Tagged: Articles

Anglerfish, Candy Crush and Ultrasonic Sensors 05062015

I’ve been assembling a new version of the circuit I completed last term. With Ed’s help, I’m trying to attach a much larger light source to the Ultrasonic sensor. I’ve had to start using transistors to amplify the current for more LEDs. Alongside this, I’ve also had to add an external power supply. Unfortunately I think the one HC-SR04 sensor I own has broken! So I’ve had to order another, which won’t arrive till next week…. So this is on the shelf till it arrives.

  I’ve been thinking about the interim show and what I hope to exhibit. If all goes to plan, I aim to use this circuit with a canvas. Instead of laser cutting an image into board, placing it on top of a square of LEDs, and covering it with a thin white material, (Sheets, paper, etc). I’m going to create my composition on the back of a canvas using duct tape. The duct tape will block the light from coming through the canvas, and the image will be displayed.

My recent post (Followers 03063015) as well as previous experiments with similar multiples of imagery, are examples of the sort of composition I hope to use. The Ultrasonic circuit runs on the idea of false discoveries, believing that your the first to find something, like a piece of information. The experience originally aimed to replicate finding something with a torch or head torch in a dark environment. It aims to mimic the way we interact with consumer technology, in terms of us having to activate its use. There are a few questionable elements to this idea, most importantly the word FUNCTION in artwork. Instead of simply being a reactive gimmick, this element aims to question the necessity of consumer technology’s reaction to the user. Given the intimate and personal nature of smartphones, smart watches, laptops and tablets, the simple, easy to use interfaces give a false perception of connection. Obviously my iPhone works no differently to anyone else’s (other than maybe the cracked screen thats been there for far too long), but still, I feel an intimate connection to it as it stores and gives access to my sensitive information, calendar, social media profiles, contacts, emails, even books and articles. This reliance on the interface, particularly touch screen technology, is fluent in our society and will only grow as we find more uses, or indeed a more advanced interface. (Look at Google’s Soli Project). Alongside this idea of discovery, I’m interest in looking at temptation and addiction.

The AppleWatch, another piece of consumer tech that the naysayers couldn’t find any use for, but since its release, has been particularly successful. One of the most interesting and questionable of its uses is online betting. Late night TV is riddled with adverts for betting apps. All of these sell their product on the fact that its too easy to use, you can bet wherever you like, and in any way you like, be it slots / roulette / black jack / football / boxing etc. The AppleWatch is no different, and as it interacts with the apps on your phone, these betting options take themselves to a new level of accessibility. There is no longer any need to get your phone out of your pocket to place a bet on the football game your watching in the pub. Mix this fact with a few too many drinks, and you have a dangerous interface upgrade for gambling addicts. This idea of digitally enhanced addiction I find very interesting indeed. Can you be addicted to social media? the news? even the weather? (addiction to the weather is obviously absurd, but the desire for constant live updates of any kind is the point of all this). Is there potential for media addiction in this way? and what role does the interface play in this question?



Can this addiction relate to our bodies? The AppleWatch uses a new type of sensing technology to detect our heart rate and activity levels. This is not a new piece of tech, its just a new way of doing it. I believe they shine a light from the bottom of the watch, onto your wrist, and this somehow detects your blood movement. Health apps and health tech is rising fast as an industry. At the moment, there’s a very serious strain on the NHS, both in the hospitals and GPs. If this sort of technology could count our red blood cells, white blood cells, oxygen intake and every other necessary parameter to understand how healthy we are, could this help the NHS focus their efforts on the people who truly need care. This sort of technology would free up time for doctors and nurses, as they themselves wouldn’t need to take the tests. If we were given this technology, could we become obsessed, even addicted to monitoring our own health? There are many health addicts and gym monkeys around, but what if the first thing you checked in the morning were the parameters of your own body? This is a necessity for people with Diabetes and other serious illness, but if the technology was available, and had an easy interface, why wouldn’t this translate itself to the general, healthy public?

1304-apphazard-1 1304-apphazard-2

Android-Xray-Body-Scanner mobile-health-apps

Again, this is a post with a lot of ifs and buts, and unanswerable questions, but there’s no doubt that they are both relevant and interesting to consider.

I’m trying to drive the idea of this Ultrasonic Circuit in the direction of consumer interfaces absorbing the user. This can be both for good and bad reasons. On one side, absorbing the user can benefit the creators (Betting apps, targeted marketing) or on the other it can benefit, not only you, but also the community (Disaster warnings, health advice, large-scale events.) Either way, like a moth to flame, we react to the interface’s perceived awareness. On the negative side of this, I like the idea of comparing it to Anglerfish, the deep sea creatures that use lights to attract their prey, or even the Sirens, who attract men to sail too close to the rocks by the sounds of their voices. This is best known from The Odyssey, yet, Odysseus (or Ulysses) cleverly warned his men and told them to put cotton wool in their ears to stop them from being distracted. In the end, i guess this post has come down to the ideas of discovery, temptation, addiction, their roles in consumer electronics and our role as the user to be aware of both the dangers and the benefits of an increasing reliance on personal, transportable interfaces.


The Siren, Edward Armitage, 1888


Ulysses and the Sirens, John William Waterhouse, 1891

An interesting point to end on is Candy Crush. A record breaking app thats played by 93 million players a day started by a company thats now $7.1 billion. Its simple game, heart-warming colours, candy and sounds are a temptation, and unfortunately the nature of the game itself is addictive. It benefits the creators and the users but still is there something a little odd about its popularity?


These are a few extracts from an article written by Dana Smith, a Psychology Graduate and Science Writer at The Guardian, April 1st 2014:

This is what Candy Crush Saga does to your brain

LINK: http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2014/apr/01/candy-crush-saga-app-brain

First off, it’s simple. The premise of Candy Crush is basic enough for a preschooler – just match three candies of the same colour. Initially, the game allows us to win and pass levels with ease, giving a strong sense of satisfaction. These accomplishments are experienced as mini rewards in our brains, releasing the neurochemical dopamine and tapping into the same neuro-circuitry involved in addiction, reinforcing our actions. Despite its reputation as a pleasure chemical, dopamine also plays a crucial role in learning, cementing our behaviours and training us to continue performing them.”

