Thursday, 22 February 2018

Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and the Creation of Social Groups

"The aim of the studies was to assess the effects of social categorization on intergroup behaviour when, in the intergroup situation, neither calculations of individual interest nor previously existing attitudes of hostility could have been said to have determined discriminative behaviour against an outgroup. These conditions were satisfied in the experimental design. In the first series of experiments, it was found that the subjects favoured their own group in the distribution of real rewards and penalities in a situation in which nothing but the variable of fairly irrelevant classification distinguished between the ingroup and the outgroup. In the second series of experiments it was found that: 1) maximum joint profit independent of group membership did not affect significantly the manner in which the subjects divided real pecuniary rewards; 2) maximum profit for own group did affect the distribution of rewards; 3) the clearest effect on the distribution of rewards was due to the subjects' attempt to achieve a maximum difference between the ingroup and the outgroup even at the price of sacrificing other ‘objective’ advantages."
Tajfel et al. (1971)

In 1971, Tajfel et al. showed eight high school students - who thought the study was on artistic taste - paintings by Paul Klee (1879-1940) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Based on their preferences they were assigned to two groups (X group and Y group). Then, they were given money which they had to allocate to the students of their in-group and the out-group (but not to themselves). The participants showed two tendencies: 1) Money between two students of the in-group or the out-group was allocated in a fair way, i.e., each received the same amount. However, 2) in-group favouritism could be observed as more points were given to the students of the in-group than to the out-group. In other words, gains of students of their own group were maximised in comparison to the out-group. That also meant that students were willing to give their own group fewer points if only the out-group got even fewer ones.
Example: Students chose to assign 8 points to their own group and 3 to the other group although they could have chosen to give 13 points each group (Stangor, 2004). Categorisation into groups based on arbitrary criteria and there it is: group favouritism. Tajfel (1971) concludes that discrimination is not necessarily related to a history of social conflict or hostility.

"Perhaps those educators in our competitive societies who from the earliest schooling are so keen on 'teams' and 'team spirit' could give some thought to the operation of these side effects."
Tajfel (1971)

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- Stangor, C. (2004). Social Groups in Action and Interaction. New York & Hove: Psychology Press
- Tajfel, H. (1971). Experiments in Intergroup Discrimination, download
- Tajfel, H., Billig, M. G., Bundy, R. P. & Flament, C. (1971). Social categorization and intergroup behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1(2), 149-178.
- image of Wassily Kandinsky via

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Sir Peter Ustinov Foundation

The Sir Peter Ustinov Foundation was founded by UNICEF goodwill ambassador Sir Peter Ustinov and his son in 1999. Its focus is to grant children access to education and an optimistic future "irrespective of their cultural, social, religious or financial background". Ustinov was convinced that education is the key to a better future, to a world with less poverty and fewer conflicts. He was also convinced that prejudices are the origin of all conflicts. The foundation actively looks after vulnerable children such as orphans, children with facial disfigurement and young trafficked prostitutes.

Currently, there are eight Peter Ustinov schools in Germany dedicated to living an open-mind culture and fighting prejudices. There is also the Ustinov College in Durham (where students are called Ustinovians) and the Ustinov Institute in Vienna, both support research on prejudices in order to eliminate them (via).

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images via (copyright by respective owner/s)

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations

Spock's IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) medallion first appeared in the dinner scene of "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" (season 3, 1968). It was inserted into the script because Gene Roddenberry wanted to sell it at his Lincoln Enterprises (he had already tried to include the IDIC at the end of the episode "Spock's Brain" but his suggestion was ignored, probably because it was too late to implement it). As Nimoy, Shatner and other actors were not amused, Roddenberry agreed to rewrite the dinner scene and use the Vulcan IDIC in a less prominent way (via and via).

