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Living With the Land: Four Seasons in Tibet • Lu Nan • Magnum Photos
“As part of an ongoing series, Living With the Land, we speak to Magnum photographers whose work explores a way of life tied closely to nature.

The  inhabitants of rural Tibet—as seen through the lens of Magnum photographer Lu Nan—live a relentlessly tough existence. From morning until night – when photographed near the turn of the millenium – they had endless work to do; in the spring, they sow, in the autumn, they harvest, before the summer, they shear wool which they twist into yarns. When they weren’t farming, they were sewing and weaving clothes and quilts. They are materially poor and their survival is closely bound to the whims of the weather. But, as Lu Nan explains, “Tibetan peasants do not talk about nature [as a separate entity], they are part of nature.”

In Tibet, the vast majority of peasants are Buddhists, but their religious faith is rarely fixed upon ceremony. “It is integrated into their daily life. This embodies itself in their attitude towards Nature, divinities and other living beings, as well as towards birth, aging, sickness, death and so on,” says Lu Nan. “Peasants do not use pesticides. Even if they are given out for free by the government, they still refuse to use them. The reason is very simple: pesticides will kill bugs. Life is fully respected here.”

Lu Nan spent seven years documenting these communities, resulting in the project titled, Four Seasons, which made up the third and final chapter of his Trilogy series. From 1996 to 2004, he made nine trips to Tibet and stayed three to four months each time, living alongside his subjects. His approach was methodical; he generally lodged at a government township and would visit any villages within a 2.5 hour walking distance from where he was staying. “On my last two trips, between August 2002 and May 2004, I worked in Tibet for fifteen months—six months for the first time and nine months for the second. During the work for Four Seasons, I photographed the entire spring sowing twice and the entire autumn harvest four times.”

Eighty-five percent of Tibetans are rural workers, and live lives that are fundamentally little removed from that of their ancestors. They plow their fields with oxen and horses, reap with sickles, and winnow wheat with the wind. Lu Nan witnessed a poetry in this machineless life. “What we hear is the ‘yo-heave-ho’ of driving draught animals, the songs of the women in the harvest, loudly thanking God for bestowing a bountiful harvest and the sound of threshing,” he says.

As a nationality, Tibetans value relationships deeply, especially among family members, says Lu Nan. “When you visit one family, if only the children are in the home, you can’t ask them where their parents are. Because of the harsh environment, poverty and lack of medical care, one of their parents may well have died. The children may begin to weep [if] asked such a question,” he explains. “Therefore, when one visits a family, one should instead ask how many people there are in the family and who they are and then you know whether the children’s parents are still alive.” Friendship outside of the family unit is also fundamental to their survival. “For example, when one family builds a house, every family in the village will send one person to help,” he adds.

Four Seasons offers a powerful and intimate study of a group of people with a profound connection to the land they live upon. This in turn leads to a deep appreciation of the present, evident in Lu Nan’s portraits. Quiet pleasure—and often sheer joy—is taken in tea making, braiding hair, lifting wheat, roasting barley, sitting with family or taking rest in the sun. “In their peaceful inner state, Tibetan peasants live and work leisurely and at ease, without being trapped by the past or disturbed by the future,” explains Lu Nan. “This is the state of happiness according to Buddhism, which resonates with the blessedness sought by Epicureanism, Stoicism and Spinozism.”

