Watch “Degrees of Uncertainty,” an Animated Documentary about Climate Science, Uncertainty & Knowing When to Trust the Experts

We should just trust the experts. But wait: to identify true expertise requires its own kind of even more specialized expertise. Besides, experts disagree with each other, and over time disagree with themselves as well. This makes it challenging indeed for all of us non-experts — and we’re all non-experts in the fields to which we have not dedicated our lives — to understand phenomena of any complexity. As for grasping climate change, with its enormous historical scale and countless many variables, might we as well just throw up our hands? Many have done so: Neil Halloran, creator of the short documentary Degrees of Uncertainty above, labels them “climate denialists” and “climate defeatists.”

Climate denialists choose to believe that manmade climate change isn’t happening, climate defeatists choose to believe that it’s inevitable, and both thereby let themselves off the hook. Not only do they not have to address the issue, they don’t even have to understand it — which itself can seem a fairly daunting task, given that scientists themselves express no small degree of uncertainty about climate change’s degree and trajectory. “The only way to learn how sure scientists are is to dig in a little and view their work with some healthy skepticism,” says Halloran. This entails developing an instinct not for refutation, exactly, but for examining just how the experts arrive at their conclusions and what pitfalls they encounter along the way.




Often, scientists “don’t know how close they are to the truth, and they’re prone to confirmation bias,” and as anyone professionally involved in the sciences knows full well, they work “under pressure to publish noteworthy findings.” Their publications then find their way to a media culture in which, increasingly, “trusting or distrusting scientists is becoming a matter of political identity.” As he did in his previous documentary The Fallen of World War II, Halloran uses animation and data visualization to illuminate his own path to understanding a global occurrence whose sheer proportions make it difficult to perceive.

This journey takes Halloran not just around the globe but back in time, starting in the year 19,000 B.C. and ending in projections of a future in which ring seas swallow much of Amsterdam, Miami, and New Orleans. The most important stop in the middle is the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution of the 17th through the 19th century, when science and technology rose to prominence and brought about  an unprecedented human flourishing — with climatic consequences that have begun to make themselves known, albeit not with absolute certainty. But as Halloran sees it, “uncertainty, the very thing that clouds our view, also frees us to construct possible answers.”

Related Content:

A Map Shows What Happens When Our World Gets Four Degrees Warmer: The Colorado River Dries Up, Antarctica Urbanizes, Polynesia Vanishes

Music for a String Quartet Made from Global Warming Data: Hear “Planetary Bands, Warming World”

A Century of Global Warming Visualized in a 35 Second Video

Climate Change Gets Strikingly Visualized by a Scottish Art Installation

The Prado Museum Digitally Alters Four Masterpieces to Strikingly Illustrate the Impact of Climate Change

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Invisible People: Watch Poignant Mini-Documentaries Where Homeless People Tell Their Stories

Over the past year, the story of evictions during COVID has often risen above the muck. It’s made headlines in major newspapers and TIME magazine, and received serious attention from the government, with stop-gap eviction moratoriums put in effect and renewed several times, and likely due to be renewed again. Stopping evictions is not enough. “For many landlords,” notes the United Way, “the order created a financial burden of housing renters with no payments,” and without income, they have no way to pay. But these measures have kept many thousands of vulnerable adults and children from experiencing homelessness.

And yet moratoriums aside, the number of people losing their homes is on the rise during the pandemic, with a disproportionate impact on Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities, and shelters have been forced to close or lower capacity. Framing increasing homelessnes solely as a crisis driven by the virus misses the fact that it has been growing since 2016, though it is down from pre-2007 levels. “Even before the current health/economic crisis,” notes a Homelessness Research Institute report, “the older adult homeless population was projected to trend upwards until 2030.”

Indeed, homelessness has seemed like a sad, inevitable fact of American life for decades. Rather than accept the situation, organizations like Invisible People have worked to end it. “The first step to solving homelessness,” they write, “is acknowledging that its victims are people. Regular people. Fathers. Mothers. Veterans. Whole families. Folks who fell on hard times and lost their core foundation of being human — their homes.” No one asks to be in the situation, and the longer a person goes unhoused, the harder it is for them to rebuild their lives.

