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Live streamer

6 minutes

A year of weather

10 minutes

Crisanto Street

12 minutes

Earthrise

30 minutes

The power of expectations

3 minutes

When being watched is your work – life inside a Chinese live-streaming company

On China’s state-controlled internet, live-streaming fills a role similar to YouTube in the United States, allowing young people to keep up with, and even interact with, their favourite internet personalities. It’s also boomed into a multibillion dollar industry, driven by ‘gifts’ – small amounts of money sent from viewers to streamers – and brand partnerships. Live Streamer chronicles a day in the life of one Beijing-based web personality, Jing Zi, as she offers beauty tips, sings songs and, most popularly, eats for her young fanbase. The work is challenging, requiring her to entertain viewers for up to seven hours a day, but she also says it feels good to be cared for by so many fans. Live Streamer is part of the Shanghai-based US filmmaker Noah Sheldon’s Work-is documentary series, which ‘sets out to catalogue the labour force of China in a more intimate and granular way, using voices and personal histories to colour the notion of what it means to be working in modern China’.

Director: Noah Sheldon

Producer: Jean Liu

A waltz with a year’s worth of weather radar is both predictable and mysterious

From the tornadoes of the Great Plains to the hurricanes of the Gulf Coast, the United States has some of the world’s most notoriously destructive and volatile weather. But while somewhat hard to grasp on local, week-to-week scales, the nation’s weather is characterised by noticeable and much more predictable patterns when viewed at a macro level. This engrossing timelapse from the YouTube channel Weather Decoded uses radar to follow the meteorology of the entire continental US for all of 2018. As the video unfolds, perennial patterns, such as clouds losing steam when pushing up against the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and seasonal trends, including a stormy June for Nebraska and Kansas, reveal themselves. While US-centric, the video offers an insightful glimpse into the ways in which weather is both predictable and mysterious.

Via Kottke

Video by Weather Decoded

In Silicon Valley’s shadow, a boy bids farewell to the trailer community that’s been home

In the wake of the Silicon Valley tech boom, a massive housing affordability crisis has left thousands of lower-income residents unable to pay skyrocketing rents. These conditions have led to a steep rise in homelessness and the emergence of makeshift housing in the shadows of some of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in the world. In her deftly crafted short documentary Crisanto Street, the US filmmaker Paloma Martinez explores one such streetside mobile-home community through the eyes of Geovany Cesario, a cheerful eight-year-old whom she casts as guide, interviewer, narrator and occasionally camera operator. On the eve of his family’s move from their trailer to a low-income apartment complex, Geovany takes us on a touching and bittersweet farewell tour of his world until now.

Director: Paloma Martinez

How an unplanned picture from Apollo 8 altered humanity’s perspective of Earth

‘What they should have sent was poets…’

Launched in December 1968, Apollo 8 was the first manned flight to reach the Moon, orbit it and return to Earth. The primary goal of the mission was to prepare for an eventual lunar landing, however, the flight is now best remembered for the unparalleled glimpses of Earth it provided and, in particular, the iconic photograph taken from lunar orbit that became known as ‘Earthrise’. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, this documentary from the US director Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee features interviews with the crew members Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders, who took the famed picture. While reflecting on the life-changing experience of being the first people to view the Earth from outside of its orbit in the ‘inky black void’ of space, they detail how the unplanned photograph became their mission’s most lasting legacy, and gave them a newfound appreciation of their home planet.

Director: Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee

Producer: Adam Loften

Websites: Earthrise, Go Project Films

Want to make a lab rat smarter? Treat it like a smarter lab rat

It’s perhaps not startling to learn that the expectations of others have a significant impact on us. Over the past century, however, scientists have been surprised to observe just how forcefully expectations can nudge the abilities of people – and rats – in one direction or another. Featuring audio excerpts from NPR’s Invisibilia podcast, this animation draws on the work of the US psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Carol Dweck to briefly delve into how expectations can raise or lower student performance, speed up or slow down soldiers, and make maze-solving lab rats smarter or dumber.

Director and Animator: Francesca Cattaneo

Website: Invisibilia

When being watched is your work – life inside a Chinese live-streaming company

On China’s state-controlled internet, live-streaming fills a role similar to YouTube in the United States, allowing young people to keep up with, and even interact with, their favourite internet personalities. It’s also boomed into a multibillion dollar industry, driven by ‘gifts’ – small amounts of money sent from viewers to streamers – and brand partnerships. Live Streamer chronicles a day in the life of one Beijing-based web personality, Jing Zi, as she offers beauty tips, sings songs and, most popularly, eats for her young fanbase. The work is challenging, requiring her to entertain viewers for up to seven hours a day, but she also says it feels good to be cared for by so many fans. Live Streamer is part of the Shanghai-based US filmmaker Noah Sheldon’s Work-is documentary series, which ‘sets out to catalogue the labour force of China in a more intimate and granular way, using voices and personal histories to colour the notion of what it means to be working in modern China’.

Director: Noah Sheldon

Producer: Jean Liu

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Essay/
Technology & the Self
Who pushes the button?

From elevators to iPhones, the rise of pushbuttons has provoked a century of worries about losing the human touch

Rachel Plotnick

Essay/
Making
Material intelligence

The chasm between producers and consumers leaves many of us estranged from beauty and a vital part of an ethical life

Glenn Adamson