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#ShunTheTake – Snakes and Ladders
"Last week I walked into one of my classes to discover fourteen students sitting in complete silence. Each one of them — I believe; there may have been a single exception — was reading or typing on a phone. I said, “Hey everybody!” No one looked up or spoke. I suppose I should be grateful that when I pulled out the day’s reading quiz they put their phones away.

If I wanted to produce a #HotTake, boy, did I have a prompt for one.

But: two hours earlier I had walked into another classroom to find the students already in animated conversation about the reading for the day. I sat and listened for several minutes, gradually realizing that I could ignore my plan for the class session because the students had, without my assistance, set the agenda for the discussion.

I’d advise all of you who read this post to remember those two moments the next time someone tries to tell you what an entire generation is like. Those two classes were occupied not only by people of the same generation, but by people who are studying in the same program (the Honors Program) in the same university. And yet, for complicated reasons, their behavior in my classes was very different.

Most things that happen happen for complicated reasons. Don’t stop looking and enquiring the moment you find an anecdote that confirms your priors.

alanjacobs  2019  generations  genz  generationz  smarthphones  attention  hottakes  bias  youth  complexity  inquiry 
19 days ago by robertogreco
Language Is Migrant - South Magazine Issue #8 [documenta 14 #3] - documenta 14
"Language is migrant. Words move from language to language, from culture to culture, from mouth to mouth. Our bodies are migrants; cells and bacteria are migrants too. Even galaxies migrate.

What is then this talk against migrants? It can only be talk against ourselves, against life itself.

Twenty years ago, I opened up the word “migrant,” seeing in it a dangerous mix of Latin and Germanic roots. I imagined “migrant” was probably composed of mei, Latin for “to change or move,” and gra, “heart” from the Germanic kerd. Thus, “migrant” became “changed heart,”
a heart in pain,
changing the heart of the earth.

The word “immigrant” says, “grant me life.”

“Grant” means “to allow, to have,” and is related to an ancient Proto-Indo-European root: dhe, the mother of “deed” and “law.” So too, sacerdos, performer of sacred rites.

What is the rite performed by millions of people displaced and seeking safe haven around the world? Letting us see our own indifference, our complicity in the ongoing wars?

Is their pain powerful enough to allow us to change our hearts? To see our part in it?

I “wounder,” said Margarita, my immigrant friend, mixing up wondering and wounding, a perfect embodiment of our true condition!

Vicente Huidobro said, “Open your mouth to receive the host of the wounded word.”

The wound is an eye. Can we look into its eyes?
my specialty is not feeling, just
looking, so I say:
(the word is a hard look.)
—Rosario Castellanos

I don’t see with my eyes: words
are my eyes.
—Octavio Paz

In l980, I was in exile in Bogotá, where I was working on my “Palabrarmas” project, a way of opening words to see what they have to say. My early life as a poet was guided by a line from Novalis: “Poetry is the original religion of mankind.” Living in the violent city of Bogotá, I wanted to see if anybody shared this view, so I set out with a camera and a team of volunteers to interview people in the street. I asked everybody I met, “What is Poetry to you?” and I got great answers from beggars, prostitutes, and policemen alike. But the best was, “Que prosiga,” “That it may go on”—how can I translate the subjunctive, the most beautiful tiempo verbal (time inside the verb) of the Spanish language? “Subjunctive” means “next to” but under the power of the unknown. It is a future potential subjected to unforeseen conditions, and that matches exactly the quantum definition of emergent properties.

If you google the subjunctive you will find it described as a “mood,” as if a verbal tense could feel: “The subjunctive mood is the verb form used to express a wish, a suggestion, a command, or a condition that is contrary to fact.” Or “the ‘present’ subjunctive is the bare form of a verb (that is, a verb with no ending).”

I loved that! A never-ending image of a naked verb! The man who passed by as a shadow in my film saying “Que prosiga” was on camera only for a second, yet he expressed in two words the utter precision of Indigenous oral culture.

People watching the film today can’t believe it was not scripted, because in thirty-six years we seem to have forgotten the art of complex conversation. In the film people in the street improvise responses on the spot, displaying an awareness of language that seems to be missing today. I wounder, how did it change? And my heart says it must be fear, the ocean of lies we live in, under a continuous stream of doublespeak by the violent powers that rule us. Living under dictatorship, the first thing that disappears is playful speech, the fun and freedom of saying what you really think. Complex public conversation goes extinct, and along with it, the many species we are causing to disappear as we speak.

The word “species” comes from the Latin speciēs, “a seeing.” Maybe we are losing species and languages, our joy, because we don’t wish to see what we are doing.

Not seeing the seeing in words, we numb our senses.

I hear a “low continuous humming sound” of “unmanned aerial vehicles,” the drones we send out into the world carrying our killing thoughts.

Drones are the ultimate expression of our disconnect with words, our ability to speak without feeling the effect or consequences of our words.

“Words are acts,” said Paz.

Our words are becoming drones, flying robots. Are we becoming desensitized by not feeling them as acts? I am thinking not just of the victims but also of the perpetrators, the drone operators. Tonje Hessen Schei, director of the film Drone, speaks of how children are being trained to kill by video games: “War is made to look fun, killing is made to look cool. ... I think this ‘militainment’ has a huge cost,” not just for the young soldiers who operate them but for society as a whole. Her trailer opens with these words by a former aide to Colin Powell in the Bush/Cheney administration:
—Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel U.S. Army (retired)

In Astro Noise, the exhibition by Laura Poitras at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the language of surveillance migrates into poetry and art. We lie in a collective bed watching the night sky crisscrossed by drones. The search for matching patterns, the algorithms used to liquidate humanity with drones, is turned around to reveal the workings of the system. And, we are being surveyed as we survey the show! A new kind of visual poetry connecting our bodies to the real fight for the soul of this Earth emerges, and we come out woundering: Are we going to dehumanize ourselves to the point where Earth itself will dream our end?

The fight is on everywhere, and this may be the only beauty of our times. The Quechua speakers of Peru say, “beauty is the struggle.”

Maybe darkness will become the source of light. (Life regenerates in the dark.)

I see the poet/translator as the person who goes into the dark, seeking the “other” in him/herself, what we don’t wish to see, as if this act could reveal what the world keeps hidden.

Eduardo Kohn, in his book How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human notes the creation of a new verb by the Quichua speakers of Ecuador: riparana means “darse cuenta,” “to realize or to be aware.” The verb is a Quichuan transfiguration of the Spanish reparar, “to observe, sense, and repair.” As if awareness itself, the simple act of observing, had the power to heal.

I see the invention of such verbs as true poetry, as a possible path or a way out of the destruction we are causing.

When I am asked about the role of the poet in our times, I only question: Are we a “listening post,” composing an impossible “survival guide,” as Paul Chan has said? Or are we going silent in the face of our own destruction?

Subcomandante Marcos, the Zapatista guerrilla, transcribes the words of El Viejo Antonio, an Indian sage: “The gods went looking for silence to reorient themselves, but found it nowhere.” That nowhere is our place now, that’s why we need to translate language into itself so that IT sees our awareness.

Language is the translator. Could it translate us to a place within where we cease to tolerate injustice and the destruction of life?

Life is language. “When we speak, life speaks,” says the Kaushitaki Upanishad.

Awareness creates itself looking at itself.

It is transient and eternal at the same time.

Todo migra. Let’s migrate to the “wounderment” of our lives, to poetry itself."
ceciliavicuña  language  languages  words  migration  immigration  life  subcomandantemarcos  elviejoantonio  lawrencewilkerson  octaviopaz  exile  rosariocastellanos  poetry  spanish  español  subjunctive  oral  orality  conversation  complexity  seeing  species  joy  tonjehessenschei  war  colinpowell  laurapoitras  art  visual  translation  eduoardokohn  quechua  quichua  healing  repair  verbs  invention  listening  kaushitakiupanishad  awareness  noticing  wondering  vicentehuidobro  wounds  woundering  migrants  unknown  future  potential  unpredictability  emergent  drones  morethanhuman  multispecies  paulchan  destruction  displacement  refugees  extinction  others  tolerance  injustice  justice  transience  ephemerality  ephemeral  canon  eternal  surveillance  patterns  algorithms  earth  sustainability  environment  indifference  complicity  dictatorship  documenta14  2017  classideas 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Justice in America Episode 20: Mariame Kaba and Prison Abolition - The Appeal
"On the last episode of Season 2, Josie and Clint discuss prison abolition with Mariame Kaba, one of the leading organizers in the fight against America’s criminal legal system and a contributing editor for The Appeal. Mariame discusses her own journey into this work, provides perspective on the leaders in this space, and helps us reimagine what the future of this system could look like. Mariame’s way of thinking about this system, and the vision of possibilities she provides, is an excellent send-off to our second season."

[full transcript on page]

"I grew up in New York City and came of age in 1980s. So, um, when I was coming of age in the city, it was kind of the early eighties were a fraught moment for many different kinds of reasons. The tail end of deinstitutionalization. So the first time where we actually started seeing homeless people outside on the streets. Michael Stewart was killed by the police in 1983 which was a very big moment for me. I was 12 years old and that really impacted me. My, um, older siblings were very animated by that fact. Um, crack cocaine is coming into being, this is the time of ACT UP. Um, this is when Reagan comes to power. It was a very tumultuous period and moment of time. So coming of age in that time led me to start organizing for racial justice as a teenager. And I also came of age during the time when there was the Bensonhurst case where a young black man was pursued and then killed by a mob of white young people who were close to my age because he supposedly talked to a white girl in a way that people were not happy about. The Howard Beach incident comes up in 1986. There was a lot happening during my teenagers in the city and I did not have an analysis of the criminal punishment system at that time. I just saw a lot of my friends, I grew up on the Lower East Side, so a lot of my friends ending up in juvie and then in prison and I didn’t, and the cops were always in our neighborhood harassing people and I did not really put all these things together, but I had a frame that was a racial justice frame at a very young age, mainly because of my parents. My mom and my dad. Um, my father, who’d been a socialist in the anti-colonial struggles in Guinea. Like I had a politics at home, but all I understood was like they were coming after black people in multiple different kinds of ways. It wasn’t until I was older and I had come back from college, um, I went to school in Montreal, Canada, came back to the city right after, I was 20 years old when I graduated from college, came back to the city and got a job working in Harlem at the, um, Countee Cullen Library and then ended up teaching in Harlem. And it was there that I found out that all of my students were also getting enmeshed in the criminal punishment system. But I still didn’t have a really, like I didn’t have a politic about it. It wasn’t until a very tragic story that occurred with one of my students who ended up killing another one of my students that I became very clearly aware of the criminal punishment system cause they were going to try to, um, basically try him as an adult. The person who did the killing, he was only 16. And it was that incident that kind of propelled me into trying to learn about what the system was, what it was about. And it concurrently, it was also the time when I started to search for restorative justice because it occurred to me, in watching the family of my student who had been killed react to the situation, that they did not want punishment for the person who killed their daughter. They were, uh, they wanted some accountability and they were also talking about the fact that he did not want him charged as an adult."

"people who are practitioners of restorative justice see restorative justice as a philosophy and ideology, a framework that is much broader than the criminal punishment system. It is about values around how we treat each other in the world. And it’s about an acknowledgement that because we’re human beings, we hurt each other. We cause harm. And what restorative justice proposes is to ask a series of questions. Mostly the three that are kind of advanced by Howard Zehr, who is the person who about 40 years ago popularized the concept of restorative justice in the United States. He talks about since we want to address the violation in the relationships that were broken as a result of violence and harm, that you want to ask a question about who was hurt, that that is important to ask, that you want to ask then what are the obligations? What are the needs that emerge from that hurt? And then you want to ask the question of whose job is it to actually address the harm? And so because of that, those questions of what happened, which in the current adversarial system are incidental really, you know, it’s who did this thing, what rules were broken? How are we going to actually punish the people who broke the rules? And then whose role is it to do that? It’s the state’s. In restorative justice it’s: what happened? Talk about what happened, share what happened, discuss in a, you know, kind of relational sense what happened. And then it’s what are your needs? Would do you need as a result of this? Because harms engender needs that must be met, right? So it asks you to really think that through. And then it says, you know, how do we repair this harm and who needs to be at the table for that to happen. It invites community in. It invites other people who were also harmed because we recognize that the ripples of harm are beyond the two individuals that were involved, it’s also the broader community and the society at large. So that’s what restorative justice, at its base, is really the unit of concern is the broken relationship and the harm. Those are the focus of what we need to be addressing. And through that, that obviously involves the criminal punishment system. In many ways RJ has become co-opted by that system. So people were initially proponents of restorative justice have moved their critique away from using RJ and talking about instead transformative justice. That’s where you see these breakdowns occurring because the system has taken on RJ now as quote unquote “a model for restitution.”"

"Restorative justice and transformative justice, people say they’re interchangeable sometimes, they are not. Because transformative justice people say that you cannot actually use the current punishing institutions that exist. Whereas RJ now is being run in prisons, is being run in schools. Institutions that are themselves violently punishing institutions are now taking that on and running that there. And what people who are advocates of transformative justice say is RJ, because of its focus on the individual, the intervention is on individuals, not the system. And what transformative justice, you know, people, advocates and people who have kind of begun to be practitioners in that have said is we have to also transform the conditions that make this thing possible. And restoring is restoring to what? For many people, the situation that occurred prior to the harm had lots of harm in it. So what are we restoring people to? We have to transform those conditions and in order to do that we have to organize, to shift the structures and the systems and that will also be very important beyond the interpersonal relationships that need to be mended."

"I reject the premise of restorative and transformative justice being alternatives to incarceration. I don’t reject the premise that we should prefigure the world in which we want to live and therefore use multiple different kinds of ways to figure out how to address harm. So here’s what I mean, because people are now saying things like the current criminal punishment system is broken, which it is not. It is actually operating exactly as designed. And that’s what abolition has helped us to understand is that the system is actually relentlessly successful at targeting the people it wants and basically getting the outcomes that wants from that. So if you understand that to be the case, then you are in a position of very much understanding that every time we use the term “alternative to incarceration” what comes to your mind?"

"You’re centering the punishing system. When I say alternative to prison, all you hear is prison. And what that does is that it conditions your imagination to think about the prison as the center. And what we’re saying as transformative and restorative justice practitioners is that the prison is actually an outcome of a broader system of violence and harm that has its roots in slavery and before colonization. And here we are in this position where all you then think about is replacing what we currently use prisons for, for the new thing. So what I mean by that is when you think of an alternative in this moment and you’re thinking about prison, you just think of transposing all of the things we currently consider crimes into that new world."