“Steve Sharman, a PhD student in psychology at the University of Cambridge researching gambling addiction, explains that the impression that we are in control of a game is key to its addictive nature and is vital when playing a slot machine, for example. “The illusion of control is a crucial element in the maintenance of gambling addiction … [as it] instills a feeling of skill or control,” he says. “There are a number of in-game features [such as the boosters in Candy Crush] that allow players to believe they are affecting the outcome of the game, and in some cases they are, but those instances are rare.”

“Another feature of the game that strongly affects how we respond is the limit on how much we can play at any given time. Candy Crush effectively puts you into “time out” after five losses. This means you can never be completely satiated when playing and always leaves you wanting more. And by not letting you play, the game actually becomes even more rewarding when you are let back into Candyland. This is also how Candy Crush makes its money, letting you buy back into the game if you’re willing to purchase extra lives.

Researchers from Harvard and the University of British Columbia have demonstrated this effect, called hedonic adaptation, in a study using real-life candy bars. Participants were divided into two groups: one was told to abstain from eating chocolate for a week, while the other was given pounds of the stuff and told to go wild. After one week, the participants were brought back into the lab and given a piece of chocolate to savour.

The results? Those who had been deprived rated the chocolate as significantly more pleasurable than those who had been able to eat it freely. So it seems the deprivation makes the reward that much sweeter in the end.

Finally, it is no coincidence that the game is played with pieces of candy. As Sharman points out, food is often used in gambling games (think of the infamous fruit machine), tying our happy associations and the pleasure we derive from eating into the game. King acknowledges that candy’s positive associations help make the game more fun and relaxing.”


Another interesting aspect of Candy Crush, you gain lives if you manage to invite friends to the game…..


If you search Candy Crush addiction online, it comes across as a genuine thing, although its mostly people pretending their addicted, and joking about it…. are they joking?

How long do some of these 93 million people play Candy Crush a day? and what happens if they get it on their AppleWatch?….

In 2013 I was an avid Candy Crusher, I can happily say that I’ve gone well over a year without playing, and I have no intention of looking back… Hallelujah

#Monitor 2. 28/29032015

More Bad News 

1980, London, Glasgow University Media Grouo. 

Published by Routledge & Kegan Paul, 

UAL elibrary 

ITN – “the first priority of a television news programme is to pres et the viewer with a plain unvarnished account of happenings, as free as humanly possible of bias, and making the maximum possible use of television’s unique capacity to show these happenings.’

– the rate of image change in the news. Broadcasters assume the attention span and interest of the audiences

Commercial jingles – “the folksongs of consumer society’

“The music emphasises the image the television companies wish to sustain – that the news is balanced and impartial- in no way are the news personnel personally involved. The news occupies a neutral space in the sequence into which events and facts project themselves almost mechanically. The clacketyclack of the teleprinters, the electronic bleeps that have become the predominant themes of news music draw attention tot the processes of news collection and presentation, and reflect the typographical origins of news. The news comes, the music suggests; through neutral air wave on to neutral typewriter, a balanced mix of electronic show business and print.’ P182

“Every image embodies a way of seeing. Even a photograph. For photographs are not, as is often assumed, a mechanical record. Everytime we look at a photograph, we are ware, however slightly, of the photographer selecting that sight from an infinity of other possible sights.” – John Berger, Ways of Seeing.

“The television news audience is invite to watch a sequence of miscellaneous ‘items’, often interspersed with plugs for programmes to be shown later, channel announcements and commercial texlevision, ad breaks” ch10 halting the flow.


“Contrary to the claims, conventions Nd culture of television journalism, the news is not a neutral product. For television news is a cultural artifsct; it is a sequence of socially manufactured messages, which carry many of the culturally dominant assumptions of our society. From the accents of the newscasters to the vocabulary of camera angles; from who gets on and waht questions they are asked, via selection of stories to presentation of bulletins, the news is a highly mediated product’

Monitor #1 27032015

This is the first of a series of posts on the process behind my recent work “#Monitor”

VIDEO: BBC: Future of News, The Way News Consumption is Changing. 


Content / Themes:

Media Consumption

Bring the live news to the gallery – social experiment to see how people react.

Camera filming the participants watching the work. (Did not appear in Digital Meze work, though I’d love to include this in further versions of this work).

Although I aimed to use a series of news channels, due to the size of the television, it seemed better to use one, BBC News.

I’m interested in what live video feeds we can currently experience online. This is part of a wider study into media consumption and habits. There have been moments when I’ve been glued to the news in an almost shameful way.

I can distinctively remember watching the aftermath of 9/11 on the TV of a gym in Golders Green.

In 2011, during the London riots, I remember being on a coach on the way down from Nottingham to London. On route we passed a burning building as we entered London. There was a 15 minutes period where a number of people on the National Express bus received phone calls. After speaking with their friends in London, many of these passengers then passed on the information to others on the bus. Understandably, everyone was shocked, especially seeing as we’d just passed a burning building, though after looking into this further, this was completely unrelated. As soon as I got home, I turned on the news, and watched the riots until the early hours.

I remember thinking at the time that it was captivating. The worst social unrest in my city for the first time in my life. It was exciting to watch,…. but why? This is the first moment I remember starting to truly question the news. My mother has worked in journalism all of her life. I’ve grown up glued to the news. Every night after school, my family would sit and watch the news, as if like clockwork. We constantly monitored daily events, and still do. The big difference between now and then, is that now, we have twitter, and I’m fully aware of how news agencies approach stories from different angles to capture their audience. Unfortunately this usually comes down to ratings, and very rarely do these ratings jump up in the face of good news. Obviously there are exceptions, for example the Royal Wedding in 2011.

In 2012 whilst North Korea was flexing its muscles, ordering pre-emptive nuclear strikes on America….. that went well…… Again, I found the whole story, and still do, fascinating. Although I have no connection with these historical events, having studied the importance of history in the past, I noticed its oddity as a hermit nation in the modern world. Today we can watch historical events live, and although we aren’t present to see what happens, we still witness it, and it still has an impact. When a truly remarkable event unfolds, all of us become aware. In my generation, the majority of people find out through Facebook and twitter, through regurgitated news articles and elusive tweets. This was certainly the case for the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year.

What does this have to do with projecting live news in the gallery?

Well, I want the audience to feel small, a kind of reflection of the complexity and business of daily routine. The news is like clockwork, it doesn’t stop unless broken. As our news providers and interfaces have evolved, so has the complexity of our interest in it. In the mid 20th century, through to the beginning of the 21st, I feel that live news was a sort of gimmicky entertainment that excited the masses as the idea of visual, live feed news was relatively new. At least in terms of news teams being everywhere at once. Now that this incredible force has developed and matured, its hard to think that any breaking story won’t be captured within minutes, and for some cases, hours of it happening. For the long lasting stories such as disease and conflict, news agencies are part of the scenery amongst the events. The news and media use has even become a weapon in some of these conflicts.

