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‘I See You': Kovert’s 3 minute film builds intimacy between strangers
Ours has been deemed an age of awkwardness. As The New Yorker points out, there are some six hundred entries related to the term in the Urban Dictionary. It's such stuff as multiple memes are made of. While being able to admit our quirks and imperfections so openly across the web is refreshing and real, there's a sense that it can also justify a shying away from intensity. That our personal spaces are sometimes too forcefully demarcated with screens and devices. And there's nothing more awkward than prolonged eye contact. It's bad enough when it happens accidentally on the tube, but Kovert, the design company founded by Libertine100 member Kate Unsworth that creates smart, unobtrusive tech, have gone and got ten strangers together and forced them to stare into each other's eyes on camera. Inspired by Marina Abramovic's performance piece "The Artist Is Present", in which Abramovic invited MoMA visitors to gaze into her eyes for as long as they wished, Kovert decided to conduct their own "presence experiment." "When you grow up you're told don't talk to strangers, but that's how you make new friends,' one participant says in a rather endearing display of innocence. It's stripped down communication that's more about the intimacy than relaying information. Tech often presupposes a message, but sometimes we just want connection for its own sake. Should we always have to equate contact with content? So why not break through the discomfort of a bit of eye contact, then. With a consenting partner, that is - best not to try this out on the tube.
Rescuing Panama’s sunken rainforests
“I call it dragon wood,' says Alana Husby, founder of Coast Eco Timber, offering up a photograph of stripy, golden brown timber.
The wood in question comes from the bottom of a flooded forest in Panama - and anything could have happened to it to give it its distinct texture. It might have been struck by lightning, succumbed to insects or 'spalting', a type of colouration formed by fungi much sought after by woodworkers. Alana calls it “fancy rot.”
“But we kept finding these logs. It turns out it’s a species,' she says, citing its technical name Amarillo Guayaquil. “I had no idea it was there. I couldn’t believe it because it’s gorgeous.”
Built in 1976 to supply water power to a hydroelectric plant, Panama’s Bayano Lake contains a submerged hardwood forest in its watery depths. Coast Eco Timber send divers down with chainsaws to free the trees and provide high quality, ethically sourced wood, rescuing a host of fascinating species - such as Alana’s beloved dragon wood.
A fifth generation logger, Alana was brought up in an indigenous community on British Columbia's Haida Gwaii archipelago and went on to study forestry at the school of technology. Classes were held in the field from 8am to 6pm, often in the pouring rain - yet in spite of the conditions and Alana’s poor navigation skills, she gained an in-depth, technical knowledge of the industry. “I learnt everything from road building, harvesting methods, tree planting - every single facet of the business.”
She went on to work for her father’s company, rescuing wood from Canada’s river debris and old buildings. On hearing about the dense, untouched forest at the bottom of the Panama reservoir, she decided she had to see it. She ended up buying out the existing logging company and setting up her own... More
A cheat sheet for the big issues
The nation’s collective relationship with politics has been fairly strained of late. 59% of young people don’t intend to vote at the 2015 election: that works out to more than 2 million people. This interactive graph charts election turnout from 1964-2010. Note the steep decline from 1992. Our apathy toward politics is reflected in our digital habits. The internet provides us with non-stop political coverage, but this recent American study found that out of a sample of 1.2 million web users, just over fifty thousand (that’s 4%) were ‘active news customers’ of ‘front section’ news. According to Go-Gulf, social networking is the most popular online activity, with users spending more than 22% of their time on social media channels. Some are now trying to change all this. Eli Pariser and Peter Koechley launched Upworthy in March 2012 to "give people the information and tools that help make them better, more aware citizens", as Pariser told the New York Times. Upworthy packages stories ‘that matter’ as entertaining and ‘clickable’. In their first 29 months online, the site grew from 0 to 88 million visitors a month, making it faster-growing than Huffington Post, Business Insider or even Buzzfeed.
A Wikipedia for public policyAlso making important issues accessible is ShouldWe, a site summarising arguments for and against public policy in a clear, concise format. Issue detail and context appear at the top; pros and cons underneath. Hover your cursor over an argument and the supporting evidence pops up. Kirsty McNeill came up with the idea for ShouldWe when a friend suggested making a policy version of Wikipedia. "We think evidence empowers people, that people don't just deserve to know what is happening, but why", she told us. Headlines after-the-fact can seem cold and impenetrable; breaking down the reasoning behind ... More
The many dimensions of Ping Fu
There's a half-hour interview slot available at the tail end of Ping Fu's press day - set up to promote her newly published memoir. On our way to the interview room, I offer up some sympathetic platitude about how tired she must be, which is received without so much as the bat of an eyelid. Ping doesn't promote work-life balance, I find out later - or see long hours as an obstacle to happiness. Nor does she go in for platitudes. Instead, she peppers her speech with Eastern philosophical concepts, like 'flow': "When you love what you do so much you forget about time. I really want people to think about whether they're in flow with their career," she says. She also challenges her employees to think about how meaningful the work they're doing is, and whether they are complete as individuals. It's not the line usually taken by senior management. "When I started saying this stuff 15 years ago, people were like, 'Oh that's just Ping's social experiment'," she says. They're no longer so dismissive. The agility implied in her memoir's title - Bend, Not Break - may now be the modus operandi of leading-edge business, but it's been part of Ping's approach to life since she was a child. Snatched from her parents at the age of eight and taken to a labour camp in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, she found herself leaning heavily on Chinese proverbs for psychological protection. Force-fed dung and dirt, beaten and raped, with a young sister to care for, the only respite came from kindly strangers: pots of rice left outside her door, a carefully wrapped sweet, precious forbidden reading material - including Gone With the Wind - left by visiting relatives. She learned to adapt and survive, and always practised compassion, even volunteering ... More