"It has to fit that sphere. But here’s what I, I would like to say lots of crimes are not harmful to anybody."

"And it’s also that we’re in this position where not all crimes are harms and not all harms are actually crimes. And what we are concerned with as people who practice restorative and transformative justice is harm across the board no matter what. So I always tell people when they say like, ‘oh, we’re having an alternative to incarceration or alternative to prison.’ I’m like, okay, what are you decriminalizing first? Do we have a whole list of things? So possession of drugs is a criminal offense right now. I don’t want an alternative to that. I want you to leave people the hell alone."

"Transformative justice calls on us to shatter binaries of all different types. Most of the people who currently are locked up, for example, in our prisons and jails, are people who are victims of crime first. They’ve been harmed and have harmed other people. The “perpetrator,” quote unquote… [more]
mariamekaba  clintsmith  josieduffyrice  prisonindustrialcomplex  prisions  violence  restorativejustice  justice  prisonabolition  punishment  2019  angeladavis  howardzehr  incarceration  community  humans  transformativejustice  harm  racism  responsibility  repair  people  carceralstate  binaries  accountability  police  lawenforcement  jails  coercion  gender  criminalization  humanism  decency  humanity  transformation  survival  bodies  abolition  abolitionists  nilschristie  ruthiegilmore  fayeknopp  presence  absence  systemsthinking  systems  complexity  capitalism  climatechange  climate  globalwarming  livingwage  education  organization  organizing  activism  change  changemaking  exploitation  dehumanization  optimism 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Playful City: From the 1960s Strive for Spontaneity to Today’s Space of Entertainment - Failed Architecture
"The unscripted play advocated by the Eventstructure Research Group has over the last few decades been lost to increasingly consumption-oriented spaces, encouraging prescribed entertainment and leisure."

"Leisure and entertainment, or play?
Half a century later, the same ideas developed by the Eventstructure Research Group now provide the theme for the Dutch Pavilion at the 2018 International Venice Architecture Biennale: work, body, leisure. The exhibition addresses the spatial configurations, living conditions, and notions of the human body resulting from ongoing transformations in the ethos and the conditions of labour. How will these changes affect the relationship between work, body and leisure, and which possible scenarios could we design accordingly? The main theme and the questions raised all seem derived from Constant’s thinking, and are also in line with the philosophy of the Situationists and that of the Eventstructure Research Group. An important difference, however, is that leisure seems a less powerful term than play. In contemporary usage, leisure is a passive term, associated with holidays and relaxation–a temporary break from day-to-day working life. This is merely the opposite of work, a calculated part of economic logics, while the aim of the Situationists was actually to transform work into play, in such a way that work, play and the body eventually would become one.

The Situationists considered their contemporary city of the late 1950s to be one of boredom, and wished to change it into a city of stimulation. Today, one could now argue that our own physical city is not one of boredom: 24-hour shopping, multiplex cinemas, game consoles, texting, and whatever other myriad possibilities are available to entertain us day and night – an ongoing stream of information, impulses and encouragements for active consumption. Eat now! Drink now! Exercise now! Drive now! Play now! The present-day city is one of continuous (over)stimulation. Is this the city the Situationists had in mind? Probably not. We may also ask, are all these forms of play really that effective in eliminating our boredom? Sandi Mann, author of The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom Is Good, argues quite the opposite: “The more entertained we are the more entertainment we need in order to feel satisfied. The more we fill our world with fast-moving, high-intensity, ever-changing stimulation, the more we get used to that and the less tolerant we become of lower levels.”

The Situationists’ idea of play is quite different from the 21st century, entertainment-driven idea of play. Their idea of play strived for true spontaneity. It aimed to be active, non-conformist, anti-capitalistic and therefore critical. Today’s non-critical ‘play’ is about passive consumption, over-stimulation and intellectually apathy.

Additionally, the Situationists aimed to restructure the modern aesthetic experience by rejecting functionalism, instead favouring and celebrating complexity. Present-day cities have become exactly that: a complex of layered physical infrastructures, roads, waterways, air-routes, tubes, electricity lines, antennas, digital highways and so on. The near future will most likely see a steady-increase of the complexity of this infrastructure, with drone-like postal services, personal air transportation and more virtual landscapes added to the city. Complex infrastructure – and entertainment – is all that surrounds us. The city the Situationists imagined is there, but more than that. It has stepped up, pushed the fast-forward button and gone into overdrive.

This complex and fast-paced modern city however did not make citizens more critical towards capitalism. Today’s modern city is a largely scripted complexity of abundance, but with little place for disorder. The excess and the abundance of stimulation in the city today would make an action like Pneutube nothing more than a side note in the daily high-speed routine. People would probably shrug their shoulders, look up from their smartphones for a few moments and then continue their day. If architecture nowadays is capable at all of stimulating critical and non-conformist thinking, it can only do that through much more radical interventions. The ambitions of the ERG could be adopted, but a different output will have to be found to make an actual difference in today’s society.

What would be considered a radical architectural intervention today? Does architecture have the power to disrupt the dominant system? If this seemed possible in the past, with buildings such as the Centre Pompidou, today’s architecture seems to have lost its revolutionary potential. Not many buildings today are capable of surprising us because of the ideas that fuelled them, and not just because they are bigger, larger, or taller than their neighbours. In order to be truly radical, an architectural intervention today should be capable of criticizing the domination of technology and the authority of the algorithm. As the capitalist society that ERG was trying to dismantle does not look so different from today’s market economy in which citizens walk, travel, and even vote according to Google, Airbnb, or Facebook. Can contemporary architecture provide critical reflection on that?"
consumerism  commercialism  jornkonijn  2018  play  openended  entertainment  leisure  situationist  architecture  markets  capitalism  society  cities  urban  urbanism  functionalism  complexity 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
What if All the World’s Economic Woes Are Part of the Same Problem? - The New York Times
"If a group of time-traveling economists were to visit from the year 2000 and wanted to know how the economy had changed since their time, what would you tell them?

You might mention that economic growth has been slower than it used to be across much of the advanced world, and global inflation and interest rates have been lower. An aging population is changing the demographics of the work force. Productivity growth has been weak. Inequality has risen. And the corporate world is more and more dominated by a handful of “superstar” firms.

The time-traveling economists would find that list rather depressing, but also would tend to view each problem on the list as discrete, with its own cause and potential solutions. “What terrible economic luck,” they might say, “that all those things happened at the same time.”

But what if those megatrends are all the same problem?

Maybe, for example, inequality is contributing to weak growth and low rates because the rich tend to save money rather than spend it. Maybe productivity has been weak not by coincidence, but because weak growth has meant companies haven’t been forced to innovate to meet demand. Perhaps industry concentration has left companies with more power to set wages, resulting in more inequality and lower inflation.

Those theories may not be definitively proven, but there is growing evidence supporting each. Much of the most interesting economic research these days is trying to understand and prove potential connections between these dysfunctions.

In recent weeks, for example, one groundbreaking paper proposes that low interest rates are fueling a rising concentration of major industries and low productivity growth. Another offers evidence that aging demographics are an important factor in weak productivity.

Even if you don’t fully buy every one of these interrelationships, taken together, this work suggests we’ve been thinking about the world’s economic woes all wrong. It’s not a series of single strands, but a spider web of them.

Imagine a person with a few separate problems — some credit card debt, say, and an unhappy marriage. That person might be able to address each problem on its own, by paying down debt and going to counseling.

But things are thornier when a person has a long list of problems that are interrelated. Think of someone with mental health problems, a drug addiction, and an inability to maintain family relationships or hold a job. For that person you can’t just fix one thing. It’s a whole basket of problems.

The implication of this new body of research is that the global economy, like that troubled person, needs a lot of different types of help all at the same time.

But for now, the challenge is just to understand it.

Why low interest rates can favor market leaders
Atif Mian, an economist at Princeton, was recently having dinner with a colleague whose parents owned a small hotel in Spain. The parents had complained vociferously, Mr. Mian recalled the friend saying, about the European Central Bank’s low interest rate policies.

That didn’t make sense, Mr. Mian thought. After all, low interest rates should make it easier for small business owners to invest and expand; that’s one of the reasons central banks use them to combat economic weakness.

The owners of the small hotel didn’t see it that way. They thought that big hotel chains were the real beneficiaries of low interest rate policies, not a mom-and-pop operation.

Mr. Mian, along with his Princeton colleague Ernest Liu and research partner, Amir Sufi at the University of Chicago, tried to figure out if the relationship between low interest rates and business investment might be murkier than textbooks suggested.

Imagine a town in which two hotels are competing for business, one part of a giant chain and one that is independent. The chain hotel might have some better technology and marketing to give it a steady advantage, and is therefore able to charge a little more for its rooms and be a little more profitable. But it is basically a level playing field.

When interest rates fall to very low levels, though, the payoff for being the industry leader rises, under the logic that a business generating a given flow of cash is more valuable when rates are low than when they are high. (This is why low interest rates typically cause the stock market to rise.)

A market leader has more to gain from investing and becoming bigger, and it becomes less likely that the laggards will ever catch up.

“At low interest rates, the valuation of market leaders rises relative to the rest,” Mr. Mian said. “Amazon becomes a lot more valuable as interest rates fall relative to a smaller player in the same industry, and that gives a huge advantage to Amazon.”

In turn, the researchers argue, that can cause smaller players to underinvest, lowering productivity growth across the economy. And that can create a self-sustaining cycle in which industry leaders invest more and achieve ever-rising dominance of their industry.

The researchers tested the theory against historical stock market data since 1962, and found that falling interest rates indeed correlated with market leaders that outperformed the laggards.

“There’s a view that we can solve all of our problems by just making interest rates low enough,” Mr. Mian said. “We’re questioning that notion and believe there is something else going on.”

How an aging population affects productivity
In another effort to apply a new lens on how major economic forces may interact, economists at Moody’s Analytics have tried to unpack the ties between demographic change and labor productivity.

No one disputes that the aging of the current work force is reducing growth rates. With many in the large baby boom generation retiring, fewer people are working and producing, which directly reduces economic output.

In terms of company efficiency, though, you could imagine that an aging work force could cut in either direction. Savvy, more experienced workers might be able to generate more output for every hour they work. But they might be less willing to learn the latest technology or adapt their work style to changing environments.

Adam Ozimek, Dante DeAntonio and Mark Zandi analyzed data on work force age and productivity at both the state and industry level, with payroll data on millions of workers. They found that the second effect seems to prevail, that an aging work force can explain a slowdown in productivity growth of between 0.3 and 0.7 percentage points per year over the last 15 years.

Mr. Ozimek says companies may not want to invest in new training for people in their early 60s who will retire in a few years. “It’s possible that older workers may still be the absolute best workers at their firms, but it could be not worth it to them or the company to retrain and learn new things,” he said.

The research implies there could be a downward drag on productivity growth for years to come.

These findings are hardly the end of the discussion on these topics. But they do reflect that there can be a lot of nonintuitive connections hiding in plain sight.

Everything, it turns out, affects everything."
interconnected  complexity  economics  2019  neilirwin  productivity  interestrates  atifmian  interrelated  inequality  growth  demographics  consolidation  corporatism  capitalism 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
SpeculativeEdu | Superflux: Tools and methods for making change
"Anab Jain and Jon Ardern of Superflux (“a studio for the rapidly changing world”) talk to James Auger about their approach, their recent projects, and their educational activities.

Superflux create worlds, stories, and tools that provoke and inspire us to engage with the precarity of our rapidly changing world. Founded by Anab Jain and Jon Ardern in 2009, the Anglo-Indian studio has brought critical design, futures and foresight approaches to new audiences while working for some of the world’s biggest organisations like Microsoft Research, Sony, Samsung and Nokia, and exhibiting work at MoMA New York, the National Museum of China, and the V&A in London. Over the last ten years, the studio has gained critical acclaim for producing work that navigates the entangled wilderness of our technology, politics, culture, and environment to imagine new ways of seeing, being, and acting. The studio’s partners and clients currently include Government of UAE, Innovate UK, Cabinet Office UK, Red Cross, UNDP, Mozilla and Forum for the Future. Anab is also Professor at Design Investigations, University of Applied Arts, Vienna.

[Q] You practice across numerous and diverse fields (education, commercial, gallery). Does your idea of speculative design change for each of these contexts? How do you balance the different expectations of each?

We don’t tend to strictly define our work as “Speculative Design”. Usually we say we are designers or artists or filmmakers. Speculative Design is gaining traction lately, and we might have a client of two who knows the term and might even hire us for that, but usually they come to us because they want to explore a possible future or a different narrative, or investigate a technology. We think our work investigates a potential rather than speculating on a future. Speculation is an undeniable part of the process but it is not the primary motivation behind our work. Our work is an open-ended process of enquiry, whilst speculation can at times feel like a closed loop.

[Q] There is a tendency, in many speculative design works, towards dystopian futures. It seems that as with science fiction, apocalyptic futures are easier to imagine and tell as stories. Focusing on your CCCB installation, Mitigation of Shock, how would you describe this project in terms of its value connotation? What is the purpose of such a project?

For us, Mitigation of Shock is actually not apocalyptic at all, but instead a pragmatic vision of hope, emerging from a dystopian future ravaged by climate change. On a personal level, it can be difficult for people to imagine how an issue like global warming might affect everyday life for our future selves, or generations to come. Our immersive simulation merges the macabre and the mundane as the social and economic consequences of climate change infiltrate the domestic space.

The installation transports people decades into the future (or perhaps even closer on the horizon), into an apartment in London which has been drastically adapted for living with the consequences of climate catastrophe. Familiar, yet alien. A domestic space alive with multispecies inhabitants, surviving and thriving together in an indoor microcosm. Climate projections from the beginning of the century have unfurled into reality, their consequences reverberating across the globe. Climate catastrophes shatter global supply chains. Economic and political fragility, social fragmentation, and food insecurity destabilise society.

Rather than optimistically stick our heads in the sand, or become overwhelmed with fear, we decided to catapult ourselves and others directly into a specific geographical and cultural context to experience the ripple effects of extreme weather conditions. Hope often works best alongside tools for proactively tackling future challenges. Which is why, in this year-long experimental research project, we explored, designed and built an apartment located in a future no one wants, but that may be on the horizon. Not to scare, or overwhelm, but to help people critically reflect upon their actions in the present, and introduce them to potential solutions for living in such a future. The evidence in the apartment may reflect a different future, but all the food apparatus was in fully working condition, no speculation there. We wanted to demonstrate that we have the tools and methods we need to make the change today.

