Arquivo da tag: Visualidade

Exposição relembra shows étnicos com humanos ‘exóticos’ na Europa (BBC)

Daniela Fernandes

De Paris para a BBC Brasil

Atualizado em  2 de dezembro, 2011 – 09:46 (Brasília) 11:46 GMT

Uma exposição no museu do Quai Branly, em Paris, mostra como seres humanos considerados “exóticos, selvagens ou monstros” foram exibidos durante séculos em feiras, circos e zoológicos no Ocidente.A exposição Exibições – A Invenção do Selvagem indica, segundo os organizadores, que esses “espetáculos” com índios, africanos e asiáticos, além de pessoas portadoras de deficiência, que tinham o objetivo de entreter os espectadores, influenciaram o desenvolvimento de ideias racistas que perduram até hoje.”A descoberta dos zoológicos humanos me permitiu entender melhor por que certos pensamentos racistas ainda existem na nossa sociedade”, diz o ex-jogador da seleção francesa de futebol Lilian Thuram, um dos curadores da mostra.Thuram, campeão da Copa do Mundo de 1998 pela França, criou uma fundação que luta contra o racismo. Ele narra os textos ouvidos no guia de áudio da exposição.”É difícil acreditar, mas o bisavô de Christian Karembeu (também ex-jogador da seleção francesa) foi exibido em uma jaula como canibal em 1931, em Paris”, diz Thuram.A exposição é fruto das pesquisas realizadas para o livro Zoológicos Humanos, do historiador francês Pascal Blanchard e também curador da mostra.

Medição de crânios

A exposição reúne cerca de 600 obras, entre fotos e filmes de arquivo, além de pôsteres de “espetáculos” e objetos usados por cientistas no século 19, como instrumentos para medir os crânios.Nesse período, se desenvolveram noções sobre a raça e o conceito de hierarquia racial, com teses de que os africanos seriam o elo que faltava entre o macaco e os homens brancos ocidentais, ou o “homem normal”, como consideravam os cientistas.A exposição começa com as primeiras chegadas de povos “exóticos” à Europa, trazidos pelos exploradores, como os índios tupinambá, do Brasil, que desfilaram, em 1550, para o rei Henrique 2º em Rouen, na França.Pessoas com deformações físicas e mentais também serviam de atração para as cortes europeias na época.No início do século 19, a exibição de “selvagens” deixou de ser reservada às elites, com o surgimento de “shows étnicos”, que ganharam força com o desenvolvimento da antropologia e a conquista colonial.Londres, que apresentou uma exposição de índios brasileiros Botocudos em 1817, tornou-se a “capital dos espetáculos étnicos”, seguida pela França, Alemanha e Estados Unidos.A exibição em Londres, em 1810, e em Paris, em 1815, da sul-africana Saartje Baartman, conhecida como “Vênus Hotentote” (nome pelo qual sua tribo era conhecida à época), que tinha nádegas proeminentes, marcou uma reviravolta nesse tipo de apresentação.

Indústria de espetáculos

Esses “shows” se profissionalizaram com interesse cada vez maior do público, tornando-se uma indústria de espetáculos de massa, com turnês internacionais.Em Paris, um “vilarejo” africano foi montado próximo à Torre Eiffel em 1895, com apresentações sensacionalistas de mulheres quase nuas e homens tidos como canibais.”É em um contexto expansionista das grandes potências ocidentais e de pesquisa desenfreada dos cientistas que essas exibições vão ganhar legitimidade necessária para existir”, afirmam os organizadores da mostra.Eles dizem que os espetáculos de “diversão” serviam também como instrumento de propaganda para legitimar a colonização.O apogeu dessas exibições ocorreu entre 1890 e os anos 1930.Depois disso, os “shows étnicos” deixaram de existir por razões diversas: falta de interesse do público, surgimento do cinema e desejo das potências de excluir o “selvagem” da propaganda de colonização.A última apresentação desse tipo foi realizada em Bruxelas, em 1958. O “vilarejo congolês” teve de ser fechado devido às críticas na época.Segundo os organizadores da mostra, mais de 1 bilhão de pessoas assistiram aos espetáculos exóticos realizados entre 1800 e 1958.A exposição fica em cartaz no museu do Quai Branly até 3 de junho de 2012.

Scientists: Americans are becoming weather wimps (AP)

By SETH BORENSTEIN

— Jan. 9, 2014 5:33 PM EST

Deep Freeze Weather Wimps

FILE – In this Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, file photo, a person struggles to cross a street in blowing and falling snow as the Gateway Arch appears in the distance, in St. Louis. The deep freeze that gripped much of the nation this week wasn’t unprecedented, but with global warming we’re getting far fewer bitter cold spells, and many of us have forgotten how frigid winter used to be. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — We’ve become weather wimps.

As the world warms, the United States is getting fewer bitter cold spells like the one that gripped much of the nation this week. So when a deep freeze strikes, scientists say, it seems more unprecedented than it really is. An Associated Press analysis of the daily national winter temperature shows that cold extremes have happened about once every four years since 1900.

Until recently.

When computer models estimated that the national average daily temperature for the Lower 48 states dropped to 17.9 degrees on Monday, it was the first deep freeze of that magnitude in 17 years, according to Greg Carbin, warning meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

That stretch — from Jan. 13, 1997 to Monday — is by far the longest the U.S. has gone without the national average plunging below 18 degrees, according to a database of daytime winter temperatures starting in January 1900.

In the past 115 years, there have been 58 days when the national average temperature dropped below 18. Carbin said those occurrences often happen in periods that last several days so it makes more sense to talk about cold outbreaks instead of cold days. There have been 27 distinct cold snaps.

Between 1970 and 1989, a dozen such events occurred, but there were only two in the 1990s and then none until Monday.

“These types of events have actually become more infrequent than they were in the past,” said Carbin, who works at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. “This is why there was such a big buzz because people have such short memories.”

Said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private firm Weather Underground: “It’s become a lot harder to get these extreme (cold) outbreaks in a planet that’s warming.”

And Monday’s breathtaking chill? It was merely the 55th coldest day — averaged for the continental United States — since 1900.

The coldest day for the Lower 48 since 1900 — as calculated by the computer models — was 12 degrees on Christmas Eve 1983, nearly 6 degrees chillier than Monday.

The average daytime winter temperature is about 33 degrees, according to Carbin’s database.

There have been far more unusually warm winter days in the U.S. than unusually cold ones.

Since Jan. 1, 2000, only two days have ranked in the top 100 coldest: Monday and Tuesday. But there have been 13 in the top 100 warmest winter days, including the warmest since 1900: Dec. 3, 2012. And that pattern is exactly what climate scientists have been saying for years, that the world will get more warm extremes and fewer cold extremes.

Nine of 11 outside climate scientists and meteorologists who reviewed the data for the AP said it showed that as the world warms from heat-trapping gas spewed by the burning of fossil fuels, winters are becoming milder. The world is getting more warm extremes and fewer cold extremes, they said.

“We expect to see a lengthening of time between cold air outbreaks due to a warming climate, but 17 years between outbreaks is probably partially due to an unusual amount of natural variability,” or luck, Masters said in an email. “I expect we’ll go far fewer than 17 years before seeing the next cold air outbreak of this intensity.

And the scientists dismiss global warming skeptics who claim one or two cold days somehow disproves climate change.

“When your hands are freezing off trying to scrape the ice off your car, it can be all too tempting to say, ‘Where’s global warming now? I could use a little of that!’ But you know what? It’s not as cold as it used to be anymore,” Texas Tech University climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe said in an email.

The recent cold spell, which was triggered by a frigid air mass known as the polar vortex that wandered way south of normal, could also be related to a relatively new theory that may prove a weather wild card, said Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis. Her theory, which has divided mainstream climate scientists, says that melting Arctic sea ice is changing polar weather, moving the jet stream and causing “more weirdness.”

Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with the private firm Weather Bell Analytics who is skeptical about blaming global warming for weather extremes, dismisses Francis’ theory and said he has concerns about the accuracy of Carbin’s database. Maue has his own daily U.S. average temperature showing that Monday was colder than Carbin’s calculations.

Still, he acknowledged that cold nationwide temperatures “occurred with more regularity in the past.”

Many climate scientists say Americans are weather weenies who forgot what a truly cold winter is like.

“I think that people’s memory about climate is really terrible,” Texas A&M University climate scientist Andrew Dessler wrote in an email. “So I think this cold event feels more extreme than it actually is because we’re just not used to really cold winters anymore.”

Antropólogo francês Bruno Latour fala sobre natureza e política (O Globo)

28.12.2013 | 07h30m

Bruno Latour diz que ‘ecologizar’ é o verbo da vez, mas propõe uma noção de ‘ecologia’ com sentido mais amplo do que o defendido hoje por ativistas e políticos. Para ele, o Brasil, apesar das contradições, é ator fundamental na construção de uma inteligência política e científica para o futuro

Por Fernando Eichenberg, correspondente em Paris

A modernidade é uma falácia, uma ficção inventada para organizar a vida intelectual. Os chamados “modernos” pregam a separação de ciência, política, natureza e cultura, numa teoria distante da realidade do mundo e inadaptada aos desafios impostos neste início de século, acusa o pensador francês Bruno Latour, de 66 anos. “Ecologizar” é verbo da vez, sustenta ele, mas num sentido bem mais amplo do que o espaço compreendido pela ecologia defendida por ativistas e partidos políticos.

— O desenvolvimento da frente de modernização, como se fala de uma frente pioneira na Amazônia, sempre foi, ao contrário, uma extensão de uma quantidade de associações, da marca dos humanos, da intimidade de conexões entre as coisas e as pessoas. A modernidade nunca existiu — dispara Latour, em entrevista ao GLOBO.

Na sua opinião, o Brasil, com todas as suas contradições, é fundamental na possibilidade de um futuro de inovações que gerem um novo tipo de “civilização ecológica”, numa nova “inteligência política e científica”.

Antropólogo, sociólogo e filósofo das ciências, Bruno Latour, que recebeu em maio passado o prestigiado prêmio Holberg de Ciências Humanas, é um dos intelectuais franceses contemporâneos mais traduzidos no exterior. Além de suas originais investigações teóricas, também se aventurou no terreno das artes (com as exposições “Iconoclash” e “Making things public”) e, em outubro, estreou a peça “Gaïa Global Circus”, uma “tragicomédia climática”, que ele espera um dia poder encenar no Jardim Botânico, no Rio. Professor do Instituto de Estudos Políticos de Paris (Sciences-Po), lançou ainda este ano o ensaio “Enquête sur les modes d’existence — Une anthropologie des Modernes” (Investigação sobre os modos de existência – uma antropologia dos Modernos, ed. La Découverte).

Qual a diferença entre “ecologizar” e “modernizar”, segundo seu pensamento?

Modernizar é o argumento que diz que quanto mais nós separamos as questões de natureza e de política, melhor será. Ecologizar é dizer: já que, de fato, não separamos tudo isso, já que a História recente dos humanos na Terra foi o embaraçamento cada vez mais importante das questões de natureza e de sociedade, se é isso que fazemos na prática, então que construamos a política que lhe corresponda em vez de fazer de conta que há uma história subterrânea, aquela das associações, e uma história oficial, que é a de emancipação dos limites da natureza. Ecologizar é um verbo como modernizar, exceto que se trata da prática e não somente da teoria. Mas pode-se dizer “modernidade reflexiva” ou utilizar outros termos. O importante é que haja uma alternativa a modernizar, que não seja arcaica, reacionária. Que seja progressista, mas de uma outra forma, não modernista. Um problema complicado hoje, sobretudo no Brasil. Mas é complicado por todo o lado, na França também. Qualquer dúvida sobre a modernização, se diz que é preciso estancar a frente pioneira, decrescer, voltar ao passado. Isso é impossível. É preciso inovar, descobrir novas formas, e isso se parece com a modernização. Mas é uma modernização que aceita seu passado. E o passado foi uma mistura cada vez mais intensa entre os produtos químicos, as florestas, os peixes, etc. Isso é “ecologizar”. É a instituição da prática e não da teoria.

Qual é a situação e o papel do Brasil neste contexto?

Penso que deve haver uma verdadeira revolução ecológica, não somente no sentido de natureza, e o Brasil é um ator importante. A esperança do mundo repousa muito sobre o Brasil, país com uma enormidade de reservas e de recursos. Se fala muito do movimento da civilização na direção da Ásia, o que não faz muito sentido do ponto de vista ecológico, pois quando se vai a estes países se vê a devastação. Não se pode imaginar uma civilização ecológica vindo da Ásia. No Brasil — e também na Índia — há um pensamento, não simplesmente a força nua, num país em que os problemas ecológicos são colocados em grande escala. Há um verdadeiro pensamento e uma verdadeira arte, o que é muito importante. Se fosse me aposentar, pensaria no Brasil. Brasil e Índia são os dois países nos quais podemos imaginar verdadeiras inovações de civilização, e não simplesmente fazer desenvolvimento sustentável ou reciclagem de lixo. Podem mostrar ao resto do mundo o que a Europa acreditou por muito tempo poder fazer. A Europa ainda poderá colaborar com seu grão de areia, mas não poderá mais inovar muito em termos de construir um quadro de vida, porque em parte já o fez, com cidades ligadas por autoestradas, com belas paisagens e belos museus. Já está feito. Mas numa perspectiva de inventar novas modas e novas formas de existência que nada têm a ver com a economia e a modernização, com a conservação, será preciso muita inteligência política e científica. Não há muitos países que possuem esses recursos. Os Estados Unidos poderiam, mas os perderam há muito tempo, saíram da História quando o presidente George W. Bush disse que o modo de vida dos americanos não era negociável. Brasil e Índia ainda têm essa chance. Mas este é o cenário otimista. O cenário pessimista talvez seja o mais provável.

Qual a hipótese pessimista?

Há os chineses que entram com força no Brasil, por exemplo. Meu amigo Clive Hamilton (pensador australiano) diz que, infelizmente, nada vai acontecer, que se vai fazer uma reengenharia, se vai modernizar numa outra escala e numa outra versão catastrófica. Provavelmente, é o que vai ocorrer, já que não conseguimos decidir nada, e que será preciso ainda assim tomar medidas. Uma hipótese é a de que se vai delegar a Estados ainda mais modernizadores no sentido tradicional e hegemônico a tarefa de reparar a situação por meio de medidas drásticas, sem nada mudar, portanto agravando-a. Mas meu dever é o de ser otimista. Em todo caso, é preciso inventar novas formas para pensar essas questões.

O senhor acompanhou as manifestações de rua no Brasil neste ano que passou?

É uma das razões pelas quais o Brasil é interessante, porque há ao mesmo tempo um dinamismo de invenção política, ligado a outros dinamismos relacionados às ciências, às artes. Há um potencial no Brasil. E há, hoje, uma riqueza. Não são temas que se pode abordar em uma situação de miséria. É preciso algo que se pareça ao bem-estar. Na Índia, se você tem um milhão de pessoas morrendo de fome não pode fazer muito. O Brasil é hoje muito importante para a civilização mundial.

Os partidos ecologistas, na sua opinião, não souberam assimilar estas questões?

Nenhum partido ecologista conseguiu manter uma prática. A ecologia se tornou um domínio, enquanto é uma outra forma de tudo fazer. A ecologia se viu encerrada em um tema, e não é vista como uma outra forma de fazer política. É uma posição bastante difícil. É preciso ao mesmo tempo uma posição revolucionária, pois significa modificar o conjunto dos elementos do sistema de produção. Mas é modificar no nível do detalhe de interconexão de redes técnico-sociais, para as quais não há tradição política. Sabemos o que é imaginar a revolução sem fazê-la, administrar situações estabelecidas melhorando-as, modernizar livrando-se de coisas do passado, mas não sabemos o que é criar um novo sistema de produção inovador, que obriga a tudo mudar, como numa revolução, mas assimilando cada vez mais elementos que estão interconectados. Não há uma tradição política para isso. Não é o socialismo, o liberalismo. E é preciso reconhecer que os partidos verdes, seja na Alemanha, na França, nos EUA não fizeram o trabalho de reflexão intelectual necessária. Como os socialistas, no século XIX, refizeram toda a filosofia, seja marxista ou socialista tradicional, libertária, nas relações com a ciência, na reinvenção da economia. Há uma espécie de ideia de que a questão ecológica era local, e que se podia servir do que chamamos de filosofia da ecologia, que é uma filosofia da natureza, muito impregnada do passado, da conservação. O que é completamente inadaptado a uma revolução desta grandeza. Não podemos criticá-los. Eles tentaram, mas não investiram intelectualmente na escala do problema. Não se deram conta do que quer dizer “ecologizar” em vez de “modernizar”. Imagine o pobre do infeliz responsável pelo transporte público de São Paulo ou de Los Angeles.

A França receberá em 2015 a Conferência Internacional sobre o Clima. Como o senhor avalia esses encontros?

Estamos muito mobilizados aqui na Sciences-Po, porque em 2015 ocorrerá em Paris, e trabalhamos bastante sobre o fracasso da conferência de Copenhague, em 2009. Estamos muito ativos, tanto aqui como no Palácio do Eliseu. Na minha interpretação, o sistema de agregação por nação é demasiado convencional para identificar as verdadeiras linhas de clivagens sobre os combates e as oposições. Cada país é atravessado em seu interior por múltiplas facções, e o sistema de negociação pertence à geopolítica tradicional. E também ainda não admitimos de que se tratam de conflitos políticos importantes. A França aceitou a conferência sem perceber realmente do que se tratava, como um tema político maior. Por quê? Porque ainda não estamos habituados a considerar — e aqui outra diferença entre “ecologizar” e “modernizar” — que as questões de meio ambiente e da natureza são questões de conflito, e não questões que vão nos colocar em acordo. Vocês têm isso no Brasil em relação à Floresta Amazônica. Não é porque se diz “vamos salvar a Floresta Amazônica” que todo mundo vai estar de acordo. Há muita discordância. E isso é muito complicado de entender na mentalidade do que é uma negociação.

Poderá haver avanços em 2015?

Uma das hipóteses que faço para 2015 é a de que é preciso acentuar o caráter conflituoso antes de entrar em negociações. Não começar pela repartição das tarefas, mas admitindo que se está em conflito nas questões da natureza. Os ecologistas têm um pouco a ideia de que no momento em que se fala de natureza e de fatos científicos as pessoas vão se alinhar. Acham que se falar que o atum está desaparecendo os pescadores vão começar a parar de matá-los. Sabe-se há muito tempo que é exatamente o contrário, eles vão rapidamente em busca do último atum. A minha hipótese para 2015 é que se deve tornar visíveis estes conflitos. O que coloca vários problemas de teoria política, de ecologia, de representação, de geografia etc. Talvez 2015 já seja um fracasso como foi 2009. Mas é interessante tentar, talvez seja nossa última chance. Tenho muitas ideias. Faremos um colóquio no Rio de Janeiro em setembro de 2014, organizado por Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, sobre isso. Depois faremos um outro, em Toulouse, para testar os modelos de negociação. Em 2015 faremos um outro aqui na Sciences-Po. A ideia é encontrar alternativas no debate sobre conflitos de mundo. Não é uma questão das pessoas que são a favor do carvão, os que são contra os “climacéticos” etc. Não é a mesma conexão, não é a mesma ciência, não é a mesma confiança na política. São conflitos antropocêntricos. Interessante que as pessoas que assistiram à minha peça de teatro ficaram contentes em ver os conflitos. Na ecologia se faz muita pedagogia, se diz como se deve fazer para salvar a Floresta Amazônica. Mas não se fala muito de conflitos.

Brazil to issue World Cup commemorative coins (AFP)

14 Dec 2013

Handhout picture released on December 13, 2013 by the Central Bank of Brazil showing a 10 Reals gold coin (4 US Dollars), reading “Copa do Mundo da FIFA – Brasil 2014” (FIFA World Cup – Brazil 2014) (Banco Central Do Brasil/AFP)

Brasília — Brazil’s Central Bank on Friday announced plans to issue a set of nine commemorative coins for the 2014 World Cup.

The set, to be released on January 24, will comprise one gold coin, two in silver and six in an alloy of copper and nickel.

The gold coin weighing 4.4. grams (0.155 ounce) will have a nominal value of 10 reais ($4.3) but will be sold for 1180 reais ($504).

It will represent the Cup trophy and a player scoring a goal. Some 5,000 will be minted, the bank said.

Those in silver will have a value of five reais ($2.2) and a weight of 27 grams.

One will represent Fuleco, the 2014 World Cup mascot, and the other the 12 host cities. They will be sold for 190 reais ($81) apiece and 20,000 of each will be sold.

The six cupronickel versions, each with a value of 2 reais ($0.86) and a weight of 10.17 grams, will cost 30 reais ($12.8).

They will represent a dribble, a header or a penalty kick and 20,000 copies of each will be minted.

No Qualms About Quantum Theory (Science Daily)

Nov. 26, 2013 — A colloquium paper published inThe European Physical Journal D looks into the alleged issues associated with quantum theory. Berthold-Georg Englert from the National University of Singapore reviews a selection of the potential problems of the theory. In particular, he discusses cases when mathematical tools are confused with the actual observed sub-atomic scale phenomena they are describing. Such tools are essential to provide an interpretation of the observations, but cannot be confused with the actual object of studies.

The author sets out to demystify a selected set of objections targeted against quantum theory in the literature. He takes the example of Schrödinger’s infamous cat, whose vital state serves as the indicator of the occurrence of radioactive decay, whereby the decay triggers a hammer mechanism designed to release a lethal substance. The term ‘Schrödinger’s cat state’ is routinely applied to superposition of so-called quantum states of a particle. However, this imagined superposition of a dead and live cat has no reality. Indeed, it confuses a physical object with its description. Something as abstract as the wave function − which is a mathematical tool describing the quantum state − cannot be considered a material entity embodied by a cat, regardless of whether it is dead or alive.

Other myths debunked in this paper include the provision of proof that quantum theory is well defined, has a clear interpretation, is a local theory, is not reversible, and does not feature any instant action at a distance. It also demonstrates that there is no measurement problem, despite the fact that the measure is commonly known to disturb the system under measurement. Hence, since the establishment of quantum theory in the 1920s, its concepts are now clearer, but its foundations remain unchanged.

Journal Reference:

  1. Berthold-Georg Englert. On quantum theoryThe European Physical Journal D, 2013; 67 (11) DOI: 10.1140/epjd/e2013-40486-5

The shaman’s-eye view: A Yanomami verdict on us (New Scientist)

18 November 2013 by Daniel L. Everett

Magazine issue 2943S

Book information
The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami shaman by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert (translated by Nicholas Elliott and Alison Dundy)
Published by: Harvard University Press
Price: $39.95

Davi Kopenawa hopes to overturn prejudices towards his people (Image: Vincent Rosenblatt/Camera Press)

In The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami shaman, Davi Kopenawa looks from the other side of the anthropological lens – and the result is a literary treasure

STORIES are quilts. They are patches of brightness sewn together by narratives. And as with a quilt, each patch is chosen, not random. No two people will make the same quilt or tell the same story, even if they choose the same material.

So it is with The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami shaman, one of the first and best autobiographical narratives by an indigenous lowland Amazonian. It is the result of a collaboration between French anthropologist Bruce Albert, who worked among the Yanomami for 38 years, and Davi Kopenawa, a shaman who became spokesman for all Amazonians through his work with indigenous-rights organisation Survival International. Albert wrote the introduction and the conclusion; the rest is Kopenawa, translated.

Each offers his perspective, but the central story is Kopenawa’s, his personal history, the philosophy and spirituality of the Yanomami, and his view of the outsiders who have both attacked and celebrated his people, in Brazil, the US and Europe: the “white people”.

One interpretation of the book is that it is little more than 600-plus pages praising superstition, interspersed with lengthy, mistaken condemnation of modern societies. But this misses the main point: all descriptions of other peoples will be affected by how the writer’s perspective was formed within their own society, simultaneously full of truth and rife with misunderstanding, wrong focus, or attempts – conscious or unconscious – to impose the author’s beliefs.

Kopenawa labels whites as “fierce people” with deliberate irony, playing on the label applied to the Yanomami by some anthropologists, the best known of whom is Napoleon Chagnon. His book about the Yanomami, The Fierce People, is perhaps the bestselling anthropological book of all time. His work has been attacked by Survival International for promoting the idea that the Yanomami are more violent than whites, a view that has informed the work of other academics.

Kopenawa makes it clear that the Yanomami revenge fights are nothing compared with whites’ mastery of destruction, which dwarfs anything the world has seen. So he rejects the label “war” as a description of his people’s violence, saying that they fight over “funerary urns” – the desire to avenge loved ones killed by the sorcery and violence of others.

You may not like the way he portrays whites because, surely, we are not like that? Yet Kopenawa bases his interpretation on personal experience, training and observations – no different from any anthropologist. And the story that emerges of our people is unpleasant. Even when he gets us wrong, The Falling Skyteaches us that it hurts to read partial truths about one’s society from the pen of a largely unsympathetic observer. Just as it hurts the Yanomami. Anthropologists and travel writers, take note.

Yet ironically, the fame of the Yanomami and the interest this book is generating are partly due to anthropologists like Chagnon and their views. Kopenawa condemns the whites who “…continue to lie about us by saying: ‘The Yanomami are fierce. All they think about is warring and stealing women. They are dangerous!’ Such words are our enemies and we detest them.”