ISIS and their professional propaganda have flooded the news. These well-made videos of beheadings and torture are repulsive, yet there is a clear allure to watching them.  These videos and images circulate around the world. This voluntary act of watching these propaganda films has the power to certify their brutality to the viewer, or to capture the imaginations of extremist sympathisers. ISIS use our media consumption as a way to infect us with their message. Those who travel over to help the Caliphate, glorify this propaganda. On the other hand, those that don’t travel, and simply sympathise with their cause exemplify the fact that they are using online media as a tool to build trojan horses in the hearts of opposing nations, i.e. US, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were sympathisers in almost every country in the world. Their message is cancerous, and is spreading quickly, particularly in North Africa. Looking back at Goebbels impact on Nazi propaganda, I can’t help but draw comparisons. Only here, the size and breadth of the internet works in its favour, allowing their messages to reach all corners of the globe. Using the second largest religion in the world as a foothold, these barbarians can and have easily grabbed attention from those already disgruntled in their day to day lives. They do not practice Islam. This is radicalism at its highest level. The vacuum of power created by the pre-longed wars in Syria and Iraq have given birth to this extremism. Its seemingly romantic, religious and well-organised regime act as an attraction to those who already show signs of extremism, and not necessarily just Islamic. There are numerous stories of Christians and atheists converting to this false form of Islam, particularly in prisons. This regime’s ideology to tackle the dominance of the West and reclaim the Middle East after years of war, is an allure to any anti-Western activist. Then again, all of the above is based on information provided by international news services, whom seem to contradict themselves daily. Only the intelligence community know the true extent of the problem at hand. The information provided to the public merely scratches the surface, for better or for worse. The one fact is that the rise of media consumption, and the necessity we hold for information can and is being used against us.

Ukraine – There were reports of some Pro-Russian Rebels firing upon Ukrainian occupied villages if they hear that journalists are present. This is most definitely in response to the huge media activity that has circled Ukraine over the last year. Whether the Russian government are involved in the organisation and supply of the rebels or not, the accusations from either side exacerbate the crisis, particularly when these stories conflict and are heard about by a large number of the world’s population. All of a sudden, everyone has an opinion, depending on whose story they watched or read. If you live in Russia and only watch and listen to Russian news, you will obviously believe Putin when he says that, other than Crimea, he has no involvement in Ukraine. If you are in the US, you will be told that it is in fact Russian soldiers fighting the Ukrainians. The situation has become a tangling of overt message from either side contradicting each other. To the less informed public, such as myself, this creates the illusion that there is no solution, though, behind the scenes, there must be a number of forms of amicable contact and agreement.

History is a fascinating subject to study. Understanding the impact of events from the past for me is crucial to question the events unfolding in front of your eyes. Today, this is nearly every publicly known disaster, catastrophe or celebration! All day and all night hundreds of news teams around the world are working for us to have the information about these events when they happen. Im simply fascinated by the natural desire to know whats happening in the world and its evolution from the information age. Then again, in the same respect, there are many who ignore it more than ever, in reaction to its occasional deceit. Even with these people, if something extraordinary happens, it does draw them in, and all of a sudden Twitter and Facebook is flooded with the same regurgitated messages from people who feel its their social responsibility to inform their followers. I love to share funny videos and oddities of the net, but sharing stories that everyone will inevitably get to know, is a little strange to me. I’m fascinated by how access to live information affects people, particularly in how they react.

In the reception areas of many city offices, there is very likely a TV or a number of TVs showing the news and business news of the day. In a waiting room environment, these can be blissful, but what about the gallery? The exhibition is to show work, though I’m interested in the reaction to live media in this context. I don’t think it’ll be positive, but there really is a number of reactions that could occur, and the one I’m most intrigued by is the people who simply take it for granted and just begin watching the news. The familiarity of the format can almost force you to forget where you are. If a story that your interested in is on, you will automatically been drawn in. Then theres the slightly bigger question. What will be on? Obviously I have no idea, though if theres nothing breaking, as the exhibition will be a week before the election, there will be a lot of political strife on the British channels.

#Monitor looks to visually capture these ideas. Posts on its process are to follow.

Below are images and articles relating these concepts:

1-640x480-Newscast WatchingTelevisionNews-52784

Gumtree freebies: Could work for this sculpture.






Associated Press offers simultaneous live video feeds to news websites

By Roy Greenslade:

The Associated Press, the US-based news agency, has expanded its video services in response to growing demand by media outlets.

It will enable its customers – meaning, in the main, American newspaper websites – to stream more than one live event at a time.

In a press release announcing the initiative, AP says it has seen a huge increase in demand for its video hub service since its launch in 2012.

It reports that in the fourth quarter of 2013 the platform delivered 39 live events. By the fourth quarter of 2014 that had risen to 125 live events.

The increase is hardly a surprise, confirming that streamed live content drives more traffic to news website, thereby significantly increasing the time people spend on the site.

Aside from simultaneous streaming, AP is pledging to provide more content and also to focus on video as “a primary story-telling tool”.

The agency says it will cover more regional interest stories, from papal visits to US politics and EU summits; more technology events, including all the key annual shows; as well as more entertainment, culture and lifestyle content.

Sue Brooks, AP’s director of international products and platforms, says: “Live is starting to play a larger role within our customer’s editorial strategy and they want to include more of it in their site’s content”.

AP launched a live news service in 2003 in its coverage of the invasion of Iraq. But it was a very different event, says Brooks, that put the service on the map.

“Live really came into its own in 2013 ahead of the birth of Prince George, when we streamed a shot of the hospital’s front door to many of the UK’s online newspaper sites who saw terrific traffic and engagement,” she says.

Other successful events have included the Oscar Pistorius trial, the Hong Kong protests and coverage of the conflict between Isis and the Kurds over Kobane.


Want To Be More Innovative? Don’t Watch The News.

By Mike Maddock

Some of the most creative people I know decided long ago not to watch TV news. I used to find their decision curious. This past week, I decided it was brilliant.