"Our first day of filming, Tuesday, July 16th, arrived, and I was greeted with a mutiny on the Enterprise. Bill Shatner and Leonard Nimoy had very strong objections to a portion of the scene we were scheduled to do that day and were refusing to film. Since the objection was to dialogue involving a piece of jewelry that Gene Roddenberry had designed, he was summoned to the set. (I have since learned that Leonard Nimoy first phoned producer Fred Freiberger to tell him of the problem. When Freiberger refused to take any action, Leonard called Roddenberry.) The morning was spent in a round table war with the six characters involved in the scene plus Gene and me. But the battle was strictly Bill and Leonard vs Gene. Bill and Leonard felt Gene was using the scene as a promotional commercial for a pin he had designed; the pin was part of Leonard’s costume. Gene vehemently denied these accusations, but the guys were adamant in their refusal to be a part of something they considered to be commercially oriented." 
Ralph Senensky

"I got my script change, read the new scene and with my jaw still hanging open, I called Fred down to the set, asking him, 'What's this IDIC thing about?' I knew that Lincoln Enterprises would soon be selling these things, and there was no way that I was going to muck up a perfectly good story line just so we could include Gene's rather thinly veiled commercial. With that in mind, I flatly refused to do the scene. Freiberger hemmed and hawed about the difficulties involved in re-revising the script, but as I spoke to him recently for this book, he finally admitted that he was actually relieved that I wouldn't do the scene. It was probably the first time in history that a producer was glad to be dealing with a 'difficult' actor...
Leonard and I had both seen through Gene's marketing ploy, and one after another we'd refused to play the scene. Still, when Gene came to the set, he did his very best to push it through. To his credit, Roddenberry was completely honest about the situation and didn't try to mask his free publicity scam behind any half-baked creative half-truths. He simply stated that Lincoln Enterprises would soon be marketing these medallions, and that he'd really appreciate our cooperation in getting the product into this storyline.
So I went through a great deal of soul-searching and teeth-grinding over the situation, and finally I just had to say, 'Gene, I'm sorry, but I can't do this.' Roddenberry accepted my refusal, but kept working on Leonard." 
William Shatner

"Although I didn't appreciate Spock being turned into a billboard, I at least felt that the IDIC idea had more value than the content of the original scene. We filmed the scene as Gene had rewritten it. But the whole incident was rather unpleasant; Roddenberry was peeved at me for not wanting to help his piece of mail-order merchandise get off to a resounding start, and Fred Freiberger was peeved at me for going over his head."
Leonard Nimoy

"I go by the Star Trek philosophy. We called it IDIC, an acronym for infinite diversity in infinite combinations. To have a good, vibrant society, we need to recognize that as an asset - something that makes us a much more progressive society but also, a more engaging society.
George Takei

"Infinite diversity and infinite combinations is what makes the world beautiful and it's true, as true today as it was then. And that's where a place of in my heart. I thank Gene for that legacy."
Nichelle Nichols

Original script:

No, I was merely looking at your Vulcan IDIC, Mister Spock. (looks up, curiously) Is it a reminder that as a Vulcan you could mind-meld with the Medeusan much more effectively than I could? (to the others, but smiling) It would be most difficult for a Vulcan to see a mere human take on this exciting a challenge.

McCOY (to Spock) 
Interesting question. It is a fact that you rarely do wear the IDIC.

I doubt that Mister Spock would don the most revered of all Vulcan symbols merely to annoy a guest, Dr. Jones.

SPOCK (to Miranda) 
In fact, I wear it this evening to honor you, Doctor.


SPOCK (nods) 
Indeed. Perhaps even with those years on Vulcan, you missed the true symbology. (indicates medallion)
The triangle and the circle... ...different shapes, materials, textures...represent any two diverse things which come together to create here...truth or beauty. (indicating the parts, looks up) For example, Doctor Miranda Jones who combined herself and the disciplines of my race, to become greater than the sum of both.

Kirk can see Miranda isn't fully sold on Spock's intentions ...he changes the subject.

Very interesting, I might even say...fascinating.

And here the official description of the IDIC pendants:

"SYMBOLOGY [sic] OF THE IDIC. There are two basic shapes and two basic colors and textures, i.e., the circle and the triangle. Generally, they represent that all things meaningful or beautiful are created by the joining together of different things. The pyramid can represent man and logic while the circle represents all of creation, i.e., man and creation joined together to create beauty. Also, the triangle-pyramid represents man and the circle represents woman and the jewel represents the beauty that their joining together is capable of creating. Or it can mean the truth which comes out of the blending of different ideas and creeds or the strength and beauty that comes out of the joining of different races, or the rich life which comes out of surrounding oneself with friends who have ideas different from your own and the rich cross-fertilization which occurs in such associations.
The Vulcan in it, is that the glory of creation is in its infinite diversities and infinite combinations possible. As such, the IDIC represents and idea of universal brotherhood far beyond that represented by any other symbol we know of."