The effect whites had on him as a child is more complex, though. “If the white people hadn’t appeared… I would probably also have become a warrior and would have arrowed other Yanomami in anger when I wanted revenge. I have thought to do it. I always contained my evil thoughts… and stayed quiet by thinking of the white people. I would tell myself: ‘If I arrow one of us, those who covet our forest will say I am evil and devoid of wisdom… they are the ones who kill us with their diseases and shotguns. And it is against them… I must direct my anger today!”

Fierceness is indeed a trait of the Yanomami, one that comes from the ancestor spirit Arowë, Kopenawa tells us. But so too are gentleness, hard work, love of family, deep philosophical thought, fun, and more. Your quilt will look different depending on which patch – the one for fierceness, understanding of nature, or love of family – you sew in the centre. None of the quilts is false: each shows the variety of human perceptions and why no quilt, story or book should be taken as “the truth”. The true contribution of this book is to show us the richness of the Yanomami spirit and culture through the eyes of a respected leader of the community.

The author’s name, too, speaks volumes. “Davi” is the name the whites gave him. Kopenawa is his Yanomami name, referring to the vicious kopena wasps found in the area, while the “omamo” part of Yanomamo – as it is sometimes transliterated – means “sons of God”. The book’s title, The Falling Sky, is also significant. It refers both to the periodic destruction of the world in Yanomami lore, and to the threat of final destruction if the “white man” does not adopt more of the Yanomami values.

The book is a mix of autobiography, history, personal philosophy, and cultural criticism of whites for their destruction of the world, worship of the material, and lack of spirituality and vitality. It extols the virtues of Yanomami life and culture and their deity, Omama, placing him at the foundation not only of their culture but of white culture, too. Tellingly, Kopenawa’s first impression of Stonehenge, which served a society that some would label truly fierce, was that it was most likely built by and dwelt in by Omama.

Kopenawa’s life began when he “fell on the ground from the vagina of a Yanomami woman”. Pride in the lack of euphemism and in his origins is evident in this phrase. He has no desire to pretend he is like a white man, though he enjoys being among them. And the book is not only finely detailed and full of challenging philosophical points, it also contains much humour. Take Kopenawa’s reaction on seeing the large populations of Brazilian cities: “White people must never stop copulating.”

More darkly, he reminds us what it is like to be on “the other side” – to be missionised, anthropologised, and regulated by government. These are not pleasant experiences. His story is particularly pointed when he describes the ham-fistedness of Brazilian state employees. He singles out the officious attitudes of the FUNAI, the body that makes and carries out policy relating to indigenous peoples.

The book is also in part the story of anthropologist Bruce Albert. His narrative is clear and compelling as the story of an anthropologist working among a particular people in the Amazon. But the presence of a second narrative dilutes Kopenawa’s story, and overall the book would have been stronger without it – though it would, no doubt, make an excellent stand-alone book.

Ultimately, it is Kopenawa’s voice that tells us who he is, who his people are, and who we are to them. It is complex and nuanced; I’d go so far as to callThe Falling Skya literary treasure: invaluable as academic reading, but also a must for anyone who wants to understand more of the diverse beauty and wonder of existence.

This article appeared in print under the headline “Those fierce white people”

Daniel L. Everett is dean of arts and sciences at Bentley University, Massachusetts. His latest book is Language: The cultural tool (Profile). He has translated for Davi Kopenawa, and lived with the Amazonian Pirahã people and studied their language

As causas da grande mobilização indígena (Outras Palavras)

Ambiente

07/10/2013 – 11h49

por Marcelo Degrazia*

 As causas da grande mobilização indígena

Quais os projetos de mineradoras, madeireiras e ruralistas para avançar sobre territórios e direitos dos índios. Como tramitam, em silêncio, no Congresso Nacional

A Mobilização Nacional Indígena, deflagrada ao longo desta semana, é uma luta pela defesa dos direitos indígenas adquiridos e para barrar uma avalanche devastadora, liderada pela Frente Parlamentar do Agronegócio. A luta é pela terra, sua posse e uso. A convocação foi da Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (Apib) e envolve organizações indígenas e indigenistas de diversas partes do país, agora articuladas e em luta.

A linha do tempo vai até as caravelas de Cabral, mas vamos tomá-la a partir deste ano, para compreender melhor o contexto atual. Em 16 de abril, cerca de 300 índios ocuparam o plenário da Câmara, em protesto contra a instalação de Comissão Especial para analisar a Proposta de Emenda Constitucional (PEC) 215, que torna praticamente impossível a demarcação das terras indígenas, ao tirar esta prerrogativa da Fundação Nacional do Índio (Funai) e transferi-la ao Congresso Nacional.

Na ocasião o presidente da Câmara, Henrique Eduardo Alves (PMDB-RN), prometeu não instalar a comissão antes do final de agosto. A Casa criou então um grupo de trabalho para discutir a condição dos índios no Brasil, cujo relatório seria um subsídio importante para a decisão de constituir ou não a comissão. Integraram o grupo lideranças indígenas, deputados ruralistas e parlamentares que defendem os direitos dos índios. Segundo Lincoln Portela (PR-MG), mediador do grupo, “basicamente aprovamos a rejeição da PEC 215.” A rejeição, concluindo pela inconstitucionalidade do projeto, foi por unanimidade dos presentes, já que nenhum parlamentar da frente do agronegócio compareceu às reuniões.

Na noite de 10 de setembro, contrariando o parecer do grupo de trabalho criado por ele mesmo, Henrique Eduardo Alves instituiu a Comissão Especial para analisar a PEC 215. Alves estaria atendendo compromisso assumido com a bancada ruralista durante sua campanha para a presidência da Câmara. Muitos dos 27 deputados indicados então para a Comissão Especial integram a frente do agronegócio e são autores de projetos que suprimem direitos dos índios, como veremos.

Nessa semana da Mobilização, Alves pretendia instalar a Comissão Especial, com a indicação do relator e do presidente – mas teve de recuar diante das manifestações.

A PEC 215, de 2000, é de autoria do ex-deputado Almir Sá (PRB-RR), atualmente presidente da Federação da Agricultura e Pecuária de Roraima. Ela estabelece a competência exclusiva do Congresso Nacional para aprovar a demarcação das terras tradicionalmente ocupadas pelos indígenas e ratificar as demarcações já homologadas – hoje atribuições exclusivas do Executivo, que as executa por meio da Fundação Nacional do Índio (Funai). Na avaliação de organizações indígenas e indigenistas, na prática significará o fim de novas demarcações. O risco não seria apenas para o futuro, mas também para hoje, pois das 1.046 terras já demarcadas apenas 363 estão regularizadas. As demais, ainda em processo por vários fatores, ficariam com sua homologação na dependência do Congresso. “Como contamos nos dedos quantos congressistas defendem a causa indígena, com certeza nenhuma terra será demarcada”, considera Ceiça Pitaguary, líder do movimento indígena do Ceará.

“A PEC é flagrantemente inconstitucional”, afirmou Dalmo Dallari, professor de direito da Universidade de São Paulo, ao Instituto Socioambiental (ISA): ela não respeita a separação dos poderes. As demarcações e homologações são atribuições do Executivo, procedimentos de natureza administrativa; ao Legislativo compete legislar e fiscalizar. Para alguns antropólogos, o direito à ocupação dessas terras é originário, e está assegurado na Constituição – as demarcações são apenas reconhecimento desse direito pré-existente.

A opinião de Carlos Frederico Maré, professor da Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná vai na mesma direção. Ex-presidente da Funai, ele sustenta que a demarcação é um procedimento eminentemente técnico. Em entrevista ao ISA, disse que “a Constituição não deu direito à demarcação. Deu direito à terra. A demarcação é só o jeito de dizer qual é a terra. Quando se coloca todo o direito sobre a demarcação retira-se o direito à terra, porque então ele só existirá se houver demarcação. É isso que está escrito na PEC: que não há mais direitos originários sobre a terra. Muda-se a Constituição, eliminando-se um direito nela inscrito.”

O Projeto de Lei (PL) 1.610, de 1996, de autoria do senador Romero Jucá (PMDB-RR), dispõe sobre a exploração e o aproveitamento de recursos minerais em terras indígenas. Foi apresentado a pretexto de defender o “interesse nacional” (a ser explorado pela iniciativa privada, conforme o Código de Mineração). Se aprovado, irá se converter em lei complementar ao artigo 231 (Capítulo VIII) da Constituição. O senador pediu regime de urgência. Quer votar, portanto, sem muita discussão, e a matéria só não foi submetida à apreciação da Casa devido à mobilização em torno do tema. Na prática, talvez seja tão ou ainda mais danosa que a PEC 215. E não seria de duvidar que esta estaria sendo o boi de piranha, já que o governo mostrou-se receptivo ao PL 1.610.

Já o PL 227, de 2012, retrata cruamente um dos aspectos centrais do chamado “sequestro da democracia” pelas instituições que deveriam expressá-la. Foi proposto pelo deputado Homero Pereira (PSD-MT), ex-presidente da Frente Parlamentar do Agronegócio, a princípio com redação que visava dificultar as futuras demarcações de terras indígenas. Fazia-o diluindo atribuições da Funai e incluindo, entre as comissões encarregadas de definir novos territórios, os proprietários de terra. Já em sua origem era, portanto, anti-indígena.

Mas tornou-se muito pior, ao tramitar pela comissão de Agricultura, Pecuária e Desenvolvimento Rural da Câmara. Sem que tenha havido debate algum com a sociedade, os deputados que integram a comissão transformaram inteiramente sua redação. Converteram-no num projeto de lei que, se aprovado, revogará na prática, pela porta dos fundos, o Artigo 231 da Constituição.

Tal dispositivo trata dos direitos indígenas. Reconhece “sua organização social, costumes, línguas, crenças e tradições e os direitos originários sobre as terras que tradicionalmente ocupam”. Estabelece uma única exceção: em situações extremas, em que houvesse “relevante interesse público da União”a exclusividade dos indígenas seria flexibilizada e seus territórios poderiam conviver com outros tipos de uso. Esta possibilidade, rara, precisaria ser definida em lei complementar.

Na redação inteiramente nova que assumiu, o PL 227/2012 é transformado nesta lei complementar. E estabelece, já em seu artigo 1º, um vastíssimo leque de atividades que poderão ser praticadas nas terras indígenas. Estão incluídas mineração, construção de hidrelétricas, rodovias, ferrovias, portos, aeroportos, oleodutos, gasodutos, campos de treinamento militar e muitos outros.

Um inciso (o VIII), de redação obscura, procura ampliar ainda mais as possibilidades de violação dos territórios índios. Estabelece que é também “de relevante interesse público da União” a “legítima ocupação, domínio e posse de terras privadas em 5 de outubro de 1988”. Embora pouco claro, o texto dá margem a uma interpretação radical. A data mencionada é a da entrada em vigor da Constituição – quando foram reconhecidos os atuais direitos indígenas. Estariam legitimados, portanto, os “domínios e posses de terras privadas” existentes antes da Carta atual. Em outras palavras, a legislação recuaria no tempo, para anular na prática as demarcações que reconheceram território indígena e afastaram deles os ocupantes ilegítimos.

A PEC 237, de 2013, é de iniciativa do deputado Nelson Padovani (PSC-PR), titular do PSC na Comissão Especial da PEC 215, integrante da comissão do PL 1.610 e um dos signatários do pedido de criação da CPI da Funai, uma das estratégias da Frente para enfraquecer o órgão federal, já penalizado por redução de verbas. Essa PEC, se aprovada, tornará possível a posse indireta de terras indígenas a produtores rurais na forma de concessão. Será a porta de entrada do agronegócio aos territórios demarcados, e essa possibilidade tem tirado o sono de indígenas e indigenistas.

portaria 303, de iniciativa da Advocacia Geral da União (AGU) em 16/07/2012, é outro dispositivo que tolhe direitos indígenas, com tom autoritário, em especial no inciso V do art. 1º, em que o usufruto dos índios não se sobrepõe ao interesse da política de defesa nacional (!), à instalação de bases, unidades e postos militares e demais intervenções militares, à expansão estratégica da malha viária, à exploração de alternativas energéticas de cunho estratégico e ao resguardo das riquezas de cunho estratégico, a critério dos órgãos competentes (Ministério da Defesa e Conselho de Defesa Nacional), projetos esses que serão implementados independentemente de consulta às comunidades indígenas envolvidas ou à Funai (grifo nosso).

É a pavimentação para o avanço econômico do capitalismo sem fronteiras, além de contrariar a Convenção 169 da OIT (Organização Internacional do Trabalho), de 1989, assinada pelo Brasil, a qual assegura o direito de os povos indígenas serem consultados, de forma livre e informada, antes de serem tomadas decisões que possam afetar seus bens ou direitos.

Todas essas iniciativas legais têm por objetivo possibilitar o avanço do agronegócio e da exploração de lavras minerais sobre as terras indígenas. Assim se permitiria inclusive a intrusão em territórios de nações não contatadas. Basta um simples olhar na autoria dos projetos, na trajetória negocial de seus autores e apoiadores, em suas relações comerciais com o agronegócio nacional e estrangeiro e na sua atuação articulada através de uma Frente Parlamentar para se ter certeza de que o interesse econômico é privado, setorista e excludente, em nada aparentado ao interesse nacional, do bem comum ou da União. Se há diversificação de interesses nos projetos, é na razão direta da fome, mas de lucros, do agronegócio, da bancada ruralista, das mineradoras, das madeireiras e empreiteiras.

Marcelo Degrazia é escritor. Autor de A Noite dos Jaquetas-Pretas e do blog Concerto de Letras.

** Publicado originalmente no site Outras Palavras.

IPCC climate report: humans ‘dominant cause’ of warming – and other articles (BBC)

27 September 2013 Last updated at 09:12 GMT

By Matt McGrathEnvironment correspondent, BBC News, Stockholm

Climate change “threatens our planet, our only home”, warns Thomas Stocker, IPCC co-chair

A landmark report says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s.

The report by the UN’s climate panel details the physical evidence behind climate change.

On the ground, in the air, in the oceans, global warming is “unequivocal”, it explained.

It adds that a pause in warming over the past 15 years is too short to reflect long-term trends.

The panel warns that continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all aspects of the climate system.

To contain these changes will require “substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”.

Infographic

Projections are based on assumptions about how much greenhouse gases might be released

After a week of intense negotiations in the Swedish capital, the summary for policymakers on the physical science of global warming has finally been released.

The first part of an IPCC trilogy, due over the next 12 months, this dense, 36-page document is considered the most comprehensive statement on our understanding of the mechanics of a warming planet.

It states baldly that, since the 1950s, many of the observed changes in the climate system are “unprecedented over decades to millennia”.

Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface, and warmer than any period since 1850, and probably warmer than any time in the past 1,400 years.

“Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and that concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased,” said Qin Dahe, co-chair of IPCC working group one, who produced the report.

Speaking at a news conference in the Swedish capital, Prof Thomas Stocker, another co-chair, said that climate change “challenges the two primary resources of humans and ecosystems, land and water. In short, it threatens our planet, our only home”.

Since 1950, the report’s authors say, humanity is clearly responsible for more than half of the observed increase in temperatures.

Dr Rajendra Pachauri said he was confident the report would convince the public on global climate change

But a so-called pause in the increase in temperatures in the period since 1998 is downplayed in the report. The scientists point out that this period began with a very hot El Nino year.

“Trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends,” the report says.

Prof Stocker, added: “I’m afraid there is not a lot of public literature that allows us to delve deeper at the required depth of this emerging scientific question.

“For example, there are not sufficient observations of the uptake of heat, particularly into the deep ocean, that would be one of the possible mechanisms to explain this warming hiatus.”

“Likewise we have insufficient data to adequately assess the forcing over the last 10-15 years to establish a relationship between the causes of the warming.”

However, the report does alter a key figure from the 2007 study. The temperature range given for a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere, called equilibrium climate sensitivity, was 2.0C to 4.5C in that report.

In the latest document, the range has been changed to 1.5C to 4.5C. The scientists say this reflects improved understanding, better temperature records and new estimates for the factors driving up temperatures.

In the summary for policymakers, the scientists say that sea level rise will proceed at a faster rate than we have experienced over the past 40 years. Waters are expected to rise, the document says, by between 26cm (at the low end) and 82cm (at the high end), depending on the greenhouse emissions path this century.

The scientists say ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for 90% of energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010.

For the future, the report states that warming is projected to continue under all scenarios. Model simulations indicate that global surface temperature change by the end of the 21st Century is likely to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, relative to 1850.

Prof Sir Brian Hoskins, from Imperial College London, told BBC News: “We are performing a very dangerous experiment with our planet, and I don’t want my grandchildren to suffer the consequences of that experiment.”

What is the IPCC?

In its own words, the IPCC is there “to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts”.

The offspring of two UN bodies, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, it has issued four heavyweight assessment reports to date on the state of the climate.

These are commissioned by the governments of 195 countries, essentially the entire world. These reports are critical in informing the climate policies adopted by these governments.

The IPCC itself is a small organisation, run from Geneva with a full time staff of 12. All the scientists who are involved with it do so on a voluntary basis.

Document

PDF download IPCC Summary for Policymakers

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Por trás do desmatamento da Amazônia (Fapesp)

Mais de 50% das emissões de gases de efeito estufa do bioma são causados pela demanda do restante do país e do exterior por insumos produzidos na região, aponta estudo feito na USP (Nasa)

Especiais

20/09/2013

Por Elton Alisson

Agência FAPESP – O consumo interno do Brasil e as exportações de soja, carne bovina e outros produtos primários provenientes da Amazônia são responsáveis por mais da metade das taxas de desmatamento e, consequentemente, das emissões de gases de efeito estufa (GEE) registradas pelo bioma.

A avaliação é de um estudo realizado por pesquisadores da Faculdade de Economia, Administração e Contabilidade (FEA), da Universidade de São Paulo (USP), no âmbito de um Projeto Temático, realizado no Programa FAPESP de Pesquisa sobre Mudanças Climáticas Globais (PFPMCG).

Os resultados do estudo foram apresentados no dia 12 de setembro durante a 1ª Conferência Nacional de Mudanças Climáticas Globais (Conclima), realizada pela FAPESP em parceria com a Rede Brasileira de Pesquisa sobre Mudanças Climáticas Globais (Rede Clima) e o Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia para Mudanças Climáticas (INCT-MC), em São Paulo.

“Mais da metade das emissões de GEE da Amazônia acontecem por conta da demanda de consumo fora da região, para abastecimento interno do país ou para exportação”, disse Joaquim José Martins Guilhoto, professor da FEA e um dos pesquisadores participantes do projeto.

De acordo com dados apresentados pelo pesquisador, obtidos do segundo Inventário Nacional de Emissões de Gases de Efeito Estufa – publicado no final de 2010, abrangendo o período de 1990 a 2005 –, em 2005 o Brasil emitiu mais de 2,1 gigatoneladas de CO2 equivalente. A Amazônia contribui com mais de 50% das emissões de GEE do país.

A fim de identificar e entender os fatores econômicos causadores do desmatamento e, por conseguinte, das emissões de GEE na Amazônia naquele ano, os pesquisadores fizeram um mapeamento das emissões diretas por atividade produtiva separando a Região Amazônica do restante do Brasil e calcularam a parcela de contribuição de cada um na emissão de CO2 equivalente, assim como a participação das exportações.

Os cálculos revelaram que as exportações diretas da Amazônia são responsáveis por 16,98% das emissões de GEE da região. Já as exportações do resto do país são responsáveis por mais 6,29% das emissões da Amazônia, uma vez que há produtos provenientes da região que são processados e exportados por outros estados brasileiros.

O consumo interno, por sua vez, responde por 46,13% das emissões amazônicas, sendo 30,01% pelo consumo no restante do país e 16,12% pelo consumo dentro da própria Região Amazônica, aponta o estudo.

“A soma desses percentuais demonstra que mais de 50% das emissões de GEE da Amazônia ocorrem por conta do consumo de bens produzidos na região, mas consumidos fora dela”, afirmou Guilhoto. “Essa constatação indica que os fatores externos são mais importantes para explicar as emissões de GEE pela Amazônia.”

Segundo o estudo, a pecuária, a produção de soja e de outros produtos agropecuários são os setores produtivos que mais contribuem para as emissões de GEE pela Amazônia. Mas, além deles, há outros setores econômicos, como o de mobiliário, entre outros, que são fortemente dependentes de insumos produzidos na região.

“Os dados obtidos no estudo mostram que, de modo geral, apesar de haver uma dependência muito maior da Amazônia pelos insumos produzidos pelo resto do Brasil, a pouca dependência que o resto do Brasil tem do bioma se dá em insumos fortemente relacionados com a emissão de GEE na região”, resumiu Guilhoto.

Redução do desmatamento

Em outro estudo também realizado por pesquisadores da FEA, no âmbito do Projeto Temático, constatou-se que entre 2002 e 2009 houve uma grande expansão da área de produção agropecuária brasileira e, ao mesmo tempo, uma redução drástica das taxas de desmatamento da Amazônia.

A cana-de-açúcar, a soja e o milho responderam por 95% da expansão líquida da área colhida entre 2002 e 2009, enquanto o rebanho bovino teve um acréscimo de 26 milhões de cabeças de gado. Nesse mesmo período a Amazônia registrou uma queda de 79% do desmatamento.

A fim de investigar os principais vetores do desmatamento no país, uma vez que boa parte dos eventos de expansão agropecuária ocorre fora da Amazônia, os pesquisadores fizeram um estudo usando análises espaciais integradas do território brasileiro, incluindo os seis biomas do país.

Para isso, utilizaram dados sobre desmatamento obtidos do Projeto Prodes, do Ministério do Meio Ambiente (MMA) e do Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais (Ibama), além de imagens georreferenciadas obtidas dos satélites Landsat, da agência espacial norte-americana Nasa.

O estudo revelou que, no período de 2002 a 2009, foram desmatados 12,062 milhões de hectares da Amazônia, 10,015 milhões de hectares do Cerrado, 1,846 milhão de hectares da Caatinga, 447 mil hectares do Pantanal, 375 mil hectares da Mata Atlântica e 257 mil hectares do Pampa.

“A soma desses números indica que o Brasil desmatou em sete anos o equivalente ao Estado de São Paulo mais o Triângulo Mineiro ou uma Grã-Bretanha”, calculou Rafael Feltran-Barbieri, pesquisador da FEA e um dos autores do estudo.

De acordo com o pesquisador, uma das principais conclusões do estudo foi que os outros biomas estão funcionando como uma espécie de “amortecedor” do desmatamento da Amazônia.

“Quando consideramos a expansão agropecuária do Brasil como um todo, vemos que boa parte da redução das taxas de desmatamento da Amazônia se deve ao fato de que os outros biomas estão sofrendo essas consequências [registrando aumento no desmatamento]”, afirmou.

Outra conclusão do estudo é de que há um impacto espacial sinérgico dos vetores do desmatamento no Brasil, uma vez que a expansão das diversas atividades agropecuárias – como o cultivo da cana e da soja ou a criação de gado – ocorre de forma concomitante e disputa território.

No caso da cana-de-açúcar, uma das constatações foi que, no período de 2002 a 2009, a cultura passou a ocupar áreas desmatadas por outras atividades agropecuárias, embora ela própria não tenha vocação para desmatar.

“Estamos percebendo que existe uma formação quase complementar entre as expansões [nos diferentes biomas] e isso faz com que os efeitos de desmatamento sejam altamente correlacionados”, disse Feltran-Barbieri.

“Essa constatação leva à conclusão de que, se o Brasil pretende assumir uma posição de fato responsável em relação às mudanças climáticas – e disso depende a agropecuária –, é preciso fazer planejamento estratégico do território, porque o planejamento setorial não está dando conta de compreender esses efeitos sinérgicos”, avaliou.

Paraíso sitiado (O Globo)

O drama dos índios Awá e a resistência de seu povo que tenta impedir a ação criminosa de madeireiros na Reserva Biológica Gurupi, onde o território indígena já perdeu 30% de sua paisagem original.

REPORTAGEM: MÍRIAM LEITÃO – FOTOS: SEBASTIÃO SALGADO

Vídeos

QUANDO A SOBREVIVÊNCIA EXIGE CORAGEM

O drama do povo Awá na luta contra o desmatamento na Reserva Biológica Gurupi

TESTEMUNHAS DA HISTÓRIA AWÁ

A repórter Míriam Leitão fala do privilégio de acompanhar o fotógrafo Sebastião Salgado pela Aldeia Juriti

A IMPUNIDADE ROMPE O SILÊNCIO DA NOITE

Míriam Leitão flagra madeireiros em ação à noite numa serraria clandestina no interior do Maranhão

Sobreviver com coragem

Considerados um dos últimos povos caçadores e coletores do planeta, os poucos mais de 400 Awá que povoam o que restou da Floresta Amazônica no Maranhão vivem o momento mais decisivo de sua sobrevivência: impedir que grileiros, posseiros e madeireiros destruam o seu mais valioso bem. É das árvores e da mata densa situadas na Reserva Biológica do Gurupi, de onde tiram o seu alimento, a sua certeza de amanhã poderem garantir a continuação de seu povo, de sua gente. Eles não querem nada mais do que a garantia do governo federal de que não terão o seu terrítório devastado pela ganância do homem branco, que avança a passos largos em busca de madeira nobre.

