Streamed music and digital images have driven the comeback of vinyl and printed photos

Larina Marina via Shutterstock

The resurgence of vinyl records in a time of digital music and streaming is a story of how innovation can make technological comebacks possible. In the summer of 2019, the sales of vinyl albums are on the verge of becoming the largest source of revenue from physical sales in the music industry. This follows 15 years of upward trend – today, while remaining a niche product, the vinyl record may well eventually survive to be the only analogue medium for music, as the sales of CD continue their downward spiral.

Researchers in sociology and consumer culture have shown how this trend goes well beyond nostalgia – buyers of vinyl are attracted by its status as an object, its physical presence. This attraction matters even more today, as most of the time listening to a song does not involve buying a physical support anymore.

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Back on record – the reasons behind vinyl's unlikely comeback

Our study starts from this vinyl comeback. We try to show how it is precisely the process of innovation, in which a new product or technology replaces an outdated one, that opens the possibility for an even older and obsolete product or technology to become relevant again.

To do so, we need to go back to the late 1980s, when sales of compact discs outsold vinyl records for the first time (in 1988), and then the sales of cassettes (in 1993). In 1998, vinyl represented only 0.7% of the total music industry revenues.

Three generations of recorded sound.
HK-PHOTOGRAPHY via Shutterstock

Why did consumers start to abandon vinyl and cassettes? Because compact discs are more resistant to scratches. Because they are simply more practical, easier to store, and easier to switch to the song you want to listen to. Because compact discs were sold to them as of superior sound quality: they can in theory emulate the sound of vinyl to a sampling rate indistinguishable from the original to the human ear while being able to reproduce more extreme frequencies (purists disagree).

Three decades later, digital music has replaced compact discs. In the US, the streaming industry accounts for 80% of music industry revenues. Looking back at the criteria that made the vinyl obsolete, the current streaming technology outperforms compact discs in every dimension: high sound quality and no scratches or storage problems.

The only characteristic on which the compact disc can compete is its physical presence – some people want to possess an object they can touch and display in their home. But on this dimension, it seems vinyl is doing much better than compact discs. Hence, people attracted by the object are more likely to buy a vinyl to complement their digital consumption.

The music industry and vinyl retailers have well understood the importance of that dimension. Recent new and re-releases of vinyl incorporate special features which play up the attractions of buying vinyl. Heavyweight vinyl pressing suggests the importance of the musical content. The same holds for coloured vinyl or other special features such as cover art posters.

Predators and prey

This is a story of predators and prey – and is not unique to the music industry. Once the appearance of a new technology leads to the extinction of the previous one, it can be interesting to look at what existed before. Some of the characteristics of a long-extinct technology may have become relevant again now that the predator has disappeared. The key is then to identify how to emphasise these characteristics to the old format work alongside the new format.

Making a comeback? Polaroid cameras.
Savanevich Viktar via Shutterstock

In the photography industry, the first generation of analogue films has been almost entirely replaced by a second generation of digital cameras. A third generation, based on smartphones and social networks, was not originally designed for physical printing.

As more and more consumers now use the third-generation, abandoning digital cameras – according to data by the Camera and Imaging Product Association, shipments of digital cameras have decreased by more than 60% between 2010 and 2019 – the physical dimension of analogue photography seems to have become a useful complement. As a result, photography on film has started to return as a niche product – and discontinued products such as Kodak’s Ektachrome or Fujifilm’s black and white films are being reintroduced.

Some consumers, who had abandoned products of the first generation start using them again as a complement to the third one. As in the case of vinyl recordings, the industry has well understood the demand for tangible photography, beyond simply reverting to old cameras. Polaroid is soon to release a “Lab” to print analogue pictures of images taken on smartphones. Fujifilm’s Instax, meanwhile, offers the possibility to print a format similar to Polaroid based on digital pictures.

Not every comeback is possible. Many products and technologies disappear because they have nothing useful to bring anymore. But when a new product or technology starts dominating a market, it may be a good idea to look at what existed two or three generations before. This may well prove to be part of the future – even if it’s just a small one.The Conversation

Renaud Foucart, Senior Lecturer, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why you should stop buying new clothes

Duy Hoang/Unsplash, FAL

The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, producing 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions – and it’s estimated that by 2050 this will have increased to 25%. A staggering 300,000 tonnes of clothes are sent to British landfills each year.

The fast fashion business model, first developed in the early 2000s is responsible for the increase in consumer demand for high quantities of low-quality clothing. Many fashion products now being designed and made specifically for short-term ownership and premature disposal. Clothing quality is decreasing along with costs, and the increased consumption levels of mass-manufactured fashion products are pushing up the consumption of natural resources.

The pressure to facilitate consumer hunger imposes significant social and environmental pressures on the manufacturing supply chain. The UK’s consumption levels of fashion are the highest in Europe, at 26.7kg per capita. This compares to a consumption rate of 16.7kg in Germany, 16kg in Denmark, 14.5kg in Italy, 14kg in the Netherlands and 12.6kg in Sweden.

