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A Book Addict's Defense of the Smartphone | Technology and Learning
"A counterargument to the emerging conventional wisdom"



"Smartphones are either like cigarettes or comic books. Either bad for humans, or good for those who make their living telling us what is bad.

The smartphone worrywarts have some evidence on their side. I’ll get to some disturbing smartphone numbers in a second, but first some smartphone love.

Smartphones are the best thing to happen to book lovers since the paperback. The iPhone is a bookstore, library, and narrator.

The biggest reason that we don’t read more books is not lack of desire, but a shortage of time.

With my iPhone, I’m able to listen to audiobooks while walking, cooking, and cleaning. The Kindle iOS app allows me to read e-books in short bursts. I’ll read a page or two while standing in line at the grocery store, or while eating my morning cereal.

Does the advantages of the iPhone for book discovery, portability and reading outweigh the costs of mobile computing for everything else?

The big worry about smartphones is that they are killing our ability to focus. Productive thinking requires our attention, and smartphones are attention magnets.

On average, smartphone users (which is everyone now) spend 3 hours and 15 minutes a day on their phones. The top 20 percent of smartphone users are on their devices for an average of 4.5 hours per day.

Smartphones have been associated with everything from rising levels of anxiety and depression among teenagers to damaging interpersonal relationships.

Professors find the use of smartphones so distracting for teaching and learning that 1 in 4 has banned them from their classes.

A recent MIT study showed that even a single day with access to their smartphone can cause college students to have elevated levels of stress and anxiety.

Some warning signs of smartphone addiction that I found online include:

• “Difficulty completing chores or work due to concentration issues.”

• "Seclusion from family and friends or using your phone when in conversation.”

• Masking of smartphone use by sneaking off to the bathroom at work.

• “Worry that you’re missing out on something when you’re not with your phone.”

• Feeling "anxious or irritable” when not with your phone

• Sleep problems.

There seems to be a growing acceptance that we can’t control our smartphone actions. A recent NYTimes article called "Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain" (2/23/19) received 495 comments.

Almost half of Americans have tried to limit their smartphone usage in the past, with only 30 percent being successful.

I could go on enumerating all the disturbing smartphone statistics.

My point is not that I don’t think that smartphones can cause problems for attention, focus, and interpersonal relationships. I’ll stipulate that we have not adjusted to the downsides of having the internet - and everything that comes along with the web - in our pockets.

What I am saying is that the advantages of being to store, listen to, and read books - wherever and whenever - outweigh all the smartphone negatives.

The audiobook and the e-book, purchased (or borrowed) and read/listened to on a smartphone, is the game changer for book lovers.

Strangely, the wonderful opportunities to spend more time reading books that smartphones have enabled has gone largely uncelebrated. Academics - we people of the book - should be overjoyed about the potential of the smartphone to increase reading time.

We should be making the argument that the problem with the smartphone is not the device, but how people use it. Delete that Facebook app. Get rid of Twitter. Take the games off the phone. Maybe even remove your e-mail accounts.

Keep the Kindle and Audible apps. (Or whatever e-book and audiobook app that you use).

Think only of the smartphone as a reading device and a bookshelf.

Do you use your phone to read books?"
smartphones  mobile  phones  howweread  reading  joshuakim  infooverload  distraction  kindle  ebooks  audiobooks  access  accessibility  attention  2019 
5 hours ago by robertogreco
Trinh T. Minh-ha on Vimeo
"Trinh Minh-ha operates on the boundary of documentary, experimental and traditional film, focusing on several powerful themes. As well as the status of women in society, she examines the life of migrants, portraits of whom she depicts in the background of the dynamic relationship between traditional and modern societies. The artist calls these figures the “inappropriate/d other”, and says in one of her interviews: “We can read the term “inappropriate/d other” in both ways, as someone whom you cannot appropriate, and as someone who is inappropriate. Not quite other, not quite the same.”

However, anyone expecting objective documentaries in this exhibition will be surprised. Trinh Minh-ha draws on her own experience, transforming the personal into the public and socially engaged, and in this way her films becomes “poetic-political” works. The artist’s sensitivity and empathy is not simply a way of presenting political themes in a user-friendly way, but is also manifest in unobtrusively recurring motifs of love and friendships.

What are the most powerful impressions we receive from films by Trinh Minh-ha? Firstly, there is a balance to her treatment of themes that offers the viewer the possibility of examining things from many different perspectives. Then there is the persistence with which she attempts to offer a three-dimensional image of “those others”.

However, even upon a first viewing our attention is caught by something else. Trinh Minh-ha works with the viewer’s senses, which she attempts to provoke into total vigilance. The sounds and music she uses are not any in any sense background, but at certain moments take over the narrative role, at others withdraw discreetly in order to allow the actors themselves to speak. The combination of stylised interviewers and theatrical scenes, modified in the postproduction stage by archival materials and linear film narration, along with sounds and suggestive colours, creates an almost synaesthetic experience, in which words express the same as sounds and colours. However, concentration on the part of the viewer is essential. How, otherwise, might they perceive all these levels simultaneously with the same intensity? How can such films be shown in a gallery? How does one create an environment in which the visitor does not just gaze, but accepts the role of a genuine film audience? Walls and chairs soundproofed in soft foam and the proximity of the screen will perhaps make it easier to accept the role of attentive viewers, who will insist on following a film from beginning to end."
trinhminh-ha  2015  film  documentary  migration  othering  vigilance  sensitivity  empathy  society  others  appropriate  inappropriate  innappropriated  gaze  concentration  attention 
5 days ago by robertogreco
The UX design case of closed captions for everyone // Sebastian Greger
"Are video subtitles really chiefly for users who cannot hear or lack an audio device? A recent Twitter thread on “closed captions for the hearing” triggered a brief qualitative exploration and thought experiment – there may well be a growing group of users being forgotten in the design of closed captions.

Most commonly perceived as an auxiliary means for the hearing impaired, video subtitles, a.k.a. closed captions (CC), have only recently started to be widely considered as an affordance for users in situations with no audio available/possible (think mobile devices in public settings, libraries, shared office spaces); the latter to the extend that contemporary “social media marketing guidelines” strongly recommend subtitling video clips uploaded to Facebook, Twitter et al.

So: subtitles are for those who cannot hear, or with muted devices?

Who else uses closed captions?

I’m personally a great fan of closed captions, for various reasons unrelated to either of the above, and have often noticed certain limitations in their design. Hence, the user researcher inside me just did a somersault as I randomly encountered a Twitter thread [https://twitter.com/jkottke/status/1091338252475396097 ] following Jason Kottke asking his 247.000 followers:
After seeing several photos my (English-speaking, non-deaf) friends have taken of their TV screens over the past week, I’m realizing that many of you watch TV with closed captions (or subtitles) on?! Is this a thing? And if so, why?

The 150+ replies (I guess this qualifies as a reasonable sample for a qualitative analysis of sorts?) are a wonderful example of “accessibility features” benefiting everybody (I wrote about another instance recently [https://sebastiangreger.net/2018/11/twitter-alt-texts-on-db-trains/ ]). The reasons why people watch TV with closed captions on, despite having good hearing abilities and not being constrained by having to watch muted video, are manifold and go far beyond those two most commonly anticipated use cases.

[image: Close-up image of a video with subtitles (caption: "Closed captions are used by people with good hearing and audio playback turned on. An overseen use case?")]

Even applying a rather shallow, ex-tempore categorisation exercise based on the replies on Twitter, I end up with an impressive list to start with:

• Permanent difficulties with audio content
◦ audio processing disorders
◦ short attention span (incl., but not limited to clinical conditions)
◦ hard of hearing, irrespective of age
• Temporary impairments of hearing or perception
◦ watching under the influence of alcohol
◦ noise from eating chips while watching
• Environmental/contextual factors
◦ environment noise from others in the room (or a snoring dog)
◦ distractions and multitasking (working out, child care, web browsing, working, phone calls)
• Reasons related to the media itself
◦ bad audio levels of voice vs. music
• Enabler for improved understanding
◦ easier to follow dialogue
◦ annoyance with missing dialogue
◦ avoidance of misinterpretations
◦ better appreciation of dialogue
• Better access to details
◦ able to take note of titles of songs played
◦ ability to understand song lyrics
◦ re-watching to catch missed details
• Language-related reasons
◦ strong accents
◦ fast talking, mumbling
◦ unable to understand foreign language
◦ insecurity with non-native language
• Educational goals, learning and understanding
◦ language learning
◦ literacy development for children
◦ seeing the spelling of unknown words/names
◦ easier memorability of content read (retainability)
• Social reasons
◦ courtesy to others, either in need for silence or with a need/preference for subtitles
◦ presence of pets or sleeping children
◦ avoiding social conflict over sound level or distractions (“CC = family peace”)
• Media habits
◦ ability to share screen photos with text online
• Personal preferences
◦ preference for reading
◦ acquired habit
• Limitations of technology skills
◦ lack of knowledge of how to turn them off

An attempt at designerly analysis

The reasons range from common sense to surprising, such as the examples of closed captions used to avoid family conflict or the two respondents explicitly mentioning “eating chips” as a source of disturbing noise. Motivations mentioned repeatedly refer to learning and/or understanding, but also such apparently banal reasons like not knowing how to turn them off (a usability issue?). Most importantly, though, it becomes apparent that using CC is more often than not related to choice/preference, rather than to impairment or restraints from using audio.

At the same time, it becomes very clear that not everybody likes them, especially when forced to watch with subtitles by another person. The desire/need of some may negatively affect the experience of others present. A repeat complaint that, particularly with comedy, CC can kill the jokes may also hint at the fact that subtitles and their timing could perhaps be improved by considering them as more than an accessibility aid for those who would not hear the audio? (It appears as if the scenario of audio and CC consumed simultaneously is not something considered when subtitles are created and implemented; are we looking at another case for “exclusive design”?)

And while perceived as distracting when new – this was the starting point of Kottke’s Tweet – many of the comments share the view that it becomes less obtrusive over time; people from countries where TV is not dubbed in particular are so used to it they barely notice it (“becomes second nature”). Yet, there are even such interesting behaviours like people skipping back to re-read a dialogue they only listened to at first, as well as that of skipping back to be able to pay better attention to the picture at second view (e.g. details of expression) after reading the subtitles initially.

Last but not least, it is interesting how people may even feel shame over using CC. Only a conversation like the cited Twitter thread may help them realise that it is much more common than they thought. And most importantly that it has nothing to do with a perceived stigmatisation of being “hard of hearing”.

CC as part of video content design

The phenomenon is obviously not new. Some articles on the topic suggest that it is a generational habit [https://medium.com/s/the-upgrade/why-gen-z-loves-closed-captioning-ec4e44b8d02f ] of generation Z (though Kottke’s little survey proves the contrary), or even sees [https://www.wired.com/story/closed-captions-everywhere/ ] it as paranoid and obsessive-compulsive behaviour of “postmodern completists” as facilitated by new technological possibilities. Research on the benefits of CC for language learning, on the other hand, reaches back [https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19388078909557984 ] several decades.

No matter what – the phenomenon in itself is interesting enough to make this a theme for deeper consideration in any design project that contains video material. Because, after all, one thing is for sure: closed captions are not for those with hearing impairments or with muted devices alone – and to deliver great UX, these users should be considered as well."
closedcaptioning  subtitles  closedcaptions  text  reading  genz  generationz  audio  video  tv  film  dialogue  listening  howweread  2019  sebastiangreger  literacy  language  languages  ux  ui  television  ocd  attention  adhd  languagelearning  learning  howwelearn  processing  hearing  sound  environment  parenting  media  multimedia  clarity  accents  memory  memorization  children  distractions  technology  classideas 
23 days ago by robertogreco
Why Gen Z Loves Closed Captioning – The Upgrade – Medium
"Old technology finds a surprising new application

“Everyone does it.”

These were the words from my college-aged daughter when I caught her lounging on our couch, streaming Friends with 24-point closed captioning on. She has no hearing impairment, and I wanted to know what she was up to.

Does “everyone” do it? My wife and I turned to Facebook and a private, nationwide group for parents with near-adult children. “Anyone else’s college student (without a hearing disability) watch TV with the closed captioning on and insist that everyone does it?” my wife posted. Seven hundred responses (and counting) later, we had our answer.

“It helps me with my ADHD: I can focus on the words, I catch things I missed, and I never have to go back.”
Many parents expressed similar confusion with the TV-watching habits of their millennial and Gen Z children, often followed with, “I thought it was just us.”

I returned to my daughter, who had now switched to the creepy Lifetime import You.

“Why do you have captions on?” I asked.

“It helps me with my ADHD: I can focus on the words, I catch things I missed, and I never have to go back,” she replied. “And I can text while I watch.”

My multitasking daughter used to watch TV while working on her laptop and texting or FaceTiming on her phone. She kept rewinding the DVR to catch the last few minutes she’d missed because she either zoned out or was distracted by another screen.

Her response turned out to be even more insightful than I realized at first. A number of mental health experts I spoke with — and even one study I found — supported the notion that watching with closed captioning serves a valuable role for those who struggle with focus and listening.

“I do see this a lot in my practice,” said Dr. Andrew Kent, an adolescent psychiatrist practicing in New York and Medical Director of New York START, Long Island. “I believe auditory processing is more easily impacted upon by distractions, and that they need to read [captions] to stay focused.”

Closed captioning is a relatively recent development in the history of broadcasting, and it was designed with the hearing impaired in mind. According to a useful history on the National Captioning Institute’s (NCI) website, the technology dates back to the early 1970s, when Julia Child’s The French Chef “made history as the first television program accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.” Real-time captioning arrived later, with stenographers typing at a blazing 250 words-per-minute to keep up with live news and sporting events.

They use captions to focus more intently on the content.
If it wasn’t for the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 and additional rules adopted by the FCC in 2012, it’s unlikely my daughter’s IP-based Netflix streaming content would even have closed captioning options today.

While the NCI doesn’t explicitly acknowledge the growing use of closed captioning by those without hearing impairments, it does note that “closed captioning has grown from an experimental service intended only for people who are deaf to a truly global communications service that touches the lives of millions of people every day in vital ways.”

It’s certainly not just a phenomenon for young people. There are many people my age who admit to using them because they have some middle-aged hearing loss or simply need help understanding what the characters on Luther or Peaky Blinders are saying. They use captions to focus more intently on the content.

The need to read captions for what you can hear might even have a biological base. According to Dr. Sudeepta Varma, a psychiatrist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, some people may have trouble processing the audio from television.

“I believe that there are a number of individuals who have ADHD who may also suffer from undiagnosed auditory processing disorder (APD), and for these individuals… this may be very helpful,” Dr. Varma told me via email. Closed captioning can provide the visual cues that APD sufferers need to overcome their issues with listening and comprehension, she added.

APD refers to how the brain processes auditory information, and though it supposedly only affects around 5 percent of school-age children, there’s reportedly been a significant uptick in overall awareness. As Dr. Varma pointed out, there may be a lot of people who don’t realize they have APD, but are aware of some of the symptoms, which include being bothered by loud noises, difficulty focusing in loud environments, and forgetfulness.

There may be applications in the classroom, too. In a 2015 study of 2,800 college-age students on the impact of closed captioning on video learning, 75 percent of respondents mentioned that they struggle with paying attention in class. “The most common reasons students used captions… was to help them focus,” Dr. Katie Linder, the research director at Oregon State University who led the study, told me.

And even four years ago, there were hints that the use of closed captioning as a focusing tool would bleed outside the classroom.

As a report on the study put it, “Several people in this study also mentioned that they use captions all the time, not just for their learning experience. Captions with Netflix was mentioned multiple times. So, we know that students are engaging with them outside of the classroom.”

When the NCI first co-developed closed captioning technology some 50 years ago, they called it “words worth watching,” and it did transform millions of lives. Today, we may be witnessing — or reading — a similar revolution."
closedcaptioning  subtitles  closedcaptions  text  reading  genz  generationz  audio  video  tv  film  dialogue  listening  howweread  2019  lanceulnoff  television  adhd  attention  classideas 
23 days ago by robertogreco
Goodbye Big Five
"Reporter Kashmir Hill spent six weeks blocking Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple from getting my money, data, and attention, using a custom-built VPN. Here’s what happened."
microsoft  google  facebook  amazon  apple  kashmirhill  technology  2019  internet  web  attention  online 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Scratching the Surface — 104. Cab Broskoski and Chris Sherron
"Cab Broskoski and Chris Sherron are two of the founders of Are.na, a knowledge sharing platform that combines the creative back-and-forth of social media with the focus of a productivity tool. Before working on Arena, Cab was a digital artist and Chris a graphic designer and in this episode, they talk about their desire for a new type of bookmarking tool and building a platform for collaborative, interdisciplinary research as well as larger questions around open source tools, research as artistic practice, and subverting the norms of social media."

[direct link to audio:
https://soundcloud.com/scratchingthesurfacefm/104-cab-broskoski-and-chris-sherron ]
jarrettfuller  are.na  cabbroskoski  chrissherron  coreyarcangel  del.icio.us  bookmarkling  pinterest  cv  tagging  flickr  michaelcina  youworkforthem  davidbohm  williamgibson  digital  damonzucconi  stanleykubrick  stephaniesnt  julianbozeman  public  performance  collections  collecting  research  2000s  interview  information  internet  web  sharing  conversation  art  design  socialmedia  socialnetworking  socialnetworks  online  onlinetoolkit  inspiration  moodboards  graphicdesign  graphics  images  web2.0  webdesign  webdev  ui  ux  scratchingthesurface  education  teaching  edtech  technology  multidisciplinary  generalists  creative  creativitysingapore  creativegeneralists  learning  howwelearn  attention  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  algorithms  canon  knowledge  transdisciplinary  tools  archives  slow  slowweb  slowinternet  instagram  facebook 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Captain Awkward on Twitter: "Fellow #ADHD kids, what elaborate new planning/organization systems and rituals are we going to embrace enthusiastically for the first half of January?"
"Fellow #ADHD kids, what elaborate new planning/organization systems and rituals are we going to embrace enthusiastically for the first half of January?

If we can crowdsource data about price, fiddliness, cult following, # of dedicated subreddits, # of naturally organized people who swore it would change our lives or said “if I can do it anyone can!”, etc, then I can get a jump start on shame spiral trajectory calculations!

My poor therapists (all): Have you tried to-do lists?

Me: Yes! I love making them, but I constantly forget to check. Also putting a task on the list can “solve” its urgency & I forget. Whereas if I DON’T write it, the terror of forgetting might keep it in focus!

Therapists: [gif]

Me: I basically exist inside a giant perpetual-motion machine of prcrastination, forgetting stuff, guilt, and anxiety and sometimes I can harness it as motivation!

Therapists: [gif]

Therapists: But you DO accomplish things?

Me: Yes?

Therapists: But...how?

Me: Oh, that’s easy, I have enough raw intelligence & ability that sometimes the crippling fear of failure makes a volcano instead of an abyss, and work erupts out of the crater instead of collapsing in.

Therapists: But...wouldn’t be easier to keep a to-do list?

Me: Obviously!

Therapists: So, what CAN we work on?

Me: Could we maybe make the creative work volcanoes a little bigger and the crushing paralysis & shame abysses a little smaller?

Therapists: [gif]

In all seriousness, the thing about getting finally getting dx’d with #ADHD that helps me most isn’t the meds, which do mitigate it a bit, but that I stopped hating myself for being this way.

My whole childhood & life before diagnosis, my intelligence and literally everything I am good at was used as proof that I must be lazy & deliberately fucking up career & academic & household stuff out of spite.

The paradox of #ADHD - being excellent at complex, high-stimulus tasks and fuck-all at routine, “easy” tasks was a weapon in the hands of parents, teachers, & employers and a constant abusive echo in my brain.

What I internalized was that accomplishments that were fun or that came easy to me had no value, only the ones that involve effort “count.” But the things that involved the most effort for me were mundane tasks that came easy to others, so they had no value, either.

“But you are so good at ______ it should be easy to _____?” became “But I am so good at ____, I should be good at ____ and since I am not actually good at ____ I must be a hopeless fuckup.”

I also internalized a fallacy that I was not “allowed” to do rewarding ambitious enjoyable things until all my “chores” were done. Meaning I set impossible traps for myself for YEARS b/c I would never get the chores done?

TBH sometimes the right thing for me to do is put the laptop down & clean the house but also one main reason I can be a prolific writer is an internal shift in permissions, like, chores CAN actually wait if I’m in the grip of an idea, & I DON’T have to read/answer every email.

My condition comes with gifts like creativity and intense bursts of focus & enthusiasm and it is ok to ride those bursts and enjoy them and give my effort & time to “fun” work. It is also ok to kinda suck at some things.

This article was a turning point for me in getting dx’d - I had raised the prospect before and been told I was “too smart” & “too high-functioning.” Therapist was using (incredibly common) idea of hyperactive boys. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/04/adhd-is-different-for-women/381158/ ["ADHD Is Different for Women"]

This book by Sari Solden, rec’d by a friend, was also really helpful: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/women-attention-deficit-disorder-embrace-your-differences/id548946872?mt=11 ["Women With Attention Deficit Disorder: Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life"]

Finally, #ADHD is buds with Depression & Anxiety, and a lot of its symptoms overlap with PTSD. If you never get a clear ADHD dx it doesn’t mean you are not having real trouble with executive function. Your treatment (esp. meds) might differ, tho, so get checked out if you can.

Ok, actually finally finally finally there is tons of productivity & organizing advice from people who are naturally good at organization. You will often recognize it by the word “just” - “I just take 10 seconds to put things back where they belong!” “I just make lists!”

For us #ADHD buds this advice can be so, so, so overwhelming. It isn’t factually untrue (It does save time to put things away as you go? Or, er, I believe organized people when they say this?) but your instinct that the word “just” does not apply to you is CORRECT.

If the actual tips sound helpful and you want to try them, by all means! We can work on new habits and find better workarounds. But if it’s difficult, please know, that’s expected & you’re not imagining it. Please also don’t add it to the ways you beat yourself up.

I tweet for the kids who got their messy desks dumped out as an example to others. I tweet for the ones who never once brought a permission slip home, and got it signed, and brought that same piece of paper back in time for the field trip.

I tweet for the kids who peed their pants sometimes not b/c they weren’t potty-trained but b/c they got too absorbed in something & forgot to switch tasks.

I tweet for #ADHD couples, esp. brides, who are like “I want to marry YOU but what the hell is WEDDING PLANNING and why do people think I know how?”

I tweet for the ones who are panicking that “you have so much potential!” is turning into “you *had* so much potential.” Every day is a race against the sun and our own runaway brains.

BTW I also tweet for the parents who are like “oh crap I lost my kid’s permission slip...again...”

Also, hi to the people who really need an assistant but have no idea how to delegate things to an assistant and/or find the whole assistant thing terrifying b/c someone will know how truly, truly disorganized you are & how much you rely on adrenaline & charisma. [gif]

I see you, I am you, I have been you, and I have been your assistant. Let the nice person help you if you possibly can. They want to. They *like* it. You just have to be nice and honest & give them money.

If anyone has ever told you, patiently & kindly, that the best way to accomplish a big project is to break it down into small, digestible chunks, and you’ve nodded in agreement but internally screamed b/c you know a long list = more ways to lose focus, come here: [gif]"

[Via/see also: https://twitter.com/emilesnyder/status/1078020204016263168

This thread made me cry. I have never considered ADHD as something that might describe me. Depression, anxiety, yes. ADHD? Not so much.

But holy shit does this thread have my number re: procrastination, organization, shame spirals, etc..

https://twitter.com/cblack__/status/1078060070078840833
Oh, but Emile. It's not you with the disorder, it's society. You're just made for a better, slower, simpler, more attuned, more holistic world. 90% of the shit people do when they get shit done is actually destroying the planet. If everybody just did less we could save the world.

https://twitter.com/cblack__/status/1078106307536728064
Have you seen this research on the cultural dimensions of attentional stance? https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3dbc/c3420a3d1afa391fb46370cac52cf59ba98a.pdf ["Open Attention as a Cultural Tool for Observational Learning" by Suzanne Gaskins

"ABSTRACT:
Learning through observation in everyday activities is widely recognized in the ethnographic literature as a central way that children learn from others. There are two well-described
characteristics of learning through observation: participation in meaningful activities with people who are important in the children’s lives and a belief that children are active, motivated learners who take initiative to garner experiences and make meaning from them. Gaskins and Paradise (2010) have proposed that there is a third characteristic central to observational learning: open attention, defined as attention that takes in information from the full environmental context (that is, wide-angled) and is sustained over time (that is, abiding). This paper will describe open attention in some detail, giving examples of how open attention is encouraged in a variety of cultures, its value as a component of observational learning, the role of concentration, and the implications for understanding children’s learning (in and out of school) and play. The presentation will conclude that, while learning through observation is present in all cultures, in cultures where open attention is encouraged and expected, and where the responsibility for learning is given to the children, observational learning is both more powerful and more central to children’s mastery of the full range of cultural knowledge." ]]
attention  adhd  neurodiversity  2018  productivity  unschooling  deschooling  education  learning  organization  anxiety  depression  context  procrastination  shame  forgetfulness  executivefunction  creativity  add  children  childhood  schools  schooling 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Stanford professor: "The workplace is killing people and nobody cares"
"From the disappearance of good health insurance to the psychological effects of long hours, the modern workplace is taking its toll on all of us."
work  labor  health  2018  workplace  culture  capitalism  management  administration  psychology  stress  childcare  jeffreypfeffer  socialpollution  society  nuriachinchilla  isolation  fatigue  time  attention 
december 2018 by robertogreco
The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting - The New York Times
"Experts agree that investing in children is a positive thing — they benefit from time with their parents, stimulating activities and supportive parenting styles. As low-income parents have increased the time they spend teaching and reading to their children, the readiness gap between kindergarten students from rich and poor families has shrunk. As parental supervision has increased, most serious crimes against children have declined significantly.

But it’s also unclear how much of children’s success is actually determined by parenting.

“It’s still an open question whether it’s the parenting practices themselves that are making the difference, or is it simply growing up with college-educated parents in an environment that’s richer in many dimensions?” said Liana Sayer, a sociologist at the University of Maryland and director of the Time Use Laboratory there. “I don’t think any of these studies so far have been able to answer whether these kids would be doing well as adults regardless, simply because of resources.”

There has been a growing movement against the relentlessness of modern-day parenting. Utah passed a free-range parenting law, exempting parents from accusations of neglect if they let their children play or commute unattended.

Psychologists and others have raised alarms about children’s high levels of stress and dependence on their parents, and the need to develop independence, self-reliance and grit. Research has shown that children with hyper-involved parents have more anxiety and less satisfaction with life, and that when children play unsupervised, they build social skills, emotional maturity and executive function.

Parents, particularly mothers, feel stress, exhaustion and guilt at the demands of parenting this way, especially while holding a job. American time use diaries show that the time women spend parenting comes at the expense of sleep, time alone with their partners and friends, leisure time and housework. Some pause their careers or choose not to have children. Others, like Ms. Sentilles, live in a state of anxiety. She doesn’t want to hover, she said. But trying to oversee homework, limit screen time and attend to Isaac’s needs, she feels no choice.

“At any given moment, everything could just fall apart,” she said.

“On the one hand, I love my work,” she said. “But the way it’s structured in this country, where there’s not really child care and there’s this sense that something is wrong with you if you aren’t with your children every second when you’re not at work? It isn’t what I think feminists thought they were signing up for.”"
parenting  helicopterparents  anxiety  stress  surveillance  children  inequality  2018  schools  schooliness  glvo  hovering  capitalism  economics  freedom  free-rangeparenting  unschooling  deschooling  learning  youth  psychology  society  attention  helicopterparenting 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound | Maryanne Wolf | Opinion | The Guardian
"When the reading brain skims texts, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings or to perceive beauty. We need a new literacy for the digital age"



"Look around on your next plane trip. The iPad is the new pacifier for babies and toddlers. Younger school-aged children read stories on smartphones; older boys don’t read at all, but hunch over video games. Parents and other passengers read on Kindles or skim a flotilla of email and news feeds. Unbeknownst to most of us, an invisible, game-changing transformation links everyone in this picture: the neuronal circuit that underlies the brain’s ability to read is subtly, rapidly changing - a change with implications for everyone from the pre-reading toddler to the expert adult.

As work in neurosciences indicates, the acquisition of literacy necessitated a new circuit in our species’ brain more than 6,000 years ago. That circuit evolved from a very simple mechanism for decoding basic information, like the number of goats in one’s herd, to the present, highly elaborated reading brain. My research depicts how the present reading brain enables the development of some of our most important intellectual and affective processes: internalized knowledge, analogical reasoning, and inference; perspective-taking and empathy; critical analysis and the generation of insight. Research surfacing in many parts of the world now cautions that each of these essential “deep reading” processes may be under threat as we move into digital-based modes of reading.

This is not a simple, binary issue of print vs digital reading and technological innovation. As MIT scholar Sherry Turkle has written, we do not err as a society when we innovate, but when we ignore what we disrupt or diminish while innovating. In this hinge moment between print and digital cultures, society needs to confront what is diminishing in the expert reading circuit, what our children and older students are not developing, and what we can do about it.

We know from research that the reading circuit is not given to human beings through a genetic blueprint like vision or language; it needs an environment to develop. Further, it will adapt to that environment’s requirements – from different writing systems to the characteristics of whatever medium is used. If the dominant medium advantages processes that are fast, multi-task oriented and well-suited for large volumes of information, like the current digital medium, so will the reading circuit. As UCLA psychologist Patricia Greenfield writes, the result is that less attention and time will be allocated to slower, time-demanding deep reading processes, like inference, critical analysis and empathy, all of which are indispensable to learning at any age.

Increasing reports from educators and from researchers in psychology and the humanities bear this out. English literature scholar and teacher Mark Edmundson describes how many college students actively avoid the classic literature of the 19th and 20th centuries because they no longer have the patience to read longer, denser, more difficult texts. We should be less concerned with students’ “cognitive impatience,” however, than by what may underlie it: the potential inability of large numbers of students to read with a level of critical analysis sufficient to comprehend the complexity of thought and argument found in more demanding texts, whether in literature and science in college, or in wills, contracts and the deliberately confusing public referendum questions citizens encounter in the voting booth.

Multiple studies show that digital screen use may be causing a variety of troubling downstream effects on reading comprehension in older high school and college students. In Stavanger, Norway, psychologist Anne Mangen and her colleagues studied how high school students comprehend the same material in different mediums. Mangen’s group asked subjects questions about a short story whose plot had universal student appeal (a lust-filled, love story); half of the students read Jenny, Mon Amour on a Kindle, the other half in paperback. Results indicated that students who read on print were superior in their comprehension to screen-reading peers, particularly in their ability to sequence detail and reconstruct the plot in chronological order.

Ziming Liu from San Jose State University has conducted a series of studies which indicate that the “new norm” in reading is skimming, with word-spotting and browsing through the text. Many readers now use an F or Z pattern when reading in which they sample the first line and then word-spot through the rest of the text. When the reading brain skims like this, it reduces time allocated to deep reading processes. In other words, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings, to perceive beauty, and to create thoughts of the reader’s own.

Karin Littau and Andrew Piper have noted another dimension: physicality. Piper, Littau and Anne Mangen’s group emphasize that the sense of touch in print reading adds an important redundancy to information – a kind of “geometry” to words, and a spatial “thereness” for text. As Piper notes, human beings need a knowledge of where they are in time and space that allows them to return to things and learn from re-examination – what he calls the “technology of recurrence”. The importance of recurrence for both young and older readers involves the ability to go back, to check and evaluate one’s understanding of a text. The question, then, is what happens to comprehension when our youth skim on a screen whose lack of spatial thereness discourages “looking back.”

US media researchers Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine, American University’s linguist Naomi Baron, and cognitive scientist Tami Katzir from Haifa University have examined the effects of different information mediums, particularly on the young. Katzir’s research has found that the negative effects of screen reading can appear as early as fourth and fifth grade - with implications not only for comprehension, but also on the growth of empathy.