Apesar de sua terra já estar demarcada, homologada e registrada com 116.582 hectares pela União, eles enfrentam uma ameaça real de assistir à destruição da floresta da qual são tão dependentes e de onde tiram o sustento de seus filhos. Ainda que a Justiça já tenha determinada a retirada desses ‘intrusos’ ou não índios, como define a Funai, os Awá temem pela própria sorte, se afirmam em sua coragem e não vacilam quando veem sua resistência em xeque. “Não temos medo. Vamos resistir”, dizem em discursos emocionados.

A repórter Míriam Leitão, a convite do renomado fotógrafo Sebastião Salgado, viajou até a Aldeia Juriti e pôde comprovar como os Awá vivem essa dramática expectativa. Neste ambiente especial, que complementa a série de reportagens publicadas na edição dominical de O GLOBO, o leitor poderá saber mais do cotidiano dos chamados ‘índios invisíveis’, como vivem, e como reverenciam a sua sagrada cultura.

Sem Título-1Reserva Biológica Gurupi
Terra Indígena Awa
Terra Indígena Caru
Terra Indígena Alto Turiaçu

Áudio

A AMEAÇA DOS MADEIREIROS

Sebastião Salgado se prepara para fotografar os Awá

O DISCURSO AWÁ

Ouça trecho da fala de uma das lideranças Awá

DENÚNCIA

A repórter Míriam Leitão flagra a ação ilegal de madeireiros em uma serraria

O JOVEM GUERREIRO JUI’I

Ouça trecho de seu discurso

OS ÍNDIOS INVISÍVEIS

O antropólogo Uirá Garcia fala sobre a cultura Awá

O CANTO DA CAÇA

Ouça o canto do jovem guerreiro antes de ir à caça

“NÓS TEMOS CORAGEM TAMBÉM”

O jovem guerreiro Jui’i fala da ameaça dos madeireiros

Textos

A LUTA CONTRA A DESTRUIÇÃO DOS MADEIREIROS

Awás tentam sobreviver à ação criminosa dos desmatadores

PARA OS AWÁ, A TRAGÉDIA DO DESMATAMENTO ATINGE A TERRA E O CÉU

Fim da floresta os impedirá de virar ‘Karauaras’, seres que habitam o mundo após a morte

SILENCIOSOS, AWÁ SE CONFUNDEM COM A MATA

Audição acima dos padrões comuns permite ouvir som da devastação a quilômetros

‘ESTAMOS BRAVOS. ASSIM ELES VÃO NOS MATAR’, DIZ LIDERANÇA AWÁ

Após vencer a desconfiança dos índios, ouve-se o desabafo: ‘Quero ficar na minha casa’

FOTOGALERIA

Os Awás pelas lentes de Sebastião Salgado

MADEIREIROS IMPÕEM SUA LEI

Em emboscadas, comerciantes de madeira demostram ter mais força do que a Polícia Federal e a Força Nacional juntas

NO CAMINHO DA VOLTA, O ENCONTRO COM O CRIME

Na estradas que ligam terra Awá, grileiros, serrarias e caminhões agem na certeza da impunidade

MINISTRO: RETIRADA DE TERRA AWÁ TERÁ PF, IBAMA E EXÉRCITO

Ministro da Justiça programa operação, atrasada pela vinda do Papa, já para este semestre

REPORTAGEM: MÍRIAM LEITÃO | FOTOS: SEBASTIÃO SALGADO | EDIÇÃO: DANIEL BIASETTO | MAPA: DANIEL LIMA | ARTE E DESENVOLVIMENTO: GUSTAVO SARAIVA | DESENVOLVIMENTO: AYRTON TESHIMA

Os Awá-Guajá viram bichos-pau (Yahoo! Notícias)

Por  – ter, 20 de ago de 2013

As primeiras fotos de índios surgiram no início mesmo da invenção e popularização dos daguerreótipos e câmeras fotográficas. Pelo Oeste americano intrépidos aventureiros arriscavam suas vidas e suas imensas geringonças para obter um clique de um grupo de guerreiros a cavalo, um retrato de um chefe indígena Sioux, Apache ou Comanche engalonado em suas casacas de couro de búfalo e seus exuberantes cocares de pena de águia. Posavam hirtos, de cara dura, olhando para o horizonte infinito, como se estivessem em alguma solenidade com autoridades estrangeiras, quem sabe, o próprio presidente americano, manifestando sua dignidade humana para preservar ou recuperar seus territórios e ocupar um lugar digno no novo mundo que se criava ao seu redor.

Mas o destino lhes foi cruel demais.

Das fotos solenes, ao final dos anos de resistência (1830-1880) em que o Oeste foi definitivamente incorporado aos Estados Unidos da América, passou-se à dessacralização dos índios, quando até um líder de grande respeito, como Touro Sentado, chefe dos Sioux que destroçou o 6º Regimento de William Custer, na famosa batalha de Little Big Horn, se submeteu a ser uma das estrelas do famoso circo do fanfarrão Buffalo Bill, montando cavalos, dando gritos de guerra e empunhando um rifle winchester com balas de festim. O Wild West Circus fez história se apresentando nas cidades e bribocas que se formavam por todo o imenso centro-oeste americano. Mutatis mutandi, não pensem que no Brasil seja diferente!

As primeiras fotos de índios brasileiros, passado o tempo de viajantes estrangeiros fazendo desenhos e aquarelas, foram tiradas em cidades como Manaus e Cuiabá. Marc Ferrez, famoso por suas fotos do Rio de Janeiro, conseguiu levar um grupo de 11 índios Bororo para um studio em Cuiabá e os fotografou com maestria, mostrando como seres humanos dignos, em toda sua nudez virtuosa, ainda em 1880.

Indios Bororo , coleção Gilberto Ferrez

Indios Bororo , coleção Gilberto Ferrez

No campo, nas matas, nos cerrados, ao vivo em seus ambientes, fotos de índios brasileiros vão surgir pelas lentes de viajantes, cientistas e, no começo do século XX, pela Comissão Rondon, que percorreu todo o oeste do Mato Grosso, Rondônia e várias partes da Amazônia. Os índios aparecem ora desnudos completamente, com algum pano, uma tanga inventada na hora, ora vestidos em camisas sem gola, manga comprida, calças simples, como os pobres brasileiros da época, pés descalços, um ou outro em uniforme militar, as mulheres de saia e os seis expostos. Exceto nas missões, quando as saias desciam até os calcanhares.

A coloração em preto, cinza e branca dessas fotos é do tipo que hoje se chama sépia, a qual faz as imagens se diferenciarem tão somente pela textura e forma dos objetos, como se o mundo fosse uma penumbra. Visualizando isso, o espectador precisava de um esforço intelectual para ver e dar significado às distintas imagens. Por esse esforço as imagens ganhavam um significado muito além do real corriqueiro. De algum modo elas se sacralizavam, como se fosse um objeto antigo ou precioso. Daí porque naqueles tempos tornara-se de praxe os amigos se presentearem com retratos, que eram solenemente expostos nas salas e nos escritórios. Daí porque as fotos eram tratadas com reverência e carinho, e eram beijadas como se representassem as pessoas vivas.

A nitidez da coloração das fotos, desde os anos 1960, mudou o modo como as vemos e elas foram aos poucos se vulgarizando, tanto pela banalidade de sua existência quanto principalmente pelo realismo que elas nos evocam. A arte da fotografia, consequentemente, passou a requerer mais sutileza de luzes para obter algum senso de sacralidade do objeto visado.

E aqui chegamos ao objetivo desse artigo – as fotos tiradas pelo fotógrafo profissional Sebastião Salgado dos índios Awá-Guajá, do Maranhão, recentemente publicadas pelo jornal O Globo, em reportagem de Miriam Leitão.

Nessas fotos, os Guajá, a última sociedade a viver quase que exclusivamente da caça, pesca e coleta de animais, frutos e tubérculos da floresta, são fotografados em coloração sépia, com pouca luz, sob um fundo “natural” de árvores, raízes e chão. Apresentam-se nus, os homens com seus prepúcios amarrados com fibras de tucum, braceletes e auréolas de penas, meninos e meninas sem nada, e as mulheres em seus saiotes tecidos de fibras de tucum, bem como as tipóias em que carregam seus bebês.

Algumas fotos, talvez as que mais calaram fundo com os propósitos do fotógrafo mineiro-europeu, trazem grupos de homens e meninos adornados a caráter, todos em pé, fisionomias sérias, porém mudos e imóveis, arcos à mão, numa clara alusão de que são parte da floresta que lhes ladeia como o cenário de fundo e de compartilhamento.

Nas fotos de Salgado não há informação etnográfica, exceto aquela em que um caçador, que o reconheço pelo nome de Mutumhû, porta um macaco guariba morto pendurado às suas costas, com um olhar de inadvertida preocupação. Não sabemos como vivem os Guajá, como se alimentam, como amam e cuidam dos filhos, como se divertem e como sofrem. Não há tempo aqui. Nem eternidade, nem instantaneidade. Tempo morto.

A jornalista Miriam Leitão, emocionada com o quê viu, produziu alguns textos nos quais procura mostrar que os Guajá estão em perigo de sobrevivência, ecoando inadvertidamente as matérias da Survival International, uma ONG inglesa que alardeia que os Guajá são o povo em maior grau de perigo de sobrevivência do mundo. No total, os Guajá somam cerca de 360 pessoas, mas eram menos de 200 na década de 1980. A terra indígena visitada por Salgado e Leitão, chamada de Awá-Guajá, está parcialmente invadida por madeireiros e posseiros, sem dúvida, mas não consta nas matérias informação sobre por que isto está acontecendo e se a presença da FUNAI é eficiente ou não para deter esse perigo e para dar assistência aos índios. Por que tudo está tão ruim no indigenismo brasileiro da atualidade?

Os Guajá, em virtude de sua característica cultural de mobilidade, se dispersaram há mais de 100 anos por uma vasta área do oeste maranhense, e hoje se encontram morando em quatro terras indígenas, com pouco contato entre si. A terra indígena Awá-Guajá, com 116.000 hectares, conecta as terras indígenas Caru (172.000 ha) e Alto Turiaçu (530.000 ha), que juntas somam 718.000 hectares, compartilhadas com os povos Guajajara e Kaapor. Em vários trechos delas os últimos madeireiros do Maranhão se esbaldam, traçando picadas pelo meio da mata por onde passam seus tratores e caminhões carregados de toras de madeira de lei, sob as vistas grossas de alguns índios não Guajá, cooptados por migalhas, com rara presença do órgão indigenista, ultimamente em completa inatividade e decadência.

Aqueles Guajá que residem na Terra Indígena Awá-Guajá são, por ironia, os que estão mais bem protegidos por funcionários dedicados do órgão indigenista, funcionários que passam às vezes mais de 60 dias sem saírem do posto indígena perto do qual se fixou, há mais de 20 anos, o grupo Guajá visitado. Na verdade, o posto indígena não existe mais, foi extinto por um decreto presidencial, e só por teimosia é que os resolutos funcionários nele permanecem. É provável que tenham que se retirar de vez ainda este mês. Se ao menos essa informação e um pouco do histórico da luta desigual que esses funcionários travam para manter a dignidade dos índios, à indiferença das atitudes do poder federal, fossem divulgados aos leitores, algo mais verdadeiro e esperançoso teria surgido dessa expedição e das fotos obtidas.

Ilustrar com fotos artísticas e etnograficamente relevantes para informar o espectador e sensibilizá-lo para a causa indígena tem sido o mais nobre dos propósitos de fotógrafos e jornalistas. Neste caso, a informação jornalística sem dúvida pode pressionar o governo a tomar as medidas necessárias para seguir as ordens judiciais, exaradas há algum tempo pela Justiça Federal do Maranhão, para retirar de uma vez por todas todos os invasores que teimam em permanecer nessa terra, e coibir definitivamente as atividades destrutivas dos madeireiros. Nada disso é fácil, nas circunstâncias do anti-indigenismo oficial que estamos vivenciando. Este é o sentido que se esperava desta reportagem publicada em O Globo pelos dois competentes profissionais da informação.

Porém, para além desse propósito, as fotos de Sebastião Salgado têm um objetivo considerado transcendente. Salgado está engajado num projeto patrocinado por financiadores particulares e chancelado pela ONU com o intuito visionário, e, dir-se-ia, poético, no sentido de criativo, de captar do mundo atual, tão diversificado na natureza e nas culturas, mas tão dilapidado e com tendência à homogeneização, aquilo que representaria a gênese mesmo da Terra, da vida e do homem. Uma espécie de arqueologia ao vivo.

Assim, Salgado vem fotografando geleiras intocáveis, vulcões flamejantes, montanhas inalcançáveis e povos remotos e “imutáveis” na África, Ásia e Américas. Há sete anos passou um mês morando em duas aldeias dos índios do Alto Xingu capturando sua vida autêntica ao máximo. Durante a cerimônia do Kwarup, quando os índios celebram o fim de um período de luto pela morte de um parente respeitado, Salgado fez questão absoluta de fotografar a efeméride sem a presença de qualquer objeto exógeno à cultura xinguana, seja um cigarro de palha ou uma tira de pano, muito menos alguém não indígena, apesar da aldeia ter isso tudo e mais. As fotos são ahistóricas, pois todos os seus signos foram escoimados pelas lentes prístinas do fotógrafo. Entretanto, os índios xinguanos não vivem e não pensam assim: sabem que estão no meio do redemoinho histórico, sendo e vindo a ser, procurando seu lugar no mundo da atualidade, não flutuando em um éter deshistorizado.

Os Guajá sabem muito menos do nosso mundo, tão recente e tão sofrido tem sido sua aproximação conosco. Nós sabemos muito menos sobre eles. Sua cultura tradicional é viva, apesar dos objetos exógenos. Assim, retratá-los como figurantes da natureza, e mostrá-los como seres quase ctônicos, não deve ter sido difícil para Sebastião Salgado. Mas, ao invés do resultado se tornar uma imagem de auto-conhecimento para os Guajá para avançar em sua compreensibilidade do mundo que os massacra, e de ser um modo de nós os conhecer melhor para amá-los e os ajudar a sobreviver e encontrar um lugar seguro nesse mundo convoluto, essas fotografias se tornam um desserviço para todos nós, os Guajá em especial.

Por essas fotos, os Guajá se tornaram seres da natureza, animais ou vegetais, folhagem, até talvez bichos-pau mimetizados na sépia florestal. A estética da ecologização do mundo virou uma estética da desumanização do homem pelas lentes de um brasileiro que perdeu o senso de brasilidade e anda pelo mundo apegado às cadeias do espetáculo do faz-de-conta.

Hello, Hal (New Yorker)

Will we ever get a computer we can really talk to?

BY 

JUNE 23, 2008

The challenge is to marry our two greatest technologies: language and toolmaking.

The challenge is to marry our two greatest technologies: language and toolmaking.

Not long ago, a caller dialled the toll-free number of an energy company to inquire about his bill. He reached an interactive-voice-response system, or I.V.R.—the automated service you get whenever you dial a utility or an airline or any other big American company. I.V.R.s are the speaking tube that connects corporate America to its clients. Companies profess boundless interest in their customers, but they don’t want to pay an employee to talk to a caller if they can avoid it; the average human-to-human call costs the company at least five dollars. Once an I.V.R. has been paid for, however, a human-to-I.V.R. call costs virtually nothing.

“If you have an emergency, press one,” the utility company’s I.V.R. said. “To use our automated services or to pay by phone, press two.”

The caller punched two, and was instructed to enter his account number, which he did. An alert had been placed on the account because of a missed payment. “Please hold,” the I.V.R. said. “Your call is being transferred to a service representative.” This statement was followed by one of the most commonly heard sentences in the English language: “Your call may be monitored.”

In fact, the call was being monitored, and I listened to it some months later, in the offices of B.B.N. Technologies, a sixty-year-old company, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Joe Alwan, a vice-president and the general manager of the division that makes B.B.N.’s “callerexperience analytics” software, which is called Avoke, was showing me how the technology can automatically create a log of events in a call, render the speech as text, and make it searchable.

Alwan, a compact man with scrunchedtogether features who has been at B.B.N. for two years, spoke rapidly but smoothly, with a droll delivery. He projected a graphic of the voice onto a screen at one end of the room. “Anger’s the big one,” he said. Companies can use Avoke to determine when their callers are getting angry, so that they can improve their I.V.R.s.

The agent came on the line, said his name was Eric, and asked the caller to explain his problem. Eric had a slight Indian accent and spoke in a high, clear voice. He probably worked at a call center in Bangalore for a few dollars an hour, although his pay was likely based on how efficiently he could process the calls. “The company doesn’t want to spend more money on the call, because it’s a cost,” Alwan said. The caller’s voice gave the impression that he was white (particularly the way he pronounced the “u” in “duuude”) and youthful, around thirty:

CALLER: Hey, what’s going on is, ah, I got a return-payment notice, right?
AGENT: Mhm.
CALLER: And I checked with my bank, and my bank was saying, well, it didn’t even get to you . . . they didn’t reject it. So then I was just, like, what’s the issue, and then, ah, you guys charge to pay over the phone, so that’s why it’s not done over the phone, so that’s why I do it on the Internet, so—
AGENT: O.K.
CALLER: So I don’t . . . know what’s going on.

The caller sounded relaxed, but if you listened closely you could hear his voice welling with quiet anger.

The agent quickly looked up the man’s record and discovered that he had typed in his account number incorrectly. The caller accepted the agent’s explanation but thought he shouldn’t be liable for the returned-payment charge. He said, “There’s nothing that can be done with that return fee, dude?” The agent explained that another company had levied the charge, but the caller took no notice. “I mean, I would be paying it over the phone, so you guys wanna charge people for paying over the phone, and I’ll be—”

People express anger in two different ways. There’s “cold” anger, in which words may be overarticulated but spoken softly, and “hot” anger, in which voices are louder and pitched higher. At first, the caller’s anger was cold:

AGENT: O.K., sir. I’m gonna go ahead and explain this. . . . O.K., so on the information that you put this last time it was incorrect, so I apologize that you put it incorrectly on the site.
CALLER: O.K., we got past that, bro. So tell me something I don’t know. . . .
AGENT: Let’s see . . . uh . . . um.
CALLER: Dude, I don’t care what company it is. It’s your company using that company, so you guys charge it. So you guys should be waiving that shit-over-the-phone shit, pay by phone.
AGENT: But why don’t you talk to somebody else, sir. One moment.

By now, the caller’s anger was hot. He was put on hold, but B.B.N. was still listening:

CALLER: Motherfucker, I swear. You fucking pussy, you probably don’t even have me on hold, you little fucked-up dick. You’re gonna wait a long time, bro.
You little bitch, I’ll fucking find out who you are, you little fucking ho.

After thirty seconds, we could hear bubbling noises—a bong, Alwan thought—and then coughing. Not long afterward, the caller hung up.

This spring marked the fortieth anniversary of HAL, the conversational computer that was brought to life on the screen by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” HAL has a calm, empathic voice—a voice that is warmer than the voices of the humans in the movie, which are oddly stilted and false.HAL says that he became operational in Urbana, Illinois, in 1992, and offers to sing a song. HAL not only speaks perfectly; he seems to understand perfectly, too. I was a nine-year-old nerd in the making when the film came out, in 1968, and I’ve been waiting for a computer to talk to ever since—a fantasy shared by many computer geeks. Bill Gates has been touting speech recognition as the next big thing in computing for at least a decade. By giving computers the ability to understand speech, humankind would marry its two greatest technologies: language and toolmaking. To believers, this union can only be a matter of time.

Forty years after “2001,” how close are we to talking to computers? Today, you can use your voice to buy airplane tickets, transfer money, and get a prescription filled. If you don’t want to type, you can use one of the current crop of dictation programs to transcribe your speech; these have been improving steadily and now work reasonably well. If you are driving a car with an onboard navigator, you can get directions in one of dozens of different voices, according to your preference. In a car equipped with Sync—a collaboration of Ford, Microsoft, and Nuance, the largest speech-technology company in the world—you can use your voice to place a phone call or to control your iPod, both of which are useful when you are in what’s known in the speech-recognition industry as “hands-busy, eyes-busy” situations. State-of-the-art I.V.R.s, such as Google’s voice-based 411 service, offer natural-language understanding—you can speak almost as you would to a human operator, as opposed to having to choose from a set menu of options. I.V.R. designers create vocal personas like Julie, the perky voice that answers Amtrak’s 800 number; these voices can be “tuned” according to a company’s branding needs. Calling Virgin Mobile gets you a sassy-voiced young woman, who sounds as if she’s got her feet up on her desk.

Still, these applications of speech technology, useful though they can be, are a far cry from HAL—a conversational computer. Computers still flunk the famous Turing Test, devised by the British mathematician Alan Turing, in which a computer tries to fool a person into thinking that it’s human. And, even within limited applications, speech recognition never seems to work as well as it should. North Americans spent forty-three billion minutes on the line with an I.V.R. in 2007; according to one study, only one caller in ten was satisfied with the experience. Some companies have decided to switch back to touch-tone menus, after finding that customers prefer pushing buttons to using their voices, especially when they are inputting private information, such as account numbers. Leopard, Apple’s new operating system for the Mac, responds to voice commands, which is wonderful for people with handicaps and disabilities but extremely annoying if you have to listen to Alex, its computer-generated voice, converse with a co-worker all day.

Roger Schank was a twenty-two-year-old graduate student when “2001” was released. He came toward the end of what today appears to have been a golden era of programmer-philosophers—men like Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert, who, in establishing the field of artificial intelligence, inspired researchers to create machines with human intelligence. Schank has spent his career trying to make computers simulate human memory and learning. When he was young, he was certain that a conversational computer would eventually be invented. Today, he’s less sure. What changed his thinking? Two things, Schank told me: “One was realizing that a lot of human speech is just chatting.” Computers proved to be very good at tasks that humans find difficult, like calculating large sums quickly and beating grand masters at chess, but they were wretched at this, one of the simplest of human activities. The other reason, as Schank explained, was that “we just didn’t know how complicated speech was until we tried to model it.” Just as sending men to the moon yielded many fundamental insights into the nature of space, so the problem of making conversational machines has taught scientists a great deal about how we hear and speak. As the Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker wrote to me, “The consensus as far as I have experienced it among A.I. researchers is that natural-language processing is extraordinarily difficult, as it could involve the entirety of a person’s knowledge, which of course is extraordinarily difficult to model on a computer.” After fifty years of research, we aren’t even close.

Speech begins with a puff of breath. The diaphragm pushes air up from the lungs, and this passes between two small membranes in the upper windpipe, known as the vocal folds, which vibrate and transform the breath into sound waves. The waves strike hard surfaces inside the head—teeth, bone, the palate. By changing the shape of the mouth and the position of the tongue, the speaker makes vowels and consonants and gives timbre, tone, and color to the sound.

That process, being mechanical, is not difficult to model, and, indeed, humans had been trying to make talking machines long before A.I. existed. In the late eighteenth century, a Hungarian inventor named Wolfgang von Kempelen built a speaking machine by modelling the human vocal tract, using a bellows for lungs, a reed from a bagpipe for the vocal folds, and a keyboard to manipulate the “mouth.” By playing the keys, an operator could form complete phrases in several different languages. In the nineteenth century, Kempelen’s machine was improved on by Sir Charles Wheatstone, and that contraption, which was exhibited in London, was seen by the young Alexander Graham Bell. It inspired him to try to create his own devices, in the hope of allowing non-hearing people (Bell’s mother and his wife were deaf) to speak normally. He didn’t succeed, but his early efforts led to the invention of the telephone.

In the twentieth century, researchers created electronic talking machines. The first, called the Voder, was engineered by Bell Labs—the famed research division of A.T. & T.—and exhibited at the 1939 World’s Fair, in New York. Instead of a mechanical system made of a reed and bellows, the Voder generated sounds with electricity; as with Kempelen’s speaking machine, a human manipulated keys to produce words. The mechanical-sounding voice became a familiar attribute of movie robots in the nineteen-fifties (and, later, similar synthetic-voice effects were a staple of nineteen-seventies progressive rock). In the early sixties, Bell Labs programmed a computer to sing “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do.” Arthur C. Clarke, who visited the lab, heard the machine sing, and he and Kubrick subsequently used the same song in HAL’s death scene.

Hearing is more complicated to model than talking, because it involves signal processing: converting sound from waves of air into electrical impulses. The fleshy part of the ear and the ear canal capture sound waves and direct them to the eardrum, which vibrates as it is struck. These vibrations then push on the ossicles, which form a three-boned lever—that Rube Goldbergian contraption of the middle ear—that helps amplify the sound. The impulses pass into the fluid of the cochlea, which is lined with tiny hairs called cilia. They translate the impulses into electrical signals, which then travel along neural pathways to the brain. Once signals reach the brain, they are “recognized,” either by associative memories or by a rules-based system—or, as Pinker has argued, by some combination of the two.

The human ear is exquisitely sensitive; research has shown, for example, that people can distinguish between hot and cold coffee simply by hearing it poured. The ear is particularly attentive to the human voice. We can differentiate among different voices speaking together, and we can isolate voices in the midst of traffic and loud music, and we can tell the direction from which a voice is coming—all of which are difficult for computers to do. We can hear smiles at the other end of a telephone call; the ear recognizes the sound variations caused by the spreading of the lips. That’s why call-center workers are told to smile no matter what kind of abuse they’re taking.