Invisible People offers action steps and publishes well-researched journalism on the problems, and solutions, for the millions of people experiencing homelessness at any given time. But as their name suggests, their primary aim is to make the lives of unhoused people visible to those of us who tend to walk right by them in our haste. We can feel overwhelmed by the intractable scale of the problem, which tends to turn individuals into statistics. Invisible People asks us to “change the story,” and to start by approaching homelessness one person, or one family, at a time.

Invisible People was founded in Los Angeles by Mark Horvath, a former TV executive who became homeless after drug and alcohol addiction in 1995. After recovering, he lost his home again during the 2008 Recession. Horvath began interviewing people he met on the streets of L.A. and posting the videos to YouTube and Twitter. Soon, the project became a global one, incorporated as a non-profit, and Horvath has traveled across the U.S. and to Canada, Peru, and the UK to interview people living without homes.

The project, says Horvath is designed to foster  “a conversation about solutions to end homelessness [that] gives homeless people a chance to tell their own story.” Those stories are moving, human, unforgettable, and usually not at all what you might expect. You can see some of them here, and many more at the Invisible People YouTube channel. Connect with the organization and find out what you can do here.

via BoingBoing

Related Content: 

Designer Creates Origami Cardboard Tents to Shelter the Homeless from the Winter Cold

How Josephine Baker Went From Homeless Street Performer to International Superstar, French Resistance Fighter & Civil Rights Hero

The New York Public Library Lets Patrons Check Out Ties, Briefcases & Handbags for Job Interviews

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Mick Jagger Takes Shots at Conspiracy Theorists & Anti-Vaxxers in a New Song, “Eazy Sleazy” (with Dave Grohl on Drums, Bass & Guitar)

Follow along with the lyrics below, or in the video above.

W’e took it on the chin
The numbers were so grim
Bossed around by pricks
Stiffen upper lips
Pacing in the yard
You’re trying to take the mick
You must think i’m really thick

Looking at the graphs with a magnifying glass
Cancel all the tours footballs fake applause
No more travel brochures
Virtual premieres
Ive got nothing left to wear

Looking out from these prison walls
You got to rob peter if you’re paying paul
But its easy easy everything’s gonna get really freaky
Alright on the night
Soon it ll be be a memory you’re trying to remember to forget

That’s a pretty mask
But never take a chance tik tok stupid dance
Took a samba class i landed on my ass
Trying to write a tune you better hook me up to zoom
See my poncey books teach myself to cook
Way too much tv its lobotomising me
Think ive put on weight
Ill have another drink then ill clean the kitchen sink

We escaped from the prison walls
Open the windows and open the doors
But its easy easy
Everything s gonna get really freaky
Alright on the night
Its gonna be a garden of earthly delights
Easy sleazy its gonna be smooth and greasy
Yeah easy believe me
Itll only be a memory you’re trying to remember
To forget

Shooting the vaccine bill gates is in my bloodstream
Its mind control
The earth is flat and cold its never warming up
The arctics turned to slush
The second comings late
There’s aliens in the deep state

We’ll escape from these prison walls
Now were out of these prison walls
You gotta pay peter if you’re robbing paul
But its easy easy everything s gonna be really freaky
Alright on the night
Were all headed back to paradise
Yeah easy believe me
It’ll be a memory you’re trying to remember to forget
Easy cheesy everyone sing please please me
It’ll be a memory you’re trying to remember to forget

What Andrei Tarkovsky’s Most Notorious Scene Tells Us About Time During the Pandemic: A Video Essay

In his films, Andrei Tarkovsky shows us things no other auteur does: an unbroken eight-minute shot, for example, of a man slowly walking a lit candle across an empty pool, starting over again whenever the flame goes out. One of the best-known (or at least most often mentioned) sequences in the Russian master’s oeuvre, it comes from Nostalghia, a late picture made during his final, exiled years in Italy. Some cite it as an example of all that’s wrong with Tarkovsky’s cinema; others as an example of all that’s right with it. But both the criticism and the praise are rooted in the director’s heightened sensitivity to and deliberate use of time — a resource about which we’ve all come to feel differently after a year of global pandemic.

“Our sense of time during the pandemic was just as warped as our sense of space,” says Evan Puschak, better known as the Nerdwriter, in his new video essay above, a follow-up to his previous exploration of how lockdowns turned cities around the world into de Chirico paintings.