After a few minutes of tears on Friday, I decided that watching sensationalized news for more than a few seconds violates my commitment to remain boyishly optimistic. My decision was reinforced over the weekend. Every time I surfed past a news channel, I immediately felt the optimism being sucked out of me. Bickering politicians arguing about metaphoric cliffs, sordid details of kids being gunned down, and smarty-pants journalists deeply committed to forcing each and every issue under the left and right lens threatened to squash the ideals of the most committed optimists.


Einstein said, “The most important decision a man will ever make is whether he lives in a friendly universe.”

Since I spend my days with people committed to changing the world, I can tell you that Einstein’s words are fundamental to entrepreneurship and innovation. Great leaders believe they live in a friendly universe. They believe the world is conspiring to make it successful. What about you? If not, perhaps you’re watching too much news.

Years ago, I heard a wonderful story about two shoe salesmen. As the story goes, they were both sent to a third world country—at the time, probably China—to sell shoes. After a couple of weeks, the sales manager calls the first salesperson and asks for a progress report. “It’s terrible over here. Nobody wears shoes!” reports salesperson number one.

But the second salesperson’s report is completely different. He says, “It is unbelievable over here. Everybody NEEDS shoes!”

People who believe they live in a friendly universe are looking for opportunity at every turn. People who believe they live in an unfriendly universe look to be persecuted. They live in fear, and fear is the enemy of creativity.

There is goodness all around if you are looking for it. You may notice that people are living almost twice as long as they did 200 years ago. You may notice that there are tens of millions of children being equipped with education and information never before available to them. You may notice the power and availability of technology to change the world—for good or evil,depending on the lens we choose to create.

This is not a media-bashing piece. News directors have made a choice that is totally understandable in our capitalistic system. They want to attract as many people as they can so they can get the most money possible for the commercials that run within their broadcasts. And so, as every young reporter is told from day one, “if it bleeds, it leads,” meaning the bigger the tragedy the bigger play the story will receive.

I understand their choice. I simply think it is wrong. More important, I am aware of the negative effect it has on my friends and me. And so, with this awareness comes choice; and I choose to ride the remote when misery makes money.

Here’s a question I’d like to end with. Is our media helping to create a country of optimistic believers or fearful nonbelievers?

I think you can answer that question with another. Would you let your 7-year-old watch the news? If the answer is “no,” then perhaps you should opt out for the same reason.

We need people who believe that they can change the world. At age seven, I bet you thought you could change the world. I’ve got news for you. You still can.

Follow me on Twitter @theideamonkey or read my Forbes blog here.


News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier

BY Rolf Dobelli, Guardian

In the past few decades, the fortunate among us have recognised the hazards of living with an overabundance of food (obesity, diabetes) and have started to change our diets. But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind. Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be.

News misleads. Take the following event (borrowed from Nassim Taleb). A car drives over a bridge, and the bridge collapses. What does the news media focus on? The car. The person in the car. Where he came from. Where he planned to go. How he experienced the crash (if he survived). But that is all irrelevant. What’s relevant? The structural stability of the bridge. That’s the underlying risk that has been lurking, and could lurk in other bridges. But the car is flashy, it’s dramatic, it’s a person (non-abstract), and it’s news that’s cheap to produce. News leads us to walk around with the completely wrong risk map in our heads. So terrorism is over-rated. Chronic stress is under-rated. The collapse of Lehman Brothers is overrated. Fiscal irresponsibility is under-rated. Astronauts are over-rated. Nurses are under-rated.

We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press. Watching an airplane crash on television is going to change your attitude toward that risk, regardless of its real probability. If you think you can compensate with the strength of your own inner contemplation, you are wrong. Bankers and economists – who have powerful incentives to compensate for news-borne hazards – have shown that they cannot. The only solution: cut yourself off from news consumption entirely.

News is irrelevant. Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business. The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you. But people find it very difficult to recognise what’s relevant. It’s much easier to recognise what’s new. The relevant versus the new is the fundamental battle of the current age. Media organisations want you to believe that news offers you some sort of a competitive advantage. Many fall for that. We get anxious when we’re cut off from the flow of news. In reality, news consumption is a competitive disadvantage. The less news you consume, the bigger the advantage you have.

News has no explanatory power. News items are bubbles popping on the surface of a deeper world. Will accumulating facts help you understand the world? Sadly, no. The relationship is inverted. The important stories are non-stories: slow, powerful movements that develop below journalists’ radar but have a transforming effect. The more “news factoids” you digest, the less of the big picture you will understand. If more information leads to higher economic success, we’d expect journalists to be at the top of the pyramid. That’s not the case.

News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitisation.


News increases cognitive errors. News feeds the mother of all cognitive errors: confirmation bias. In the words of Warren Buffett: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” News exacerbates this flaw. We become prone to overconfidence, take stupid risks and misjudge opportunities. It also exacerbates another cognitive error: the story bias. Our brains crave stories that “make sense” – even if they don’t correspond to reality. Any journalist who writes, “The market moved because of X” or “the company went bankrupt because of Y” is an idiot. I am fed up with this cheap way of “explaining” the world.

News inhibits thinking. Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers. But it’s worse than that. News severely affects memory. There are two types of memory. Long-range memory’s capacity is nearly infinite, but working memory is limited to a certain amount of slippery data. The path from short-term to long-term memory is a choke-point in the brain, but anything you want to understand must pass through it. If this passageway is disrupted, nothing gets through. Because news disrupts concentration, it weakens comprehension. Online news has an even worse impact. In a 2001 study two scholars in Canadashowed that comprehension declines as the number of hyperlinks in a document increases. Why? Because whenever a link appears, your brain has to at least make the choice not to click, which in itself is distracting. News is an intentional interruption system.

News works like a drug. As stories develop, we want to know how they continue. With hundreds of arbitrary storylines in our heads, this craving is increasingly compelling and hard to ignore. Scientists used to think that the dense connections formed among the 100 billion neurons inside our skulls were largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. Today we know that this is not the case. Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. The more news we consume, the more we exercise the neural circuits devoted to skimming and multitasking while ignoring those used for reading deeply and thinking with profound focus. Most news consumers – even if they used to be avid book readers – have lost the ability to absorb lengthy articles or books. After four, five pages they get tired, their concentration vanishes, they become restless. It’s not because they got older or their schedules became more onerous. It’s because the physical structure of their brains has changed.