The first attempts at speech recognition were made in the nineteen-fifties and sixties, when the A.I. pioneers tried to simulate the way the human mind apprehends language. But where do you start? Even a simple concept like “yes” might be expressed in dozens of different ways—including “yes,” “ya,” “yup,” “yeah,” “yeayuh,” “yeppers,” “yessirree,” “aye, aye,” “mmmhmm,” “uh-huh,” “sure,” “totally,” “certainly,” “indeed,” “affirmative,” “fine,” “definitely,” “you bet,” “you betcha,” “no problemo,” and “okeydoke”—and what’s the rule in that? At Nuance, whose headquarters are outside Boston, speech engineers try to anticipate all the different ways people might say yes, but they still get surprised. For example, designers found that Southerners had more trouble using the system than Northerners did, because when instructed to answer “yes” or “no” Southerners regularly added “ma’am” or “sir,” depending on the I.V.R.’s gender, and the computer wasn’t programmed to recognize that. Also, language isn’t static; the rules change. Researchers taught machines that when the pitch of a voice rises at the end of a sentence it usually means a question, only to have their work spoiled by the emergence of what linguists call “uptalk”—that Valley Girl way of making a declarative sentence sound like a question?—which is now ubiquitous across the United States.

In the seventies and eighties, many speech researchers gradually moved away from efforts to determine the rules of language and took a probabilistic approach to speech recognition. Statistical “learning algorithms”—methods of constructing models from streams of data—were the wheel on which the back of the A.I. culture was broken. As David Nahamoo, the chief technology officer for speech at I.B.M.’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center, told me, “Brute-force computing, based on probability algorithms, won out over the rule-based approach.” A speech recognizer, by learning the relative frequency with which particular words occur, both by themselves and within the context of other words, could be “trained” to make educated guesses. Such a system wouldn’t be able to understand what words mean, but, given enough data and computing power, it might work in certain, limited vocabulary situations, like medical transcription, and it might be able to perform machine translation with a high degree of accuracy.

In 1969, John Pierce, a prominent member of the staff of Bell Labs, argued in an influential letter to the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, entitled “Whither Speech Recognition,” that there was little point in making machines that had speech recognition but no speech understanding. Regardless of the sophistication of the algorithms, the machine would still be a modern version of Kempelen’s talking head—a gimmick. But the majority of researchers felt that the narrow promise of speech recognition was better than nothing.

In 1971, the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency made a five-year commitment to funding speech recognition. Four institutions—B.B.N., I.B.M., Stanford Research Institute, and Carnegie Mellon University—were selected as contractors, and each was given the same guidelines for developing a speech recognizer with a thousand-word vocabulary. Subsequently, additional projects were funded that might be useful to the military. One was straight out of “Star Trek”: a handheld device that could automatically translate spoken words into other languages. Another was software that could read foreign news media and render them into English.

In addition to DARPA, funding for speech recognition came from telephone companies—principally at Bell Labs—and computer companies, most notably I.B.M. The phone companies wanted voice-based automated calling, and the computer companies wanted a voice-based computer interface and automated dictation, which was a “holy grail project” (a favorite phrase of the industry). But devising a speech recognizer that worked consistently and accurately in real-world situations proved to be much harder than anyone had anticipated. It wasn’t until the early nineties that companies finally began to bring products to the consumer marketplace, but these products rarely worked as advertised. The fledgling industry went through a tumultuous period. One industry leader, Lernout & Hauspie, flamed out, in a spectacular accounting scandal.

Whether its provenance is academic or corporate, speech-recognition research is heavily dependent on the size of the data sample, or “corpus”—the sheer volume of speech you work with. The larger your corpus, the more data you can feed to the learning algorithms and the better the guesses they can make. I.B.M. collects speech not only in the lab and from broadcasts but also in the field. Andy Aaron, who works at the Watson Research Center, has spent many hours recording people driving or sitting in the front seats of cars in an effort to develop accurate speech models for automotive commands. That’s because, he told me, “when people speak in cars they don’t speak the same way they do in an office.” For example, we talk more loudly in cars, because of a phenomenon known as the Lombard effect—the speaker involuntarily raises his voice to compensate for background noise. Aaron collects speech both for recognizers and for synthesizers—computer-generated voices. “Recording for the recognizer and for the synthesizer couldn’t be more different,” he said. “In the case of the recognizer, you are teaching the system to correctly identify an unknown speech sound. So you feed it lots and lots of different samples, so that it knows all the different ways Americans might say the phoneme ‘oo.’ A synthesizer is the opposite. You audition many professional speakers and carefully choose one, because you like the sound of his voice. Then you record that speaker for dozens of hours, saying sentences that contain many diverse combinations of phonemes and common words.”

B.B.N. came to speech recognition through its origins as an acousticalengineering firm. It worked on the design of Lincoln Center’s Philharmonic Hall in the mid-sixties, and did early research in measuring noise levels at airports, which led to quieter airplane engines. In 1997, B.B.N. was bought by G.T.E., which subsequently merged with Bell Atlantic to form Verizon. In 2004, a group of B.B.N. executives and investors put together a buyout, and the company became independent again. The speech they use to train their recognizers comes from a shared bank, the Linguistic Data Consortium.

During my visit to Cambridge, I watched as a speech engine transcribed a live Al Jazeera broadcast into more or less readable English text, with only a three-minute lag time. In another demo, software captured speech from podcasts and YouTube videos and converted it into text, with impressive accuracy—a technology that promises to make video and audio as easily searchable as text. Both technologies are now available commercially, in B.B.N.’s Broadcast Monitoring System and in EveryZing, its audio-and-video search engine. I also saw B.B.N’s English-to-Iraqi Arabic translator; I had seen I.B.M.’s, known as the Multilingual Automatic Speech-to-Speech Translator, or MASTOR, the week before. Both worked amazingly well. At I.B.M., an English speaker made a comment (“We are here to provide humanitarian assistance for your town”) to an Iraqi. The machine repeated his sentence in English, to make sure it was understood. The MASTOR then translated the sentence into Arabic and said it out loud. The Iraqi answered in Arabic; the machine repeated the sentence in Arabic and then delivered it in English. The entire exchange took about five seconds, and combined state-of-the-art speech recognition, voice synthesis, and machine translation. Granted, the conversation was limited to what you might discuss at a checkpoint in Iraq. Still, for what they are, these translators are triumphs of the statistics-based approach.

What’s missing from all these programs, however, is emotional recognition. The current technology can capture neither the play of emphasis, rhythm, and intonation in spoken language (which linguists call prosody) nor the emotional experience of speaking and understanding language. Descartes favored a division between reason and emotion, and considered language to be a vehicle of the former. But speech without emotion, it turns out, isn’t really speech. Cognitively, the words should mean the same thing, regardless of their emotional content. But they don’t.

Speech recognition is a multidisciplinary field, involving linguists, psychologists, phoneticians, acousticians, computer scientists, and engineers. At speech conferences these days, emotional recognition is a hot topic. Julia Hirschberg, a professor of computer science at Columbia University, told me that at the last prosody conference she attended “it seemed like three-quarters of the presentations were on emotional recognition.” Research is focussed both on how to recognize a speaker’s emotional state and on how to make synthetic voices more emotionally expressive.

Elizabeth Shriberg, a senior researcher in the speech group at S.R.I. International (formerly Stanford Research Institute), said, “Especially when you talk about emotional speech, there is a big difference between acted speech and real speech.” Real anger, she went on, often builds over a number of utterances, and is much more variable than acted anger. For more accurate emotional recognition, Shriberg said, “we need the kind of data that you get from 911 and directory-assistance calls. But you can’t use those, for privacy reasons, and because they’re proprietary.”

At SAIL—the Speech Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory, on the campus of the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles—researchers work mostly with scripted speech, which students collect from actors in the U.S.C. film and drama programs. Shrikanth Narayanan, who runs the lab, is an electrical engineer, and the students in his emotion-research group are mainly engineers and computer scientists. One student was studying what happens when a speaker’s face and voice convey conflicting emotions. Another was researching how emotional states affect the way people move their heads when they talk. The research itself can be a grind. Students painstakingly listen to voices expressing many different kinds of emotion and tag each sample with information, such as how energetic the voice is and its “valence” (whether it is a negative or a positive emotion). Anger and elation are examples of emotions that have different valences but similar energy; humans use context, as well as facial and vocal cues, to distinguish them. Since the researchers have only the voice to work with, at least three of them are required to listen and decide what the emotion is. Students note voice quality, pacing, language, “disfluencies” (false starts, “um”s), and pitch. They make at least two different data sets, so that they can use separate ones for training the computer and for testing it.

Facial expressions are generally thought to be universal, but so far Narayanan’s lab hasn’t found that similarly universal vocal cues for emotions are as clearly established. “Emotions aren’t discrete,” Narayanan said. “They are a continuum, and it isn’t clear to any one perceiver where one emotion ends and another begins, so you end up studying not just the speaker but the perceiver.” The idea is that if you could train the computer to sense a speaker’s emotional state by the sound of his voice, you could also train it to respond in kind—the computer might slow down if it sensed that the speaker was confused, or assume a more soothing tone of voice if it sensed anger. One possible application of such technology would be video games, which could automatically adapt to a player’s level based on the stress in his voice. Narayanan also mentioned simulations—such as the computer-game-like training exercises that many companies now use to prepare workers for a job. “The program would sense from your voice if you are overconfident, or when you are feeling frustrated, and adjust accordingly,” he said. That reminded me of the moment in the novel “2001” when HAL, after discovering that the astronauts have doubts about him, decides to kill them. While struggling with one of the astronauts, Dave, for control of the ship, HAL says, “I can tell from your voice harmonics, Dave, that you’re badly upset. Why don’t you take a stress pill and get some rest?”

But, apart from call-center voice analytics, it’s hard to find many credible applications of emotional recognition, and it is possible that true emotional recognition is beyond the limits of the probabilistic approach. There are futuristic projects aimed at making emotionally responsive robots, and there are plans to use such robots in the care of children and the elderly. “But this is very long-range, obviously,” Narayanan said. In the meantime, we are going to be dealing with emotionless machines.

There is a small market for voice-based lie detectors, which are becoming a popular tool in police stations around the country. Many are made by Nemesysco, an Israeli company, using a technique called “layered voice analysis” to analyze some hundred and thirty parameters in the voice to establish the speaker’s pyschological state. The academic world is skeptical of voice-based lie detection, because Nemesysco will not release the algorithms on which its program is based; after all, they are proprietary. Layered voice analysis has failed in two independent tests. Nemesysco’s American distributor says that’s because the tests were poorly designed. (The company played Roger Clemens’s recent congressional testimony for me through its software, so that I could see for myself the Rocket’s stress levels leaping.) Nevertheless, according to the distributor more than a thousand copies of the software have been sold—at fourteen thousand five hundred dollars each—to law-enforcement agencies and, more recently, to insurance companies, which are using them in fraud detection.

One of the most fully realized applications of emotional recognition that I am aware of is the aggression-detection system developed by Sound Intelligence, which has been deployed in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and other cities in the Netherlands. It has also been installed in the English city of Coventry, and is being tested in London and Manchester. One of the designers, Peter van Hengel, explained to me that the idea grew out of a project at the University of Groningen, which simulated the workings of the inner ear with computer models. “A colleague of mine applied the same inner-ear model to trying to recognize speech amid noise,” he said, “and found that it could be used to select the parts belonging to the speech and leave out the noise.” They founded Sound Intelligence in 2000, initially focussing on speech-noise separation for automatic speech recognition, with a sideline in the analysis of non-speech sounds. In 2003, the company was approached by the Dutch national railroad, which wanted to be able to detect several kinds of sound that might indicate trouble in stations and on trains (glass-breaking, graffiti-spraying, and aggressive voices). This project developed into an aggression-detection system based on the sound of people shouting: the machine detects the overstressing of the vocal cords, which occurs only in real aggression. (That’s one reason actors only approximate anger; the real thing can damage the voice.)

The city of Groningen has installed an aggression-detector at a busy intersection in an area full of pubs. Elevated microphones spaced thirty metres apart run along both sides of the street, joining an existing network of cameras. These connect to a computer at the police station in Groningen. If the system hears certain sound patterns that correspond with aggression, it sends an alert to the police station, where the police can assess the situation by examining closed-circuit monitors: if necessary, officers are dispatched to the scene. This is no HAL, either, but the system is promising, because it does not pretend to be more intelligent than it is.

I thought the problem with the technology would be false positives—too many loud noises that the machine mistook for aggression. But in Groningen, at least, the problem has been just the opposite. “Groningen is the safest city in Holland,” van Hengel said, ruefully. “There is virtually no crime. We don’t have enough aggression to train the system properly.” ♦

Language can reveal the invisible, study shows (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Public release date: 26-Aug-2013

By Gary Lupyan, University of Wisconsin-Madison

MADISON, Wis. — It is natural to imagine that the sense of sight takes in the world as it is — simply passing on what the eyes collect from light reflected by the objects around us.

But the eyes do not work alone. What we see is a function not only of incoming visual information, but also how that information is interpreted in light of other visual experiences, and may even be influenced by language.

Words can play a powerful role in what we see, according to a study published this month by University of Wisconsin–Madison cognitive scientist and psychology professor Gary Lupyan, and Emily Ward, a Yale University graduate student, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Perceptual systems do the best they can with inherently ambiguous inputs by putting them in context of what we know, what we expect,” Lupyan says. “Studies like this are helping us show that language is a powerful tool for shaping perceptual systems, acting as a top-down signal to perceptual processes. In the case of vision, what we consciously perceive seems to be deeply shaped by our knowledge and expectations.”

And those expectations can be altered with a single word.

To show how deeply words can influence perception, Lupyan and Ward used a technique called continuous flash suppression to render a series of objects invisible for a group of volunteers.

Each person was shown a picture of a familiar object — such as a chair, a pumpkin or a kangaroo — in one eye. At the same time, their other eye saw a series of flashing, “squiggly” lines.

“Essentially, it’s visual noise,” Lupyan says. “Because the noise patterns are high-contrast and constantly moving, they dominate, and the input from the other eye is suppressed.”

Immediately before looking at the combination of the flashing lines and suppressed object, the study participants heard one of three things: the word for the suppressed object (“pumpkin,” when the object was a pumpkin), the word for a different object (“kangaroo,” when the object was actually a pumpkin), or just static.

Then researchers asked the participants to indicate whether they saw something or not. When the word they heard matched the object that was being wiped out by the visual noise, the subjects were more likely to report that they did indeed see something than in cases where the wrong word or no word at all was paired with the image.

“Hearing the word for the object that was being suppressed boosted that object into their vision,” Lupyan says.

And hearing an unmatched word actually hurt study subjects’ chances of seeing an object.

“With the label, you’re expecting pumpkin-shaped things,” Lupyan says. “When you get a visual input consistent with that expectation, it boosts it into perception. When you get an incorrect label, it further suppresses that.”

Experiments have shown that continuous flash suppression interrupts sight so thoroughly that there are no signals in the brain to suggest the invisible objects are perceived, even implicitly.

“Unless they can tell us they saw it, there’s nothing to suggest the brain was taking it in at all,” Lupyan says. “If language affects performance on a test like this, it indicates that language is influencing vision at a pretty early stage. It’s getting really deep into the visual system.”

The study demonstrates a deeper connection between language and simple sensory perception than previously thought, and one that makes Lupyan wonder about the extent of language’s power. The influence of language may extend to other senses as well.

“A lot of previous work has focused on vision, and we have neglected to examine the role of knowledge and expectations on other modalities, especially smell and taste,” Lupyan says. “What I want to see is whether we can really alter threshold abilities,” he says. “Does expecting a particular taste for example, allow you to detect a substance at a lower concentration?”

If you’re drinking a glass of milk, but thinking about orange juice, he says, that may change the way you experience the milk.

“There’s no point in figuring out what some objective taste is,” Lupyan says. “What’s important is whether the milk is spoiled or not. If you expect it to be orange juice, and it tastes like orange juice, it’s fine. But if you expected it to be milk, you’d think something was wrong.”

Crowdsourcing, for the Birds (NY Times)

NY Times, August 19, 2013

By JIM ROBBINS

HELENA, Mont. — On a warm morning not long ago on the shore of a small prairie lake outside this state capital, Bob Martinka trained his spotting scope on a towering cottonwood tree heavy with blue heron nests. He counted a dozen of the tall, graceful birds and got out his smartphone, not to make a call but to type the number of birds and the species into an app that sent the information to researchers in New York.

 

Mapping Bird Species Heat maps show the northward migration of the chimney swift as modeled by the eBird network. Brighter colors indicate higher probabilities of finding the species.

Mr. Martinka, a retired state wildlife biologist and an avid bird-watcher, is part of the global ornithological network eBird. Several times a week he heads into the mountains to scan lakes, grasslands, even the local dump, and then reports his sightings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a nonprofit organization based at Cornell University.

“I see rare gulls at the dump quite frequently,” Mr. Martinka said, scanning a giant mound of bird-covered trash.

Tens of thousands of birders are now what the lab calls “biological sensors,” turning their sightings into digital data by reporting where, when and how many of which species they see. Mr. Martinka’s sighting of a dozen herons is a tiny bit of information, but such bits, gathered in the millions, provide scientists with a very big picture: perhaps the first crowdsourced, real-time view of bird populations around the world.

West Kassel. A western meadowlark.

Birds are notoriously hard to count. While stationary sensors can measure things like carbon dioxide levels and highway traffic, it takes people to note the type and number of birds in an area. Until the advent of eBird, which began collecting daily global data in 2002, so-called one-day counts were the only method.

While counts like the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and the Breeding Bird Survey bring a lot of people together on one day to make bird observations across the country, and are scientifically valuable, they are different because they don’t provide year-round data.

And eBird’s daily view of bird movements has yielded a vast increase in data — and a revelation for scientists. The most informative product is what scientists call a heat map: a striking image of the bird sightings represented in various shades of orange according to their density, moving through space and time across black maps. Now, more than 300 species have a heat map of their own.

“As soon as the heat maps began to come out, everybody recognized this is a game changer in how we look at animal populations and their movement,” said John W. Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab. “Really captivating imagery teaches us more effectively.”

It was long believed, for example, that the United States had just one population of orchard orioles. Heat maps showed that the sightings were separated by a gap, meaning there are not one but two genetically distinct populations.

Moreover, the network offers a powerful way to capture data that was lost in the old days. “People for generations have been accumulating an enormous amount of information about where birds are and have been,” Dr. Fitzpatrick said. “Then it got burned when they died.”

No longer: eBird has compiled 141 million reports, or bits, and the number is increasing by 40 percent a year. In May, eBird gathered a record 5.6 million new observations from 169 countries. (Mr. Martinka’s sighting of 12 herons at once, for example, is considered one species observation, or bit.)

The system also offers incentives for birders to stay involved, with apps that enable them to keep their life lists (records of the species they have seen), compare their sightings with those of friends (and rivals), and know where to look for birds they haven’t seen before.

“When you get off the plane and turn your phone on,” Dr. Fitzpatrick said, “you can find out what has been seen near you over the last seven days and ask it to filter out the birds you haven’t seen yet, so with a quick look you can add to your life list.”

The system is not without problems. Citizen scientists may not be as precise in reporting data as experienced researchers are, like the ones in the Breeding Bird Survey. Cornell has tried to solve that problem by hiring top birders to travel around the world to train people like Mr. Martinka in methodology. And 500 volunteer experts read the submissions for accuracy, rejecting about 2 percent. Rare-bird sightings get special scrutiny.

The engine that makes eBird data usable is machine learning, or artificial intelligence — a combination of software and hardware that sorts through disparities, gaps and flaws in data collection, improving as it goes along.

“Machine learning says, ‘I know these data are sloppy, but fortunately there’s a lot of it,’ ” Dr. Fitzpatrick said. “It takes chunks of these data and sorts through to find patterns in the noise. These programs are learning as they go, testing and refining and getting better and better.”

Still, some experts question eBird’s validity. John Sauer, a wildlife biologist with the United States Geological Survey, says that bird-watchers’ reports lack scientific rigor. Rather than randomness, he said, “you get a lot of observations from where people like to go.” And he doubts that Cornell has proved the reliability of its machine learning efforts.

Still, the information has promise, he said, “and it’s played a powerful role in coordinating birders for recording observations, and encouraging bird-watching.”

And the data are being used by a wide array of researchers and conservationists.

Cagan H. Sekercioglu, a professor of ornithology at the University of Utah who has used similar bird-watching data in his native Turkey to study the effects of climate change on birds, called eBird “a phenomenal resource” and said that it was “getting young people involved in natural history, which might seem slow and old-fashioned in the age of instant online gratification.”

Data about bird populations can help scientists understand other changes in the natural world and be a marker for the health of overall biodiversity. “Birds are great indicators because they occur in all environments,” said Steve Kelling, the director of information science at the Cornell bird lab.

A decline in Eastern meadowlarks in part of New York State, for example, suggests that their habitat is shrinking — bad news for other species that depend on the same habitat. In California, eBird data is being used by some planners to decide where cities and towns should steer development.

The data is also being combined with radar and weather data by BirdCast, another Cornell bird lab project that forecasts migration patterns with the aim of protecting birds as they move through a gantlet of threats. “We can predict migration events that would be usable for the timing of wind generation facilities to be turned off at night,” Dr. Fitzpatrick said.

In California, biologists use the migration data to track waterfowl at critical times. When the birds are headed through the Central Valley, for example, they can ask rice farmers to flood their fields to create an improvised wetland habitat before the birds arrive. “The resolution is at such a level of detail they can make estimates of where species occur almost at a field-by-field level,” Mr. Kelling said.

EBird data has been used in Britain, too, combined with that of a similar program called BirdTrack, which uses radar images, weather models and even data from microphones on top of buildings to record the sounds of migrating birds at night.

And for bird-watchers, the eBird project has given their pastime a new sense of purpose. “It’s a really neat tool,” Mr. Martinka said. “If you see one bird or a thousand, it’s significant.”

Occupying Wall Street: Places and Spaces of Political Action (Places)

PEER REVIEWED: JONATHAN MASSEY & BRETT SNYDER

The Design Observer Group

09.17.12
Occupy Wall Street digital activity timeline
Occupy Wall Street activity online. Click image to enlarge. [Timeline by the authors]

For nine weeks last fall crowds gathered every evening at the eastern end of Zuccotti Park, where a shallow crescent of stairs creates a modest amphitheater, to form the New York City General Assembly. A facilitator reviewed rules for prioritizing speakers and gestures by which participants could signal agreement or dissent. Over two hours or more, they worked through issues of common concern — every word repeated by the assembly, which formed a human microphone amplifying the speaker’s voice — until they reached consensus.

Such was the daily practice of Occupy Wall Street, paralleled in more than a thousand cities around the world. Participants borrowed tactics from Quaker meetings, Latin American popular assemblies, Spanish acampadas, and other traditions of protest and political organization. They also enacted something foundational to the western democratic tradition: constituting a polity as a group of speaking bodies gathered in a central public place.

At the same time, another crowd assembled in a range of online spaces. Moving between the physical and the virtual, participants navigated a hypercity built of granite and asphalt, algorithms and information, appropriating its platforms and creating new structures within it. As they posted links, updates, photos and videos on social media sites; as they deliberated in chat rooms and collaborated on crowdmaps; as they took to the streets with smartphones, occupiers tested the parameters of this multiply mediated world.

What is the layout of this place? What are its codes and protocols? Who owns it? How does its design condition opportunities for individual and collective action? Looking closely at these questions, we learn something about the possibilities for public life and political action created at the intersection of urban places and online spaces.


Top: Occupiers camp in Liberty Plaza as news vans line up across the street. Middle: Detail of#OccupyMap. Bottom: Occupy coordinators meet in the atrium of 60 Wall Street. [Photos by Jonathan Massey]

Occupying the Public Square 
Zuccotti Park — or Liberty Plaza — was the site not only of General Assembly but also of the bustling camp that materialized and sustained the occupation. As architects, we were fascinated by the intensive use of this privately owned public space. As citizens, we were inspired by the movement’s critique of the U.S. political system and its experiment with alternate forms of social organization. After the arrest of 700 protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge, Jonathan began visiting Liberty Plaza and occasionally participating in rallies. Brett tracked the movement’s use of new media to expose inequalities in wealth distribution. Jonathan enlisted friends to survey and document the encampment, while Brett developed an interactive project, Public Space 2.0, that linked Occupy to broader questions about public space. Following the eviction of occupiers in New York and other cities, we decided to collaborate on a project examining the spatial and social organization of Liberty Plaza.

In the tradition of urban demonstrations and sit-ins, the camp claimed a prominent and symbolically charged city space in order to call attention to a political cause. It provided logistical support as the first day of protest extended into a two-month occupation. It gave visitors a point of entry into the movement and its ideas. Moreover, it prefigured in microcosm the alternative polity desired by many participants, modeling and testing modes of self-organization partly autonomous from those provided by the state and the market.

As such, it embodied one of the defining tensions of Occupy Wall Street: between the aims of protest and prefiguration. [1] One reason for claiming Liberty Plaza was to command the attention of the public and the state. Indeed, the blog post that sparked the movement, by the Canadian magazine Adbusters, urged activists to create “a Tahrir moment” by insistently repeating “one simple demand” akin to the call for Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. [2] But some of the New York activists who planned the occupation pursued a vision of autonomous self-organization and self-government informed by anarchist principles. Occupiers refused to formulate their objectives as political demands, even though doing so might have strengthened their grip on the public imagination. Instead of a unified plea to elected representatives, broadcast from a central square, Occupy yielded a polyphony of discussions in the agoras of the hypercity.