The project was heavily influenced by the work of German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.“Goethe’s belief in the infinite value of living in the present and his overall vision of everything determines the level of Four Seasons,” says Lu Nan. “During the seven years of photographing Four Seasons, no matter how familiar I was with the peasants’ lifestyle and their customs, I was always prepared to leave empty-handed before I went to Tibet, because the fascination of life lies in its impermanence, which is also the inspiration and solace of life for me.””
tibet  lunan  photography  nature  morethanhuman  weather  seasons  time  multispecies  buddhism  religion  belief  faith  animals  agriculture  farming  happiness  epicureanism  stoicism  spinozism  goethe  spinoza  relationships  life  living  peasants  machines  land  landscape  geography  pleasure  pleasures  simplicity  leisure  work 
6 days ago by robertogreco
How the Appetite for Emojis Complicates the Effort to Standardize the World’s Alphabets - The New York Times
"nshuman Pandey was intrigued. A graduate student in history at the University of Michigan, he was searching online for forgotten alphabets of South Asia when an image of a mysterious writing system popped up. In eight years of digging through British colonial archives both real and digital, he has found almost 200 alphabets across Asia that were previously undescribed in the West, but this one, which he came across in early 2011, stumped him. Its sinuous letters, connected to one another in cursive fashion and sometimes bearing dots and slashes above or below, resembled those of Arabic.

Pandey eventually identified the script as an alphabet for Rohingya, the language spoken by the stateless and persecuted Muslim people whose greatest numbers live in western Myanmar, where they’ve been the victims of brutal ethnic cleansing. Pandey wasn’t sure if the alphabet itself was in use anymore, until he lucked upon contemporary pictures of printed textbooks for children. That meant it wasn’t a historical footnote; it was alive.

An email query from Pandey bounced from expert to expert until it landed with Muhammad Noor, a Rohingya activist and television host who was living in Malaysia. He told Pandey the short history of this alphabet, which was developed in the 1980s by a group of scholars that included a man named Mohammed Hanif. It spread slowly through the 1990s in handwritten, photocopied books. After 2001, thanks to two computer fonts designed by Noor, it became possible to type the script in word-processing programs. But no email, text messages or (later) tweets could be sent or received in it, no Google searches conducted in it. The Rohingya had no digital alphabet of their own through which they could connect with one another.

Billions of people around the world no longer face this plight. Whether on computers or smartphones, they can write as they write, expressing themselves in their own linguistic culture. What makes this possible is a 26-year-old international industrial standard for text data called the Unicode standard, which prescribes the digital letters, numbers and punctuation marks of more than 100 different writing systems: Greek, Cherokee, Arabic, Latin, Devanagari — a world-spanning storehouse of languages. But the alphabet that Noor described wasn’t among them, and neither are more than 100 other scripts, just over half of them historical and the rest alphabets that could still be used by as many as 400 million people today.

Now a computational linguist and motivated by a desire to put his historical knowledge to use, Pandey knows how to get obscure alphabets into the Unicode standard. Since 2005, he has done so for 19 writing systems (and he’s currently working to add another eight). With Noor’s help, and some financial support from a research center at the University of California, Berkeley, he drew up the basic set of letters and defined how they combine, what rules govern punctuation and whether spaces exist between words, then submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium, the organization that maintains the standards for digital scripts. In 2018, seven years after Pandey’s discovery, what came to be called Hanifi Rohingya will be rolled out in Unicode’s 11th version. The Rohingya will be able to communicate online with one another, using their own alphabet."

"Unicode’s history is full of attacks by governments, activists and eccentrics. In the early 1990s, the Chinese government objected to the encoding of Tibetan. About five years ago, Hungarian nationalists tried to sabotage the encoding for Old Hungarian because they wanted it to be called “Szekley-Hungarian Rovas” instead. An encoding for an alphabet used to write Nepal Bhasa and Sanskrit was delayed a few years ago by ethnonationalists who mistrusted the proposal because they objected to the author’s surname. Over and over, the Unicode Consortium has protected its standard from such political attacks.

The standard’s effectiveness helped. “If standards work, they’re invisible and can be ignored by the public,” Busch says. Twenty years after its first version, Unicode had become the default text-data standard, adopted by device manufacturers and software companies all over the world. Each version of the standard ushered more users into a seamless digital world of text. “We used to ask ourselves, ‘How many years do you think the consortium will need to be in place before we can publish the last version?’ ” Whistler recalls. The end was finally in sight — at one point the consortium had barely more than 50 writing systems to add.