[Q] We are living in complicated times – politically, environmentally, culturally. After several years of speculative and critical design evolution, do you think that it can have a more influential role in shaping futures/alternatives beyond the discussions that typically take place in the design community?

We wrote a little bit about this here:

[Q] Could it adopt more political or activist role? If so, how could this aspect be incorporated into education?

Yes definitely. Our latest project Trigger Warning explores this very space: And then a completely different project:

[Anab] Also my students at the Angewandte will be exploring the theme of “futures of democracy” in the upcoming semester.

[Q] Coming from India but educated at the RCA, what was your take on the “privilege” discussion via Design and Violence? More specifically, what can we learn from this debate? How can it push speculative design forwards?

[Anab] I sensed an underlying assumption in that debate that anybody from the West was seen as “privileged” and anyone from any other colonised country is not. Whilst there is a long and troubling history to colonisation in India, I do bear in mind that India was always a battleground for clans and dynasties from other countries long before the West came and colonised it. These issues are very complex, and I think the only way we can attempt to understand them is by avoiding accusations and flamewars, but instead opening up space for everyone’s voice to be heard.

As things stands today, even though I come from India, a lot of people would argue that, within India, I am privileged because I had the opportunity to choose my education path and the person I want to marry. On the other hand, I know lots and lots of people in the West (white/male even) who are disempowered because of systemic privilege within the West. So discussions of race, gender expression and privilege are much more granular than simplistic accusations, and I strongly believe that designers who address complex issues, whilst battling student loans and rents, should be applauded, not condemned.

[Q] How can we resist or overcome the situation where avant-garde design practices, established as a resistance to the dominant system, ultimately become appropriated by the system?

If we successfully overturn capitalism, the rest will follow."
superflux  2019  anabjain  jonardern  jamesauger  design  designfiction  speculativefiction  speculativedesign  capitalism  democracy  climatechange  education  marrtive  film  filmmaking  art  artists  potential  inquiry  open-ended  openendedness  hope  globalwarming  future  politics  activism  india  colonialism  colonization  complexity  privilege 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Model Metropolis
"Behind one of the most iconic computer games of all time is a theory of how cities die—one that has proven dangerously influential."

"Forrester’s central claim about complexity wasn’t a new one; it has a long history on the political right. In a 1991 book, Rhetoric of Reaction, the development economist and economic historian Albert O. Hirschman identified this style of argument as an example of what he called the “perversity thesis.” This kind of attack, which Hirschman traced back to Edmund Burke’s writings on the French Revolution, amounts to a kind of concern trolling. Using this rhetorical tactic, the conservative speaker can claim that they share your social goal, but simultaneously argue that the means you are using to achieve it will only make matters worse. When commentators claim “no-platforming will only make more Nazis,” that welfare programs lock recipients into a “cycle of dependency,” or that economic planning will lead a society down a “road to serfdom,” they’re making this kind of perversity argument.

What Forrester did was give the perversity thesis a patina of scientific and computational respectability. Hirschman himself makes specific reference to Urban Dynamics and argues that the “special, sophisticated attire” of Forrester’s models helped reintroduce this kind of argument “into polite company.” In the nearly fifty years since it has come out, Forrester’s “counterintuitive” style of thinking has become the default way of analyzing policy for mainstream wonks. For many, “counterintuitivity” is the new intuition.

Expert knowledge, of course, has an important place in democratic deliberation, but it can also cut people out of the policy process, dampen the urgency of moral claims, and program a sense of powerlessness into our public discourse. Appeals to a social system’s “complexity” and the potential for “perverse outcomes” can be enough to sink transformative social programs that are still on the drawing board. This might not matter in the context of a virtual environment like that of Urban Dynamics or SimCity, but we have decades of real-world evidence that demonstrates the disastrous costs of the “counterintuitive” anti-welfare agenda. Straightforward solutions to poverty and economic misery—redistribution and the provision of public services—have both empirical backing and moral force. Maybe it’s time we start listening to our intuition again."
simcity  libertarianism  history  games  gaming  videogames  cities  simulations  simulation  2019  kevinbaker  urban  urbanism  policy  politics  economics  bias  willwright  urbanpolicy  urbanplanning  complexity  democracy  alberthirschman  edmundburke  danielpatrickmoynihan  jayforrester  paulstarr  urbandynamics  johncollins  dynamo  class  classism  motivation  money  government  governance  poverty  systemsthinking  society 
february 2019 by robertogreco
On Bullsh*t Jobs | David Graeber | RSA Replay - YouTube
"In 2013 David Graeber, professor of anthropology at LSE, wrote an excoriating essay on modern work for Strike! magazine. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” was read over a million times and the essay translated in seventeen different languages within weeks. Graeber visits the RSA to expand on this phenomenon, and will explore how the proliferation of meaningless jobs - more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union than latter-day capitalism - has impacted modern society. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it."
davidgraeber  bullshitjobs  employment  jobs  work  2018  economics  neoliberalism  capitalism  latecapitalism  sovietunion  bureaucracy  productivity  finance  policy  politics  unschooling  deschooling  labor  society  purpose  schooliness  debt  poverty  inequality  rules  anticapitalism  morality  wealth  power  control  technology  progress  consumerism  suffering  morals  psychology  specialization  complexity  systemsthinking  digitization  automation  middlemanagement  academia  highered  highereducation  management  administration  adminstrativebloat  minutia  universalbasicincome  ubi  supplysideeconomics  creativity  elitism  thecultofwork  anarchism  anarchy  zero-basedaccounting  leisure  taylorism  ethics  happiness  production  care  maintenance  marxism  caregiving  serviceindustry  gender  value  values  gdp  socialvalue  education  teaching  freedom  play  feminism  mentalhealth  measurement  fulfillment  supervision  autonomy  humans  humnnature  misery  canon  agency  identity  self-image  self-worth  depression  stress  anxiety  solidarity  camaraderie  respect  community 
january 2019 by robertogreco
How This All Happened · Collaborative Fund
"This is a short story about what happened to the U.S. economy since the end of World War II."

"10. The Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Brexit, and the rise of Donald Trump each represents a group shouting, “Stop the ride, I want off.”

The details of their shouting are different, but they’re all shouting – at least in part – because stuff isn’t working for them within the context of the post-war expectation that stuff should work roughly the same for roughly everyone.

You can scoff at linking the rise of Trump to income inequality alone. And you should. These things are always layers of complexity deep. But it’s a key part of what drives people to think, “I don’t live in the world I expected. That pisses me off. So screw this. And screw you! I’m going to fight for something totally different, because this – whatever it is – isn’t working.”

Take that mentality and raise it to the power of Facebook, Instagram, and cable news – where people are more keenly aware of how other people live than ever before. It’s gasoline on a flame. Benedict Evans says, “The more the Internet exposes people to new points of view, the angrier people get that different views exist.” That’s a big shift from the post-war economy where the range of economic opinions were smaller, both because the actual range of outcomes was lower and because it wasn’t as easy to see and learn what other people thought and how they lived.

I’m not pessimistic. Economics is the story of cycles. Things come, things go.

The unemployment rate is now the lowest it’s been in decades. Wages are now actually growing faster for low-income workers than the rich. College costs by and large stopped growing once grants are factored in. If everyone studied advances in healthcare, communication, transportation, and civil rights since the Glorious 1950s, my guess is most wouldn’t want to go back.

But a central theme of this story is that expectations move slower than reality on the ground. That was true when people clung to 1950s expectations as the economy changed over the next 35 years. And even if a middle-class boom began today, expectations that the odds are stacked against everyone but those at the top may stick around.

So the era of “This isnt working” may stick around.

And the era of “We need something radically new, right now, whatever it is” may stick around.

Which, in a way, is part of what starts events that led to things like World War II, where this story began.

History is just one damn thing after another."
history  economics  us  ww2  wwii  2018  morganhousel  debt  labor  work  credit  teaparty  donaldtrump  employment  unemployment  inequality  capitalism  1940s  1950s  1960s  1970s  1980s  2000s  2010s  expectations  behavior  highered  highereducation  education  communication  healthcare  housing  internet  web  online  complexity 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Hay que reconciliar al cine mexicano con su público: Fernanda Solórzano - El Sol de México

Otro tema que para ella es importante a la hora de dignificar las películas que se hacen aquí es revisar la idea de que el cine es sólo una forma de entretenimiento, útil nada más para el escapismo y la evasión, sin dar oportunidad a las producciones que no tienen un mensaje cerrado y que apelan a que el espectador abra su inteligencia a distintas posibilidades de mensaje.

“A mí me gustaría que en las escuelas mismas se promoviera entre los niños la idea de que no todos tenemos que entender de inmediato los relatos sino que entre más preguntas puedan provocar más pueden enriquecer. Que seas capaz de salir de una película y la puedas comentar con alguien que quizá tenga un punto de vista distinto al tuyo, justamente porque no se les dio un mensaje definido…”

Reconoce que es un trabajo lento y que puede durar varias generaciones, pero que no hay nada como encontrarle virtud a lo complejo y entender que una película que te permite tener varias lecturas puede resultarte quizá más satisfactoria que una que no va a permitir que alguien te cambie tu propio punto de vista.

Y remarca: “El cine que más disfruto es el que me saca de mis certezas; el que me hace pensar y repensar mi realidad. Me choca darme cuenta de que me están manipulando. Me gusta que confíen en mi inteligencia. A mí me gusta que los directores también confíen en la inteligencia del público y el público en su propia inteligencia”.


Y de todo ese panorama destaca algo con lo que no está de acuerdo, la temática con la que se están haciendo algunas comedias mexicanas actuales, ya que le parece que refuerzan valores a los que como sociedad estamos tratando de oponernos, como el machismo o la homofobia, y que en este género suelen ser abordados como algo gracioso y normal.

“Voy a poner como ejemplo la cinta Qué culpa tiene el niño, cuya historia versa sobre una chica que en una fiesta queda embarazada, no sabe de quién porque estaba alcoholizada y entonces eso es presentado como chistoso, sin importar que es irresponsable que un hombre se aproveche de una mujer en esas condiciones”.

No ve que este tipo de producciones sean tan terribles y bajas como las sexy comedias de los años 80, donde los hombres literalmente violaban a las mujeres y nadie decía nada y todos se reían, pero asumen los mismos valores. “Obviamente son más sofisticadas estas comedias, son más pulidas, pero los chistes son los mismos, apelan al mismo tipo de moral, lo que me parece triste”.


Con respecto a los nuevos formatos de filmación y las modalidades de exhibición más allá de las salas cinematográficas, Fernanda percibe que ciertamente plantean nuevos problemas estéticos y económicos, lo cual también puede ser una oportunidad para que se abaraten las posibilidades de acceso para producir cine a quien actualmente no tiene los recursos para hacerlo.

“Al final lo importante es contar bien una historia y hacerlo estéticamente. Incluso hay historias que se pueden contar mejor en uno u otro formato. Por ejemplo, hay un director que filmó su primera película en iPhone, Tangerine, de Sean Baker, que fue muy premiada, y después decidió que su segunda producción se hiciera en 35 mm porque consideró que esa cinta no aguantaba lo digital y requería cierta profundidad. O sea hay narrativas para todo tipo de formato”.

Sobre el formato de miniseries, predominante en los servicios de streaming on line, la crítica de cine también los califica de oportunidad interesante. “A mí me gustan muchísimo, yo no las veo como un producto menor. Creo que muchos directores de cine, ante la imposibilidad de tener un presupuesto tan alto, están experimentando. Y pongo cono ejemplo la serie Un extraño enemigo de Gabriel Ripstein, que me pareció muy buena, bien contada, bien narrada y muy acentuada, a pesar de que era muy difícil que una serie más sobre el 68 tuviera impacto”."
fernandasolórzano  conemexicano  education  schools  stories  film  filmmaking  storytelling  linearity  ambiguity  certainty  complexity  howwethink  conversation  interviews  race  racism  homophobia  digital  2018  literature  children  medialiteracy  literacy  teaching  howweteach  unschooling  deschooling  criticalthinking 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Dr. Michelle Fine on Willful Subjectivity and Strong Objectivity in Education Research - Long View on Education
"In this interview, Dr. Michelle Fine makes the argument for participatory action research as a sophisticated epistemology. Her work uncovers the willful subjectivity and radical wit of youth. In the last ten minutes, she gives some concrete recommendations for setting up a classroom that recognizes and values the gifts that students bring. Please check out her publications on ResearchGate [ ] and her latest book Just Research in Contentious Times (Teachers College, 2018). [ ]

Michelle Fine is a Distinguished Professor of Critical Psychology, Women’s Studies, American Studies and Urban Education at the Graduate Center CUNY.

Thank you to Dr. Kim Case and Professor Tanya L. Domi."
michellefine  reasearch  dispossession  privilege  resistance  solidarity  participatory  participatoryactionresearch  ethnography  education  benjamindoxtdatorcritical  pedagogy  race  racism  postcolonialism  criticaltheory  imf  epistemology  research  focusgroups  subjectivity  youth  teens  stories  socialjustice  criticalparticipatoryactionresearch  sexuality  centering  oppression  pointofview  action  quantitative  qualitative  injustice  gender  deficit  resilience  experience  radicalism  incarceration  billclinton  pellgrants  willfulsubjectivity  survivance  wit  radicalwit  indigeneity  queer  justice  inquiry  hannaharendt  criticalbifocality  psychology  context  history  structures  gigeconomy  progressive  grit  economics  victimblaming  schools  intersectionality  apolitical  neoliberalism  neutrality  curriculum  objectivity  contestedhistories  whiteprivilege  whitefragility  islamophobia  discrimination  alienation  conversation  disengagement  defensiveness  anger  hatred  complexity  diversity  self-definition  ethnicity 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Studying Humpback Whales to Better Communicate with Aliens
"In this video, a pair of scientists talk about their work in studying the communication patterns of humpback whales to learn more about how we might someday communicate with a possible extraterrestrial intelligence. No, this isn’t Star Trek IV. For one thing, whales have tailored their communication style to long distances, when it may take hours to received a reply, an analog of the length of possible interplanetary & interstellar communications. The scientists are also using Claude Shannon’s information theory to study the complexity of the whales’ language and eventually hope to use their findings to better detect the level of intelligence in alien messages and perhaps even the social structure of the alien civilization itself."