The road from shop to landfill is shrinking.
Neenawat Khenyothaa/Shutterstock

The need for change is tentatively being acknowledged by fashion brands and manufacturers. Many different market sectors in fashion, from high street to high end, are increasingly taking action. But it’s very conservative. For example, high street retailer H&M are boycotting the use of Brazilian leather over concerns that the country’s cattle industry has contributed to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Meanwhile, other brands, such as Adidas, Stella McCartney and Patagonia, are focusing their action on the use of waste products in the development of textile materials for new collections.

Of course, such policies can only be positive. But are fashion brands really doing enough to change? Recent UN reports state that we have 11 years to prevent irreversible damage from climate change. It’s doubtful that the small, incremental changes made by brands will do enough to significantly contribute towards the fight on climate change, so more pressure from consumers and campaign groups is needed.

Fashion brands are not the only ones who have the power to create change. Consumers also have leverage – and it’s key that they use it. As London Fashion Week opened earlier this month, large protests and demonstrations highlighting fashion’s contribution to climate change reinforced the impact that consumers can have on raising public awareness of environmental issues. Consumer-driven behaviour change can encourage brands to adapt their practices towards a more sustainable future for the fashion industry.

If real change is to happen, more people must begin to take a proactive approach and act in reflection of their moral values. Small lifestyle changes can create a big sustainable impact. So here are four things for you to consider before you buy any new clothes:

Think of each new item like a massive plastic bag.
Karina Tess/Unsplash, FAL

1. Think before you buy

Before we just buy more new clothes and contribute to escalating pollution, we need to think about the alternative options. This might not only save us money, but is also certainly better for the environment. These options include using what we have, borrowing, swapping, thrifting and making. Buying new items should be seen as the final choice, once all other options have been considered. This approach goes very much against the principles of fast fashion, with slow and considered consumption being the priority.

2. Shop by your values

We need to think about where we shop, as each purchase effectively acts as a vote towards the practices of a brand. By doing a small amount of research into a company’s responsible values, we can begin to make informed decisions about our shopping behaviour. This will ensuring that your chosen store reflects your personal beliefs.

For example, if you want to know where your fashion comes from then you need to choose a brand that is transparent and open about their supply chain. Brands like Community Clothing, owned by Sewing Bee judge Patrick Grant, tell shoppers exactly where the raw materials were sourced from, where the yarn was produced and even where the final garment was made. Likewise, if you specifically want to take action against ocean plastic waste, then a brand like Ecoalf might be for you.

3. Buy a pre-loved item

The second-hand market is having a revival. Once seen as an edgy, individual and cost-effective method of shopping, it soon fell out of favour, to be replaced by cheap, mass-market product from fast-fashion retailers. But with Oxfam opening their charity superstore and Asda launching a pre-loved fashion pop up shop, buying second-hand clothing can give fashion products a new life and prevent the purchasing of new fashion garments.

4. Dispose responsibly

As well as considering where we buy our clothes, we too must consider the end-of-life options for our fashion items. It is estimated that £140m worth of clothing goes to landfill each year. Many of these items will be made from synthetic fibres, meaning they can take anywhere between 20-200 years to decompose. Again, people should explore a range of options available here, such as donating clothing to charity, recycling, reuse, repair and passing on items to friends and family. Why not hold a clothes swap at your house one weekend?

Responsible procurement, ownership and disposal are all vital considerations when exercising your power to create sustainable change for the future of the fashion industry. Today, shoppers have more influence and ability to create change than ever before, with social media platforms allowing easier voicing of complaints and concerns. Meanwhile, the emergence of a circular economy business model is again pushing consumers to take a more active role in creating change.

We can no longer sit back and wait for brands to take action. Individual drive and willingness to change everyday behaviour will be crucial in changing the future environmental impact of fashion.The Conversation

Alana James, Senior Lecturer in Fashion, Northumbria University, Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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Having sex in older age could make you happier and healthier – new research

shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi

Sexual activity is an essential part of intimate relationships, though it tends to decline as people get older. But although research shows that frequency of sexual activity can decrease with age, for many older people, sex still remains an important part of their life.

There’s a common misconception that as people age, they lose their interest in sex and capacity for sexual behaviour. But as a UK survey shows, this isn’t the case.

Indeed, the survey found that 85% of men aged 60–69 report being sexually active – as do 60% of those aged 70–79 and 32% of those aged 80 and over. Women were found to be less sexually active as they aged, but studies show that, just like men, many women also want to continue to have sex as they get older. Studies in the US report similar levels of sexual activity across these age groups.

And the fact that so many people are still having sex as they age is good news, because as our new research seems to indicate, the less sex older people have, the more likely they are to experience mental and physical health problems.

Still at it

Our research looked at the sex lives of 2,577 men and 3,195 women aged 50 and older. We asked whether they had experienced a decline in the last year in their level of sexual desire, frequency of sexual activity, or ability to have an erection (men) or become sexually aroused (women).

We found that men who reported a decline in sexual desire were more likely to go on to develop cancer or other chronic illnesses that limited their daily activities. Men and women who reported a decrease in the frequency of sexual activities were also more likely to experience a deterioration in how they rated their level of health. And men with erectile dysfunction were also more likely to be diagnosed with cancer or coronary heart disease. It’s important to note, however, that changes in sexual desire or function could have been a result of early-stage, undiagnosed disease.