Occupy Wall Street police observation tower
Top: Occupiers in mid-October. Bottom: NYPD Skywatch portable surveillance tower. [Photos by Jonathan Massey]

From its founding on September 17, 2011, the occupation traced contours of regulation and control. Its location, design and construction limned the legal, juridical and police affordances of New York’s public realm, revealing the constraints placed on people assembling to form a counterpublic — a public operating according to practices distinct from those of the mainstream. [3] The declared site of the first protest, carnival, and General Assembly was Chase Manhattan Plaza, but occupiers arrived to find the corporate space closed off by barricades and patrolled by police. Prior General Assemblies had been held in New York public parks and squares, but organizers knew the city tightly controlled those spaces by requiring permits, enforcing nighttime closures and barricading areas. The use of city sidewalks was also curtailed. Bloombergville, a sidewalk encampment near City Hall, had survived for three weeks in July, but a test camp-out on Wall Street on September 1 had been broken up by police. [4] When demonstrators found Chase Plaza closed, they moved to the privately-owned Zuccotti Park, three blocks away, claiming the space with signs, megaphones, sleeping bags and blankets.

The following weeks confirmed that the state would use police control to assert its hegemony over the terms of public assembly and discourse. When protesters crossed the border of Liberty Plaza onto city streets or squares, they encountered “order maintenance policing,” a euphemistic directive that empowers New York police to intervene in public events irrespective of criminal action. Over the past 15 years, the NYPD has expanded the practice to assert control over parades, festivals and rallies, often arresting participants for “disorderly conduct” and releasing them without charge. [5] Under this vague authority, NYPD limited the range and duration of Occupy demonstrations and tightly controlled their internal dynamics through barricades, kettling and arrests.

And yet Occupy Wall Street showed that possibilities foreclosed on private and public land could be actualized in the liminal territory of the city’s privately owned public spaces(POPS) — plazas, arcades and other spaces built by real estate developers in return for density bonuses under the terms of the 1961 Zoning Resolution. [6] The occupation of Zuccotti Park was made possible by ambiguities in the POPS system, which has created places where the city government must negotiate authority with corporate owners as well as site occupants. Even so, the city intervened in the camp’s internal organization and operation: fire marshals prohibited tents and other structures in the early weeks; they removed generators as the weather grew cold in late October; and, shortly after midnight on November 15, police forcibly cleared the park.

Zuccotti Park after eviction of protestors
Top: The planned site of the September 17 protest, Chase Manhattan Plaza, was barricaded at the request of its corporate owners. [Photo by David Shankbone] Bottom: Police patrol Zuccotti Park on November 15 after evicting protesters. [Photo by Jonathan Massey]

During the two-month occupation, protesters rewrote the social and spatial codes that had determined use of the block for decades. Created in the late 1960s as a POPS concession linked to the construction of One Liberty Plaza, the park was rebuilt by new owners Brookfield Properties in 2006 to a design by Cooper Robertson & Partners that serves downtown office workers by encouraging passive recreations like lunch and chess while discouraging active ones like cycling and skateboarding. In a related feature on Places, we look more closely at the Cooper Robertson design and its transformation into the Liberty Plaza encampment.

Stepping partially outside state and market systems, occupiers created their own structures for discussion and governance; for provision of daily services; for medical care and sacred space; for music, dance and art. Some aspects of this counterpublic resembled the exhilarating, liberatory “Temporary Autonomous Zones” described by anarchist writer Hakim Bey. [7] Others were pragmatic, even bureaucratic. Within days, working groups resembling urban agencies — dedicated to issues like Comfort, Medical, Kitchen, Library, Sanitation and Security — created a series of nodes or workstations that cut diagonally across the park. They appropriated design elements such as retaining walls, benches and tables to define functional zones.

In overlaying the permanent landscape of the park with new activities and installations, the occupation created what anthropologist Tim Ingold calls a “taskscape”: a topography of related activities deployed in space and changing over time. [8] Through their patterns of spatial appropriation, occupiers responded to the asymmetries of the park — its slope, the priority of Broadway relative to Trinity Place, and the more favorable sun and wind exposures available in the northeast corner — by programming the plaza along a gradient. Running from north and east to south and west, this gradient shaded from public to private, mind to body, waking to sleeping, and reason to faith. Outreach/Media/Legal claimed the location that afforded the most shelter and the best sun exposure while also being situated far from the noise and dust of the World Trade Center construction site.


Kitchen compost station and The People’s Library. [Photos by Jonathan Massey]

On the austere geometry of a tasteful corporate plaza, just under 33,000 square feet, the occupation created an entire world in which you could meditate, change your wardrobe, update your blog, cook lentils, read a book, sweep up litter, bandage a wound, bang a drum, roll a cigarette, debate how best to challenge corporate hegemony, make art, wash dishes and have sex, usually in the company of others.  The square teemed with friends and strangers, allies and antagonists; it was intensely public and interactive. Daily activities were saturated with a talky sociability in which the challenges and opportunities of every action, every decision, were open to reinterpretation and negotiation. At any moment, the call of “Mic check!” could ring out across the camp, obligating participants to drop personal conversations and become part of a communal discourse. The act of chanting in unison, as a human microphone, created a common sense of purpose, established relationships among neighbors and intensified awareness of surrounding bodies.

This new world could feel exhilarating and inspiring but also threatening and claustral. It was crowded. It was charged with strong emotions. Its core members were working hard, and they were often tired. On top of reforming global capitalism, they had to handle fights, thefts, drug use and sexual assaults, while operating under the strain of official hostility, police surveillance, constant interaction with supportive and hostile visitors, and weather. Radical openness and participatory self-government proved taxing. As the occupation stretched from days into weeks and months, participants took shelter from cold, rain and snow in tents and tarps. The plaza became more internalized and lost some of its intense sociability.

The functional zoning also reinforced sociological differences in the camp. Many of the most active members identified themselves as coordinators or occupiers. These groups were not mutually exclusive, but they gravitated toward spaces in separate ends of the park.Coordinators, who facilitated discussions and posted on blogs, often spent nights at home, while occupiers put their bodies on the line by living and sleeping in the park. A spatial gradient emerged, with occupiers’ tents clustered toward the western end. Not surprisingly, these constituencies were marked by differences in class, education level, ethnicity, sexuality and gender. The Daily Show even aired a skit about the differences, using “uptown” and “downtown” to describe the two ends of the park. [9]

Occupy Wall Street Sanitation Workstation


Top: Sanitation workstation. [Photo by Jonathan Massey] Bottom: Liberty Plaza Site Map drawn by Occupy participant on October 10. Click image to enlarge. [Map by Jake Deg]

Organizers worked hard to build the institutions needed to sustain the micro-city, but its autonomy was inherently limited; the camp was shaped by its adjacencies to the social, commercial and political networks of Lower Manhattan and the Financial District. Businesses provided restrooms. Sympathetic unions made facilities available. Organizations lent kitchen and office space. Individuals donated money, books, clothing and food. Murray Bergtraum High School opened its auditorium to meetings of the OWS Spokescouncil. A local government authority, Manhattan Community Board 1, mediated among protesters, neighborhood residents, Brookfield Properties and city officials in discussions about drum noise and other issues where order maintenance was enforced through claims about “quality of life.”

These interactions extended the spatial and social gradients of Liberty Plaza across a broader urban geography. Dozens of working groups met in the enclosed atrium at 60 Wall Street, a privately owned public space at the base of an office tower built by J.P. Morgan and currently occupied by Deutsche Bank. In that large room, designed by Roche and Dinkeloo and clad in marble and mirror and decorated with palm trees and postmodern grottoes, they shared space with chess-players and well-heeled denizens of the Financial District. From morning to night they used the tables, benches, chairs and wifi of the climate-controlled space as a purposeful, orderly extension of the eastern end of Liberty Plaza, establishing commuting patterns that figured 60 Wall as the Occupy office.

Occupying the Internet 
The Wall Street protests would not have materialized without extensive work by on-the-ground activists in New York. But it was the Adbusters blog post that gave the action a name and date. It also gave them #occupywallstreet, the first of thousands of #Occupy hashtags that enabled the spontaneous assembly of strangers on Twitter and other internet platforms. In the months leading up to the first occupation, and in the year afterward, Occupy established an online presence unmatched in the history of social action, leveraging multiple online spaces to stage protests and to generate a distinctive counter-public and alternative polity.


Top: Occupiers connect via laptops and smartphones from Liberty Plaza. [Photo by David Shankbone] Bottom: Instagram photo sent by Occupy activist: “Riding in a bus with 50 others, in cuffs writing this.” [Photo by pulseprotest]

In the United States, the internet was largely exempt from the state control and censorship that curtailed protest activity on the street, but it was inherently open to surveillance and imposed another set of exclusions based on access to online spaces and protocols. Its various platforms afforded ties that were both broader and weaker than those at Liberty Plaza. Discussions took place in specialized forums and channels quite unlike the multisensory, multiparticipatory assemblies, meetings, marches and rallies of the physical realm. From its inception, Occupy tested the capacities of the internet’s virtual spaces to sustain organizational activity, deliberative discourse and other kinds of public-making. [10]

As with the physical occupation, many online actions had precedent in earlier movements, from the anti-globalization protests of the 1990s to the Arab Spring of 2011. For years U.S. activists have used sites like Indymedia to distribute information and mobilize protest participation. [11] After posting its call to action, Adbusters sent word to its email distribution list and created a Facebook event, mobilizing a pre-existing network of followers. As one of the largest privately owned public spaces online, Facebook became a key platform for the Occupy movement. Facebook profiles such as OccupyWallSt,Gilded.Age and OccupyTogether, created in the weeks leading up to the first protest, provided broadly accessible channels for information. When individuals “liked” or commented on items in these newsfeeds, Occupy ideas propagated through user-generated social networks. Throughout the fall, members used the site’s text, link, note, and photo and video sharing features to endorse events and activities. [12]

During the groundwork phase, organizers also used open-source web-coding tools to create dedicated Occupy websites. The most important were Occupywallst.org, a Github site launched in mid-July as a clearinghouse and contact-point for the movement;NYCGA.net, a WordPress site created a few weeks later to serve the New York City General Assembly and its working groups; and the blog Occupytogether.org. These sites combined newsfeeds and social media links with manifestos, videos, crowdmaps and other resources, and they linked together other sites to create a sprawling landscape of information.


A selection of the more than 1600 posts submitted to the 99 Percent Project in October 2011.

In parallel, organizers tapped the internet’s capacity to build what sociologists Jennifer Earl and Katrina Kimport call “e-movements”: politically effective campaigns that circulate in the media without necessarily coalescing into mass gatherings. Online tools provide immediate and inexpensive site design and back-end functionality, allowing organizations or individuals to launch awareness campaigns and other political actions that demand little money or time from participants. [13] One such tool for Occupy activists was the image-based microblogging site Tumblr. In late summer, the 99 Percent Project invited people to “get known” as part of a majority disenfranchised by the super-rich. Under the slogan “We Are the 99 Percent,” the image blog featured self-portraits of working- and middle-class Americans holding handwritten signs or letters describing the circumstances of their indebtedness. The project called attention to the rise in income inequality and helpedpopularize the rhetoric of “the 99 percent.” [14] After September 17, it became an online analogue to Liberty Plaza, enabling a geographically dispersed set of participants to join the occupation of Wall Street and forging a common consciousness about debt and disenfranchisement. The self-portraits were often shot at a computer desk with a webcam, and overwhelmingly they were set in domestic interiors like living rooms, dens and bedrooms. But the handwritten signs pointed to a world outside those walls, evoking the signs of the homeless explaining their misfortunes and asking for help, as well as the signs of protesters bearing expressions of solidarity and calls to action. [15]


Global crowdmap on the Ushahidi platform. [Screenshot by the authors]

Contours of the Hypercity 
In the summer of 2011, before the first protesters had set foot in Liberty Plaza, the Occupy movement was evolving toward a model of General Assembly that hybridized online and offline discourse. While street activists in New York were practicing consensus decision-making in public parks, online participants were responding to a poll Adbusters created using Facebook’s “question” function: “What is our one demand?” Answers included abolishing capitalism, demilitarizing the police, legalizing marijuana, reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act and freeing the unicorns. (The winner was “Revoke Corporate Personhood.”) Through this asynchronous online polling, Facebook supported a weak form of political discussion that prefigured the stronger and more interactive deliberations that filled Liberty Plaza.

By September 10, General Assembly minutes were being posted online at NYCGA. Over time these became more elaborate, and note-takers projected their evolving documents on a screen in Liberty Plaza so that participants could respond to the minutes-in-the-making. Assembly meetings were livestreamed so that participants across the globe could follow in real time, and some were archived online in audio and video formats. Congregants also livetweeted the assemblies under Twitter handles such as @DiceyTroop and @LibertySqGA. These accounts attracted thousands of followers, many of whom responded to live events, adding a layer of online conversation that augmented the face-to-face assemblies.

Hybrid discussions were the norm for the working groups that handled the day-to-day and week-to-week activity of Occupy Wall Street. During and after the occupation, working groups met regularly at Liberty Plaza, the 60 Wall atrium, Union Square and other locations throughout New York. A blackboard at Liberty Plaza listed some of these meetings, but more reliable information was found online at NYCGA, where nearly every working group had a page with a blog, activity wall, shared documents and event calendar, and discussion forum involving members who had never attended the face-to-face meetings. By spring 2012, the site hosted roughly 90 working groups, some with just a handful of registered users and a couple of posts, others with many hundreds of users and more than 2,000 entries.


Top: Blackboard at Liberty Plaza announces working group meetings. [Photo by Jonathan Massey] Bottom left: Livestream at Occupy Detroit. [Photo by Stephen Boyle] Bottom right: “People’s Mic: Please join the Conversation.” 24/7 internet broadcast from Occupy Wall Street. [Photo by Chris Rojas]

As the weather changed in late October, the Town Planning forum hosted extensive discussions on a topic that simultaneously preoccupied the group’s in-person meetings and the General Assembly: how to sustain the camp into the winter. One participant lit up the forum with a long post advocating event tents that would cover large expanses of the park in communal enclosures, as an alternative to individual camping tents. “Safety teams are unfortunately learning … that privacy equals risk,” wrote Sean McKeown, “because privacy allows for unseen violence, unseen sexual menace, and for drugs, alcohol, and weapons to be kept in shockingly large number if we are to guess by the number of needles found around tents lately since they have gone up.” [16] Members suggested building geodesic domes or frame structures with salvaged materials, or claiming regulatory exemption by designating the camp as a Native American sacred site. The reconfiguration of Liberty Plaza at the beginning of November was negotiated simultaneously in the park, in dispersed work-group meetings, and on the internet.

While online forums, as the Latin term implies, evoke the experience of face-to-face discussion, other online technologies create public spaces without analogue in the physical world. The Twitter hashtag, for example, enables radically new modes of creating, discovering and organizing affinity clusters, which proved useful in movements like the January 25 Egyptian Revolution and the Green Revolution in Iran. In self-conscious emulation of those precedents, Adbusters branded September 17 with the hashtag#occupywallstreet, signaling an expectation that participants would use Twitter to communicate with one another and with larger publics.

It took more than a week for the hashtag to catch on, and from July 25 through the end of August, the four hashtags #occupywallstreet, #occupywallst, #occupy and #ows together accounted for an average of only 27 messages per day. Activity increased in September, and by the day of occupation, Twitter volume on this group of hashtags hit 78,351 as the broader public of participants, bystanders and commentators joined organizers in using the platform for realtime micoblogging of information, opinions and photos. Twitter’s instantaneous syndication was a valuable conduit for time-sensitive news, and its 140-character message limit was well suited to the mobile devices that predominated in Liberty Plaza. Some activists used photo, video and geotagging features on their phones to make Twitter a medium for mapping and building the extended Occupy taskscape. Volume on those four hashtags peaked at 411,117 on November 15, the day protesters were evicted from the park. [17]


Visualization of the Occupy movement online, July to December 2011, including activity on Google, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and We Are the 99 Percent. Click image to enlarge. [Timeline by the authors]

Many other online spaces provided venues for discourse and arenas for participation. Internet relay chat channels allowed participants to talk to one another, individually and in groups. Live video streams from Liberty Plaza and other camps opened real-time windows onto parks, squares and streets around the world. Occupystreams.org compiled more than 250 such livestreams, each flanked on screen by a chat feed. Video and photo-sharing sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr and Instagram enabled participants to post, share and discuss images of Occupy protests, police actions, and other content. Much of this activity garnered only limited interest, but some posts went viral, such as the late September videoof a high-ranking NYPD officer pepper-spraying women who had already been corralled on the sidewalk. Edited and annotated with the low-tech tools that support user-generated content, the video broadened awareness of and sympathy for the occupation.

As social media expanded the range of channels for participation in Occupy Wall Street, it also changed the nature of the public that joined. Extrapolating from the work of anthropologist Jeffrey S. Juris, we can contrast the network logics that predominated in summer 2011, when organizations and activists used email lists and websites to mobilize pre-existing networks, with a new set of aggregation logics that developed as the event took off. Social media engaged many thousands of people who had no pre-existing connection to social change organizations and activist networks. These virtual spaces, even more than city parks, became points of encounter where previously unrelated individuals aggregated to form popular assemblies.

Focusing on Occupy Boston, Juris suggests that while the alter-globalization protests of the 1990s created “temporary performative terrains along which networks made themselves and their struggles visible,” the Occupy movement activated a wider public. “Rather than providing spaces for particular networks to coordinate actions and physically represent themselves,” he writes, “the smart mob protests facilitated by social media such as Facebook and Twitter make visible crowds of individuals aggregated within concrete locales.” [18]

Political scientist Stephania Milan has characterized Occupy protests as “cloud protesting,” comparing the movement to “a cloud where a set of ‘soft resources’ coexist: identities, narratives, and know-how, which facilitate mobilization,” much as social media hosted via cloud computing gives individuals the tools for “producing, selecting, punctuating, and diffusing material like tweets, posts and videos.” [19]


Top: Protest sign in Times Square: “Get off the internet. I’ll Meet you in the streets.” [Photo by Geoff Stearns] Bottom: Collaboratively edited User Map at OccupyWallSt.org.

Though Milan and Juris don’t address them, we could add crowdmaps to the list of “cloud tools” that activated aggregation logics in the Occupy movement. Online maps populated by user-generated content were published at Take the SquareUS Day of Rage,OccupyWallSt.org, and Occupy.net. Most used Ushahidi, free open-source crowdmapping software developed in 2008 in Kenya to support disaster relief and response efforts. By compiling data into a common geospatial framework, these crowdmaps visualized Occupy participants and camps as discrete elements that aggregated to form a global phenomenon. They associated people, texts, images and videos with particular places, constructing hypergeographies of action and potential. Animated timeline features encouraged users to visualize themselves and local events as part of a process of “#globalchange.”

The most robust crowdmap was the #OccupyMap at Occupy.net, built by the Tech Ops working group of NYCGA. It provided a web interface for reporting events such as marches, rallies and police interventions, with easy media embedding and compatibility with the Ushahidi app on iOS and Android mobile devices. It also populated automatically from Twitter: any tweet from a location-enabled device that included the hashtag #occupymap generated a geotagged report that could incorporate photos and videos via the Twitpic and Twitvid apps. By spring 2012, the map had aggregated some 900 entries from New York City into a database that could be sorted geographically and temporally, by medium and by event type — all viewable via map, timeline and photo interfaces. By pulling together disparate events and data across space and time, the #OccupyMap created a counterpublic integrated through its use of online media to contest state and corporate control of urban places.

The Occupy crowdmaps were most compelling rhetorically at larger scales, where they visualized landscapes fundamentally distinct from those visible in city streets. In counterpoint to the intense attention paid to Liberty Plaza, these virtual geographies redefined the public of Occupy Wall Street as a dispersed set of agents linked more by online communication channels than by proximity. Viewed at national scale, the red placemarker icons on the User Map at OccupyWallSt.org suggested a crowd of hot air balloons that had landed — or were preparing to take off — all across the country. In places they clustered so tightly as to create red contours marking an otherwise invisible topography of radicalism. But at the local scale, what had seemed a continuous landscape of occupiers thinned out; zooming in on Liberty Plaza, you saw only a forlorn green oblong scattered with a few markers.

Open-Source Urbanism 
While some online activists relied on corporate media such as Facebook and Twitter to reach a broad public, many made a point of using open-source software, sources and methods such as wikicoding. Occupy websites became spaces for the elaboration of what Christopher Kelty calls a recursive public, “a public that is vitally concerned with the material and practical maintenance and modification of the technical, legal, practical, and conceptual means of its own existence.” [20] In the physical realm, Liberty Plaza and other occupied spaces functioned as offline analogues of a wiki page. Participants without much prior affiliation built new worlds and organized themselves to maintain them while avoiding hierarchy and formalization whenever they could. At these “wikicamps,” open-source urbanism operated at a scale simultaneously local and global. [21] The New York camp was built with knowledge, idea and resources from Spain and Argentina, Chiapas and Cairo, as well as from local coalitions.


Jonathan Massey and Brett Snyder map Liberty Plaza’s functional zones and activities. See the sidebar  “Mapping Liberty Plaza” for axonometric drawings of the site’s transformation.

Participants have continued to explore the ways that digital media can reshape our public spaces and public spheres. One example is a course project at The New School that emerged from a multi-day, multi-city “hackathon” sponsored by the working group Occupy Research. The Twitter bot @OccupyPOPS is a script that cross-references check-ins on social media sites Foursquare and Twitter with the New York City government database of privately-owned public spaces, then automatically tweets a call to temporarily occupy a particular POPS at a specific date and time. Created by Christo de Klerk, @OccupyPOPS mobilizes virtual spaces, physical places and social networks to reshape urban public space and the regulations that govern it. Other New York-based projects addressing the issues foregrounded by Occupy include #whOWNSpace and The Public School, as well as pre-existing initiatives like Not an Alternative.

Open-source hypercity urbanism becomes increasingly important as governments constrain public assembly in the offline world. On November 15, the state cleared the experimental agora at Liberty Plaza. Police and sanitation workers with bulldozers removed tents and tarps while resisting occupiers fell back to the People’s Kitchen. As NYPD blockaded the surrounding streets and airspace, people and texts and media feeds streamed out from an atmosphere made toxic by chemical and sonic weapons. Coordinated police actions evicted occupiers in Oakland, Portland, Denver and other cities.

Occupy Wall Street working groups and General Assemblies continue to meet in the 60 Wall Street atrium and other public locations, and to stage intermittent marches, rallies and actions. Occupations were sustained in other cities around the world, and activists tried several times to retake Zuccotti Park. Without its base camp, the Occupy movement relied even more extensively on websites and other online media as its primary means of communication and self-representation. This activity expanded into an array of diffuse campaigns: to reduce and renegotiate student debt; to resist foreclosures and reclaim bank-owned houses; and to challenge corporate power on many fronts.


Top: Sign posted at the 60 Wall atrium on November 15: “No excessive use of space.” [Photo byJohanna Clear] Bottom: Protesters remove police barriers and reoccupy Zuccotti Park on November 17. [Photo by Brennan Cavanaugh]

Occupy Wall Street had an immediate impact on U.S. domestic politics. Counteracting anti-deficit rhetoric from the Republican Party and Tea Party activists who sought to cut social services while borrowing heavily to fund wars and regressive income redistributions, the Occupy movement shifted the focus of mainstream political discourse to income inequality and the burdens of consumer debt. For many participants and observers, though, its more compelling achievement was to embody a minimally hierarchical communitarian polity that combined consensual direct democracy with a high degree of individual autonomy, and also a voluntary sharing economy with the market logics and state service provision that dominate everyday urban life. The longer-term impact of #OWS may well stem from the techniques it modeled online and in the streets for building new publics and polities.

What might this history mean for the future of public space and political action? Events are still unfolding, so the question is open-ended. But here are some provisional conclusions:

  • Online tools are rapidly changing the dynamics of political action. The aggregative, rhizomatic, and exponentially expanding character of the Occupy movement reflects the distinctive capacities of social media.
  • Media are accelerating the pace of discourse and action. Flash mobs and viral tweets may be excessively hyped, but the compressed temporality of the new media landscape is reflected in the rapid emergence, metastasis, and dormancy of Occupy Wall Street.
  • Digital communities are good at building systems. Wikicoding and other modes of online collaboration can build online venues fast and well.
  • These communities may still require face-to-face interaction to achieve substantive change. Digital communication is easy, but for that reason it can feel too light and weightless to mobilize people for the tenacious action it often takes to achieve deep structural changes.
  • Bodies in the street still matter for commanding attention and galvanizing engagement.
  • Modern forms of police control violate basic civil liberties. From the constraints placed on all manner of public assembly to the everyday civil rights violations of the stop-and-frisk system, police in New York and some other American cities have passed a dangerous tipping point.
  • Asserting a broad right to the city means claiming public places, online and offline, for assembly, dialogue and deliberation by multiple publics with varying spatial and temporal requirements.
  • Privately owned public spaces offer platforms for experimentation. The prevalence of corporate enclaves in our cities and online often homogenizes and constrains public life, but Occupy Wall Street showed that POPS can be sites for public-making and political action.
  • But users should reclaim some of the value we create in using corporate media. Activists should find ways to gain at least partial control over the valuable and revealing information trails that users generate through activity online and in our cities.

Finally, initiative is shifting to global-local coalitions. While Occupy was often framed in nationalist terms, its more pervasive character was simultaneously transnational and highly local, reflecting the new geographies of capitalism and its media. The intersections between global and local, online and face-to-face, reformist and radical are promising sites for the creation of the new publics and polities that might open up futures beyond the neoliberal state.