[video: ]
animals  biology  communication  whales  2018  multispecies  morethanhuman  sound  audio  via:lukeneff  intelligence  informationtheory  seti  complexity  language  languages  structure  anthropology  social 
november 2018 by robertogreco
James Bridle on New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future - YouTube
"As the world around us increases in technological complexity, our understanding of it diminishes. Underlying this trend is a single idea: the belief that our existence is understandable through computation, and more data is enough to help us build a better world.

In his brilliant new work, leading artist and writer James Bridle surveys the history of art, technology, and information systems, and reveals the dark clouds that gather over our dreams of the digital sublime."
quantification  computationalthinking  systems  modeling  bigdata  data  jamesbridle  2018  technology  software  systemsthinking  bias  ai  artificialintelligent  objectivity  inequality  equality  enlightenment  science  complexity  democracy  information  unschooling  deschooling  art  computation  computing  machinelearning  internet  email  web  online  colonialism  decolonization  infrastructure  power  imperialism  deportation  migration  chemtrails  folkliterature  storytelling  conspiracytheories  narrative  populism  politics  confusion  simplification  globalization  global  process  facts  problemsolving  violence  trust  authority  control  newdarkage  darkage  understanding  thinking  howwethink  collapse 
september 2018 by robertogreco
M.I.A. and the Defense of Nuance | Affidavit
"Cancelling people is exhilarating, especially when it’s done by marginalized folks, those who so often experience the world through white supremacy—sometimes as a soft and subtle barrage, other times through vicious and terrifying means. The ability to dictate someone’s fate, when you’ve long been in the shadows, is a kind of victory. Like saying “Fuck You” from underneath the very heavy sole of a very old shoe. But while outrage culture has its merits, nuance has evaporated. So often it involves reducing someone to their mistakes, their greatest hits collection of fuck-ups.

In her song “Best Life,” Cardi B raps:

“That’s when they came for me on Twitter with the backlash/ "#CardiBIsSoProblematic" is the hashtag/ I can't believe they wanna see me lose that bad...”

This is her response to being cancelled for a now-infamous Twitter thread detailing her colorism, orientalism, and transphobia. Most recently, after her song “Girls” with Rita Ora was also deemed problematic, she made a statement: “I know I have use words before that I wasn’t aware that they are offensive to the LGBT community. I apologize for that. Not everybody knows the correct ‘terms’ to use. I learned and I stopped using it.”

Cardi brings up something that I keep coming back to: How accessibility to political language is a certain kind of privilege. What I believe Maya is trying to say is that American issues have become global. What she lacks the language to say is: how do we also care about the many millions of people around the world who are dying, right now? Why does American news, American trauma, American death, always take center-stage?

There are things we need to agree on, like the permutations of white supremacy, but are we, societally, equipped for social media being our judge, jury and executioner? I started to realize that the schadenfreude of cancelling was its own beast. It erases people of their humanity, of their ability to learn from experience.

This brings up the politics of disposability. How helpful is distilling someone into an immovable misstep, seeing them not as a person but as interloper who fucked up, and therefore deserves no redemption? How helpful is to interrogate a conversation, but not continue it? Is telling someone to die, and sending them death threats, or telling them they’re stupid or cancelled the way to do it? Who, and what, are we willing to lose in the fire?

M.I.A. and Cardi are similarly unwilling to conform to polite expectation. They both know that relatability is part of their charm. They are attractive women who speak their mind. This, in essence, is privilege, too—which then requires responsibility. The difference is that Cardi apologized."

"“Is Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter? Or Syrian Lives Matter? Or this kid in Pakistan matters?”

In 2016, when Maya made these comments in an ES Magazine interview, I remember being frustrated that she only accentuated the divide between non-black people of color and black folks, partially because so often we (Asians) say dumb shit.

The dumb shit I’m referring to w/r/t Maya is not only her tunnel vision when it comes to the complexity of race (plus the void and difference between black and brown folks’ experience) but also the incapacity—or stunted unwillingness—to further self-reflect on her positioning.

Because of her insolence, I had considered Maya undeserving of my alliance. Her lack of inclusivity and disregard of the complexity of political identity, especially in North America, was abominable. As a woman who had found success within the black mediums of rap and hip-hop, her smug disregard felt brash. It felt lazy.

But, as I watched the documentary on her life, I also began to see her complexity. One thing that strikes me about Maya is her personal perseverance. Her family went through hell to get the U.K. Her father’s political affiliations forced them to flee Sri Lanka. Arular was a revolutionary, and thus deemed a terrorist. He was absent her whole childhood. At one point in the film she describes riding on a bus in Sri Lanka with her mom. When the bus jerks forward, the policemen standing alongside casually sexually assault them in broad daylight. Her mother, Mala, warns Maya to stay silent, lest they both be killed. Her reality—of physical threats, of early loss—is stark. As she recalls the details in her candid, detached drawl, you imagine her grappling with the past like a lucid dream.

Herein lies Maya’s dissonance. She is the first refugee popstar, which allows her to subsume a state of Du Bois’ double consciousness. She is neither this nor that, she is a mixture of both East and West. Her experience seeps into her music like a trance, and these definitions are vital to understanding her.

She is agonized by the realities of war, of being an unwanted immigrant who fled from genocide into the frenzied hells of London, only to be pushed into a mostly-white housing estate system, replete with Nazi skinheads. “A tough life needs a tough language,” Jeanette Winterson writes in Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?, her memoir about her abusive stepmother. As I watch the documentary, I wonder, again, if what Maya lacks most is language.

In the current political climate, where Syrian refugees are denied entry into the U.S., and the Muslim Ban, or “Travel Ban,” is an attack on the very notion of being different in America, I began to understand this other part of Maya. How angry she might be for the lack of articulation when it came to refugees, when it’s still very much an issue. She came to music to survive. Art was a way to dislocate from the trauma, to inoculate herself from the past, and provide a new, vivid reality that was both about transcending where she came from, whilst also creating a platform to speak to her roots, to her lineage, to her people.

Tamil is one of the oldest languages in the world. The people that speak it are, right now, being wiped out.

Her understanding of race comes from the victim’s perspective. She not only experienced white supremacy in her work, but was forced out of the country where she was born. Someone like her was never supposed to succeed. But, whether it’s Bill Maher mocking her “cockney accent” as she talks about the Tamil genocide, or the New York Times’ Lynn Hirschberg claiming her agitprop is fake because she dare munch on truffle fries (which were ordered by Hirschberg), Maya has been torn apart by (white) cultural institutions and commentators. You can see how these experiences have made her suspicious in general, but also particularly suspicious of me, a journalist.

Thing is, she’s been burnt by us too—by South Asians. So many of us walked away, attacking her instead of building a dialogue. Her compassion, therefore, is partially suspended. It’s as if she’s decided, vehemently—because she’s deemed herself to not be racist, or anti-black—that the conversation ends. She feels misheard, misrepresented. For her, it’s not about black life mattering or not mattering. It’s about prioritizing human life, about acknowledging human death. But, in America, that gets lost.

You can understand Maya’s perspective without agreeing with her, but I had another question. How do you hold someone you love accountable?


The talk itself was many things: awkward, eye-opening, disarming. When I asked about her alleged anti-blackness, she brought up Mark Zuckerberg as evidence that she was set up... by the internet. That her online fans should know that she’s not racist, so that perhaps her one-time friendship with Julian Assange was why she was being attacked online. Her incomprehension that people could be upset by her remarks reflected her naivety about how the internet kills its darlings. Two weeks prior to our meeting, Stephon Clark was murdered, shot twenty times in the back by two police officers. To this she responded: “Yeah, well no-one remembers the kid in Syria who is being shot right now either. Or the kid that’s dying in Somalia.” It made me wonder if she was unwell, not on a Kanye level, but just enough to lack the mechanisms it takes to understand perspective.

Backstage after the talk, she said, “I don’t know why you asked me those questions.” I told her that I thought critique, when done with care, was an empowering act of love. I needed clarity for our community’s sake—many of whom felt isolated by her, a cherished South Asian icon. We need answers from her because we are all trying to grapple with our love and frustration with her.

I don’t want to absolve Maya. What I’m more interested in is how we can say “problematic fave” while acknowledging that we are all problematic to someone. Is there compassion here? Is there space to grow?


In They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Hanif Abdurraqib writes, “There are people we need so much we can’t imagine turning away from them. People we’ve built entire homes inside of ourselves for, that cannot stand empty. People we still find a way to make magic with, even when the lights flicker, and the love runs entirely out.”

In the recent months, I’ve re-examined Maya with sad enthusiasm. The beginning riff of “Bad Girls”: a women in full niqab racing a car through side swept dunes. Without question, it’s an aching kind of visibility, but the tenor is different. Listening to her now it feels weighted, changed.

Laconic and aloof, I remind Maya on stage that anti-blackness is not an American issue, it’s universal. Perhaps it’s ego, or shameful anger, but I know she cares. Before she begins to speak I realize that you have to build empathy when someone fails you. That they’re not yours to own. You have to try your best to talk to them, and that it’s never helpful to reduce them to a punchline. I believe in Maya’s possibility to grow. I believe in the possibility of change. Maybe that’s my own naivety, but it’s also my political stance. It’s not about … [more]
mia  fariharóisín  2018  privilege  language  cancelling  marginalization  colorism  transphobia  orientlism  cardib  socialmedia  disposability  whitesupremacy  race  racism  apologies  learning  power  islamophobia  islam  socialjustice  noamchomsky  modelminorities  modelminority  nuance  complexity  perseverance  srilanka  silence  refugees  politics  tamil  victims  compassion  blacklivesmatter  julianassange  yourfaveisproblematic  us  australia  anti-blackness  growth  care  caring  dialog  conversation  listening  ego  shame  anger  change  naivety  howwechange  howwelearn  hanifabdurraqib  visibility  internet  problemematicfaves 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Scientists Still Can't Decide How to Define a Tree - The Atlantic
"So far, there is no standout gene or set of genes that confers tree-ness, nor any particular genome feature. Complexity? Nope: Full-on, whole-genome duplication (an often-used proxy for complexity) is prevalent throughout the plant kingdom. Genome size? Nope: Both the largest and smallest plant genomes belong to herbaceous species (Paris japonica and Genlisea tuberosa, respectively—the former a showy little white-flowered herb, the latter a tiny, carnivorous thing that traps and eats protozoans).

A chat with Neale confirms that tree-ness is probably more about what genes are turned on than what genes are present. “From the perspective of the genome, they basically have all the same stuff as herbaceous plants,” he said. “Trees are big, they’re woody, they can get water from the ground to up high. But there does not seem to be some profound unique biology that distinguishes a tree from a herbaceous plant.”

Notwithstanding the difficulty in defining them, being a tree has undeniable advantages—it allows plants to exploit the upper reaches where they can soak up sunlight and disperse pollen and seeds with less interference than their ground-dwelling kin. So maybe it’s time to start thinking of tree as a verb, rather than a noun—tree-ing, or tree-ifying. It’s a strategy, a way of being, like swimming or flying, even though to our eyes it’s happening in very slow motion. Tree-ing with no finish in sight—until an ax, or a pest, or a bolt of Thanksgiving lightning strikes it down."
biology  botany  classification  trees  2018  verbs  rachelehrenberg  plants  science  genetics  multispecies  wood  longevity  andrewgroover  ronaldlanner  evolution  davidneale  genomes  complexity 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Designing better file organization around tags, not hierarchies
"Computer users organize their files into folders because that is the primary tool offered by operating systems. But applying this standard hierarchical model to my own files, I began to notice shortcomings of this paradigm over the years. At the same time, I used some other information systems not based on hierarchical path names, and they turned out to solve a number of problems. I propose a new way of organizing files based on tagging, and describe the features and consequences of this method in detail.

Speaking personally, I’m fed up with HFSes, on Windows, Linux, and online storage alike. I struggled with file organization for just over a decade before finally writing this article to describe problems and solutions. Life would be easier if I could tolerate the limitations of hierarchical organization, or at least if the new proposal can fit on top of existing HFSes. But fundamentally, there is a mismatch between the narrowness of hierarchies and the rich structure of human knowledge, and the proposed system will not presuppose the features of HFSes. I wish to solicit public feedback on these ideas, and end up with a design plan that I can implement to solve the problems I already have today.

This article is more of a brainstorm than a prescriptive formula. I begin by illustrating how hierarchies fall short on real-life problems, and how existing alternative systems like Git and Danbooru bypass HFS problems to deliver a better user experience. Then I describe a step-by-step model, starting from basic primitives, of a proposed file organization system that includes a number of desirable features by design. Finally, I present some open questions on aspects of the proposal where I’m unsure of the right answer.

I welcome any feedback about anything written here, especially regarding errors, omissions, and alternatives. For example, I might have missed helpful features of traditional HFSes. I know I haven’t read about or tested every alternative file system out there. I know that my proposed file organization scheme might have issues with conceptual and computational complexity, be too general or not expressive enough, or fail to offer a useful feature. And certainly, I don’t know all the ramifications of the proposed system if it gets implemented, on aspects ranging from security to sharing to networks. But I try my best to present tangible ideas as a start toward designing a better system. And ultimately, I want to implement such a proposed file system so that I can store and find my data sanely.

In the arguments presented below, I care most about the data model and less about implementation details. For example in HFSes, I focus on the fact that the file system consists of a tree of labeled edges with file content at the leaves; I ignore details about inodes, journaling, defragmentation, permissions, etc. For example in my proposal, I care about what data each file should store and what each field means; I assert that querying over all files in the file system is possible but don’t go into detail about how to do it efficiently. Also, the term “file system” can mean many things – it could be just a model of what data is stored (e.g. directories and files), or an abstract API of possible commands (e.g. mkdir(), walk(), open(), etc.), or it could refer to a full-blown implementation like NTFS with all its idiosyncratic features and characteristics. When I critique hierarchical file systems, I am mostly commenting at the data model level – regardless of the implementation flavor (ext4, HFS+, etc.). When I propose a new way of organizing files, I am mainly designing the data model, and leaving the implementation details for later work."
tags  tagging  design  folksonomy  files  filing  computing  organization  via:jslr  hierarchy  hypertext  complexity  multiverse  search 
april 2018 by robertogreco
The Misguided Drive to Measure ‘Learning Outcomes’ - The New York Times
"It seems that the pressure to assess student learning outcomes has grown most quickly at poorly funded regional universities that have absorbed a large proportion of financially disadvantaged students, where profound deficits in preparation and resources hamper achievement. Research indicates that the more selective a university, the less likely it is to embrace assessment. Learning outcomes assessment has become one way to answer the question, “If you get unprepared students in your class and they don’t do well, how does that get explained?” Mr. Eubanks at Furman University told me.