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Our research also found that older adults enjoy life more when they are sexually active. And those who experience a decline in sexual activity report poorer well-being than those who maintain their levels of sexual desire, activity and function in later life. We also found that men who are sexually active in later life continue to have better cognitive performance compared to those who don’t.

Feel good hormones

It’s no secret that sex can help to produce that “feel good” factor. This is largely because during sex, there is a release of endorphins, which generate a happy or elated feeling. This doesn’t just impact our mental health though, as higher endorphin levels are also associated with greater activation of the immune system – which may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Research suggests that people who engage in sexual intercourse with their partner are also likely to share a closer relationship. And closeness to one’s partner is linked with better mental health.

Sex can keep you close as a couple, lower stress levels and boost your immune system.

It’s also important to remember that sex is a form of physical activity – often performed at a moderate intensity – which burns close to four calories a minute. All exercise comes with health benefits – and sex is no different. So it’s definitely possible that you could gain mental and physical health benefits from regular sexual activity.

Trying new positions

Of course, sex is not the only factor that can help to improve health and well-being in older age. But as our research shows, older adults are not devoid of sexual desire, and an active sex life is something that should be encouraged. Indeed, it’s possible that a regular and problem-free sex life can lead to better mental (and possibly physical) health.

But information on and encouragement to try new sexual positions and explore different types of sexual activity isn’t regularly given to older people. And in many cases, when it comes to older people and sex, doctors often put their heads in the sand, and don’t really want to talk about it.

But it may well be that such discussions could help to challenge norms and expectations about sexual activity. And as our research shows, it could also help people to live more fulfilling and healthier lives – well into older age.The Conversation

Lee Smith, Reader in Physical Activity and Public Health, Anglia Ruskin University; Daragh McDermott, Head of School, School of Psychology and Sport Science, Anglia Ruskin University, and Sarah Jackson, Research Psychologist, Health Behaviour Research Centre, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Emergency Services musicians launch mental health charity

One in four 999 workers have thought about suicide, more than the national average of 1 in 5.

A new charity called The Blue Light Symphony Orchestra, which aims to promote music-making in the emergency services was officially launched on Sunday 13th October in Westminster. Over 40 musicians from the Police, Ambulance and Fire services including volunteers and civilian staff played for invited guests.

It is the brainchild of serving detective Seb Valentine, a graduate of the Royal College of Music who has joined forces with composer Matthew Slater (Endeavour - Mammoth Screen/ITV) to share the therapeutic power of music with fellow first responders across the country. The charity will offer start-up grants for new blue light music groups and make music therapy available to help treat conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress. A recent study showed 39% of Ambulance staff suffer from PTSD. Furthermore, a 2016 survey by the charity Mind reported one in four 999 workers had thought about suicide, a truly shocking figure and higher than the national average of 1 in 5.

The BLSO is tailored to the needs of blue light workers, providing a unique opportunity to make music with colleagues who have a shared experience. This has already attracted players from as far as Merseyside to come to London and participate. Playing music allows them to express and process their emotions after dealing with trauma on a daily basis. Music therapy has been hugely successful in treating PTSD in the military but is rarely used elsewhere. The BLSO will work with leading music therapy providers to make it available to first responders who could benefit.

Future plans include a competition to find the most talented musician in the 999 services and commissioning new music, themed around PTSD.

Seb Valentine, founder, CEO and musical director said, “I am hugely excited to launch this charity which combines my lifelong love of music with supporting my colleagues’ wellbeing. Playing music is completely immersive and one of the few ways I can clear my mind and reset.”

Matthew Slater, Chair of the board of trustees said, “I'm incredibly honoured being asked to be involved with such an essential and unique charity. Combining the therapeutic power of music and supporting those in front line services that help the nation's population under challenging conditions is crucial to us all. I very much look forward to working with Seb and the team.”


Five tips for building an audience for your podcast

The hosts and co-founders of Dope Black Dads, No Country for Young Women and #QueerAF share how they established themselves in an increasingly crowded field

Podcasting has dominated the media landscape over the last few years, with a wide range of publishers grabbing their mics and hitting record. However, with hundreds of thousands of podcasts already covering topics from true crime to topical news, it can be a struggle to work out how to attract an audience.

At a panel at the London Podcast Festival (14 September 2019), three hosts of podcasts aimed at underserved communities explained how they succeeded in getting their voices heard and expanding their pool of listeners.

Have social media strategy
With younger generations spending more time online, having a sound social media strategy is essential if a podcast is to grow.

Posting on the variety of different platforms does not have to eat up a lot of time or money.

Host of #QueerAF Jamie Wareham said that his listenership doubled over the course of a series through spending as little as £20 on boosting a video trailer to specific target audiences through Facebook. When doing this, he makes sure to not only to target LGBTQ+ and podcast communities but also groups interested in the general topics discussed in each episode.

For Marvyn Harrison, founder of Dope Black Dads, posting on social platforms is a case of trial and error, determining what works for your audience and what does not.

"Don’t be fearful of trying things and doing really badly and figuring it out because, once you do, you’ll grow faster than you would if you outsourced it."

Leverage your community
Even with the omnipresence of social media in our lives, word of mouth is still an important factor in building up an audience.