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images via and via and via

Monday, 12 February 2018

"Well, here's one thing you can be sure of, mister..."

Stiles: I was suggesting that Mr. Spock could probably translate it, sir.
Captain James T. Kirk: I assume you're complimenting Mr. Spock on his ability to decode?
Stiles: I'm not sure, sir.
Captain James T. Kirk: Well, here's one thing you can be sure of, mister: leave any bigotry in your quarters. There's no room for it on the bridge.

The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror" introduced a new enemy: the Romulans. It was the first time that Romulans and humans got to see each other after a war they had had a century before. As Vulcans and Romulans look similar, Lieutenant Stiles shows his prejudice toward Spock. This is when Captain Kirk replies: "Well, here's one thing you can be sure of, mister: Leave any bigotry in your quarters. There is no room for it on the bridge." (via)

Related postings:

- Leonard Nimoy
The Conscience of Star Trek
- Leonard Nimoy on what he would say upon being the first man to set foot on the moon
- Spock, the Outsider
- Dear Mr. Spock,... (1968)
- Tuvok, the Black Vulcan
- Love. It Comes in All Colors.
- My Captain
- Captain Kathryn Janeway
- Half a Life
- The Drumhead
- The Nonstereotypical Role of Lieutenant Uhura
- Hoping dream becomes reality, by Nichelle Nichols (1968)
- Captain Pike has a female first officer & Captain Kirk hugs a mountain
- The Star Trek Opening Monologue
- The "First Lady of Star Trek"
- It's as simple as that
- Trekkies
- Quoting William Shatner
- "Well, here's one thing you can be sure of, mister..."
- Quoting Gene Roddenberry
- "Trek Against Trump": For a Future of Enlightenment and Inclusion
- More on space, spiced with some science fiction and a lot of diversity
- It's OK to be Takei
- Quoting George Takei (I)
- Quoting George Takei (II)
- Quoting George Takei (III)
- Public Library
- "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"

And here an article on Star Trek and diversity in German:
- Zukunftsvisionen, kulturelle Phasenverschiebung, Vielfalt und eine Hommage an Star Trek

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images via and via and via

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Nike's Girl Effect

The "Girl Effect" was founded by the Nike Foundation in 2004. Today, the independent creative non-profit is supported by UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Australian Government, and many more (via).

"We create for young people, in ways they love and interact with. We build vibrant youth brands and we work globally, creating mobile platforms. Everywhere, we use insights into girls’ lives to shape our work, while rigorously measuring its impact. 
We focus on a girl’s whole world, along her entire journey to adulthood. And we create with her, so she can tell her story. 
Through our work a girl can start to express herself, value herself and build relationships. With the belief and support of those around her, she can then seek out the things she needs – from vaccination to education."
Girl Effect

More Nike postings:

::: The Iron Nun: LINK
::: Title IX: LINK
::: "Equality should have no boundaries." Nike.: LINK
::: Football: No to Racism: LINK

image via

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

"There's a Coke for he, and she, and her, and me, and them."

The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the US-American National Football League but also an investment into marketing for companies which see it as a "social media and PR phenomenon" and "the anchors of extended marketing campaigns" (via). Companies pay about 5 million dollars for a 30-second spot during the game (via).

This year's Coca Cola Company's Super Bowl commercial "The Wonder of Us" celebrates the beauty of diversity and "the things that make us different" (via). Coca Cola is one of the first companies to make a non-binary reference by using the gender-neutral pronoun "them" (via).

image via

Tuesday, 6 February 2018


"Almost anyone under the circumstances would have doubted if [the letter] were theirs, or indeed if they were themself."
Emily Dickinson, 1881

Using "they" as a singular pronoun when referring to someone whose gender is unknown or of no relevance is nothing new. In fact, it has been consistently used as a singular pronoun since the 1300s. What is new, however,  is that it is now also used for a person whose gender is known but who does not fit into the binary system and does not identify as male or female (via).

