Showing posts from April, 2016

Katherine Brooks - Breathtaking Photos Capture Cuba’s Legendary Ballerinas Dancing In The Streets

In Cuba, the ballet is something of a national treasure. The dancers recruited into Alicia Alonso’s storied company  Ballet Nacional de Cuba , for example, reportedly  make more money than doctors  and enjoy a level of fandom reserved only for pop stars in the United States. The Cuban government not only funds ballet training  but also subsidizes tickets to ballet performances. Lovers of Cuban dance like to say the adoration and  skill is in their DNA . “ You can find anyone in the street here in Havana  who can dance as well as most professionals,” Cuba’s Ballet Rakatan choreographer Nilda Guerra told The Guardian. And in a country historically associated with machismo, it’s not just women enjoying the allure of ballet. “Before, ballet in Cuba was a marginalized extravagance,” the New York Times wrote in 2005. “Now,  men in one of the world’s most macho countries clamor to put on dancing tights .” Cuban-born Royal Ballet dancer Carlos Acosta reiterates the sentiment: “ I wanted t

Lev Manovich - 100 billion rows per second: the culture industry in the early 21st century

After around 2013, we start seeing more discussions of social and political issues around the use of large-scale consumer and social media data and automatic algorithms. These discussions cover data and law, data and privacy, data and labour, etc. The events at the NYC-based  Data & Society Institute  offer many examples of such discussions. As did the  Governing Algorithms  conference at NYU in 2013, and the  Digital Labor  conference at New School for Social Research in 2014. In terms of publications, the academic journal  Big Data and Society , from foundation in 2014 onward, is of central significance. However, I have not yet seen these discussions or publications cover the idea I am proposing here – which is to think of media analytics as the primary determinant of the new condition of the culture industry, marking a new stage inmedia history. The algorithmic analysis of "cultural data" and the customization of cultural products is at work not only in a few visi

Maria Stepanova - The haunted house: contemporary Russia between past and past

Twenty-five years after the USSR's collapse, writes Maria Stepanova, history has turned into a kind of minefield, a realm of constant, traumatic revision. As a result, Russia is living in a schizoid present where the urgent need for a new language is far from being met.  ..  last but not least, an unexpectedly judgmental feature, which I regard as extraordinarily important in this context. It is lying. When there are no verified facts and no experts who can assess what is going on, the door opens to negating reality as such. This means that truth and lies, good and evil, black and white no longer seem to exist. They become infinitely interchangeable, blurred in what is essentially an artistic pursuit.   (NB : The socially complicit disappearance of truth described admirably by Stepanova in this essay is a precise marker of modern nihilism . When reality and objectivity are reduced to aesthetic functions and pure whim, we are at a loss to speak intelligibly about anything sig

MARGARET OWEN - "To demand peace is not a crime": Turkish academics on trial

Last Friday, April 21st, four Turkish academics, Meral Camci, Kivanc Ersoy, Muzeffer Kaya and Esra Mungan, after five weeks remanded in prison, were brought to the Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul to face charges of making “propaganda for terrorism” and of association with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), labelled as a terrorist organisation by the EU and the US. The indictment accused them under Article 7(2) of Turkey’s anti-terror law and if convicted they could face sentences of up to 7 ½ years in detention. Although at the end of the day, the prisoners were released, and the Judge adjourned the case to September 27th, confusion reigns among the academics and the lawyers. This trial attracted, rightly, international attention, as it illustrated how far President Erdogan is prepared to go to prohibit freedom of speech in order to silence any criticism of his policies, even when it is clear that the government’s actions breach both international and European law and its own con

Marion Molteno - The festival that nearly didn’t happen

Easter Sunday in Lahore, Pakistan – families  out for a day in a park … then the world changed.  Yet another set of tragedies, for a society that already has had so many.   People don’t know what to do with their anger. My friends’ FaceBook pages echo their misery.  Don’t pray for Lahore,  says one,  fight against hateful religious ideology.   Someone puts up a photo of a little boy – her child’s son, gone.  Another is visiting the children in hospital, struggling for their lives. She is giving them toys her friends have donated; hugs and smiles in amidst the suffering.  There’s a photo  of young men crowding a hospital entrance, wanting to give blood. Five weeks earlier I was in Lahore for a literary festival, along with a hundred thousand other people. Now, when we remember it,  it will always be in the shadow of what came after. But I am putting up the reflections I wrote about the festival as a tribute to the remarkable people who created a space for tolerance and debate, and