Sunday Links: Fiction, Photosynth App, and Burnout

1. The Social and Emotional Value of Fiction

Having just returned from a family vacation that had built-in time for reading the novel Ender’s Shadow (on the heels of having re-read Ender’s Game, which I wrote about here) and starting The Stress of Her Regard, by Tim Powers, I appreciated yesterday’s New York Times opinion piece, “Your Brain on Fiction“:

“[I] individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels. A 2010 study by Dr. Mar found a similar result in preschool-age children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their theory of mind — an effect that was also produced by watching movies but, curiously, not by watching television. (Dr. Mar has conjectured that because children often watch TV alone, but go to the movies with their parents, they may experience more “parent-children conversations about mental states” when it comes to films.)

Fiction, Dr. Oatley notes, ‘is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.'” Read More

Of course, many of us do not need neuroscience research to confirm the value of reading fiction, but for those who insist on such evidence, the article may be a novel eye-opener.

2. Free Panorama Photo App

Also while on vacation, I was able to try out a free panorama photo app, Photosynth, which I strongly recommend. I haven’t yet used its full capabilities, but you can see a simple example of Monet’s Water Lilies (Museum of Modern Art) by clicking here.

3. Two-part Article on “Multiple Talents, Multiple Passions, Burnout”

Finally, I recommend that everyone read part one and part two of Douglas Eby’s latest article, “Multiple Talents, Multiple Passions, Burnout”:

“The burned-out house is a pithy metaphor for our condition when we are suffering burnout.

It’s a ‘system breakdown’ I have experienced a number of times over the past couple of years, when putting “too much” time and energy, emotional and intellectual, into writing for this column, The Creative Mind, plus creating posts and doing technical web-master maintenance on a dozen or so of my other sites, plus affiliate marketing of products and programs I think will be helpful to other creative people, etc etc.

There is no end to it. And as interesting and fulfilling as all that may be, there are times when ‘only a few more hours’ of work becomes too much, and I end up kind of comatose the next day.”

Young Man in a Gray Sweater (Jacques Lipchitz)
Diego Rivera (Mexican, 1886-1957), Museum of Modern Art

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