Daily Life | Perspectives for the Pandemic
 

Prof Buyandelger in a protective mask

THE MEANINGS OF MASKS

Masks can reveal new possibilities
Manduhai Buyandelger | Anthropology

 

"In shamanic rituals and in computer-mediated virtual reality, a mask conceals one identity to reveal new possibilities. Seen in this light, virus protection masks offer an opportunity to replace a visage of fear with a public expression of strength as a community." — Manduhai Buyandelger, MIT Associate Professor of Anthropology

Portrait of MIT Historian Emma Teng

THE MEANINGS OF MASKS

The Mask as Public Spiritedness - 公德心
Emma Teng | History
 

"Norms in East Asian countries support the notion that 'doing something for the community good is good for me also.' It would be unthinkable to discuss sacrificing older people to the pandemic using a cost-benefit analysis. It is also considered a social responsibility to do one’s part in controlling the pandemic to ensure that schools remain open for the younger generation."

Portrait of Professor Anne McCants

EDUCATION + DAILY LIFE

Faculty Reflections | Anne McCants, Professor of History
 

An ongoing series of notes from the Director of the MIT Concourse Program for her students and others during the pandemic

Man in pandemic mask

Series | The Meanings of Masks
 

As The Washington Post has reported, "at the heart of the dismal US coronavirus response" is a "fraught relationship with masks." With this series of commentaries, MIT faculty explore the myriad historic, creative, and cultural meanings of masks. One common denominator: that in this pandemic era, wearing a mask means: "I care about you."

portrait of Professor Eric Klopfer

THE MEANINGS OF MASKS

The mask is a badge of honor | Eric Klopfer
Comparative Media Studies
 

"In this pandemic era, what a mask really says is, ‘I care about YOU.’ The mask indicates that you are protecting the health of others during a crisis."

Protest Mask: I Can't Breathe

THE MEANINGS OF MASKS

A collective cry for justice | Graham M. Jones
Anthropology
 

"The mask is one of the most important human artifacts in all of anthropology. It is a tool of transformation that allows its wearers to transcend themselves, taking on timeless roles in ritual dramas, and as actors in a broader social drama."

detail, balcony illustration by Maria Medem, The New York Times

DAILY LIFE

An ode to the humble balcony
 

In The New York Times, Bernardo Zacka writes: "[A balcony] is private, yet public; exposed, yet secluded. It offers company without the demands of intimacy, and we should never take it for granted again."

Photo of MIT anthropologist Heather Paxson

DAILY LIFE

Taking refuge in the kitchen
 

Heather Paxson talks with the Radcliffe Institute on how the pandemic is changing the ways we eat.

portrait of Oprah Winfrey

DAILY LIFE

A Conversation: Alan Lightman and Oprah Winfrey
 

In this conversation, part of Winfrey's 2020 Vision Tour, Oprah talks with MIT physicist and writer Alan Lightman about the presence, authenticity, and meanings of spiritual experience. 

DAILY LIFE

What the pandemic tells us about personal identity
 

Kieran Setiya writes in The New Statesman: "We have become more used to seeing others through screens and software, but we are embodied beings and digital communication can feel lacking. What effect will this have on us?" 

HUMOR AND HEALTH

Why we need humor at a time like this
 

At Oxford University Press blog, William Costanzo explores the social and medicinal aspects of humor.

Detail, etching of Isaac Newton

DAILY LIFE

The truth about Isaac Newton’s productive plague
 

In The New Yorker, MIT Professor of Science Writing Tom Levenson writes that the idea that the plague woke the brilliance in Newton is both wrong and misleading.

image of working remotely via the internet

DAILY LIFE | EDUCATION

When the coronavirus pandemic drove life online
 

On NBC News, MIT Professor Sherry Turkle discusses how the pandemic is inspiring people and groups around the world to use the internet in new and creative ways to connect: "The move online could end up changing what it means to be online," she says.

DAILY LIFE

The virus is a reminder of something lost long ago
 

In The Atlantic, MIT Professor of Writing Alan Lightman observes that the pandemic may force "many of us to slow down, to spend more time in reflection, away from the noise and heave of the world. With more quiet time, we have an opportunity to think about who we are, as individuals and as a society."

Bulldog puppy with laughing expression

DAILY LIFE

Embracing Humor
 

"Many studies have shown that laughter and humor have a huge array of benefits, including strengthening the immune system, reducing pain and stress, and increasing energy. If you are going through a difficult experience or feeling down, humor may accidently find you. Embrace it."