At first, “time felt simultaneously slow and fast: hours dragged on at a snail’s pace, but weeks flew by. 2020 seemed endless while it was happening, but in retrospect it feels brief, shorter than a normal year.” But even under “normal” conditions, it holds true that “the more attention we give to time, the slower it feels.” And when we think back to our past experiences, “the more we can remember in a given period expands our sense of its length.”

Watching Nostalghia‘s candle-in-the-pool scene, “you become aware of the odd encounter you’re having with time itself. You can feel the texture of it, its presence, as if time were not only a concept, but a substance, stretching out in front of you, expanding and contracting with every breath. It’s beyond interest, beyond boredom.” Unlike most filmmakers, Tarkovsky doesn’t manipulate time to keep us on a pre-laid emotional track, but to make us aware of our own movement through it. “It’ll be the same for the pandemic,” says Puschak. “There are some rhythms we’ll be eager to get back to, and others, now that we’ve experienced their absence, we’ll be eager to leave behind.” Right now, we’d do well to question the new forms of nostalgia that have beset us. Or we could use the time still on our hands to hold Tarkovsky retrospectives of our own.

Related Content:

Free Online: Watch the Films of Andrei Tarkovsky, Arguably the Most Respected Filmmaker of All Time

The Poetic Harmony of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Filmmaking: A Video Essay

“Auteur in Space”: A Video Essay on How Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Transcends Science Fiction

Andrei Tarkovsky Answers the Essential Questions: What is Art & the Meaning of Life?

When Our World Became a de Chirico Painting: How the Avant-Garde Painter Foresaw the Empty City Streets of 2020

Why Time Seems to Speed Up as We Get Older: What the Research Says

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine Is Streaming Free on YouTube

Earlier this year, Michael Moore released the 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine on his official YouTube channel. The winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the film “set out to investigate the long, often volatile love affair between Americans and their firearms, uncovering the pervasive culture of fear that keeps the nation locked and loaded.” Criterion goes on to write:

Equipped with a camera and a microphone, Moore follows the trail of bullets from Littleton, Colorado, and Flint, Michigan, all the way to Kmart’s midwestern headquarters and NRA president Charlton Heston’s Beverly Hills mansion, meeting shooting survivors, militia members, mild-mannered Canadians, and rock provocateur Marilyn Manson along the way. An unprecedented popular success that helped usher in a new era in documentary filmmaking, the Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine is a raucous, impassioned, and still tragically relevant journey through the American psyche.”

Nearly two decades later–and right on the heels of two massacres in Atlanta and Boulder–Moore’s film has unfortunately not lost its relevance. You can watch it online, right above.

via NoFilmSchool

Related Content

1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

Michael Moore’s 13 Rules for Making Documentaries — Really Powerful & Entertaining Documentaries

23 Cartoonists Unite to Demand Action to Reduce Gun Violence: Watch the Result

When Archie Bunker’s Advice on Gun Control Becomes Mainstream GOP Policy (1972)

What Are the Real Causes of Zoom Fatigue? And What Are the Possible Solutions?: New Research from Stanford Offers Answers

The technology we put between ourselves and others tends to always create additional strains on communication, even as it enables near-constant, instant contact. When it comes to our now-primary mode of interacting — staring at each other as talking heads or Brady Bunch-style galleries — those stresses have been identified by communication experts as “Zoom fatigue,” now a subject of study among psychologists who want to understand our always-connected-but-mostly-isolated lives in the pandemic, and a topic for Today show segments like the one above.

As Stanford researcher Jeremy Bailenson vividly explains to Today, Zoom fatigue refers to the burnout we experience from interacting with dozens of people for hours a day, months on end, through pretty much any video conferencing platform. (But, let’s face it, mostly Zoom.) We may be familiar with the symptoms already if we spend some part of our day on video calls or lessons. Zoom fatigue combines the problems of overwork and technological overstimulation with unique forms of social exhaustion that do not plague us in the office or the classroom.




Bailenson, director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, refers to this kind of burnout as “Nonverbal Overload,” a collection of “psychological consequences” from prolonged periods of disembodied conversation. He has been studying virtual communication for two decades and began writing about the current problem in April of 2020 in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that warned, “software like Zoom was designed to do online work, and the tools that increase productivity weren’t meant to mimic normal social interaction.”