News wastes time. If you read the newspaper for 15 minutes each morning, then check the news for 15 minutes during lunch and 15 minutes before you go to bed, then add five minutes here and there when you’re at work, then count distraction and refocusing time, you will lose at least half a day every week. Information is no longer a scarce commodity. But attention is. You are not that irresponsible with your money, reputation or health. Why give away your mind?

News makes us passive. News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. The daily repetition of news about things we can’t act upon makes us passive. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised, sarcastic and fatalistic. The scientific term is “learned helplessness”. It’s a bit of a stretch, but I would not be surprised if news consumption, at least partially contributes to the widespread disease of depression.

News kills creativity. Finally, things we already know limit our creativity. This is one reason that mathematicians, novelists, composers and entrepreneurs often produce their most creative works at a young age. Their brains enjoy a wide, uninhabited space that emboldens them to come up with and pursue novel ideas. I don’t know a single truly creative mind who is a news junkie – not a writer, not a composer, mathematician, physician, scientist, musician, designer, architect or painter. On the other hand, I know a bunch of viciously uncreative minds who consume news like drugs. If you want to come up with old solutions, read news. If you are looking for new solutions, don’t.

Society needs journalism – but in a different way. Investigative journalism is always relevant. We need reporting that polices our institutions and uncovers truth. But important findings don’t have to arrive in the form of news. Long journal articles and in-depth books are good, too.

I have now gone without news for four years, so I can see, feel and report the effects of this freedom first-hand: less disruption, less anxiety, deeper thinking, more time, more insights. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.


The Power of Ignoring Mainstream News

By Joel Gascoigne

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” – Thomas Jefferson

Around two years ago I stopped watching and reading mainstream news. I don’t read a single newspaper, offline or online, and I don’t watch any TV at all. I  mentioned this on Twitterand Facebook, and it created a lot of discussion, so I wanted to expand on my thoughts and experiences.

When I first started ignoring news, I felt that I was simply making an excuse, that if I had more time I should read the news. Today, however, it is a very deliberate choice and I feel consistently happier every single day due to ignoring the mainstream news. It just so happens that the last two years have also been the most enjoyable and productive of my entire life and have contained some of my greatest achievements. Here are a few reasons I think we should stop consuming mainstream news:

News is negative

“The news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news… and it’s not entirely the media’s fault, bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news.” – Peter McWilliams

The most interesting fact I learned in the last few years about mainstream media is that almost all news reported is negative. Studies have shown that theratio of bad news to good news is around 17:1. That means that 95% is negative. This is a massive number, and I’m sure if you stop to think for a moment about the most recent news you watched, it has also been overwhelmingly negative. In my experience, 95% is absolutely the correct ratio in the news. However, 95% is a very bad reflection of the real ratio of good to bad in the world. Many great things happen, they just don’t sell newspapers.

Mainstream news report about wars, natural disasters, murders and other kinds of suffering. It seems the only natural conclusion of watching or reading mainstream news is that the world is a terrible place, and that it is getting worse every day. However, the reality of course is the complete opposite: We live in an amazing time and the human race is improving at a faster pace than ever before.

The effect of negative news

“When you turn on the television, for instance, you run the risk ingesting harmful things, such as violence, despair, or fear.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Another very interesting thing I’ve learned in the last few years is the incredible impact that being around the right people can have on your trajectory to achieving what you want. This comes down essentially to your environment, and while it can mean some hard decisions to change our environment, we actually have a lot of control over it.

I believe these two aspects—that we are subconsciously affected by our environment, no matter how much willpower we believe ourselves to have, and that we have much more control over our environment than we realize—have been key factors of some of the success I’ve had in the last few years.

In a TED talk titled “Information is food”JP Rangaswami compared eating McDonald’s for 31 days, as in Supersize Me, to watching Fox News for 31 days. In essence, mainstream news is the fast food of information. There are much healthier types of information we can and should consume.

The opportunity cost of watching news

The other key thing that I think it can be easy to overlook is what you could be doing in the time you are spending watching the news.

I remember as a kid, my parents always used to watch the 6 o’clock news. It became so ingrained, it was what would always happen at exactly 6pm, and if we didn’t watch it, we would surely miss out on something vital that could affect our lives.

As a teenager, over time I managed to gradually escape that more and more often. At first, I simply turned to something I enjoyed. I played games online in the evenings instead of sitting with my family and watching the news. The most interesting thing, however, is that my passion for gaming turned into a powerful hobby of learning to code, and I accredit this for a lot of my startup success.

Not only is watching news going to put an out-of-proportion amount of negative thoughts in your mind, which will affect what you can achieve, it is also valuable time where there are many amazing and meaningful things you could be doing:

Try a month off mainstream news

Abstaining from mainstream news has been one of the single best decisions I’ve made in the last two years for both my productivity and my happiness. If you’re still in a habit of watching or reading news, I strongly recommend you take Thomas Jefferson’s advice and try a month off news:

“I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.”

Do you read or watch mainstream news? Have you thought about stopping consuming it? Have you also given it up and felt better? I’d love to hear from you.

Photo credit: Jon S

This post originally appeared on my personal website, Joel.is. If you’d like, you canbrowse the archives there for more stories on startups, life, learning, and happiness.


City University London – The Future of Breaking News Online?

By Neil Thurman + Nic Newman

PDF is saved on computer.


University of Oxford Digital News Report 2012

Types and Formats of News Consumed Online

A key question for researchers and news organisations relates to the types and formats of news consumed online. Many news organisations are now putting significant resources into creating and curating live blog pages, which they update throughout the day for major news events. There is also more and more expensive audio video content being produced – but does the investment justify the cost? Are these formats attracting new users or simply super-serving existing audiences?

These data offer insights into some of these questions by showing how different content initiatives resonate with consumers across the demographic groups. In this sense they can help define how online channels can best complement offline content such as newspapers and broadcast channels.

Ways of accessing online news

PercentageGlanced at headlinesRead storyVideo clipsLive videoTV news programmeLive radioPodcastLive news pageRead blog0102030405060Ways of accessing online news
[Any video: 39%; Any radio: 16%]Q15 Thinking of the way you looked at news online this week, in which of the following ways did you access news online?
Base (n=2173)

It is no surprise to see that glancing at headlines and reading full stories are the most common types of online news consumption, but watching video news is quite close behind, with nearly two-fifths of the sample claiming to have done so in the past week. Online radio news consumption lags far behind, with only 16% of the sample claiming to have accessed any radio news online in the past week.

Men are more likely than women to engage in all of these behaviours except glancing at the headlines. The biggest difference is around video news: 47% of men engage in at least one of the video behaviours, compared to just 32% of women.