The possibility that critical analysis, empathy and other deep reading processes could become the unintended “collateral damage” of our digital culture is not a simple binary issue about print vs digital reading. It is about how we all have begun to read on any medium and how that changes not only what we read, but also the purposes for why we read. Nor is it only about the young. The subtle atrophy of critical analysis and empathy affects us all. It affects our ability to navigate a constant bombardment of information. It incentivizes a retreat to the most familiar silos of unchecked information, which require and receive no analysis, leaving us susceptible to false information and demagoguery.

There’s an old rule in neuroscience that does not alter with age: use it or lose it. It is a very hopeful principle when applied to critical thought in the reading brain because it implies choice. The story of the changing reading brain is hardly finished. We possess both the science and the technology to identify and redress the changes in how we read before they become entrenched. If we work to understand exactly what we will lose, alongside the extraordinary new capacities that the digital world has brought us, there is as much reason for excitement as caution.

We need to cultivate a new kind of brain: a “bi-literate” reading brain capable of the deepest forms of thought in either digital or traditional mediums. A great deal hangs on it: the ability of citizens in a vibrant democracy to try on other perspectives and discern truth; the capacity of our children and grandchildren to appreciate and create beauty; and the ability in ourselves to go beyond our present glut of information to reach the knowledge and wisdom necessary to sustain a good society."
reading  howweread  skimming  digital  2018  maryannewolf  literacy  truth  meaning  karinlittau  andrewpiper  annemagen  patriciagreenfield  sherryturkle  attention  technology  screens  speed  psychology  behavior 
december 2018 by robertogreco
AnjiPlay (@anjiplay) • Fotos y vídeos de Instagram
“We have discovered that some teachers, if they really want to hear what children have to say, that their whole state of being is at ease, and they listen closely and that in the process of listening they discover that children are speaking a wealth of information, and these teachers will be receptive to the information that they are hearing. And then some teachers want to hear children say what they the teachers, deep down, want the children to say, things that they want to hear, and will unconsciously overlook what children are actually saying. They can't hear clearly and are unable to truly understand the child's expression. And you can see that their physical state of being is one of anxiety.” —Wang Zhen, Vice Principal, Jiguan Kindergarten, Anji County interviewed by Dr. Chelsea Bailey on November 7, 2018.
wangzhen  children  childhood  preschool  anjiplay  listening  howweteach  teaching  pedagogy  hearing  attention  presence  receptivity 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Tricia Wang en Instagram: “I felt like was in the yoga version of @getoutmovie after a week @kripalucenter surrounded by lumpy potatoes in search of nirvana. The…”
"I felt like was in the yoga version of @getoutmovie after a week @kripalucenter surrounded by lumpy potatoes in search of nirvana. The themes & branding were all about equality, kindness, & peace but it didn’t feel like that to me when i looked around. There was a clear labor divide. The cleaner on my floor said I was the first person in her 5 years of working there who had a conversation with her. I had to fight hard to keep my resting bitch face game at 💯 to protect myself from invasive lumpy potatoes asking me where I was from. It’s my hope that as the community for POC healers grow, we will see more inclusive & representative spaces that move beyond just placing a token POC in their catalog or token instructor. Aim at least for 50/50 representation in all aspects."
triciawang  2018  organizations  branding  inclusivity  inclusion  hypocrisy  kindness  peace  equality  labor  attention  posturing  representation  inclusivitywashing 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Glow - macwright.org
"Technology didn’t have to glow.

The iPod Shuffle was a music player with no display. Mostly you’d use it for its namesake: shuffling a library. It contained a set amount of music, stored on a memory chip. It didn’t connect to the internet: you plugged it into a computer using a headphone-to-USB cable.

There were also GPS watches that didn’t glow, and that didn’t require your attention. They used LCD screens, and though some had backlights, the only reason you’d use the light is if you were running at night. They also connected to computers with USB cables.

There was an entire display technology based on not glowing - e-ink - and book-like devices that used it. Some of those had backlights, too, but you’d only use them at night. They didn’t do anything other than read books. Or, well, they had other functions but they were so frustrating and slow at anything besides showing books, that you’d use them to read books.

There were devices that simply did what they were for, without demanding attention. For their makers, they had some real problems. They had moving parts, which meant that they required more factory tooling and had more warranty returns. They were terrible for displaying advertisements. Without always-on internet connections, they were really bad for buying other things with.

These were problems for the makers, not the users. But both manufacturer and consumer recognized the addictive properties of the glow, and everything became flat, glowing, and covered with sturdy glass. Even a car, the Model 3, put everything on a single glass display.

Non-glowing devices became an expensive niche. The iPod Shuffle was discontinued with no replacement. Running watches merged with smart watches and started buzzing for phone calls and messages. Everything became less physical, leaving human capabilities unused and leaving us all staring at light bulbs.

Written on a glowing screen at night."
screens  glow  tommacright  technology  ipodshuffle  watches  eink  tesla  smartphones  slow  calm  attention  simplicity  2018 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Digital Text is Changing How Kids Read—Just Not in the Way That You Think | MindShift | KQED News
[See also: "Reading behavior in the digital environment: Changes in reading behavior over the past ten years"
https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/00220410510632040

"Predicting Reading Comprehension on the Internet: Contributions of Offline Reading Skills, Online Reading Skills, and Prior Knowledge"
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1086296X11421979 ]

"According to Julie Coiro, a reading researcher at the University of Rhode Island, moving from digital to paper and back again is only a piece of the attention puzzle: the larger and more pressing issue is how reading online is taxing kids’ attention. Online reading, Coiro noticed, complicates the comprehension process “a million-fold.”

As more and more of kids’ reading takes place online, especially for schoolwork, Coiro has been studying how kids’ brains have had to adjust. Her research, conducted on middle- and high school students as well as college students, shows that reading online requires more attention than reading a paper book. Every single action a student takes online offers multiple choices, requiring an astounding amount of self-regulation to both find and understand needed information.

Each time a student reads online content, Coiro said, they are faced with almost limitless input and decisions, including images, video and multiple hyperlinks that lead to even more information. As kids navigate a website, they must constantly ask themselves: is this the information I’m looking for? What if I click on one of the many links, will that get me closer or farther away from what I need? This process doesn’t happen automatically, she said, but the brain must work to make each choice a wise one.

“It used to be that there was a pre-reading, the reading itself, and the evaluation at the end of your chapter or at the end of a book,” Coiro said. “Now that process happens repeatedly in about 4 seconds: I choose a link. I decide whether I want to be here/I don’t want to be here, and then, where should I go next?”

In one of Coiro’s studies of middle schoolers, she found that good readers on paper weren’t necessarily good readers online. The ability to generate search terms, evaluate the information and integrate ideas from multiple sources and media makes online reading comprehension, she argues, a critical set of skills that builds on those required to read a physical book.

“We make the assumption that we’re going to keep them safe and protected if we have kids read mostly in the print world,” Coiro said. “And if they’re good readers in that world, they’re just going to naturally be a good reader in a complex online world. That’s so not the case.”

To navigate a new world straddled between digital and physical reading, adults are finding ways to try and balance both. Though there is plenty of distracting media out there vying for kids’ attention, digital reading companies like Epic! are trying to keep the reading experience as close to a real book as possible. Suren Markosian, Epic!’s co-founder and CEO, created the app in part for his own young children. He said they made a conscious choice to keep ads, video content and hyperlinks outside of the book-reading experience. “Once inside a book, you get a full-screen view,” he said. “You are basically committing to reading the book and nothing else.”

Some teachers have taken a more aggressive approach toward making space for reading, taking Willingham’s advice to talk to students head-on about putting down digital devices. Jarred Amato, a high school ELA teacher in Nashville, Tennessee, created a 24-hour digital cleanse for his freshman to crack the surface of what he calls their “smartphone addiction.”

“Students need to develop a reading routine, so I give my students daily time to read independently in my classroom,” he said. “Once they find a book that hooks them, they're far more likely to unplug from technology and continue reading at home.”"
reading  howweread  children  books  2018  digital  digitalreading  skimming  attention  comprehension  danielwillingham  ziminglu  screens  internet  online  web  socialmedia  research  juliecoiro  search  smartphones 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Teju Cole en Instagram: “⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Among the most revealing material, in aggregate, from the past two years, is what left and liberal white Americans find funny…”
"Among the most revealing material, in aggregate, from the past two years, is what left and liberal white Americans find funny (not only them, but primarily them): what they find funny, what they find fascinating, what they think counts as a clever riposte to horror. They amplify the horror with their jokes, or with a performance of disgust at it all, but a disgust that is possible only because it is episodic, impersonal and, finally, generative of more mirth. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Everyone hopes for a viral tweet. The skill of letting foolishness pass without comment is in short supply. And how much of the commentary is clever, how much of it is mere clever chatter.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
"I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth..."
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
We need a poetics of humorlessness. We need to extricate the refusal to laugh from automatic moral condemnation (“Don’t be so humorless!”) and re-recognize it as a valid and apt strategy of refusal. To opt out of the general laughter is not to be anti-social. Sometimes it's just not funny. Or what’s funny about it is darker, costlier, less obvious, more secret.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
In another section of the prison camp, where the prisoners are treated more harshly, there are fewer jokes. There is less likelihood, in this part of the prison—where from time to time prisoners are taken away and killed— of confusing “coping through humor” with “garnering momentary prestige through a public performance of wit.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

In this harsher section of the prison camp, the prisoners nevertheless are forced to hear at all hours, through the prison walls, the incessant laughter from the other side."
tejucole  2018  internet  online  twitter  attention  behavior  liberalism  horror  performance  humor  humorlessness  morality  jokes  laughter  condemnation 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Listening for Silence With the Headphones Off | Pitchfork
"After years of escaping into music, writer Mark Richardson finds out what it feels like to hear no sound at all."



"As I sat in the anechoic chamber, I thought about that other life that I once wanted, one in which I was able to master the numbers and bring hi-fi to the world, and I thought about everything that led me from there to here and all that had happened since. I looked around the room and counted my breaths for a moment, and then I tried to see what else I could hear. I sensed what sounded like ticking, and then I realized that it was my heart, and the sound seemed to be coming from a vein in my neck. I could only remember experiencing my heartbeat as a thud, but in here, it sounded uncannily like a faint mechanical watch.

I thought about silence as a metaphor for death, what it means to not be able to hear the voice of someone you love. I thought about Mike Watt still gleaning lessons from D. Boon, and Mother Teresa and God listening to each other. And then, being generally claustrophobic and wanting to scare myself a little, I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like to be in a coffin. With my eyes shut underneath the bright light, I saw red and orange instead of black—there was still blood moving through my eyelids. I sat for a few minutes like that, seeing if I could hear more if listened harder, but the tick of my heart was it. It didn’t feel like death. It was quite the opposite. I thought about writing it all down. I opened my eyes and blinked and stood up and took one last look around, then I knocked on the door."
silence  attention  audio  music  2018  markrichardson  anechoicchambers  death 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Reading right to left
After I wrote about looking at things upside down [https://austinkleon.com/2018/06/26/turn-it-upside-down/ ], a reader relayed what his daughter was learning in army cadet training: “In the field, troops are told to scan from right to left. As we generally read left to right, doing the opposite aids in detecting anomalies in the landscape and potential threats to safety.”

Here’s photographer Dale Wilson (emphasis mine):
One of the first tricks I learned many years ago had nothing to do with photography, but was drilled into me by an army sergeant. It only took a few smacks up the back of my head to learn how to look from right-to-left when scanning a landscape in an effort to see the hidden “enemy” in our mock battles. This process of reverse reading forced me to slow down and read each tree as if it were a syllable I was seeing for the first time. Even today, about thirty years after I called that sergeant every adjective not found in a descent dictionary, I still find myself scanning a landscape from right-to-left.

More on reading right-to-left here. [https://booktwo.org/notebook/reading-right-to-left/, previously posted here https://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/132287071238/im-getting-more-radical-in-my-view-of-the ]"

[See also: https://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/38278729921/this-is-how-i-read
https://robertogreco.tumblr.com/tagged/how-we-read
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/t:howweread ]
howweread  seeing  austinkleon  2018  jamesbridle  dalewilson  looking  attention  process  reading  scanning  photography 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Maya Children In Guatemala Are Great At Paying Attention. What's Their Secret? : Goats and Soda : NPR
"So maybe the Maya children are more attentive in the origami/toy experiment — not because they have better attention spans — but because they are more motivated to pay attention. Their parents have somehow motivated them to pay attention even without being told.

To see this Maya parenting firsthand, I traveled down to a tiny Maya village in Yucatan, Mexico, and visited the home of Maria Tun Burgos. Researchers have been studying her family and this village for years.

On a warm April afternoon, Tun Burgos is feeding her chickens in backyard. Her three daughters are outside with her, but they doing basically whatever they want.

The oldest daughter, Angela, age 12, is chasing a baby chick that's gotten out of the pen. The middle girl, Gelmy, age 9, is running in and out of the yard with neighborhood kids. Most of the time, no one is really sure where she is. And the littlest daughter, Alexa, who is 4 years old, has just climbed up a tree.

"Alone, without mama," the little daredevil declares.

Right away, I realize what these kids have that many American kids miss out on: an enormous amount of freedom. The freedom to largely choose what they do, where they go, whom they do it with. That means, they also have the freedom to control what they pay attention to.

Even the little 4-year-old has the freedom to leave the house by herself, her mother says.

"Of course she can go shopping," Tun Burgos says. "She can buy some eggs or tomatoes for us. She knows the way and how to stay out of traffic."

Now the kids aren't just playing around in the yard. They're still getting work done. They go to school. They do several after-school activities — and many, many chores. When I was with the family, the oldest girl did the dishes even though no one asked her to, and she helped take care of her little sisters.

But the kids, to a great extent, set their schedules and agendas, says Suzanne Gaskins, a psychologist at Northeastern Illinois University, who has studied the kids in this village for decades.

"Rather than having the mom set the goal — and then having to offer enticements and rewards to reach that goal — the child is setting the goal," Gaskins says. "Then the parents support that goal however they can."

The parents intentionally give their children this autonomy and freedom because they believe it's the best way to motivate kids, Gaskins says.

"The parents feel very strongly that every child knows best what they want," she says. "And that goals can be achieved only when a child wants it."

And so they will do chores when they want to be helpful for their family.

With this strategy, Maya children also learn how to manage their own attention, instead of always depending on adults to tell them what to pay attention to, says Barbara Rogoff, who is a professor at the University of California Santa Cruz.

"It may be the case that [some American] children give up control of their attention when it's always managed by an adult," she says.

Turns out these Maya moms are onto something. In fact, they are master motivators.

Motivating kids, the Maya way
Although neuroscientists are just beginning to understand what's happening in the brain while we pay attention, psychologists already have a pretty good understanding of what's needed to motivate kids.

Psychologist Edward Deci has been studying it for nearly 50 years at the University of Rochester. And what does he say is one of the most important ingredients for motivating kids?

"Autonomy," Deci says. "To do something with this full sense of willingness and choice."

Many studies have shown that when teachers foster autonomy, it stimulates kids' motivation to learn, tackle challenges and pay attention, Deci says.

But in the last few decades, some parts of our culture have turned in the other direction, he says. They've started taking autonomy away from kids — especially in some schools.

"One of the things we've been doing in the American school system is making it more and more controlling rather than supportive," Deci says.

And this lack of autonomy in school inhibits kids' ability to pay attention, he says.

"Oh without question it does," Deci says. "So all of the high stakes tests are having negative consequences on the motivation, the attention and the learning of our children."

Now, many parents in the U.S. can't go full-on Maya to motivate kids. It's often not practical — or safe — to give kids that much autonomy in many places, for instance. But there are things parents here can do, says cognitive psychologist Mike Esterman.

For starters, he says, ask your kid this question: 'What would you do if you didn't have to do anything else?' "

"Then you start to see what actually motivates them and what they want to engage their cognitive resources in when no one tells them what they have to to do," Esterman says.

Then create space in their schedule for this activity, he says.

"For my daughter, I've been thinking that this activity will be like her 'passion,' and it's the activity I should be fostering," he says.

Because when a kid has a passion, Esterman says, it's golden for the child. It's something that will bring them joy ... and hone their ability to pay attention."
children  attention  education  parenting  psychology  passion  2018  maya  barbararogoff  maricelacorrea-chavez  behavior  autonomy  motivation  intrinsicmotivation 
july 2018 by robertogreco
To survive our high-speed society, cultivate 'temporal bandwidth' | Alan Jacobs | Opinion | The Guardian
"It is hard to imagine a time more completely presentist than our own, more tethered to the immediate; and is hard to imagine a person more exemplary of our presentism than the current president of the United States.

Donald Trump is a creature of the instant, responsive only and wholly to immediate stimulus – which is why Twitter is his exclusive medium of written communication, and why when he speaks he cannot stick to a script. In this respect he differs little from anyone who spends a lot of time on social media; the social media ecosystem is designed to generate constant, instantaneous responses to the provocations of Now.

We cannot, from within that ecosystem, restore old behavioral norms or develop new and better ones. No, to find a healthier alternative, we must cultivate what the great American novelist Thomas Pynchon calls “temporal bandwidth” – an awareness of our experience as extending into the past and the future.

In Pynchon’s 1973 novel Gravity’s Rainbow, an engineer named Kurt Mondaugen explains that temporal bandwidth is “the width of your present, your now … The more you dwell in the past and future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are.”

If we want to extend our bandwidth, we begin with the past, because exploring the past requires only willingness. Recently, I was teaching the Epistles of the Roman poet Horace to a group of undergraduates. Though Horace comes from a world alien in so many ways to ours – and though he would surely fail any possible test of political correctness of the left or right – we found ourselves resonating powerfully with his quest for “a tranquil mind”. Indeed, Horace recommends just what I am arguing for now: “Interrogate the writings of the wise,” he counsels his friend Lollius Maximus:

“Asking them to tell you how you can

Get through your life in a peaceable tranquil way.

Will it be greed, that always feels poverty-stricken,

That harasses and torments you all your days?

Will it be hope and fear about trivial things,

In anxious alternation in your mind?

Where is it virtue comes from, is it from books?

Or is it a gift from Nature that can’t be learned?

What is the way to become a friend to yourself?

What brings tranquility? What makes you care less?”"



"Another benefit of reflecting on the past is awareness of the ways that actions in one moment reverberate into the future. You see that some decisions that seemed trivial when they were made proved immensely important, while others which seemed world-transforming quickly sank into insignificance. The “tenuous” self, sensitive only to the needs of This Instant, always believes – often incorrectly – that the present is infinitely consequential. That frame of mind is dangerously susceptible to alarmist notions, like the idea that “2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die” – a claim that many Trump supporters accepted as gospel, without even inquiring what “die” might mean in that context.

Only a severe constriction of temporal bandwidth could make such a claim seem even possible. I did not vote for Hillary Clinton and cannot envision circumstances in which I would have done so, but the idea that her election would mean death (even metaphorical death) for conservatives and Christians is absurd. It would, rather, have meant the continuation of the centrist policies of her predecessor. The idea that the United States in 2016 was faced with a choice between Trump and Death, an idea driven by ignorance of even the recent past, also had the effect of disabling care for the future.

What will Trump’s policies do to international trade? What will they do to immigrant families, including those in this country legally? What will they do to the increasingly toxic state of race relations? What will they do to the health of the planet? The Trump-or-Death binary dismissed all those questions as irrelevant, and we are living with the consequences.

But these questions are essential, if we are to extend our temporal bandwidth into the future as well as the past. (And the refusal of them shows how indifference to the past makes it impossible to consider the future.) I am a Christian, and I have been dismayed at how easily many of my fellow Christians have cast aside their long-held convictions, merely to exchange their rich birthright for a cold serving of Trumpian triumphalism. As David French recently wrote in National Review, in an open letter to his fellow evangelicals: “Soon enough, the ‘need’ to defend Trump will pass. He’ll be gone from the American scene. Then, you’ll stand in the wreckage of your own reputation and ask yourself, ‘Was it worth it?’ The answer will be as clear then as it should be clear now. It’s not, and it never was.”

The bitter irony here is that so many American Christians, who often claim to have “an eternal perspective”, turned out, in 2016, to have no perspective beyond that of the immediate moment. They have left their own future, and that of the country they claim to love, uncared for and unreflected on. Someday, along will come some politician they despise whose personal morality will be even more contemptible than Trump’s, and they will be reduced to silence – or, if they insist on speaking out anyway, will merely testify to their own rank hypocrisy. “Was it worth it?”

Forty years ago, the German philosopher Hans Jonas, in a book that would prove a vital inspiration for the Green movement in his country, asked a potent question: “What force shall represent the future in the present?” In other words, what laws and norms will embody our care for those who come after us, including those already here and those yet to be born? But this is a question that we cannot ask if our thoughts are imprisoned by the stimulation of what rolls across our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Pynchon’s Mondaugen comments on the personal tenuousness of those who live only in the moment: “It may get to where you’re having trouble remembering what you were doing five minutes ago.” And of course, no person so afflicted can recall, much less be accountable for, what he said yesterday, which is why those who work for Donald Trump have had to learn that yesterday’s truth is today’s lie, and today’s lie will be tomorrow’s truth.

But, again, Trump didn’t create this situation: he found in social media and soundbite TV news an environment ready-made for the instincts he already possessed, an environment in which tenuousness is less a condition to lament than the primary instrument of ultimate celebrity and ultimate power. Trump may be 71 years old, but he is the future of our collective temperament – unless we develop some temporal bandwidth. It’s best that we start now."
alanjacobs  time  attention  politics  religion  2018  donaldtrump  thomaspynchon  temporalbandwidth  horace  futue  past  vulnerability  precarity  immediacy  socialmedia  twitter  inequality  greed  longnow  hansjonas  entanglement  facebook 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Vadik Marmeladov
"I design the most beautiful products. Before scrolling down to the pictures, please read our Codes of Practice:

1. Wear the uniform
2. Think long term (like 30 years from now)
3. Build stories and languages, not things
4. Create your own universe (or join ours)
5. Collect samples
6. Be a sample for somebody else 
7. Look for loyalty, not for a skill set
8. Do not build utilitarian products. However, use them as a medium to express yourself
9. Do not exploit introverts — doesn't work long term. Learn to be an introvert yourself 
10. Travel more
11. Do not work for corporations. Old corporations were meaningful when their founders were alive, but now, they have outlived their relevancy. They exist only to keep their numbers growing
12. New corporations are no better. They have scaled up features, and today’s founders want hyper-growth for growth’s sake (it seems like every line of code, every feature deserves its own corporation — it sure doesn't)
13. So, fuck the corporations
14. Tell the truth (bullshit never works long term)
15. Study and research fashion
16. Your phone is a temporary feature — don’t spend your life on it (like you wouldn’t spend it on a fax machine)
17. Fuck likes, followers, fake lives, fake friends
18. Remake your environment. Build it for yourself, and people will come 
19. Only trust those who make things you love
20. Move to LA 
21. Don’t buy property
22. Don’t go to Mars (just yet)
23. Use only one font, just a few colors, and just a few shapes
24. Use spreadsheets, but only to map out 30 cells — one for each year of the rest of your life
25. The next three are the most important
26. The past doesn’t exist — don’t get stuck in it
27. Don’t go to Silicon Valley (it’s not for you if you’re still reading this)
28. Remind yourself daily: you and everyone you know will die
29. We must build the most beautiful things
30. We are 2046 kids"

[via Warren Ellis's Orbital Operations newsletter, 8 April 2018:

"LOT 2046 [https://www.lot2046.com/ ] continues to be magnificent. This is actually a really strong duffel bag. You just never know what you're going to get.

Incidentally, culture watchers, keep an eye on this - the LOT 2046 user-in-residence programme [https://www.lot2046.com/360/11/875c4f ]. This feels like a small start to a significant idea. Vadik thinks long-term. He once had the following Codes Of Practise list from his previous business on his personal website, preserved by the sainted Wayback Machine:"]
vadikmarmeladov  codesofpractice  uniforms  longterm  stories  language  languages  worldbuilding  loyalty  skills  samples  examples  corporations  corporatism  losangeles  property  2046  beauty  part  present  siliconvalley  fonts  mars  trust  love  environment  like  follows  followers  fakeness  relevancy  features  numbers  scale  scalability  fashion  research  attention 
april 2018 by robertogreco
stop literalizing the design process | sara hendren
"This is your semi-regular reminder that collaborative, ethical design is not synonymous with customer service, taking orders from “users,” retail-style. It’s synthesizing and recombining ideas from insights gained by deeply considered habits of attention. The implications of this claim are twofold, and people are forever forgetting either one or the other, ad infinitum.

The first implication is that—yeah, you can’t ask people a bunch of questions in survey mode, and then turn the magical crank of the design process to automatically make something good, something the world is asking for. But the second implication is that a designer’s job is not to obediently make the precise widget described by so-called end users, to check a moral box and be sure that they did the right thing. Insights and synthesis are subtler than that. A designer has to both be grounded in multiple forms of deep attention, not in simple yes-no answers, and she has to get liftoff from the mundane first ideas at hand—to take considered risks, to switch scales, to propose ideas that are bigger than the sum of parts.

And perhaps it’s surprising, but it’s actually that second implication that’s harder for people to grasp. Yes—yes of course—the world is full of solutioneering. We have to keep talking about all the ways tech and design go wrong when there’s an assumption that any given clever intervention will make the world better. But it’s also far too easy to wield a blunt moral cudgel to ethics-check people in a simplistic way. It seems to me that in 2018, folks who know something about design tend to find a voice for their skepticism about this clueless over-confidence, but those same people have too little patience for the non-linear and enigmatic way that design gets its work done. “Did-you-ask-the-user-what-she-wants” now is code for: did you get a direct order for your decisions? It’s just never that simple, never that rote, never that guaranteed. A plea for discernment and subtlety, friends."
sarahendren  2018  design  collaboration  ethics  ethicaldesign  customerservice  synthesis  recombination  surveys  attention  solutioneering  solutionism  technosolutionism  morals  morality  skepticism  discernment  subtlety 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Why I keep a diary
"Yesterday I wrote about how I keep my diaries. This morning, because commenters asked what they look like, I posted some of my diary pages on Instagram. Then a commenter asked, “But what is the point of this?”

Here’s what I wrote back, verbatim:
I keep a diary for many reasons, but the main one is: It helps me pay attention to my life. By sitting down and writing about my life, I pay attention to it, I honor it, and when I’ve written about it long enough, I have a record of my days, and I can then go back and pay attention to what I pay attention to, discover my own patterns, and know myself better. It helps me fall in love with my life.

So, primarily, keeping a diary is about paying attention to my life and then paying attention to what I pay attention to.

There are some other reasons I keep a diary.

I have a terrible memory for things that happen to me. I can remember books and quotes and movies and art and all of these inanimate things that I love, but I simply cannot seem to keep track of my own days. My experience of time is very slippery.

This quality got exacerbated when I had children. Infants destroy your memory through sleep deprivation, but toddlers and preschoolers play tricks on your sense of time and progress when you’re around them all day, because 1) having young children can be extremely monotonous, and 2) you’re seeing them morph in real time, so the change is gradual, and you don’t necessarily take notice of the leaps and bounds that can happen in even a week. (For an alternative perspective, see Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness: The End of a Diary.)

Diaries are evidence of our days. When I read a diary from even just a few months ago, I am regularly shocked by how much has and hasn’t changed in our house. It helps me take notice of just how far we’ve come. It also reminds me that life is seasonal, and we are inevitably doomed to repeat ourselves, a la Groundhog Day, so we must proceed without hope and without despair.

Finally, I find that my diary is a good place to have bad ideas. I tell my diary everything I shouldn’t tell anybody else, especially everyone on social media. We are in a shitty time in which you can’t really go out on any intellectual limbs publicly, or people — even your so-called friends! — will throw rocks at you or try to saw off the branch. Harsh, but true.

So you have to have a private space to have your own thoughts. A diary does that.

I wonder how many people forget that George Orwell’s 1984 literally begins when the character Winston Smith buys a paper diary and starts writing in it. I’ve heard that part of the goal of an autocratic regime is to get you to disbelieve your own perceptions. Again, here is where your diary comes in handy. You keep track of what’s happening, write your own history book, consult it when you feel like you’re going crazy."

[See also: "Notebook Turducken"
https://austinkleon.com/2018/02/19/notebook-turducken/ ]
austinkleon  diaries  routines  2018  memory  notetaking  attention  noticing 
february 2018 by robertogreco
In Thailand, Buddhist Monks Grapple with the Meaning of Video Games - Waypoint
"Discussing games and reincarnation with Monks at Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai, Thailand."

[via: "Buddhist monks on the value of video games"
https://kottke.org/18/02/buddhist-monks-on-the-value-of-video-games

"In Thailand, Buddhist monks, and students studying to be monks, play video games sometimes like everyone else. But many of them are ambivalent about the games’ value.
The danger in playing a game is not the game itself, but the desire it may cause—since in Buddhist thought, desire is the cause of suffering. “If you lose or win, you want to do it again and again. You’re always thinking about the game. If you cling to that mindset, it causes mental suffering or physical suffering.”

This danger of competition and desire are why monks are generally not allowed to play sports. (Though, to be honest, I’ve seen more than a few novices playing covert soccer games.) Sports offer many benefits, both men agree, but if they become too much about winning or lead to bad feelings it can damage attempts to attain enlightenment.


Robert Rath, the author, tries to get the monks to dive deep on the connection between spawning, dying, and respawning in video games and an idea of a cycle of life and rebirth, but for the most part, the monks aren’t buying it. Games are fun, they’re challenging, they’re big distractions from study and meditation — and that’s about it. Not a lot of deeper meaning there.

Which to me, is refreshing, and very Buddhist (as I understand it). Why does everything have to mean anything? Most things are just nonsense. Let them be what they are, and be wary of the power you give them."]
games  gaming  videogames  monks  buddhism  meditation  attention  2018  thailand  desire  enlightenment  addiction  robertrath  study  meaning  reincarnation 
february 2018 by robertogreco
RIP The Broccoli Tree
"Oscar Wilde once wrote that “Each man kills the thing he loves”. I don’t know exactly what Wilde meant by that, but our collective attention and obsession, amplified by the speed and intensity of the internet & social media, tends to ruin the things we love: authors, musicians, restaurants, actors, beloved movies, vacation spots, artists, democracies, and even a tree that became too famous to live."
jasonkottke  2017  socialmedia  internet  humans  oscarwilde  attention  obsession  society 
january 2018 by robertogreco
The Burnout Society | Byung-Chul Han
"Our competitive, service-oriented societies are taking a toll on the late-modern individual. Rather than improving life, multitasking, "user-friendly" technology, and the culture of convenience are producing disorders that range from depression to attention deficit disorder to borderline personality disorder. Byung-Chul Han interprets the spreading malaise as an inability to manage negative experiences in an age characterized by excessive positivity and the universal availability of people and goods. Stress and exhaustion are not just personal experiences, but social and historical phenomena as well. Denouncing a world in which every against-the-grain response can lead to further disempowerment, he draws on literature, philosophy, and the social and natural sciences to explore the stakes of sacrificing intermittent intellectual reflection for constant neural connection."
books  toread  byung-chulhan  work  labor  latecapitalism  neoliberalism  technology  multitasking  depression  attention  add  adhd  attentiondeficitdisorder  personality  psychology  philosophy  convenience  neurosis  psychosis  malaise  society  positivity  positivepsychology  capitalism  postcapitalism 
january 2018 by robertogreco
003: Craig Mod - I Want My Attention Back! • Hurry Slowly
"Did you know that the mere presence of a smartphone near you is slowly draining away your cognitive energy and attention? (Even if it’s tucked away in a desk drawer or a bag.) Like it or not, the persistent use of technology is changing the quality of our attention. And not in a good way.

In this episode, I talk with writer, designer and technologist Craig Mod — who’s done numerous experiments in reclaiming his attention — about how we can break out of this toxic cycle of smartphone and social media addiction and regain control of our powers of concentration.