Now, in a new scholarly article published in the APA journal Technology, Mind, and Behavior, Bailenson elaborates on the argument with a focus on Zoom, not to “vilify the company,” he writes, but because “it has become the default platform for many in academia” (and everywhere else, perhaps its own form of exhaustion). The constituents of nonverbal overload include gazing into each others’ eyes at close proximity for long periods of time, even when we aren’t speaking to each other.

Anyone who speaks for a living understands the intensity of being stared at for hours at a time. Even when speakers see virtual faces instead of real ones, research has shown that being stared at while speaking causes physiological arousal (Takac et al., 2019). But Zoom’s interface design constantly beams faces to everyone, regardless of who is speaking. From a perceptual standpoint, Zoom effectively transforms listeners into speakers and smothers everyone with eye gaze.

On Zoom, we also have to expend much more energy to send and interpret nonverbal cues, and without the context of the room outside the screen, we are more apt to misinterpret them. Depending on the size of our screen, we may be staring at each other as larger-than-life talking heads, a disorienting experience for the brain and one that lends more impact to facial expressions than may be warranted, creating a false sense of intimacy and urgency. “When someone’s face is that close to ours in real life,” writes Vignesh Ramachandran at Stanford News, “our brains interpret it as an intense situation that is either going to lead to mating or to conflict.”

Unless we turn off the view of ourselves on the screen — which we generally don’t do because we’re conscious of being stared at — we are also essentially sitting in front of a mirror while trying to focus on others. The constant self-evaluation adds an additional layer of stress and taxes the brain’s resources. In face-to-face interactions, we can let our eyes wander, even move around the room and do other things while we talk to people. “There’s a growing research now that says when people are moving, they’re performing better cognitively,” says Bailenson. Zoom interactions, conversely, can inhibit movement for long periods of time.

“Zoom fatigue” may not be as dire as it sounds, but rather the inevitable trials of a transitional period, Bailenson suggests. He offers solutions we can implement now: using the “hide self-view” button, muting our video regularly, setting up the technology so that we can fidget, doodle, and get up and move around…. Not all of these are going to work for everyone — we are, after all, socialized to sit and stare at each other on Zoom; refusing to participate might send unintended messages we would have to expend more energy to correct. Bailenson further describes the phenomenon in the BBC Business Daily podcast interview above.

“Videoconferencing is here to stay,” Bailenson admits, and we’ll have to adapt. “As media psychologists it is our job,” he writes to his colleagues in the new article, to help “users develop better use practices” and help “technologists build better interfaces.” He mostly leaves it to the technologists to imagine what those are, though we ourselves have more control over the platform than we collectively acknowledge. Could we maybe admit, Bailenson writes, that “perhaps a driver of Zoom fatigue is simply that we are taking more meetings than we would be doing face-to-face”?

Read about the “Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale (ZEF Scale)” developed by Bailenson and his colleagues at Stanford and the University of Gothenburg here. Then take the survey yourself, and see where you rank in the ZEF categories of general fatigue, visual fatigue, social fatigue, motivational fatigue, and emotional fatigue.

Related Content: 

How Information Overload Robs Us of Our Creativity: What the Scientific Research Shows

In 1896, a French Cartoonist Predicted Our Socially-Distanced Zoom Holiday Gatherings

Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli Releases Free Backgrounds for Virtual Meetings: Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away & More

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Why Putin Wants Alexei Navalny Dead

From Vox: “In 2006, a lawyer named Alexei Navalny started a blog where he wrote about corruption in his home country of Russia. It’s the most prominent problem under the regime of Vladimir Putin, who has ruled Russia since 2000. Putin has systematically taken over the country’s independent media, oligarchy, elections, and laws to cement his own power and wield corruption to his advantage.

That’s what Navalny set out to expose. And in 2010, he published a groundbreaking investigation into a state-owned transportation company, Transneft, which was funneling state money into the hands of its executives. The post launched Navalny into politics.

By 2016, he had become the face of Russia’s opposition movement, run for mayor, and was running for president against Putin himself. Navalny was unifying Russia’s opposition like no politician had before. That’s why the Kremlin tried to kill him. Navalny survived the assassination attempt, launching a movement never before seen in Russia.”