Over 45s are much more likely to say that they’ve glanced at the headlines online, and much less likely to say that they’ve read a full news story online, than younger age groups. This fits with online being a secondary platform for news consumption amongst this age group.

Millennials say keeping up with the news is important to them — but good luck getting them to pay for it

The new report from the Media Insight Project looks at millennials’ habits and attitudes toward news consumption: “I really wouldn’t pay for any type of news because as a citizen it’s my right to know the news.”

Most millennials don’t seek out news on social media, but the vast majority of them get news from social networks once they see it there, according to a report released today by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration between the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Only 47 percent of the millennials surveyed said consuming news is a major reason they visit Facebook, but 88 percent of the respondents said they get news from Facebook at least occasionally. 83 percent said they get news from YouTube on occasion, and 50 percent found news on Instagram. Next in line: Pinterest at 36 percent, Twitter at 33 percent, Reddit at 23 percent, and Tumblr at 21 percent.

“Simply put, social media is no longer simply social,” the report says. “It long ago stopped being just a way to stay in touch with friends. It has become a way of being connected to the world generally — to send messages, follow channels of interest, get news, share news, talk about it, be entertained, stay in touch, and to check in and see what’s new in the world.”

The study found that of those who get news from Facebook, 57 percent do so at least once a day; 44 percent said they did so multiple times per day. That’s a far more regular habit than other social networks induce: The once-a-day number was for 29 percent for YouTube and was 26 percent for Instagram. And Twitter? Just 13 percent of millennials said they use it as a daily source of news.


The report emphasizes that millennials don’t exclusively get their news only from Facebook or other social media. In virtually every news category included in the study, millennials said they have multiple pathways to find information.

The survey asked respondents how they accessed 24 different news topics, from national politics and government to style, beauty, and fashion. Facebook was either the number one or two source of information for 20 of the 24 topics, and in nine of those topics it was the only source cited by a majority of respondents. Search was the second most popular source of information, ranking first or second in 13 of the 24 news topics.


For hard news topics, like economic news or local crime coverage, millennials tended to look directly toward original reported sources for information, as opposed to looking on social media or through curated sources like Google News or other aggregators.


About 75 percent of millennials said they turn primarily to social media for coverage of lifestyle topics. 91 percent of millennials, for example, use social media as a primary source for coverage of pop culture and celebrities. 84 percent of respondents also said social media is a primary source for style, beauty, and fashion topics.


“There are also a few topics for which there is no favored path, or for which people use at least two of them equally,” the study says. “For instance, Millennials have no clear preferred path to news about science and technology. Social, curated, and reporting platforms are cited equally for these topics.”

The study found that millennials of all ages get news from various sources, but that their habits vary. More than half of millennials older than 30 describe themselves as mostly proactive consumers of news; only a third of millennials under 25 say the same. There was broad support for the idea that keeping up with the news had value — 85 percent of millennials surveyed said it was at least somewhat important to them.

Will they pay for news? From the report:

When it comes to paying for the news, 40 percent of Millennials report paying for at least one subscription themselves, including a digital news app (14 percent), a digital magazine (11 percent), a digital subscription to a newspaper (10 percent), or a paid email newsletter (9 percent). When subscriptions used but paid for by others are added, that number rises to 53 percent who have used some type of paid subscription for news in the last year.

Interestingly, this digital generation is more likely to have paid for non-digital versions of these products. For instance, 21 percent say they have paid in the last year for a subscription to a print magazine, and 16 percent for a print newspaper, rates that are higher than for digital versions of the same products.


In addition to the broader survey data, researchers did deeper interviews with 23 millennials in three different locations around the country. Those interviews revealed a reluctance among some interviewees to pay for news online.

“I don’t think you should pay for news,” Eric, a 22-year-old Chicagoan, said. “That’s something everybody should be informed in. Like, you’re going to charge me for information that’s going on around the world?” And then there’s 19-year-old Sam from San Francisco: “I really wouldn’t pay for any type of news because as a citizen it’s my right to know the news.”


There are a lot of articles out there saying Stop watching the news, stop killing your creativity! I find this fun, as obviously the news is something that has sparked an interest for me to create.

26022015 Tutorial with Keir Williams

We had a constructive chat. It was great experience to talk about my work with someone who hadn’t seen it before. We discussed the different concepts surrounding my work such as Interaction, and how really my work is actually Reactive, rather than Interactive. He’s sent me an article on the difference:

Distinguishing Concepts – Lexicons of Interactive Art and Architecture


Keir also sent me a few other things to look at:

An Interactive Art Festival – http://www.aec.at/prix/en/kategorien/

Keir Williams Lecture Work – http://id.uwedigitalmedia.com/

He made distinct connections with my work and the Futurists / Constructivists.









images-16 images-17



He also compared some of my work to a pretty niche film from the early 90s, The Lawnmower Man. With a similar aesthetic to Second Life, and other early computer generated avatars,  I can see how he compared a few of my uses of generic digital figures in the same way. I’ve attached some photos as well as a short description of the film.

The eccentric Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan) puts mentally disabled landscaper Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey) on a regimen of experimental pills and computer-simulated training sequences in hopes of augmenting the man’s intelligence. In time Jobe becomes noticeably brighter and also begins to fare much better with the opposite sex. But, as he develops psychic powers, he realizes that those around him have taken advantage of his simplicity his whole life, and he plots a bloody revenge…..

I’ll be watching this film very soon.








Whilst discussing my idea of making paintings unreadable without an audience, we ended up talking about Valentina Tanni whom released a fox into a gallery, she then created a piece using the gallery’s CCTV footage of the fox.


Obviously this wasn’t completely on topic, though seeing examples of artists playfully mocking the gallery as a space is always intriguing.





Overall the tutorial was very constructive. He introduced me to influences I’d wouldn’t otherwise know, and made me feel very positive about my research. Some points to go forward were for me to try to focus less on perfectly executed ideas, and to experiment more with the mixture of digital and physical processes. He also believed that my concepts surrounding the more linear work had a lot to it, and a lot more to discover with it.

Darknet: A Glimpse into the Future of the Web?

Article by Peter Shadbolt.

(CNN) – What will the internet of the future look like? And what purpose will it be used for?

From augmented reality, which anticipates the information you’ll want just by looking at an object, to smart services that use artificial intelligence to help us manage our workloads, the look, feel and utility of the internet of 2040 is a wide open field.