Editors’ Note
 

See the sidebar “Mapping Liberty Plaza” for axonometric drawings of the site’s transformation, by Jonathan Massey and Brett Snyder.For related content on Places, see also “Occupy: What Architecture Can Do” and “Occupy: The Day After,” by Reinhold Martin, and “Housing and the 99 Percent,” by Jonathan Massey.

Authors’ Note 

Andrew Weigand and Grant D. Foster assisted with research and visualization for this project.

We would like to thank many colleagues who contributed research and ideas. Early discussions about Occupy Wall Street included Joy Connolly, Elise Harris, Greg Smithsimon and Jenny Uleman. Matt Boorady, Timothy Gale, Steve Klimek, Gabriella Morrone and Nathaniel Wooten contributed to the mapping and surveying of Liberty Plaza. Jennifer Altman-Lupu, Rob Daurio and Katie Gill shared Occupy Wall Street maps they had made and gathered. The Transdisciplinary Media Studio at Syracuse University supported our research with funding from a Chancellor’s Leadership Initiative.

The project benefited from feedback at two stages. The Aggregate Architectural History Collaborativeworkshopped an early version of the text. Organizers and participants in the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute in Digital Humanities, “Digital Cultural Mapping,” held at UCLA in June and July 2012, helped us develop the project both intellectually and representationally. Particular thanks to organizers Todd Presner, Diane Favro and Chris Johanson, and to consultants Zoe Borovsky, Yoh Kawano, David Shepard and Elaine Sullivan, as well as Micha Cárdenas of USC.

Notes 

1. See Doug Singsen, “Autonomous Zone on Wall Street?,” Socialist Worker, October 11, 2011.
2. “#OCCUPYWALLSTREET,” Adbusters, July 31, 2011.
3. On Occupy Oakland as a counterpublic, see Allison Laubach Wright, “Counterpublic Protest and the Purpose of Occupy: Reframing the Discourse of Occupy Wall Street,” Plaza: Dialogues in Language and Literature 2.2 (Spring 2012): 138-146.
4. “Nine Arrested and Released Without Charge in Occupy Wall Street Test Run,” Occupy Wall Street, September 8, 2011. For early histories of OWS in New York, see Writers for the 99%, Occupying Wall Street: The Inside Story of an Action that Changed America (New York and London: OR Books, 2011), andOccupyScenes from Occupied America, ed. Astra Taylor, Keith Gessen, et al. (London: Verso, 2011).
5. See Alex Vitale, “NYPD and OWS: A Clash of Styles,” in OccupyScenes from Occupied America, 74-81; and Vitale, City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics (New York: NYU Press, 2008).
6. On the POPS system, see Jerold S. Kayden et al., Privately Owned Public Spaces: The New York City Experience (John Wiley & Sons, 2000); and Benjamin Shepard and Greg Smithsimon, The Beach Beneath the Streets: Contesting New York City’s Public Spaces (Albany: Excelsior Editions/State University of New York Press, 2011), Chs. 2-3.
7. Hakim Bey, T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous ZoneOntological AnarchyPoetic Terrorism (New York: Autonomedia, 1985). See also Shepard and Smithsimon, The Beach Beneath the Streets, Ch. 1.
8. Tim Ingold, “The Temporality of the Landscape,” World Archaeology, 25:2 (1993): 152-174. Thanks to Jennifer Altman-Lupu for suggesting this way of understanding Liberty Plaza.
9. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, “Occupy Wall Street Divided,” 16 November 2011. For a more serious account, see Writers for the 99%, Occupying Wall Street, 61-67.
10. The Occupy movement online combined two modes that Sándor Végh describes as “internet-enhanced activism” and “internet-enabled activism.” See “Classifying Forms of Online Activism: The Case of Cyberprotests against the World Bank,” in Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice, ed. Martha McCaughey and Michael D. Ayers (Portsmouth, NH: Routledge, 2003), 71-96. These approaches constituted what we might call a digital repertory of contention. See Charles Tilly, Regimes and Repertoires (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), and Brett Rolfe, “Building an Electronic Repertoire of Contention,” Social Movement Studies 4:1 (May 2005): 65-74.
11. Jennifer Earl and Katrina Kimport call this “e-mobilization”: using the web to facilitate and coordinate in-person protest. See Digitally Enabled Social Change: Activism in the Internet Age (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011).
12. Some commentators even used the site’s “notes” function to publish commentaries on and critiques of the movement for others to discuss and repost. See, for instance, Greg Tate’s note “Top Ten Reasons Why So Few Blackfolk Seem Down to Occupy Wall Street,” 17 October 2011.
13. See Earl and Kimport, Digitally Enabled Social Change, Introduction.
14. See Adam Weinstein, “‘We Are the 99 Percent’ Creators Revealed,” Mother Jones, 7 October 2011, and Rebecca J. Rosen, “The 99 Percent Tumblr and Self-Service History,” The Atlantic, 10 October 2011.
15. After a slow start in August 2011, participation in the 99 Percent Project spiked at the beginning of October 2011, as the Brooklyn Bridge march and arrests spread awareness of Occupy Wall Street. Activity peaked on October 20, when site managers posted 264 photos and site visitors added nearly 6,000 comments. By the end of May 2012, the project encompassed 3255 posts and more than 134,000 comments.
16. Sean McKeown, “Winter Event Tents for Liberty Plaza,” Town Planning forum, New York City General Assembly.
17. Twitter data is drawn from a dataset compiled by social analytics company PeopleBrowsr.
18. Jeffrey S. Juris, “Reflections on #Occupy Everywhere: Social media, public space, and emerging logics of aggregation,” American Ethnologist 39:2 (2012): 259-79: 260-61.
19. Stefania Milan, “Cloud Protesting: On Mobilization in Times of Social Media,” lecture, 10 February 2012 (abstract).
20. Christopher Kelty, Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Duke University Press, 2008). See also “Recursive Public,” The Foundation for P2P Alternatives.
21. “Wikicamps” adapts the term that sociologist Manuel Castells used to describe the camps that filled Spanish plazas beginning in May 2011. See Castells, “The Disgust Becomes a Network” (translation of “#Wikiacampadas,” La Vanguardia, 28 May 2011), trans. Hugh Green, Adbusters 97 (2 August 2011).

Muito além de uma resposta do poder público (Canal Ibase)

Renzo Taddei, Colunista do Canal Ibase

Link original: http://www.canalibase.org.br/muito-alem-de-uma-resposta-do-poder-publico/

15/07/2013

Na quarta-feira, dia 10 de julho, o Juca Kfouri afirmou em entrevista à Agência Pública que “se não houver respostas, as manifestações serão maiores em 2014”. Na sexta (12) a Deutsche Welle publicou entrevista com Marina Silva, onde ela afirma que a reação do Congresso Nacional e da Presidência da República está “aquém da grandeza dos protestos”. Acredito que a imensa maioria dos analistas concorda com esse ponto: o governo não foi capaz, até o momento, de dar respostas à altura do que pede a ocasião. Nesse texto, no entanto, eu gostaria de discutir dimensões dos acontecimentos que estamos vivenciando que transcendem a resposta do estado.

Inicialmente, eu gostaria de colocar em questão até que ponto o fazer-se ouvir é o sentido último do que estamos vivendo. Isso me parece redutor, porque coloca o estado no centro de tudo. Sou da opinião de que não se deve medir o que está ocorrendo, em seu sucesso ou fracasso, apenas em função da resposta do poder público. Não me parece que as pessoas saem às ruas apenas para provocar uma resposta do poder público. Talvez muitos o façam, ou seja essa a forma que dão sentido ao fato de saírem às ruas. No entanto, o que está ocorrendo é o fortalecimento de redes de organização, de articulação social, cultural e política; redes essas que existem de forma independente ao estado. A assembleia popular horizontal que ocorreu sábado (13) em Belo Horizonte, transmitida ao vivo na Internet pela PósTV/mídia NINJA, é um exemplo disso. Não estou aqui dizendo que as manifestações são anti-estado – ainda que certos grupos certamente o sejam, estes parecem ser uma minoria. O que estou dizendo é que, para que sejam capazes de organizar suas ações e veicular suas mensagens, novas formas de associação entre grupos surgem, inclusive novas formas de pensamento sobre a vida coletiva e sobre o mundo, que não tem o estado como mediador perpétuo de tudo. A política das redes sociais e das ruas é a política que não se resume a fazer referência direta ao que ocorre no Congresso Nacional, no Palácio do Planalto ou nos muitos palácios-sedes de governo estadual. Em uma palavra, o que esses movimentos têm como fundamento de ação é a afirmação de que o mundo é maior do que o sistema político; o sistema político deve trabalhar para a plenitude da vida no mundo, e não o contrário.

Foto: Mídia Ninja

É em função disso que a tentativa de encontrar uma causa fundamental ou mais urgente, que dê uma identidade ao movimento das ruas, é tarefa vã. Trata-se da tentativa de negar a dimensão múltipla das manifestações, e, ao mesmo tempo, de não enxergar as transformações estruturais, de fundo, que estão ocorrendo. Isso se dá porque falar em “demandas” sugere que o problema é conjuntural, enquanto há uma dimensão estrutural em jogo.

Que dimensão é essa? Em sua última coluna na Carta Capital, Vladimir Safatle afirma que além da crise de representação política, há o esgotamento do ciclo de desenvolvimento com distribuição de renda da época de Lula. A solução para isso é impossível no governo Dilma, diz Safatle, porque requer uma reforma fiscal que seja verdadeiramente de esquerda, algo impossibilitado pelo modelo de alianças partidárias que caracteriza o lulismo. Safatle tem razão, mas essa é apenas metade da história. A outra metade é exógena ao sistema político; está ligada a uma transformação maior em curso, que nos afasta das práticas de organização da sociedade ao redor de hierarquias verticais, onde há um esforço de homogeneização da população em pensamento e ação, de modo que seja mais fácil impor a todos uma visão daquilo que é “mais importante”. A nova realidade social parece estar se configurando de modo que grupos distintos, cada qual com suas agendas específicas, se juntam e separam o tempo todo, formando redes de colaboração que, apesar de eficazes, são mais ou menos instáveis.

Ou seja, Safatle faz referência a um modelo de governabilidade em crise; eu diria que essa é apenas a ponta do iceberg: o que está em crise é o sistema todo; mais que o governo, é o próprio estado que se mostra incapaz de responder às demandas políticas da população. Isso se dá no contexto da crise do modelo republicano francês – crise que afeta a França há décadas e que se faz visível agora no Brasil. Aqui estou fazendo referência a como nosso sistema político, como o francês, depende do esforço do estado na criação de uma certa subjetividade política nos cidadãos; subjetividade essa que, em escala populacional, faz com que o país seja administrável à distância, quase que por controle remoto. Falando em bom português: há um esforço do estado e das instituições (escolas, mídia, tribunais, hospitais) no sentido de produzirem os brasileiros de forma que estes sejam politicamente passivos; o Brasil é mais administrável se todo mundo pensar de forma semelhante, e mais ainda se todo mundo ficar em casa, vendo o mundo pela TV, anestesiados. Esse é o contexto da democracia representativa no Brasil, aquele que reduz a participação política da população às eleições, e onde grande parte das pessoas sequer consegue lembrar em quem votou para os cargos legislativos.

É esse modelo de estado que está em crise, e que nem a reforma política, nem a tributária, irá resolver. A crise da representatividade não se resume à falta de confiança na classe política; há também, e fundamentalmente, uma nova consciência do direito à diferença; para além de ser ineficiente e corrupto, o estado é entendido como fascista porque cala (com o apoio da FIFA, do COB e de empresários do petróleo) qualquer forma de diferença que se mostre inadministrável. Os ataques à imprensa corporativa, e em especial à Rede Globo, tem essa questão como pano de fundo, e não a questão da corrupção. A emergência de mídias abertas, descentralizadas, como a NINJA e a PósTV, são parte desse movimento. Resulta disso tudo a recusa a qualquer forma de representação, e a participação direta, nas ruas e na Internet, é seu principal sintoma.

Sendo assim, não vejo possibilidade de avanço no país que não passe pela transformação das instituições políticas, algumas vezes de forma radical (como a desmilitarização das polícias), de modo que estas sejam mais participativas, mais transparentes e mais flexíveis, para que o bom funcionamento do sistema não seja dependente da homogeneização e da alienação das massas, mas que o sistema possa, ao invés disso, se alimentar da energia e da sinergia produzida pela diversidade de formas de existir. Nesse contexto, não se trata do povo pedir e do governo atender. Ao invés disso, povo e governo tem a difícil missão de transformarem, juntos ou não, o estado em outra coisa, diferente do que ele é na atualidade.

A disputa dos sentidos associados à violência

Existe uma clara disputa pelos sentidos do que está ocorrendo, envolvendo governos, mídias, partidos, movimentos sociais. É importante notar que nem sempre essa disputa tem como objetivo o fazer-se ouvir. Muitas vezes, é fruto de uma vontade de fazer com que o outro não seja ouvido. O uso de adjetivos como “vândalos” e “baderneiros”, por exemplo, é uma tentativa de sequestrar os sentidos associados a algumas das ações de grupos participantes nas manifestações, esvaziando a sua dimensão política. Infelizmente, os governos, e em maior escala a grande imprensa nacional, tem feito um uso estúpido e estupidificante destes adjetivos. As ações violentas, de ataque a automóveis e edifícios, não são aleatórias, como a imprensa faz crer. Podem ser reprováveis, mas não são aleatórias, e em não o sendo comunicam algo. Na Argentina em 2001, depredaram-se os bancos. Porque não houve ataque a bancos aqui? Houve manifestações em outros países onde lojas do McDonalds foram depredadas. Novamente, aqui no Brasil, neste momento, há certa constância em ataque a edifícios e automóveis ligados ao poder público e às corporações de imprensa. Isso é, obviamente, uma forma de comunicação. A questão então é: o que faz com que setores da população adotem esse tipo de prática como estratégia comunicativa?

Como resposta possível a essa questão, não faltam evidências, tanto na produção das ciências sociais como no discurso de ativistas dos movimentos sociais, de que a comunicação através da violência é um padrão usado pelo próprio estado na sua relação com setores marginalizados da população. Ou seja, há certas arenas da vida social em que o contexto se organiza em torno de práticas violentas, e impõe a violência como estratégia de ação comunicativa. Não é por acaso que os grupos que se envolvem em ações violentas são aqueles que não se reconhecem no discurso do estado ou da imprensa, acham que sua voz nunca é ouvida. Em minhas próprias pesquisas, vi muito isso entre lideranças de torcidas organizadas. Quando é que a imprensa dá espaço a tais lideranças? Nunca.

Como dizem alguns autores, a violência não é um fato, mas uma acusação: a polícia tem o poder autorizado de dizer o que e quem é violento, e fazer com que a sua própria violência fique invisível, não constando nos relatórios oficiais, nem em grande parte da cobertura da imprensa, que tem na própria polícia uma de suas mais importantes fontes de informação. Infelizmente, muitos dos nossos jornalistas são ventríloquos da polícia. Por isso a violência policial que temos visto é tão chocante e assustadora para a classe média, em especial para quem aprendeu a pensar o mundo através da televisão. A circulação livre e intensa de imagens e vídeos, e a ação de mídias alternativas, comprometidas com as causas dos movimentos sociais, estão rompendo esse regime visual ao qual estávamos submetidos. A polícia e o poder público não são mais capazes de regimentar a visualidade das violências e só mostrar a violência dos outros. A polícia mostra que tem consciência de que está numa guerra de imagens: um sem número de policiais tem atuado na repressão às manifestações sem suas identificações; quando convém, no entanto, a polícia filma as próprias ações e distribui o vídeo à imprensa.

pm Manifestações– continuação

Foto: Movimento Passe Livre

O que não se pode ignorar, no entanto, é que existe uma dimensão pedagógica na violência policial. Para um bocado de gente, as balas de borracha e o gás lacrimogêneo estão servido como uma espécie de rito de passagem de retorno, com muita energia, ao mundo da política. Um jornalista gastronômico inglês que participou das manifestações de ontem (11 de julho) no Rio de Janeiro, e sofreu na pele a brutalidade policial, escreveu em seu site: “agora entendo como eventos como esse podem radicalizar as pessoas”. Tais acontecimentos estão ensinando a população a respeito do fascismo do estado; está fazendo parte da classe média experimentar o gosto da repressão policial que só as classes mais baixas vivem cotidianamente. Enfim, isso pode dar muito errado; mas pode ser também o início de um processo de repolitização da juventude. Ou as duas coisas. Eu tenho a impressão de que essa repolitização está acontecendo. Por isso as eleições do ano que vem serão extraordinariamente interessantes.

E o que é que pode dar errado? Há um outro lado dessa dimensão constitutiva da violência: a ação policial, não mediada por lideranças políticas responsáveis e capazes (e está claro a ausência disso em cidades como o Rio de Janeiro), pode criar uma realidade política inexistente no Brasil: grupos organizados de guerrilha urbana, que se armam para enfrentar a polícia. Recentemente, em debate sobre as manifestações no Instituto de Estudos Avançados da USP, Massimo Canevacci, antropólogo italiano, mencionou o conceito de mimese como algo importante na compreensão do que está ocorrendo no Brasil, em sua relação com eventos internacionais, como o que ocorre na Turquia, por exemplo. Isso imediatamente me trouxe à mente algo que vi em minha pesquisa de campo na periferia de Buenos Aires, junto a torcidas organizadas de futebol. Encontrei uma correlação entre o momento em que a polícia militar instalou delegacias nos bairros de periferia e começou uma história de conflito com as torcidas locais, e o início do uso de armas de fogo pelas mesmas torcidas (coisa que anteriormente era vista como sinal de covardia). Obviamente é difícil afirmar que existe uma relação causal entre uma coisa e outra; de qualquer forma, a ideia de equilíbrio de forças é parte fundamental do discurso dos líderes de torcidas mais velhos. Minha hipótese é que a polícia, que obviamente não tem qualquer interesse em igualar forças, mas sim de subjugar o outro, ao inserir uma desigualdade nesse panorama de busca do equilíbrio de forças, acabou fazendo com que as torcidas buscassem as mesmas armas de combate, o que resultou na adoção de armas de fogo pelas mesmas. Novamente, trata-se apenas de uma hipótese. Mas vejamos o que está ocorrendo no Brasil: nas primeiras manifestações de junho, não havia qualquer intenção, por parte dos manifestantes, de entrar em combate com a polícia. Foram brutalizados; e a brutalização tem se repetido, por várias semanas consecutivas, no país todo. Como resultado, o que temos visto é a disposição crescente, por parte de grupos específicos (e cada vez maiores), em preparar-se para o combate com a polícia: do uso de vinagre como instrumento de resistência, nas manifestações de junho, passamos a ver o uso de rojões e coquetéis molotov, como na última quinta (11), no Rio de Janeiro. Esses grupos estão mimetizando a ação da polícia, e isso se dá porque as lideranças políticas estão com suas cabeças enterradas, como avestruzes, e deixaram à polícia a responsabilidade de fazer política pública de segurança. Ou seja, não há interlocução; a polícia impõe a violência como única forma de comunicação. O Brasil pode estar a caminho de criar o seu Weather Underground, e isso é tudo o que a polícia precisa para justificar níveis ainda mais altos de violência contra a população civil, em razão do fortalecimento de agendas da direita. É essencial que as novas lideranças políticas, dos movimentos sociais, busquem atuar para desarticular essa guerrilha urbana nascente, de modo que o movimento todo não caia nisso que é, claramente, uma armadilha.

Foto: Manifestações Brasil 24h (Facebook)

Fifa vê gesto desrespeitoso de Dilma Rousseff por não ir à final (OESP)

Tradicionalmente, presidente do país sede do torneio está na decisão e entrega a taça ao campeão

29 de junho de 2013 | 20h 17

JAMIL CHADE – Enviado especial – Agência Estado

RIO – A Fifa tomou como um gesto de desrespeito a decisão da presidente Dilma Rousseffde não ir à final deste domingo no Maracanã entre Brasil e Espanha. Tradicionalmente, presidente do país sede do torneio está na decisão e entrega a taça ao campeão. Neste sábado, parte da cúpula da Fifa que conversou com a reportagem não escondia surpresa diante da decisão da chefe-de-estado de não viajar ao Rio de Janeiro. Apesar da ausência de Dilma, a ala VIP do estádio do Maracanã estará lotada de políticos.

Dilma foi vaiada na abertura e quer evitar desgaste - Dida Sampaio/Estadão

Dida Sampaio/Estadão. Dilma foi vaiada na abertura e quer evitar desgaste

Dilma foi vaiada no jogo de abertura, em Brasília, e decidiu que, diante dos protestos nas ruas e de sua queda de popularidade, não seria o momento de aparecer num estádio, mesmo que seja no evento-teste para a Copa do Mundo e uma espécie de cartão de visita do País.

Apesar das declarações de membros do Comitê Executivo da Fifa, a assessoria de imprensa insistiu em adotar posição diplomática e garante que seus cartolas não representam a posição oficial da entidade.

“A Fifa respeita totalmente a decisão da presidente Dilma Rousseff em relação à participação na final
no Maracanã, seja ela qual for”, disse a assessoria.

Entretanto, nos bastidores, parte dos funcionários da Fifa tentavam entender a decisão de Dilma de não estar no estádio. “Isso é bom ou ruim para ela?”, questionou um deles. Para outros mais próximos da presidência, a atitude é um “gesto de desrespeito”.

A relação entre governo e Fifa já não era das melhores. Mas um dos legados do torneio será um esfriamento ainda maior dos contatos. O governo ficou irritado com os comentários da Fifa sobre as manifestações e com as cobranças por mais segurança.

Se Dilma não estará no estádio, o Maracanã não sentirá falta de políticos. Além de governadores e do prefeito do Rio, Eduardo Paes, deputados, vereadores e senadores estão sendo aguardados na tribuna de honra.

Nas arquibancadas, a torcida já indicou nos meios sociais que irá usar a final para protestar. Nas ruas que dão acesso ao Maracanã, milhares de pessoas prometem protestar. O estádio estará blindado por mais de 6 mil policiais.

Para fontes na Fifa, a situação chega a ser irônica. Afinal, o governo brasileiro quer usar justamente os megaeventos esportivos para se promover no exterior e as autoridades não têm economizado recursos para o marketing baseado no torneio.

Até mesmo a Agência de Promoção das Exportações, ligada ao Ministério do Desenvolvimento, se transformou em associada da Fifa, pagando uma cota de patrocínio de R$ 20 milhões. Já o BNDES e diversos outros órgãos foram fundamentais em bancar estádios e infraestrutura para o evento.

Para outro experiente cartola, o que surpreende é o contraste em relação à participação de outros chefes-de-estado em torneios similares. Em 2009, o capitão da seleção brasileira na época, Lúcio, recebeu o troféu de campeão das mãos de Jacob Zuma, presidente sul-africano. Zuma ainda participou de todos os jogos em Johannesburgo, num esforço de mostrar o compromisso do governo com o torneio. Em 2005, na Alemanha, a cúpula do governo de Berlim também se fez presente.

Fontes próximas ao presidente Joseph Blatter insistem que o cartola suíça “entendeu” a decisão política de Dilma. Mas considerou que sua atitude mostra que o governo não está sempre disposto a bancar o evento e que cálculos políticos pesam mais que o torneio em si. “O que parece é que, quando as coisas vão bem, o Brasil quer usar a Copa para se promover. Mas quando não funciona ou há uma crise, todos querem se dissociar do futebol”, comentou um membro do Comitê Executivo da entidade, que pediu anonimato.

Veja também:
link Dilma Rousseff decide que não verá final no Maracanã no domingo 
link Felipão alfineta Fifa por chegar atrasado ao Maracanã 
link Salvador terá protesto antes da disputa do 3.º lugar

Sobre as manifestações (OESP)

‘Epidemia’ de manifestações tem quase 1 protesto por hora e atinge 353 cidades

Movimento ganhou força depois do dia 17, ao monopolizar o noticiário das grandes redes de TV, e auge foi no dia 20, em 150 cidades

29 de junho de 2013 | 19h 49

Bruno Paes Manso e Rodrigo Burgarelli – O Estado de S. Paulo

SÃO PAULO – No dia 6 de junho, os jornais de São Paulo ainda repercutiam mortes violentas em tentativas de assalto quando uma primeira manifestação de 150 jovens, aparentemente despretensiosa, aconteceu no centro da cidade, na hora do rush, rumo à Avenida Paulista. Era o primeiro protesto do Movimento Passe Livre (MPL), que nos dias seguintes atrairia os holofotes da imprensa e se espalharia como “epidemia” pelo Brasil, contagiando rapidamente a população de diferentes cidades.

Veja também:
link Saiba tudo sobre os protestos pelo País

Manifestantes na Avenida Paulista,  em São Paulo, na quarta-feira, 26 - JF Diorio/AE

JF Diorio/AE. Manifestantes na Avenida Paulista, em São Paulo, na quarta-feira, 26

Até quinta-feira, a população saiu às ruas com cartazes para protestar em pelo menos 353 municípios, conforme levantamento feito pelo Estado em eventos no Facebook e em menções na imprensa regional. Ao todo, houve pelo menos 490 protestos em três semanas (mais de 22 por dia). Já a Confederação Nacional dos Municípios (CNM), em pesquisa feita nas prefeituras, identificou protestos em 438 cidades.