When Erik Gilbert, a professor of history at Arkansas State University, reached the end of his World Civilization course last fall, he dutifully imposed the required assessment: an extra question on the final exam that asked students to read a document about Samurai culture and answer questions using knowledge of Japanese history. Yet his course focused on “cross-cultural connections, trade, travel, empire, migration and bigger-scale questions, rather than area studies,” Mr. Gilbert told me. His students had not studied Japanese domestic history. “We do it this way because it satisfies what the assessment office wants, not because it addresses concerns that we as a department have.”

Mr. Gilbert became an outspoken assessment skeptic after years of watching the process fail to capture what happens in his classes — and seeing it miss the real reasons students struggle. “Maybe all your students have full-time jobs, but that’s something you can’t fix, even though that’s really the core problem,” he said. “Instead, you’re expected to find some small problem, like students don’t understand historical chronology, so you might add a reading to address that. You’re supposed to make something up every semester, then write up a narrative” explaining your solution to administrators.

Here is the second irony: Learning assessment has not spurred discussion of the deep structural problems that send so many students to college unprepared to succeed. Instead, it lets politicians and accreditors ignore these problems as long as bureaucratic mechanisms appear to be holding someone — usually a professor — accountable for student performance.

All professors could benefit from serious conversations about what is and is not working in their classes. But instead they end up preoccupied with feeding the bureaucratic beast. “It’s a bit like the old Soviet Union. You speak two languages,” said Frank Furedi, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Britain, which has a booming assessment culture. “You do a performance for the sake of the auditors, but in reality, you carry on.”

Yet bureaucratic jargon subtly shapes the expectations of students and teachers alike. On the first day of class, my colleagues and I — especially in the humanities, where professors are perpetually anxious about falling enrollment — find ourselves rattling off the skills our courses offer (“Critical thinking! Clear writing!”), hyping our products like Apple Store clerks.

I teach intellectual history. Of course that includes skills: learning to read a historical source, interpret evidence and build an argument. But cultivating historical consciousness is more than that: It means helping students immerse themselves in a body of knowledge, question assumptions about memory and orient themselves toward current events in a new way.

If we describe college courses as mainly delivery mechanisms for skills to please a future employer, if we imply that history, literature and linguistics are more or less interchangeable “content” that convey the same mental tools, we oversimplify the intellectual complexity that makes a university education worthwhile in the first place. We end up using the language of the capitalist marketplace and speak to our students as customers rather than fellow thinkers. They deserve better.

“When kids come from backgrounds where they’re the first in their families to go to college, we have to take them seriously, and not flatter them and give them third-rate ideas,” Mr. Furedi told me. “They need to be challenged and inspired by the idea of our disciplines.” Assessment culture is dumbing down universities, he said: “One of the horrible things is that many universities think that giving access to nontraditional students means turning a university into a high school. That’s not giving them access to higher education.”

Here is the third irony: The value of universities to a capitalist society depends on their ability to resist capitalism, to carve out space for intellectual endeavors that don’t have obvious metrics or market value.

Consider that holy grail of learning outcomes, critical thinking — what the philosopher John Dewey called the ability “to maintain the state of doubt and to carry on systematic and protracted inquiry.” Teaching it is not a cheap or efficient process. It does not come from trying to educate the most students at the lowest possible cost or from emphasizing short, quantifiable, standardized assignments at the expense of meandering, creative and difficult investigation.

Producing thoughtful, talented graduates is not a matter of focusing on market-ready skills. It’s about giving students an opportunity that most of them will never have again in their lives: the chance for serious exploration of complicated intellectual problems, the gift of time in an institution where curiosity and discovery are the source of meaning.

That’s how we produce the critical thinkers American employers want to hire. And there’s just no app for that."
learning  learningoutcomes  outcomes  academia  assessment  evaluation  quantification  measurement  accountability  highered  highereducation  2018  mollywhorthen  criticalthinking  johndewey  metrics  inquiry  efficiency  standardization  standardizedtesting  capitalism  content  complexity  howwelearn  howwethink  knowledge  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  unschooling  deschooling  schools  pedagogy  teaching  skepticism  bureaucracy  corporatism  corporatization  inequality 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Everything Easy is Hard Again – Frank Chimero
"Directness is best in my experience, so a great photo, memorable illustration, or pitch-perfect sentence does most of the work. Beyond that, fancy implementation has never moved the needle much for my clients.

My web design philosophy is no razzle-dazzle. My job is to help my clients identify and express the one or two uniquely true things about their project or company, then enhance it through a memorable design with a light touch. If complexity comes along, we focus in on it, look for patterns, and change the blueprint for what we’re building. We don’t necessarily go looking for better tools or fancier processes. In the past, I’ve called this following the grain of the web, which is to use design choices that swing with what HTML, CSS, and screens make easy, flexible, and resilient.

It seems there are fewer and fewer notable websites built with this approach each year. So, I thought it would be useful remind everyone that the easiest and cheapest strategy for dealing with complexity is not to invent something to manage it, but to avoid the complexity altogether with a more clever plan.

To test how much complexity comes along with my limited needs, I wrote down the technical requirements of my web design practice. It’s not a long list:

simple, responsive layout
web fonts and nicely set text
performant, scalable images

All of these have been more than met for at least five years, but the complexity of even these very fundamental needs has ballooned in the last few years.

For instance, I just showed you four different methods to put two things next to each other. Each new method mostly replaces the last, so hopefully we’re reaching a stabilization point with flexbox and CSS Grid. But who knows what will come out five years from now?"

"My point is that the foundations are now sufficiently complicated enough on their own that it seems foolish to go add more optional complexity on top of it. I’ve kept my examples to the most basic of web implementations, and I haven’t touched on Javascript, animation, libraries, frameworks, pre-processors, package managers, automation, testing, or deployment. Whew.


All of that bundled together is the popular way to work in 2018. But other people’s toolchains are absolutely inscrutable from the outside. Even getting started is touchy. Last month, I had to install a package manager to install a package manager. That’s when I closed my laptop and slowly backed away from it. We’re a long way from the CSS Zen Garden where I started.

If you go talk to a senior software developer, you’ll probably hear them complain about spaghetti code. This is when code is overwrought, unorganized, opaque, and snarled with dependencies. I perked up when I heard the term used for the first time, because, while I can’t identify spaghetti code as a designer, I sure as hell know about spaghetti workflows and spaghetti toolchains. It feels like we’re there now on the web.


That breaks my heart, because so much of my start on the web came from being able to see and easily make sense of any site I’d visit. I had view source, but each year that goes by, it becomes less and less helpful as a way to investigate other people’s work. Markup balloons in size and becomes illegible because computers are generating it without an eye for context. Styles become overly verbose and redundant to the point of confusion. Functionality gets obfuscated behind compressed Javascript."

"It’s by keeping our work legible that we keep the door open to the next generation of our co-workers. What works for them also works for us, because whether you are just out of school or have twenty years of experience, you’ll eventually end up in the same spot: your first year of making websites."
francjchimero  webdeb  webdesign  css  html  design  development  web  2018  online  internet  simplicity  complexity 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Los Angeles, Houston and the appeal of the hard-to-read city
"This is not going to be a column about all the things the New York Times got wrong about the Los Angeles Times in its recent front-page story by Tim Arango and Adam Nagourney, "A Paper Tears Apart in a City That Never Quite Came Together." It is not, for the most part, going to be about all the things the New York Times got wrong (or simply failed to mention) about Los Angeles itself in that article, which argued that recent turmoil at this newspaper is emblematic of the city's broader lack of support for its major institutions. Plenty of smart people have already weighed in on both fronts.

And yes, every word in the previous sentence links to one of those smart people. Here are a couple more for good measure. When Josh Kun, Carolina Miranda, Daniel Hernandez, David Ulin, Alissa Walker, Matthew Kang and Carolyn Kellogg are united in knocking your analysis of Los Angeles, it might, you know, be a sign.

Anyway. This is going to be a column, instead, about something slightly different: about the legibility (and illegibility) of cities more generally. About how we react — as reporters and critics and simply as people — when we're confronted with a city that doesn't make sense to us right away.

Ten days or so before that story appeared, I spent a long weekend in Houston, meeting up with three old friends ostensibly to see the Warriors, the NBA team I grew up rooting for, play the Rockets — but also just to hang out and eat barbecue and visit the Menil, my favorite museum building in America (just edging out another Texas landmark, the Kimbell in Fort Worth).

Houston is casually written off even more often than Los Angeles, which is saying something. Now the fourth largest city in the country in population — and gaining on third-place Chicago — it's an unruly place in terms of its urbanism, a place that (as Los Angeles once did) has room, or makes room, for a wide spectrum of architectural production, from the innovative to the ugly. Like Los Angeles, it's a city that invested heavily in freeways and other car-centric infrastructure last century and remains, in many neighborhoods, a terrible place to walk.

It's long been a place people go to reinvent themselves, to get rich or to disappear. The flip side of its great tolerance is a certain lack of cohesion, a difficulty in articulating a set of common civic goals. (Here's where I concede that the instinct behind the New York Times piece on L.A., if little about its execution, was perfectly reasonable.) As is the case in Los Angeles, the greatest thing and the worst thing about Houston are one and the same: Nobody cares what anybody else is doing. Freedom in both places sometimes trumps community. It also tends to trump stale donor-class taste.

Roughly one in four residents of Houston's Harris County is foreign-born, a rate nearly as high as those in New York and Los Angeles. Houston's relationship with Dallas, the third biggest city in Texas, is something like L.A.'s with San Francisco; the southern city in each pair is less decorous, less fixed in its civic identity and (at the moment, at least) entirely more vital.

I've been to Houston five or six times; I like spending time there largely because I don't know it as well as I'd like to. That's another way of saying that while I'm there, I'm reminded of the way in which much of the world interacts with and judges Los Angeles, from a position of alienation and even ignorance. I just happen to enjoy that sensation more than most people do.

If I had to put my finger on what unites Houston and Los Angeles, it is a certain elusiveness as urban object. Both cities are opaque and hard to read. What is Houston? Where does it begin and end? Does it have a center? Does it need one? It's tough to say, even when you're there — even when you're looking directly at it.

The same has been said of Los Angeles since its earliest days. Something Carey McWilliams noted about L.A. in 1946 — that it is a place fundamentally ad hoc in spirit, "a gigantic improvisation" — is perhaps even more true of Houston. Before you can pin either city down, you notice that it's wriggled out of your grasp.

People who are accustomed to making quick sense of the world, to ordering it into neat and sharply defined categories, tend to be flummoxed by both places. And reporters at the New York Times are certainly used to making quick sense of the world. If there's one reason the paper keeps getting Los Angeles so spectacularly wrong, I think that's it. Smart, accomplished people don't like being made to feel out of their depth. Los Angeles makes out-of-town reporters feel out of their depth from their first day here.

Their reaction to that feeling, paradoxically enough, is very often to attempt to write that feeling away — to conquer that sense of dislocation by producing a story that sets out to explain Los Angeles in its entirety. Because it's a challenge, maybe, or because they simply can't be convinced, despite all the evidence right in front of them, that Los Angeles, as cities go, is an especially tough nut to crack.

Plenty of journalists have left Los Angeles over the years and moved to New York to work for the New York Times; none of them, as far as I know, has attempted, after two or three months on the job, to write a piece explaining What New York City Means. I can think of many New Yorkers — each of them highly credentialed academically or journalistically or both, which is perhaps the root of the problem — who have come to Los Angeles and tried to pull off that same trick here.

That tendency — to attempt the moon shot, the overarching analysis, too soon — is equal parts hubris and panic. It usually goes about as well as it went this time around for Arango, not incidentally a brand-new arrival in the New York Times bureau here, and Nagourney.

Among the most dedicated scholars of Houston's urban form in recent years has been Lars Lerup, former dean of the Rice University School of Architecture. In his new book of essays, "The Continuous City," he argues that the first step in understanding Houston and cities like it is to begin with a certain humility about the nature and scale of the task.

This kind of city has grown so large — in economic and environmental as well as physical reach — that it begins to stretch beyond our field of vision. The best way to grasp it, according to Lerup, is to understand that it is not Manhattan, Boston, San Francisco or Chicago — to recognize it instead as "a vast field with no distinct borders."

"The old city was a discrete object sitting on a Tuscan hill surrounded by a collectively constructed wall; the new city is everywhere," he writes. "Only when we accept that we can only attain a partial understanding can work begin."

Lerup stresses that huge, spread-out cities like Houston — which he also calls "distributed cities," places where "the spiky downtown is just a blip in the flatness" — have long been tough to read, in part because they are "always in the throes of change." But the relationship between urbanization and climate change has added a new layer of complexity, because big metro regions and their pollution are exacerbating the ecological crisis. The city now "owns everything" and must answer for everything, "even the raging hurricane bearing down on its coast." The vast city has grown vaster still.

If there's one place I part ways with Lerup, it has to do with his insistence that "few conceptual tools have evolved" to help us grapple with the distributed city and its meanings. At least in the case of Los Angeles, the literature on this score is richer, going back many decades, than even many locals realize.

There's not only McWilliams' superb, clear-eyed book "Southern California: An Island on the Land," which I would make required reading for every new hire if I were running the Los Angeles bureau of the New York Times. (Especially the part where McWilliams admits that he hated Los Angeles when he arrived and that it took him "seven long years of exile" to understand and appreciate the city. Seven years! And that was with a brain bigger and more nimble than most.) There's also architect Charles Moore's 1984 guidebook, "City Observed: Los Angeles," which he wrote with Peter Becker and Regula Campbell.

Right at the beginning, Moore, as if to anticipate Lerup, reminds his readers that L.A. is "altogether different from the compact old centers of Manhattan and Boston." (It is not a discrete object sitting on a Tuscan hill.) Making sense of it, as a result, requires "an altogether different plan of attack."