Already advances in virtual reality technology – Facebook notably bought the virtual reality start-up Oculus VR for $2bn this year – are beginning to change the way we deal with everything from medical science, to military training, to learning difficulties.

To what extent, however, we’ll have control over our own data is one of the future’s great unanswered questions.

For many the future of the internet is already here; and it looks a lot like it did in 1990s.

Called the Darknet, this anonymised section of the net allows everyone from copyright pirates, to drug dealers, to dissidents to communicate and do business without fear of leaving their digital fingerprints.

Special browser

Jamie Bartlett, whose book “The Dark Net” investigates the digital underworld, told CNN that this opaque and subversive world is inaccessible through normal browsers, and requires special software.

“A special browser called Tor allows a user to browse the internet without their IP address being given away,” Bartlett said. “It uses a clever encryption system that means no one can see what computer a user is on.”

This same encryption system also affords anonymity to the websites that inhabit this corner of the web, meaning that governments and law enforcers have no idea where the site is being hosted.

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Editor’s Note: Tomorrow Transformed explores innovative approaches and opportunities available in business and society through technology.

That doesn’t mean that the individuals running these operations can forever remain hidden, as the capture of the creator of “Silk Road”, a famous illegal online marketplace, by the FBI in 2013 demonstrates.

Still, the tools to make life difficult for law enforcement seem to be there: “Anyone can set up these websites which are almost impossible to shut down and censor,” he said. “As a result it’s a bit of a Wild West — more or less anything goes.

“You’ve got illegal pornography there, these drugs markets there, assassination markets and hit men for hire. All sorts of terrible stuff but also all sorts of good stuff too.

“Democratic revolutionaries, whistle blowers, human rights activists who are also concerned about giving away their location also want somewhere where they can post stuff illegally and anonymously.”

U.S. military

Bartlett said the browser was initially developed by the U.S. military as a way of traversing the internet secretly, but since then had become an open source project. He suggests the military released the encrypted browser as a way of providing cover for their operations.

Because the Tor browser uses a non-standard protocol, people observing network traffic can identify it easily even if they can’t see what the user is looking at.

“They realised that this is not a good idea if the only people using it are the US military — it’s going to be obvious who they are. For that reason, they turned it into an open source project.”

Today, the Darknet is moving from fringe to mainstream, attracting anyone who wants anonymity — be they hired killers or humble bloggers.

Back to the future

For Bartlett, the Darknet is a return to the labrynthine recesses of the first days of the worldwide web. He said the future of the net is likely to be an increased proliferation of these non-standard protocols that provide ever deeper levels of anonymity.

“It really feels like the early days of the internet … (everything) is hosted on these rudimentary networks. It’s like the internet of the early 90s when things weren’t indexed the way they are now.

“Everything is hyperlinked together and Google can find everything, but back in the day the whole internet was dark — you didn’t know what you were doing or where you were going.

“You even used to write down web addresses on pieces of paper and pass them to each other.”

Art project

Just what can be found on the Darknet is often the subject of wild conjecture, but a recent project launched by the !Mediengruppe Bitnik art collective — called “The Darknet — From Memes to Onionland” – shows exactly what is on offer on the Internet’s underbelly.

Arming an automated internet bot with US$100 in bitcoins (the crypto-currency accepted as legal tender on many illicit marketplaces) the “Random Darknet Shopper” trawls its murky corners and every week buys one item at random.

So far, the bot has purchased a “stash can” of Sprite that doubles as a hiding place for either drugs or money, a platinum Visa card for $35, 10 Ecstasy Pills from Germany for US$48, 10 packets of Chesterfield cigarettes from Moldova, and many other items such as jeans, “designer” bags, and books.

One of the most intriguing pieces for the exhibitors at the Kunst Halle St. Gallen gallery in St. Gallen, Switzerland — where all the parcels arrive — has been a fireman’s set of skeleton keys from the United Kingdom.

“Our first question was what do you do with this? What does it open?” Carmen Weisskopf, co-founder of the art collective, told CNN. On the Darknet, the keys are advertised as useful for unlocking toolboxes or “gaining access to communal gates and storage areas.”

‘Thrilling and scary’

She said receiving the parcels at the gallery was at once “thrilling and scary.”

“The motivation for the artwork really came in the light of the Snowden revelations – for internet artists it meant we had to re-evaluate the networks we work in. We became really interested in looking at these anonymous and encrypted networks from an artistic point of view.”

She said the starting point for them had been how to build trust in an anonymous network.

The project has already dented the levels of trust at the art collective who early on in the project called in the services of a lawyer to shore up their legal position should the bot turn up anything that puts them outside the law. Fortunately, Weisskopf said, firearm sales are limited to clients within the United States.

“That’s why we got the idea of going into marketplaces because trust is something you need to build in markets.”

The artists have already gained notoriety by sending a parcel to fugitive whistleblower Julian Assange. The parcel was equipped with a cam that recorded its journey through the postal service to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where Assange is currently holed up.

Roger Scruton’s “A Point of View: Has Modern Art Exhausted it’s Power to Shock?”

This article sparks huge debate into the evolution of modern art, and it’s relationship with the institution. A very interesting and thought-provoking read. First of a series by philosopher Roger Scruton.


Modern art’s desire to shock and to defy cliche has become a cliche in itself, and spawned a culture of fakery, argues Roger Scruton.

“To thine own self be true,” says Shakespeare’s Polonius, “and thou canst be false to no man.” Live in truth, urged Vaclav Havel. “Let the lie come into the world,” wrote Solzhenitsyn, “but not through me.” How seriously should we take these pronouncements, and how do we obey them?

There are two kinds of untruth – lying and faking. The person who is lying says what he or she does not believe. The person who is faking says what he believes, though only for the time being and for the purpose in hand.

Anyone can lie. It suffices to say something with the intention to deceive. Faking, however, is an achievement. To fake things you have to take people in, yourself included. The liar can pretend to be shocked when his lies are exposed, but his pretence is part of the lie. The fake really is shocked when he is exposed, since he has created around himself a community of trust, of which he himself is a member.

In all ages people have lied in order to escape the consequences of their actions, and the first step in moral education is to teach children not to tell fibs. But faking is a cultural phenomenon, more prominent in some periods than in others. There is very little faking in the society described by Homer, for example, or in that described by Chaucer. By the time of Shakespeare, however, poets and playwrights are beginning to take a strong interest in this new human type.

