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I just wanted to send you the new text which I talked about and which I wrote with the TetraPak project in mind. The text is also going to be included in the other artgenda project «journal».

Obscured by Quality

Studies have shown that people need recreation in order to feel well. Recreating oneself is a matter of recovering one’s powers, i.e. a form of invigoration.

If the body is exhausted – after hard physical exercise, for example – recovering the lost energy is relatively simple as compared with recovering energy that is related to a mental state. Recovering such powers necessitates our being stimulated in some way.

Experiments on mice have shown that unstimulating environments actually influence the brain’s physical development. Certain areas of the brain failed to develop in mice that grew up in small cages without any opportunities for play or other activities. The opposite applied to mice who were able to play and lead active lives. Since, for obvious reasons, no such experiments have been done on humans, one can only speculate on the extent to which such findings are applicable to the human species.

It has been known for some time that the need for recreation outside the home is greatest among people with monotonous jobs that afford few opportunities for taking initiatives and influencing work. Many people could achieve such recreation by going for walks in a stimulating environment. Swedish research shows that it is urban environments that best meet these needs, particularly city parks with a wealth of symbols and traces of human activity. Symbols and human activity can, in this instance, be interpreted as different signs to which one can relate on a personal level and which are the result of obvious, conscious concern. This can be a matter of everything from plants and the city plan to lamp-posts and sculptures. Interviews have revealed that what most people value in the form of traces of activity and symbolic values often corresponds with long agreed definitions of quality in these fields. It is also known that people with monotonous jobs find it difficult to mobilize the energy to betake themselves to such stimulating environments for walking at the end of the working day. In general people in this category live far from such environments. The groups in society who are in a position to define quality commonly have jobs that can be said to be stimulating and that offer a high degree of personal freedom. Also, it is not at all unusual that people in these groups live close to urban environments offering a high quality of recreation.

Tests conducted using the so-called hare-duck head , which is an image that can be read as either portraying a hare or a duck, show that having once seen one of the figures or been told that it is there, it is difficult to see the other figure. It is possible to conclude that this may also be the case with how we learn to appreciate qualities with reference, for example, to those that lie beyond our fundamental biological needs of warmth, food, security, etc. The result should be in such cases that obstacles are created for experiences that might be positive and stimulating. If one assumes that this is true, there would seem to be a need for a greater variation among the agreements about quality. Perhaps new discoveries are waiting to be revealed where one least suspects them.

Markus Degerman

See text in german: VerborgenDurchQualität?

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Last edited November 5, 2002 15:44 (diff)