All that changed in October 2010, when that year’s version of the Unicode standard included its first set of emojis."

"Not everyone thinks that Unicode should be in the emoji business at all. I met several people at Emojicon promoting apps that treat emojis like pictures, not text, and I heard an idea floated for a separate standards body for emojis run by people with nontechnical backgrounds. “Normal people can have an opinion about why there isn’t a cupcake emoji,” said Jennifer 8. Lee, an entrepreneur and a film producer whose advocacy on behalf of a dumpling emoji inspired her to organize Emojicon. The issue isn’t space — Unicode has about 800,000 unused numerical identifiers — but about whose expertise and worldview shapes the standard and prioritizes its projects.

“Emoji has had a tendency to subtract attention from the other important things the consortium needs to be working on,” Ken Whistler says. He believes that Unicode was right to take responsibility for emoji, because it has the technical expertise to deal with character chaos (and has dealt with it before). But emoji is an unwanted distraction. “We can spend hours arguing for an emoji for chopsticks, and then have nobody in the room pay any attention to details for what’s required for Nepal, which the people in Nepal use to write their language. That’s my main concern: emoji eats the attention span both in the committee and for key people with other responsibilities.”

Emoji has nonetheless provided a boost to Unicode. Companies frequently used to implement partial versions of the standard, but the spread of emoji now forces them to adopt more complete versions of it. As a result, smartphones that can manage emoji will be more likely to have Hanifi Rohingya on them too. The stream of proposals also makes the standard seem alive, attracting new volunteers to Unicode’s mission. It’s not unusual for people who come to the organization through an interest in emoji to end up embracing its priorities. “Working on characters used in a small province of China, even if it’s 20,000 people who are going to use it, that’s a more important use of their time than deliberating over whether the hand of my yoga emoji is in the right position,” Mark Bramhill told me.

Since its creation was announced in 2015, the “Adopt a Character” program, through which individuals and organizations can sponsor any characters, including emojis, has raised more than $200,000. A percentage of the proceeds goes to support the Script Encoding Initiative, a research project based at Berkeley, which is headed by the linguistics researcher Deborah Anderson, who is devoted to making Unicode truly universal. One the consortium recently accepted is called Nyiakeng Puachue Hmong, devised for the Hmong language by a minister in California whose parishioners have been using it for more than 25 years. Still in the proposal stage is Tigalari, once used to write Sanskrit and other Indian languages.

One way to read the story of Unicode in the time of emoji is to see a privileged generation of tech consumers confronting the fact that they can’t communicate in ways they want to on their devices: through emoji. They get involved in standards-making, which yields them some satisfaction but slows down the speed with which millions of others around the world get access to the most basic of online linguistic powers. “There are always winners and losers in standards,” Lawrence Busch says. “You might want to say, ultimately we’d like everyone to win and nobody to lose too much, but we’re stuck with the fact that we have to make decisions, and when we make them, those decisions are going to be less acceptable to some than to others.”"
unicode  language  languages  internet  international  standards  emoji  2017  priorities  web  online  anshumanpandey  rohingya  arabic  markbramhill  hmong  tigalari  nyiakengpuachuehmong  muhammadnoor  mohammedhanif  kenwhistler  history  1980  2011  1990s  1980s  mobile  phones  google  apple  ascii  facebook  emojicon  michaelaerard  technology  communication  tibet 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Earth Timelapse
[via: "Watch The Movements Of Every Refugee On Earth Since The Year 2000: The story we tell ourselves about the refugee crisis is very different from the reality."

"In 2016, more refugees arrived in Uganda–including nearly half a million people from South Sudan alone–than crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. While the numbers in Africa are increasing, the situation isn’t new: As the world continues to focus on the European refugee crisis, an equally large crisis has been unfolding in Africa.