In Shakespeare’s King Lear the wicked sisters Goneril and Regan belong to a world of fake emotion, persuading themselves and their father that they feel the deepest love, when in fact they are entirely heartless. But they don’t really know themselves to be heartless – if they did, they could not behave so brazenly. The tragedy of King Lear begins when the real people – Kent, Cordelia, Edgar, Gloucester – are driven out by the fakes.

The fake is a person who has rebuilt himself, with a view to occupying another social position than the one that would be natural to him. Such is Molière’s Tartuffe, the religious impostor who takes control of a household through a display of scheming piety. Like Shakespeare, Moliere perceives that faking goes to the very heart of the person engaged in it. Tartuffe is not simply a hypocrite, who pretends to ideals that he does not believe in. He is a fabricated person, who believes in his own ideals since he is just as illusory as they are.

Moliere’s Tartuffe: Not simply a hypocrite but a fabricated person, who believes in his own illusory ideals
Tartuffe’s faking is a matter of sanctimonious religion. With the decline of religion during the 19th Century there came about a new kind of faking. The romantic poets and painters turned their backs on religion and sought salvation through art. They believed in the genius of the artist, endowed with a special capacity to transcend the human condition in creative ways, breaking all the rules in order to achieve a new order of experience. Art became an avenue to the transcendental, the gateway to a higher kind of knowledge.

Originality therefore became the test that distinguishes true from fake art. It is hard to say in general terms what originality consists in, but we have examples enough – Titian, Beethoven, Goethe, Baudelaire. But those examples teach us that originality is hard. It cannot be snatched from the air, even if there are those natural prodigies like Rimbaud and Mozart who seem to do just that. Originality requires learning, hard work, the mastery of a medium and – most of all – the refined sensibility and openness to experience that have suffering and solitude as their normal cost.

Marcel Duchamp’s artwork “Fountain”
To gain the status of an original artist is therefore not easy. But in a society where art is revered as the highest cultural achievement, the rewards are enormous. Hence there is a motive to fake it. Artists and critics get together in order to take themselves in, the artists posing as the originators of astonishing breakthroughs, the critics posing as the penetrating judges of the true avant garde.

In this way Duchamp’s famous urinal became a kind of paradigm for modern artists. This is how it is done, the critics said. Take an idea, put it on display, call it art and brazen it out. The trick was repeated with Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes, and then later with the pickled sharks and cows of Damien Hirst. In each case the critics have gathered like clucking hens around the new and inscrutable egg, and the fake is projected to the public with all the apparatus required for its acceptance as the real thing. So powerful is the impetus towards the collective fake that it is now rare to be a finalist for the Turner prize without producing some object or event that shows itself to be art only because the critics have said that it is.


• Widespread and far-reaching cultural, artistic and philosophical movement of early 20th Century

• Modernists attempted to re-imagine and rethink the modern industrial world and react to the loss of certainty about 19th Century artistic, political and religious conventions

• Notable modernists include the artists Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, the composers Schoenberg and Stravinsky, the writers TS Eliot and Virginia Woolf

Original gestures of the kind introduced by Duchamp cannot really be repeated – like jokes they can be made only once. Hence the cult of originality very quickly leads to repetition. The habit of faking becomes so deeply engrained that no judgement is certain, except the judgement that this before us is the “real thing” and not a fake at all, which in turn is a fake judgement. All that we know, in the end, is that anything is art, because nothing is.

It is worth asking ourselves why the cult of fake originality has such a powerful appeal to our cultural institutions, so that every museum and art gallery, and every publicly funded concert hall, has to take it seriously. The early modernists – Stravinsky and Schoenberg in music, Eliot and Pound in poetry, Matisse in painting and Loos in architecture – were united in the belief that popular taste had become corrupted, that sentimentality, banality and kitsch had invaded the various spheres of art and eclipsed their messages. Tonal harmonies had been corrupted by popular music, figurative painting had been trumped by photography, rhyme and meter had become the stuff of Christmas cards, and the stories had been too often told. Everything out there, in the world of naive and unthinking people, was kitsch.

Modernism was the attempt to rescue the sincere, the truthful, the arduously achieved, from the plague of fake emotion. No one can doubt that the early modernists succeeded in this enterprise, endowing us with works of art that keep the human spirit alive in the new circumstances of modernity, and which establish continuity with the great traditions of our culture. But modernism gave way to routines of fakery. The arduous task of maintaining the tradition proved less attractive than the cheap ways of rejecting it. Instead of Picasso’s lifelong study, to present the modern woman’s face in a modern idiom, you could just do what Duchamp did, and paint a moustache on the Mona Lisa.

The interesting fact, however, is that the habit of faking it has arisen from the fear of fakes. Modernist art was a reaction against fake emotion, and the comforting cliches of popular culture. The intention was to sweep away the pseudo-art that cushions us with sentimental lies and to put reality, the reality of modern life, with which real art alone can come to terms, in the place of it. Hence for a long time now it has been assumed that there can be no authentic creation in the sphere of high art which is not in some way a “challenge” to the complacencies of our public culture. Art must give offence against the bourgeois taste for the conforming and the comfortable, which are simply other names for kitsch and cliche. But the result of this is that offence becomes a cliche. If the public has become so immune to shock that only a dead shark in formaldehyde will awaken a brief spasm of outrage, then the artist must produce a dead shark in formaldehyde – this, at least, is an authentic gesture.

Carl Andre’s “Equivalent VIII” – a “waste of time”?
There grew around the modernists a class of critics and impresarios, therefore, who offered to explain just why it is not a waste of your time to stare at a pile of bricks, to sit quietly through 10 minutes of excruciating noise, or to study a crucifix pickled in urine. To convince themselves that they are true progressives, who ride in the vanguard of history, the new impresarios surround themselves with others of their kind, promoting them to all committees that are relevant to their status, and expecting to be promoted in their turn. Thus arose the modernist establishment – the self-contained circle of critics who form the backbone of our cultural institutions and who trade in “originality”, “transgression” and “breaking new paths”. Those are the routine terms issued by the arts council bureaucrats and the museum establishment, whenever they want to spend public money on something that they would never dream of having in their living room. But these terms are cliches, as are the things they are used to praise. Hence the flight from cliche ends in cliche, and the attempt to be genuine ends in fake.

If the reaction against fake emotion leads to fake art, how do we discover the real thing? That is the question I shall explore in my next two talks.m