That simple bit of advice is the only one journalists newly arrived in Los Angeles really need to get started on the right foot. It's also one those journalists have been ignoring for 34 years and counting."
houston  losangeles  cities  illegibility  vitality  urban  urbanism  nyc  christopherhawthorne  2018  socal  california  larlerup  manhattan  boston  sanfrancisco  chicago  nytimes  careymcwilliams  joshkun  carolinamiranda  danielhernandez  davidulin  latimes  alissawalker  matthewkang  carolynkellogg  timarango  adamnagourney  elitism  legibility  population  place  identity  elusiveness  hubris  panic  urbanization  climatechange  complexity  charlesmoore 
february 2018 by robertogreco
[no title]
"The important thing is to understand life, each living individuality, not as a form, or a development of form, but as a complex relation between differential velocities, between deceleration and acceleration of particles. A composition of speeds and slowness on a plane of immanence. In the same way, a musical form will depend on a complex relation between speeds and slowness of sound particles. It is not just a matter of music but of how to live: it is by speed and slowness that one slips in among things, that one connects with something else. One never commences; one never has a tabula rasa; one slips in, enters in the middle; one takes up or lays down rhythms."

—Gilles Deleuze, ‘Spinoza: Practical Philosophy
deleuze  gillesdeleuze  spinoza  life  individuality  velocities  velocity  vectors  slowness  form  particles  flow  interconnectedness  interconnected  interdependence  music  complexity  systems  systemsthinking  philosophy  via:fantasylla  interconnectivity 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Design Thinking is Kind of Like Syphilis — It’s Contagious and Rots Your Brains
"Miller never bothers to define all the modes, and we will consider them more below. But for now, we should just note that the entire model is based on design consulting: You try to understand the client’s problem, what he or she wants or needs. You sharpen that problem so it’s easier to solve. You think of ways to solve it. You try those solutions out to see if they work. And then once you’ve settled on something, you ask your client for feedback. By the end, you’ve created a “solution,” which is also apparently an “innovation.”

Miller also never bothers to define the liberal arts. The closest he comes is to say they are ways of “thinking that all students should be exposed to because it enhances their understanding of everything else.” Nor does he make clear what he means by the idea that Design Thinking is or could be the new liberal arts. Is it but one new art to be added to the traditional liberal arts, such as grammar, logic, rhetoric, math, music, and science? Or does Miller think, like Hennessy and Kelly, that all of education should be rebuilt around the DTs? Who knows.

Miller is most impressed with Design Thinking’s Empathize Mode. He writes lyrically, “Human-centered design redescribes the classical aim of education as the care and tending of the soul; its focus on empathy follows directly from Rousseau’s stress on compassion as a social virtue.” Beautiful. Interesting.

But what are we really talking about here? The’s An Introduction to Design Thinking PROCESS GUIDE says, “The Empathize Mode is the work you do to understand people, within the context of your design challenge.” We can use language like “empathy” to dress things up, but this is Business 101. Listen to your client; find out what he or she wants or needs.

Miller calls the Empathize Mode “ethnography,” which is deeply uncharitable — and probably offensive — to cultural anthropologists who spend their entire lives learning how to observe other people. Few, if any, anthropologists would sign onto the idea that some amateurs at a “boot camp,” strolling around Stanford and gawking at strangers, constitutes ethnography. The Empathize Mode of Design Thinking is roughly as ethnographic as a marketing focus group or a crew of sleazoid consultants trying to feel out and up their clients’ desires.

What Miller, Kelly, and Hennessy are asking us to imagine is that design consulting is or could be a model for retooling all of education, that it has some method for “producing reliably innovative results in any field.” They believe that we should use Design Thinking to reform education by treating students as customers, or clients, and making sure our customers are getting what they want. And they assert that Design Thinking should be a central part of what students learn, so that graduates come to approach social reality through the model of design consulting. In other words, we should view all of society as if we are in the design consulting business."

In recent episode of the Design Observer podcast, Jen added further thoughts on Design Thinking. “The marketing of design thinking is completely bullshit. It’s even getting worse and worse now that [Stanford has] three-day boot camps that offer certified programs — as if anyone who enrolled in these programs can become a designer and think like a designer and work like a designer.” She also resists the idea that any single methodology “can deal with any kind of situation — not to mention the very complex society that we’re in today.”

In informal survey I conducted with individuals who either teach at or were trained at the top art, architecture, and design schools in the USA, most respondents said that they and their colleagues do not use the term Design Thinking. Most of the people pushing the DTs in higher education are at second- and third-tier universities and, ironically, aren’t innovating but rather emulating Stanford. In afew cases, respondents said they did know a colleague or two who was saying “Design Thinking” frequently, but in every case, the individuals were using the DTs either to increase their turf within the university or to extract resources from college administrators who are often willing to throw money at anything that smacks of “innovation.”

Moreover, individuals working in art, architecture, and design schools tend to be quite critical of existing DT programs. Reportedly, some schools are creating Design Thinking tracks for unpromising students who couldn’t hack it in traditional architecture or design programs — DT as “design lite.” The individuals I talked to also had strong reservations about the products coming out of Design Thinking classes. A traditional project in DT classes involves undergraduate students leading “multidisciplinary” or “transdisciplinary” teams drawing on faculty expertise around campus to solve some problem of interest to the students. The students are not experts in anything, however, and the projects often take the form of, as one person put it, “kids trying to save the world.”

One architecture professor I interviewed had been asked to sit in on a Design Thinking course’s critique, a tradition at architecture and design schools where outside experts are brought in to offer (often tough) feedback on student projects. The professor watched a student explain her design: a technology that was meant to connect mothers with their premature babies who they cannot touch directly. The professor wondered, what is the message about learning that students get from such projects? “I guess the idea is that this work empowers the students to believe they are applying their design skills,” the professor told me. “But I couldn’t critique it as design because there was nothing to it as design. So what’s left? Is good will enough?

As others put it to me, Design Thinking gives students an unrealistic idea of design and the work that goes into creating positive change. Upending that old dictum “knowledge is power,” Design Thinkers giver their students power without knowledge, “creative confidence” without actual capabilities.

It’s also an elitist, Great White Hope vision of change that literally asks students to imagine themselves entering a situation to solve other people’s problems. Among other things, this situation often leads to significant mismatch between designers’ visions — even after practicing “empathy” — and users’ actual needs. Perhaps the most famous example is the PlayPump, a piece of merry-go-round equipment that would pump water when children used it. Designers envisioned that the PlayPump would provide water to thousands of African communities. Only kids didn’t show up, including because there was no local cultural tradition of playing with merry-go-rounds.

Unsurprisingly, Design Thinking-types were enthusiastic about the PlayPump. Tom Hulme, the design director at IDEO’s London office, created a webpage called OpenIDEO, where users could share “open source innovation.” Hulme explained that he found himself asking, “What would IDEO look like on steroids? [We might ask the same question about crack cocaine or PCP.] What would it look like when you invite everybody into everything? I set myself the challenge of . . . radical open-innovation collaboration.” OpenIDEO community users were enthusiastic about the PlayPump — even a year after the system had been debunked, suggesting inviting everyone to everything gets you people who don’t do research. One OpenIDEO user enthused that the PlayPump highlighted how “fun can be combined with real needs.”

Thom Moran, an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, told me that Design Thinking brought “a whole set of values about what design’s supposed to look like,” including that everything is supposed to be “fun” and “play,” and that the focus is less on “what would work.” Moran went on, “The disappointing part for me is that I really do believe that architecture, art, and design should be thought of as being a part of the liberal arts. They provide a unique skill set for looking at and engaging the world, and being critical of it.” Like others I talked to, Moran doesn’t see this kind of critical thinking in the popular form of Design Thinking, which tends to ignore politics, environmental issues, and global economic problems.

Moran holds up the Swiffer — the sweeper-mop with disposable covers designed by an IDEO-clone design consultancy, Continuum — as a good example of what Design Thinking is all about. “It’s design as marketing,” he said. “It’s about looking for and exploiting a market niche. It’s not really about a new and better world. It’s about exquisitely calibrating a product to a market niche that is underexploited.” The Swiffer involves a slight change in old technologies, and it is wasteful. Others made this same connection between Design Thinking and marketing. One architect said that Design Thinking “really belongs in business schools, where they teach marketing and other forms of moral depravity.”

“That’s what’s most annoying,” Moran went on. “I fundamentally believe in this stuff as a model of education. But it’s business consultants who give TED Talks who are out there selling it. It’s all anti-intellectual. That’s the problem. Architecture and design are profoundly intellectual. But for these people, it’s not a form of critical thought; it’s a form of salesmanship.”

Here’s my one caveat: it could be true that the DTs are a good way to teach design or business. I wouldn’t know. I am not a designer (or business school professor). I am struck, however, by how many designers, including Natasha Jen and Thom Moran, believe that the DTs are nonsense. In the end, I will leave this discussion up to designers. It’s their show. My concern is a different one — namely that… [more]
designthinking  innovation  ideas  2017  design  leevinsel  maintenance  repair  ideation  problemsolving  davidedgerton  willthomas  billburnett  daveevans  stanford  natashajen  herbertsimon  robertmckim  ideo  singularity  singularityuniversity  education  schools  teaching  liberalarts  petermiller  esaleninstitute  newage  hassoplattner  johnhennessey  davidkelly  jimjones  empathy  ethnography  consulting  business  bullshit  marketing  snakeoil  criticism  criticalthinking  highereducation  highered  thomamoran  tedtalks  openideo  playpump  designimperialism  whitesaviors  post-its  transdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  art  architecture  complexity  simplicity  methodology  process  emptiness  universities  colleges  philipmirowski  entrepreneurship  lawrencebusch  elizabethpoppberman  nathanielcomfort  margaretbrindle  peterstearns  christophermckenna  hucksterism  self-promotion  hype  georgeorwell  nathanrosenberg  davidmowery  stevenklepper  davidhounshell  patrickmccray  marianamazzucato  andréspicer  humanitariandesign  themaintainers  ma 
december 2017 by robertogreco
When The Iron Law of Efficiency Comes Crashing Down – Jokull | Helge Tennø
"This is part of my manuscript for a session with Keen Bull on how additive manufacturing will impact the world, at this years DIF-festival.

We believe three things are happening with organizations at the moment..

First, advantage of scale has given far more of us increased material wealth, access to mass education, longevity of life increased social complexity and so forth.

The mass production system has enabled us to grow as human beings. But as we grow we have also come to demand more from the business organizations we depend upon for consumption and employment (1).

This hasn’t been a part of the organizations toolbox.

Organizations have had a blueprint that was tailored for mass efficiency — but not meaningfulness, identity, belonging and individualization.

These elements, which are now essential to the output and progress of an organization were deemed problematic and irrelevant in the old system.

So there is a conflict at the moment between a new generation of employeeneeds and what the current organizational tools can offer.

The second thing is that there is an increase in market complexity and uncertainty. We are in an era where digitization has led industries to converge and mutate.

So this system of certainty and predictability which was built for stability in certain times. Is suddenly finding itself in uncertainty. Unable to control for the asymmetric relationships that are appearing between their customers and new organizations.

The only thing certain becomes uncertainty.

Thirdly the iron law of industry — advantage of scale itself — is being disrupted.

In fact scale is turning into a disadvantage due to the massive cost of producing non-standardized parts.

Scale, which once was a barrier to entry for new companies has turned into a barrier for incumbents to answer the demand patterns of the market.

As advantage of scale breaks down every scaffolding around it seems to shake or go down with it.

When the iron law of efficiency — which has cost individuals, ideas, talents and meaningfulness so much — comes crashing down we are GIVEN the opportunity to redesign how we organize and create together.

And advancements in Additive Manufacturing is on a path to softening one of the hardest kernels in the midst of the industrial corporate landscape — the industrial machine.

With Additive manufacturing we are envisioning an ability for the industrial landscape to start delivering on the emerging demand in the market for identity and individualization.

As we are moving from this organization designed and trained to make as little friction as possible, where people are situated into narrow compartments with clearly and precisely defined roles and goals — to an organization where friction, creativity, outliers have no added cost. They are in fact what is needed in order to be aligned to the needs of the market. We are imagining a radically different organization designed to output today what wasn’t even imagined yesterday.

We are entering a highly flexible world demanding highly flexible organizations.

The organizations are not linear, they are not based on hierarchies or chains of command and centralized decision making.

In this new world we have decentralized teams making autonomous decisions. Smaller companies (because there is no advantage of scale) with local niches and the ability to turn around swiftly as demand patterns are manipulated by new impulses."
efficiency  helgetennø  keenbull  complexity  scale  decentralization  horizontality  manufacturing  additivism  consumption  employment  stability  certainty  predictability  uncertainty  organization 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Adventures in lifelong learning: Towards an Anti-Fascist Curriculum
"Yesterday's Warsaw demonstrations were shocking in their scale (60,000 nationalists marched on Poland's independence day; many calling for 'a white Europe of brotherly nations'), but were also disturbing in the way that, whilst confronted with new displays of far-right extremism almost daily - we just don't seem shocked enough. Fascism is like that, of course. It is out-there in the Charlottesville marches, echoed in the words of Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson, yet it is also insidious. It creeps into lives - and becomes normalised in our language and behaviours. As Umberto Eco wrote in 'Ur-Fascism' (1995, p.8), 'Fascism..can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances – every day, in every part of the world.'

The warning signs

I won't use this blog to attempt to summarise important political discussions or try to analyse fascism in any detail; I am not a historian. But given the international rise of the far-right I believe that, as educators, we have a duty to be sensitive to these shifts and as a result should be reshaping our curricula and pedagogy to take account of it.

According to Merriam Webster, fascism is 'a political philosophy, movement, or regime... that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition'. Eco suggests a list of features that are typical of what he calls Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. As he states, 'These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it'. The first principle, that fascism derives from individual or social frustration, is enough in itself to set alarm bells ringing. Four other key features are:

1. The cult of tradition. The desire to return to a better age, and a fear of modernism: 'Truth has been already spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message'. (It should be noted that the first thing that fascist states seize is the curriculum).

2. Irrationalism, and the promotion of action over thought. 'Distrust of the intellectual world'.

3. Fear of difference (fascism is racist by definition). 'The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders.'

4. The fostering of a spirit of war, heroism and machismo. 'Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters. This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual 8 habits, from chastity to homosexuality).'

An anti-fascist curriculum

I suggest here that an anti-fascist curriculum should take account of warning signs such as Eco's, and should also pay heed to Lawrence Britt's 'Fourteen signs of fascism' which include Cronyism and Corruption, the suppression of organised labour, obsession with national security and identification of scapegoats as a unifying cause.

