Cultrface is a blog about culture and how it can enrich our lives.

The conservatism and affective labour of emojis

I found this really interesting paper on emojis today called The Conservatism of Emoji: Work, Affect, and Communication. Written by Luke Stark and Kate Crawford, the paper explores the concept of affective labour, a form of work that tries to create or change people’s emotional experiences. Here’s the abstract:

This piece examines emoji as conduits for affective labor in the social networks of informational capitalism. Emoji, ubiquitous digital images that can appear in text messages, emails, and social media chat platforms, are rich in social, cultural, and economic significance. This article examines emoji as historical, social, and cultural objects, and as examples of skeuomorphism and of technical standardization. Now superseded as explicitly monetized objects by other graphics designed for affective interactions, emoji nonetheless represent emotional data of enormous interest to businesses in the digital economy, and continue to act symbolically as signifiers of affective meaning. We argue that emoji characters both embody and represent the tension between affect as human potential, and as a productive force that capital continually seeks to harness through the management of everyday biopolitics. Emoji are instances of a contest between the creative power of affective labor and its limits within a digital realm in the thrall of market logic.

I won’t begin to unpack what’s discussed in this and it’s by no means covers everything about emoji use from a racial perspective (there is a brief mention but no chapters on race) but it’s a good start and interesting to think of emojis as a way to change our emotions as well as represent them.

Emoji related: Language without emojis

The best of Johnson from Peep Show

Best Of Johnson - Peep Show

“Are you a pathetic worthless punk?”

Of all the characters on Peep Show, Johnson has to be my favourite. Played by Paterson Joseph, Alan Johnson is a former senior loan manager at JLB and Mark Corrigan’s boss for much of the show. His style, confidence, and reckless attitude are enough to make Mark question his sexuality but that love is never returned (due to Johnson’s professional work ethic and heterosexuality).

Paterson Joseph started his acting career with the Royal Shakespeare Company and he throws a lot of that style into the character. His delivery of some of Johnson’s wildest lines has gotten me through some tough times during this ongoing pandemic.

Best of related: the best of Salem Saberhagen, the best of Razz Prince, and the best of Edgar the Bug from Men In Black

Hippos can tell who they're talking to by their "wheeze honks"

Researchers have been studying hippos in Mozambique and found that they can distinguish other hippos by their vocalisations, particularly whether they’re friend or foe:

“Hippos are quite talkative. They have a repertoire of different calls: wheeze honks, grunts, bellows, squeals,” said Prof Nicolas Mathevon, of the University of Saint-Etienne in France, a co-author of the study. “However, the function of these calls has not been studied experimentally. Our study is the first to test experimentally the function of a hippo call.”

But the team offered words of caution when relocating hippos for the sake of conservation:

[…] While relocating endangered animals to maintain populations above critical levels is increasingly common10, our results suggest that precautions should be taken during such relocations with hippos. Before transferring a group of hippos to a new location, a potential precaution could be to broadcast their voices from a loudspeaker at a distance from the groups already present so that they get used to them and their level of aggressiveness gradually decreases. Getting the animals to be relocated accustomed to the voices of their new neighbors could also be considered.

Basically, French exits for hippos are bad. They have to let their friends know they’re leaving and let the new hippos know they’ve arrived.

More on hippos: Pablo Escobar’s hippos in Colombia living their best lives and Tam Tam: the cutest baby pygmy hippo in Japan

KUMI sneakers: a sustainable footwear brand from Spain

(Note: this is not sponsored)

KUMI Sneakers is a Spanish brand that makes sustainable, cruelty-free vegan sneakers. The footwear is made of corn and recycled plastic bottles (as opposed to new, specially-made plastic, although it does say “plastic-free” on the home page so I don’t know how that works). As for the rest of the shoe, materials include eco-friendly microfibers, natural rubber, cork, cotton, polyurethane leather (PU), and ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). The packaging and paper are recycled.

I’d be interested to know more about the sustainability of their natural rubber but this appears to be good. I looked on Good For You but they hadn’t been added to the directory.

Prices start from €119,00.

Sustainability related: The sustainability of Christmas gifts

Sharine Taylor on Michael Ford and the role of architecture in hip hop

Back in 2019, Sharine Taylor interviewed Michael Ford, an architectural designer and the founder of the Hip Hop Architecture Camp, to discuss the intersection of architecture and hip hop culture:

One of the things that I notice is that a lot of the times when house and home are showcased through hip hop music videos, they embody the ethos of modern architecture. Is that an observation that you’ve also noticed as well?