O papel das redes sociais (Twitter e Facebook) foi decisivo para a articulação dos discursos e para divulgar hora e local dos protestos. Mas a epidemia só ganhou força depois do dia 17, ao monopolizar o noticiário das grandes redes de televisão. “Fazendo um paralelo com o casamento, esses eventos não têm causa única. O casal não termina porque a toalha foi deixada em cima da cama. Essa toalha pode ser a gota d’água de brigas antigas. O mesmo ocorreu nos protestos, que explodiram por uma longa história de crises enfrentadas em silêncio”, diz o professor de comunicação digital Luli Radfahrer (ECA-USP).

Avanço. Em São Paulo, os primeiros três protestos aconteceram em um intervalo de seis dias e não ultrapassaram os 10 mil manifestantes. Mesmo assim, já eram a principal história dos jornais. No dia 13 de junho, outras dez cidades aderiram – capitais ou cidades médias, como Natal, Porto Alegre, Rio, Santos e Sorocaba. No dia 17, quando São Paulo parou, com 200 mil pessoas nas ruas, já eram 21 protestando.

O auge foi no dia 20, quando 150 municípios tiveram protestos. Pelo menos 1 milhão de brasileiros foram às passeatas, segundo dados das Polícias Militares de 75 cidades. Desde Belém, no Pará, até Santana do Livramento, na fronteira com o Uruguai. A menor cidade a se rebelar foi Figueirão (MS), que tem 2,9 mil habitantes.

O mote do transporte público foi o mais popular principalmente nas cidades que têm rede de ônibus. Mas os protestos também ganharam conotações regionais, especialmente nas cidades menores. Picos (PI), por exemplo, atraiu manifestantes contra os pistoleiros. Coxim (MS) protestou contra os buracos nas ruas e pediu a saída do secretário de obras. “Foi uma revolta típica da pós-modernidade, aparentemente sem causa. Do ponto de vista político, contudo, a multiplicidade de causas tornou os protestos mais fortes justamente porque permite várias interpretações dos que vão se manifestar”, diz o psicanalista Jorge Forbes.

Forbes enxerga, no entanto, um ponto em comum nas demandas. “Trata-se de uma sociedade civil renovada, mais informada e educada, que continua tendo de lidar com as instituições do século passado, anacrônicas, que não atendem mais os anseios da população.”

Difícil leitura. Mesmo para aqueles que acompanham a história do movimento, a epidemia de protestos surpreendeu. O filósofo Pablo Ortellado, coautor do livro Estamos Vencendo! (Conrad), sobre os movimentos autonomistas no Brasil, ainda se esforça para entender o que aconteceu. “A resistência e a desobediência civil já eram discutidas desde Seattle, em 1999, nos movimentos antiglobalização. A novidade foi o Passe Livre, que passou a ter uma pauta clara, com um grupo de referência para negociar. O governo foi acuado pelas passeatas e mudou sua decisão.” As manifestações continuaram em menor quantidade depois da redução das tarifas, apesar de muitos protestos contra a Copa das Confeder[ações.]

*   *   *

‘Ativismo de sofá’ chegou às ruas, diz especialista

Para diretor de organização de petições online, recentes protestos mostram que assinar abaixo-assinado pela internet não é sinal de despolitização

30 de junho de 2013 | 2h 07

RICARDO CHAPOLA – O Estado de S.Paulo

O diretor de campanhas da Avaaz, uma das maiores organizações mundiais de abaixo-assinados online, Pedro Abramovay, acredita que a recente onda de protestos que tomaram conta do País desbanca o que especialistas e parte da sociedade apelidaram de “ativismo de sofá” – que nasce nas redes sociais e não chega às ruas.

Em atos que se espalharam por capitais e outras cidades brasileiras, manifestantes usaram a internet para dar musculatura à mobilização e, depois, foram às ruas. Abramovay avalia que esse fenômeno é o resultado de uma combinação de dois fatores: internautas mais politizados na rede diante de um cenário em que a política está muito obsoleta.

“Tinha gente que dizia: ‘Olha só, isso é uma despolitização, isso se resume a sofá’. E não, as pessoas não perceberam que a internet hoje faz parte da vida das pessoas”, afirmou ao Estado.

“Quando as pessoas compartilhavam uma petição pelo Facebook, pelo Twitter, elas estavam assumindo posição política diante dos seus amigos. Aquilo foi criando um caldo novo de cultura política num ambiente no qual a política e a forma de se fazer política está muito envelhecida. Uma hora tinha que explodir. E acho que explodiu, foi para as ruas.”

Reforma. Tanto a adesão maciça de pessoas aos atos quanto o número de protestos que ocorreram nas últimas semanas sinalizam, acredita Abramovay, que o eleitor está descontente com a falta de espaço político. Para ele, o poder público não dá abertura para participação social. “O que agora isso tem que gerar é uma mudança das instituições. E a criação de uma abertura política para esses movimentos, para essa vontade das pessoas participarem”, afirmou, em referência à necessidade de uma reforma política – a pauta entrou na agenda do governo federal na semana passada.

Respostas pontuais. Mas a postura do poder público não convence, na avaliação do diretor da Avaaz. Ele disse que a sociedade pede mudanças estruturais, a seu ver a única maneira de a política conseguir atender a todas as demandas existentes nos protestos. “Não bastam respostas imediatas e pontuais para o momento de movimentação aguda como a gente viu agora. Essa energia tem que ser canalizada para mudanças estruturais. A gente tem que ter canais pelos quais essa vontade de a sociedade participar seja acolhida permanentemente pelas instituições políticas”, disse Pedro Abramovay.

“A gente percebe que as pessoas querem falar de política e elas não veem nos canais normais os canais que as representem, que canalizem essas demandas. Então vão para a rua. É preciso reorganizar nossa democracia para que essas demandas encontrem lugar.”

Apartidarismo. Ex-secretário nacional de Justiça no governo do ex-presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Pedro Abramovay ainda é filiado ao PT. Apesar de criticar o que classifica de engessamento das instituições políticas, como os partidos, e a sua indisposição às mudanças reivindicadas nas ruas, o diretor da Avaaz avalia que o clamor público não é pela extinção das siglas. A questão, de acordo com Abramovay, é a falta de representatividade.

“Eu não acho que as pessoas não querem mais partidos, elas se cansaram de partidos que não as representam. As pessoas se cansaram de partidos que estão descolados da opinião pública, que são clubes eleitorais, como se tem dito. E não a extinção dos partidos.”

Para ele, não existe democracia sem legendas. “A existência de partidos é algo que faz parte da democracia. O respeito à preferência partidária também tem que fazer parte da democracia. Agora os partidos têm que acordar para essa movimentação e por esse desprezo que as pessoas têm pela maneira que eles estão funcionando atualmente.”

Abramovay classificou a onda de manifestações impulsionadas pela internet como um passo importante na história do País. Ele ainda disse que o Brasil tem plenas condições de ser pioneiro nesse novo tipo de política democrática.

“O Brasil tem condições de ser pioneiro nessas inovações democráticas. Não é à toa que o Brasil é o primeiro país da Avaaz”, observou. A organização de petições online, segundo ele, tem cerca de 4,5 milhões de membros brasileiros.

*   *   *

Onda de protestos tomou 353 cidades

30 de junho de 2013 | 7h 40

BRUNO PAES MANSO E RODRIGO BURGARELLI – Agência Estado

No dia 6 de junho, os jornais de São Paulo ainda repercutiam mortes violentas em tentativas de assalto quando uma primeira manifestação de 150 jovens, aparentemente despretensiosa, aconteceu no centro da cidade, na hora do rush, rumo à Avenida Paulista. Era o primeiro protesto do Movimento Passe Livre (MPL), que nos dias seguintes atrairia os holofotes da imprensa e se espalharia como “epidemia” pelo Brasil, contagiando rapidamente a população de diferentes cidades.

Até quinta-feira, a população saiu às ruas com cartazes para protestar em pelo menos 353 municípios, conforme levantamento feito pelo Estado em eventos no Facebook e em menções na imprensa regional. Ao todo, houve pelo menos 490 protestos em três semanas (mais de 22 por dia). Já a Confederação Nacional dos Municípios (CNM), em pesquisa feita nas prefeituras, identificou protestos em 438 cidades.

O papel das redes sociais (Twitter e Facebook) foi decisivo para a articulação dos discursos e para divulgar hora e local dos protestos. Mas a epidemia só ganhou força depois do dia 17, ao monopolizar o noticiário das grandes redes de televisão. “Fazendo um paralelo com o casamento, esses eventos não têm causa única. O casal não termina porque a toalha foi deixada em cima da cama. Essa toalha pode ser a gota d”água de brigas antigas. O mesmo ocorreu nos protestos, que explodiram por uma longa história de crises enfrentadas em silêncio”, diz o professor de comunicação digital Luli Radfahrer (ECA-USP).

Avanço. Em São Paulo, os primeiros três protestos aconteceram em um intervalo de seis dias e não ultrapassaram os 10 mil manifestantes. Mesmo assim, já eram a principal história dos jornais. No dia 13 de junho, outras dez cidades aderiram – capitais ou cidades médias, como Natal, Porto Alegre, Rio, Santos e Sorocaba. No dia 17, quando São Paulo parou, com 200 mil pessoas nas ruas, já eram 21 protestando.

O auge foi no dia 20, quando 150 municípios tiveram protestos. Pelo menos 1 milhão de brasileiros foram às passeatas, segundo dados das Polícias Militares de 75 cidades. Desde Belém, no Pará, até Santana do Livramento, na fronteira com o Uruguai. A menor cidade a se rebelar foi Figueirão (MS), que tem 2,9 mil habitantes.

O mote do transporte público foi o mais popular principalmente nas cidades que têm rede de ônibus. Mas os protestos também ganharam conotações regionais, especialmente nas cidades menores. Picos (PI), por exemplo, atraiu manifestantes contra os pistoleiros. Coxim (MS) protestou contra os buracos nas ruas e pediu a saída do secretário de obras. “Foi uma revolta típica da pós-modernidade, aparentemente sem causa. Do ponto de vista político, contudo, a multiplicidade de causas tornou os protestos mais fortes justamente porque permite várias interpretações dos que vão se manifestar”, diz o psicanalista Jorge Forbes.

Forbes enxerga, no entanto, um ponto em comum nas demandas. “Trata-se de uma sociedade civil renovada, mais informada e educada, que continua tendo de lidar com as instituições do século passado, anacrônicas, que não atendem mais os anseios da população.”

Difícil leitura. Mesmo para aqueles que acompanham a história do movimento, a epidemia de protestos surpreendeu. O filósofo Pablo Ortellado, coautor do livro Estamos Vencendo! (Conrad), sobre os movimentos autonomistas no Brasil, ainda se esforça para entender o que aconteceu. “A resistência e a desobediência civil já eram discutidas desde Seattle, em 1999, nos movimentos antiglobalização. A novidade foi o Passe Livre, que passou a ter uma pauta clara, com um grupo de referência para negociar. O governo foi acuado pelas passeatas e mudou sua decisão.” As manifestações continuaram em menor quantidade depois da redução das tarifas, apesar de muitos protestos contra a Copa das Confederações. As informações são do jornal O Estado de S. Paulo.

*   *   *

Quarta-feira, 26 de Junho 2013, 22h28

Congresso entra em ritmo frenético diante da pressão de manifestantes

Além de decisões de prefeitos e governadores, Câmara e Senado aprovam propostas que estavam engavetadas há anos; veja linha do tempo

Breno Lemos Pires/Estadão

*   *   *

Aliados culpam políticos por queda da popularidade de Dilma nas pesquisas

Datafolha apontou queda de 27 pontos na aprovação do governo da presidente após os protestos

29 de junho de 2013 | 13h 13

Ricardo Brito e Ricardo Della Coletta – Agência Estado

BRASÍLIA – Aliados da presidente Dilma Rousseff preferiram atribuir a queda de 27 pontos porcentuais na popularidade da presidente Dilma Rousseff, apontada na pesquisa Datafolha, divulgada neste sábado, 29, a uma insatisfação geral da população com os políticos, canalizada na chefe do Executivo, após os protestos que tomaram as ruas nas últimas semanas. Já a oposição não quis comemorar abertamente o resultado, que apontou que 30% dos brasileiros consideram a gestão Dilma boa ou ótima, ante 57% de avaliação positiva registrada na sondagem da primeira semana de junho.

A presidente recebeu no Palácio da Alvorada seus principais operadores políticos dentro do governo para conversar sobre a pesquisa e as novas medidas a serem tomadas. Participaram do encontro na manhã deste sábado os ministros da Comunicação Social, Helena Chagas, das Comunicações, Paulo Bernardo, e da Educação, Aloizio Mercadante, que tem atuado como um ministro informal da articulação política.

Para os governistas do Congresso, é prematuro afirmar que Dilma, que em todas as sondagens eleitorais feitas até o momento venceria no primeiro turno das eleições presidenciais no ano que vem, perdeu seu favoritismo. “É muito cedo para falar sobre 2014. A oposição já está vendo-a fora do governo”, ironizou o líder do governo na Câmara, Arlindo Chinaglia (PT-SP). “Não tem nada a ver com a reeleição (a pesquisa), estamos firmes e fortes. O nosso projeto é a reeleição da presidente Dilma. Eu não sou de abandonar o barco”, reforçou o líder do PT na Casa, José Guimarães (CE).

O líder petista lembrou que o ex-presidente Lula passou por dificuldades políticas maiores em 2005, quando eclodiu o escândalo do mensalão, e se reelegeu um ano depois. O líder do governo no Senado, Eduardo Braga (PMDB-AM), afirmou que a pesquisa está “contaminada” pela atual circunstância. “Qualquer pesquisa vai mostrar queda dos governantes, porque você esta fazendo pesquisa no olho do vulcão, em que estão acontecendo as manifestações e os protestos”, completou.

Oposição. A oposição não vê motivos para festejar a queda acentuada de Dilma de olho em 2014. “A gravidade do momento é tal que tanto o governo como a oposição não podem pensar em si próprios”, avaliou o presidente do Democratas, Agripino Maia (RN). “Com a eclosão das manifestações, o jogo zerou. A oposição sempre pregou no deserto e, de repente, essa mobilização dá à oposição a perspectiva de se preparar para um bom embate”, afirmou o líder do PPS na Câmara, Rubens Bueno (PR).

O presidente do Democratas, senador Agripino Maia (RN), disse que o resultado da pesquisa é uma “constatação clara” dos equívocos da gestão petista. “Acabou este tempo de governar em nome da reeleição”, disse, ao cobrar de Dilma “humildade de mudar” e ao ressaltar que a oposição está disposta a conversar com a presidente em torno do pacto lançado semana passada. Os oposicionistas, porém, são contrários à realização do plebiscito para se fazer uma reforma política. Agripino Maia defende melhorias na gestão fiscal e uma forte atuação para debelar o câmbio e a inflação altas no País.

O líder do PSDB do Senado, Aloysio Nunes Ferreira (SP), avaliou a queda de popularidade da presidente como um “tombo catastrófico, um sinal amarelo”. Para ele, Dilma desperdiçou a capacidade de liderança que tinha para fazer reformas importantes, como a tributária, enquanto ainda apresentava elevados índices de aprovação. “A capacidade de atuação agora fica mais difícil. Ela não atuou quando tinha gordura para queimar. Mas ainda há tempo, desde que se disponha a fazer a atribuição dela e não perca seu tempo com manobras políticas como a do plebiscito”, afirmou.

O parlamentar disse ainda que o Congresso Nacional tem boas lideranças, mas falta uma conversa que parta da presidente e seja capaz de sensibilizar inclusive a oposição, que “nunca se negou a apoiar com aquilo que pode para melhorar o país”.

Veja também:
link Popularidade de Dilma cai de 57% para 30%, indica Datafolha 
link Queda de popularidade de Dilma é insatisfação com a classe política, diz Aécio 
link Dilma está tranquila com pesquisa, diz ministro das Comunicações

 

You’re So Vain: Study Links Social Media Use and Narcissism (Science Daily)

June 11, 2013 — Facebook is a mirror and Twitter is a megaphone, according to a new University of Michigan study exploring how social media reflect and amplify the culture’s growing levels of narcissism.

New research shows that narcissistic college students and their adult counterparts use social media in different ways to boost their egos and control others’ perceptions of them. (Credit: © mtkang / Fotolia)

The study, published online inComputers in Human Behavior, was conducted by U-M researchers Elliot Panek, Yioryos Nardis and Sara Konrath.

“Among young adult college students, we found that those who scored higher in certain types of narcissism posted more often on Twitter,” said Panek, who recently received his doctorate in communication studies from U-M and will join Drexel University this fall as a visiting fellow.

“But among middle-aged adults from the general population, narcissists posted more frequent status updates on Facebook.”

According to Panek, Facebook serves narcissistic adults as a mirror.

“It’s about curating your own image, how you are seen, and also checking on how others respond to this image,” he said. “Middle-aged adults usually have already formed their social selves, and they use social media to gain approval from those who are already in their social circles.”

For narcissistic college students, the social media tool of choice is the megaphone of Twitter.

“Young people may overevaluate the importance of their own opinions,” Panek said. “Through Twitter, they’re trying to broaden their social circles and broadcast their views about a wide range of topics and issues.”

The researchers examined whether narcissism was related to the amount of daily Facebook and Twitter posting and to the amount of time spent on each social media site, including reading the posts and comments of others.

For one part of the study, the researchers recruited 486 college undergraduates. Three-quarters were female and the median age was 19. Participants answered questions about the extent of their social media use, and also took a personality assessment measuring different aspects of narcissism, including exhibitionism, exploitativeness, superiority, authority and self-sufficiency.

For the second part of the study, the researchers asked 93 adults, mostly white females, with an average age of 35, to complete an online survey.

According to Panek, the study shows that narcissistic college students and their adult counterparts use social media in different ways to boost their egos and control others’ perceptions of them.

“It’s important to analyze how often social media users actually post updates on sites, along with how much time they spend reading the posts and comments of others,” he said.

The researchers were unable to determine whether narcissism leads to increased use of social media, or whether social media use promotes narcissism, or whether some other factors explain the relationship. But the study is among the first to compare the relationship between narcissism and different kinds of social media in different age groups.

Funding for the study comes in part from The Character Project, sponsored by Wake Forest University via the John Templeton Foundation.

Journal Reference:

  1. Elliot T. Panek, Yioryos Nardis, Sara Konrath. Mirror or Megaphone?: How relationships between narcissism and social networking site use differ on Facebook and TwitterComputers in Human Behavior, 2013; 29 (5): 2004 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2013.04.012

Black and White and Red All Over (Foreign Policy)

How the hyperkinetic media is breeding a new generation of terrorists.

BY SCOTT ATRAN | APRIL 22, 2013

“Americans refuse to be terrorized,” declared President Barack Obama in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. “Ultimately, that’s what we’ll remember from this week.” Believe that, and I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

The Boston bombings have provoked the most intense display of law enforcement and media coverage since the 9/11 attacks. Greater Boston was in full lockdown: “a ghost town,” “a city in terror,” “a war zone,” screamed the headlines. Public transit was stopped, a no-fly zone proclaimed, people told to stay indoors, schools and universities closed, and hundreds of FBI agents pulled from other pressing investigations to focus exclusively on the case — along with thousands upon thousands of other federal, state, and city agents equipped with heavy weapons and armored vehicles. It all came close to martial law, with all the tools of the security state mobilized to track down a pair of young immigrants with low-tech explosives and small arms who failed to reconcile their problems of identity and became suspected amateur terrorists.

Not that the events weren’t shocking and brutal. But this law enforcement and media response, of course, is part of the overall U.S. reaction to terrorism since 9/11, when perhaps never in history have so few, armed with so few means, caused so much fear in so many. Indeed, as with the anarchists a century ago, last week’s response is precisely the outsized reaction that sponsors of terrorism have always counted on in order to terrorize.

Nothing compares to the grief of parents whose child has been murdered like 8-year-old Martin Richard, except perhaps the collective grief of many parents, as for the 20 children killed in last December’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Yet, despite the fact that the probability of a child, or anyone else in the United States, being killed by a terrorist bomb is vastly smaller than being killed by an unregistered handgun — or even by an unregulated fertilizer plant — U.S. politicians and the public seem likely to continue to support uncritically the extravagant measures associated with an irrational policy of “zero tolerance” for terrorism, as opposed to much-more-than-zero tolerance for nearly all other threats of violence. Given the millions of dollars already spent on the Boston bombing investigation and the trillions that the national response to terrorism has cost in little more than a decade, the public deserves a more reasoned response. We can never, ever be absolutely safe, no matter how much treasure we spend or how many civil liberties we sacrifice.

While there is always the chance that investigators will find foreign connections and broader plots beyond the doings of the two men suspected in the Boston bombing, our knowledge about terrorism suggests that what we already know about the April 15 bombing does not justify the disproportionate and overwrought response, including the “global security alert” U.S. authorities issued through Interpol for 190 countries. Even if the suspected Boston bombers prove to be part of a larger network of jihadi wannabes, as were the 2005 London subway suicide bombers, or had planned more operations before dying in a blaze of glory, as did the 2004 Madrid train bombers, these would-be knights under the prophet’s banner could never alone wreak the havoc that our reaction to them does.

The brothers Tsarnaev, the suspected Boston bombers, have been described by neighbors, friends, and relatives as fairly normal young men — regular Cambridge kinds. They left the Chechen conflict years ago and immigrated to the United States as asylum seekers under the U.S. government’s refugee resettlement program. Tamerlan, the oldest, was married with a 3-year-old daughter. A former Golden Gloves heavyweight boxer who once thought of competing for the United States, he had been increasingly drawn to radical Islam in the last few years. In a photo essay about his fondness for boxing, he worried, “I don’t have a single American friend; I don’t understand them.” He complained, “There are no values anymore,” forswearing drinking because “God said no alcohol.” Tamerlan’s YouTube page posts videos of radical Islamic clerics from Chechnya and elsewhere haranguing the West as bombs explode in the background. In 2011, the FBI interviewed Tamerlan at Russia’s request about connections to Chechen extremists, but the investigation found “no derogatory information.” Although Russian forces withdrew from Chechnya in 2009, violence has persisted in neighboring Dagestan, where Tamerlan visited his father last year and perhaps linked up with jihadi instigators who motivated him to act. Like the father of 9/11 pilot bomber Mohamed Atta, Tamerlan’s father claims his boy was framed and murdered. In his last reported phone communication, on Thursday, just hours before the police shootout began, he called his mother.

The younger brother, Dzhokhar, a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, played intramural soccer. On the day after the bombing he went to the dorms, worked out at the gym, and that night went to a party attended by some of his soccer buddies. Known to his friends as Jahar, he entered the university on a scholarship but lately had been failing his classes. He hung out with other students, had an easy relationship with the other young men and women, hardly ever talked politics, and was never pegged as an Islamist activist or sympathizer or even as particularly religious. Whereas relatives, friends, and teachers consistently describe Jahar as “always smiling,” “with a heart of gold,” acquaintances say Tamerlan never smiled and was aggressive. One cousin said he warned Jahar about being susceptible to the negative influence of the older brother he loved. In the last few months, Jahar’s tweets began turning darker: “i won’t run i’ll just gun you all out #thugliving,” “Do I look like that much of a softy … little do these dogs know they’re barking at a lion,” “I killed Abe Lincoln during my two hour nap #intensedream.” But declaring this wayward killer — and a naturalized citizen, at that — an “enemy combatant” borders on Orwellian.

Under sponsorship by the Defense Department, my multidisciplinary, multinational research team has been conducting field studies and analyses of the mental and social processes involved in radicalization at home and abroad. Our findings indicate that terrorist plotters against Western civilian populations tend not to be parts of sophisticated, foreign-based command-and-control organizations. Rather, they belong to loose, homegrown networks of family and friends who die not just for a cause, but for each other. Jihadists pretty much span the population’s normal distribution: There are very few psychopaths and sociopaths, few brilliant thinkers and strategists. Jihadi wannabes today are mostly emerging adults in transitional stages of their lives — students, immigrants, in search of jobs or companions — who are especially prone to movements that promise a meaningful cause, camaraderie, adventure, and glory. Most have a secular education, becoming “born again” into the jihadi cause in their late teens or 20s. The path to radicalization can take years, months, or just days, depending on personal vulnerabilities and the influence of others. Occasionally there is a hookup with a relative, or a friend of a friend, who has some overseas connection to someone who can get them a bit of training and motivation to pack a bag of explosives or pull a trigger, but the Internet and social media are usually sufficient for radicalization and even operational preparation.

The result is not a hierarchic, centrally commanded terrorist movement but a decentralized, self-organizing, and constantly evolving complex of social networks based on contingent adaptations to changing events. These are no real “cells,” but only clusters of mostly young men who motivate one another within “brotherhoods” of real and fictive kin. Often, in fact, there is an older brother figure, a dominant personality who mobilizes others in the group. But rarely is there an overriding authority or father figure. (Notably, for these transitional youth, there’s often an absence of a real father).

Some of the most successful plots, such as the Madrid and London bombings, are so anarchic, fluid, and improbable that they succeeded in evading detection despite the fact that intelligence and law enforcement agencies had been following some of the actors for some time. Three key elements characterize the “organized anarchy” that typifies modern violent Islamic activism: Ultimate goals are vague and superficial (often no deeper than revenge against perceived injustice against Muslims around the world); modes of action are decided pragmatically on the basis of trial and error or based on the residue of learning from accidents of past experience; and those who join are not recruited but are locally linked self-seekers — often from the same family, neighborhood, or Internet chat room — whose connection to global jihad is more virtual than material. Al Qaeda and associates do not so much recruit as attract disaffected individuals who have already decided to embark on the path to violent extremism with the help of family, friends, or a few fellow travelers.