Key takeaways from the interview:

• How Facebook and other social media apps are lulling us into “attention slavery”

• Why interrupting your workflow to post on social media — and sharing pithy thoughts or ideas — shuts down your creative process

• How short digital detox retreats and/or meditation sessions can “defrag your mind” so that you can deploy your attention more consciously and more powerfully

• Why mapping your ideas in large offline spaces — e.g. on a whiteboard or blackboard — gives you “permission” to get messy and evolve your thinking in a way that’s impossible on a screen

• How changing the quality of your attention can change your relationship to everything — art, conversations, creativity, and business"



"Favorite Quotes

“If there was a meter of 1 to 10 of how present you are or how much you can manipulate your own attention — how confident you are that you could, say, read a book for three hours without an interruption, without feeling pulled to something else. I would say the baseline pre-smartphone was a 4 or 3. Now, it’s a 1.”

“I think that a life in which you are never present, in which you have no control over your attention, in which you’re constantly being pulled in different directions, is kind of sad — because there is this incredible gift of consciousness. And when that consciousness is deployed smartly, it’s amazing the things that can be built out of it.”

Resources

Here’s a shortlist of things Craig and I talked about in the course of the conversation, including where you can go on a meditation retreat. You should be aware that vipassana retreats are offered free of charge, and are open to anyone.

Craig’s piece on attention from Backchannel magazine
https://www.wired.com/2017/01/how-i-got-my-attention-back/

Vipassana meditation retreat locations
https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index

Craig’s article on post-100 hours of meditation
https://craigmod.com/roden/013/

Film director Krzysztof Kieslowski
http://www.indiewire.com/2013/03/the-essentials-krzysztof-kieslowski-100770/

Writer and technologist Kevin Kelly
http://kk.org/thetechnium/

The Large Hadron Collider at Cern
http://www.wired.co.uk/article/large-hadron-collider-explained "
attention  craigmod  zoominginandout  ideas  thinking  focus  meditation  technology  blackboards  messiness  presence  writing  relationships  conversation  art  creativity  digitaldetox  maps  mapping  brainstorming  socialmedia  internet  web  online  retreats  jocelynglei  howwethink  howewrite  concentration  interruption  kevinkelly  vipassana  krzysztofkieslowski  largehadroncollider  cern 
november 2017 by robertogreco
The Mind of John McPhee - The New York Times
"Much of the struggle, for McPhee, has to do with structure. “Structure has preoccupied me in every project,” he writes, which is as true as saying that Ahab, on his nautical adventures, was preoccupied by a certain whale. McPhee is obsessed with structure. He sweats and frets over the arrangement of a composition before he can begin writing. He seems to pour a whole novel’s worth of creative energy just into settling which bits will follow which other bits.

The payoff of that labor is enormous. Structure, in McPhee’s writing, carries as much meaning as the words themselves. What a more ordinary writer might say directly, McPhee will express through the white space between chapters or an odd juxtaposition of sentences. It is like Morse code: a message communicated by gaps."



"“Draft No. 4” is essentially McPhee’s writing course at Princeton, which he has been teaching since 1975. This imposes a rigid structure on his life. During a semester when he teaches, McPhee does no writing at all. When he is writing, he does not teach. He thinks of this as “crop rotation” and insists that the alternation gives him more energy for writing than he would otherwise have.

McPhee’s students come to his office frequently, for editing sessions, and as they sit in the hallway waiting for their appointments, they have time to study a poster outside his door. McPhee refers to it as “a portrait of the writer at work.” It is a print in the style of Hieronymus Bosch of sinners, in the afterlife, being elaborately tortured in the nude — a woman with a sword in her back, a small crowd sitting in a vat of liquid pouring out of a giant nose, someone riding a platypus. The poster is so old that its color has faded.

David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, where McPhee has been a staff writer for more than 50 years, took McPhee’s class in 1981. “There was no fancy discussion of inspiration,” he told me. “You were in the room with a craftsman of the art, rather than a scholar or critic — to the point where I remember him passing around the weird mechanical pencils he used to use. It was all about technique. In the same spirit that a medical student, in gross anatomy, would learn what a spleen is and what it does, we would learn how stuff works in a piece of writing.”

Much of that stuff, of course, was structure. One of Remnick’s enduring memories is of watching Professor McPhee sketch out elaborate shapes on the chalkboard. One looked like a nautilus shell, with thick dots marking points along its swirl. Each of these dots was labeled: “Turtle,” “Stream Channelization,” “Weasel.” Down the side of the chart it said, simply, “ATLANTA.” An arrow next to the words “Rattlesnake, Muskrat, etc.” suggested that the swirl was meant to be read counterclockwise."



"John McPhee lives, and has almost always lived, in Princeton. I met him there in a large parking lot on the edge of campus, next to a lacrosse field, where he stood waiting next to his blue minivan. He wore an L.L. Bean button-down shirt with khaki pants and New Balance sneakers. The top half of his face held glasses, the bottom a short white beard that McPhee first grew, unintentionally, during a canoe trip in the 1970s and has not shaved off since. He is soft-spoken, easy and reserved. Although McPhee possesses intimidating stores of knowledge — he told me, as we walked around campus, the various geological formations that produced the stone used in the buildings — he seems to go out of his way to be unintimidating. Whenever we stepped outside, he put on a floppy hat.

McPhee proceeded to show me every inch of Princeton, campus and city, narrating as we went. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone so thoroughly identified with a place. His memories are archaeological, many layers deep. Not 30 seconds into our orienting drive, we passed the empty lot where he used to play tackle football as a child, and where, at age 10, he first tasted alcohol. (“One thing it wasn’t was unpleasant,” he wrote recently.) The lot is no longer empty; it is occupied by a new house, boxy and modern. I asked McPhee if he felt any animosity toward the structure for stomping out his memories.

“No,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of stomping grounds stomped out.”

McPhee was born in 1931. His father was the university’s sports doctor, and as a boy McPhee galloped after him to practices and games. By age 8, he was running onto the field alongside Princeton’s football team, wearing a custom-made miniature jersey. He played basketball in the old university gym, down the hall from his father’s office; when the building was locked, he knew which windows to climb in. McPhee was small and scrappy, and he played just about every sport that involved a ball. To this day, he serves as a faculty fellow of men’s lacrosse, observing Princeton’s practices and standing on the sidelines during games.

Every summer growing up, McPhee went to a camp in Vermont called Keewaydin, where his father was the camp doctor. One of his grandsons goes there today. (“I have 200 grandchildren,” McPhee told me; the number is actually 10.) McPhee speaks of Keewaydin as paradise, and his time there established many of the preoccupations of his life and work: canoeing, fishing, hiking. “I once made a list of all the pieces I had written in maybe 20 or 30 years, and then put a check mark beside each one whose subject related to things I had been interested in before I went to college,” he writes in “Draft No 4.” “I checked off more than 90 percent.” Keewaydin put McPhee into deep contact with the American land, and introduced him to the challenge of navigation — how the idealized abstractions of plans and maps relate to the fertile mess of the actual world. The camp’s infirmary is now officially named after McPhee’s father. McPhee’s own name still sits in the rafters, an honor for having been the second-most-accomplished camper in 1940, when he was 9."



"McPhee is a homebody who incessantly roams. He inherited Princeton and its Ivy League resources as a kind of birthright, but he comes at the place from an odd angle: He was not the son of a banker or a politician or some glamorous alumnus but of the sports doctor. His view of the university is practical, hands-on — it is, to him, like a big intellectual hardware store from which he can pull geologists and historians and aviators and basketball players, as needed, to teach him something. He is able to run off to Alaska or Maine or Switzerland or Keewaydin because he always knows where he is coming back to.

“I grew up in the middle of town,” McPhee said. “It’s all here.”

McPhee took me to his office in the geology building, in a fake medieval turret that, before he moved in, was crowded with paint cans. Now its walls are full of maps: the Pacific Ocean floor, United States drainage, all the world’s volcanoes. On the carpet in the corner of the room, a box sat stuffed with dozens more, from the center of which protruded, almost shyly, a folded map of Guayaquil, Ecuador. His enormous dictionary, open to the letter P, sat on top of a minifridge. Multiple shelves were loaded with books published by former students, above which stood framed photos of McPhee’s wife, Yolanda, and his four daughters.

McPhee sat down at his computer and clicked around. Green text appeared on a black screen. That was all: green text. No icons, rulers, or scrollbars.

McPhee began to type in command lines.

x coded.*

dir coded.*

x coded-10.tff

x coded-16.tff

Up came portions of his book “The Founding Fish.” He typed in further commands, and hunks of green text went blinking around: a complete inventory of his published articles; his 1990 book, “Looking for a Ship.”

I felt as if I were in a computer museum, watching the curator take his favorite oddity for a spin. McPhee has never used a traditional word processor in his life. He is one of the world’s few remaining users of a program called Kedit, which he writes about, at great length, in “Draft No. 4.” Kedit was created in the 1980s and then tailored, by a friendly Princeton programmer, to fit McPhee’s elaborate writing process.

The process is hellacious. McPhee gathers every single scrap of reporting on a given project — every interview, description, stray thought and research tidbit — and types all of it into his computer. He studies that data and comes up with organizing categories: themes, set pieces, characters and so on. Each category is assigned a code. To find the structure of a piece, McPhee makes an index card for each of his codes, sets them on a large table and arranges and rearranges the cards until the sequence seems right. Then he works back through his mass of assembled data, labeling each piece with the relevant code. On the computer, a program called “Structur” arranges these scraps into organized batches, and McPhee then works sequentially, batch by batch, converting all of it into prose. (In the old days, McPhee would manually type out his notes, photocopy them, cut up everything with scissors, and sort it all into coded envelopes. His first computer, he says, was “a five-thousand-dollar pair of scissors.”)

Every writer does some version of this: gathering, assessing, sorting, writing. But McPhee takes it to an almost-superhuman extreme. “If this sounds mechanical,” McPhee writes of his method, “its effect was absolutely the reverse. If the contents of the seventh folder were before me, the contents of twenty-nine other folders were out of sight. Every organizational aspect was behind me. The procedure eliminated nearly all distraction and concentrated just the material I had to deal with in a given day or week. It painted me into a corner, yes, but in doing so it freed me to write.”"



"McPhee’s great theme has always been conservation, in the widest possible sense of the word: the endless tension between presence and absence, staying and leaving, existence … [more]
johmcphee  writing  howwewrite  structure  2017  conservation  princeton  place  humility  process  kedit  organization  belonging  local  gaps  shyness  celebration  nature  geology  time  editing  outlining  naturalhistory  history  maps  mapping  writingprocess  focus  attention  awareness  legacy 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Uses This / Dorian Taylor
"I do a lot of work on ordinary photocopier paper with a BIC mechanical pencil. If I have to travel, I use a Moleskine. I have a thing I made called a "cell calendar" which is just a piece of Bristol board that represents a week's worth of cells -- four-hour contiguous units of time in which the real thinking (and subsequent entropy-schlepping) gets done. When you subtract the irreducible maintenance time of sleep, food, hygiene and chores, I find you can max out on about three of these in a day. Emphasis on max out. When you're flying solo, the thing you consider to be your "actual job" only takes up a sliver of your waking life. With everything else going on, I'm lucky to get one of these in a day, and I might do a three-cell day only a handful of times a year."



"About the only object containing a CPU I've bought new in the last eight years is the second-crappiest possible tablet I could buy, and that was only because I wanted a multi-touch control surface for a tool I was working on."



"What I mean is this: We human beings reason over conceptual entities, and the relations that bind them. When these structures get too big to hold in our heads all at once, we outsource them to a representational medium, such as paper. Then we can take our time to comprehend them. However, a two-dimensional plane such as a piece of paper is still extremely limited in its capacity for coherently representing a complex conceptual structure, unless you resort to more and more esoteric mathematical representations. Even then, you're still screwed if you have a lot of data."



"I understand that we live in an increasingly interdependent world. I'm okay with interdependence. What I'm not okay with is one-way dependence, on particular people, business entities, robots, whatever. I'm not espousing some form of digital survivalism, I just want to be able to pick who I deal with, and if it doesn't work out, I want to be able to pick somebody else - all the way up and down the stack. Proximately what that means is that I can get my data out, and if I can't find a replacement for some particular operation, I can make one. Ultimately what it means, then, is that I understand my "dream system" as well as I need to in order to be sovereign over it.

App/platform vendors don't want sovereigns, of course. Their entire business models are designed around creating dependents, and then it's wall-to-wall ads and behavioural data sold out the back alley, all day long. I don't view that as a conspiracy though, it's more like "econophysics". There just hasn't been a strong enough alternative yet."
doriantaylor  time  timemanagement  attention  2017  usesthis  tools  interdependence  technology  thesetup 
october 2017 by robertogreco
don't look | sara hendren
"While reading to my three children at night, my youngest, age 7, will often be lolling in bed while I narrate. Or maybe he’ll be fiddling with Legos or other blocks as he listens. But lately, when the action of the story gets intense, or a scene grows emotional, or somehow the suspense elongates, my son’s whole body will wind down till he’s perfectly still. He will train his eyes on my face, watching the words come out as he listens. He’s the youngest, so it’s likely that his brain is having to assimilate at least one new vocabulary word per paragraph by inference, all while he’s being carried along by what happens, and then what happens next.

This perfect quietude usually only lasts a dozen seconds or so at a time, after which he’ll go back to kneading his pillow or looking at the stickers on his bed frame while the story continues. But each time this happens, I’m aware of it. I can see him in my peripheral vision. And for many reasons, at least right now, I don’t meet his eyes. I keep reading.

Sometimes I’m so tempted! I have an instinct to share his attention. To break the spell of the narrative to say: See here, here we are, watching the same characters move their way through time. That would be the completion of one kind of circuit: you and I, caught up in this same tale together.

But I hold back. I don’t want to intrude on his experience of just the story itself, being delivered to him aurally and mostly without my mediation as to what things mean, what context we’re missing. He is having his own encounter, and that’s another kind of circuitry altogether. It’s one to which I’m sometimes best as a witness. Because this is also how a story does its work: sending a charge to its boy and back again, blooming both partial and replete in his singular comprehension.

Part of parenting is surely this—acting as nothing more and nothing less than a hedge around experiences we may watch but perhaps refrain from sharing. All I can think now is: Keep reading. Don’t look."
sarahendren  2017  restraint  parenting  observation  assessment  readalouds  intrusion  cv  canon  comprehension  constructivism  stories  literature  witness  sharing  narrative  quietude  stillness  concentration  attention 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Idle Words
"The real story in this mess is not the threat that algorithms pose to Amazon shoppers, but the threat that algorithms pose to journalism. By forcing reporters to optimize every story for clicks, not giving them time to check or contextualize their reporting, and requiring them to race to publish follow-on articles on every topic, the clickbait economics of online media encourage carelessness and drama. This is particularly true for technical topics outside the reporter’s area of expertise.

And reporters have no choice but to chase clicks. Because Google and Facebook have a duopoly on online advertising, the only measure of success in publishing is whether a story goes viral on social media. Authors are evaluated by how individual stories perform online, and face constant pressure to make them more arresting. Highly technical pieces are farmed out to junior freelancers working under strict time limits. Corrections, if they happen at all, are inserted quietly through ‘ninja edits’ after the fact.

There is no real penalty for making mistakes, but there is enormous pressure to frame stories in whatever way maximizes page views. Once those stories get picked up by rival news outlets, they become ineradicable. The sheer weight of copycat coverage creates the impression of legitimacy. As the old adage has it, a lie can get halfway around the world while the truth is pulling its boots on.

Earlier this year, when the Guardian published an equally ignorant (and far more harmful) scare piece about a popular secure messenger app, it took a group of security experts six months of cajoling and pressure to shame the site into amending its coverage. And the Guardian is a prestige publication, with an independent public editor. Not every story can get such editorial scrutiny on appeal, or attract the sympathetic attention of Teen Vogue.

The very machine learning systems that Channel 4’s article purports to expose are eroding online journalism’s ability to do its job.

Moral panics like this one are not just harmful to musket owners and model rocket builders. They distract and discredit journalists, making it harder to perform the essential function of serving as a check on the powerful.

The real story of machine learning is not how it promotes home bomb-making, but that it's being deployed at scale with minimal ethical oversight, in the service of a business model that relies entirely on psychological manipulation and mass surveillance. The capacity to manipulate people at scale is being sold to the highest bidder, and has infected every aspect of civic life, including democratic elections and journalism.

Together with climate change, this algorithmic takeover of the public sphere is the biggest news story of the early 21st century. We desperately need journalists to cover it. But as they grow more dependent on online publishing for their professional survival, their capacity to do this kind of reporting will disappear, if it has not disappeared already."
algorithms  amazon  internet  journalism  climatechange  maciejceglowski  moralpanic  us  clickbait  attention  ethics  machinelearning  maciejcegłowski 
september 2017 by robertogreco
“Students as Creators” and the Theology of the Attention Economy | Hapgood
"I was so struck this week by Benjamin Doxtdator’s latest post on showing students how to engage with social media in a way that subverts its purposes. On listening as an act of resistance. Of getting past glorifying connection as an end to that important question of purpose. I wanted to jot down a few quick thoughts it brought to mind, all of them far less organized and insightful than Benjamin’s work. It also draws on work by Chris Gilliard and Amy Collier. I hope to offer it as just a piece of what I hope is an emerging critique of how connectivism and constructivism has been practiced and sold in past years, and how we might reorient and reposition it knowing what we know now.

The particular brick I want to hammer at today is our decade-long infatuation with “students as creators”.

I have become deeply skeptical over the past four or five years about the “students as creators” rhetoric. It’s not that I don’t believe that students shouldn’t create – my best and most rewarding projects have always been about students creating public work on the web that makes the lives of others better. I’ve also seen the immense joy and motivation that a maker lab can provide students. And my new push for info-environmentalism is centered in producing things that make the web a better place. I believe in making stuff, and still align myself with constructivism as a philosophy, most days of the week.

But the rhetoric around “students as creators” is unbelievably bad. It parrots all of capitalism’s worst theology: we want to make “makers, not takers”, we value “doers, not thinkers.” As I said a few years back, the idea that universities should value “producers” and push our students towards “production” is actually the least subversive idea you could possibly have at a university. The most subversive idea you could have at a university these days is that you might think a few connected thoughts without throwing them into either publication or the attention economy. That you might think about things for the purpose of being a better human, without an aim to produce anything at all.

Likewise, I sometimes think we’ve convinced ourselves that the attention economy, when implemented on top of open source, is liberating. And so we celebrate with the class when students get comments from outsiders, or have had their posts go viral. We talk about building identity, portfolios, public persona, getting noticed. We don’t realize that we begin to sound more and more like a LinkedIn marketing drone.

And I’ve come to think that, in today’s world, one of the most valuable lessons we can give to students is not “how to build their identity on the web,” but how to selectively obscure it. How to transcend it. How to personally track it. How to make a difference in the world while not being fully public. To teach students not just to avoid Google, but to use Google safely (or as safely as possible). To have them look at their information environments not as vehicles of just self-expression, but as ways to transcend their own prejudices. To read and listen much much more than we speak. And to see what is needed through the lens of privilege – teaching the beauty of deference to the students with self-confidence and social capital, while teaching marginalized students to find communities that can provide them with the self-confidence they need.

And in different contexts, of course, the same student may need both types of instruction.

This post is a bit stream of consciousness, and so I want to pose a question here. Which experience do you think is more educational:

• A student runs a blog on open source software that expresses their opinions on selected chapters of Ready Player One – and gets a comment by author Ernest Cline!!!

• A heterosexual cis student resolves (individually) to follow 20 trans leaders on Twitter and retweet two things they say a week (with the student possibly using a pseudonymous account not tied to their identity). Other students examine their own bubbles and do similar things.

Story number one is the sort of story I used to tell ten years ago at conferences (albeit about different books). But that was before the attention economy swallowed democracy and everything else. Today I’m far more interested in story two, a story that is about not producing, and staying relatively invisible.

Attention (and knowledge of how to get that attention) is still important, of course. But attention for what? For what purpose? I’ve moved from the question of “How do we express ourselves on the internet?” to “How do we be better people on the internet?” Or maybe most importantly, “How do we use the internet to become better people?” Sometimes that involves creating, of course. But if we wish to do more than reinforce the rhetoric of the attention economy, we have to stop seeing that as some sort of peak activity. These skills aren’t a pyramid you climb, and creation is not a destination. Graduating a few more students who understand that will likely make the world a better place for everyone."
attention  productivity  socialmedia  mikecaulfield  2017  attentioneconomy  listenting  internet  web  online  benjamindoxtdator  sfsh  socialcapital  presentationofself  creativity  creation  resistance  listening  thinking  cv 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Learning how to learn again
"I continue to be fascinated by how slow, seemingly inefficient methods make my self-education more helpful and more meaningful.

Example: This week I was reading Jan Swafford’s introduction to classical music, Language of the Spirit, and I wanted to see the lives of all the composers on a timeline. Instead of googling for one, I decided to just make one for myself with a pencil in my notebook. It was kind of a pain, but I had a feeling I’d learn something. Pretty much immediately I was able to see connections that Swafford wrote about that just hadn’t sunken in yet, like how Haydn’s life overlapped both Bach’s and Beethoven’s while covering Mozart’s completely. Had I googled a pre-made timeline, I’m not completely sure I would’ve studied it closely enough to get as much out of it as the one I drew.

Another example: I copy passages of text that I like longhand in my notebook, and it not only helps me remember the texts, it makes me slow down enough so that I can actually read them and think about them, even internalize them. Something happens when I copy texts into my notebook that does not happen when I cut and paste them into Evernote or onto my blog.

A lot of this way of studying has been inspired by my son, Owen.

Even before I had kids, I wrote, “We learn by copying… Copying is about reverse-engineering. It’s like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.” Funny now that I have a four-year-old budding mechanic, who actually spends a great deal of his time copying photos and drawings of cars, taking them apart in his mind and putting them back together on the page to figure out how they work.

What I love about my son’s drawings is that he does not really care about them once he’s finished them. To him, they are dead artifacts, a scrap of by-product from his learning process. (For me, they’re tiny masterpieces to hang on the fridge.) Milton Glaser says that “drawing is thinking.” I think that drawing is learning, too, and one thing Owen has taught me is that it is more valuable as a verb than it is as a noun.

I felt sure that my children would teach me more than I taught them. I was not anticipating that they would actually teach me how to learn again…"
austinkleon  education  learning  howwelearn  reading  howweread  notetaking  2017  children  parenting  miltonglaser  howethink  memory  notebooks  janswafford  drawing  unlearning  copying  closereading  attention  writing 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Letter of Recommendation: Ghosting - The New York Times
"In my father’s house, my stepmother cooks dinner. First she sweats the onions, then she sears the meat. On special occasions, she mixes dough with flour ground from enset, a plant that resembles the banana tree.

Enset has roots that are white, and when they’re ground into powder, it’s packed into little baggies. When my father travels to Ethiopia, he returns with these white baggies tucked into the pockets of his suitcase, which is one reason, among many, that it is difficult for him to cross the border and come home.

A few years ago, he began to disappear. First he skipped the onions, then he skipped the meat. Eventually he skipped the special occasions, and when he arrived home, after the baptism or graduation or wedding had long since ended, he had no desire to eat. When I asked him to explain his absences, he said, ‘‘Yes.’’ When I asked him where he kept disappearing off to, he said, ‘‘O.K.’’

If it weren’t for my father’s age (he’s 63), or for his eventual return, I would be tempted to call his unexplained absences by a name popular among young people: ghosting. The millennial neologism for an age-old conundrum, ‘‘ghosting’’ describes the situation in which a person — Tinder match, roommate, friend — exits a relationship swiftly and without discernible cause. Though its iterations are diffuse and occur along varying degrees of intimacy, the word is generally used by those who are left behind: ‘‘He ghosted me,’’ or ‘‘I was ghosted,’’ or ‘‘I was ghosted on.’’

Because I fear my father’s absence, I mimic his behavior and hope he might not be forgotten. I often close the channels of communication that I am expected to sustain, texting people I love only when I feel like it and answering the phone only when the caller is unknown. In November, the morning after the presidential election, a childhood friend sent me a text: ‘‘Sup?’’ I told him I was scared for my family. When he wrote back later that day to let me know that he, too, was scared — about his LSATs — I stopped responding; we haven’t spoken since. At a coffee shop, an Australian asked me what I was reading. I said, ‘‘ ‘Great Expectations,’ a terrible novel.’’ He told me he had gotten his Ph.D. studying apartheid and then wondered aloud which was more depressing: apartheid or the work of Charles Dickens. When he asked if I wanted to get a drink later that week to continue the conversation, I said, ‘‘O.K.’’ but never showed up.

According to the internet, this is very bad behavior. If you care about someone, and even if you don’t, you are meant to explain — in terms both clean and fair — why you are unable to fulfill the terms of their attachment: ‘‘I feel sick,’’ or ‘‘I have depression,’’ or ‘‘You are boring, and I am disappointed.’’ Those of us who neglect to disclose the seed of our indifference, or neglect to disclose the fact of our indifference altogether, are typically assumed to be selfish.

It’s no coincidence that ghosting arose as a collective fascination at a time of peak connectivity. When friends and acquaintances are almost always a swipe and a tap within reach, disappearing without a trace cuts especially deep. But the very function of ghosting is to halt the flow of information, and nearly every explainer written in its name — ‘‘How to Deal With Being Ghosted,’’ ‘‘How to Tell If You’re About to Be Ghosted,’’ ‘‘Why Friends Ghost on Even Their Closest Pals’’ — berates those who ghost for intentionally spinning silence into pain. Ghosters withhold information whose admission would be likely to provide relief in others, manipulating the terms of friendship, kinship and romantic love to appear in favor of a life lived in private.

If healthy relationships — especially in the digital age — are predicated on answerability, it makes sense that a lack of communication would feel like a breach of trust. But articulating negative feelings with tact is a task most often assigned to those whose feelings are assumed to be trivial. When fear for my family — black, migratory and therefore targets of the state — is equated with the mundane anxiety of a standardized test, I find it a relief to absent myself from the calculation. Saying, without anger, ‘‘This is how you hurt me’’ feels routine, like a ditty, and articulating the need for isolation — ‘‘Now I intend to disappear’’ — is always a betrayal of the need itself. Because society demands that people of color both accept offense and facilitate its reconciliation, we are rarely afforded the privacy we need. Ghosting, then, provides a line of flight. Freed from the ties that hurt us, or bore us, or make us feel uneasy, finally we can turn our attention inward.

Some months after my father began to arrive at dinner on time, he drove me through the neighborhood by his office, a route we had driven many times before. I asked him, once again, where he had run off to all those nights. Pulling over to the side of the road, he said, ‘‘There is an excellent meditation studio inside that building.’’ I looked at the building, which looked like nothing. Confused, I asked him what he knew about meditation. ‘‘I know much about meditation,’’ he told me. ‘‘I came here once daily. I meditated, I ate my dinner and, when I was finished, I returned home.’’

The information, it seemed, had become necessary. My father, like the rest of us, was just trying to get better."
antiblackness  poc  blackness  ghosting  2017  meditation  self-improvement  reltionships  digitalage  connectedness  answerability  emotions  flight  freedom  provacy  solitude  inwardness  attention  communication  isolation  kinship  disappearance 
august 2017 by robertogreco
The Algorithm That Makes Preschoolers Obsessed With YouTube Kids - The Atlantic
"Surprise eggs and slime are at the center of an online realm that’s changing the way the experts think about human development."



"And here’s where the ouroboros factor comes in: Kids watch the same kinds of videos over and over. Videomakers take notice of what’s most popular, then mimic it, hoping that kids will click on their stuff. When they do, YouTube’s algorithm takes notice, and recommends those videos to kids. Kids keep clicking on them, and keep being offered more of the same. Which means video makers keep making those kinds of videos—hoping kids will click.

This is, in essence, how all algorithms work. It’s how filter bubbles are made. A little bit of computer code tracks what you find engaging—what sorts of videos do you watch most often, and for the longest periods of time?—then sends you more of that kind of stuff. Viewed a certain way, YouTube Kids is offering programming that’s very specifically tailored to what children want to see. Kids are actually selecting it themselves, right down to the second they lose interest and choose to tap on something else. The YouTube app, in other words, is a giant reflection of what kids want. In this way, it opens a special kind of window into a child’s psyche.

But what does it reveal?

“Up until very recently, surprisingly few people were looking at this,” says Heather Kirkorian, an assistant professor of human development in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “In the last year or so, we’re actually seeing some research into apps and touchscreens. It’s just starting to come out.”

Kids’ videos are among the most watched content in YouTube history. This video, for example, has been viewed more than 2.3 billion times, according to YouTube’s count:

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYniUCGPGLs ]



"The vague weirdness of these videos aside, it’s actually easy to see why kids like them. “Who doesn’t want to get a surprise? That’s sort of how all of us operate,” says Sandra Calvert, the director of the Children’s Digital Media Center at Georgetown University. In addition to surprises being fun, many of the videos are basically toy commercials. (This video of a person pressing sparkly Play-Doh onto chintzy Disney princess figurines has been viewed 550 million times.) And they let kids tap into a whole internet’s worth of plastic eggs and perceived power. They get to choose what they watch. And kids love being in charge, even in superficial ways.

“It’s sort of like rapid-fire channel surfing,” says Michael Rich, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Center on Media and Child Health. “In many ways YouTube Kids is better suited to the attention span of a young child—just by virtue of its length—than something like a half-hour or hour broadcast program can be.”

Rich and others compare the app to predecessors like Sesame Street, which introduced short segments within a longer program, in part to keep the attention of the young children watching. For decades, researchers have looked at how kids respond to television. Now they’re examining the way children use mobile apps—how many hours they’re spending, which apps they’re using, and so on."



"“You have to do what the algorithm wants for you,” says Nathalie Clark, the co-creator of a similarly popular channel, Toys Unlimited, and a former ICU nurse who quit her job to make videos full-time. “You can’t really jump back and forth between themes.”

What she means is, once YouTube’s algorithm has determined that a certain channel is a source of videos about slime, or colors, or shapes, or whatever else—and especially once a channel has had a hit video on a given topic—videomakers stray from that classification at their peril. “Honestly, YouTube picks for you,” she says. “Trending right now is Paw Patrol, so we do a lot of Paw Patrol.”

There are other key strategies for making a YouTube Kids video go viral. Make enough of these things and you start to get a sense of what children want to see, she says. “I wish I could tell you more,” she added, “But I don’t want to introduce competition. And, honestly, nobody really understands it. ”

The other thing people don’t yet understand is how growing up in the mobile internet age will change the way children think about storytelling. “There’s a rich set of literature showing kids who are reading more books are more imaginative,” says Calvert, of the Children’s Digital Media Center. “But in the age of interactivity, it’s no longer just consuming what somebody else makes. It’s also making your own thing.”

In other words, the youngest generation of app users is developing new expectations about narrative structure and informational environments. Beyond the thrill a preschooler gets from tapping a screen, or watching The Bing Bong Song video for the umpteenth time, the long-term implications for cellphone-toting toddlers are tangled up with all the other complexities of living in a highly networked on-demand world."
algorithms  adriennelafrance  youtube  2017  children  edtech  attention  nathalieclark  michaelrich  psychology  youtubekids  rachelbar  behavior  toddlers  repetition  storytelling  narrative  preschoolers 
july 2017 by robertogreco
9 tools to navigate an 'uncertain future,' from new book, Whiplash - TechRepublic
[See also:

"Joi Ito’s 9 Principles of the Media Lab"
https://vimeo.com/99160925

"Joi Ito Co-Author of Whiplash: How To Survive Our Faster Future"
https://archive.org/details/Joi_Ito_Co-Author_of_Whiplash_-_How_To_Survive_Our_Faster_Future ]

""Humans are perpetually failing to grasp the significance of their own creations," write Joi Ito and Jeff Howe in Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future. In the new title, released today, Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, and Howe, a journalism professor at Northeastern University and Wired contributor, make the case that technology moves faster than our ability to understand it.