A new visualization shows the flow of refugees around the world from 2000 to 2015, and makes the lesser-known story in Africa–and in places like Sri Lanka in 2006 or Colombia in 2007–as obvious as what has been happening more recently in Syria. Each yellow dot represents 17 refugees leaving a country, and each red dot represents refugees arriving somewhere else. (The full version of the map, too large to display here, represents every single refugee in the world with a dot.)

Here’s some of what you’re seeing: In 2001, tens of thousands of refugees fled conflict in Afghanistan, while others fled civil war in Sudan (including the “Lost Boys,” orphans who in some cases were resettled in the U.S.). By 2003, the genocide in Darfur pushed even more people from Sudan. In 2006, war drove Lebanese citizens to Syria; Sri Lankans fleeing civil war went to India. In 2007, as conflict worsened in Colombia, refugees fled to nearby countries such as Venezuela. After leading demonstrations in Burma against dictatorial rule, Buddhist monks and others fled to Thailand. In 2008, a surge of Tibetan refugees fled to India, while Afghan, Iraqi, and Somali refugees continued to leave their home countries in large numbers. By 2009, Germany was taking in large numbers of refugees from countries such as Iraq. In 2010, another surge of refugees left Burma, while others left Cuba. By 2012, the civil war in Syria pushed huge numbers of refugees into countries such as Jordan. Ukrainian refugees began to flee unrest in 2013, and in greater numbers by 2014.

By 2015, the greatest number of refugees were coming from Syria, though mass movement from African countries such as South Sudan also continued–and because most of those refugees went to neighboring countries rather than Europe, the migration received less media attention. In 2015, the U.S. resettled 69,933 refugees; Uganda, with a population roughly eight times smaller, took in more than 100,000 people. Developing countries host nearly 90% of the world’s refugees.

“Often the debates we have in society start with emotion and extreme thoughts, like, ‘Oh, refugees are invading the U.S.,'” says Illah Nourbakhsh, director of the Community Robotics, Education, and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, the lab that developed the technology used create the new visualization. “You can’t get past that–you can’t build common ground for people to actually talk about real issues and how to solve them.”

Showing people data in an animated, interactive visualization, he says, is “an interesting shortcut into your brain, where the visual evidence is more rhetorically compelling than any graph or chart that I show you. That visual evidence often moves you from somebody who’s questioning the data to somebody who can see the data. And now they want to talk about what to do about it.”

The lab began working on its Explorables project, a platform designed to help make sense of big data, four years ago. To make big data–with billions of data points, dozens of different fields of information, changing over time–easier to explore, the platform layers animations over maps.

The team has also used systems like Google Earth to explore big data, but even it can only display a few hundred markers, and it requires installation on computers. The researchers realized that they could use a graphics processor in someone’s computer directly, in the same way that a video game does. “What’s kind of cool is that the video game revolution has changed the computer’s architecture over the last decade,” he says. “So the computers have this amazing ability to very quickly render on the screen.” That technology is combined with an ability to display only the resolution needed for the data you’re zoomed in on, making it possible to share massive amounts of data."]
timelines  maps  mapping  refugees  migration  afghanistan  sudan  darfur  lebanon  syria  venezuela  colombia  burma  india  srilanka  southsudan  uganda  africa  europe  jordan  ukraine  cuba  tibet  somalia  thailand  germany  iraq 
june 2017 by robertogreco
61 Glimpses of the Future — Today’s Office — Medium
"1. If you want to understand how our planet will turn out this century, spend time in China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Brazil.

2. If you’re wondering how long the Chinese economic miracle will last, the answer will probably be found in the bets made on commercial and residential developments in Chinese 3rd to 6th tier cities in Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai and Tibet.

4. Touch ID doesn’t work at high altitude, finger prints are too dry.

5. You no longer need to carry a translation app on your phone. If there’s someone to speak with, they’ll have one on theirs.

6. A truly great border crossing will hold a mirror up to your soul.

9. The art of successful borderland travel is to know when to pass through (and be seen by) army checkpoints and when to avoid them.