Dope Black Dads, which began as a WhatsApp support group for black fathers, benefits from groups within its community independently sharing their content and amplifying it.

Host live events
Hosting live events to bring your community together in the real world and making appearances on similar podcasts also allows you to reach people beyond your circle of loyal listeners.

"Even if you only get ten people there, if you get a good picture of you at your live event that is shot well, that’s really useful for marketing," Wareham added.

Pitch it
Getting your podcast commissioned by a company can be extremely beneficial to expand your audience, as it can invest time and money in production quality, promotion and inviting guest talent to feature.

However, Harrison explained that this can come with some drawbacks, in particular in terms of editorial control.

"If there’s someone editing and culturally they aren’t connected to what you’re about, they don’t understand where you’re coming from. They’re taking it from their lens."

Define your niche
Crucially though, the key to having a successful podcast is having an issue or a topic that is relatable to a larger audience, alongside an easy-to-understand premise and hosts who are authentic.

Co-host of No Country for Young Women Sadia Azmat explained that taking the time to work out what you want to do, as well as listening to other podcasts to work out what they do well, is essential before pressing record.

"We did six months of prep before even recording a demo, so don’t feel like you need to rush into anything.'

Given the relatively recent development of podcasting as a field, there is still the opportunity to be as creative as you want.

"Podcasting is a really new game and you can make it your own with ways people haven’t even thought of," said Azmat, adding that being sincere, honest and creative from the outset will help organically attract a following.

Determining how successful your podcast is can be difficult, especially when you are starting out. Rather than analysing listens per episode for your new podcast, Harrison advises taking a broader look over ten-episode increments.

"If I had judged it on every episode, I probably would have messed the formula up so much that by the time we got to ten, I wouldn’t quite of understood what we were doing."

Find out how to use live podcasts to drive audience engagement at Newsrewired on 27 November at Reuters, London. Head to newsrewired.com for the full agenda and tickets

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Red Rebel Brigade marches on 10 Downing Street for #BorisBigIssue campaign

Extinction Rebellion partners, the Red Rebel Brigade, launched a silent protest supporting Ralph Steadman’s exclusive cover for the Big Issue at 10 Downing Street. The avant-garde street art drew the attention of thousands of people who filmed the protest.

The Red Rebel Brigade took to the streets of London on 16th September 2019 to protest at 10 Downing Street, beseeching Boris Johnson and his government to stop obsessing over Brexit.

They were responding to the newly launched and uncompromising portrait by Ralph Steadman of the Prime Minister on the latest cover of the Big Issue.

Stopping traffic and escorted by police officers and squad cars, the unannounced parade by the silent campaigning group - accompanied by a naked man covered only by a shroud and a copy of the Big Issue - drew crowds of thousands who witnessed them offer a copy of the magazine to 10 Downing Street.

With over 320,000 homeless in the UK ignored, the Red Rebel Brigade’s powerful statement forced London to stop and take notice of their protest as they paraded slowly and sombrely to Trafalgar Square, providing a powerful physical demonstration of silent protest.

The #BorisBigIssue campaign is drawing the nation’s focus on the growing numbers of homeless and vulnerable in the UK. While the headlines focus on Brexit, real people are suffering and Beau Kerouac’s campaign with the Big Issue and Ralph Steadman, Gonzo artist, is changing that. Ralph’s uncompromising portrait of Boris Johnson - the spark of the Red Rebel Brigade’s protest - is available to win by anyone posting a photo of the magazine with the hashtag #BorisBigIssue online.

Beau Kerouac, conceptual artist and campaign originator:

“This striking protest was a dramatic demand on the people supposedly governing this country. When a naked and barefoot man walks through our capital’s streets to highlight the vulnerability of the homeless around the country, it’s time for Boris and his friends to sit up and take notice. The Red Rebel Brigade’s peaceful walk is in stark contrast to the anger that so many feel.

“It’s time for Boris to focus on the people struggling to feed their children, heat their homes, and keep themselves off the streets. While Boris decides turning up to a press conference is too much effort, how can we expect him to hold out a hand to lift up the oppressed? We have a #BorisBigIssue in this country, and we need to wake up to that so the most vulnerable won’t be left behind.”

Brexit is obfuscating debate and attention from other issues impacting on the UK. From homelessness to library closures, food banks to climate change, affordable housing to public transport. A report referenced in the Daily Mirror revealed that Hillingdon - in Boris’ own constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip - is in the top ten worst places for homelessness. The problems in Boris’ own backyard are being lost in the noise of Brexit.

An estimated 320,000 people are homeless in the UK, according to research by Shelter - that’s the equivalent of making Coventry homeless. With 14.2 million people in the UK population living in poverty, according to a report by the Social Metrics Commission.

Those wanting to contribute to the movement and join the campaign can show their support in several ways:

  • Buy your Big Issue on the street, take a photo and post on social media using #BorisBigIssue to enter to win a limited edition Ralph Steadman print.
  • Tweet using #BorisBigIssue stating what your bigger issue is.
  • Buy the t-shirt online from the Big Issue shop.
  • Buy your print online from the Ralph Steadman collection.
  • Write to your MP and ask for their focus on what matters to you here.

All proceeds go to The Big Issue to continue their work with homeless and vulnerable people around the UK.

