two individuals’ friendship networks varies directly with the strength of their tie to one another. The impact of this principle on diffusion of influence and information, mobility opportunity, and community organization is explored. Stress is laid on the cohesive power of weak ties. Most network models deal, implicitly, with strong ties, thus confining their applicability to small, well-defined groups. Emphasis on weak ties lends itself to discussion of relations between groups and to analysis of segments of social structure not easily defined in terms of primary groups.

Reason appeals to the self-consciousness of each and every consciousness: 'I am I, my object and my essence is I’; and no one will deny Reason this truth. But in basing itself on this appeal, Reason sanctions the truth of the other certainty, viz. that there is for me an ‘other’; that an other than ‘I’ is object and essence for me, or, in that I am object and essence to myself, I am only so by drawing back from the ‘other’ altogether, and taking my place as an actuality alongside it. Not until Reason comes on the scene as a reflection from this opposite certainty does its affirmation about itself present itself not merely as a certainty and an assertion, but as truth; and not merely alongside other truths but as the sole truth. Its immediate appearance on the scene is the abstraction of its actual presence, the essence and the in-itself of which is the absolute Notion, i.e. the movement which has brought it into being.

G.W.F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit Φ234

I can’t help seeing a distorted reflection of NRA “guns don’t kill people” mentality in the intensity at which grown Japanese men defend their god-given right to become aroused by 14 year old girls of Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

I can’t help seeing a distorted reflection of NRA “guns don’t kill people” mentality in the intensity at which grown Japanese men defend their god-given right to become aroused by 14 year old girls of Puella Magi Madoka Magica.