As technology quickly advances, it's important to separate inventions from use: Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, but it was Eldridge Reeves Johnson who brought it into homes and laid the groundwork for the modern recording industry. In the same way, we often don't know how modern technology—from the iPhone to the Oculus Rift—will truly be used after it is created. "What technology actually does, the real impact it will have on society, is often that which we least expect," write the authors.

Drawing from a series of case studies and research, the authors offer nine guidelines for living in our new, fast-paced world. The principles, writes Joi Ito, are often displayed on a screen at the MIT Media Lab's main meeting room.

1. Emergence over authority
According to the authors, the Internet is transforming our "basic attitude toward information," moving away from the opinions of the few and instead giving voice to the many. Emergence, they argue, is a principle that captures the power of a collective intelligence. Another piece here, the authors say, is reflected in the availability of free online education, with platforms such as edX, and communities like hackerspace that pave the way for skill-building and innovation.

2. Pull over push
Safecast, an open environmental data platform which emerged from Kickstarter funding, a strong network of donors, and citizen scientists, was an important public project that helped residents of Fukushima learn how radiation was spreading. The collaborative effort here, known as a "pull strategy," the authors argue, shows a new way of compiling resources for real-time events. "'Pull' draws resources from participants' networks as they need them, rather than stockpiling materials and information," write the authors. In terms of management, it can be a way to reduce spending and increase flexibility, they write. For the entrepreneur, it is "the difference between success and failure. As with emergence over authority, pull strategies exploit the reduced cost of innovation that new methods of communication, prototyping, fundraising and learning have made available."

3. Compasses over maps
This principle has "the greatest potential for misunderstanding," the authors write. But here's the idea: "A map implies detailed knowledge of the terrain, and the existence of an optimum route; the compass is a far more flexible tool and requires the user to employ creativity and autonomy in discovering his or her own path." This approach, the authors say, can offer a mental framework that allows for new discoveries. It's a bit like the "accidental invention" method Pagan Kennedy noticed when researching for her New York Times magazine column, "Who Made This?"

4. Risk over safety
As traditional means of manufacturing and communicating have slowed due to tech like 3D printing and the internet, "enabling more people to take risks on creating new products and businesses, the center of innovation shifts to the edges," write the authors. They spent time trying to find the reasons for the success of the Chinese city Shenzhen, one of the world's major manufacturing hubs for electronics. Its power, they found, lies in its "ecosystem," the authors write, which includes "experimentation, and a willingness to fail and start again from scratch."

5. Disobedience over compliance
Disobedience is, in part, woven into the DNA of the MIT Media Lab. Great inventions, the authors write, don't often happen when people are following the rules. Instead of thinking about breaking laws, the authors challenge us to think about "whether we should question them." Last July, to put this principle to the test, the MIT Media Lab hosted a conference called "Forbidden Research," which explored everything from robot sex to genetically modified organisms. It was a chance to move past the "acceptable" parameters of academic dialogue and bring rigorous dialogue to issues that will surely have an impact on humanity.

6. Practice over theory
"In a faster future, in which change has become a new constant, there is often a higher cost to waiting and planning than there is to doing and improvising," write the authors. We live in a world in which failure is an important, and sometimes essential, part of growth—but that can only happen when we get out there and start putting our ideas into action. The approach, the authors write, can apply to anything from software to manufacturing to synthetic biology.

7. Diversity over ability
Research shows that diverse groups, working together, are more successful than homogenous ones. And diversity has become a central piece in the philosophy of many schools, workplaces, and other institutions. "In an era in which your challenges are likely to feature maximum complexity...it's simply good management, which marks a striking departure from an age when diversity was presumed to come at the expense of ability," write the authors.

8. Resilience over strength
Large companies, the authors write, have, in the past, "hardened themselves against failure." But this approach is misguided. "Organizations resilient enough to successfully recover from failures also benefit from an immune-system effect," they write. The mistakes actually help systems build a way to prevent future damage. "There is no Fort Knox in a digital age," the authors write. "Everything that can be hacked will, at some point, be hacked."

9. Systems over objects
How can we build accurate weather forecasts in an age of climate change? Or trustworthy financial predictions amid political changes? These types of issues illustrate why it may be worth "reconstructing the sciences entirely," according to neuroscientist Ed Boyden, quoted in the book, who proposes we move from "interdisciplinary" to "omnidisciplinary" in solving complex problems. Boyden went on to win the Breakthrough Prize, awarded by Mark Zuckerberg and other tech giants, for his novel development of optogenetics, in which neurons can be controlled by shining a light."
joiito  future  emergence  authority  safecast  systems  systemsthinking  small  agility  agile  donellameadows  jayforrester  influence  risk  safety  disobedience  compliance  autonomy  reslilience  decentralization  openstudioproject  lcproject  sfsh  self-organization  practice  theory  arabspring  ruleoflaw  jeffhowe  networks  mitmedialab  collectivism  collectiveintelligence  compasses  institutions  invention  innovation  failure  scale  diversity  ability  heterogeneity  homogeneity  management  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  omnidisciplinary  complexity  internet  web  attention  edboyden  climatechange  medialab 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Ethnographies of Conferences and Trade Fairs - Shaping | Hege Høyer Leivestad | Springer
"This anthology is an attempt to make sense of conferences and trade fairs as phenomena in contemporary society. The authors describe how these large-scale professional gatherings have become key sites for making and negotiating both industries and individual professions. In fact, during the past few decades, conferences and trade fairs have become a significant global industry in their own right. The editors assert that large-scale professional gatherings are remarkable events that require deeper analysis and scholarly attention."

[via: https://twitter.com/AlJavieera/status/883044558099030016 ]
ethnography  conferences  tradefairs  economics  via:javierarbona  books  attention  academia  scholarship  professionalization  highered  highereducation 
july 2017 by robertogreco
how to do nothing – Jenny Odell – Medium
[video: https://vimeo.com/232544904 ]

"What I would do there is nothing. I’d just sit there. And although I felt a bit guilty about how incongruous it seemed — beautiful garden versus terrifying world — it really did feel necessary, like a survival tactic. I found this necessity of doing nothing so perfectly articulated in a passage from Gilles Deleuze in Negotiations:
…we’re riddled with pointless talk, insane quantities of words and images. Stupidity’s never blind or mute. So it’s not a problem of getting people to express themselves but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people expressing themselves but rather force them to express themselves; what a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and ever rarer, thing that might be worth saying. (emphasis mine)

He wrote that in 1985, but the sentiment is something I think we can all identify with right now, almost to a degree that’s painful. The function of nothing here, of saying nothing, is that it’s a precursor to something, to having something to say. “Nothing” is neither a luxury nor a waste of time, but rather a necessary part of meaningful thought and speech."



"In The Bureau of Suspended Objects, a project I did while in residence at Recology SF (otherwise known as the dump), I spent three months photographing, cataloguing and researching the origins of 200 objects. I presented them as browsable archive in which people could scan the objects’ tags and learn about the manufacturing, material, and corporate histories of the objects.

One woman at the Recology opening was very confused and said, “Wait… so did you actually make anything? Or did you just put things on shelves?” (Yes, I just put things on shelves.)"



"That’s an intellectual reason for making nothing, but I think that in my cases, it’s something simpler than that. Yes, the BYTE images speak in interesting and inadvertent ways about some of the more sinister aspects of technology, but I also just really love them.

This love of one’s subject is something I’m provisionally calling the observational eros. The observational eros is an emotional fascination with one’s subject that is so strong it overpowers the desire to make anything new. It’s pretty well summed up in the introduction of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, where he describes the patience and care involved in close observation of one’s specimens:
When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book — to open the page and let the stories crawl in by themselves.

The subject of observation is so precious and fragile that it risks breaking under even the weight of observation. As an artist, I fear the breaking and tattering of my specimens under my touch, and so with everything I’ve ever “made,” without even thinking about it, I’ve tried to keep a very light touch.

It may not surprise you to know, then, that my favorite movies tend to be documentaries, and that one of my favorite public art pieces was done by the documentary filmmaker, Eleanor Coppola. In 1973, she carried out a public art project called Windows, which materially speaking consisted only of a map with a list of locations in San Francisco.

The map reads, “Eleanor Coppola has designated a number of windows in all parts of San Francisco as visual landmarks. Her purpose in this project is to bring to the attention of the whole community, art that exists in its own context, where it is found, without being altered or removed to a gallery situation.” I like to consider this piece in contrast with how we normally experience public art, which is some giant steel thing that looks like it landed in a corporate plaza from outer space.

Coppola instead casts a subtle frame over the whole of the city itself as a work of art, a light but meaningful touch that recognizes art that exists where it already is."



"What amazed me about birdwatching was the way it changed the granularity of my perception, which was pretty “low res” to begin with. At first, I just noticed birdsong more. Of course it had been there all along, but now that I was paying attention to it, I realized that it was almost everywhere, all day, all the time. In particular I can’t imagine how I went most of my life so far without noticing scrub jays, which are incredibly loud and sound like this:

[video]

And then, one by one, I started learning other songs and being able to associate each of them with a bird, so that now when I walk into the the rose garden, I inadvertently acknowledge them in my head as though they were people: hi raven, robin, song sparrow, chickadee, goldfinch, towhee, hawk, nuthatch, and so on. The diversification (in my attention) of what was previously “bird sounds” into discrete sounds that carry meaning is something I can only compare to the moment that I realized that my mom spoke three languages, not two.

My mom has only ever spoken English to me, and for a very long time, I assumed that whenever my mom was speaking to another Filipino person, that she was speaking Tagalog. I didn’t really have a good reason for thinking this other than that I knew she did speak Tagalog and it sort of all sounded like Tagalog to me. But my mom was actually only sometimes speaking Tagalog, and other times speaking Ilonggo, which is a completely different language that is specific to where she’s from in the Philippines.

The languages are not the same, i.e. one is not simply a dialect of the other; in fact, the Philippines is full of language groups that, according to my mom, have so little in common that speakers would not be able to understand each other, and Tagalog is only one.

This type of embarrassing discovery, in which something you thought was one thing is actually two things, and each of those two things is actually ten things, seems not only naturally cumulative but also a simple function of the duration and quality of one’s attention. With effort, we can become attuned to things, able to pick up and then hopefully differentiate finer and finer frequencies each time.

What these moments of stopping to listen have in common with those labyrinthine spaces is that they all initially enact some kind of removal from the sphere of familiarity. Even if brief or momentary, they are retreats, and like longer retreats, they affect the way we see everyday life when we do come back to it."



"Even the labyrinths I mentioned, by their very shape, collect our attention into these small circular spaces. When Rebecca Solnit, in her book Wanderlust, wrote about walking in the labyrinth inside the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, she said, “The circuit was so absorbing I lost sight of the people nearby and hardly heard the sound of the traffic and the bells for six o’clock.”

In the case of Deep Listening, although in theory it can be practiced anywhere at any time, it’s telling that there have also been Deep Listening retreats. And Turrell’s Sky Pesher not only removes the context from around the sky, but removes you from your surroundings (and in some ways, from the context of your life — given its underground, tomblike quality)."



"My dad said that leaving the confined context of a job made him understand himself not in relation to that world, but just to the world, and forever after that, things that happened at work only seemed like one small part of something much larger. It reminds me of how John Muir described himself not as a naturalist but as a “poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist-naturalist etc. etc.”, or of how Pauline Oliveros described herself in 1974: “Pauline Oliveros is a two legged human being, female, lesbian, musician, and composer among other things which contribute to her identity. She is herself and lives with her partner, along with assorted poultry, dogs, cats, rabbits and tropical hermit crabs.” Incidentally, this has encouraged me to maybe change my bio to: “Jenny Odell is an artist, professor, thinker, walker, sleeper, eater, and amateur birdnoticer.”

3. the precarity of nothing

There’s an obvious critique of all of this, and that’s that it comes from a place of privilege. I can go to the rose garden, or stare into trees all day, because I have a teaching job that only requires me to be somewhere two days a week, not to mention a whole set of other privileges. Part of the reason my dad could take that time off was that on some level, he had enough reason to think he could get another job. It’s possible to understand the practice of doing nothing solely as a self-indulgent luxury, the equivalent of taking a mental health day if you’re lucky enough to work at a place that has those.

But here I come back to Deleuze’s “right to say nothing,” and although we can definitely say that this right is variously accessible or even inaccessible for some, I believe that it is indeed a right. For example, the push for an 8-hour workday in 1886 called for “8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest, and 8 hours of what we will.” I’m struck by the quality of things that associated with the category “What we Will”: rest, thought, flowers, sunshine.

These are bodily, human things, and this bodily-ness is something I will come back to. When Samuel Gompers, who led the labor group that organized this particular iteration of the 8-hour movement, was asked, “What does labor want?” he responded, “It wants the earth and the fullness thereof.” And to me it seems significant that it’s not 8 hours of, say, “leisure” or “… [more]
jennyodell  idleness  nothing  art  eyeo2017  photoshop  specimens  care  richardprince  gillesdeleuze  recology  internetarchive  sanfrancisco  eleanorcoppola  2017  1973  maps  mapping  scottpolach  jamesturrell  architecture  design  structure  labyrinths  oakland  juliamorgan  chapelofthechimes  paulineoliveros  ucsd  1970s  deeplisening  listening  birds  birdwatching  birding  noticing  classideas  observation  perception  time  gracecathedral  deeplistening  johncage  gordonhempton  silence  maintenance  conviviality  technology  bodies  landscape  ordinary  everyday  cyclicality  cycles  1969  mierleladermanukeles  sensitivity  senses  multispecies  canon  productivity  presence  connectivity  conversation  audrelorde  gabriellemoss  fomo  nomo  nosmo  davidabram  becominganimal  animals  nature  ravens  corvids  crows  bluejays  pets  human-animalrelations  human-animalelationships  herons  dissent  rowe  caliressler  jodythompson  francoberardi  fiverr  popos  publicspace  blackmirror  anthonyantonellis  facebook  socialmedia  email  wpa  history  bayarea  crowdcontrol  mikedavis  cityofquartz  er 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Second Sight - The New Yorker
"Movement in the margins is not enough. Regularity becomes invisible. You switch up the moves, you introduce irregularity, in order to maintain visibility."



"The neurons in the visual system adapt to the stimulus, and redirect their attention."



"Years later, I lost faith. One form of binocular vision gave way to another. The world was now a series of interleaved apparitions. The thing was an image that could also bear an image. If one of the advantages of irreligion was an acceptance of others, that benefit was strangely echoed in the visual plane, which granted the things seen within the photographic rectangle a radical equality. This in part was why signs, pictures, ads, and murals came to mean so much: they were neither more nor less than the “real” elements by which they were framed. They were not to be excluded, nor were the spaces between things. “We see the world”: this simple statement becomes (Merleau-Ponty has also noted this) a tangled tree of meanings. Which world? See how? We who? Once absolute faith is no longer possible, perception moves forward on a case-by-case basis. The very contingency and brevity of vision become the long-sought miracle."



"The stage is set. Things seem to be prepared in advance for cameos, and even the sun is rigged like the expert lighting of a technician. The boundary between things and props is now dissolved, and the images of things have become things themselves."



"The body has to adjust to the environment, to the challenges in the environment. The body isn’t wrong, isn’t “disabled.” The environment itself—gravity, air, solidity or the lack of it, et cetera—is what is somehow wrong: ill-matched to the body’s abilities, inimical to its verticality, stability, or mobility."



"I rest at a concrete outcrop with a bunting of vintners’ blue nets, a blue the same color as the lake. It is as though something long awaited has come to fruition. A gust of wind sweeps in from across the lake. The curtain shifts, and suddenly everything can be seen. The scales fall from our eyes. The landscape opens. No longer are we alone: they are with us now, have been all along, all our living and all our dead."
tejucole  2017  margins  edges  attention  regularity  everyday  irregularity  visibility  invisibility  acceptance  belief  vision  photography  borders  liminalspaces  perception  brevity  ephemerality  adjustment  adaptability  disability  stability  mobility  verticality  body  bodies  contingency  sign  pictures  ads  images  advertising  between  betweenness  stimuli  liminality  ephemeral  disabilities 
june 2017 by robertogreco
The subscription paradox - Six Colors
"When Todd Vaziri recently updated his chart of the length of John Gruber’s The Talk Show—which prompted me to update my chart of The Incomparable’s length—I’ve been reminded of something I learned from my days in the magazine industry. As P.T. Barnum (presumably) said, “Leave them wanting more.”

This isn’t showbiz claptrap—it’s a real effect. What makes someone a happy magazine subscriber, newsletter reader, or television viewer is the feeling that you’re consuming all of something you enjoy. You get to the end and still wish there were more, making you anticipate the next installment.

There are two danger zones. The first is if people just don’t like what you’re making. That’s an obvious one. If they’re not buying what you’re selling, you’ll lose them as a customer, and rightly so.

But then there’s another, less obvious danger zone: People who like your stuff but just can’t finish it all. You’d think that this shouldn’t matter, that if you only ever consume half of everything but enjoy it all, that should be good enough. But it’s not. Most people hate feeling that they’re not using everything they’re paying for. (I know the feeling, at least when it comes to Dropbox storage.)

I’ve had this described to me as “The New Yorker Problem.” People who enjoy reading The New Yorker still cancel their subscriptions, because they’ve got a few issues piled up. When we were designing the digital edition of PCWorld magazine after the print edition shut down, we spent a lot of time debating what the ideal magazine length should be. We could’ve put all the stuff we were generating on the web in there, making it seem like a great value… but it would’ve resulted in enormous issues that few, if any, readers could get through.

I’ve had the same experience with newsletters I’ve subscribed to on the Internet. I get a few daily newsletters, and I like them, but the fact that I just can’t find the time to read every one of them makes me frustrated. Yes, it would literally make me a happier subscriber if they gave me less of what I’m paying for. Any more and it might be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

This may not be entirely logical, but I believe it’s true. And that’s one of the reasons I’ve tried to bend the average run time of The Incomparable, which was at one point threatening to break 90 minutes, back toward an hour. Of course, some people would love it if we’d do two hours every week—but I feel like we’d be risking overstaying our welcome if we did that. I don’t want episodes to pile up. If you get many episodes behind on a podcast, unsubscribing starts to seem like a logical next step.

It’s something for all of us who create things on the Internet to keep in mind: People have a near-infinite supply of content at their disposal now. We should be respectful of their time and always leave them wanting more. There is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.”"
subscriptions  2017  brevity  attention  newsletters  jasonsnell  thenewyorker  longform  podcasts  time  completion  finishing  guilt 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Eight Theses Regarding Social Media | L.M. Sacasas
"1. Social media are the fidget spinners of the soul.

2. Each social media platform is a drug we self-prescribe and consume in order to regulate our emotional life, and we are constantly experimenting with the cocktail.

3. Law of Digital Relativity: Perception of space and time is relative to the digital density of the observer’s experience.

4. Affect overload is a more serious problem than information overload. The product of both is moral apathy and mental exhaustion.

5. While text and image flourish online, the psycho-dynamics of digital culture are most akin to those of oral cultures (per Walter Ong).

6. Just as the consumer economy was boundless in its power to commodify, so the attention economy is boundless in its power to render reality standing reserve for the project of identity construction/performance. The two processes, of course, are not unrelated.

7. In the attention economy, strategic silence is power. But, because of the above, it is also a deeply demanding practice of self-denial.

8. Virtue is self-forgetting. The structures of social media make it impossible to forget yourself."
michaelsacasas  2017  lmsacasas  socialmedia  virtue  forgetting  attention  attentioneconomy  economics  power  silence  self-denial  walterong  figeting  addiction  emotions  digitalrelativity  relativity  space  time  perception  experience  online  internet  affectoverload  apathy  exhaustion  infooverload  secondaryorality  oralcultures  images  text  commodification  identity  performance 
may 2017 by robertogreco
An ethics of attention in the classroom - Long View on Education
"I take critical pedagogy as my starting point and not so-called constructivism, which leaves out what Paulo Freire calls “revolutionary futurity” in Chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire wrote that “a deepened consciousness of their situation leads people to apprehend that situation as an historical reality susceptible of transformation.” Nothing is inevitable, and for revolutionary action, people “must perceive their state not as fated and unalterable, but merely as limiting — and therefore challenging.”

Agency is about recognizing and building our principled interdependence with people and things. Keri Facer writes, “Principled interdependence implies a recognition of the extent to which we are dependent upon other people, wider institutions, environment and tools to be able to act in the world; and of the extent to which our own actions therefore also have implications for other people and for their agency in turn.” (55)

Making teachers completely responsible for student engagement doesn’t build agency in kids; it builds consumers and manufactures audience for Fox New.

Students will need to learn how to resist spectacle and read deeply and critically, to seek out the quiet and silenced voices. They will need to learn to actively engage themselves and lift-up others.

Learning is difficult work and we are surrounded by targets that have been engineered to grab our attention. Most of these targets such as Snapchat serve a profit model."



"I let kids make all kinds of choices about their behavior – where to sit, whether to listen to music, to use their phones, to use a fidget – with the goal that they reflect and learn about what they bring to the dynamic and interaction. We need to create room for them to reflect and say, “I ought to have paid more attention and tried harder.” Reflexively and immediately blaming the teacher and the lesson doesn’t leave room for this dialog. Nor does enacting blanket bans.

We need to know and care about our students, adjusting our instruction to what they need. That also means talking with them about whether or not their behaviors are helping them learn.

Yes, engagement is a problem, but it’s a political problem and not merely a problem about lesson design. Studying powerful topics and using critical lenses can help engage students, as does offering them choice in their work.

Many people are vulnerable, lack power and voice, and we need to give them attention. Teachers have power over students, but are also targets of discrimination and bias. Look at course evaluations for female professors.

What if students play with their fidgets instead of listening to a fellow student who is brave enough to speak about racism or sexism, their experience not conforming to their perceived gender, or why they hate the R-word. Sometimes, people just need to listen."
education  technology  agency  edutainment  benjamindoxtdator  2017  snapchat  socialmedia  sfsh  interdependence  attention  progressive  teaching  howweteach  paulofreire  kerifacer  billferriter  sethgodin  consumerism  neoliberalism  michaelapple  gender  criticalpdagogy  pedagogy  choice  fidgetspinners  engagement  care  caring  bias  discrimination  behavior 
may 2017 by robertogreco
We need a "slow food" movement for higher education — Quartz
"The academy has moved to the fast lane. Corporatization has sped up the clock, compromising teaching, scholarship, and collegiality. The “slow movement”—originating in slow food—challenges the frantic pace and homogenization of contemporary culture. We believe that adopting the principles of “slow” into the professional practice of academia is an effective way to alleviate time poverty, preserve humanistic education, and resist the destructive effects of the corporate university.

“Slow,” Carlo Petrini makes clear in Slow Food Nation (2007), is not really about speed. It’s about the difference “between attention and distraction; slowness, in fact, is not so much a question of duration as of an ability to distinguish and evaluate, with the propensity to cultivate pleasure, knowledge, and quality.”

Being a professor is a privilege. We are not advocating slacking off, letting junior faculty do the heavy lifting, taking the summers off, missing deadlines, or doing less in class. Our view, advocated in our book The Slow Professor (2016), is rather about protecting the work that matters. Due to expanding workloads, the casualization of labor, the rise of technology, the consumer model of education, and increasing managerialism, the nature of the academy has changed dramatically in the past generation. Universities are now businesses. Teaching and learning are increasingly standardized, emphasizing the transfer of skills and time to completion. Both are now assessed in quantitative rather than qualitative terms. Research now is about winning grants and generating output—all as quickly as possible. Collegiality now is about useful networking.

Distractedness and fragmentation characterize contemporary life. In order to protect the intellectual and pedagogic life of the university, we need to create opportunities to think and to shift our sense of time. This might mean getting away from having everything scheduled down to the minute. We can’t do our best work if we are frantic.

It is also crucial to be aware of the structural changes in the university so we don’t blame ourselves for not keeping up. And we should not forget the joy that is possible in teaching and scholarship. We are drawn to the slow movement because its critique of contemporary culture insists on the importance of pleasure and conviviality. Talking about individual stress and trying to find ways to foster wellbeing have political implications. If we are stressed, we feel powerless to change the larger context. In the corporate university, aggressive individualism and the familiar bottom line dominate at the expense of community and social critique.

Slow teaching is not about lowering standards. Rather, it is about reducing our distractedness so that we can focus on our students and our subjects. We need to be able to concentrate on creating a convivial classroom in which our students can meet the challenges—and we can foster the joys—of learning a discipline.

Slow scholarship is about resisting the pressure to reduce thinking to the imperative of immediate usefulness, marketability, and grant generation. It’s about preserving the idea of scholarship as open-ended enquiry. It will improve the quality of teaching and learning.

In the current climate, most of us simply don’t have time for genuine collegiality. As academics become more isolated from each other, we are also becoming more compliant—more likely to see structural problems, including those of general working conditions, as individual failings. When that happens, resistance to corporatization seems futile. Collegiality, properly understood as a community practice, is about mutual support rather than works-in-progress, about sharing our failures as well as our successes, and about collaboration as well as competition. It offers solidarity.

We acknowledge the systemic inequities in the university, but we believe that a slow approach is potentially relevant across the spectrum of academic positions. Slow time is inimical to the corporate university. Scholars in tenured positions, given the protection that we enjoy, have an obligation to try to improve in the working climate for all of us. We are concerned that the bar is being continually raised for faculty and for graduate students. We need to reflect on what we are modeling for each other and the next generation of academics."
slow  sloweducation  highered  highereducation  barbaraseeber  maggieberg  2017  collegiality  time  carlopetrini  slowness  pleasure  knowledge  quality  attention  distraction 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers. - The New York Times
"The glorification of leadership skills, especially in college admissions, has emptied leadership of its meaning."



"In 1934, a young woman named Sara Pollard applied to Vassar College. In those days, parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire, and Sara’s father described her, truthfully, as “more a follower type than a leader.”

The school accepted Sara, explaining that it had enough leaders.

It’s hard to imagine this happening today. No father in his right mind (if the admissions office happened to ask him!) would admit that his child was a natural follower; few colleges would welcome one with open arms. Today we prize leadership skills above all, and nowhere more than in college admissions. As Penny Bach Evins, the head of St. Paul’s School for Girls, an independent school in Maryland, told me, “It seems as if higher ed is looking for alphas, but the doers and thinkers in our schools are not always in front leading.”

Harvard’s application informs students that its mission is “to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society.” Yale’s website advises applicants that it seeks “the leaders of their generation”; on Princeton’s site, “leadership activities” are first among equals on a list of characteristics for would-be students to showcase. Even Wesleyan, known for its artistic culture, was found by one study to evaluate applicants based on leadership potential.

If college admissions offices show us whom and what we value, then we seem to think that the ideal society is composed of Type A’s. This is perhaps unsurprising, even if these examples come from highly competitive institutions. It’s part of the American DNA to celebrate those who rise above the crowd. And in recent decades, the meteoric path to leadership of youthful garage- and dorm-dwellers, from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, has made king of the hill status seem possible for every 19-year-old. So now we have high school students vying to be president of as many clubs as they can. It’s no longer enough to be a member of the student council; now you have to run the school.

Yet a well-functioning student body — not to mention polity — also needs followers. It needs team players. And it needs those who go their own way.

It needs leaders who are called to service rather than to status.

Admissions officers will tell you that their quest for tomorrow’s leaders is based on a desire for positive impact, to make the world a better place. I think they mean what they say.

But many students I’ve spoken with read “leadership skills” as a code for authority and dominance and define leaders as those who “can order other people around.” And according to one prominent Ivy League professor, those students aren’t wrong; leadership, as defined by the admissions process, too often “seems to be restricted to political or business power.” She says admissions officers fail to define leadership as “making advances in solving mathematical problems” or “being the best poet of the century.”

Whatever the colleges’ intentions, the pressure to lead now defines and constricts our children’s adolescence. One young woman told me about her childhood as a happy and enthusiastic reader, student and cellist — until freshman year of high school, when “college applications loomed on the horizon, and suddenly, my every activity was held up against the holy grail of ‘leadership,’ ” she recalled. “And everyone knew,” she added, “that it was not the smart people, not the creative people, not the thoughtful people or decent human beings that scored the application letters and the scholarships, but the leaders. It seemed no activity or accomplishment meant squat unless it was somehow connected to leadership.”

This young woman tried to overhaul her personality so she would be selected for a prestigious leadership role as a “freshman mentor.” She made the cut, but was later kicked out of the program because she wasn’t outgoing enough. At the time, she was devastated. But it turned out that she’d been set free to discover her true calling, science. She started working after school with her genetics teacher, another behind-the-scenes soul. She published her first scientific paper when she was 18, and won the highest scholarship her university has to offer, majoring in biomedical engineering and cello.

Our elite schools overemphasize leadership partly because they’re preparing students for the corporate world, and they assume that this is what businesses need. But a discipline in organizational psychology, called “followership,” is gaining in popularity. Robert Kelley, a professor of management and organizational behavior, defined the term in a 1988 Harvard Business Review article, in which he listed the qualities of a good follower, including being committed to “a purpose, principle or person outside themselves” and being “courageous, honest and credible.” It’s an idea that the military has long taught.

Recently, other business thinkers have taken up this mantle. Some focus on the “romance of leadership” theory, which causes us to inaccurately attribute all of an organization’s success and failure to its leader, ignoring its legions of followers. Adam Grant, who has written several books on what drives people to succeed, says that the most frequent question he gets from readers is how to contribute when they’re not in charge but have a suggestion and want to be heard. “These are not questions asked by leaders,” he told me. “They’re fundamental questions of followership.”

Team players are also crucial. My sons are avid soccer players, so I spend a lot of time watching the “beautiful game.” The thing that makes it beautiful is not leadership, though an excellent coach is essential. Nor is it the swoosh of the ball in the goal, though winning is noisily celebrated. It is instead the intricate ballet of patterns and passes, of each player anticipating the other’s strengths and needs, each shining for the brief instant that he has the ball before passing it to a teammate or losing it to an opponent.

We also rely as a society, much more deeply than we realize, on the soloists who forge their own paths. We see those figures in all kinds of pursuits: in the sciences; in sports like tennis, track and figure skating; and in the arts. Art and science are about many things that make life worth living, but they are not, at their core, about leadership. Helen Vendler, a professor of English at Harvard, published an essay in which she encouraged the university to attract more artists and not expect them “to become leaders.” Some of those students will become leaders in the arts, she wrote — conducting an orchestra, working to reinstate the arts in schools — “but one can’t quite picture Baudelaire pursuing public service.”

Perhaps the biggest disservice done by the outsize glorification of “leadership skills” is to the practice of leadership itself — it hollows it out, it empties it of meaning. It attracts those who are motivated by the spotlight rather than by the ideas and people they serve. It teaches students to be a leader for the sake of being in charge, rather than in the name of a cause or idea they care about deeply. The difference between the two states of mind is profound. The latter belongs to transformative leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi; the former to — well, we’ve all seen examples of this kind of leadership lately.

If this seems idealistic, consider the status quo: students jockeying for leadership positions as résumé padders. “They all want to be president of 50 clubs,” a faculty adviser at a New Jersey school told me. “They don’t even know what they’re running for.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

What if we said to college applicants that the qualities we’re looking for are not leadership skills, but excellence, passion and a desire to contribute beyond the self? This framework would encompass exceptional team captains and class presidents. But it wouldn’t make leadership the be-all and end-all.

What if we said to our would-be leaders, “Take this role only if you care desperately about the issue at hand”?

And what if we were honest with ourselves about what we value? If we’re looking for the students and citizens most likely to attain wealth and power, let’s admit it. Then we can have a frank debate about whether that is a good idea.