That’s true. Even if you look at, not just movies, but music videos, for example, Drake’s “Hotline Bling” that had a very modernist take to it. But hip hop, I won’t say that all of the movies or music videos that show housing or architecture are always modernism. I think hip hop is a global culture and just due to the fact that it is a global culture, many of those backdrops are different. Belly had a lot of modern architecture, but if you look at movies today or music videos, there’s a lot of different styles that are being shown.

Black Panther‘s release brought the discussion of Afrofuturism back to the forefront, so it’s a variety. One thing that modernism does provide that some of the other styles don’t is that modernism is, you can argue, about removing ornamentation and stripping things down to the bare essentials — which is problematic in and of itself and another discussion completely. What are the bare essentials? But it allows the artist and the work to really resonate within that space where the architecture is present. Again, there’s not as much ornamentation, so an artist normally takes presence in the shots.

(h/t Nicolas-Tyrell Scott)

The furniture from Thomas Feichtner's M3 collection looks cool wooden tesseracts

Based on the M3-Chair, a chair made of composite round wood that Thomas Feichtner had previously designed for Neue Wiener Werkstätte, an entire furniture collection was created. What began as a design experiment and one-off piece was continued due to the high demand as a furniture collection in small tables and various armchairs. This time no longer as an experimental chair construction of one cubic metre, but adapted exactly to the ergonomic requirements of a comfortable lounge chair. The collection consists of a lounge chair and three different sized side tables. 

I have no space (or money) for this furniture but I still want it. I will make room!

See more on Feichtner’s website.

Furniture related: design knock offs (and their knock offs) and a Mies van der Rohe Barcelona couch chocolate cake by Leandro Erlich

Data viz of MCU and DCEU movies based on Metacritic and IMDB ratings

This is an interesting graph showing MCU and DCEU movies based on Metacritic reviews vs. IMDB reviews. What’s cool about it is its use of a “centre of gravity” for both cinematic universes to see how the individual movies fair against the universe average. Unsurprisingly, many of the DCEU movies are below the trend line but the trendbuckers were Shazam and Wonder Woman. Eternals was one of the few MCU movies to fall below the line which makes sense.

Why I won't be watching Don't Look Up

When I watched the trailer for Don’t Look Up, I was thought it was comical in a way that you’d do that through-the-nose exhaled laugh at something mildly amusing. But I couldn’t help but notice that the ensemble cast, featuring an array of Oscar, Golden Globe, and Writers Guild Award winners, was attempting satire at the expense of a very serious climate crisis without the means to do anything about it. They were taking the mick out of themselves for profit and my friendCass summed it up in her Letterboxd review. Here are the opening lines:

I’m mad at everyone who told me to watch this movie.

Even if the cast DO understand they’re the butt of the joke, which I think a lot of them do, they just walk away with a pay check. And they carry on with their Hollywood liberal fake-caring bullshit, and the sheeple argument lingers. And fundamentally nothing changes. Those people just got another bundle of cash instead of doing something. As usual. 

It was giving me Deep Impact vibes but replacing Hollywood sanctimony with Hollywood liberal humour.

Clandestina skateboard designs by Oscar Maia

Clandestina Skateboards is a skateboarding collective from Portugal and fellow Portuguese designer Oscar Maia designed some skate decks for them (above). Oscar resides in Porto and specialises in communication design and art direction.

Skate related: How to make a Hey Arnold! skateboard and 5 ways skateboarding culture inspired modern art

(h/t SearchSystem)

Achille Mbembe on planetary consciousness

Philsopher and professor Achille Mbembe spoke to Nils Gilman about his visions for society’s future and how we need rights that don’t rely on the nation-state:

Can we rely on infrastructures that have, to some extent, contributed to turning the world into a burning house? Can we rely on them to learn how to inhabit the planet anew, how to share it as equitably as possible? To foster a new consciousness that gives ample space to notions of bio-symbiosis — life in symbiosis with humans and nonhumans?

[…]

Planetary politics should be connected to a politics of life, to a politics of the Earth. That includes all creation: all the people of the world; the creations or works of humanity; the mass of things we have invented; animals, plants, microbes, minerals; and mixed bodies (which is what we all are). In other words, the whole physical universe, all of reality, including (since I’m drawing from the African pre-colonial archive) spiritual and biological energies consistent with the definition of the living world.