10. Borders are permeable.

12. The premium for buying gasoline in a remote village in the GBAO is 20% more than the nearest town. Gasoline is harder to come by, and more valuable than connectivity.

13. After fifteen years of professionally decoding human behaviour, I’m still surprised by the universality of body language.

14. Pretentious people are inherently less curious.

15. Everything is fine, until that exact moment when it’s obviously not. It is easy to massively over/under estimate risk based on current contextual conditions. Historical data provides some perspective, but it usually comes down to your ability to read undercurrents, which in turn comes down to having built a sufficiently trusted relationship with people within those currents.

16. Sometimes, everyone who says they know what is going on, is wrong.

17. Every time you describe someone in your own country as a terrorist, a freedom is taken away from a person in another country.

18. Every country has its own notion of “terrorism”, and the overuse, and reaction to the term in your country helps legitimise the crack-down of restive populations in other countries.

17. China is still arguably the lowest-trust consumer society in the world. If a product can be faked it will be. Out of necessity, they also have the most savvy consumers in the world.

18. After twenty years of promising to deliver, Chinese solar products are now practical (available for purchase, affordable, sufficiently efficient, robust) for any community on the edge-of-grid, anywhere in the world. Either shared, or sole ownership.

20. When a fixed price culture meets a negotiation culture, fun ensues.

21. The sharing economy is alive and well, and has nothing to with your idea of the sharing economy.

25. Chinese truckers plying their trade along the silk road deserve to be immortalised as the the frontiersmen of our generation. (They are always male.)

29. The most interesting places have map coordinates, but no names.

30. There are are number of companies with a competitive smartphone portfolio. The rise of Oppo can be explained by its presence on every block of 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th tier Chinese cities.

32. People wearing fake Supreme are way more interesting than those that wear the real deal.

33. An iPhone box full of fungus caterpillar in Kham Tibet sold wholesale, is worth more than a fully specced iPhone. It’s worth 10x at retail in 1st/2nd Tier China. It is a better aphrodisiac too.

35. One of the more interesting aspects of very high net worth individuals (the financial 0.001%), is the entourage that they attract, and the interrelations between members of that entourage. This is my first time travelling with a spiritual leader (the religious 0.001%), whose entourage included disciples, and members of the financial 0.01% looking for a karmic handout. The behaviour of silicon valley’s nouveau riche is often parodied but when it comes to weirdness, faith trumps money every time. Any bets on the first Silicon Valley billionaire to successfully marry the two? Or vice versa?

37. For every person that longs for nature, there are two that long for man-made.

38. Tibetan monks prefer iOS over Android.

40. In order to size up the tribe/sub-tribe you’re part of, any group of young males will first look at the shoes on your feet.

42. After the Urumqi riots in 2009 the Chinese government cut of internet connectivity to Xinjiang province for a full year. Today connectivity is so prevalent and integrated into every aspect of Xinjiang society, that cutting it off it would hurt the state’s ability to control the population more than hinder their opposition. There are many parts to the current state strategy is to limit subversion, the most visible of which is access to the means of travel. For example every gas station between Kashi and Urumqi has barbed wire barriers at its gates, and someone checking IDs.

43. TV used to be the primary way for the edge-of-grid have-nots to discover what they want to have. Today it is seeing geotagged images from nearby places, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away.

44. Facebook entering China would be a Pyrrhic victory, that would lead to greater scrutiny and regulation worldwide. Go for it.

45. The sooner western companies own up to copying WeChat, the sooner we can get on with acknowledging a significant shift in the global creative center of gravity.

48. Green tea beats black tea for acclimatising to altitude sickness.

49. The most interesting destinations aren’t geotagged, are not easily geo-taggable. Bonus points if you can figure that one out.

50. The first time you confront a leader, never do it in front of their followers, they’ll have no way to back down.

51. There is more certainty in reselling the past, than inventing the future.

55. Pockets of Chengdu are starting to out-cool Tokyo.

56. To what extent does cultural continuity, and societal harmony comes from three generations under one roof?

58. If you want to understand where a country is heading pick a 2nd or 3rd tier city and revisit it over many years. Chengdu remains my bellwether 2nd tier Chinese city. It’s inland, has a strong local identity and sub-cultures, and has room to grow. Bonus: its’ only a few hours from some of the best mountain ranges in the world.