But if instead we seek a society of caring, creative and committed people, and leaders who feel called to service rather than to stature, then we need to do a better job of making that clear."
susancain  leadership  leaders  sfsh  followers  community  courage  honesty  purpose  2017  colleges  universities  admissions  canon  small  slow  helenvendler  arts  art  artists  followership  soccer  football  us  values  credibility  military  authority  power  dominance  ivyleague  admission  capitalism  politics  elitism  adamgrant  introverts  extroverts  allsorts  attention  edg  srg  care  caring  maintenance  futbol  sports 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Why the Internet Didn’t Kill Zines - The New York Times
"As a lonely teenager growing up in Virginia, I fed off any pop culture that could show me different ways of being from what I saw on “The Cosby Show” reruns or read about in an Ann M. Martin book. This was the early 2000s, before social platforms had taken off: LiveJournal was still in its infancy; Tumblr had not yet been created. Friendster and Myspace, the most popular of the networks that did exist, were more about sharing perfectly angled photos than having conversations or bouncing ideas off someone. When, in college, a spirited English teaching assistant (who once canceled class for the week to attend a riot-grrrl punk reunion show in Washington) introduced me to zines and the early feminist publishing movement of the 1990s, I felt as if I had been given a lifeline to the outside world. Those self-published, unofficial magazines offered tangible glimpses of radical feminism, social-justice movements, queer history and subcultures that I always knew existed but had little access to. The world seemed to open up for me.

In theory, the maturation of the internet should have killed off the desire for zines entirely. The web is a Gutenberg press on steroids, predicated on free software platforms created by companies that invest considerable sums to lure people to their sites and make exactly the kind of content I craved growing up. Millions, maybe hundreds of millions, of posts are published to social-media sites each day. And yet somehow, it can feel impossible to engage with new ideas, even as our compulsive inability to stop scrolling exposes us to an unending stream of new content. Yes, you can catch tweetstorms on Twitter, watch someone’s life unfold on Instagram, do deep dives into hashtags on Tumblr or watch video diaries on YouTube that explore diverse perspectives, but the clutter of everything else happening at the same time online can make it difficult to really digest and absorb the perspective being offered.

Which might be part of the reason zines never disappeared — and are even available in abundance in 2017. A few months ago, I walked into a Laundromat in Brooklyn where a former cellphone kiosk had been transformed into a feminist queer shop called the Troll Hole. I was thrilled to find it stocked with the same kinds of small booklets I consumed in college, though much better designed and produced. They contained nonbinary coming-of-age stories, photo essays featuring gender nonconforming people of Latin-American descent, trans Muslim narratives, first-generation essays, fat-positive imagery. I scooped up as many as I could rationally read in one sitting.

Many of the offline zine projects I came across have some online presence, too. Sula Collective, for example, which describes itself as a journal by and for people of color, actually started out on the web as an art magazine for people growing up “in the suburbs and Deep South,” as one of its founders, Kassandra Piñero, put it to me. It was meant for anyone who “didn’t have access to galleries and events.” Piñero is 21, and the only world she has ever known is one that is also lived partly online. But she found that publishing on the internet often had the unintended and unconscious effect of causing her to cater to the aesthetics of those platforms. “The internet should be a place with no rules, and freedom, but it’s not,” Piñero said. “There is a certain pressure to conform to certain aesthetics.” It was something I had noticed myself. Each social-media platform tends to reward certain behaviors and styles of posting, all in the interest of building fans and followers who are invested in the performance of a persona (maybe even more so than the Geppetto-like person orchestrating it all). Instagram is a place for intimate-seeming photos, Twitter for clever quips and collaborative memes. Facebook demands an unmitigated rawness that can be terrifying at times. With all, the works are often made to fit the platform, not the other way around.

Producing zines can offer an unexpected respite from the scrutiny on the internet, which can be as oppressive as it is liberating. Shakar Mujukian, publisher of The Hye-Phen — a zine by and about queer and trans Armenians who, as he puts it, often “feel as ignored and invisible as their motherland” — told me via email that just because technology can fully replace something doesn’t mean it should. He described zines as the precursor to personal blogs, but personal blogs have been on the decline over the last decade. And zines can’t get replies or hateful remarks in a comments section. Publishing ideas outside the mainstream can make an author incredibly vulnerable; the web is polluted with a culture of toxicity that invites attacks. Zines, in Mujukian’s vision, “are essentially about reclamation. You get to make your own media and define your own narrative in the way you want to and can.”

Karen Gisonny is the periodicals librarian at the New York Public Library and specializes in alternative publications and zines. We’ve spoken over the years about alternative media and the role that it plays among the people who make it and consume it. She noted that zines allow for an “element of freedom that’s not beholden to anyone.” We think of the web as a place for freedom, but with zines, authors control every aspect, from the design to the distribution. When I visited her at the library, she showed me some of her newest acquisitions, which included the first issue of Dr. RAD’s Queer Health Show, a guide for self-exams and checkups for all gendered bodies, and Blue Collar Review, a journal of progressive working-class literature that is made in Virginia. She explained that zines could be seen as a historical record of the current moment. To their creators, zines can feel like necessary means of defiance, even resistance to cultural norms that rarely acknowledge them.

Devin N. Morris, who edits and publishes 3 Dot Zine, told me that he sees self-publishing as a political and radical act. He’s a young queer artist from Baltimore, and the zines he creates reflect that experience and create a historical narrative that otherwise would be ignored. For him, the act of creating a zine is more about defining his reality on his terms and legitimizing it than it is about the novelty of making indie media and distributing it. It was a sentiment I heard from almost every zine creator I spoke to. Morris, who recently hosted an indie-press fair at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, said that zines have a way of encouraging people to have “inspiring interactions in real life.” He described a hunger to physically interact beyond simple likes or direct messages. Social apps weren’t made to inspire that desire; they were created so that there would be no need.

And it perhaps reflects why zines can feel so much more intimate than a Facebook post. The deliberation and care that goes into making them is important. The internet is especially adept at compressing humanity and making it easy to forget there are people behind tweets, posts and memes."
jennawortham  zines  2017  publishing  internet  web  online  livejournal  tumblr  myspace  friendster  twitter  tweetstorms  youtube  attention  clutter  karengisonny  alternative  classideas  devinmorris  3dotzine  thehye-phen  shakarmujukian  kassandrapiñero  sulacollective  care  craft  deliberation  politics  radicalism  artapp 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Remembering Seymour Papert « LRB blog
"We learn by making, doing, constructing. It’s great to think with objects we find in the world. But when we get to build, the great becomes awesome. And these two children, with a computer, were building something of their own in a whole new way. Seymour saw that the computer would make it easier for thinking itself to become an object of thought. When I began to interview children learning to program, I could hear how right he was. It was dramatic. One 13-year-old told me: ‘When you program a computer, you put a little piece of your mind into the computer’s mind and you come to see yourself differently.’ That is heady stuff.

Seymour called the identification of mind and object, mind and machine, the ‘ego-syntonic’ quality of programming. He used the language of syntonicity deliberately, to create a resonance between the language of computation and the language of psychoanalysis. And then he heightened the resonance by talking about body syntonicity as well. Which brings me to the boy draped around the Turtle. Seymour loved to get children to figure out how to program by ‘playing Turtle’. He loved that children could experience their ideas through the Turtle’s physical actions. That they could connect body-to-body with something that came from their mind.

We love the objects we think with; we think with the objects we love. So teach people with the objects they are in love with. And if you are a teacher, measure your success by whether your students are falling in love with their objects. Because if they are, the way they think about themselves will also be changing."



"In his explorations of the ways objects carry identity as well as ideas, you can see Seymour’s desire to take the cool studies of learning that were his Piagetian heritage and infuse them not only with ideas about making things, about action and construction, but also with ideas about feeling things, about love and connection.

At the time of the juggling lesson, Seymour was deep in his experiments into what he called ‘loud thinking’. It was what he was asking my grandfather to do. What are you trying? What are you feeling? What does it remind you of? If you want to think about thinking and the real process of learning, try to catch yourself in the act of learning. Say what comes to mind. And don’t censor yourself. If this sounds like free association in psychoanalysis, it is. (When I met Seymour, he was in analysis with Greta Bibring.) And if it sounds like it could you get you into personal, uncharted, maybe scary terrain, it could. But anxiety and ambivalence are part of learning as well. If not voiced, they block learning.

I studied psychology in the 1970s at Harvard, in William James Hall. The psychologists who studied thinking were on one floor. The psychologists who studied feeling were on another. Metaphorically, for the world of learning, Seymour asked the elevator to stop between the floors so that there could be a new conversation.

He knew that one way to start that conversation was by considering something concrete. An evocative object. He bridged the thinking/feeling divide by writing about the way his love for the gears on a toy car ignited his love of mathematics as a child. From the beginning of my time at MIT, I have asked students to write about an object they loved that became central to their thinking.

A love for science can start with love for a microscope, a modem, a mud pie, a pair of dice, a fishing rod. Plastic eggs in a twirled Easter basket reveal the power of centripetal force; experiments with baking illuminate the geology of planets. Everybody has their own version of the gears. These stories about objects bring to light something central to Seymour’s legacy. For his legacy was not only in how children learn in classrooms and out of them. It’s in using objects to help people think about how they know what they know. A focus on objects brings philosophy into everyday life.

Seymour’s ideas about the power of objects have moved from the worlds of media and education (where he nurtured them) out into larger disciplinary spaces in social science, anthropology, social theory and history. People are studying objects of clothing, objects of kitchenware, objects of science, objects of medical practice and objects of revolutionary culture, in ways that bear the trace of Seymour’s wisdom.

One of the great virtues of putting object studies at the center of learning is that nothing of great value is simple. Take Seymour’s story of the gears that brought him to mathematics. Simple? Not really. Behind those gears was Seymour’s father who gave him the toy car that held the gears. The father he loved, whom he wanted to please, but who didn’t want him to be a mathematician. He wanted him to take over the family pest-control company, so Seymour was all set to study chemical engineering. But then, he was persuaded, though not by his dad, to try a liberal arts course for a year.

Seymour interpreted this as a chance to take a year off to study mathematics and psychology – and well, from there, he became Seymour. But his father didn’t like it. Those gears were emotionally charged with conflict, ambivalence and competition. Seymour had a complex learning story. I think it contributed to his ability to nurture contradiction, innovation, originality, idiosyncracy, creativity. It contributed to the intimate, non-judgmental attention that made him a great teacher and that deep learning in digital culture requires – more and more, of all of us, in order to make more of what he began."
seymourpapert  sherrytutkle  2017  psychology  thinking  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  education  piaget  objects  constructionism  attention  syntonicity  creativity  contradiction  ambivalence  idiosyncrasy  originality  innovation  judgement  jeanpiaget 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Science and the Senses: Perturbation — Cultural Anthropology
"I vividly remember how, on certain nights in my childhood, my brother and I would be herded toward the entrance hall of my parents’ house, where the Carl Zeiss Ultraphot II microscope still stands. This was a huge machine from the 1960s, one of the relics that my father would rescue from the constant upgrading of his lab required by so-called scientific progress. To me, as a child, it was some sort of abstruse, mysterious device. Taking up a large portion of the hall, it was a massive object, coming with its own table, which was usually covered with a thick gray drape to protect it from dust. Above the oculars, there was a giant, round screen typical of the 1960s design, all curves and matte metal. On those nights, my parents—both freshwater microbial ecologists—would take off the drape, turn all of the lights off, and turn on the screen to show my brother and me the wonders of microscopic worlds.

Growing up with experiences like this, the notion that science forgets the sensory never made much sense to me. Perception was present and was much more than just that: it entailed the full spectrum of emotions, passions, senses, and the kind of fascination and wonder that only the natural world can inspire. Still now, when I converse with scientists in the course of my fieldwork, I see that wonder and I find the senses present in all kinds of ways. Yet the role of the sensory is shifting. I hear it whenever my mother discusses her work with me: so many of the younger scientists with whom she works are oblivious, she tells me, to the sensorial engagements that she grew up with. “They don’t even count them!” she exclaims, referring to the microorganisms in their samples. “How can you know what you have if you don’t even look in the microscope?” The sensory dimensions of molecular biology are replacing the time consuming, eye-wrenching work of counting by microscope. More advanced techniques allow the scientist to determine what is in a sample without ever putting it in a slide under a microscope. Or so their proponents claim.

The problem with these changes is not so much the depersonalization of sensorial experience. Rather, it is the increasing confidence in new methods and the assumption that these are unproblematic and fully objective. The story goes that 16S rRNA analysis tells you what organisms you are dealing with with the certainty of a fact. Of course, most people working with these techniques know better. But as students have less time to get their degrees and are pushed forward faster, they have less time to doubt and to fully grasp the limits of their newly acquired sensorium. Often these techniques rely on advanced knowledge in other fields, far from the expertise of those who use them, thus hiding their limitations by design. Those who depend on these prosthetics are easily alienated from the nitty-gritty details of the materialities in play, and have little sense of what the limits and constraints of those prosthetics might be."



"This re-scription is useful when considering the scale of the microbial and the scientific sensorial apparatuses proper to it. But it is equally useful for thinking and doing on another scale, which is central to my current work: that of the planetary. Having been sucked into the maelstrom of the Anthropocene, my research tries to resist the traction of this notion and its mainstream political currents. To do so, I attend to the figure of the planet. The planetary scale is the motor force of the Anthropocene, on which the gears of the vast machine of sustainability rely. The way in which the Anthropocene frames global environmental change depends on the same sensorial apparatuses that make the planet. But in the process of making environmental emergency, the Anthropocene also risks remaking the planet Earth in its own image, perpetuating dangerous elisions and tensions and forgetting the limits of its own planetary sensorium. In resisting the notion of the planetary, then, I attend to it historically and praxiographically—but also, one might say, scientifically. My aim is to flesh out not only the continuities in the histories of this notion and its object, but also the gaps, interruptions, and diversions that characterize it. In doing so, I aim to offer inspiration for unfolding alternative constellations of the planetary. Here, the planet emerges not only as an object; it complicates the clear distinction between subjects and objects that informs the official epistemology of modern science. Rethinking the sensory in terms of modes of attention (and distraction) can, I think, play a crucial role in this rearticulation of the planetary away from received theories of knowledge, toward a world in which knowing is just one among a multiplicity of practices and doings/undoings that make worlds in which living together, willy-nilly, is done.



Attending to the sensorium of the planetary highlights the technosocial apparatuses that are at work in making planetary vision possible. It imagines as nature not only the planet, but also satellites, spaceflight, remote sensing, radioisotope tracers, global circulation models; the vast machine of climate-change science policy; social phenomena like the green economy and austerity; and the discourses of extinction, loss, adaptation, and proliferation that characterize the Anthropocene. Considering these sensory mediations as relational and historical modes of attention and distraction inflected across heterogeneous materials and sites allows us to attend to how knowing, doing, and living with the planet are enacted in the same gesture. This move can restore the sense of wonder that I saw in the screen of my childhood to the sciences."
science  senses  wonder  method  sfsh  expeuence  2017  donnaharaway  anthropology  anthropocene  perception  doubt  prosthetics  technology  time  technoscience  attention  maríacarozzi  williamjames  vincianedespret  knowing  distraction 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Reviewers & Critics: Laura Miller of Slate | Poets & Writers
"In an interview with the National Book Critics Circle, you said, “I’m under the impression that most literary critics are primarily interested in writing, and while I find that subject fascinating, I am probably more interested in reading.” I find this rather intriguing, and think it’s a chief reason your writing on literary culture is so distinctive. Can you elaborate on your statement here?
We live in a time when everyone wants to write and seemingly no one “has time” to read. Everyone wants to speak and increasingly few people want to listen. People sometimes scoff when I make this observation and claim that aspiring writers read more than anyone else, but that is not my experience. I’m constantly meeting people who, when they learn what I do, always want to talk about the book they plan to write despite the fact that they seem to find no books worth reading. We fetishize the idea of being a writer in a variety of ways, most of them narcissistic. So when I meet a big reader who professes no desire to write, I think of them as a beautiful, almost mythical creature, like a unicorn, to be celebrated.

I also believe that reading is a profoundly creative act, that every act of reading is a collaboration between author and reader. I don’t understand why more people aren’t interested in this alchemy. It’s such an act of grace to give someone else ten or fifteen hours out of your own irreplaceable life, and allow their voice, thoughts, and imaginings into your head. I can’t respect any writer who isn’t abjectly grateful for the faith, generosity, and trust in that. I think there’s an unspoken, maybe even unconscious contempt for reading as merely “passive” in many people who obsess about writers and writing. Discussion of writers and writing generally bores me. But I’m always interested in why people read and why they like what they like. That’s far more likely to surprise and enlighten me than someone fretting about daily word counts and agonizing over their process."
via:austinkleon  writing  reading  howwewrite  howweread  lauramiller  2017  generosity  grace  attention  whyweread 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Get out now
“GET OUT NOW. Not just outside, but beyond the trap of the programmed electronic age so gently closing around so many people…. Go outside, move deliberately, then relax, slow down, look around. Do not jog. Do not run…. Instead pay attention to everything that abuts the rural road, the city street, the suburban boulevard. Walk. Stroll. Saunter. Ride a bike, and coast along a lot. Explore…. Abandon, even momentarily, the sleek modern technology that consumes so much time and money now…. Go outside and walk a bit, long enough to forget programming, long enough to take in and record new surroundings…. Flex the mind, a little at first, then a lot. Savor something special. Enjoy the best-kept secret around—the ordinary, everyday landscape that rewards any explorer, that touches any explorer with magic…all of it is free for the taking, for the taking in. Take it. take it in, take in more every weekend, every day, and quickly it becomes the theater that intrigues, relaxes, fascinates, seduces, and above all expands any mind focused on it. Outside lies utterly ordinary space open to any casual explorer willing to find the extraordinary. Outside lies unprogrammed awareness that at times becomes directed serendipity. Outside lies magic.”

—John Stilgoe, Outside Lies Magic
johnstilgoe  austinkleon  walking  noticing  looking  observing  seeing  exploration  landscape  attention  serendipity  outside  outdoors 
february 2017 by robertogreco
The Seattle Review of Books - Here is a movie to remind you why you love reading and writing
"A lot of great movies adapted from written works have been released over the last month or so. Silence is a complex and challenging and ultimately rewarding adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel about the demands and responsibilities of faith. Fences is one of the most harrowing family dramas I’ve seen in years, with career-best performances from Denzel Washington and, especially, Viola Davis.

But one original movie in theaters right now, not adapted from a book or play, is a surprising tribute to the importance of the written word. I’m talking about Jim Jarmusch’s new film Paterson, and I’m telling you: if you love books and poetry and writing, you have to see this movie as soon as possible.

Paterson’s premise sounds like the setup for a limerick: Adam Driver stars as Paterson, a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. The film follows a week in his life, and not a whole lot, really, happens. Paterson is a man who likes his rituals: he walks the dog to the bar every night, and he writes a few lines of poetry into his notebook in the morning, and he likes to sit in the same spot and watch the water go over Paterson Falls. He and his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) live a quiet life that is mostly content. They could use a little more money, sure, but who couldn’t?

Paterson is a film of echoes. Certain themes repeat themselves over and over: fire, twins, rain. Paterson admires the poetry of William Carlos Williams, the city of Paterson’s most famous literary resident, and Williams’ work reverberates through the film as well. (Williams wrote an epic poem about the city also titled Paterson.) These little instances accrue into a fuller portrait, a pointillist masterpiece.

Paterson doesn’t write his poetry for the sake of immortality. He writes poetry because it’s how he processes the world. Driver reads the lines over and over in a halting voice as Paterson writes in his notebook and the handwritten words appear on screen. We see him sitting in his small office, lined with books by Williams and David Foster Wallace and Frank O’Hara, as he struggles to get the words just so. He seems to meet poets around every street corner: everyone is recording the universe in careful handwriting on lined paper in secret notebooks.

Paterson made me happier than any movie I’ve seen in recent memory. It’s a movie about art for the sake of art, a movie about writing and reading for no reason but for the pleasure of writing and reading. Paterson’s life inspires his art, which in turn inspires his life. There’s probably no big break around the corner for him. He’s probably not going to get a big thick hardcover anthology of his work. But he does it anyway, because he has to, and because it makes him better.

Trust me: you don’t want to half-watch Paterson on your couch while idly flicking through your phone. This is a movie to watch in the theater. Afterward, take public transit home. Bring a book of poetry to read on the bus or the train. Eavesdrop on some conversations. There’s art everywhere — you just have to be ready to receive it."
paterson  jimjarmusch  fil  towatch  poetry  everyday  notebooks  attention  mundane  paulconstant  2017  williamcarloswilliams  understanding  thinking  whywewrite  happiness  howwewrite  writing  words  notetaking  observation  listening  art  life  living  reading  artleisure  leisurearts 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Letter: John Berger’s European haunts | Books | The Guardian
"In 1974, at the start of his marriage to Beverly Bancroft, he moved to Quincy, the agricultural village in the Alps that was to remain their family home. I first met John in the same year, as one of the four founders of the Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative. John was one of several established writers who decided that small publishing, with decision-making in the hands of those who actually made what the industry sold, was a good thing.

He enjoyed collaboration. While he did not put money into the group, he made its financial existence easier by not taking advances when books were published, and was there to advise, finding pleasure in going to meetings when he was in London. I imagine it was a similar pleasure to that he took in being part of the community in Quincy, where everyone participated in haymaking, and John’s table was ever busy with neighbours deliberating on problems or engaging in that gossip which is also storytelling.

Writers and Readers started an art list, republishing Berger’s backlist, including A Painter of Our Time. There was also the brilliant A Fortunate Man – standard reading for all GPs – and his new books. In the way of 1970s collectives, the organisation fell apart in the early 80s. But John and I remained fast friends. We didn’t always agree on politics, but his sense of justice was ever an inspiration and his volcanic laugh a joy. We even went on to win the Scott Moncrieff prize for literary translation together, for Nella Bielski’s The Year Is ’42 (2004).

When I published Losing the Dead (2014), a memoir about my parents’ war and its aftermath, he gave me a drawing he had made inspired by Rembrandt’s The Polish Rider. He was extraordinarily generous, and paid singular attention to young writers and artists, let alone to people needing a hand or a lift. A true listener, he said it was what his storytelling was all about. He listened with an ear for everything, not only what was spoken. And he managed in his encounters and in his stories, as well as his essays, somehow to confront despair and turn it into hope."
johnberger  generosity  publishing  2017  mentorship  attention  listening  lisaappignanesi  collaboration  friendship  europe  politics  hope  despair 
january 2017 by robertogreco
danah boyd | apophenia » Hacking the Attention Economy
"The democratization of manipulation

In the early days of blogging, many of my fellow bloggers imagined that our practice could disrupt mainstream media. For many progressive activists, social media could be a tool that could circumvent institutionalized censorship and enable a plethora of diverse voices to speak out and have their say. Civic minded scholars were excited by “smart mobs” who leveraged new communications platforms to coordinate in a decentralized way to speak truth to power. Arab Spring. Occupy Wall Street. Black Lives Matter. These energized progressives as “proof” that social technologies could make a new form of civil life possible.

I spent 15 years watching teenagers play games with powerful media outlets and attempt to achieve control over their own ecosystem. They messed with algorithms, coordinated information campaigns, and resisted attempts to curtail their speech. Like Chinese activists, they learned to hide their traces when it was to their advantage to do so. They encoded their ideas such that access to content didn’t mean access to meaning.

Of course, it wasn’t just progressive activists and teenagers who were learning how to mess with the media ecosystem that has emerged since social media unfolded. We’ve also seen the political establishment, law enforcement, marketers, and hate groups build capacity at manipulating the media landscape. Very little of what’s happening is truly illegal, but there’s no widespread agreement about which of these practices are socially and morally acceptable or not.

The techniques that are unfolding are hard to manage and combat. Some of them look like harassment, prompting people to self-censor out of fear. Others look like “fake news”, highlighting the messiness surrounding bias, misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda. There is hate speech that is explicit, but there’s also suggestive content that prompts people to frame the world in particular ways. Dog whistle politics have emerged in a new form of encoded content, where you have to be in the know to understand what’s happening. Companies who built tools to help people communicate are finding it hard to combat the ways their tools are being used by networks looking to skirt the edges of the law and content policies. Institutions and legal instruments designed to stop abuse are finding themselves ill-equipped to function in light of networked dynamics.

The Internet has long been used for gaslighting, and trolls have long targeted adversaries. What has shifted recently is the scale of the operation, the coordination of the attacks, and the strategic agenda of some of the players.
For many who are learning these techniques, it’s no longer simply about fun, nor is it even about the lulz. It has now become about acquiring power.

A new form of information manipulation is unfolding in front of our eyes. It is political. It is global. And it is populist in nature. The news media is being played like a fiddle, while decentralized networks of people are leveraging the ever-evolving networked tools around them to hack the attention economy.

I only wish I knew what happens next."
danahboyd  communication  attention  propaganda  gaslighting  2017  fakenews  proaganda  manipulation  media  medialiteracy  politics  information  gamergate  memes  lolcats  gabriellacoleman 
january 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger remembered – by Geoff Dyer, Olivia Laing, Ali Smith and Simon McBurney | Books | The Guardian
"Ali Smith

I heard John Berger speaking at the end of 2015 in London at the British Library. Someone in the audience talked about A Seventh Man, his 1975 book about mass migrancy in which he says: “To try to understand the experience of another it is necessary to dismantle the world as seen from one’s own place within it and to reassemble it as seen from his.”

The questioner asked what Berger thought about the huge movement of people across the world. He put his head in his hands and sat and thought; he didn’t say anything at all for what felt like a long time, a thinking space that cancelled any notion of soundbite. When he answered, what he spoke about ostensibly seemed off on a tangent. He said: “I have been thinking about the storyteller’s responsibility to be hospitable.”

As he went on, it became clear how revolutionary, hopeful and astute his thinking was. The act of hospitality, he suggested, is ancient and contemporary and at the core of every story we’ve ever told or listened to about ourselves – deny it, and you deny all human worth. He talked about the art act’s deep relationship with this, and with inclusion. Then he gave us a definition of fascism: one set of human beings believing it has the right to cordon off and decide about another set of human beings.

A few minutes with Berger and a better world, a better outcome, wasn’t fantasy or imaginary, it was impetus – possible, feasible, urgent and clear. It wasn’t that another world was possible; it was that this world, if we looked differently, and responded differently, was differently possible.

His readers are the inheritors, across all the decades of his work, of a legacy that will always reapprehend the possibilities. We inherit his routing of the “power-shit” of everyday corporate hierarchy and consumerism, his determined communality, his ethos of unselfishness in a solipsistic world, his procreative questioning of the given shape of things, his articulate compassion, the relief of that articulacy. We inherit writing that won’t ever stop giving. A reader coming anywhere near his work encounters life-force, thought-force – and the force, too, of the love all through it.

It’s not just hard, it’s impossible, to think about what he’s given us over the years in any past tense. Everything about this great thinker, one of the great art writers, the greatest responders, is vital – and response and responsibility in Berger’s work always make for a fusion of thought and art as a force for the understanding, the seeing more clearly and the making better of the world we’re all citizens of. But John Berger gone? In the dark times, what’ll we do without him? Try to live up to him, to pay what Simone Weil called (as he notes in his essay about her) “creative attention”. The full Weil quote goes: “Love for our neighbour, being made of creative attention, is analogous to genius.”

Berger’s genius is its own fertile continuum – radical, brilliant, gentle, uncompromising – in the paying of an attention that shines with the fierce intelligence, the loving clarity of the visionary he was, is, and always will be.

***

Geoff Dyer

There is a long and distinguished tradition of aspiring writers meeting the writer they most revere only to discover that he or she has feet of clay. Sometimes it doesn’t stop at the feet – it can be legs, chest and head too – so that the disillusionment taints one’s feelings about the work, even about the trade itself. I count it one of my life’s blessings that the first great writer I ever met – the writer I admired above all others – turned out to be an exemplary human being. Nothing that has happened in the 30-odd years since then has diminished my love of the books or of the man who wrote them.

It was 1984. John Berger, who had radically altered and enlarged my ideas of what a book could be, was in London for the publication of And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos. I interviewed him for Marxism Today. He was 58, the age I am now. The interview went well but he seemed relieved when it was over – because, he said, now we could go to a pub and talk properly.

It was the highpoint of my life. My contemporaries had jobs, careers – some even owned houses – but I was in a pub with John Berger. He urged me to send him things I’d written – not the interview, he didn’t care about that, he wanted to read my own stuff. He wrote back enthusiastically. He was always encouraging. A relationship cannot be sustained on the basis of reverence and we soon settled into being friends.

The success and acclaim he enjoyed as a writer allowed him to be free of petty vanities, to concentrate on what he was always so impatient to achieve: relationships of equality. That’s why he was such a willing collaborator – and such a good friend to so many people, from all walks of life, from all over the world. There was no limit to his generosity, to his capacity to give. This did more than keep him young; it combined with a kind of negative pessimism to enable him to withstand the setbacks dished out by history. In an essay on Leopardi he proposed “that we are not living in a world in which it is possible to construct something approaching heaven-on-earth, but, on the contrary, are living in a world whose nature is far closer to that of hell; what difference would this make to any single one of our political or moral choices? We would be obliged to accept the same obligations and participate in the same struggle as we are already engaged in; perhaps even our sense of solidarity with the exploited and suffering would be more single-minded. All that would have changed would be the enormity of our hopes and finally the bitterness of our disappointments.”

While his work was influential and admired, its range – in both subject matter and form – makes it difficult to assess adequately. Ways of Seeing is his equivalent of Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert: a bravura performance that sometimes ends up as a substitute for or distraction from the larger body of work to which it serves as an introduction. In 1969 he put forward Art and Revolution “as the best example I have achieved of what I consider to be the critical method”, but it is in the numerous shorter pieces that he was at his best as a writer on art. (These diverse pieces have been assembled by Tom Overton in Portraits to form a chronological history of art.)

No one has ever matched Berger’s ability to help us look at paintings or photographs “more seeingly”, as Rilke put it in a letter about Cézanne. Think of the essay “Turner and the Barber’s Shop” in which he invites us to consider some of the late paintings in light of things the young boy saw in his dad’s barber shop: “water, froth, steam, gleaming metal, clouded mirrors, white bowls or basins in which soapy liquid is agitated by the barber’s brush and detritus deposited”.

Berger brought immense erudition to his writing but, as with DH Lawrence, everything had to be verified by appeal to his senses. He did not need a university education – he once spoke scathingly of a thinker who, when he wanted to find something out, took down a book from a shelf – but he was reliant, to the end, on his art school discipline of drawing. If he looked long and hard enough at anything it would either yield its secrets or, failing that, enable him to articulate why the withheld mystery constituted its essence. This holds true not just for the writings on art but also the documentary studies (of a country doctor in A Fortunate Man and of migrant labour in A Seventh Man), the novels, the peasant trilogy Into Their Labours, and the numerous books that refuse categorisation. Whatever their form or subject the books are jam-packed with observations so precise and delicate that they double as ideas – and vice versa. “The moment at which a piece of music begins provides a clue to the nature of all art,” he writes in “The Moment of Cubism”. In Here Is Where We Meet he imagines “travelling alone between Kalisz and Kielce a hundred and fifty years ago. Between the two names there would always have been a third – the name of your horse.”

The last time we met was a few days before Christmas 2015, in London. There were five of us: my wife and I, John (then 89), the writer Nella Bielski (in her late 70s) and the painter Yvonne Barlow (91), who had been his girlfriend when they were still teenagers. Jokingly, I asked, “So, what was John like when he was 17?” “He was exactly like he is now,” she replied, as though it were yesterday. “He was always so kind.” All that interested him about his own life, he once wrote, were the things he had in common with other people. He was a brilliant writer and thinker; but it was his lifelong kindness that she emphasised.

The film Walk Me Home which he co- wrote and acted in was, in his opinion, “a balls-up” but in it Berger utters a line that I think of constantly – and quote from memory – now: “When I die I want to be buried in land that no one owns.” In land, that is, that belongs to us all.