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Indian odyssey

These artists paint with their feet – scans show how unique their brains are

Peter Longstaff, one of the participants in the study.
© Peter Longstaff, Author provided

Your brain contains a highly organised map of your body. Not a normal kind of map – this one will vary ever so slightly because of the particular way you use your body. What you do for a living might affect this, for example – your brain’s hand map might show subtle clues that you are a pianist or a surgeon. Or reflect that you rock climb or write a lot.

We’ve known subtle details of the brain’s body map can change as a result of our daily life experiences for a while. But new research by myself and colleagues has now demonstrated how powerfully experience can affect the brain.

We used ultra high-res brain scanning to reveal clear maps of individual toes in two foot painters, born without either arm. While these organised toe maps are not found in typically developed humans, they are found in monkeys – who, like the foot painters, use their toes in skilled ways.

This suggests that all humans could have the potential for toe maps, but modern life in shoes prevents them by limiting individual movement of our toes.

The body in the brain

These maps were found in the somatosensory cortex of the brain, which contains a map of our whole body. All body parts are represented by an individual section of brain, and these sections are laid out in the brain as they are on the body. In the brain’s hand map, for instance, there are small sections representing each of the five fingers – with the thumb next to the index finger, which is next to the middle finger, and so on.

Mapping toes in the brain.
Cell, Author provided

It is because of this beautiful and clear organisation that this area is of big interest to scientists studying how the brain changes in response to experience – known as brain plasticity. If we know how the body map normally looks, we can easily document any changes caused by how we use our body.

As an example, it has been shown that learning a musical instrument leads to increases in the size of finger maps for those fingers highly used to play. In a more extreme case, when two fingers are fused together with surgery, the brain maps of the two fused fingers also combine into one.

The foot map

Until very recently, it was generally assumed that the typical foot map should have clear sections to represent individual toes, like the hand map has fingers. Only recently did we find out that this, surprisingly, is not the case. In fact, most people don’t have a sections for each of the five toes. And, those they do have are scattered all over the foot area, in no clear order.

This lead my colleagues and I to wonder whether this is how the human foot map is naturally. Or, could it result from the fact that modern humans don’t really use their toes separately?

To help solve this mystery, we approached two incredible individuals for help. These two people were born without either arm, and subsequently had to learn to use their toes to perform all tasks of daily life. This includes almost any typical-hand task most of us can do: including typing on a keyboard, answering the phone, putting on clothes (in one case, including doing buttons) and feeding themselves with a fork or spoon.

Abstract diagonal lines by Tom Yendell, one of the painters in the study.

It also includes some tasks that most two-handers would struggle with, like administering injections to animals with a syringe (one was a farmer), and – my favourite – one would apply nail varnish to his wife’s nails for her.

This skill with a brush made total sense because both individuals were actually sufficiently skilled with their toes so as to support their profession as foot artists: they make art with their feet better than most people do with their hands.

Looking in the brain

We put these two artists in an ultra high-field fMRI scanner and stimulated each of their toes, one at a time. When we looked in the foot area of the artists’ brains, we found that they had individual, organised toe maps – just like the hand maps of you and I. We compared this to a group of two-handed people, who showed no such organised toe maps – replicating previous findings.

The foot artists showed clear maps of individual toes in the foot area of the brain.
Reproduced with authors' permission

Using new analysis methods, we showed the pattern of brain activity in the foot area resulting from touching the artists’ toes was highly similar to a typical hand pattern. That is, the pattern generated by touching the fingers of two-handed people, in their brain’s hand area.

We next moved from looking in the foot area of the brain, to see what was happening in their (missing) hand area when we touched the artists’ toes. This could provide more extreme examples of brain plasticity. We found that the pattern of activity in the hand area was also “hand-like” in the artists. This might indicate the artists are recruiting some of the “unused” hand area to support their skilled toe movement.

All in all, our results suggest that using your toes in a hand-like manner causes hand-like activity in the brain.

Losing toe maps

Our results make sense from a brain plasticity perspective – if you don’t use your toes separately in action, your brain does not need to represent each toe separately. The results also make sense given our primate cousins have organised toe maps, in a similar brain position and orientation to the artists.

This could indicate one of two things. One, either all primates (human and non-human) have the genetic potential for toe maps, but typical humans don’t develop them because we don’t use our toes individually. Or, it could mean that we are born with toe maps as babies, but lose them over time if we don’t use our toes the right way.

Whether toe maps fail to develop or fail to persist remains to be determined. But looking at the toe maps of babies – or even populations who live without shoes – could be the key to unlocking this mystery of brain plasticity.The Conversation

Harriet Dempsey-Jones, Postdoctoral Researcher in Cognitive Neurosciences, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tate Modern appoints curators specialising in African, Middle Eastern and South Asian art

Tate Modern announced today new and recent appointments to its curatorial team which will continue the pioneering research and scholarship already undertaken in the fields of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian modern and contemporary art. These Curators are: Nabila Abdel Nabi, who will focus specifically on art from the Middle East and North Africa; Osei Bonsu, who will focus on further developing the representation of African art in Tate’s collection and programme; and Dr Devika Singh who will specialise in art from South Asia. These posts will further Tate’s commitment to rethinking the history of modern and contemporary art from a less Western-centric vantage point as well as supporting the work of the newly established Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational.

