The thought-provoking installation “SELFMADE” (2013), currently on display at The Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin, reveals the importance of microbes in our environment. Microbiologist Christina Agapakis (US) & scent artist Sissel Tolaas (NO) teamed up to create artisanal cheese made from lactobacillus swabbed from the skin of human beings. Lactobacillus is the bacteria responsible for curdling and preserving milk and giving cheese its characteristic smell and texture. Agapakis maintains that the cheese in the exhibit is not intended for human consumption but for investigating the unique microbial environment that humans participate in daily.
Through the installation Agapakis calls into question the prevailing paradigm of good/bad bacteria and offers a more complex view of the world of microbes, both biologically and culturally. She emphasizes the paradox of the modern paradigm: “We not only live in a biological world surrounded by rich communities of microorganisms, but in a cultural world that emphasises (sic) total antisepsis.”i Noting the inconsistency between modern human habits of consumption and bacterial intolerance in the environment, she asks: “Can knowledge and tolerance of bacterial cultures in our food improve tolerance of the bacteria on our bodies?”ii
Agapakis’ use of traditional cheesemaking methods underscores the connection between microbial culture and human culture. In her Pop!Tech lecture, she explains the biological and artistic process of her installation and of creating, by accident, the famed Sardinian “maggot cheese” casu marzu. The cheese can only be consumed when its larvae are, in fact, living. While some might recoil at the idea of consuming “rotten” cheese replete with squirming insects, Agapakis argues through her example of “encountering prejudice toward the macrobiological” for an increased awareness of cheese and its relationship to culture. Cheese, she notes, is about three things: “culture,” “biological context,” and “care” or “the way that we interact with and take care of the environment around us.”iii
Her exhibit poignantly illustrates cheese as a living object. Cheese, by its very nature, can never be an aseptic environment. Each cheese is filled with living organisms that interact with and mirror its culture both physically and sociologically.
More at; http://thecheesetraveler.com/tag/science-gallery/
You’re probably well-acquainted with one of life’s little annoyances: the password.
Your voicemail. Your email. Your smartphone. Maybe you’ve got a different one for each — which means you’re bound to slip up, reports NPR: “Or maybe you use the same one for everything — a security no-no. The number of sites and services that demand a password or PIN seems to have grown exponentially. And keeping track of the ones you’ve got? Forget about it.
“Well, Silicon Valley titans are getting tired of them, too. At the Tech Crunch Disrupt conference in September, Google’s top security executive, Heather Adkins, declared that passwords are dead. And that’s straight from a founding member of the security team at Google, home to 425 million email accounts. Adkins says startups tying their future to passwords might as well give up now, given how much work it takes to keep customers’ passwords secure.
“But if passwords are a thing of the past, what will replace them? Wall Street is betting on biometrics. Now that Apple is adding a fingerprint sensor to its newest iPhone, companies that make similar technology have seen their share prices jump. And industry analysts say the market for fingerprint scanners could top $10 billion in the next five years. Other biometrics companies are looking more competitive as well. Take one of Apple’s partners, Nuance Communications, a voice recognition company. You’ve probably heard their technology if you’ve called an airline or reserved a hotel room — particularly if you’ve heard, “Your call may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes.” Nuance Communications is gathering data to improve its voice-recognition technology. The goal is to eventually do away with the whole username and passcode business altogether, says Robert Weideman, one of the company’s executive vice presidents. Continue reading “The body as password”
Dove’s Real Beauty campaign purports to replace idealized (skinny) images of women with more realistic ones, with the tagline. “You’re more beautiful than you think.”
MS Magazine’s Danielle Nelson analyses what else is going on in the Dove ad video.
“At first glance, this video seemed comforting, almost therapeutic as an antidote against our airbrushed versions of beauty typified by Hollywood and glossy magazine covers. Instead of telling women to lose weight, apply makeup correctly and dress for our body
shapes, Dove (which sells skin and hair-care products) reassured us that we are beautiful despite our self-confessed flaws. But there was something deeply distressing about the message behind this Dove ad:
“With soothing music playing in the background, the ad traces various women as they describe themselves to a former forensic artist. From behind the curtain, he sketches, following their lead while also completing a second portrait—one based on how a stranger describes the woman. At the end, the artist unveils the two portraits side-by-side. On the one hand, it is quite moving to see the women tear up as they see that others find them more attractive than they see themselves. What woman doesn’t want to feel empowered and confident in her own skin? But among many other problematic aspects of this ad, Dove wants us to know that being beautiful is still what matters most. And by beautiful, they mean society’s narrowly defined cultural perception of beauty — i.e., white, thin, young, blonde. Continue reading “The Dove “Real Beauty” debate”
Disabled Philosophers is one of those off-the-beaten-path blogs that consistently yields thoughtful and original ideas.