***

Olivia Laing

The only time I saw John Berger speak was at the 2015 British Library event. He clambered on to the stage, short, stocky, shy, his extraordinary hewn face topped with snowy curls. After each question he paused for a long time, tugging on his hair and writhing in his seat, physically wrestling with the demands of speech. It struck me then how rare it is to see a writer on stage actually thinking, and how glib and polished most speakers are. For Berger, thought was work, as taxing and rewarding as physical labour, a bringing of something real into the world. You have to strive and sweat; the act is urgent but might also fail.

He talked that evening about the need for hospitality. It was such a Bergerish notion. Hospitality: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers, a word that … [more]
johnberger  2017  geoffdyer  olivialaing  alismith  simonmcburney  marxism  capitalism  migration  soundbites  hospitality  storytelling  hope  hopefulness  utopia  hierarchy  consumerism  compassion  unselfishness  questioning  skepticism  simoneweil  creativeattention  attention  goldenrule  humanism  encouragement  relationships  friendship  equality  giving  generosity  solidarity  suffering  seeing  noticing  looking  observation  senses  kindness  commonality  belonging  ownership  thinking  howwethink  care  caring  blackpanthers  blackpantherparty  clarity  money  communalism  narrowness  alls  difference  openness  crosspollination  hosting  hosts  guests  strangers  enemies  listening  canon  payingattention  audience  audiencesofone  laughter  resistance  existence  howtolive  living  life  howwelive  refuge  writing  certainty  tenderness 
january 2017 by robertogreco
BBC Four - John Berger: The Art of Looking
[video currently available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3VhbsXk9Ds ]

"Art, politics and motorcycles - on the occasion of his 90th birthday John Berger or the Art of Looking is an intimate portrait of the writer and art critic whose ground-breaking work on seeing has shaped our understanding of the concept for over five decades. The film explores how paintings become narratives and stories turn into images, and rarely does anybody demonstrate this as poignantly as Berger.

Berger lived and worked for decades in a small mountain village in the French Alps, where the nearness to nature, the world of the peasants and his motorcycle, which for him deals so much with presence, inspired his drawing and writing.

The film introduces Berger's art of looking with theatre wizard Simon McBurney, film-director Michael Dibb, visual artist John Christie, cartoonist Selçuk Demiral, photographer Jean Mohr as well as two of his children, film-critic Katya Berger and the painter Yves Berger.

The prelude and starting point is Berger's mind-boggling experience of restored vision following a successful cataract removal surgery. There, in the cusp of his clouding eyesight, Berger re-discovers the irredeemable wonder of seeing.

Realised as a portrait in works and collaborations, this creative documentary takes a different approach to biography, with John Berger leading in his favourite role of the storyteller."
2016  johnberger  documentary  towatch  simonmcburney  michaeldibb  johnchristie  selçukdemiral  jeanmohr  katyaberger  yvesberger  waysofseeing  seeing  looking  noticing  biography  storytelling  skepticism  photography  rebellion  writing  howwewrite  collaboration  canon  conspirators  rebels  friendship  community  migration  motorcycles  presence  being  living  life  interestedness  interested  painting  art  history  france  belonging  place  labor  home  identity  work  peasants  craft  craftsmanship  aesthetics  design  vision  cataracts  sight  teaching  howweteach  attention  focus  agriculture  memory  memories  shit  pigs  humans  animals  childhood  perception  freedom  independence  storytellers  travelers  nomads  trickster  dead  death  meaning  meaningmaking  companionship  listening  discovery  understanding  sfsh  srg  books  publishing  television  tv  communication  engagement  certainly  uncertainty 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Will Self: Are humans evolving beyond the need to tell stories? | Books | The Guardian
"Neuroscientists who insist technology is changing our brains may have it wrong. What if we are switching from books to digital entertainment because of a change in our need to communicate?"



"A few years ago I gave a lecture in Oxford that was reprinted in the Guardian under the heading: “The novel is dead (this time it’s for real)”. In it I argued that the novel was losing its cultural centrality due to the digitisation of print: we are entering a new era, one with a radically different form of knowledge technology, and while those of us who have what Marshal McLuhan termed “Gutenberg minds” may find it hard to comprehend – such was our sense of the solidity of the literary world – without the necessity for the physical book itself, there’s no clear requirement for the art forms it gave rise to. I never actually argued that the novel was dead, nor that narrative itself was imperilled, yet whenever I discuss these matters with bookish folk they all exclaim: “But we need stories – people will always need stories.” As if that were an end to the matter.

Non-coincidentally, in line with this shift from print to digital there’s been an increase in the number of scientific studies of narrative forms and our cognitive responses to them. There’s a nice symmetry here: just as the technology arrives to convert the actual into the virtual, so other technologies arise, making it possible for us to look inside the brain and see its actual response to the virtual worlds we fabulate and confabulate. In truth, I find much of this research – which marries arty anxiety with techno-assuredness – to be self-serving, reflecting an ability to win the grants available for modish interdisciplinary studies, rather than some new physical paradigm with which to explain highly complex mental phenomena. Really, neuroscience has taken on the sexy mantle once draped round the shoulders of genetics. A few years ago, each day seemed to bring forth a new gene for this or that. Such “discoveries” rested on a very simplistic view of how the DNA of the human genotype is expressed in us poor, individual phenotypes – and I suspect many of the current discoveries, which link alterations in our highly plastic brains to cognitive functions we can observe using sophisticated equipment, will prove to be equally ill-founded.

The neuroscientist Susan Greenfield has been prominent in arguing that our new digital lives are profoundly altering the structure of our brains. This is undoubtedly the case – but then all human activities impact upon the individual brain as they’re happening; this by no means implies a permanent alteration, let alone a heritable one. After all, so far as we can tell the gross neural anatomy of the human has remained unchanged for hundreds of millennia, while the age of bi-directional digital media only properly dates – in my view – from the inception of wireless broadband in the early 2000s, hardly enough time for natural selection to get to work on the adaptive advantages of … tweeting. Nevertheless, pioneering studies have long since shown that licensed London cab drivers, who’ve completed the exhaustive “Knowledge” (which consists of memorising every street and notable building within a six mile radius of Charing Cross), have considerably enlarged posterior hippocampi.

This is the part of brain concerned with way-finding, but it’s also strongly implicated in memory formation; neuroscientists are now discovering that at the cognitive level all three abilities – memory, location, and narration – are intimately bound up. This, too, is hardly surprising: key for humans, throughout their long pre-history as hunter-gatherers, has been the ability to find food, remember where food is and tell the others about it. It’s strange, of course, to think of Pride and Prejudice or Ulysses as simply elaborations upon our biologically determined inclination to give people directions – but then it’s perhaps stranger still to realise that sustained use of satellite navigation, combined with absorbing all our narrative requirements in pictorial rather written form, may transform us into miserable and disoriented amnesiacs.

When he lectured on literature in the 1950s, Vladimir Nabokov would draw a map on the blackboard at the beginning of each session, depicting, for example, the floor plan of Austen’s Mansfield Park, or the “two ways” of Proust’s Combray. What Nabokov seems to have understood intuitively is what neuroscience is now proving: reading fiction enables a deeply memorable engagement with our sense of space and place. What the master was perhaps less aware of – because, as yet, this phenomenon was inchoate – was that throughout the 20th century the editing techniques employed in Hollywood films were being increasingly refined. This is the so-called “tyranny of film”: editing methods that compel our attention, rather than leaving us free to absorb the narrative in our own way. Anyone now in middle age will have an intuitive understanding of this: shots are shorter nowadays, and almost all transitions are effected by crosscutting, whereby two ongoing scenes are intercut in order to force upon the viewer the idea of their synchrony. It’s in large part this tyranny that makes contemporary films something of a headache for older viewers, to whom they can seem like a hypnotic swirl of action.

It will come as no surprise to Gutenberg minds to learn that reading is a better means of forming memory than watching films, as is listening to afternoon drama on Radio 4. This is the so-called “visualisation hypothesis” that proposes that people – and children in particular – find it harder not only to remember film as against spoken or written narratives, but also to come up with novel responses to them, because the amount of information they’re given, together with its determinate nature, forecloses imaginative response.

Almost all contemporary parents – and especially those of us who class themselves as “readers” – have engaged in the Great Battle of Screen: attempting to limit our children’s consumption of films, videos, computer games and phone-based social media. We feel intuitively that it can’t be doing our kids any good – they seem mentally distracted as well as physically fidgety: unable to concentrate as they often look from one handheld screen to a second freestanding one, alternating between tweezering some images on a touchscreen and manipulating others using a remote control. Far from admonishing my younger children to “read the classics” – an utterly forlorn hope – I often find myself simply wishing they’d put their phones down long enough to have their attention compelled by the film we’re watching.

If we take seriously the conclusions of these recent neuroscientific studies, one fact is indisputable: whatever the figures for books sales (either in print or digital form), reading for pleasure has been in serious decline for over a decade. That this form of narrative absorption (if you’ll forgive the coinage) is closely correlated with high attainment and wellbeing may tell us nothing about the underlying causation, but the studies do demonstrate that the suite of cognitive aptitudes needed to decipher text and turn it into living, breathing, visible and tangible worlds seem to wither away once we stop turning the pages and start goggling at virtual tales.

Of course, the sidelining of reading narrative (and along with it the semi-retirement of all those narrative forms we love) is small potatoes compared with the loss of our capacity for episodic memory: would we be quite so quick to post those fantastic holiday photographs on Facebook if we knew that in so doing we’d imperil our ability to recall unaided our walk along the perfect crescent of sand, and our first ecstatic kiss? You might’ve thought that as a novelist who depends on fully attuned Gutenberg minds to read his increasingly complex and confusing texts I’d be dismayed by this craven new couch-based world; and, as a novelist, I am.

I began writing my books on a manual typewriter at around the same time wireless broadband became ubiquitous, sensing it was inimical not only to the act of writing, but that of reading as well: a novel should be a self-contained and self-explanatory world (at least, that’s how the form has evolved), and it needs to be created in the same cognitive mode as it’s consumed: the writer hunkering down into his own episodic memories, and using his own canonical knowledge, while imagining all the things he’s describing, rather than Googling them to see what someone else thinks they look like. I also sense the decline in committed reading among the young that these studies claim: true, the number of those who’ve ever been inclined “to get up in the morning in the fullness of youth”, as Nietzsche so eloquently put it, “and open a book” has always been small; but then it’s worth recalling the sting in the tail of his remark: “now that’s what I call vicious”.

And there is something vicious about all that book learning, especially when it had to be done by rote. There’s something vicious as well about the baby boomer generation, which, not content to dominate the cultural landscape, also demands that everyone younger than us survey it in the same way. For the past five years I’ve been working on a trilogy of novels that aim to map the connections between technological change, warfare and human psychopathology, so obviously I’m attempting to respond to the zeitgeist using this increasingly obsolete art form. My view is that we’re deluded if we think new technologies come into existence because of clearly defined human objectives – let alone benevolent ones – and it’s this that should shape our response to them. No, the history of the 20th century – and now the 21st – is replete with examples of technologies that were developed purely in order to facilitate the killing of people at … [more]
willself  communication  digital  writing  howwewrite  entertainment  books  socialmedia  neuroscience  2016  marshallmcluhan  gutenbergminds  print  change  singularity  videogames  gaming  games  poetry  novels  susangreenfield  rote  rotelearning  twitter  knowledge  education  brain  wayfinding  memory  location  narration  navigation  vladimirnabokov  proust  janeausten  film  video  attention  editing  reading  howweread  visualizationhypothesis  visualization  text  imagery  images  cognition  literacy  multiliteracies  memories  nietzsche  booklearning  technology  mobile  phones  mentalillness  ptsd  humans  humanity  digitalmedia  richardbrautigan  narrative  storytelling 
november 2016 by robertogreco
My Son, The Prince Of Fashion | GQ
"You are born into a family and those are your people, and they know you and they love you and if you are lucky they even, on occasion, manage to understand you. And that ought to be enough. But it is never enough. Abe had not been dressing up, styling himself, for all these years because he was trying to prove how different he was from everyone else. He did it in the hope of attracting the attention of somebody else—somewhere, someday—who was the same. He was not flying his freak flag; he was sending up a flare, hoping for rescue, for company in the solitude of his passion.

“You were with your people. You found them,” I said.

He nodded.

“That's good,” I said. “You're early.”"
michaelchabon  identity  parenting  fashion  children  2016  passion  tribes  attention  signaling  presentationofself 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Working with adults will make me more patient with children – Making Good Humans
"As PYP Coordinator, I have worked with adult learners for two years and I have loved every minute of it. The amazing conversations we’ve had about teaching and learning have blown my educational-mind and have played a huge part in my decision to go back into the classroom.

I have to admit though, when I took the job as PYP Coordinator I had no idea what to expect! (To be honest I was a little intimidated to work with adults!) Now, after two years of working with adults I look back and value the strong relationships I’ve built and the great learning experience I have had!

However, there were some things that surprised me about adult learners – the very same things that used to frustrate me as a classroom teacher. I have started to wonder if these similarities might have more to do with being a human, than being a child.

So here is my list of 10 things that I’ve noticed we do as adult-learners that will hopefully make me more patient when working with child-learners:

1. We talk while someone is talking – I can’t recall one staff meeting or professional development session where side conversations weren’t going on while someone else was speaking.

2. We forget to clean up after ourselves – After most 45-minute collaboration sessions or 3-hour unit planning sessions I find myself throwing out wrappers, left over food, empty water bottles, used tissues – not to mention putting communal pencils back in their cups and clearing away scrap papers.

3. We opt to not participate – A few months ago we did a “Sentence, Phrase, Word” Visible Thinking Routine to help our staff unpack the IB’s expectations for Three-Way Conferences. We made a chart paper for each grade and subject team where each staff member could place their post-its with their sentence, phrase and word. It was interesting that many of posters had significantly fewer sentences, phrases and words than members of their team who were present.

4. We forget to bring things – Sometimes a request is made to bring something specific to a staff meeting or collaborative planning session, for example a device, a PYP binder, day plans etc.. And sometimes people have shown up without them.

5. We need more time – Many times tasks are planned to take one hour… one session… one afternoon to complete, but often certain teams and individuals need more time.

6. We take a long time to wrap up a conversation – With our large staff of 125 adult-learners we raise our hand to re-collect everyone’s attention after a group discussion. Most times this takes at least 2 minutes of holding up my hand. It makes me think of all the times as a classroom teacher I counted down from 5 (from 5!) and expected my students to have wrapped up their conversation and re-focused their attention!

7. We take a long time to transition – We try to have a lot of movement in our professional development sessions, where staff move from place to place and activity to activity. Even if the transition is something small like go post your post-it on the chart, we are often looking at transitions of 5 minutes plus and lots of invitations (and reminders) to head back to our seats.

8. We don’t follow instructions – At the beginning of the year we did a Chalk Talk as a staff where we explained that during a Chalk Talk you communicate with others through your marker, not by using your voice… we lasted 45 seconds without talking to each other.

9. We get “off task” – I’m not sure there has been one grade or subject collaborative planning session when teams are working on their PYP planners, where random tangents of conversations have not erupted – …. travel stories, new restaurant discoveries, tales of weird childhood injuries etc.

10. We choose to work with our friends – As much as possible we try to mix and mingle our very large staff in a variety of ways – instructions to sit with people you don’t know, turn and share with someone who is not on your team, name cards on tables – and yet somehow, the majority of the time, friends end up sitting with and working with friends.

I’m not saying as adult learners we are bad or misbehaving. Quite the opposite! I’m saying that if we as grown-up, responsible, mature, professionals do all of these things… how can we possibly get upset at children for doing them? As I head back into the classroom next year, I hope that when I am faced with children who take a long time to wrap up their conversation, forget to bring their device, talk while someone is talking or don’t follow instructions that I treat them with the same level of patience, respect and dignity that I would treat a group of adults in that same situation.

Ask yourself…

Have you ever whispered to a friend during a staff meeting?

Have you ever left behind a pencil, water bottle, coffee mug?

Have you ever showed up to PD without a device or writing utensil?

Have you ever had a quick conversation with a friend on the way back to your seat?

Have you ever sat beside or worked with one of your friends?

I know I have…"
children  adults  behavior  sfsh  education  schools  schooling  preparedness  attention  participation  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  learning  instructions 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Teju Cole: FABLE
"FABLE

It was true that the Adversary had brought other monsters into being. Each had been wicked in its own way, each had been an embodiment of one or other of the seven vices, and each had been strong and difficult to vanquish. Some of those monsters still roamed the land. But what made this new monster remarkable, indeed uniquely devious, was that it wasn’t strong at all. In fact, it was weak. The weaknesses through which the other monsters had been vanquished, this monster had tenfold. The new monster was not moral, but it is not in the nature of monsters to be moral. But the monster was also not beautiful, or intelligent, or brave, or well-dressed, or charming, or gifted in oratory, though usually monsters had at least some of those qualities. The Adversary had sent this new monster out, designing it to derive its strength from one source and one source alone, as in olden days was said of Samson and his locks, so that if that source were cut off, the monster would wilt like a severed flower stalk in the noonday heat. The source of the new monster’s strength was noise. If it heard a bit of noise pertaining to it, it grew stronger. If it heard a lot of noise, whether the noise was adulation or imprecation, it was full of joy, and grew even stronger. Only collective quietness could vanquish it, quietness and the actions that came from contemplation.

Having thus designed it, the Adversary sent the monster out to Noiseville. “A new monster!” the cry went up, and the monster grew a little stronger. “It grows stronger!” went the chorus, and the monster grew stronger still. And thus it was in Noiseville that the new monster, weaker than all the other monsters ever sent by the Adversary, was the only thing the people of Noiseville spoke about. The sound had reached a deafening roar. In every newspaper across Noiseville, the most read articles were about the monster. On television, the reporters spent most of their time making noise about the monster. On little devices the people carried around with them, it was all monster all the time. If the monster smiled, there was noise in reaction. If the monster scowled, there was noise. If it coughed, there was an uproar of coughing and commentary on the manner of the monster's coughing. The Adversary was astonished by how well his little stratagem had worked. The monster smiled and scowled and coughed, and learned to say the things that generated more noise. And on and on it grew.

“But it is so weak!” the people shouted. “It is not beautiful, or intelligent, or brave, or well-dressed, or charming, or gifted in oratory. How can it grow in strength and influence so?” And if the noise went down even one decibel, the monster did something again, anything at all, and the noise went up. And the people talked of nothing but the monster when they were awake, and dreamed of nothing but the monster when they were asleep. And from time to time, they turned on each other, and were distraught if they saw their fellows failing to join in the noise, for any quiet form of contemplation was thought of as acquiescence to the monster. Other monsters in the past had been drowned out by sufficient loudness. Besides, this was Noiseville, and there was no question of not making noise, there in the home of the loudest and best noise in the world, the most beautiful noise, it was often said, the greatest noise in the history of the world. And so the noise swelled to the very limits of Noiseville, and the new monster grew to gargantuan size as had Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputians, and their ropes were powerless against it, and there seemed no limit to its growth, though it was but the eighth month of that year."
tejucole  2016  monsters  fiction  donaldtrump  fables  electronics  attention  noise  media  power 
august 2016 by robertogreco
The Bliss Station
"It’s felt impossible lately not to be distracted and despondent. I’m trying to spend as much time at my bliss station as I can.

What’s a bliss station? Here’s Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth:
You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.

My wife pointed out to me that Campbell says you must have a room OR a certain hour — whether Campbell really meant this or not, she suggested that maybe it’s possible that a bliss station can be not just a where, but a when. Not just a sacred space, but also a sacred time.

The deluxe package would be having both a special room and a special hour that you go to it, but we started wondering whether one would make up for not having the other.

For example, say you have a tiny apartment that you share with small children. There’s no room for your bliss station, there’s only time: When the kids are asleep or at school or day care, even a kitchen table can be turned into a bliss station.

Or, say your schedule is totally unpredictable, and a certain time of day can’t be relied upon — that’s when a dedicated space that’s ready for you at any time will come in handy.

What’s clear is that it’s healthiest if we make a daily appointment to disconnect from the world so that we can connect with ourselves.

“Choose the time that’s good for you,” says Francis Ford Coppola. “For me, it’s early morning because I wake up, and I’m fresh, and I sit in my place. I look out the window, and I have coffee, and no one’s gotten up yet or called me or hurt my feelings.”

The easiest way I get my feelings hurt by turning on my phone first thing in the morning. And even on the rare occasion I don’t get my feelings hurt, my time is gone and my brains are scrambled.

“Do not start your day with addictive time vampires such as The New York Times, email, Twitter,” says Edward Tufte. “All scatter eye and mind, produce diverting vague anxiety, clutter short term memory.”

Every morning I try to fight the urge, but every morning my addiction compels me.

“The new heroin addiction is connectivity,” says V. Vale. “The only solution is not one that most people want to face, which is to become lovers of solitude and silence… I love to spend time alone in my room, and in my ideal world the first hour of every day would be in bed, writing down thoughts, harvesting dreams, before anyone phones or you have any internet access.”

Kids, jobs, sleep, and a thousand other things will get in the way, but we have to find our own sacred space, our own sacred time.

“Where is your bliss station?” Campbell asked. “You have to try to find it.”"
2016  austinkleon  josephcampbell  time  space  solitude  aloneness  francisfordcoppola  vvale  attention  socialmedia  howweowork  connectivity  internet  web  online  addiction  silence  mobile  phones  focus  workspaces  distraction 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Color Gradient Reader BeeLine Shows Promise for Speed and Attention in Reading - The Atlantic
"In the era of attention deficits, the new text will not be black and white."



"The colors in this text are rendered in a precise and strategic way, designed to help people read quickly and accurately.

The most important feature is that each line begins with a different color than the line above or below. As Matthew Schneps, director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, explained it to me, the color gradients also pull our eyes long from one character to the next—and then from the end of one line to the beginning of the next, minimizing any chance of skipping lines or making anything less than an optimally efficient word-to-word or line-to-line transition.

Improving the ease and accuracy of the return sweep is a promising idea for readers of all skill levels. And yet it’s one that’s gone largely ignored in the milieu of media technologies. Today many of us read primarily on screens–and we have for years–yet most platforms have focused on using technology to attempt to recreate text as it appears in books (or in newspapers or magazines), instead of trying to create an optimal reading experience.

The format—black text on white lines of 12 to 15 words of equal size—is a relic of the way that books were most easily printed on early printing presses. It persists today out of tradition, not because of some innate tendency of the human brain to process information in this way.

Meanwhile, people who aren’t especially skilled at intake of text in the traditional format are systematically penalized. People who don’t read well in this one particular way tend to fall behind scholastically early in life. They might be told they’re not as bright as other people, or at least come to assume it. They might even be diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, or a learning disability, or overlooked as academically mediocre.

“The book format was effective, but not for everyone,” said Schneps. “This is not just technology that could help people who are struggling with reading; this is technology that could help a lot of people.”

* * *

Our minds are not as uniform as our text. We all take in information in different ways. Some people read more quickly and retain more information when lines are shorter, or when fonts are bolder, or in different colors. The color-gradient pattern above is rendered by a product called BeeLine, developed by armchair linguist Nick Lum. He got the idea after learning about the Stroop Effect, the famous phenomenon where it becomes difficult to read words like “yellow” and “red” when they are written in different colors. Lum thought, “What if instead of screwing people up, we tried to use color in a way that helps people?”

After he won the Stanford Social Entrepreneurship and Dell Education startup competitions with the idea in 2014, Lum took to developing the technology full time. So far, the response from people tends to be binary: for some it’s a shrug, but for others, particularly people with dyslexias, it’s like turning on a light bulb. As Lum describes it, people tell him “Holy cow, this is how everybody else reads.”

The idea has been well received by reading experts, too.

“Most of the academic research is figuring out entirely what your eyes are going to do on one line,” said psychologist and Microsoft researcher Kevin Larson. “That has been such a challenge that it's rare for anyone to pay much attention to what happens during that line return movement.”

At the University of Texas at Austin, Randolph Bias has studied the optimal length of lines of text for reading comprehension and speed. The two are generally at odds: Short lines make for a quick and accurate return (the movement is easier because it allows our eyes to take a greater downward angle than if the line were longer.) The downside is that because our brains process information during return sweeps, shorter lines don't afford us that time. We also don’t get to take full advantage of peripheral vision – which is key. (He cites this as the problem with Spritz, the reading technology where single words rapidly flash before a reader.)"



"The other big opportunity for the technology is in educational settings. Later this year, BeeLine will be rolling out in libraries across California, as part of a licensing partnership. This is how Lum sees the company growing. The basic Google Chrome extension and iPhone app are free. But large-scale licensing deals with platforms and institutions like school systems could be more lucrative—and make the option accessible to people who wouldn’t otherwise think to try reading in color.

In early experiments, some students do seem to benefit from the color gradients. Last year, first-grade students in two general-education classrooms in San Bernardino, California, tried out Beeline, and many did better with comprehension tests afterword. “Because of my background in visual processing, I immediately wanted to check it out,” said Michael Dominguez, an applied behavioral analyst who directs the San Bernardino school district’s special education program. “Based on everything I know, it should work great.”"

[See also (referenced in the article):
http://www.beelinereader.com/
https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/ie/2014/03/04/introducing-reading-view-in-ie-11/ ]
howweread  reading  dyslexia  education  cyborgs  adhd  color  text  jameshamblin  kevinlarson  via:ayjay  michaeldominguez  beeline  chrome  browser  browsers  extensions  accessibility  assistivetechnology  microsoft  attention  technology  edtech  nicklum  linguistics  randolphbias  spritz  ereading  kindle  pdfs  epub  pdf 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Bat, Bean, Beam: Against boredom
"There is a meme routinely shared on social media of passengers aboard a train, each absorbed in their own personal information and entertainment device. The caption reads ‘All this technology is making us antisocial’. The joke is that it is a very old photograph; what the passengers are holding are newspapers. It is generally posted without comment, as an ironic reminder of the cyclical nature of debates about dominant forms of communication, and about our social and personal habits.

Here is a typical, timeless complaint: nowadays we have lost the capacity to enjoy moments of calm or to engage in quiet contemplation. Bertrand Russell once wrote that children should be spared excessive trips to the theatre. Later it became comic books or pulp fiction. Then cinema and television. Then the internet. Now it is smartphones and the iPad. Every epoch has its technologies of distraction, and each time a new one comes around, we are told that younger generations are losing what the parents once enjoyed in abundance: boredom. Cue a steady, incessant stream of think pieces of varying length in defence or praise of this maligned emotion.

As in the case of the picture of the train passengers, it is not very clear what the ideal baseline level of societal boredom should be. The pattern of the complaint is that the each new technology shifts the boundary. Thus television – the passive diversion that once banished useful boredom from our lives – is said to have been usurped by newer technologies. But added on is a layer of nostalgia: commentators will recall with fondness the time they spent watching bad television in their childhood.

Evil nowadays resides in portable networked devices, which in the current crop of think pieces are often granted worrying levels of agency. ‘Our phones hurt us by killing our ability to listen to boredom,’ writes Mónica Guzmán in GeekWire. ‘The iPhone killed my creativity,’ intones Brian Hall in another defence of boredom for ReadWrite. This alarmist language masks an impoverished notion of what boredom is and how it affects different people.

The idea that creative thinking requires letting one’s mind wonder in repose has deep roots in the literature and may deserve some credit – all the more since the study of neuroscience is beginning to validate the philosophers’ theories. But what is being systematically elided here – in the process of granting supernatural levels of agency to our screens – are the material and historical dimensions of the question.

The closest common ancestor to most of these think pieces is Joseph Brodsky’s 1989 commencement address at Dartmouth College, entitled ‘Listening to Boredom’. It’s a worthy if maddening read, culminating in the Kierkegaardian insight that boredom is ‘a window on time’s infinity’ that ‘teaches you the most valuable lesson of your life: the lesson of your utter insignificance.’ And a lesson worth heeding it may be. However, consider how this message might sound if it had been delivered to an audience of fast-food workers or office clerks, rather than to the assembled freshmen of an Ivy League university.

The pursuit of creativity, with the attendant need to cultivate spaces for contemplation and reflection, is not available to everyone equally. And for the vast majority of people, boredom has a very different inflection.

I grew up between two worlds: the big city where my parents lived and where I went to school, and the rural village where my grandparents lived and where I spent every second weekend and part of the summer holidays. It is to the latter that I owe my strongest recollections of childhood boredom: interminable days spent idling or searching vainly for something – anything – to do.

Having grown into a literate adult, I may be tempted to romanticise this experience, and credit it with granting me a heightened sensibility for the quotidian and for what the French master Georges Perec called ‘the infra-ordinary’. But in that village without libraries or theatres, without social or cultural clubs, in that stolidly anti-intellectual place, I saw boredom turn directly into violence. I remember how a friend with whom I had laboured to while away those summer afternoons drove a motorcycle at speed into an iron gate as soon as he was old enough to do so.

My mother escaped the village and its lethal boredom through books: the fiction and school texts she consumed as a child gave her a literal way out – first to a neighbouring town with a high school, then to a city with a university and a different kind of life. She never romanticised those beginnings, and loathed any talk of the ‘good old days’. She became an intermediate school teacher and always blamed misbehaviour among her students as her own failure to awaken their interest.

If we must talk about boredom, we should start by talking about the cultural and social opportunities that might enable us to view it as a positive value worthy of recapturing, and – if we want to bring technology into it – of its role in foreclosing or opening up such opportunities. This would be a conversation worth having."
giovannitiso  2016  boredom  technology  creativity  culture  attention  history  georgesperec  violence 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Austin Kleon — John Holt, How Children Learn Children do not...
"After I re-read that section, I was reminded of Laurence Weschler writing about David Hockney, and how “interest-ing” for Hockney is a verb: it is the continual projection of interest. (The more you look at something, the more interesting it gets.) This was certainly the case with me after I started reading this book, and Holt in general: I, who felt like a somewhat enlightened parent, started noting all the ways I wasn’t paying attention to them, and over time, they have become more interesting to me, not because I’m doting on them more, or even spending more time with them, but because I am looking at them like little scientists, or just little people, who are worthy of interest. (It sounds so stupid: of course a parent should find their kids interesting, but think about how many parents and teachers and adults you know — maybe including yourself — who, secretly, probably don’t.)

Holt’s work has really shaken me up, blown my mind, and given me a different way of thinking about my kids. Some of my favorite bits, below."
johnholt  howchildrenlearn  education  learning  children  trust  austinkleon  lawrencewescheler  davidhockney  art  interestedness  interested  interesting  attention  payingattention  noticing  parenting  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  librarians  teachers  purpose  belonging  work  community  conversation  cv  pacing  meaningmaking  unschooling  deschooling  departmentalization  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  control  independence  anxiety  howchildrenfail  testing  assessment  reggioemilia  punk  games  play  standardizedtesting  love  2016  listening 
july 2016 by robertogreco
In Praise of Walks and Wilderness | Alpine Modern Editorial
"More full of wonder than your deepest dreams, indeed. I kept looking over to my friend, continually proclaiming: “I can’t believe how happy I am here.” I understood Abbey’s fierce ecological devotion to the place. Preservation begins with appreciation; it begins with experiential love. “Earn your turns,” a friend always calls out, strapping his skins to his skis and hoisting his body up the incline. Another pal takes off to the mountains when big life decisions loom in front of him: “It’s the only place quiet and still enough to think.” One hikes fourteeners to prove to himself that his body is capable of more than he believes and that what others say about him is not the whole story. One of my best friends may have hated the peak I dragged her up during our climb, but afterward she turned to me and sighed, “I’ve never felt more alive or more in love with my body.” Once, on a backpacking trip with high school senior girls, one turned excitedly to me and said, “I haven’t thought badly about my body this whole trip!” I think of my skis hanging over the ledge of Blue Sky Basin, my toes hurting like hell, my legs are tingling and frozen, and my flight-or-fight mode tells me that the drop in isn’t worth the potential outcome of pain. But when I look up at the snow-crested ridges against the deepest blue backdrop I’ve ever seen, I push on and fire up my legs, reminding myself that this view is worth the discomfort it takes to reach it."



