Featured, Nexus »

How Our Evolving Understanding of Individual Autonomy Led to Human Rights for All

In Inventing Human Rights: A History, UCLA historian Lynn Hunt traces the modern concept of Human Rights to a series of mid-18th century epistolary novels with a strong first person perspective, including Julie by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and Clarissa. Male and female readers got passionately engrossed in the experience of being “in” the body and position of the heroines of these novels. …

Featured, Nexus »

Empathy’s Evolution in the Human Imagination

By | July 18, 2017

Empathy seems to be one of the most “natural” emotions, but before 1908, no one in the English-speaking world had heard of it.
And when it did appear, “empathy” was a translation from the German Einfühlung, literally “in-feeling,” with the surprising meaning of projecting one’s own feelings into nature and objects of art.
This meaning is strange to us now. But the feeling we call …

Headline, Nexus »

Why We Should Fear Emotionally Manipulative Robots

“Keep going straight here!”
“Err, that’s not what the app is telling me to do.”
“Yes, but it’s faster this way. The app is taking you to the beltway. Traffic is terrible there!”
“Okay. I don’t know these roads.”
So went a conversation with an Uber driver in northern Virginia recently. But imagine it was a self-driving Uber. Would you even have that conversation, or would you be doomed …

Featured »

The Weaponization of Empathy in a Hyper-Connected World

By | July 17, 2017

Every time I go on Facebook I end up staring into the eyes of a puppy. Sometimes it has been mistreated, has a bad case of mange, or worse. Sometimes it’s looking for a home. I feel a tug on my heartstrings: What if I were that homeless puppy? It also makes me feel very important: Only I can save this puppy!
But in real …

Connecting California, Featured, Joe Mathews »

L.A.’s Revelatory Light Rail for Nerds

By | July 17, 2017

My train line is smarter than your train line.
I’m a regular rider of “The Brain Train,” officially known as the Gold Line on the L.A. Metro system’s. The Gold Line is light rail running from the eastern San Gabriel Valley into downtown L.A. and then back out again to East L.A. Along the way, it connects enough smart institutions—from innovative community colleges, to a …

Headline, Inquiry »

Is Empathy the 20th Century’s Most Powerful Invention?

By | July 17, 2017

This is a Zócalo Inquiry, Is Empathy the 20th Century’s Most Powerful Invention?

Featured, Poetry »

I hold history’s hand in mine #poem

By | July 14, 2017

darling. beloved. come closer.
I hold history’s hand in mine, an old friend
we walk together along the paved zanja madre
a river of dirt and water. small tribes of seagulls
nest in the shifting sediment
come, beloved. walk with me.
I am as determined as clover
plant the self where you find hope. fly
land. root. you don’t need permission to exist
I take out my ancestor’s artifacts
and strap them to my …

Featured, Nexus »

Seeing Art From a Local Perspective in Hyper-Global Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Museum of Art, where I work, is 55 years old this year. Though we have changed a lot over the years, we still hold to a special “hybrid” vision that fits our city and dates to the museum’s founding on the top two floors of City Hall.
Since that time our location has changed to a separate building; Hong Kong stopped being …

Headline, Nexus »

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Speech Reminds Us That Songs Are for Listening, Not Reading

By | July 14, 2017

“Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.” Homer’s opening to the Odyssey is one of the most well-known lines of what we call literature—but the Greeks called song. This particular translation—by Robert Fitzgerald with an added “oh”—puts Homer somewhere between singing and storytelling. And now, taking his seat next to Homer, at least according to the 2016 Nobel prize committee for literature, is Bob …

Featured, Nexus »

California Can Reconceive the Arts by Offering More Choices and Ways to Participate

By | July 13, 2017

California is undergoing massive changes in technology, demography, the nature of work and, thus, in leisure activity. So is its cultural sector, with consequences for how Californians experience art and for how California organizations and artists deliver the arts and engage their audiences.
Over the last three decades, the term “arts participation” has essentially been understood as arts attendance within the non-profit arts field. The field’s …