These appointments form part of Tate’s ongoing strategy to explore multiple art histories from a global perspective. Over the past two decades, Tate’s collection, displays and exhibitions have focused on expanding beyond Europe and North America and have played an essential role in reassessing and reframing art historical narratives. In 2018/19, 348 works were added to Tate’s international collection, mapping the dialogue and exchange of ideas between artists working across the world. Acquisition highlights in recent years include Tarek Atoui’s The Reverse Collection 2016, Amar Kanwar’s The Lightning Testimonies 2007 and Otobong Nkanga’s Wetin You Go Do? 2015.

Tate also announced today the appointment of Valentina Ravaglia as Curator, Displays & International Art. Valentina will be working specifically on the collection display programme as part of the curatorial team at Tate Modern.

Frances Morris, Director, Tate Modern said: ‘We are delighted to appoint Nabila, Osei, Valentina and Devika as Curators at Tate Modern. Their significant experience and expertise will play an important part in expanding our knowledge of modern and contemporary art from Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East, furthering our ambition to present a truly international story of art through our programme and collection.’

The posts taken up by Nabila Abdel Nabi and Dr Devika Singh are supported by Hyundai Motor as part of their support of the Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational.

Nabila Abdel Nabi, Curator, International Art
Nabila Abdel Nabi joins Tate after working as an Associate Curator at The Power Plant, Toronto, and prior to this as Gallery Manager (Exhibitions) in The Third Line, Dubai. Nabila has worked on solo exhibitions and facilitated new commissions by artists including Abbas Akhavan, Kader Attia, Omar Ba, Yto Barrada, Karla Black, Kapwani Kiwanga, Amalia Pica and Vivian Suter among others. She has curated the forthcoming Hajra Waheed exhibition Hold Everything Dear at The Power Plant, Toronto and was previously Art Editor at literary magazine The Point. Nabila holds an MA History of Art from The Courtauld Institute of Art. Nabila took up her post in April.

Osei Bonsu, Curator, International Art
Osei Bonsu is a curator, critic and art historian who has developed projects focused on transnational histories of art, collaborating with museums, galleries and private collections internationally. He curated the 10th edition of Satellites, The Economy of Living Things, 2017, an exhibition co-commissioned by Jeu de Paume and CAPC: Centre for Contemporary Art, Bordeaux, and has worked on a number of projects focusing on African art, including Pangaea II: New Art from Africa and Latin America, Saatchi Gallery, 2015, and 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, 2013-14. Osei has contributed to exhibition catalogues and publications including ArtReview, New African and NKA Journal of Contemporary African Art, and was an acting contributing editor to frieze. He holds an MA History of Art from University College London. Osei took up his role this September.

Valentina Ravaglia, Curator, Displays & International Art
Since 2012, Valentina Ravaglia held the position of Assistant Curator at Tate Modern with a focus on collection displays, playing a vital role in the preparation of the 2015-16 rehang as well as the opening of the new Tate Modern in 2016. She has distinguished herself as a champion of the diversification of the displays, particularly in relation to gender and political activism, with rooms dedicated to Andrea Fraser, Women and Work, Judi Werthein, Feminism and Media, and Rebecca Horn. Valentina supported on the Hyundai Commission: Superflex One Two Three Swing! and is Assistant Curator on the upcoming Nam June Paik exhibition. She is currently undertaking a PhD from Birkbeck, University of London, and was previously awarded an MFA Curating from Goldsmiths. Valentina took up her post in August.

Dr Devika Singh, Curator, International Art
Devika Singh specialises in modern and contemporary art and architecture in South Asia and the global history of modernism. She has curated exhibitions including Planetary Planning, Dhaka Art Summit, 2018 and Gedney in India, CSMVS, Mumbai 2017. She has also curated the forthcoming exhibition Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan at Kettle's Yard, Cambridge. Devika has written widely on modern and contemporary art for publications including Third Text, Art History, frieze and MARG. Devika holds an MA from The Courtauld Institute of Art and a PHD from the University of Cambridge and has held fellowships with DFK, Paris, and the Smuts Research Fellowship at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge. Devika took up her post in March.

Shakespears Sister - When She Finds You (Feat. Richard Hawley)

Absolutely love this.


New guest editors announced for The Poetry Review magazine

The Poetry Society is delighted to announce new guest editorships for the Winter 2019 and Spring 2020 issues of The Poetry Review, the world’s leading poetry quarterly. The Society welcomes Colette Bryce as Editor of the Winter 2019 issue, which is published in December. Mary Jean Chan and Will Harris will be joint Editors of the Spring 2020 issue, which is published in March. Regular Editor Emily Berry is taking a short writing sabbatical until Summer 2020.

Colette Bryce, who will edit the Winter 2019 issue, won The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition in 2003 with ‘The Full Indian Rope-Trick’, subsequently the title poem in her second collection published by Picador in 2004. She is a former judge of The Poetry Society’s Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award and has been a regular contributor to The Poetry Review – two of her poems will appear in the Autumn 2019 issue and she is among the readers at the launch on 9 October. Colette was Poetry Editor of Poetry London between 2009 and 2013 and will become Editor of Poetry Ireland magazine in 2020. Originally from Derry, Northern Ireland, she now lives in North East England.