"Ecologists speak now of a need for “deep ecology,” not just an understanding of ecological issues and piecemeal scientific responses, but an overhaul of our philosophical understanding of nature. Instead of viewing mankind as the overlord of nature, it’s about revisiting the idea that a give-and-take relationship exists between the human and the nonhuman, a relationship that thrives on mutual respect and appreciation. To develop this sort of appreciation for nature and the nonhuman, it matters that we actually experience it. For many ecological thinkers, walking among mountains can be the first step in healing a false split between body and mind. The grief at the destruction of a beautiful building, the ecstatic joy of a sunrise in the mountains—these moments stem from this unification of the two.

Fragile moments of being that exist in nature

It’s a question of place versus nonplace. In The Conscience of the Eye: The Design and Social Life of Cities, Richard Sennett points to the peculiarity of the American sense of place: “that you are nowhere when you are alone with yourself.” Sennett speaks of cities as nonplaces, in which the person among the crowd slips into oblivion, only existing inside him- or herself. Other nonplaces look like the drudgery of terminals or waiting lines or places where all eyes are glued to phones. The buildings are uniform, and the faces blur together to create a boring conglomerate of civilization. If to be alone in a city is to be nowhere, the antithesis must be that to be alone in nature is to be everywhere. Nature is a place characterized by its “thisness,” as Gerard Manley Hopkins describes it—a place to enter into that is palpable with its own essence and feeling.

But as we lose our connection to place, as virtual reality turns here into nowhere, we lose our ability to narrate our experiences of nature. Recently, nature writer Robert Macfarlane pointed out that in the Oxford Junior Dictionary, the virtual and indoor are replacing the outdoor and natural, making them blasé. When we lose the language to describe our connection to landscape and place, we lose the actual connection to these things and the value decreases, separating us from the natural. According to Macfarlane, we have always been “name-callers, christeners,” always seeking language that registers the dramas of landscape, and the environmental movement must begin with a reawakening of natural wonder–inspired language.

Perhaps the point of all of this is to work to develop more refined attention, an ability to seek out and perceive fragile moments of being that exist in nature. We must pay attention to our breath and our bodies. Wendell Berry, a prophet of the natural, writes that to pay attention is to “stretch toward” a subject in aspiration, to come into its presence. To pay attention to mountains, we must come beneath them and reach out toward them.

To walk is to perceive

How do we begin? By wandering within the wilderness. Rebecca Solnit’s book on walking comes to mind: “Walking is one way of maintaining a bulwark against this erosion of the mind, the body, the landscape, and the city, and every walker is a guard on patrol to protect the ineffable.” While people today live in disconnected interiors, on foot in wilderness the whole world is connected to the individual. This form of investing in a place gives back; memories become seeded into places, giving them meaning and associations both in the body and the mind. Walking may take much longer, but this slowing down opens one up to new details, new possibilities.

Brian Teare is one of my favorite modern poets because his poetry is centered upon Charles Olson’s projective verse and on walking. All his works contain physical coordinates, anchoring each work of art to the place that inspired it. The land becomes the location, subject, and meaning to the thoughts and feelings that Teare wants to convey. As we enter into a field or crest the ridge of a mountain, we perceive the sight of the landscape and experience our bodies within it. We feel the wind and touch the dirt; we see the edges and diversity of the landscape. Perhaps we have hiked a far distance to reach this place and feel the journey within the body. Teare says in one of my favorite poems, “Atlas Peak”:

we have to hold it instead

in our heads & hands

which would seem impossible

except for how we remember

the trail in our feet, calves,

& thighs, our lungs’ thrust

upward; our eyes, which scan

trailside bracken for flowers;

& our minds, which recall

their names as best they can

Sitting on the side of Mount Massive, on the verge of tears, I felt utterly defeated. Our group took the shorter route, which had resulted in thousands of feet of incline in just a few miles, and my lungs, riddled with occasional asthma, were rejecting the task before them. It felt as if all the rocks in the boulder field had been placed upon my chest. My mind went to the thought of wilderness: Was it freedom or a curse? What would happen to me if something went wrong up here? Risk and freedom hold hands with each other in the mountains. After a long break, a few puffs of albuterol, water, and grit, I pulled myself up the final ascent and false summits along the ridge. I have been most thankful for my body when I have realized how beautifully fragile and simultaneously capable it is. On the summit, as we watched thin wispy waves of clouds weave into each other and rise around us, the mountain gently reminded me that I am not in control. I am not all-powerful, and nature’s lesson to me that morning was to respect its wildness.

As in all things, essentialism should be avoided. We live in a world that tends toward black-and-white perspectives, and when one praises the wilderness, those remarks can devolve into Luddite sentiments that are antipeople, antitechnological, and antihistorical. This solves nothing. Advancements in civilization are welcome and beautiful; technology has connected us in unprecedented ways. But as with anything, balance is key. We need the possibility of escape from civilization, even if we never indulge it. We need it to exist as an antithesis to the stresses of modern society. We need wilderness to serve as a place to realize that we exist in a tenuous balance with the world around us. All the political and societal struggles matter little if we have no environment to live in. In a world of utilitarian decision-making, a walk in the woods may be considered frivolous and useless, but it is necessary. The choice to preserve or to dominate is ours. But before deciding, perhaps one should first wander among the mountains."
nature  walking  wilderness  body  fragility  power  control  memory  luddism  decisionmaking  risk  freedom  technology  attention  brianteare  thinking  2016  hiking  robertmacfarlane  essence  feeling  feelings  vulnerability  gerardmanleyhopkins  nonplaces  urban  urbanism  escape  richardsennett  mind  spirit  life  living  mindbodyspirit  haleylittleton  andygoldsworthy  place  rebeccasolnit  wendellberry  walterbenjamin  outdoors  edwardabbey  ecology  environment  bodies 
june 2016 by robertogreco
The Solution to Technology Overload Is So Incredibly Simple | Big Think
"University of Illinois researchers have found that getting outside with family members can help prevent family dysfunction. Previous research had been done on the benefits of walking unto itself, but combining the social element as well brings past studies into a new light.

To clarify, walking itself, even for just 20 minutes, can help you restore your attention. And attention helps you pick up social cues, not feel as irritable, and maintain more self-control than you otherwise would have. All of these factors can lead to functioning more in harmony with those around you.

Attention is a scarce resource in the age of the Internet and constant screen exposure. It’s hard for our brains to have the chance to sit back and have restorative time when there are so many tools, entertainment and advertising devices clamoring for our focus. Taking kids to the park helps parents feel like they can relax a little, they are “on-duty” in a different way. And the ritual itself of going outside with family can have benefits for family functioning.

The question of how to increase our attention spans is a big one, with implications far outside that of this study. It turns out that the human attention span these days has actually decreased to be shorter than that of a goldfish. Back in 2000 (before smartphones became a big thing), the average human attention span was 12 seconds. Now, it is only eight seconds, while the attention span of a goldfish is about nine seconds.

Activities such as “dual screening,” using a smartphone while watching TV is an example, are suspected of contributing to this mass attention deficit. But even for those who aren’t switching back and forth between devices, heavy usage of a smartphone can lead to episodes called “cognitive failures.” Cognitive failures can include forgetting appointments, frequent forgetfulness about what they were planning to do next, and having a hard time concentrating on a conversation.

Getting out for a walk might be even more beneficial for you if you walk in an area with some amount of trees. Even when viewing a street at just two percent tree density, participants in a study noted feeling more relaxed than they did when viewing a street without any trees. Seeing more trees led to further participants reporting stress reduction."
outdoors  trees  health  psychology  technology  2016  families  parenting  screentime  walking  attention  sfsh  social 
june 2016 by robertogreco
dy/dan » Blog Archive » Your GPS Is Making You Dumber, and What That Means for Teaching
"Ann Shannon asks teachers to avoid “GPS-ing” their students:
When I talk about GPSing students in a mathematics class I am describing our tendency to tell students—step-by-step—how to arrive at the answer to a mathematics problem, just as a GPS device in a car tells us – step-by-step – how to arrive at some destination.

Shannon writes that when she used her GPS, “I usually arrived at my destination having learned little about my journey and with no overview of my entire route.”

True to the contested nature of education, we will now turn to someone who advocates exactly the opposite. Greg Ashman recommends novices learn new ideas and skills through explicit instruction, one facet of which is step-by-step worked examples. Ashman took up the GPS metaphor recently. He used his satellite navigation system in new environs and found himself able to re-create his route later without difficulty.

What can we do here? Shannon argues from intuition. Ashman’s study lacks a certain rigor. Luckily, researchers have actually studied what people learn and don’t learn when they use their GPS!

In a 2006 study, researchers compared two kinds of navigation. One set of participants used traditional, step-by-step GPS navigation to travel between two points in a zoo. Another group had to construct their route between those points using a map and then travel segments of that route from memory.

Afterwards, the researchers assessed the route knowledge and survey knowledge of their participants. Route knowledge helps people navigate between landmarks directly. Survey knowledge helps people understand spatial relationships between those landmarks and plan new routes. At the end of the study, the researchers found that map users had better survey knowledge than GPS users, which you might have expected, but map users outperformed the GPS users on measures of route knowledge as well.

So your GPS does an excellent job transporting you efficiently from one point to another, but a poor job helping you acquire the survey knowledge to understand the terrain and adapt to changes.

Similarly, our step-by-step instructions do an excellent job transporting students efficiently from a question to its answer, but a poor job helping them acquire the domain knowledge to understand the deep structure in a problem set and adapt old methods to new questions.

I’ll take that trade with my GPS, especially on a dull route that I travel infrequently, but that isn’t a good trade in the classroom.

The researchers explain their results from the perspective of active learning, arguing that travelers need to do something effortful and difficult while they learn in order to remember both route and survey knowledge. Designing learning for the right kind of effort and difficulty is one of the most interesting tasks in curriculum design. Too much effort and difficulty and you’ll see our travelers try to navigate a route without a GPS or a map. While blindfolded. But the GPS offers too little difficulty, with negative consequences for drivers and even worse ones for students."
education  teaching  gps  belesshelpful  instruction  math  mathematics  2016  annshannon  learning  howwelearn  navigation  attention  knowledge  curriculum  domainknowledge  problemsolving 
june 2016 by robertogreco
On the Wildness of Children — Carol Black
"When we first take children from the world and put them in an institution, they cry. It used to be on the first day of kindergarten, but now it’s at an ever earlier age, sometimes when they are only a few weeks old. "Don’t worry," the nice teacher says sweetly, "As soon as you’re gone she’ll be fine. It won’t take more than a few days. She’ll adjust." And she does. She adjusts to an indoor world of cinderblock and plastic, of fluorescent light and half-closed blinds (never mind that studies show that children don’t grow as well in fluorescent light as they do in sunlight; did we really need to be told that?) Some children grieve longer than others, gazing through the slats of the blinds at the bright world outside; some resist longer than others, tuning out the nice teacher, thwarting her when they can, refusing to sit still when she tells them to (this resistance, we are told, is a “disorder.”) But gradually, over the many years of confinement, they adjust. The cinderblock world becomes their world. They don’t know the names of the trees outside the classroom window. They don’t know the names of the birds in the trees. They don’t know if the moon is waxing or waning, if that berry is edible or poisonous, if that song is for mating or warning.

It is in this context that today’s utopian crusader proposes to teach “eco-literacy.”

A free child outdoors will learn the flat stones the crayfish hide under, the still shady pools where the big trout rest, the rocky slopes where the wild berries grow. They will learn the patterns in the waves, which tree branches will bear their weight, which twigs will catch fire, which plants have thorns. A child in school must learn what a “biome” is, and how to use logarithms to calculate biodiversity. Most of them don’t learn it, of course; most of them have no interest in learning it, and most of those who do forget it the day after the test. Our “standards” proclaim that children will understand the intricate workings of ecosystems, the principles of evolution and adaptation, but one in four will leave school not knowing the earth revolves around the sun.

A child who knows where to find wild berries will never forget this information. An “uneducated” person in the highlands of Papua New Guinea can recognize seventy species of birds by their songs. An “illiterate” shaman in the Amazon can identify hundreds of medicinal plants. An Aboriginal person from Australia carries in his memory a map of the land encoded in song that extends for a thousand miles. Our minds are evolved to contain vast amounts of information about the world that gave us birth, and to pass this information on easily from one generation to the next.

But to know the world, you have to live in the world.

My daughters, who did not go to school, would sometimes watch as groups of schoolchildren received their prescribed dose of “environmental education.” On a sunny day along a rocky coastline, a mass of fourteen-year-olds carrying clipboards wander aimlessly among the tide pools, trying not to get their shoes wet, looking at their worksheets more than at the life teeming in the clear salty water. At a trailhead in a coastal mountain range, a busload of nine-year-olds erupts carrying (and dropping) pink slips of paper describing a “treasure hunt” in which they will be asked to distinguish “items found in nature” from “items not found in nature.” (We discover several plastic objects hidden by their teachers along the trail near the parking lot; they don’t have time, of course, to walk the whole two miles to the waterfall.) By a willow wetland brimming with life, a middle-school “biodiversity” class is herded outdoors, given ten minutes to watch birds, and then told to come up with a scientific hypothesis and an experimental protocol for testing it. One of the boys proposes an experiment that involves nailing shut the beaks of wild ducks.

There is some dawning awareness these days of the insanity of raising children almost entirely indoors, but as usual our society’s response to its own insanity is to create artificial programs designed to solve our artificial problems in the most artificial way possible. We charter nonprofit organizations, sponsor conferences, design curricula and after-school programs and graphically appealing interactive websites, all of which create the truly nightmarish impression that to get your kid outside you would first need to file for 501(c)3 status, apply for a federal grant, and hire an executive director and program coordinator. We try to address what's lacking in our compulsory curriculum by making new lists of compulsions.

But the truth is we don’t know how to teach our children about nature because we ourselves were raised in the cinderblock world. We are, in the parlance of wildlife rehabilitators, unreleasable. I used to do wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, and the one thing we all knew was that a young animal kept too long in a cage would not be able to survive in the wild. Often, when you open the door to the cage, it will be afraid to go out; if it does go out, it won’t know what to do. The world has become unfamiliar, an alien place. This is what we have done to our children.

This is what was done to us."



"If you thwart a child’s will too much when he is young, says Aodla Freeman, he will become uncooperative and rebellious later (sound familiar?) You find this view all over the world, in many parts of the Americas, in parts of Africa, India, Asia, Papua New Guinea. It was, of course, a great source of frustration to early missionaries in the Americas, who were stymied in their efforts to educate Indigenous children by parents who would not allow them to be beaten: “The Savages,” Jesuit missionary Paul le Jeune complained in 1633, “cannot chastise a child, nor see one chastised. How much trouble this will give us in carrying out our plans of teaching the young!”

But as Odawa elder and educator Wilfred Peltier tells us, learning -– like all human relationships –– must be based in the ethical principal of non-interference, in the right of all human beings to make their own choices, as long as they’re not interfering with anybody else. As Nishnaabeg scholar and author Leanne Betasamosake Simpson tells us, learning –– like all human relationships –– must be based in the ethical principal of consent, in the right of all human beings to be free of violence and the use of force. Simpson explains:
If children learn to normalize dominance and non-consent within the context of education, then non-consent becomes a normalized part of the ‘tool kit’ of those who have and wield power… This is unthinkable within Nishnaabeg intelligence.


Interestingly, the most brilliant artists and scientists in Euro-western societies tell us exactly the same thing: that it is precisely this state of open attention, curiosity, freedom, collaboration, consent, that is necessary for all true learning, discovery, creation."



"We no longer frame people as either “civilized”or “savage,” but as “educated” or “uneducated,” “developed” or “developing” (our modern terms for the same thing). But we retain the paternalistic attitudes of our forebears, toward our children and toward the “childlike” adults we find all over the world — a paternalism in which the veneer of benevolence is underpinned by the constant threat of violent force.

Control is always so seductive, at least to the "developed" ("civilized") mind. It seems so satisfying, so efficient, so effective, so potent. In the short run, in some ways, it is. But it creates a thousand kinds of blowback, from depressed rebellious children to storms surging over our coastlines to guns and bombs exploding in cities around the world."
education  unschooling  children  childhood  carolblack  attention  culture  society  learning  wildness  wild  wilderness  thoreau  ellwoodcubberley  williamtorreyharris  schooling  schools  johntaylorgatto  outdoors  natureanxiety  depression  psychology  wellness  adhd  mindfulness  suzannegaskins  openattention  miniaodlafreeman  paulejeune  wilfredpeltier  leannebetasamosakesimpson  consent  animals  zoos  nature  johannhari  brucealexander  mammals  indigenous  johnholt  petergray  work  play  howwelearn  tobyrollo  chastisement  civilization  control  kosmos  colonization  colonialism 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Read This Story Without Distraction (Can You?) - The New York Times
"Maybe this doesn’t feel like a big deal. Doing one thing at a time isn’t a new idea.

Indeed, multitasking, that bulwark of anemic résumés everywhere, has come under fire in recent years. A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that interruptions as brief as two to three seconds — which is to say, less than the amount of time it would take you to toggle from this article to your email and back again — were enough to double the number of errors participants made in an assigned task.

Earlier research out of Stanford revealed that self-identified “high media multitaskers” are actually more easily distracted than those who limit their time toggling.

So, in layman’s terms, by doing more you’re getting less done.

But monotasking, also referred to as single-tasking or unitasking, isn’t just about getting things done.

Not the same as mindfulness, which focuses on emotional awareness, monotasking is a 21st-century term for what your high school English teacher probably just called “paying attention.”"



"This is great news for the self-identified monotaskers out there.

Jon Pack, a 42-year-old photographer in Brooklyn, was happy to hear that his single-minded manner might be undergoing a rebrand. “When I was looking for jobs and interviewing, they’d always want me to say, ‘I’m a great multitasker,’ ” he said. “And I wouldn’t. My inability to multitask was seen as a negative. Now I can just say, ‘I am a monotasker. I am someone who works best when I focus on one thing at a time.’ ”

And the way we work can have effects that kick in long after we clock out.

As much as people would like to believe otherwise, humans have finite neural resources that are depleted every time we switch between tasks, which, especially for those who work online, Ms. Zomorodi said, can happen upward of 400 times a day, according to a 2016 University of California, Irvine study. “That’s why you feel tired at the end of the day,” she said. “You’ve used them all up.”

The term “brain dead” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.

A good sign you’ve task-switched yourself into a stupor: mindlessly scrolling Facebook at the end of the night or, as in Ms. Zomorodi’s case, looking at couches on Pinterest. “I just stuff my brain full of them because I can’t manage to do anything else,” she said. “The sad thing is that I don’t get any closer to deciding which one I like.”

But monotasking can also make work itself more enjoyable.

“I can multitask — and do, of course; it’s kind of essential — but I prefer to do one thing at a time,” Hayley Phelan, a 28-year-old writer, wrote in an email. “If I keep looking at my phone or my inbox or various websites, working feels a lot more tortuous. When I’m focused and making progress, work is actually pleasurable.”

Ms. Phelan isn’t imagining things. “Almost any experience is improved by paying full attention to it,” Ms. McGonigal said. “Attention is one way your brain decides, ‘Is this interesting? Is this worthwhile? Is this fun?’ ”

It’s the reason television shows we tweet through feel tiresome and books we pick up and put down and pick up again never seem to end. The more we allow ourselves to be distracted from a particular activity, the more we feel the need to be distracted. Paying attention pays dividends.

This is why, according to Ms. McGonigal, the ability to monotask might be most valuable in social situations. “Research shows that just having a phone on the table is sufficiently distracting to reduce empathy and rapport between two people who are in conversation,” she said.

Twenty-five thousand people participated in Ms. Zomorodi’s Infomagical project, which started the week with a single-tasking challenge. Upon completion, respondents agreed overwhelmingly that single-tasking was the No. 1 thing they wanted to carry into their post-Infomagical lives. “But they also said it was really, really hard,” Ms. Zomorodi said.

Parents of young children found it difficult for obvious reasons, as did people with jobs that permit them less control over their time. In those cases, try monotasking in areas where you can: conversations with your children, reading a book in bed before they go to sleep, dinner or drinks with friends. After all, monotasking is a good skill to incorporate into all aspects of your life, not just work.

Even those with more flexibility can find themselves going to great lengths for a little bit of focus. Nick Pandolfi, who works in partnerships at Google, once traveled to northern Sweden in what he described as an “extreme” effort to monotask.

“I had to write my business school application essays, and I was having no luck spending an hour here and there after work and on the weekends,” Mr. Pandolfi said. “I just wasn’t inspired. After spending a few days hiking in the Arctic by myself, I was able to get all of them done in just a few days.”"



"Monotasking can also be as simple as having a conversation.

“Practice how you listen to people,” Ms. McGonigal said. “Put down anything that’s in your hands and turn all of your attentional channels to the person who is talking. You should be looking at them, listening to them, and your body should be turned to them. If you want to see a benefit from monotasking, if you want to have any kind of social rapport or influence on someone, that’s the place to start. That’s where you’ll see the biggest payoff.”"
multitasking  attention  monotasking  singletasking  2016  psychology  cognition  cognitiveload  conversation  janemcgonigal  listening  presence  cv 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Suey Park and the Afterlife of Twitter | Yasmin Nair
"For better or for worse, depending on whom you talk to, Twitter has become an integral part of how social discourse is conducted today. To date, analyses of Twitter have fallen on a familiar axis: It is, for some, fraught with revolutionary potential and allows previously marginalised communities to have a voice. This perception greatly enabled the first part of Park’s career as a spokesperson for Asian American identity. Her initial campaigns were all built on the premise that Twitter would allow Asian Americans, particularly young Asian American feminists, to amplify their voices online in ways that were not possible in real time given the many institutional barriers they face in real life.

For others, Twitter is a toxic wasteland, filled with the jarring cacophony of voices launching screeds and defamatory tweets at each other, becoming incapable of sustaining real-life relationships in the pursuit of internet fame and, possibly, profits. This French video darkly illustrates this perspective.

Both views, broadly described here, sustain a common liberal perception that Twitter inhabits a public sphere that can be made better with a multiplicity of voices debating key issues of the day. We have convinced ourselves that the main issue is whether or not its users deploy Twitter in fit ways. The question is always of modulation and tone: Can we be better, do better in how we express our views?

But Twitter is more complex than simply a medium on which multiple voices express themselves with greater or lesser degrees of toxicity. To take Twitter seriously, we have to see it as as a staging for neoliberalism’s injunction that everyone should now make and remake themselves in order to survive.

Neoliberalism insists that we are all responsible for ourselves, and its prime characteristic is the privatisation of resources — like education, healthcare, and water — once considered essential rights for everyone (for at least a relatively brief period in human history so far). Within this severely privatised realm, choice emerges as a mantra for all individuals: we can all now have infinite choices, whether between brands of orange juice or schools or banks. This reverence for choice extends to how we are continually pushed to think of ourselves as not just rewarded with choices in material goods and services but with choices in how we constitute our individual selves in order to survive. The contemporary emphasis on “monetising” and “branding” oneself emerges from this neoliberal sphere, where people are required to craft themselves into investment commodities. Twitter and other forms of social media play a role in this construction of the self as a money-making enterprise, with millions hoping to become profitable brands.

In all this, neoliberalism engages in a classic bait and switch: the choice is not a choice but a demand. You have no choice but to choose. In education, for instance, neoliberalism first decimates public schools, then installs charter schools as the only alternatives, then convinces parents in those decimated neighbourhoods that choosing charters is a right. You have no choice but to choose, and the choices are always tilted in favour of the entity that most profits from your “choice.”

Arun Gupta’s critique of Park points to one aspect of this commodification of the self:

Suey Park is the Bitcoin of activism. Her hashtag movements are a digital phenomenon. Her value is determined by how much others buy into her. The lack of institutional backing allows her to disrupt the status quo. And just like digital currencies, hashtag activism is vulnerable to shadowy intrigues and corrupting influences.

Gupta’s essay is the fullest account of the #CancelColbert matter, and he spends considerable time tracing these intrigues and influences in terms of Park’s many dubious political alliances, including her most notorious one with Michelle Malkin. Park was so terrified of losing her brand recognition that she teamed up with and implicitly endorsed Malkin’s xenophobic politics, even as she launched a purportedly anti-racist campaign against Colbert. Suey Park’s career and her “monetising” of herself, even at the cost of her own espoused political agenda, marks what philosophers and theorists have called the neoliberal entrepreneurial self.

Following the work of Michel Foucault, Andrew Dilts and Philip Mirowski have theorised the neoliberal entrepreneurial self. As Dilts puts it, this is an “entrepreneur of himself, being for himself his own capital, being for himself his own producer, being for himself the source of [his] earnings.”

The neoliberal entrepreneurial self operates as if in isolation, but its existence marks the decimation of several collective entities, including neighbourhoods and the economies of entire cities. Consider, for instance, the rise of Airbnb along with ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, and the promises they have offered — and broken — of letting individuals make money at their own pace, unregulated (read: unprotected) by bureaucratic rules (read: unions). The growth of these economies is tied to the growing gentrification of cities. In the case of Airbnb, for instance, concentrated cities like San Francisco are being taken over by apartment complexes solely devoted to a constantly moving clientele with no ties to the city itself. The prospect of earning extra income prompts people to now rent otherwise unaffordable apartments knowing they can Airbnb extra rooms. As Doug Henwood points out, “Such practices take units off the rental market and grease the wheels of gentrification by making rapidly rising rents “affordable.” Twitter — owned by people who have made billions and constituted entirely by milllions (including me) tweeting for free — survives with many of us hoping that this “free” portal will lead to profitable, monetised selves.

A better Twitter theory enables us to understand that it is not simply the expression of multiple unmediated selves seeking and gaining free expression to either a revolutionary or destructive end but part of a literal and virtual landscape on which several identities — including white ones — are in contestation for chunks of the monetisation pie. In that sense, Twitter is not merely a symptom of a public sphere but a platform that is bound up with the primary dictate of neoliberalism: Make yourself or die.

Both Arthur Chu and Suey Park are prime examples of this neoliberal entrepreneurial self. Chu came to his fame as the first Asian American and first person to win over $350,000 on the quiz show Jeopardy. Shortly following his win and his Twitter fame (he and his wife battled many hostile game show fans who criticised his strategies), he openly asked how to best monetise his new-found status. Parts of his reward for becoming internet famous were regular columns on Salon and The Daily Beast. For his first piece in the latter, he wrote a critique of Park, titled, “An Ode to Angry Asians: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Suey Park.” Park furiously tweeted at him, in capital letters, “DO YOU OR ANY OF YOUR ASIAN DUDEBRO SELLOUTS KNOW WHAT THE FUCK #CANCELCOLBERT COST ME?” She also accused him of being a “tool of white supremacy.”

Park’s anger reflected her fury at the possibility of losing cachet on social media, where there are literally fortunes to be made. Ronan Farrow, son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, without any evidence of talent or experience was signed up for a $650,000 a year gig on MSNBC solely on the basis of his one tweet about his parentage: “Listen, we're all *possibly* Frank Sinatra's children.” The tweet was in response to a media furore caused by his mother publicly suggesting that Frank Sinatra, not Allen, was her son’s biological father. Despite his show business lineage on both — or, as we were led to believe, all three sides of his family tree — Farrow proved to be disastrous on television. But his initial financial success keeps hope alive for millions of others.

Park has repeatedly said, even as recently as March 2016, that she lost her income due to Twitter kerfuffles or because of supposedly having to go underground. While the veracity of that claim to loss of income can be disputed — there are many indications that Park is in fact the beneficiary of significant family wealth — the fact is that it is acceptable by now to consider that one has a career constructed entirely out of Tweets. In one of her Instagram photos, Park was challenged by a reader about her inherited wealth, and her response was that she had made every cent. In short, it is entirely possible, if we are to believe Park, to live in a House Made of Tweets.

The point here is is not to be critical of people like Suey Park and Arthur Chu for making money off Twitter but to consider their money-making as part of a neoliberal framework that fetishises their entrepreneurship, and to consider Twitter as part of that neoliberal framework.

Twitter is mistaken as a form of political action, and the fact that tweeting has the appearance of unmediated immediacy gives it the legitimacy of authenticity, a hallmark of the neoliberal entrepreneurial self. In Park’s case, her authenticity hinged on her being not just Asian American but oppressed on multiple counts. She has often spoken of growing up as an Asian American in the wealthy Chicago suburb of Lake Zurich, of being chased by children who would push their eyes upwards, imitating the folds in hers. In her life as Queen of Asian American Twitter, she has frequently evoked and relied upon her identity as an oppressed Asian American who was and is the subject of racism. The point is not that racism could not have or does not exist for her, but that Park appears to consistently use stories of that racism to advance her own career — not necessarily to work towards ending that racism.

The construction of the entrepreneurial self necessarily involves, particularly for … [more]
yasminnair  sueypark  race  internet  twitter  neoliberalism  sujaykumar  arthurchu  arungupta  socialmedia  presentationofself  entrepreneurship  entrepreneurialself  self-branding  hashtivism  activism  attention  media  2016  freddiedeboer 
april 2016 by robertogreco
ADHD Diagnoses? Why the Youngest Kids in Class Are Most Affected | MindShift | KQED News
"By the time they’re in elementary school, some kids prove to be more troublesome than others. They can’t sit still or they’re not socializing or they can’t focus enough to complete tasks that the other kids are handling well. Sounds like ADHD. But it might be that they’re just a little young for their grade.

Studies done in several countries including Iceland, Canada, Israel, Sweden and Taiwan show children who are at the young end of their grade cohort are more likely to get an ADHD diagnosis than their older classmates.

The youngest students were between 20 percent and 100 percent more likely to get the diagnosis or ADHD medication than were the oldest students in the cohort, says Helga Zoëga, an epidemiologist at the University of Iceland who worked on the Icelandic and Israeli studies.

The most recent evidence comes from Taiwan, where an analysis showed the youngest students in a grade were roughly 75 percent more likely to get a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than the oldest ones. It was published Thursday in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Kids are generally 6 years old when they start first grade. A scant few months can span a lot of mental growth at this age.

“Within that age range there is a huge difference in developmental and social and emotional maturity,” says Dr. Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital who was not involved in any of the studies. “A 6-year-old is just not the same as a 7-year-old.”

And yet a first-grader might stand shoulder to shoulder with another student nearly 12 months her elder. “And the way we diagnose ADHD is we talk to the parent about the child’s behavior, and we mail the teacher questionnaires,” Spinks-Franklin says. “The teacher will be comparing the child’s behavior relative to other children in the class.”

That could lead to a mistaken diagnosis of ADHD. Zoëga says the younger the student, the greater the likelihood that student will receive an ADHD diagnosis or medication. “If you look at the [students’ age] just month by month, you’ll see that the likelihood increases with each month,” she says.

Zoëga says the only country studied so far where the relative age of young children doesn’t seem to have an effect on ADHD diagnosis is Denmark, where there’s more flexibility for when children enter school. So this could be because Danish parents with kids who are born just before the cutoff date for grade school entry choose to hold their offspring back one year.

But if you’re an American parent with children born in the months of December, November or October, that doesn’t mean a child should repeat a grade for the fear their relative youth will handicap them, Spinks-Franklin says. “There is absolutely no data to support grade repetition for maturity issues. Children who repeat a grade are at a higher risk of dropping out of high school. They are more likely to be bullied.” If the child does have ADHD or another disorder, she notes, repeating a grade will not fix the disorder.

And relatively younger children diagnosed with ADHD might really have ADHD, says Dr. Mu-Hong Chen, a psychiatrist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital. “There’s a potential for the harm of overdiagnosis and overprescription.” That would unnecessarily subject kids to unwanted side effects of stimulant medication and the stigma of the disorder. But perhaps older, more mature-looking students are just being underdiagnosed and not get help they might need, he says. The studies didn’t look into that.

