I get this question a lot. Here’s my crack at a nutshell answer.

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On 1 January 2020, at the casual invitation of my friend Lenara, I jumped into the world of cryptoart. It’s since taken over much of my time, neatly dovetailing with — and keeping me insanely busy during—the global COVID crisis. But I’ll tell you my own story another time. The purpose of this post is to offer a quick and easy introduction to the concept of cryptoart.

Here’s as simple an explainer as I can muster. (For any cryptoartists reading this—this article is meant for the entirely uninitiated. …


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TODAY: 12 noon Pacific, 3pm Eastern, 8pm UK

Hosted by cryptoart platform KnownOrigin, cryptoartists and collectors from all over the world are showing support of today’s March on Washington with our own March in the Metaverse. Taking place in Cryptovoxels — a Minecraft-like virtual world on the Ethereum blockchain occupied entirely by artists’ spaces — the march will start at a virtual gallery dedicated to The Advocate, documentary filmmaker Jon Lowenstein’s feature film focused on the life of young Black community activist Jedidiah Brown. UK-based cryptoart platform KnownOrigin is supporting Jon’s work to augment his current GoFundMe campaign to complete the film. …


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Image: Karin Eklund (2020)

Why would an American choose lockdown life under martial law in Morocco? A conversation with Iranian-American global health physician Nassim Assefi on different cultural approaches to COVID responses, coping as a single mother in quarantine, and navigating the precarious line between safety and sanity.

When the pandemic hit, Iranian-American physician and global health expert Dr Nassim Assefi actively chose to stay put in Rabat with her 8-year-old daughter rather than return home to Seattle, despite Morocco’s strictly enforced lockdown measures. The country’s major cities have seen the longest and strictest quarantines in the world: starting on March 16 and ending just a few days ago, on July 11.

As a self-described global nomad, Nassim has been to more than 60 countries, including to Iran for public health research, to Afghanistan to reduce maternal and infant mortality, and most recently to Rabat — where she was living at the time of this interview — to work with refugees and immigrants.


A shaggy-dog story of a virtual art collaboration in the Metaverse.

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The original Pink Dress, in Tilt Brush. Björk-worthy? I hope so.

Some folks are feeling too isolated during lockdown. I’m not feeling isolated enough. I typically work from home in blissful solitude in a forgotten Norfolk town. When COVID-19 hit, all my friends rushed online at once — on the one hand delightful, but on the other, overwhelming for an introvert who counts on 12 hours of alone time a day. So I took shelter from the storm in VR, making myself immersive worlds in Google’s 3D painting app Tilt Brush, using an Oculus Quest headset.

The pieces I created were all about comfort. I made an underwater rock garden with a purple axolotl for company. I made a campfire in a forest. I made a meditation grotto from giant mushrooms and painted my own light body. I’d enlarge these spaces so that I could sit within them, basking in my own creations of glowing light. …


Global health expert and TED Talk speaker Alanna Shaikh thinks there’s light at the end of the tunnel

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A testing tent at St. Barnabas Hospital on March 20, 2020 in New York City. Photo: Misha Friedman/Getty Images

As humanity steps into the reality of life with Covid-19, we’re all searching for calm, expert voices to guide us in making sensible decisions for ourselves, our families, and our society. Global health expert Alanna Shaikh — who studies what happens to health systems when diseases move at scale — is one such voice.

On March 6, Shaikh flew from her home in Sri Lanka to Dallas to speak at TEDxSMU about Covid-19. She offered a realistic yet somehow reassuring big-picture perspective that has already garnered more than 5 million views. …


Shortly after filmmaker Agnès Varda died, I went to Paris to learn from her life — and take a piece of it home with me

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Agnès Varda’s grave in Montparnasse Cemetery, where she is buried with her husband, Jacques Demy. Photos: Karen Frances Eng

We would see the gleaner, tramping along
gathering the relics
of that which is falling behind the reaper.
— Joachim du Bellay (from The Gleaners and I by Agnes Varda)

I went to Paris almost exactly a month after Agnès Varda died, wanting to pay my respects. I’m not sure why I felt compelled to visit the home of the pioneering feminist filmmaker and artist. We’d never met, though I’d have liked that. I haven’t seen all, or even most, of her work. …


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The southern margin of the glacier Breiðamerkurjökull. Photo: Joe Tighe

Bridging scientific knowledge and human narrative, The Secret Lives of Glaciers offers a new way to think about not only glaciers, but about how to navigate rapid environmental change.

Glaciologist and geographer M Jackson has spent nearly a decade among the people of the south coast of Iceland, gathering stories of the glaciers they’ve lived among for generations. Just released in her new book The Secret Lives of Glaciers, the stories examine the often surprising ways social structures are being affected by climate-caused changes in ice and offer a new perspective on how humanity might talk about — and tackle — the effects of climate change. Here, we ask Jackson to tell us more.

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What is Secret Lives of Glaciers about?

When we talk about glaciers today, the conversation is often dominated by how they are disappearing. What’s missing from that story is you and me — people worldwide — and how ice influences us just as much as we influence ice. This book presents the stories of people who live among glaciers on the south coast of Iceland, telling how people and ice interact in many unique ways. …


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Teleconferencing, Spatial style: Pop on a pair of AR glasses and beam into a shared virtual space as a 3D avatar to collaborate, chat and create. All images taken courtesy of Jinha Lee/Spatial.

Step into Spatial, a new 3D augmented-reality technology that promises to unleash remote collaboration from the screen and bring it into the room.

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Imagine you’re in an office with colleagues, brainstorming about the next conference you’re hosting. “How about Vancouver?” you ask. Your voice activates, as if by magic, a transparent browser window on a wall, listing the results of a search on “Vancouver.”

“I don’t think so,” says your colleague from across the table. She calls up another search and more windows appear in the air, this time with information on London venues. She reaches out and picks one with a pinching motion, then flicks it down onto the table in front of you. …


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Photos courtesy of Christine Marie. Photo credits: Vanessa Crocini, Christine Marie and Bryndis Hafthorsdottir. Dancers: Taylor Unwin, Gigi Todisco, Sandra Ruiz.

Light artist Christine Marie has reinvented an early projection technology to create live performances and installations with giant 3D shadows.

Imagine a dark space, dancers on stage, vivid colored lights behind them as they move. Their shadows grow, loom far above your head — then seem to reach and lunge towards you. It’s a feat of visual trickery—you could even call it augmented reality. Yet there are no computers here, just bright lights and colored glass. Light artist and TED Fellow Christine Marie has put a 21st-century spin on centuries-old technology she calls the shadow stereoscope, creating live performances that give audiences an immersive 3D experience—with no electronics in the way.

Next month, Sundance Film Festival will feature (antiquated) Augmented Reality—Christine Marie’s pioneering work featuring theatrical scenography, choreography and her pre-cinematic stereoscopic imaging technique—in its New Frontier program showcasing emerging storytelling media. Here, we get a sneak peek of the piece, and ask her to tell us more. …

About

Karen Frances Eng

organic unidirectional time machine // writer + artist // karenfranceseng.com

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