"There have always been people who didn’t conform to an expected gender expression, or who seemed to be neither male nor female. But we’ve struggled to find the right language to describe these people—and in particular, the right pronouns. In the 17th century, English laws concerning inheritance sometimes referred to people who didn’t fit a gender binary using the pronoun it, which, while dehumanizing, was conceived of as being the most grammatically fit answer to gendered pronouns around then. Adopting the already-singular they is vastly preferable. It’s not quite as newfangled as it seems: we have evidence in our files of the nonbinary they dating back to 1950, and it’s likely that there are earlier uses of the nonbinary pronoun they out there."

MR: What pronouns would you like me to use?
LP: I use she and they so you can use whichever and you can switch them too.

"My name is Laurence and I’m a photographer, curator, director, based in Montreal. Photography is the main thing that I do but I also try to do a lot of curatorial work and directing and video work and it’s all kind of based around identity, colour theory, and queer communities.
(...) I was... thinking of what kind of work I wasn’t seeing out there and as someone who identifies as non-binary, and a lot of my close friends are non-binary, it was something I just wanted to make for myself. It’s really just a passion project. I just wanted to challenge the trans representation that is out there in the media.
(...) non-binary is a term for basically any trans person who doesn’t fit in the binary of man/woman. But it includes a lot of identities some of the people I photograph are non-binary trans women, intersex, gender fluid. So it encompasses a lot of different identities."
Laurence Philomene

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photographs taken by Laurence Philomene via

Sunday, 28 January 2018

A School in Malindi

Every year, the Italian Embassy in Nairobi organises a concert by a renowned Italian musician. In 2012, the musician was Mario Biondi, Italy's Barry White. All proceeds went to "an Italian Cooperation education project for the construction of a primary school for the poorest children of the coastal city of Malindi in Kenya" (via and via).

Mario Biondi Sunday music link pack:

::: This Is What You Are: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Deep Space: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Live in concert, 2015: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Amarsi un po': LISTEN/WATCH (Original: Lucio Battisti)
::: What Have You Done to Me: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Shine On: LISTEN/WATCH

photograph via

Saturday, 27 January 2018

"I am constantly amazed by man's inhumanity to man." Primo Levi

Primo Michele Levi was an Italian chemist. And he was a Holocaust survivor. In 1944, he was incarcerated in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where he was "one of the three out of the 125 people consigned with him to survive". Levi wrote several books. At first rejected by numerous publishers, "If This Is a Man" - which he wrote soon after being liberated from the concentration camp - was later translated into several languages and became his most famous piece of work. The book is about humanity in extremis, the collective madness he experienced but nevertheless life-affirming and without any bitterness (via and via).
27th of January is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is the day Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet Armed Forces. It is also the day Primo Levi was liberated.

If this is a man, by Primo Levi (via)

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes or a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

There are speculations about Levi's death; some say it was a suicide, others say it was an accident. On 11 April 1987, at around 10:20 o'clock in the morning, the concierge rang the doorbell of Primo Levi's flat on the third floor. He opened the door, collected his letters, smiling, thanking her, then closed the door. When the concierge descended, she heard his body hit the bottom of the stairs by the lift (via).

"Primo Levi died at Auschwitz forty years later."
Elie Wiesel

"Of those years [in Auschwitz] he must have had terrible memories: a wound he always carried with great fortitude, but which must have been nonetheless atrocious. I think it was the memory of those years which lead him towards his death."
Natalia Ginzburg

"This suicide must be backdated to 1945. It did not happen then because Primo wanted (and had to) write."
Ferdinando Camon

"Many Jews survived the concentration camps and yet killed themselves later."
Lester (2005)