We add the item below to accompany today’s story about the Brown health care policy shift, but also to highlight the often under-discussed topic of coexisting conditions that define and challenge so many of us.
In one way or another, nearly everyone has at some point struggled with some experience of difference – ranging from trivial to huge. In many cases society labels what is simply a difference as a pathology, or illness, or worse. So, as magicalersatz reflects:
“My disability is, for many, also a marker of identity. In the parlance of pop culture, I was “born in the wrong body.” In the words of the DSM, I have “evidence of a strong and persistent cross-gender identification.” While I am agnostic about the etiology of my disability, I began treatment before graduate school, which involved therapy, hormones, surgery, and navigating a lot of legal forms and paperwork.
“My colleagues don’t know about my gender history (in other words, I “pass” as the gender that’s finally on my identification), but I still view my physiological situation as a disability. I realize that there are others in my situation who would shirk this description, and I am do not mean to imply that any transsexual or transgender individual is thereby disabled. Continue reading “Disabled philosophers”
We know (or should know) just how subjective body image can be, and the psychic toll it takes on millions.
Advertising promotes a generalized message that there is something wrong with the way all of us look, with weight factoring in with all sorts of other things like complexion, age, hair, and height–as it zeros in on particular parts of us that need fixing. Today’s Wall Street Journal (of all places) carried an essay on just how wrong the BMI can be, excerpted briefly below:
“Some researchers say that while BMI improved on its predecessors, it fails to distinguish between different kinds of body mass and therefore can mislead about individuals’ health levels — a longstanding criticism of the measure that hasn’t prevented it from becoming the primary tool for grouping people into normal-weight, overweight and obese categories. Continue reading “Body Mass Index Reconsidered”
Parents of children who commit crimes receive little support and are typically scorned or otherwised blame for the actions of their offspring.
This simple and tragic reality is discussed at length by Andrew Solomon in his book Far From the Tree in relation to the family of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold. Stunned by the actions of their son and his death, the Klebolds saw no memorials and received no sympathy, and instead were subjected to a decade of abuse and torment – which continues to this day. Today the LA Times reported a similar story beginning to unfold for the family of the young man who committed the Sandy Hook murders”
“The body of Newtown, Conn., shooter Adam Lanza was claimed by his father last week, a family spokesman said Monday. Continue reading “Adam Lanza’s body quietly claimed”
“Have you ever done something uncomfortable in the name of perceived beauty?” This is the provocative question asked by a new computer game aimed at exploring conceptions of body image and gender norms. Games for Change discusses “Gone from an Age: A Fitting” in the following excerpt from an article entitled “’Fitting’ Game to Explore Body Image.”
“At one point in your life, you may have tried chemically altering your hair, tried on a pair of pants that were way too tight, or focused more on fashion over function. All for the goal of achieving a specific look.
“Many of us partake in these practices to achieve a standard of beauty in modern society. Too often, we do so without considering why, the social costs if we don’t, or what physical and mental harm these activities are causing every day. Some would argue that beauty is purely for the benefit of those who are gazing upon it, disregarding the discomfort of the ones who have to achieve it.
“To give others this distinct understanding, game designers Amanda Dittami and Blair Kuhlman teamed up to create “Gone From an Age: A Fitting“, a motion controlled game that asks players to contort and perform for an audience, in what Kuhlman calls “a cross between a game of Twister and Vogue magazine.”
Currently, Dittami and Kuhlman are working hard on tweaking the game with a design team, local dancers, and fashion designers to get the game ready for “Off The Beaten Path“, a traveling art exhibition that aims create a dialogue about violence against women through various forms of art. To fully participate in a powerful way, the team has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds.”
It’s not great secret that fashion ads portray women and men unrealistically, promoting unachievable standards of beauty and reinforcing stereotypical codes of gender identity. This week one story is getting a fair amount of play, as a Christian Dior ad featuring Black Swan actor Natalie Portman has been banned in Great Britain for being airbrushed. At first it seemed that the British Advertising Standards Authority was irked at the ad featuring Portman promoting a mascara, accompanied by the boast that the product delivers a “spectacular volume-multiplying effect, lash by lash.” But it turns out that rival L’Oreal cosmetics first noticed the ad and filed a complaint. As The Guardian reports, ironically L’Oreal has been one of the biggest offenders in controversies over airbrushed and exaggerated beauty ads in recent years, with ads Continue reading “Even worse than hating your body”