Sunday 19 April 2020

Reading list, 19 April 2020

Covid-19, of course

New NZ thinktank Koi Tū's paper on the questions the pandemic should be prompting us to ask for the future. And The Great Reset: What Will (Need to) Change after the Crisis? from a House of Beautiful Business Living Room Session (whatever that is?). Long pieces I'll come back to post the Monday announcement, I reckon. 

From NiemanLab: The coronavirus traffic bump to news sites is pretty much over already (American, of course, I'm not sure where NZ is at. Check out the most recent episode of The Fold in which The Spinoff editor Duncan Grieve pondered the Covid-19 impact on the media on March 27, a monologue that still holds up)

Covid-19 and magical thinking defence mechanisms

Moving beyond the content-frenzy: Andrew McIntyre of audience research company MHM in the first of three articles about becoming more audience-focused post-Covid

McIntyre links to this interesting piece by Nicholas Berger, The Forgotten Art of Assembly Or, Why Theatre Makers Should Stop Making: "These immediate, ad hoc, digital projects highlight not a resiliency, but a deep fear. The coronavirus has exposed us all, desperately afraid of being alone."

Let's zoom out on that one. This week I was sent this article by a friend, Why Are You Panic-Working? Try This Instead by organisational psychologist Gianpiero Petriglieri. He gives a psychological framework for this productivity response, the "manic defense", outlined by Donald Winnicott in the early 20th century. Petriglieri writes:

Like all defenses, the obsession with staying productive is a source of dubious comfort. It sustains the pretense that if we work hard enough, we can hold onto the world we once knew. 
It shields us from feeling powerless in the face of events, but it comes at a high price. It costs us our connection to reality, to our experience, and to others. We become incapable of appraising the situation, acknowledging our feelings about it, and being present to others. We become numb. Eventually, we fall apart because we have tried too hard to keep ourselves together.

How we respond when placed under pressure is something I've been intrigued about ever since I drove my car over a small cliff as a teenager (long background story) and never more so than this past month. Call me late to the party (like, arriving a solid 10 years after it started) but I've just started listening to Brené Brown's podcast 'Unlocking Us'. The episode on anxiety, and people's tendency to either over or under-perform when placed under pressure is full of commonsense and good reminders, and links well to Petriglieri's article. 

Covid as a springboard for writing about new cultural artefacts

Using Barbie to stage mini-protests: I usually hate art gallery stunts, this is genius. "That's not art it's Victorian porn!' – how one small Barbie doll took on the art world", Nancy Langham-Hooper's interview with Sarah Williamson, creator of ArtActivistBarbie.

Simon Wilson reviews Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light, (paywalled) asking what we can learn from Thomas Cromwell's life and times to apply to our current moment: "Power, wielded successfully, is about matching ambition to circumstance. Doing what you can, knowing how to play the long game but also seize the moment. You can't just do what you want. You have to do it so it works."

Not at all Covid

A 2019 piece from The New York Times by Caity Weaver, on the office design of the company that runs a bunch of America's mall food chains.

Also from the Times: Sarah Miller's lengthy analysis you didn't know you needed of Claire Danes' character's attachment to cross-body bags in Homeland.

Bonus reading fest

This massive New York Times T Magazine's 2020 Culture Issue. I particularly enjoyed the article about butch and stud lesbian style / identity. 

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