60. The difference between 2.5G and 3G? In the words of a smartphone wielding GBAO teenager on the day 3G data was switched on her town, “I can breathe”."
janchipchase  2016  travel  technology  borders  authenticity  pretension  curiosity  china  tibet  japan  eligion  culture  capitalism  wechat  facebook  android  ios  tokyo  chengdu  future  past  communication  tea  greentea  certainty  monks  translation  nature  indonesia  nigeria  brasil  brazil  india  shoes  connectivity  internet  mobile  phones  smartphones  sharingeconomy  economics  negotiation  touchid  cities  urban  urbanism  location  risk  relationships  consumers  terrorism  truckers  oppo  siliconvalley  wealth  nouveauriche  comparison  generations 
july 2016 by robertogreco
"What you are about to see is disturbing. If you are sensitive to violent images, please do not view these photos.


Via the always authoritative Wikipedia:

"Sky burial (Tibetan: བྱ་གཏོར་, w bya gtor), lit. “alms for the birds”[1]) is a funerary practice in the Chinese provinces of Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan andInner Mongolia and in Mongolia proper wherein a human corpse is incised in certain locations and placed on a mountaintop, exposing it to the elements (mahabhuta) and animals – especially predatory birds. The locations of preparation and sky burial are understood in the Vajrayanatraditions as charnel grounds.

The majority of Tibetans and many Mongolians adhere to Vajrayana Buddhism, which teaches the transmigration of spirits. There is no need to preserve the body, as it is now an empty vessel. Birds may eat it or nature may cause it to decompose. The function of the sky burial is simply to dispose of the remains in as generous a way as possible (the source of the practice’s Tibetan name). In much of Tibet and Qinghai, the ground is too hard and rocky to dig a grave, and, due to the scarcity of fuel and timber, sky burials were typically more practical than the traditional Buddhist practice of cremation. In the past, cremation was limited to high lamas and some other dignitaries,[2] but modern technology and difficulties with sky burial have led to its increasing use by commoners.[3]"

[via: ]
death  tibet  burial  nature  buddhism  mongolia 
june 2014 by robertogreco
'Twitter Is My City' - By Jonathan Landreth | Foreign Policy
"A city's at its strongest when it can reflect people's feelings, freedom, and desires. New York is a city of desire, for the powerful, and for beauty. But there's the American Dream -- equal opportunity to be rich and secured by the law. People feel nobody can touch them, because there's law. Beijing is a city with none of these qualities."

"Twitter is my city, my favorite city. I can talk to anybody I want to. And anybody who wants to talk to me will get my response. They know me better than their relatives or my relatives. There's so much imagination there; a lot of times it's just like poetry. You just read one sentence, and you sense this kind of breeze or a kind of look. It's amazing."
jonathanlandreth  interviews  2012  internet  tibet  lhasa  remkoolhaas  nyc  web  media  online  freedom  open  conversation  belonging  cities  twitter  china  beijing  aiweiwei 
august 2012 by robertogreco
BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | 'Free Tibet' flags made in China
"Police in southern China have discovered a factory manufacturing Free Tibet flags, media reports say...Police believe that some may already have been sent overseas, and could appear in Hong Kong during the Olympic torch relay there this week."
china  tibet  politics  manufacturing  capitalism  search  internet  irony  humor  globalization  flags 
april 2008 by robertogreco
Pankaj Mishra: At war with the utopia of modernity | Comment is free | The Guardian
"Tibetans' rage is directed not at communist rule, but the consumerist threat to their traditions and sacred lands"
tibet  china  communism  culture  consumerism  migration  politics  tourism  religion  development  Economics 
march 2008 by robertogreco

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