Like the young men who carried out the Madrid and London attacks, most homegrown jihadi plotters first hook up with the broad protest sentiment against “the global attack on Islam” before moving into a narrower parallel universe. They cut ties with former companions who they believe are too timid to act and cement bonds with those who are willing to strike. They emerge from their cocoon with strong commitment to strike and die if necessary, but without any clear contingency planning for what might happen after the initial attack.

For the first time in history, a massive, media-driven political awakening has been occurring — spurred by the advent of the Internet, social media, and cable television — that can, on the one hand, motivate universal respect for human rights while, on the other, enable, say, Muslims from Borneo to sacrifice themselves for Palestine, Afghanistan, or Chechnya (despite almost no contact or shared history for the last 50,000 years or so). When perceived global injustice resonates with frustrated personal aspirations, moral outrage gives universal meaning and provides the push to radicalization and violent action.

But the popular notion of a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West is woefully misleading. Violent extremism represents not the resurgence of traditional cultures, but their collapse, as young people unmoored from millennial traditions flail about in search of a social identity that gives personal significance. This is the dark side of globalization.

Take Faisal Shahzad, the would-be bomber of Times Square in 2010, or Maj. Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in 2009. Both were apparently inspired by the online rhetoric of Anwar al-Awlaki, a former preacher at a Northern Virginia mosque who was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen in 2011. Although many commentators leapt to the conclusion that Awlaki and his ilk deviously brainwashed and recruited Shahzad and Hassan, in fact they sought out the popular Internet preacher because they were already radicalized to the point of wanting further guidance to act. As Defense Department terrorism consultant Marc Sageman notes: “Just like you saw Major Hasan send 21 emails to al-Awlaki, who sends him two back, you have people seeking these guys and asking them for advice.” More than 80 percent of plots in both Europe and the United States were concocted from the bottom up by mostly young people just hooking up with one another.

Especially for young men, mortal combat with a “band of brothers” in the service of a great cause is both the ultimate adventure and a road to esteem in the hearts of their peers. For many disaffected souls today, jihad is a heroic cause — a promise that anyone from anywhere can make a mark against the most powerful country in the history of the world. But because would-be jihadists best thrive and act in small groups and among networks of family and friends — not in large movements or armies — their threat can only match their ambitions if fueled way beyond actual strength. And publicity is the oxygen that fires modern terrorism.

It is not by arraying “every element of our national power” against would-be jihadists and those who inspire them that violent extremism will be stopped, as Obama once declared. Although wide-ranging intelligence, good police work, and security preparedness (including by the military and law enforcement) is required to track and thwart the expansion of al Qaeda affiliates into the Arabian Peninsula, Syria (and perhaps Jordan), North Africa, and East Africa, this is insufficient. As 2012 U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney quipped, “We can’t kill our way out of this mess.” In the United States, there are many pockets of displaced immigrant and refugee young people with even more than the usual struggles of personal development. Young Somalis seem to be having particular difficulty, and a small few are moving to the path of violent jihad. This is a good time to think about how we relate to them, though there are probably more easy mistakes than easy solutions. But political attempts to relate these problems to the very different issue of illegal immigration only adds to the scaremongering.

We need to pay attention to what makes these young men want to die to kill, by listening to their families and friends, trying to engage them on the Internet, and seeing whom they idolize, how they organize, what bonds them, and what drives them. U.S. power won’t stop the self-seeking, and preaching “moderate” Islam (or moderate anything) is hardly likely to sway young men in search of significance and glory. And even if every airplane passenger were to be scanned naked or every American city locked down, it would not stop young men from joining the jihad or concocting new ways of killing civilians.

Terrorists are directly responsible for violent acts, but only indirectly for the reaction that follows. Objectively, terrorist acts on even a 9/11 scale could never seriously harm American society; only our reaction can. By amplifying and connecting relatively sporadic terrorist acts into a generalized “war” or “assault on freedom,” the somewhat marginal phenomenon of terrorism has become a primary preoccupation of the U.S. government and American people. In this sense, Osama bin Laden has been victorious beyond his wildest dreams — not because of anything he has done, but because of how we have reacted to the episodic successes he inspires.

There are several ways to react to the political hype and media amplification of terrorism. Doing nothing and allowing this frenzied media environment to continue will only encourage future attacks; meanwhile, reporting that rushes to judgment and complements law enforcement’s denial of Miranda rights will only erode confidence in the integrity and fairness of the American press and U.S. government institutions. Legal regulation of media, as in many other countries, may not be compatible with a free society and if tried would certainly provoke persistent opposition and deep outrage. For example, previous attempts by the British government to ban interviews with terrorists and their supporters backfired. As the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted in 2002, “Democracies die behind closed doors.” Even noncoercive guidelines are likely to incite widespread resistance. As former New York Times Executive Editor A.M. Rosenthal put it: “The last thing in the world I want is guidelines. I don’t want guidelines from the government … or anyone else.”

But voluntary self-restraint by the media, which is less intrusive and supported by many, is not only possible but manageable. (Venerable journalist Edward R. Murrow, informed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the specifics of the Pearl Harbor attack, declined the scoop and didn’t file his report until the administration could formulate a reasoned response.) Of course, “gentle censorship,” like the initially successful attempts by George W. Bush’s administration to prevent airing of bin Laden messages or talks with terrorists, can seriously hamper the flow of knowledge necessary for understanding what makes terrorists tick and how to thwart them.

The First Amendment enables the news media to watchdog the republic and help prevent government excesses and abuses so that a well-informed public can monitor and decide where government policy should go. Yet the media is increasingly less a public service devoted to this task than a competitive business that believes it best succeeds through sensation, which violence privileges. For example, the typical television news story has declined from an average of several minutes in the 1950s and 1960s to today’s repeated sound bites — often no more than a few seconds — that sensationalize the spectacular. And despite the fact that one of the suspected Boston bombers is now dead and the other in custody, it can be argued that their terrorism succeeded through the spectacular theater of last week’s events, capturing our attention and stoking our deepest fears.

We can break this real, if unplanned, alliance between terrorism and the media through better reporting for the social good, which may prove to be the best business strategy of all. When we practice restraint and show the resilience of people carrying on with their lives even in the face of atrocities like that in Boston, then terrorism fails.

Scott Atran, an anthropologist at John Jay College, the University of Michigan, and Oxford University, is co-founder of ARTIS Research and author of Talking to the Enemy.

Brain scans can now tell who you’re thinking about (Singularity Hub)

Written By: 

Posted: 03/23/13 7:48 AM

[Source: Listal]

[Source: Listal]

Beware stalkers, these neuroscientists can tell who you’re thinking of. Or, at least, the kind of personality he or she might have.

As a social species humans are highly attuned to the behavior of others around them. It’s a survival mechanism, helping us to safely navigate the social world. That awareness involves both evaluating people and predicting how they will behave in different situations in the future (“Uh oh, don’t get him started!”). But just how does the brain represent another person’s personality?

To answer this question a group of scientists at Cornell’s College of Human Ecology (whatever that means) used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure neuronal activity while people thought about different types of personalities. The 19 participants – all young adults – learned about four protagonists, all of whom had considerably different personalities, based on agreeableness (e.g., “Likes to cooperate with others”) and extraversion (“Is sometimes shy”). They were then presented different scenarios (such as sitting on a bus with no empty seats and watching an elderly person get on) and asked to imagine how each of the four protagonists would react.

Varying degrees of a person's deemed "agreeableness" and "extraversion" combine to produce different brain activation patterns in the brain. [Source: Cerebral Cortex]

Varying degrees of a person’s deemed “agreeableness” and “extraversion” combine to produce different brain activation patterns in the brain. [Source: Cerebral Cortex]

The study’s lead author, Nathan Spreng, said they were “shocked” when they saw the results. The brain scans revealed that each of the four distinct personalities elicited four distinct activity patterns in the medial prefrontal cortex, an area at the front of the brain known to be involved in decision making. In essence, the researchers had succeeded in extracting mental pictures – the personalities of others – that people were thinking of.The study was published in the March 5 issue of Cerebral Cortex.

Sizing up the personality of another or thinking what they’re thinking is unique to social animals and in fact to do so was until recently thought to be uniquely human. But there’s now reason to believe the network – called the ‘default network’ – is a fundamental feature of social mammals in general. As Spreng explained in an email, “Macaque [monkeys] clearly have a similar network, observable even in the rat. All of these mammalian species are highly social.”

The fact that the mental snapshot of others was seen in the neurons of the medial prefrontal cortex means the current study may have implications for autism, Spreng said in a Cornell University news release. “Prior research has implicated the anterior mPFC in social cognition disorders such as autism, and our results suggest people with such disorders may have an inability to build accurate personality models. If further research bears this out, we may ultimately be able to identify specific brain activation biomarkers not only for diagnosing such diseases, but for monitoring the effects of interventions.”

Previous work has shown that brain scans can tell us a lot about what a person’s thinking. With an array of electrodes placed directly on the brain, researchers were able to decode specific words that people were thinking. In another experiment fRMI scans of the visual cortex were used to reconstruct movie trailers that participants were watching.

Much of neuroscience explores how the brain processes the sensory information that guides us through our physical environment. But, for many species, navigating the social environment can be just as important to survival. “For me, an important feature of the work is that our emotions and thoughts about other people are felt to be private experiences,” Spreng said. “In our life, we may choose to share our thoughts and feelings with peers, friends and loved ones. However, [thoughts and feelings] are also physical and biological processes that can be observed. Considering how important our social world is, we know very little about the brain processes that support social knowledge. The objective of this work is to understand the physical mechanisms that allow us to have an inner world, and a part of that is how we represent other people in our mind.”

Social Warfare (Foreign Policy)

Budget hawks’ plans to cut funding for political and social science aren’t just short-sighted and simple-minded — they’ll actually hurt national security.

BY SCOTT ATRAN | MARCH 15, 2013

With the automatic sequestration cuts geared up to slash billions of dollars from domestic programs, military funding, social services, and government-sponsored scientific research — including about a 6 percent reduction for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) — policymakers and professionals are scrambling to stave off the worst by resetting priorities. In a major speech last month, House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), proposed outright to defund political and social science: “Funds currently spent by the government on social science — including on politics of all things — would be better spent on curing diseases,” he said, echoing a similar proposal he made in 2009. Florida Governor Rick Scott has made a similar push, proposing to divert state funds from disciplines like anthropology and psychology “to degrees where people can get jobs,” especially in technology and medicine. Those are fighting words, but they’re also simple-minded.

Social science may sound like a frivolous expenditure to legislative budget hawks, but far from trimming fat, defunding these programs would fundamentally undercut core national interests. Like it or not, social science research informs everything from national security to technology development to healthcare and economic management. For example, we can’t decide which drugs to take, unless their risks and benefits are properly assessed, and we can’t know how much faith to have in a given science or engineering project, unless we know how much to trust expert judgment. Likewise, we can’t fully prepare to stop our adversaries, unless we understand the limits of our own ability to see why others see the world differently. Despite hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars poured into the global war on terrorism, radicalization against our country’s core interests continues to spread — and social science offers better ways than war to turn the tide.

In support of Rep. Cantor’s push to defund political and social science, a recent article in theAtlantic notes that “money [that] could have gone to towards life-saving cancer research” instead went to NSF-sponsored projects that “lack real-world impact” such as “the $750,000 spent studying the ‘sacred values‘ involved in cultural conflict.” Perhaps the use of words like “sacred” or “culture” incites such scorn, but as often occurs in many denunciations of social science, scant attention is actually paid to what the science proposes or produces. In fact, the results of this particular project — which I direct — have figured into numerous briefings to the National Security Staff at the White HouseSenate and House committees, the Department of State and Britain’s Parliament, and the Israeli Knesset (including the prime minister and defense minister). In addition, the research offices of the Department of Defense have also supported my team’s work, which figures prominently in recent strategy assessments that focus on al Qaeda and broader problems of radicalization and political violence.

Let me try to explain just exactly what it is that we do. My research team conducts laboratory experiments, including brain imaging studies — supported by field work with political leaders, revolutionaries, terrorists, and others — that show sacred values to be core determinants of personal and social identity (“who I am” and “who we are”). Humans process these identities as moral rules, duties, and obligations that defy the utilitarian and instrumental calculations ofrealpolitik or the marketplace. Simply put, people defending a sacred value will not trade its incarnation (Israel’s settlements, Iran’s nuclear fuel rods, America’s guns) for any number of iPads, or even for peace.

The sacred values of “devoted actors,” it turns out, generate actions independent of calculated risks, costs, and consequences — a direct contradiction of prevailing “rational actor” models of politics and economics, which focus on material interests. Devoted actors, in contrast, act because they sincerely and deeply believe “it’s the right thing to do,” regardless of risks or rewards. Practically, this means that such actors often harness deep and abiding social and political commitments to confront much stronger foes. Think of the American revolutionaries, who were willing to sacrifice “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor” in the fight for liberty against the greatest military power of the age — or modern suicide bombers willing to sacrifice everything for their cause.

Sacred values — as when land becomes “Holy Land” — sustain the commitment of revolutionaries and some terrorist groups to resist, and often overcome, more numerous and better-equipped militaries and police that function with measured rewards like better pay or promotion. Our research with political leaders and general populations also shows that sacred values — not political games or economics — underscore intractable conflicts like those between the Israelis and the Palestinians that defy the rational give-and-take of business-like negotiation. Field experiments in Israel, Palestine, Nigeria, and the United States indicate that commitment to such values can motivate and sustain wars beyond reasonable costs and casualties.

So what are the practical implications of these findings? Perhaps most importantly, our research explains why efforts to broker peace that rely on money or other material incentives are doomed when core values clash. In our studies with colleagues in Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Iran, the Levant, and North Africa, we found that offers of material incentives to compromise on sacred values often backfire, actually increasing anger and violence toward a deal. For example, a 2010 study of attitudes toward Iran’s nuclear program found that most Iranians do not view the country’s nuclear program as sacred. But for about 13 percent of the population, the program has been made sacred through religious rhetoric. This group, which tends to be close to the regime, now believes a nuclear program is bound up with the national identity and with Islam itself. As a result, offering these people material rewards or punishments to abandon the program only increases their anger and support for it. Predictably, new sanctions, or heightened perception of sanctions, generate even more belligerent statements and actions by the regime to increase the pace, industrial capacity, and level of uranium enrichment. Of course, majority discontent with sanctions may yet force the regime to change course, or to double down on repression.

Understanding how this process plays out over time is a key to helping friends, thwarting enemies, and managing conflict. The ultimate goal of such research is to help save lives, resources, and national treasure. And by generating psychological knowledge about how culturally diverse individuals and groups advance values and interests that are potentially compatible or fundamentally antagonistic to our own, it can help keep the nation’s citizens, soldiers, and potential allies out of harm’s way. Our related research on the spiritual and material aspects of environmental disputes between Native American and majority-culture populations in North America andCentral America has also revealed surprising but practical ways to reduce conflict andsustainably manage forest commons and wildlife.

The would-be defunders of social science denounce an ivory tower that seems to exist only in their imagination — willfully ignoring evidence-based reasoning and results in order to advance a political agenda. Only $11 million of the NSF’s $7 billion-plus budget goes to political science research. It is exceedingly doubtful that getting rid of the entire NSF political science budget, which is equal to 0.5 percent of the cost of a single B-2 bomber, would really help to produce life-saving cancer research, where testing for even a single drug can cost more to develop than a B-2. Not that we must choose between either, mind you.

Social science is in fact moving the “hard” sciences forward. Consider the irony: a close collaborator on the “sacred values” project, Robert Axelrod, former president of the American Political Science Association, recently produced a potentially groundbreaking cancer study based on social science modeling of cancer cells as cooperative agents in competition with communities of healthy cells. Independent work by cancer researchers in the United States and abroad hasestablished that the cooperation among tumor cells that Axelrod and colleagues proposed does in fact take place in cell lines derived from human cancers, which has significant implications for the development of effective treatments.

Research from other fields of social science, including social and cognitive psychology and anthropology, continue to have deep implications for an enormous range of human problems: including how to better design and navigate transportation and communication networks, or manage airline crews and cockpits; on programming robots for industry and defense; on modeling computer systems and cybersecurity; on reconfiguring emergency medical care and diagnoses; in building effective responses to economic uncertainty; and enhancing industrial competitiveness and innovation. For example, perhaps the greatest long-term menace to the security of U.S. industry and defense is cyberwarfare, where the most insidious and hard-to-manage threat may stem not from hardware or software vulnerabilities but from “wetware,” the inclinations and biases of socially interacting human brains — as in just doing a friend a favor (like “click this link” or “can I borrow your flash drive?”). In recognition of that fact, Axelrod has suggested to the White House and Defense Department an “honor code” encouraging individuals to not only maintain cybersecurity themselves, but also not to lapse into doing favors for friends and to report such lapses in others.

Elected officials have the mandate to set priorities for research funding in the national interest. Ever since Abraham Lincoln established the National Academy of Sciences, however, a clear priority has been to allow scientific inquiry fairly free rein — to doubt, challenge, and ultimately change received wisdom if based on solid logic and evidence. What Rep. Cantor and like-minded colleagues seem to be saying is that this is fine, but only in the fields they consider expedient: in technology, medicine, and business. (Though possibly they mean to make an exception for the lucrative social science of polling, which can help to sell almost anything — even terrible ideas like defunding the rest of social science.)

It’s stunning to think that these influential politicians and the people who support them don’t want evidence-based reasoning and research to inform decisions concerning the nature and needs of our society — despite the fact that the vast majority of federal and state legislation deals with social issues, rather than technology or defense. To be sure, there is significant waste and wrongheadedness in the social sciences, as there is in any science (in fact, in any evolutionary process that progresses by trial and error), including, most recently, billions spent on possibly misleading use of mice in cancer research.

But those who would defund social science seriously underestimate the relationship between the wide-ranging freedom of scientific research and its pointed impact, and between theory and practice: Where disciplined imagination sweeps broadly to discover, say, that devoted actors do not respond to material incentives or disincentives (e.g., sanctions) in the same way that rational actors do, or that communities of people and body cells may share deep underlying organizational principles and responses to threats from outside aggressors, such knowledge can have a profound influence on our lives and wellbeing.

Even before they revolted in 1776, the American colonists may have already enjoyed the world’s highest standard of living. But they wanted something different: a free and progressive society, which money couldn’t buy. “Money has never made man happy, nor will it,” gibed Ben Franklin, but “if a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him; an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” He founded America’s first learned society “to improve the common stock of knowledge,” which called for inquiry into many practical matters as well as “all philosophical Experiments that Light into the Nature of Things … and multiply the Conveniences or Pleasures of Life.” George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, James Madison, and John Marshall all joined Franklin’s society and took part in the political, social, and economic revolution it helped spawn. Like the Founding Fathers, we want our descendants to be able to envision great futures for our country and a better world for all. For that, our children need the broad understanding of how the world works that the social sciences can provide — not just a technical education for well-paying jobs.

Online Records Could Expose Intimate Details and Personality Traits of Millions (Science Daily)

Mar. 11, 2013 — Research shows that intimate personal attributes can be predicted with high levels of accuracy from ‘traces’ left by seemingly innocuous digital behaviour, in this case Facebook Likes. Study raises important questions about personalised marketing and online privacy.

Research shows that intimate personal attributes can be predicted with high levels of accuracy from ‘traces’ left by seemingly innocuous digital behaviour, in this case Facebook Likes. Study raises important questions about personalised marketing and online privacy. (Credit: Graphic from mypersonality app, Cambridge Psychometrics Centre)

New research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that surprisingly accurate estimates of Facebook users’ race, age, IQ, sexuality, personality, substance use and political views can be inferred from automated analysis of only their Facebook Likes — information currently publicly available by default.

In the study, researchers describe Facebook Likes as a “generic class” of digital record — similar to web search queries and browsing histories — and suggest that such techniques could be used to extract sensitive information for almost anyone regularly online.

Researchers at Cambridge’s Psychometrics Centre, in collaboration with Microsoft Research Cambridge, analysed a dataset of over 58,000 US Facebook users, who volunteered their Likes, demographic profiles and psychometric testing results through the myPersonality application. Users opted in to provide data and gave consent to have profile information recorded for analysis.

Facebook Likes were fed into algorithms and corroborated with information from profiles and personality tests. Researchers created statistical models able to predict personal details using Facebook Likes alone.

Models proved 88% accurate for determining male sexuality, 95% accurate distinguishing African-American from Caucasian American and 85% accurate differentiating Republican from Democrat. Christians and Muslims were correctly classified in 82% of cases, and good prediction accuracy was achieved for relationship status and substance abuse — between 65 and 73%.

But few users clicked Likes explicitly revealing these attributes. For example, less that 5% of gay users clicked obvious Likes such as Gay Marriage. Accurate predictions relied on ‘inference’ — aggregating huge amounts of less informative but more popular Likes such as music and TV shows to produce incisive personal profiles.

Even seemingly opaque personal details such as whether users’ parents separated before the user reached the age of 21 were accurate to 60%, enough to make the information “worthwhile for advertisers,” suggest the researchers.

While they highlight the potential for personalised marketing to improve online services using predictive models, the researchers also warn of the threats posed to users’ privacy.

They argue that many online consumers might feel such levels of digital exposure exceed acceptable limits — as corporations, governments, and even individuals could use predictive software to accurately infer highly sensitive information from Facebook Likes and other digital ‘traces’.

The researchers also tested for personality traits including intelligence, emotional stability, openness and extraversion.

While such latent traits are far more difficult to gauge, the accuracy of the analysis was striking. Study of the openness trait — the spectrum of those who dislike change to those who welcome it — revealed that observation of Likes alone is roughly as informative as using an individual’s actual personality test score.

Some Likes had a strong but seemingly incongruous or random link with a personal attribute, such as Curly Fries with high IQ, or That Spider is More Scared Than U Are with non-smokers.

When taken as a whole, researchers believe that the varying estimations of personal attributes and personality traits gleaned from Facebook Like analysis alone can form surprisingly accurate personal portraits of potentially millions of users worldwide.

They say the results suggest a possible revolution in psychological assessment which — based on this research — could be carried out at an unprecedented scale without costly assessment centres and questionnaires.

“We believe that our results, while based on Facebook Likes, apply to a wider range of online behaviours.” said Michal Kosinski, Operations Director at the Psychometric Centre, who conducted the research with his Cambridge colleague David Stillwell and Thore Graepel from Microsoft Research.

“Similar predictions could be made from all manner of digital data, with this kind of secondary ‘inference’ made with remarkable accuracy — statistically predicting sensitive information people might not want revealed. Given the variety of digital traces people leave behind, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for individuals to control.

“I am a great fan and active user of new amazing technologies, including Facebook. I appreciate automated book recommendations, or Facebook selecting the most relevant stories for my newsfeed,” said Kosinski. “However, I can imagine situations in which the same data and technology is used to predict political views or sexual orientation, posing threats to freedom or even life.”

“Just the possibility of this happening could deter people from using digital technologies and diminish trust between individuals and institutions — hampering technological and economic progress. Users need to be provided with transparency and control over their information.”

Thore Graepel from Microsoft Research said he hoped the research would contribute to the on-going discussions about user privacy:

“Consumers rightly expect strong privacy protection to be built into the products and services they use and this research may well serve as a reminder for consumers to take a careful approach to sharing information online, utilising privacy controls and never sharing content with unfamiliar parties.”

David Stillwell from Cambridge University added: “I have used Facebook since 2005, and I will continue to do so. But I might be more careful to use the privacy settings that Facebook provides.”

Journal Reference:

  1. M. Kosinski, D. Stillwell, T. Graepel. Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behaviorProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1218772110

Big military guy more scared of climate change than enemy guns (Grist)

By Susie Cagle

11 Mar 2013 6:13 PM

Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, chief of U.S. Pacific Command, doesn’t look like your usual proponent of climate action. Spencer Ackerman writes at Wired that Locklear “is no smelly hippie,” but the guy does believe there will be terrible security threats on a warming planet, which might make him a smelly hippie in the eyes of many American military boosters.

13-03-11AdmSamuelLocklear
Commander U.S. 7th Fleet

Everyone wants him to be worried about North Korean nukes and Chinese missiles, but in an interview with The Boston Globe, Locklear said that societal upheaval due to climate change “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen … that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.’’

“People are surprised sometimes,” he added, describing the reaction to his assessment. “You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.”

Locklear said his Hawaii-based headquarters — which is … responsible for operations from California to India — is working with Asian nations to stockpile supplies in strategic locations and planning a major exercise for May with nearly two dozen countries to practice the “what-ifs.”

Locklear isn’t alone in his climate fears. A recent article by Julia Whitty takes an in-depth look at what the military is doing to deal with climate change. A 2008 report by U.S. intelligence agencieswarned about national security challenges posed by global warming, as have later reports from the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. New Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel understands the threat, too. People may be surprised sometimes, Adm. Locklear, but they really shouldn’t be!

Will not-a-dirty-hippie Locklear’s words help to further mainstream the idea that climate change is a serious security problem? And what all has the good admiral got planned for this emergency sea-rising drill in May?

Susie Cagle writes and draws news for Grist. She also writes and draws tweets for Twitter.