The word 'curriculum' here refers to more than just the syllabus; it incorporates all influences on a child (or adult's) education (buildings, pedagogy, classroom management, the implicit and explicit things that are taught). As teachers we often distract ourselves from the bigger picture; arguments about the specifics of practice give a sense that our classrooms operate as micro-entities, where children are unaffected by the social dysfunction surrounding them. Managing behaviour is seen as a battle of 'them versus us,' and the 'othering' of pupils causes us to neglect the development of our own self-awareness. For this reason, such a curriculum can only start with the teacher.

Below are a few ideas for what an anti-fascist curriculum manifesto might practically include. It can only ever be a guideline; wanting it to become policy or enacted in some way defeats the object of a movement that should sit outside the state. Likewise, it should not dictate the behaviour of teachers, only act as a stimulus that has the potential, not to make large-scale change, but to spark a 'line of flight' that disrupts the status quo. If any of the manifesto chimes with you or you want send any thoughts or ideas as I continue to extend it, please do not hesitate to comment or get in touch with me.

Towards an Anti-Fascist Curriculum - A Manifesto for Educators

1. We start by examining the 'fascist inside us all.'

“The strategic adversary is fascism... the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.” (Foucoult, 1983)

We recognise our own interior desire for power and accept our responsibility as educators to reflect on this with others in spirit of critical challenge. We undertake critically reflective processes that make us question our own assumptions and prejudices, such as tests of cognitive dissonance to expose gender, race, age, disability bias, and intersections of these and other identities. We examine our own values, as individuals and within our organisations and consider the roots of these and their influences on our practice. Our reflective activity extends to our roles as leaders; we aim to continually refine and develop ourselves as human beings, alongside our students.

2. We promote difference over uniformity.

This includes de-centring the Enlightenment idea of the 'perfect human' in order to augment the voices of oppressed 'others'. We celebrate the living knowledge of our students, and examine the genealogy of the subjects we teach to decolonise and diversify our curricula. We make efforts to connect with others globally to inform our practice and maintain perspective. We challenge the threat of toxic masculinity through deliberate educational approaches which liberate men and boys from the need to conform to 'gender-specific' ideals (which further male supremacy). We reflect on our own privilege.

3. We accept complexity and uncertainty.

Whilst welcoming research-informed practice, we reject the fetishisation of science and the search for the 'ultimate truths' of education theory, which can limit educational autonomy.

4. We resist the reduction of 'education' to instrumentalism.

We widen the purpose of education to take into account the socialisation and subjectification of our students (Biesta, 2010). We believe in education as the practice of freedom (hooks, 1994) and consider each subject we teach as a potential vehicle to promote agency and social justice.

5. We are pro-social, critical pedagogues.

We use teaching methods that place an emphasis on the building of community, togetherness and belonging, which have a strong critical and reflective focus. Specific teaching innovations may include philosophical inquiry, restorative practice and thinking environments (and would include the implementation of critical digital pedagogies)."
fascism  sfsh  2017  education  uniformity  difference  complexity  cv  uncertainty  instrumentalism  schools  learning  freedom  community  togetherness  belonging  criticalpedagogy  pedagogy  bellhoooks  teaching  howweteach  openstudioproject  lcproject  restorativejustice  thinking  socialization  agency  socialjustice  science  scienticsm  autonomy  truth  enlightenment  humansism  othering  others  decolonization  diversity  curriculum  masculinity  gender  race  reflection  disability  power  responsibility  canon  love  exploitation  xenophobia  irrationalism  action  machismo  war  heroism  nationalism  tradition  modernism  cronyism  corruption  classroommanagement  manifesto  foucault  supremacy  patriarchy  privilege  disabilities  michelfoucault 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Show your support | Educationforward
"Education has to change – to move forward – so that our schools and students can face the unprecedented challenges of the future, with confidence, capability and compassion.

We believe:

1. That schools should be judged on a much broader set of outcomes (e.g. students’ resourcefulness; their ability to engage with political, economic and ecological issues; their confidence with digital technologies; their enjoyment of reading) than they currently face;

2. That the voices of parents, families, and students should be central to process of education policy formulation;

3. That students who neither want, nor need, to go to university should not be made to feel inadequate or failures by an overly narrow and overly academic curriculum;

4. That high-stakes testing has gone too far, has caused too much stress and anxiety to teachers and students, and is a wholly inadequate means of assessing a student’s full range of talents;

5. That the way teachers teach should foster more than the ability to recall snippets of knowledge – the future will ask students not simply what they know, but what they can do with what they know, how they critically evaluate data, and what to do when they don’t know what to do ;

6. That the knowledge that will matter to students in the mid-21st century will be very different to the knowledge that is currently considered core – re-thinking a curriculum fit for the future is an urgent, widespread concern;

7. That providing evidence of learning has attempted to become ‘teacher-proof’, whilst teaching to the test has become endemic. We have to trust teacher judgements more and invest in their professional development;

8. That too many people cast the debate around education in binary terms, despite the growing numbers of schools whose students get good grades and develop confidence, capability and self-direction in their learning.We need to learn from these schools so that their practices can spread like wildfire;

9. That politicians should focus their energies less on cherry-picking evidence to support their entrenched views, and more on the fundamental purpose of education. We need to improve, and deepen, the quality of public debate around schooling;

10. That we live in times of turbulence and anxiety, where truth is a casualty of intolerance. Education has to help people strengthen their dispositions to tolerate uncertainty, to think carefully about complex issues, to understand the position of others and, where necessary, to disagree gracefully. This matters – not just for our communities and our children’s well-being, but for the future of our world."
education  change  sfsh  outcomes  resourcefulness  policy  schools  acadmemics  testing  standardizedtesting  stress  anxiety  teaching  learning  society  howweteach  howelearn  knowledge  tcsnmy  openstudioproject  lcproject  curriculum  purpose  schooling  turbulence  intolerance  truth  uncertainty  complexity  understanding  grace  disagreement  uk 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Tim Maughan on Twitter: "Zuckerberg translated: I created a thing that became incredibly powerful and complex, and I now have no control over it"
"Zuckerberg translated: I created a thing that became incredibly powerful and complex, and I now have no control over it [screenshot]

been saying this for ages (as has Curtis and others) - this is now the way the world works.

We build systems so complex we don't understand them, and can't control. Instead we try and manage and reactively fire-fight small parts.

see also: all markets, supply chains, the media, algorithms, economies, day to day politics, policing, advertising..just take your pick.

How do you make sense of a system no single individual can comprehend? You lose agency and blame others. You dream up conspiracy theories.

Or you try to find one single answer or reason - and you argue violently for it - when the reality is its far too complex for that.

"It was her emails! The media! Racism! It was bernie! No, it was the russians!" It was all those things, plus x more levels of complexity.

This all sounds very 'we're fucked' and defeatist and, well, yeah. Maybe. Or maybe we can try and find ways to wrestle control back.

One thing these systems all have in common: their purpose is primarily to create and hoard capital. Maybe we should pivot away from that?

More relevant quotes re complexity, control, and automation from that Zuckerberg statement (which is here …) [two screenshots]"
timmaughan  elections  2017  2016  markzuckerberg  facebook  systems  complexity  agency  cv  control  systemsthinking  economics  algorithms  media  supplychains  advertising  politics  policing  lawenforcement 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Nicky Case: Seeing Whole Systems - The Long Now
"Nicky Case is an independent game developer who creates interactive games and simulations including Parable of the Polygons (02014), Coming Out Simulator (02014), We Become What We Behold (02016), To Build A Better Ballot (02016), and LOOPY (02017).

Nicky Case’s presentations are as ingenious, compelling, and graphically rich as the visualizing tools and games Nicky creates for understanding complex dynamic systems.

Case writes: “We need to see the non-linear feedback loops between culture, economics, and technology. Not only that, but we need to see how collective behavior emerges from individual minds and motives. We need new tools, theories, and visualizations to help people talk across disciplines.”

Nicky Case is the creator of Parable of the Polygons (02014), Coming Out Simulator (02014), We Become What We Behold (02016), To Build A Better Ballot (02016), and LOOPY (02017).

How to finesse complexity

HE BEGAN, “Hi, I’m Nicky Case, and I explain complex systems in a visual, tangible, and playful way.” He did exactly that with 207 brilliant slides and clear terminology. What system engineers call “negative feedback,” for example, Case calls “balancing loops.” They maintain a value. Likewise “positive feedback” he calls “reinforcing loops.” They increase a value

Using examples and stories such as the viciousness of the board game Monopoly and the miracle of self-organizing starlings, Case laid out the visual basics of finessing complex systems. A reinforcing loop is like a ball on the top of a hill, ready to accelerate downhill when set in motion. A balancing loop is like a ball in a valley, always returning to the bottom of the valley when perturbed.

Now consider how to deal with a situation where you have an “attractor” (a deep valley) that attracts a system toward failure:


The situation is precarious for the ball because it is near a hilltop that is a reinforcing loop. If the ball is nudged over the top, it will plummet to the bottom of the balancing-loop valley and be stuck there. It would take enormous effort raise the ball out of such an attractor—which might be financial collapse or civil war. Case’s solution is not to try to move the ball, MOVE THE HILLS—identify the balancing and reinforcing loops in the system and weaken or strengthen them as needed to reconfigure the whole system so that the desired condition becomes the dominant attractor.

Now add two more characteristics of the real world—dense networks and chaos (randomness). They make possible the phenomena of emergence (a whole that is different than the sum of its parts) and evolution. Evolution is made of selection (managed by reinforcing and balancing loops) plus variation (unleashed by dense networks and chaos). You cannot control evolution and should not try--that way lies totalitarianism. Our ever popular over-emphasis on selection can lead to paralyzed systems—top-down autocratic governments and frozen businesses. Case urges attention to variation, harnessing networks and chaos from the bottom up via connecting various people from various fields, experimenting with lots of solutions, and welcoming a certain amount of randomness and play. “Design for evolution,” Case says, “and the system will surprise you with solutions you never thought of.”

To do that, “Make chaos your friend.”

--Stewart Brand"
systems  systemsthinking  nickycase  2017  illustration  visualization  longnow  maps  mapping  stewartbrand  games  gaming  gamedesign  capitalism  socialism  monopoly  economics  technology  culture  precarity  chaos  networks  evolution  socialtrust  voting  design  complexity  abstraction  communication  jargon  unknown  loopiness  alinear  feedbackloops  interconnectedness  dataviz  predictions  interconnected  nonlinear  linearity  interconnectivity 
august 2017 by robertogreco
I'm Nowhere In-between: Why we need 'seriously uncool' criticism in education - Long View on Education
"You know those t-charts that divide approaches to education into the old and the new? Of course you do. And I bet that were we both to take five minutes to reproduce one from memory, we would come up with roughly the same list. All we’d need to do then is choose a side. Or perhaps stake out a position somewhere in the middle, a blend of the two. Nothing too extreme.

Let me show you one from nearly 100 years ago. In 1925, May R. Pringle experimented with ‘the project method’, which we would now call ‘Project Based Learning’.1


I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about how we need to be critical of the list of ‘the new and modern’ because it’s always backed by a corporate push. But that’s not why progressive educators find the list seductive. The very terms themselves act as a siren call to anyone who wants a more humane education for children: creative, student-centered, open, flexible, collaboration, choice. We are told that these are the qualities that schools kill and that CEOs would kill for.

But here is the problem. What if CEOs started to call for qualities that ran against our progressive values? In a report by The Economist (and sponsored by Google), Emiliana Vega, “chief of the Education Division, Inter- American Development Bank”, describes the kind of skills that he wishes schools would instill:
“In Latin America, socio- emotional skills are a big part of the gap between what employers need and what young people have. For example, tourism companies need people who will smile and be polite to guests, and often graduates just don’t possess those public- facing techniques.”

Think about that for a minute.

But opposing this new ‘skills agenda’ doesn’t mean that I’m a traditionalist or trying to cut a middle ground. My teaching is most certainly not some kind of ‘back to basics’ or mindless self-medicating prescribed by the ‘what works’ gurus.

The ‘what works’ agenda holds it’s own kind of seduction for self-fashioned rationalists in the vein of Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, who somehow manage to hold onto the Modern faith in science as if most of the 20th century never happened. Geert Lovink sums up that limited critical terrain by looking at the work of Nick Carr, who often criticizes technology because of the effect it has on our cognition:
“Carr and others cleverly exploit the Anglo-American obsession with anything related to the mind, brain and consciousness – mainstream science reporting cannot get enough of it. A thorough economic (let alone Marxist) analysis of Google and the free and open complex is seriously uncool. It seems that the cultural critics will have to sing along with the Daniel Dennetts of this world (loosely gathered on in order to communicate their concerns.”

Most of the ‘seriously uncool’ criticism of the project of Modernity has exploded the dichotomies that the destructive myth of ‘rational’ and ‘objective’ scientific ‘progress’ rested on. While we might lament that teachers do not read enough research, we can’t mistake that research for a neutral, apolitical body of knowledge.

Allow me to use a famous study to illustrate my point. Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer’s ‘The Pen Is Mightier than the Keyboard’ (2014) seems to show that writing notes with pen and paper boosts retention and understanding of information compared to typing notes on a computer. In their study, the participants watched TED talks and took notes, completed distractor tasks, and about 30 minutes later answered questions. In one condition, the test was delayed by a week and some participants were allowed to study their notes for 10 minutes before taking the test. The TED talks were intentionally disconnected from any larger project they were learning about.

So rationally and scientifically speaking, we should have students take notes with pen and paper, right?

Yet, the study itself is not neutral with respect to pedagogy since it contains many in-built assumptions about how we should teach: we can say that the pen is mightier than the keyboard under the controlled conditions when students watch a short lecture once, about a topic they are not in the course of studying, when they are not permitted to take the notes home and perform more work with them, and when the assessment of knowledge uses short answer questions divorced from a meaningful purpose or complex project.

Is that how we want to teach? Would a democratic conversation about schools endorse that pedagogy?

In the lab, scientists try to reduce the complexity and heterogeneity in networks – to purify them – so as to create controlled conditions. Subjects and treatments are standardized so they become comparable. Drawing on systems theory, Gert Biesta argues that schools – like all institutions and our social life more broadly – engage in a kind of complexity reduction. We group children into grades and classes, start and end the day at the same time, in order to reduce “the number of available options for action for the elements of a system” which can “make a quick and smooth operation possible”.

Reducing options for action is neither good nor bad in itself, but it is always an issue of politics and power. So, cognitive science is no more a neutral guide than CEOs. As Biesta writes, “The issue, after all is, who has the power to reduce options for action for whom.”