To dive deeper into why the Russian government wants Navalny dead, watch the Vox video above, then listen to this informative report from the New York Times’ Daily Podcast below.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

The “Academic Tarot”: 22 Major Arcana Cards Representing Life in the Academic Humanities Under COVID-19

“Speculations about the creators of Tarot cards include the Sufis, the Cathars, the Egyptians, Kabbalists, and more,” writes “expert cartomancer” Joshua Hehe. All of these suppositions are wrong, it seems. “The actual historical evidence points to northern Italy sometime in the early part of the 1400s,” when the so-called “major arcana” came into being. “Contrary to what many have claimed, there is absolutely no proof of the Tarot having originated in any other time or place.”

A bold claim, yet there are precedents much older than tarot: “A few decades before the Tarot was born, ordinary playing cards came to Europe by way of Arabs, arriving in many different cities between 1375 and 1378. These cards were an adaptation of the Islamic Mamluk cards,” with suits of cups, swords, coins, and polo sticks, “the latter of which were seen by Europeans as staves.”




Whether the playing cards invented by the Mamluks were used for divination may be a matter of controversy. The history and art of the Mamluk sultanate itself is a subject worthy of study for the tarot historian. Originally a slave army (“mamluk” means “slave” in Arabic) under the Ayyubid sultans in Egypt and Syria, the Mamluks overthrew their rulers and created “the greatest Islamic empire of the later Middle Ages.”

What does this have to do with tarot reading? These are academic concerns, perhaps, of little interest to the average tarot enthusiast. But then, the average tarot enthusiast is not the audience for the “Academic Tarot,” a project of the Visionary Futures Collective, or VFC, a group of 22 scholars “fighting for what higher education needs most,” Stephanie Malak writes at Hyperallergic, “a bringing together of thinkers who ‘believe in the transformational power and vital importance of the humanities.’”

To that end, the Academic Tarot features exactly the kinds of characters who love to chase down abstruse historical questions—characters like the lowly, confused Grad Student, standing in here for The Fool. It also features those who can make academic life, with its endless rounds of meetings and committees, so difficult: figures like The President (see here), doing duty here as the Magician, and pictured shredding “campus-wide COVID results.”

The VFC, founded in the time of COVID-19 pandemic and “in the midst of the long-overdue national reckoning led by the Black Lives Matter movement,” aims to “trace the contours of things that define our shared human condition,” says Collective member Dr. Brian DeGrazia. In the case of the Academic Tarot, the conditions represented are shared by a specific subset of humans, many of whom responded to “feelings surveys” put out by the VFC in a biweekly newsletter.

The surveys have been used to make art that reflects the experiences of the grad students, professors, and professional staff working the academic humanities at this time:

VFC artist-in-residence Claire Chenette, a Grammy-nominated Knoxville Symphony Orchestra musician furloughed due to COVID-19, brought the tarot cards to life. What began as a three-card project to complement the VFC newsletter grew in spirit and in number. 

“In tarot, the cards read us,” the VFC writes, “telling a story about ourselves that can provide clarity, guidance and hope.” What story do the 22 Major Arcana cards in the Academic Tarot tell? That depends on who’s asking, as always, but one gets the sense that unless the querent is familiar with life in a higher-ed humanities department, these cards may not reveal much. For those who have seen themselves in the cards, however, “the images made them laugh out loud,” says Chenette, or “they hit hard. Or… they even made them cry, but… it needed to happen.”

Struggling through yet another pandemic semester of attempting to teach, research, write, and generally stay afloat? The Academic Tarot cards are currently sold out, but you can pre-order now for the second run.

via Hyperallergic

Related Content: 

Divine Decks: A Visual History of Tarot: The First Comprehensive Survey of Tarot Gets Published by Taschen

Behold the Sola-Busca Tarot Deck, the Earliest Complete Set of Tarot Cards (1490)

Salvador Dalí’s Tarot Cards Get Re-Issued: The Occult Meets Surrealism in a Classic Tarot Card Deck

Carl Jung: Tarot Cards Provide Doorways to the Unconscious, and Maybe a Way to Predict the Future

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

More in this category... »
Quantcast
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.