The best thing for worried parents to do is just give the kids a chance to grow up, Chen says. In most of the studies done on relative age and ADHD, the difference in diagnosis rates vanished by the time the students reached their teenage years. “I think we have to wait for a while, he says. “We have to have more time to evaluate their behavior, attention and brain development.”

The data also mean that doctors should take the child’s relative age into account when diagnosing ADHD, Zoëga says. “It has a sensible solution. Just treat the individual according to his or her age."
adhd  age  children  diagnosis  2016  taiwan  canada  us  israel  iceland  sweden  denmark  adiahaspinks-franklin  attention  labels 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Delaying kindergarten until age 7 offers key benefits to kids — study - The Washington Post
"A new study finds strong evidence that delaying kindergarten by a year provides mental health benefits to children, allowing them to better self-regulate their attention and hyperactivity levels when they do start school.

The study, titled “The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health” and published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that these benefits — which are obviously important to student achievement — persist at least until age 11. Stanford Graduate School of Education Prof. Thomas Dee, who co-authored the study with Hans Henrik Sievertsen of the Danish National Center for Social Research, was quoted in a Stanford release as saying:
“We found that delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73 percent for an average child at age 11 and it virtually eliminated the probability that an average child at that age would have an ‘abnormal,’ or higher-than-normal rating for the inattentive-hyperactive behavioral measure.”

The researchers used data on tens of thousands of students from a mental-health screening survey used to evaluate children across Denmark (and in clinical and academic settings in other countries) and compared it Denmark’s census, according to the Stanford release. Youngsters who were deemed to have better self-control over attention and activity had higher assessment scores.

In Denmark, children generally enroll in kindergarten during the calendar year in which they turn 6. In the United States, too, kindergartners are typically 5 or 6 years. The researchers wrote in the study that they found “that a one-year delay in the start of school dramatically reduces inattention/hyperactivity at age 7 …. a measure of self regulation with strong negative links to student achievement.” They also found this this “large and targeted effect persists at age 11″ and affects both boys and girls.

There is a loud debate in the United States and other developed countries about the proper age to start formal schooling — with ever-younger students being put into school with formal academic work. Many early childhood experts have expressed concern about forcing very young children to sit and do academic work, arguing that kids learn best through structured play. Dee noted:
“It’s not just a question of when do you start kindergarten, but what do you do in those kindergarten classes? If you make kindergarten the new first grade, then parents may sensibly decide to delay entry. If kindergarten is not the new first grade, then parents may not delay children’s entries as much.”

Indeed, a study released early this year found that the requirement in the Common Core State Standards that kindergartners read could harm the reading development of some kids. It says:
When children have educational experiences that are not geared to their developmental level or in tune with their learning needs and cultures, it can cause them great harm, including feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and confusion.

In Finland and some other developed countries, formal academic education doesn’t start until the age of 7, when children are deemed to be mentally and physically ready for the challenge (though students in Finland have had access to high-quality preschool, which would affect their performance in kindergarten).

Many U.S. parents hold their children back a year — especially boys — so that they start kindergarten at age 6 rather than 5 to give them a chance to mature. The paper says that about 20 percent of kindergarten students are now 6 years old:
This “lengthening of childhood” reflects in part changes in state laws that moved forward the cutoff birth date at which 5 year olds were eligible for entering kindergarten (Deming and Dynarski, 2008). However, most of the increase in school starting ages is due to academic “redshirting”; an increasingly common decision by parents to seek developmental advantages for their children by delaying their school entry (i.e., the “gift of time”).

There have been early studies looking at the same or similar issue, and the results have been mixed. But Dee was quoted as saying:

“This is some of the most convincing evidence we’ve seen to support what parents and policymakers have already been doing – choosing to delay kindergarten entry.”

You can read the paper here [https://cepa.stanford.edu/content/gift-time-school-starting-age-and-mental-health ]."
kindergarten  education  children  redshirting  2015  unschooling  deschooling  finland  schools  hyperactivity  inattention  attention  selfregulation  denmark  mentalhealth  thomasdee  hanshenriksievertsen  behavior 
march 2016 by robertogreco
The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens | New Republic
"In the dark ages—the 1980s, ’90s, or even the early 2000s—kids had to wait for nerd camp to be among their own kind. Wong told me if he’s up at 4 a.m. after a bad day, he can go online and talk to his Australian friends; Tumblr users know their audience is active in multiple time zones. Powerful users send a joke ricocheting around the globe.

“Tumblr culture has developed over the past five years as the smart weird kid in school connected with all the other smart weird kids from all the other schools all over the world,” said Strle. This brand of Tumblr humor often focuses on what I think of as micro-humiliations, tiny moments of social awkwardness that can feel absolutely crushing for a teenager figuring out how to be a person in the world. Anonymous kids with witty user names like Larsvontired or Baracknobama post incisive one-liners confessing their most vulnerable moments of social mortification. Sometimes those one-liners spread across continents, tweaked by thousands of other teens who add their own jokes as they reblog the original. The very best tweaks spread further, reblogged again and again, reappearing periodically in the feed, disconnected from time. Some posts get more than a million notes—imagine a joke whispered in biology class getting a laugh from a city the size of San Francisco.

“Increasingly, the lingua franca is absurdist dada,” explained Strle, usually rendered in the uncapitalized and unpunctuated casualness of instant messages.

A decade of trend pieces has deemed millennials to be narcissists, but Tumblr humor for this generation is self-deprecating and anti-aspirational: “how do fourteen year olds get pregnant, I can’t even get a high five from a guy,” “how many eye contact until date,” “i just said hi to someone and they didn’t hear me i’m never trying that again.” There is more self-loathing than self-love (“*looks in a mirror* you again”) as well as pleas for clemency from social prison (“you like attention? how dare you. how dare anyone like being loved”). Being a social outcast can make you a better social observer of the gap between our real selves and our public image:
two types of chats

group chat: lol look at this meme you pieces of shit

private chat: i don’t know anymore. im hoping that someday i’ll just know what to do. sorry for complaining and thanks for always listening to me

When this post appeared in my feed, I sent it to several friends who use a group chat at work: “How do they know?” A friend in media with a Twitter following in the tens of thousands responded: “That teen observation is PENETRATING.” We spent several minutes analyzing the joke. “People think other people are impressed by voicey cynicism in the public square,” he added. “But in private we’re all really nice and anxious”—the essential divide between Twitter users and Tumblr users."




"Two months after the termination of the Tumblr teens, Fast Company ran a puff piece on Dennis Hegstad and his empire. “He’s not just tweeting for fun; he’s tweeting for big money—and he’s winning,” the magazine wrote. “In Hegstad’s model, clients are charged a fee for services that include affiliate marketing, lead generation, and content distribution. In other words, getting the goods in front of the right kind of eyeballs. Campaigns run as high as six figures.” By then, many of Exposely’s sources of revenue had disappeared. A remaining campaign peddled sunglasses whose lenses supposedly worked like an Instagram filter.

Lilley and Greenfield said Hegstad had promised them equity in Exposely, and Hegstad confirmed they’d discussed both equity and becoming partners, but the company’s future was uncertain. Exposely still exists, and Hegstad is listed as the founder on its web site, but the day I talked to him the site was down—its security certificate had expired. Hegstad agreed Exposely was the apparent reason several blogs were terminated and that users associated with the site were still at risk. “A lot of the Tumblr bloggers who were using Exposely a year ago that haven’t used it in almost a year have lost their blogs.” "
tumblr  culture  teens  youth  online  web  socialmedia  2016  elspethreeve  spam  internet  exposely  exposure  attention  advertising  adsense  so-relatable  money  yahoo  relatability 
february 2016 by robertogreco
We are all Umberto Eco now | Overland literary journal
"He felt, I think – or at least played at feeling – that he needed to justify being given such freedom in a medium that was perceived as being finite. For him to write on the last page of L’Espresso meant that somebody else could not. To devote that space to expound on idle musings was a self-indulgence that needed to be accounted for.

Now consider how similar this author-position is to online writing, and blogs in particular. I’m sure I’ve read dozens of debut blog posts setting out the author’s intentions to write about disparate topics, and that it might not last very long, but anyway, ‘we shall see’. It’s the same reader contract, which is another way of saying we’re all Umberto Eco now: everyone can start a column of idle musings, and publish it to a potentially wider audience than his – as large as everyone who speaks one’s language and has an internet connection. And sure, there is no money involved, but I can’t imagine money would have been too big a consideration for the author of The Name of the Rose. It was the opportunity to enter into that contract that would have appealed to him.

The other thing about blogs and personal pages or small, non-paying online magazines is that very few people might actually read them, but, on the other hand, you don’t have to feel you’re taking anyone’s space away. Which I think explains why – without my having researched the problem in any systematic way – online first posts are generally less apologetic than Eco’s first matchbook. There are, besides, entire social media platforms devoted to presenting and sharing one’s niche interests.

Eco’s column, as I’ve written in a book on his work published this year, was in many respects an early incarnation of the blog form, trading as it did in lists, word games, pastiche and curiosities. Yet, ironically, it lost its uniqueness and become a much more conventional print magazine column once the World Wide Web took off and actual blogs started to proliferate. In 2012, Eco wrote:
When I get tired once and for all of coming up every two weeks with topics that are somewhat current for this column, I would like to embark on a series of late reviews, in which I talked about books that were published a long time ago as if they were new and it were useful to reread them.

This is, in fact, a most common kind of exercise on the web, and the subject of many popular blogs. We review old books and old films as if new all the time, since not only space but also time has collapsed under the digital paradigm. But maybe Eco’s late misgivings suggest we should interrogate these practices.

This belief that online is ‘free’, that it doesn’t take anyone’s paid writing job away or stifle anyone’s voice – while unspoken and in most respects probably true – needs to be measured against the crisis of magazines and of formally edited selections of content more generally.

While the online edition of Overland is a magazine in a fairly traditional sense, The Huffington Post isn’t, just like Buzzfeed isn’t a newspaper. Looking at my own patterns of reading, I find that I consume individual posts and essays from a wide variety of sources, some of which I’m not even entirely conscious of, as I just happen to end there on somebody’s recommendation. On balance this has enriched my life immeasurably, exposing me to a far greater range of voices than was ever available to me before. These broader connections, in turn, greatly facilitate political articulation and organisation.

Yet the countervailing issues are not merely economic: my reading all of these disparate writings frays the contours of my social and cultural world, fracturing any sense of the topical and the local. Even as I engage on my own musings on obscure topics, reasoning that I am not limiting anyone’s time and space but in fact adding infinitesimally to the available store of knowledge, I must ask myself if this is entirely true, or if the shifts that occur under the surface entail the loss of something else, somewhere else.

I am not suggesting that people should write less, or justify why they write to anyone, let alone to me: but rather calling attention to material realities that are sometimes hidden by the sheen of the digital screen. Not just the mechanics of publishing but also the psychology of writing has changed. We should reflect not just on the economics of the profession, as we do often, but also on the economics of attention. It is, after all, always a valuable question to ask: why do I write?"
attention  blogging  writing  giovannitiso  readwriteweb  2015  twitter  socialmedia  buzzfeed  huffingtonpost  serendipity  web  online  howweread  howwewrite  reading  publishing  umbertoeco 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Do You Read Differently Online and in Print?
"The Internet may cause our minds to wander off, and yet a quick look at the history of books suggests that we have been wandering off all along. When we read, the eye does not progress steadily along the line of text; it alternates between saccades—little jumps—and brief stops, not unlike the movement of the mouse’s cursor across a screen of hypertext. From the invention of papyrus around 3000 B.C., until about 300 A.D., most written documents were scrolls, which had to be rolled up by one hand as they were unrolled by the other: a truly linear presentation. Since then, though, most reading has involved codices, bound books or pamphlets, a major advantage of which (at least compared to the scroll) is that you can jump around in them, from chapter to chapter (the table of contents had been around since roughly the first century B.C.); from text to marginal gloss, and, later, to footnote."



"Comprehension matters, but so does pleasure. In Proust and the Squid, Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University, observes that the brain’s limbic system, the seat of our emotions, comes into play as we learn to read fluently; our feelings of pleasure, disgust, horror and excitement guide our attention to the stories we can’t put down. Novelists have known this for a long time, and digital writers know it, too. It’s no coincidence that many of the best early digital narratives took the form of games, in which the reader traverses an imaginary world while solving puzzles, sometimes fiendishly difficult ones. Considered in terms of cognitive load, these texts are head-bangingly difficult; considered in terms of pleasure, they’re hard to beat.

A new generation of digital writers is building on video games, incorporating their interactive features—and cognitive sparks—into novelistic narratives that embrace the capabilities of our screens and tablets. Samantha Gorman and Danny Cannizzaro’s 2014 iPad novella, Pry, tells the story of a demolitions expert returned home from the first Gulf War, whose past and present collide, as his vision fails. The story is told in text, photographs, video clips, and audio. It uses an interface that allows you to follow the action and shift between levels of awareness. As you read text on the screen, describing characters and plot, you draw your fingers apart and see a photograph of the protagonist, his eyes opening on the world. Pinch your fingers shut and you visit his troubled unconscious; words and images race by, as if you are inside his memory. Pry is the opposite of a shallow work; its whole play is between the surface and the depths of the human mind. Reading it is exhilarating.

There’s no question when you read (or play) Pry that you’re doing something your brain isn’t quite wired for. The interface creates a feeling of simultaneity, and also of having to make choices in real time, that no book could reproduce. It asks you to use your fingers to do more than just turn the page. It communicates the experience of slipping in and out of a story, in and out of a dream, or nightmare. It uses the affordances of your phone or tablet to do what literature is always trying to do: give you new things to think about, to expand the world behind your eyes. It’s stressful, at first. How are you supposed to know if you’re reading it right? What if you miss something? But if you play (or read) it long enough, you can almost feel your brain begin to adapt.

Most of the Web is not like Pry—not yet, anyway. But the history of reading suggests that what we’re presently experiencing is probably not the end times of human thought. It’s more like an interregnum, or the crouch before a leap. Wolf points out that when it comes to reading, what we get out is largely what we put in. “The reading brain circuit reflects the affordances of what it reads,” she notes: affordances being the built-in opportunities for interaction. The more we skim, the more we’re likely to keep skimming; on the other hand, the more we plunge into a text, the more we’re likely to keep plunging. “We’re in a digital culture,” Wolf says. “It’s not a question of making peace. We have to be discerning, vigilant, developmentally savvy.” And of course we have to be surprised, delighted, puzzled, even disturbed. We have to enjoy ourselves. If we can do that, digital reading will expand the already vast interior space of our humanity."
howweread  readin  albertomanguel  technology  reading  digital  internet  paullafarge  maryannewolf  web  online  staugustine  ambrose  nicholascarr  socrates  brain  agostinoramelli  history  attention  digitalmedia  rolfengelsing  rakefetackerman  morrisgoldsmith  johannesnaumann  dianadestefano  jo-annelefevre  hypertext  michaelwenger  davidpayne  comprehension  engagement  enjoyment  talyarkoni  nicolespeer  jeffreyzacks  psychology  memory  linearity  footnotes  marginalia  bookfuturism  information  wandering  cognitiveload  games  gaming  videogames  samanthagorman  dannycannizzaro  ipad  pry  interiority  affordances  interface  linear  awareness  immersion  skimming  cv  humanity  interregnum  interactivity  interaction 
january 2016 by robertogreco
The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver - Poem 133 | Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003 (Poetry and Literature, Library of Congress)
"The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver"
poems  poetry  maryoliver  nature  life  living  prayer  productivity  change  attention 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Reading Right-to-Left | booktwo.org
"At a conference I attended recently, one of the speakers noted how the US army trains observers to “read” a landscape from right to left. The idea is that, as Anglophones accustomed to reading left to right, reversing the direction of attention brings more concentration to bear on the situation. Moving from right to left disrupts the soldier’s instinctual recognition patterns, and so they are more likely to spot things. This skill has apparently migrated from soldiers to photographers:
“One of the first tricks I learned many years ago had nothing to do with photography, but was drilled into me by an army sergeant. It only took a few smacks up the back of my head to learn how to look from right-to-left when scanning a landscape in an effort to see the hidden “enemy” in our mock battles. This process of reverse reading forced me to slow down and read each tree as if it were a syllable I was seeing for the first time. Even today, about thirty years after I called that sergeant every adjective not found in a decent dictionary, I still find myself scanning a landscape from right-to-left.”

The conference speaker contrasted this way of seeing, and the assumptions explicit within it, with the Japanese way of reading, which may be right-to-left, or vertical:

[image]

One might also, in the context of today’s military operations consider the right-to-leftness of Hebrew and Arabic script (and Farsi, and Urdu) – and from there consider the verticality and three-dimensionality of text and thought online, the way it branches and deepens, how it recedes through the screen, through hyperlinks, into an endless chain of connections and relationships.

This reversal and inversion of language patterns has many historical and thus military uses. In Reality is Plenty, Kevin Slavin relates a tale told to him by a photography professor, who was trained as a World War II radar operator.

When radar signals were received aboard an aircraft carrier, they were displayed on a radar oscilloscope. But in order for this information be used in the midst of battle, the positions needed to be transcribed to a large glass viewing pane, and as part of this process they needed to be inverted and reversed. To perform this operation quickly and accurately, the radar operators were trained and drilled extensively in “upside down and backwards town”, a classified location where everything from newspapers to street signs were printed upside down and backwards. This experience would not so much create a new ability for the radar operators, as break down their existing biases towards left-to-right text, allowing them to operate in multiple dimensions at once.

[image]

This process, in Kevin’s reading and in mine, is akin to much of our experience of new technology, when our existing frameworks of reference, both literary and otherwise, are broken down, and we must learn over once again how to operate in the world, how to transform and transliterate information, how to absorb it, think it, search for it and deploy it. We must relearn our relationship not only with information, but with knowledge itself.

And I was reminded of this once again when I found myself at the weekend defending, for the first time in a long time, but certainly not for the first time ever, the kind of thinking and knowledge production which is native to the internet. In this oft-rehearsed argument, whether it be about ebooks or social media or news cycles or or or, the central thrust is that x technology is somehow bad for us, for our thought, our attention, our cognitive processes etc., where x always tends towards “the internet”, as the ur-technology of our time.

And the truth is that I cannot abide this kind of talk. I know people don’t read books like they used to, and they don’t think like they used to, but I struggle to care. Most of this talk is pure nostalgia, a kind of mostly knee-jerk, mostly uncritical (although not thoughtless) response to entirely rational fears about technological opacity and complexity (this nostalgia, of course, was the basis for the New Aesthetic). But this understandable reaction also erases all the new and different modes of attention and thought which, while they are difficult to articulate because we are still developing and discovering the language to articulate them with, are nonetheless present and growing within us. And I simply do not see the damage that is ascribed to this perceived “loss” – I don’t see the generations coming up being any less engaged in culture and society, reading less, thinking less, acting less, even when they are by any measure poorer, less supported, forced to struggle harder for education and employment, and, to compound the injury, derided at every opportunity as feckless, distracted, and disengaged. I see the opposite.

I’m getting more radical in my view of the internet, this unconsciously-generated machine for unconscious generation. I’m feeling more sure of its cultural value and legacy, and more assertive about stating it. We built this thing, and like all directed culture of the past, it has an agency and a desire, and if you pay attention to it you can see which way it wants to go, and what it wants to fight. We made that, all of us, in time, but we don’t have full control of it. Rather, like the grain of wood, it’s something to be worked with and shaped, but also thought about and conceptualised, both matter and metaphor.

It’s possible, despite the faults of data and design, to be an unchurched follower of the internet: undogmatic, non-sectarian, wary of its faults, all too conscious of its occupation by the forces of capital and control, but retaining a deep faith in its message and meaning. A meaning which it is still up to us to explore and enact, to defend where possible and oppose when necessary. If there is progress, if things can be improved, then they must be improved by new inventions, by the things we have not tried before. No going backwards to the future."
culture  knowledge  internet  japanese  arabic  howweread  understanding  noticing  books  reading  meadia  online  socialmedia  newaesthetic  future  bookfuturism  control  change  data  design  technology  criticalthinking  kevinslavin  observation  seeing  howwesee  waysofseeing  perspective  rewiring  attention  knowledgeproduction  society  difference  cv  canon 
october 2015 by robertogreco
My Writing Education: A Time Line - The New Yorker
"One day I walk up to campus. I stand outside the door of Doug’s office, ogling his nameplate, thinking: “Man, he sometimes sits in there, the guy who wrote Leaving the Land.” At this point in my life, I’ve never actually set eyes on a person who has published a book. It is somehow mind-blowing, this notion that the people who write books also, you know, *live*: go to the store and walk around campus and sit in a particular office and so on. Doug shows up and invites me in. We chat awhile, as if we are peers, as if I am a real writer too. I suddenly feel like a real writer. I’m talking to a guy who’s been in People magazine. And he’s asking me about my process. Heck, I *must be* a real writer."



"For me, a light goes on: we are supposed to be—are required to be—interesting. We’re not only *allowed* to think about audience, we’d *better*. What we’re doing in writing is not all that different from what we’ve been doing all our lives, i.e., using our personalities as a way of coping with life. Writing is about charm, about finding and accessing and honing ones’ particular charms. To say that “a light goes on” is not quite right—it’s more like: a fixture gets installed. Only many years later (see below) will the light go on."



"Doug gets an unkind review. We are worried. Will one of us dopily bring it up in workshop? We don’t. Doug does. Right off the bat. He wants to talk about it, because he feels there might be something in it for us. The talk he gives us is beautiful, honest, courageous, totally generous. He shows us where the reviewer was wrong—but also where the reviewer might have gotten it right. Doug talks about the importance of being able to extract the useful bits from even a hurtful review: this is important, because it will make the next book better. He talks about the fact that it was hard for him to get up this morning after that review and write, but that he did it anyway. He’s in it for the long haul, we can see. He’s a fighter, and that’s what we must become too: we have to learn to honor our craft by refusing to be beaten, by remaining open, by treating every single thing that happens to us, good or bad, as one more lesson on the longer path.

We liked Doug before this. Now we love him.

Toby has the grad students over to watch A Night at the Opera. Mostly I watch Toby, with his family. He clearly adores them, takes visible pleasure in them, dotes on them. I have always thought great writers had to be dysfunctional and difficult, incapable of truly loving anything, too insane and unpredictable and tortured to cherish anyone, or honor them, or find them beloved.

Wow, I think, huh."



"I notice that Doug has an incredible natural enthusiasm for anything we happen to get right. Even a single good line is worthy of praise. When he comes across a beautiful story in a magazine, he shares it with us. If someone else experiences a success, he celebrates it. He can find, in even the most dismal student story, something to praise. Often, hearing him talk about a story you didn’t like, you start to like it too—you see, as he is seeing, the seed of something good within it. He accepts you and your work just as he finds it, and is willing to work with you wherever you are. This has the effect of emboldening you, and making you more courageous in your work, and less defeatist about it."



"End of our first semester. We flock to hear Toby read at the Syracuse Stage. He has a terrible flu. He reads not his own work but Chekhov’s “About Love” trilogy. The snow falls softly, visible behind us through a huge window. It’s a beautiful, deeply enjoyable, reading. Suddenly we get Chekhov: Chekhov is funny. It is possible to be funny and profound at the same time. The story is not some ossified, cerebral thing: it is entertainment, active entertainment, of the highest variety. All of those things I’ve been learning about in class, those bone-chilling abstractions theme, plot, and symbol are de-abstracted by hearing Toby read Chekhov aloud: they are simply tools with which to make your audience feel more deeply—methods of creating higher-order meaning. The stories and Toby’s reading of them convey a notion new to me, or one which, in the somber cathedral of academia, I’d forgotten: literature is a form of fondness-for-life. It is love for life taking verbal form."



"Toby is a generous reader and a Zen-like teacher. The virtues I feel being modeled—in his in-class comments and demeanor, in his notes, and during our after-workshop meetings—are subtle and profound. A story’s positive virtues are not different from the positive virtues of its writer. A story should be honest, direct, loving, restrained. It can, by being worked and reworked, come to have more power than its length should allow. A story can be a compressed bundle of energy, and, in fact, the more it is thoughtfully compressed, the more power it will have.

His brilliant story “The Other Miller” appears in The Atlantic. I read it, love it. I can’t believe I know the person who wrote it, and that he knows me. I walk over to the Hall of Languages and there he is, the guy who wrote that story. What’s he doing? Talking to a student? Photocopying a story for next day’s class? I don’t remember. But there he is: both writer and citizen. I don’t know why this makes such an impression on me–maybe because I somehow have the idea that a writer walks around in a trance, being rude, moved to misbehavior by the power of his own words. But here is the author of this great story, walking around, being nice. It makes me think of the Flaubert quote, “live like a bourgeoisie and think like a demigod.” At the time, I am not sure what a bourgeoisie is, exactly, or a demigod, but I understand this to mean: “live like a normal person, write like a maniac.” Toby manifests as an example of suppressed power, or, rather: *directed* power. No silliness necessary, no dramatics, all of his considerable personal power directed, at the appropriate time, to a worthy goal."



"What Doug does for me in this meeting is respect me, by declining to hyperbolize my crap thesis. I don’t remember what he said about it, but what he did not say was, you know: “Amazing, you did a great job, this is publishable, you rocked our world with this! Loved the elephant.” There’s this theory that self-esteem has to do with getting confirmation from the outside world that our perceptions are fundamentally accurate. What Doug does at this meeting is increase my self-esteem by confirming that my perception of the work I’d been doing is fundamentally accurate. The work I’ve been doing is bad. Or, worse: it’s blah. This is uplifting–liberating, even—to have my unspoken opinion of my work confirmed. I don’t have to pretend bad is good. This frees me to leave it behind and move on and try to do something better. The main thing I feel: respected. Doug conveys a sense that I am a good-enough writer and person to take this not-great news in stride and move on. One bad set of pages isn’t the end of the world."



"On a visit to Syracuse, I hear Toby saying goodbye to one of his sons. “Goodbye, dear,” he says.

I never forget this powerful man calling his son “dear.”

All kinds of windows fly open in my mind. It is powerful to call your son “dear,” it is powerful to feel that the world is dear, it is powerful to always strive to see everything as dear. Toby is a powerful man: in his physicality, in his experiences, in his charisma. But all that power has culminated in gentleness. It is as if that is the point of power: to allow one to access the higher registers of gentleness."



"I am teaching at Syracuse myself now. Toby, Arthur Flowers, and I are reading that year’s admissions materials. Toby reads every page of every story in every application, even the ones we are almost certainly rejecting, and never fails to find a nice moment, even when it occurs on the last page of the last story of a doomed application. “Remember that beautiful description of a sailboat on around page 29 of the third piece?” he’ll say. And Arthur and I will say: “Uh, yeah … that was … a really cool sailboat.” Toby has a kind of photographic memory re stories, and such a love for the form that goodness, no matter where it’s found or what it’s surrounded by, seems to excite his enthusiasm. Again, that same lesson: good teaching is grounded in generosity of spirit."



"One night I’m sitting on the darkened front porch of our new house. A couple walks by. They don’t see me sitting there in the shadows.

“Oh, Toby,” the woman says. “Such a wonderful man.”

Note to self, I think: Live in such a way that, when neighbors walk by your house months after you’re gone, they can’t help but blurt out something affectionate."



"I do a reading at the university where Doug now teaches. During the after-reading party, I notice one of the grad writers sort of hovering, looking like she wants to say something to me. Finally, as I’m leaving, she comes forward and says she wants to tell me about something that happened to her. What happened is horrible and violent and recent and it’s clear she’s still in shock from it. I don’t know how to respond. As the details mount, I find myself looking to Doug, sort of like: Can you get me out of this? What I see Doug doing gets inside my head and heart and has stayed there ever since, as a lesson and an admonition: what Doug is doing, is staring at his student with complete attention, affection, focus, love—whatever you want to call it. He is, with his attention, making a place for her to tell her story—giving her permission to tell it, blessing her telling of it. What do I do? I do what I have done so many times and so profitably during my writing apprenticeship: I do my best to emulate Doug. I turn to her and try to put aside my discomfort and do my best to listen as intently as Doug is listening. I … [more]
georgesaunders  2015  teaching  teachers  writing  kindness  listening  tobiaswolff  dougunger  audience  voice  criticism  love  attention  family  adoration  howweteach  confidence  howwelearn  pedagogy  praise  self-esteem  literature  chekhov  storytelling  stories  humility  power  understanding  critique  gentleness  affection  toaspireto  aspirations  generosity  focus  education  howelearn 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Tomtown ( 8 Oct., 2015, at Interconnected)
"The web is busy now. No bad thing. But much too busy to have a single place to gather my friends around photos, another around status updates, etc. I used to have one community online, and now I've got a hundred. And while I can shard them by app (business on LinkedIn, family on Facebook, my global village on Twitter), it's a lot of effort to maintain that. And it doesn't make any sense.

Until:

Tom Coates invited me to join a little community of his in Slack. There are a handful of people there, some old friends, some new friends, all in this group messaging thingy.

There's a space where articles written or edited by members automatically show up. I like that.

I caught myself thinking: It'd be nice to have Last.FM here too, and Dopplr. Nothing that requires much effort. Let's also pull in Instagram. Automatic stuff so I can see what people are doing, and people can see what I'm doing. Just for this group. Back to those original intentions. Ambient awareness, togetherness.

Nobody says very much. Sometimes there's a flurry of chat.

It's small, human-scale. Maybe it's time to bring all these ambient awareness tools back, shared inside Slack instances this time.

You know what, it's cosy. I've been missing this. A neighbourhood."
2015  mattwebb  ambientawareness  ambient  community  culture  presentationofself  twitter  flickr  slack  tomcoates  email  neighborhoods  scale  groups  groupsize  glancing  jaiku  dopplr  im  instantmessenger  last.fm  openplans  offices  attention  socialmedia  noise 
october 2015 by robertogreco
6, 67: Side pass
"Q: Where do you find the time to write a newsletter?

A: I think of things that I was going to do, but which I don’t want to do as much as I want to do a newsletter, and then I don’t do those other things, and do the newsletter instead.

Q: You said once that you were pretty optimistic about the world’s future, despite your deep fear of climate change. Why?

A: Well, short version, because of what I think of as the genre of whig graphs. I strongly disagree with the hypercapitalist, only-humans-matter, business-as-usual agenda of most people I see deploying those graphs. (← Between that sentence and the coming sentence is where a longer version would have to do a lot of careful bridge-building. →) But I have much more trust in the futures of vaccinated, nourished, educated, relatively non-traumatized children who are close to the world’s biggest problems than I do in my own analyses. The risk in this stance is quietism. In any case, I think we’re in big trouble. My optimism isn’t a kind of satisfaction, only a kind of hope.



Q: How do I learn to write better?

A: Not sure. But maybe try stuff like: Write about things you care about. When you read something that surprises you, think about why, and how it could have been different. Good writing teaches you how to read it. As a reader, pay attention. As a writer, reward attention. Accept that you can’t make any one piece of writing avoid every valid criticism, communicate the whole truth, or please everyone you’d like to please. Notice peers whose writing is like yours and watch them learn. Find things you appreciate in writing that you (or common wisdom) don’t like. Ask someone who knows better than me.

Q: As you might expect from the fact that I subscribe to your newsletter, I think we share some tastes and interests.

A: What do you read and pay attention to? Dunno. I follow a lot of amazing people on Twitter. When I come across something especially interesting, I assume it’s part of a network of interesting things and try to map that out. (For example, if I particularly enjoy a book, I’ll do web searches for the people thanked in the acknowledgments.) Looking for gaps, ruthlessness about things that are supposed to be interesting but aren’t, etc. I don’t know! Really there’s nothing in particular that I would point to other than the entire internet."
charlieloyd  2015  reading  writing  howweread  howwewrite  process  learning  howwelearn  generalists  twitter  education  unschooling  attention  interestedness  interested  classideas  communication  ideas  hypercapitalism  future  hope  optimism  climatechange  humanism  newsletters  futures  quietism 
september 2015 by robertogreco
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