Colette Bryce said:
“The Poetry Review occupies an essential place in the UK literary eco-system and, indeed, a great deal of space on my own bookshelves, where I see issues dating back to the early 1990s. That it keeps pace with the contemporary moment, while always in conversation with our long tradition, is a balancing act I’ve admired as a reader and contributor over many years. It will be an adventure for me to step into the desk space of the excellent Editor, Emily Berry, and immerse myself in the poems and slim volumes that arrive in impressive numbers by the day. I look forward to curating a selection of the very best of both for the Winter 2019 issue.”

Mary Jean Chan and Will Harris, who will co-edit the Spring 2020 issue of The Poetry Review, are equally excited about the prospect. Mary Jean Chan is a multi-award-winning poet, editor and lecturer from Hong Kong. Her debut poetry collection, Flèche (Faber & Faber, 2019) was selected as a 2019 Poetry Book Society Autumn Recommendation. She won The Poetry Society’s 2018 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize for a version of the book’s title poem, which was first published in the Review. Mary Jean’s poem ‘The Window’ placed second in the National Poetry Competition, and is currently shortlisted for the 2019 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. She is an editor of Oxford Poetry, advisory board member at the Poetry Translation Centre and has reviewed for publications such as The Guardian and Guardian Review as a Ledbury Poetry Critic. Mary Jean is Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Oxford Brookes University and lives in London.

Mary Jean Chan said:
“I am truly excited to be working alongside Will for the Spring 2020 issue of The Poetry Review. It will be a joy to contemplate and discuss over the coming months what we would like to feature in our joint issue, not least because of the wealth of talent we see in British poetry today. The Poetry Review was the first poetry magazine I read upon arriving in London in 2014, and I am absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity by Emily to learn and grow in an editorial capacity, and to bring new perspectives to a literary magazine that has nurtured my own creative and critical thinking over the past five years.”

Will Harris is a writer of mixed Anglo-Indonesian heritage, born and based in London. He is an Assistant Editor at The Rialto and a fellow of The Complete Works III. Published in the Bloodaxe anthology Ten: Poets of the New Generation (2017), he was featured in ES Magazine as part of the “new guard” of London poets. His work has appeared several times in The Poetry Review: his poem ‘SAY’, first published in the Review, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2018, and he reviews books by Anthony Anaxagorou and Vidyan Ravinthiran in the Autumn 2019 issue. He is the author of the chapbook, All This Is Implied (Happenstance, 2017), and the essay Mixed-Race Superman (Peninsula Press, 2018). His debut poetry collection, RENDANG, is forthcoming from Granta in 2020.

Will Harris said:

“It’s such an honour to be editing the spring 2020 issue of The Poetry Review with Mary Jean. I’ve been reading the magazine since I started writing as a teenager, and it’s always been the place I’ve looked to for inspiration and direction: for poems, essays and reviews that reflect a genuine and ever-replenishing plurality of views and styles; for work that, as Cathy Park Hong puts it, has ‘multiple entryways and exits through the soaring use of aberrant vernaculars’. It’s where I’ve discovered poets and discovered what I think about poetry. I hope our issue will do the same for others!”

Mike Sims, Publishing Manager at The Poetry Society, said:

“It will be a pleasure and an education to work with Colette, Mary Jean and Will – all are experienced editors and will have lots of new ideas. Previous guest editorships have proved very popular with readers as every incumbent places their set square slightly differently, subtly reconfiguring the magazine’s content. We’re confident that this will be the case for our Winter 2019 and Spring 2020 issues.”

The Poetry Review is among the world’s most dynamic and influential literary magazines. Published by The Poetry Society since 1912, it has been home to many of the most important and innovative names in poetry, with contributors including Thomas Hardy, Basil Bunting, Simon Armitage, Sharon Olds, Daljit Nagra, Durs Grünbein, Kim Hyesoon and Mary Ruefle. It is one of the most widely read poetry magazines in the English-speaking world with an ever expanding international circulation.

The Poetry Review is published quarterly in March, June, September and December and is available from leading bookshops across the UK and worldwide. A digital version is also published online. A subscription to The Poetry Review (digital and print versions) is an integral part of full membership of The Poetry Society. For membership and subscription details, visit poetrysociety.org.uk/membership.

The magazine is also available to buy in leading bookshops across the UK and around the world; a list of stockists is published on The Poetry Society website.

Look out for the Autumn 2019 issue of The Poetry Review, published on 26 September 2019. Edited by Emily Berry, it includes new poems by Melissa Lee-Houghton, Stanley Moss, Rory Waterman, Jenny Xie, Rachael Boast, Tahila Hakimi and Mark Waldron. Essayists include Rebecca Goss, Nuar Alsadir, So Mayer and Jeremy Noel-Tod. Reviews include new collections by Karen Solie, Jay Bernard, Charles Simic’s translation of Vasko Popa and new pamphlets. The Autumn 2019 issue will be launched on Wednesday 9 October in The Poetry Café, London, with readers Aria Aber, Colette Bryce and Greta Stoddart, and a filmed reading by Stanley Moss; visit poetrysociety.org.uk/events for details.