"Now everyone wants to understand, to grasp, to probe. I think my father had already written the last act of his existence. Read the conclusion of The Truce and you will understand."
Renzo, Primo Levi's son
[And] a dream full of horror has still not ceased to visit me, at sometimes frequent, sometimes longer, intervals. It is a dream within a dream, varied in detail, one in substance. I am sitting at a table with my family, or with friends, or at work, or in the green countryside; in short, in a peaceful relaxed environment, apparently without tension or affliction; yet I feel a deep and subtle anguish, the definite sensation of an impending threat. And in fact, as the dream proceeds, slowly and brutally, each time in a different way, everything collapses, and disintegrates around me, the scenery, the walls, the people, while the anguish becomes more intense and more precise. Now everything has changed into chaos; I am alone in the centre of a grey and turbid nothing, and now, I know what this thing means, and I also know that I have always known it; I am in the Lager once more, and nothing is true outside the Lager. All the rest was a brief pause, a deception of the senses, a dream; my family, nature in flower, my home. Now this inner dream, this dream of peace, is over, and in the outer dream, which continues, gelid, a well-known voice resounds: a single word, not imperious, but brief and subdued. It is the dawn command, of Auschwitz, a foreign word, feared and expected: get up, 'Wstawàch.'
Primo Levi, 1962
After the liberation in 1945, a majority of the survivors were kept in interim displaced persons camps. Interested observers conducted physical and psychological analyses of the survivors and noted the most obvious consequences, i.e., extreme physical disabilities. Apart from that, this period seemed to be a "symptom-free interval". It was only during the late 1940s and early 1950s that "the delayed effect of the Holocaust experience began to manifest in survivors". The major psyhological effect became visible after survivors had resettled and started a new life. First called "Concentration Camp Syndrome" or "Survivor Syndrome", this is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Rosenberg, 1984). 50 years after the horrible experiences, a significantly higher rate of PTSD  was reported among Holocaust survivors than for war veterans. Ageing is said to be a phase of severe crisis for Holocaust survivors (Barak & Szor, 2000).

Excerpts taken from "If This Is a Man" (via)

“It is lucky that it is not windy today. Strange, how in some way one always has the impression of being fortunate, how some chance happening, perhaps infinitesimal, stops us crossing the threshold of despair and allows us to live. It is raining, but it is not windy. Or else, it is raining and it is also windy: but you know that this evening it is your turn for the supplement of soup, so that even today you find the strength to reach the evening. Or it is raining, windy and you have the usual hunger, and then you think that if you really had to, if you really felt nothing in your heart but suffering and tedium - as sometimes happens, when you really seem to lie on the bottom - well, even in that case, at any moment you want you could always go and touch the electric wire-fence, or throw yourself under the shunting trains, and then it would stop raining.”

“Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.”

“There is no rationality in the Nazi hatred: it is hate that is not in us, it is outside of man.. We cannot understand it, but we must understand from where it springs, and we must be on our guard. If understanding is impossible, knowing is imperative, because what happened could happen again. Consciences can be seduced and obscured again - even our consciences. For this reason, it is everyone duty to reflect on what happened. Everybody must know, or remember, that when Hitler and Mussolini spoke in public, they were believed, applauded, admired, adored like gods. They were "charismatic leaders" ; they possessed a secret power of seduction that did not proceed from the soundness of things they said but from the suggestive way in which they said them, from their eloquence, from their histrionic art, perhaps instinctive, perhaps patiently learned and practised. The ideas they proclaimed were not always the same and were, in general, aberrant or silly or cruel. And yet they were acclaimed with hosannas and followed to the death by millions of the faithful.”

“We are slaves, deprived of every right, exposed to every insult, condemned to certain death, but we still possess one power, and we must defend it with all our strength for it is the last - the power to refuse our consent. So we must certainly wash our faces without soap in dirty water and dry ourselves on our jackets. We must polish our shoes, not because the regulation states it, but for dignity and propriety. We must walk erect, without dragging our feet, not in homage to Prussian discipline but to remain alive, not to begin to die.”

“Then for the first time we became aware that our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man. In a moment, with almost prophetic intuition, the reality was revealed to us: we had reached the bottom. It is not possible to sink lower than this; no human condition is more miserable than this, nor could it conceivably be so. Nothing belongs to us any more; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand. They will even take away our name: and if we want to keep it, we ill have to find ourselves the strength to do so, to manage somehow so that behind the name something of us, of us as we were, still remains.”

- Barak, Y. & Szor, H. (2000). Lifelong posttraumatic stress disorder: evidence from aging Holocaust survivors. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 2(1), 57-62.
- Lester, D. (2005). Suicide and the Holocaust. New York: Nova Science Publishers
- Levi, P. (1989). Se questo è un uomo. La tregua. Turin: Einaudi Tascabili
- Rosenberg, J. (1984). Holocaust Survivors and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders: The Need for Conceptual Reassessment and Development. The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 11(4), 930-938
- photographs via and via and via and via