Art, science and the paradoxes of perception

The Orange Problem, 2019, Acrylic on panel, 72 x 72 cm. © Robert Pepperell 2019.
The author

Perception is utterly baffling. We can precisely describe the biological structure of eyes and brains. We can measure the electrochemical impulses and electrical fields generated by neurons. But reason fails us when we attempt to explain how these physical processes cause all the vivid colours, textures and objects that appear in visual perception. In fact, perception is so perplexing that we can find ourselves pushed to the edge of rational thought – and beyond – when we try to understand it.

My recent article in Art & Perception uses works of art to demonstrate that visual perception – and representations of the visual world – involve mind-stretching paradoxes and logical problems. One of the best examples in the history of art is René Magritte’s The Treachery of Images, which insists that we are not seeing what we see.

Magritte’s La Trahison des Images (The Treachery of Images), 1928-9.
University of Alabama

Works of art can reveal the bewildering conceptual conundrums at the heart of apparently straightforward visual experiences of the world. Here are some examples.

The Orange Problem

The painting at the top this article is called The Orange Problem, and the problem it poses is “where is orange?” It is painted with intense, almost fluorescent, pigments that mainly reflect light waves in the 635 to 590 nanometre range of the visible spectrum. But neither the paint nor the light it reflects are actually orange. Surprisingly, the painting as a physical object is colourless – objects reflect only different amounts of light energy. It is our nervous system that interprets these different amounts of energy as the colours we see.

One of the first to appreciate the implications of this was the pioneering neurobiologist Johannes Müller in the early 19th century. He discovered that all qualities of sensation such as colour, flavour, smell or sound are the product of identical electrical impulses travelling through the nervous system. Yet we still have little idea how these impulses create our colour sensations, or indeed if we all experience the same sensations. (The recent controversy over “The Dress” suggests we don’t).

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So if orange belongs only to our nervous system, then to which part exactly? Cut open a brain, scan it with the best available devices, and you will find no “orange-ness” among the cells and impulses. Paradoxically, the orange of the painting is right in front of us, but is nowhere to be found.

Where are the objects we see?

On the Edge. Gouache on Indian paper, 2019. 30 x 20 cm.
Robert Pepperell, Author provided

You are probably unsure what On the Edge depicts. In the absence of an obvious meaning you may find yourself scrolling through options in your mind, searching for objects that “fit” the clues (is it a sea creature or some kind of cosmic storm?) If so, you are experiencing at a slow pace what usually occurs so quickly that you never notice it. Your visual system is working to match its input with your prior knowledge to arrive at the best guess of what is being seen.

Even before this matching can occur, an enormous amount of processing has already been done by the visual system, in the retinae and in the cortex, to build up a perceptible image from “primitive” elements such as edges, corners and contrasts of colour and brightness.

The fact that the visual system has to do all this work before we can recognise an object shows us that the objects we perceive are not just “there” in the world. They have to be meticulously created within our neurobiology in order to exist for us. But again, cut open a brain, probe its neurons, and you will find no sea creatures or cosmic storms, only electrochemical activity. Objects, like colours, are tangibly real yet are also untraceable figments of the mind – a contradictory state of affairs.

We are the world we see

Drawing drawing. Pencil and gouache on paper, 2011. 40 x 30 cm.
Robert Pepperell, Author provided

In the picture Drawing drawing you see a hand holding a pencil casting a shadow on some paper. But that is not quite true. What you really see are lines and patches of dark and light. We might say that these lines and patches, which are present, conjure up things that are absent. As with all depictions, the objects we see depicted are simultaneously there and not there – which, as Magritte pointed out, is contradictory. “Pictures are paradoxes” said the eminent vision scientist Richard Gregory.

This picture also refers to itself, and to the process of its own making. The pencil lead with which I made the drawing and the paper on which it is drawn are both real lead and paper and representations of themselves.

All this might be dismissed as mere artistic eccentricity were it not for the fact that it exposes a remarkable property of our perceptual faculties. For if we run into logical problems conceiving of how something might be present and absent, or one thing and another simultaneously, we have no trouble perceiving it. Perception seems to take contradiction in its stride.

And, in fact, we must accept that all perception is self-referential. When you or I look at the world we never see it “in itself”, contrary to appearances. What we actually experience is our own perceptual reconstruction of the world. Just as the drawing shows my hand in the act of drawing itself, so perception shows us in the act of perceiving ourselves.

The mind and the world outside

The full sublimity of these problems takes some time to sink in. Unless you are feeling slightly dizzy you are probably not thinking about them hard enough. But if you are interested in how our minds work – and in the relationship between mind and world – then they cannot be avoided. Like it or not, perception and depiction throw up cognitive conundrums that push beyond the limits of conventional logic.

This is something that many artists have intuitively understood, which is why we often find expressions of paradox, contradiction and self-reference in the history of art. Combining such insights into the nature of perception and depiction with the rational investigative tools of science may be helpful – even necessary – if we are to meet the giddying challenge of explaining how we see, and how we see pictures of what we see.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

"Art should be for everyone" – Mari Katayama | Tate

Artist Mari Katayama creates hand-sewn sculptures and photographs that prompt conversations and challenge misconceptions about our bodies. B...