Reliance on only ‘what works’ is a kind of complexity reduction that would eliminate the need for professional judgement. Biesta worries about the “democratic deficit” that results from “the uptake of the idea of evidence-based practice in education”. It’s a conversation stopper, much like relying on CEOs to provide us with the ‘skills of the future’ also raises the issue of a ‘democratic deficit’ and questions about who has power.

I’m not writing this because I feel like what I have to say is completely new, but because I feel like I need to affirm a commitment to the project of critical pedagogy, which does not rest somewhere in the middle of a t-chart. Critical pedagogy embraces hybridity over purification. Our classrooms should emphasize the very heterogeneity in networks in all their variation and glory that experiments – and corporations – seek to eliminate.2

If I’m nowhere in-between, I’m certainly not the first nor alone.

In Teaching to Transgress (1994), bell hooks tells us that “talking about pedagogy, thinking about it critically, is not the intellectual work that most folks think is hip and cool.” Yes, we still need more of that ‘seriously uncool’ critical work if education is to work in the service of freedom. hooks writes, “Ideally, education should be a place where the need for diverse teaching methods and styles would be valued, encouraged, seen as essential to learning.”

There’s lots of reason to think that the social media discussion of education is not a kind of paradise. But as hooks reminds us,
“…learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.”3
benjamindoxtdator  2017  dichotomies  dichotomy  spectrums  projectbasedlearning  bellhooks  criticalpedagogy  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  hybridity  purity  teaching  leaning  unschooling  deschooling  progressive  schools  freedom  homogeneity  heterogeneity  mayrpringle  history  modernity  emilianavega  richarddawkins  danieldennett  faith  geertlovink  criticism  criticalthinking  technology  pammueller  danieloppenheimer  tedtalks  democracy  democratic  gertbiesta  systemstheory  diversity  complexity  simplicity  agesegregation  efficiency  politics  power  authority  networks  possibility  nicholascarr 
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"

"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'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
how to do nothing – Jenny Odell – Medium
[video: ]

"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:


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
Getting Others Right - The New York Times
"A woman holds a little dog in the crook of her arm. Her sleeveless open-necked top is richly patterned. She wears lipstick, earrings, a bangle. The dog, a puppy perhaps, is both alert and relaxed, looking directly at the camera, just as the woman does. The photograph has such an informal mood, such disarming warmth, that we might suppose it had been made recently, were it not in antique-looking black and white. It’s wonderful when an old picture lets us in like this, obliterating the distance between its then and our now.

The woman in this photograph was named Trecil Poolaw Unap, and the photographer was her brother, Horace Poolaw. They were Kiowa, born and raised in Oklahoma. Horace Poolaw made the photograph in 1928, near the beginning of a career in which he went on to become an avid photographer of Native American life. His photographs, some of which he sold at fairs, often came with a stamp: “A Poolaw Photo, Pictures by an Indian, Horace M. Poolaw, Anadarko, Okla.” It was clear that he wanted to assert that these were pictures with a particular point of view.

Compare the portrait by Poolaw with a few made in the same decade by the most famous photographer of Native Americans, Edward S. Curtis. Curtis’s portraits look different because they were intended for publication in “The North American Indian,” a hugely expensive and intricate photographic undertaking that occupied him for decades. The project was championed by Theodore Roosevelt and financially supported by J.P. Morgan. There’s a portrait of a Hupa woman wearing fur and beads, another of an elderly Cheyenne man in a feathered headdress, yet another of a female Hupa shaman. The lined faces and stoic expressions of these sitters, as well as their “traditional” regalia, announce them as types. They are in keeping with the hope Curtis expressed in the General Introduction to his project: “Rather than being designed for mere embellishment, the photographs are each an illustration of an Indian character or of some vital phase in his existence.”

There’s no denying the meticulous beauty of Curtis’s pictures (and there are thousands of them: The project, published between 1907 and 1930, ran to 20 volumes). But his approach, as laid out in his introduction, was precisely the opposite of Horace Poolaw’s, and it shows: When we look at Trecil Poolaw Unap with her dog, with her ironic smile, we don’t think of her as an “illustration of an Indian character,” nor do we surmise that she is caught in some “vital phase” of her existence. A certain ease and immediacy sets her apart from the beautiful but frozen characters that populate Curtis’s work.

The case of Edward S. Curtis is complex. He was no dilettante: He made serious ethnographic studies of indigenous communities, from the Piegan of the Great Plains to the Kwakiutl of Vancouver Island. And in the 1920s in New Mexico, he became involved in political initiatives that sought to defend Native Americans against government control. But the general tenor of his work idealized Native Americans in the name of preserving vanishing ways of life. He was not above removing, through later photographic manipulation, an offending clock from a carefully arranged scene. Curtis, a knowledgeable and determined man, knew exactly how he liked his Indians.

Horace Poolaw, in contrast, made pictures that were great in their testimonial simplicity and democracy of vision; a relaxed group of Kiowa and Cherokee deacons in slacks and jackets, his son Jerry on leave from Navy duty in his sailor’s uniform and a feathered headdress. Curtis, meanwhile, was inclined to invent scenarios, expunging inconvenient details in order to emphasize a concept of primitivism. One photographer thus gave us lively pictures of life as it was being lived, and the other, at much greater cost and with much more ambition, ended up delivering stilted images of dubious value. Is the lesson here that the truth of a given community can only be delivered by an insider?

A century on, the conundrum remains. There are now many Native American photographers doing outstanding work, bringing to their seeing all the advantages of insider knowledge. Brian Adams is an Inuit photographer of Inuit culture, with a body of work characterized by inquisitiveness and joy. Some of the most rousing photographs of the Standing Rock protests were taken by Josué Rivas, who is Mexica, and Camille Seaman, of the Shinnecock tribe.

But for outsiders to any culture, the situation remains tricky. Take the British photographer Jimmy Nelson, whose “Before They Pass Away” was published as a lush large-format coffee table book in 2013 and has since become ubiquitous in bookstores around the world. “Before They Pass Away” is made explicitly in homage to Edward S. Curtis, whom Nelson often cites as a hero. It proceeds from the same idea as Curtis’s: that certain peoples, on the verge of disappearing, must be captured in illustrative, archetypal photographs. “Before They Pass Away” is accordingly full of postcard-pretty images of the Mursi in Ethiopia, the Huaorani in Ecuador, the Dani in Indonesia. The sitters look out mutely from Nelson’s ark, and scant concession is made to the fact of their contemporaneity. They occasionally tote guns, but do they use boat engines or watch television? If they have any mobile phones, they’re hidden away. What we get, instead, is feathers, fur, cowrie shells, leaves and lots of body paint.

Like Curtis — but without Curtis’s ethnographic rigor — Nelson places his subjects in a permanent anthropological past, erasing their present material and political realities. He is sentimental about those he photographs and often proclaims their beauty, but having invested himself so deeply in the idea of their “disappearance,” he is unable to believe that they are not going anywhere, that they are simply adapting to the modern world. No wonder he is flummoxed by the various tribal leaders who have protested the inaccuracy of his pictures.

What a relief it is then to consider a markedly different project, by the American photographer Daniella Zalcman. In 2016, she published “Signs of Your Identity,” a book featuring First Nations Canadians. But by her own admission, she had a false start. For a month in 2014, Zalcman (who, I should mention, was an acquaintance of mine in college, though I only recently re-encountered her through her work) photographed indigenous Canadians who were struggling with substance abuse and H.I.V. The images she came away with, she thought, risked further stigmatizing the community. When she returned the following year, she began to explore a different story, one that was urgent but that also allowed her to focus on individual experience.

That project was about indigenous people who had been forced to attend Canada’s Indian Residential Schools during the 19th century (the last of which closed only in 1996). Young children were taken from their families and placed in these institutions to enforce their assimilation into mainstream Canadian culture. Indigenous languages were suppressed, and physical and sexual assaults were common. Zalcman interviewed several dozen people, of varying ages, who had spent time in these schools and were haunted by their memories.

Zalcman’s challenge was how to make these memories visible. Her solution, as old-fashioned as it was elegant, was to make double exposures, joining two instants into one by overlaying images of places with portraits of people. She presented these double exposures with written fragments of her interviews with the sitters. Looking at the doubled images, you imagine that the mind of the person pictured is literally occupied by space on which it is overlaid: the decrepit school buildings, the grass where a demolished school once stood. But you also sense that this could be you, that these images are not a report on tribal peculiarities but on the workings of human memory. Uncertain about her right to shape the story, Zalcman lets the subjects speak for themselves. This hesitancy is productive: She manages to accomplish quietly forceful reportage from material that could easily have been sensationalized.

Sympathy is often not enough. It can be condescending. But taking on the identity of others, appropriating what is theirs, is invasive and frequently violent. I have heard appropriation defended on the grounds that we have a responsibility to tell one another’s stories and must be free to do so. This is a seductive but flawed argument. The responsibility toward other people’s stories is real and inescapable, but that doesn’t mean that appropriation is the way to satisfy that responsibility. In fact, the opposite is true: Telling the stories in which we are complicit outsiders has to be done with imagination and skepticism. It might require us not to give up our freedom, but to prioritize justice over freedom. It is not about taking something that belongs to someone else and making it serve you but rather about recognizing that history is brutal and unfinished and finding some way, within that recognition, to serve the dispossessed.

Photography is particularly treacherous when it comes to righting wrongs, because it is so good at recording appearances. Capturing how things look fools us into thinking that we’ve captured their truth. But appearance is bare fact. Combined with intuition, scrupulous context and moral intelligence, it has a chance to become truth. Unalloyed, it is worse than nothing."
tejucole  photography  2017  ethnography  othering  time  memory  appropriation  edwardcurtis  horacepoolaw  nativeamericans  jimmynelson  sympathy  daniellazalcman  storytelling  condescension  context  dispossession  identity  complexity  memories 
june 2017 by robertogreco
A biologist explains CRISPR to people at five different levels of knowledge
"For the second part of an ongoing series, Wired asked biologist Neville Sanjana to explain CRISPR to five people with different levels of knowledge: a 7-year-old, a high school student, a college student, a grad student, and an expert on CRISPR. As I began to watch, I thought he’d gone off the rails right away with the little kid, but as soon as they connected on a personal issue (allergies), you can see the bridge of understanding being constructed."

"CRISPR is a new area of biomedical science that enables gene editing and could be the key to eventually curing diseases like autism or cancer. WIRED has challenged biologist Neville Sanjana to explain this concept to 5 different people; a 7 year-old, a 14 year-old, a college student, a grad student and a CRISPR expert."]

[See also: "A neuroscientist explains a concept at five different levels" ]
biology  CRISPR  genetics  nevillesanjana  science  video  explanation  communication  teaching  complexity  classideas  howweteach  2017  genomes 
may 2017 by robertogreco
A neuroscientist explains a concept at five different levels
"Wired recently challenged neuroscientist Bobby Kasthuri to explain what a connectome is to people with five different levels of potential understanding: a 5-year-old, a 13-year-old, a college student, a neuroscience grad student, and an expert neuroscientist. His goal: “every person here can leave with understanding it at some level”.

Watching this, I kept thinking of Richard Feynman, who was particularly adept at describing concepts to non-experts without sacrificing truth or even nuance. See him explain fire, rubber bands, how trains go around curves, and magnets."

"The Connectome is a comprehensive diagram of all the neural connections existing in the brain. WIRED has challenged neuroscientist Bobby Kasthuri to explain this scientific concept to 5 different people; a 5 year-old, a 13 year-old, a college student, a neuroscience grad student and a connectome entrepreneur."

[See also: "A biologist explains CRISPR to people at five different levels of knowledge" ]
bobbykasthuri  neuroscience  richardfeynman  science  video  explanation  communication  clarity  complexity  teaching  howweteach  classideas 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Elinor Ostrom on the complexity of our current societal landscape - YouTube
"2009 Nobel laureate in economics Elinor Ostrom briefly describes the complexity of current social, political and economic systems, and stresses the importance of collaboration across traditional borders to solve resource problems."
elinorostrom  complexity  textbooks  interdisciplinary  systemsthinking  society  entrepreneurship  economics 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Christopher Emdin SXSWedu 2017 Keynote - YouTube
"Merging theory and practice, connecting contemporary issues to historical ones, and providing a deep analysis on the current state of education, Dr. Emdin ushers in a new way of looking at improving schools and schooling. Drawing from themes in his New York Times Bestselling book, and the latest album from rap group A Tribe Called Quest, Emdin offers insight into the structures of contemporary schools, and highlights major issues like the absence of diversity among teachers, the ways educators of color are silenced in schools, the absence of student voice in designing teaching and learning, and a way forward in addressing these issues."
christopheremdin  education  2017  sxswedu2017  schools  diversity  teaching  learning  howweteach  howwelearn  studentvoice  listening  socialjustice  service  atribecalledquest  dinka  culture  adjustment  maladjustment  ptsd  psychology  voice  transcontextualism  johndewey  doctorseuss  traditions  children  race  racism  trauma  trayvonmartin  violence  schooling  schooltoprisonpipeline  technology  edtech  pedagogy  disenfranchisement  technosolutionism  commoncore  soul  liberation  conversation  paulofreire  credentialism  stem  coding  economics  expectations  engagement  neweconomy  equity  justice  humility  quantification  oppression  whitesupremacy  cosmopolitanism  hiphoped  youthculture  hiphop  youth  teens  appropriation  monetization  servicelearning  purpose  context  decontextualization  tfa  courage  inequality  inequity  normalization  community  curriculum  canon  complexity  chaos  nuance  teachforamerica  transcontextualization 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People | The American Conservative
"My grandma (Mamaw) recognized this instinctively. She said that most people were probably prejudiced, but they had to be secretive about it. “We”–meaning hillbillies–“are the only group of people you don’t have to be ashamed to look down upon.” During my final year at Yale Law, I took a small class with a professor I really admired (and still do). was the only veteran in the class, and when this came up somehow in conversation, a young woman looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you were in the Marines. You just seem so nice. I thought that people in the military had to act a certain way.” It was incredibly insulting, and it was my first real introduction to the idea that this institution that was so important among my neighbors was looked down upon in such a personal way. To this lady, to be in the military meant that you had to be some sort of barbarian.

"At the same time, the hostility between the working class and the elites is so great that there will always be some wariness toward those who go to the other side. And can you blame them? A lot of these people know nothing but judgment and condescension from those with financial and political power, and the thought of their children acquiring that same hostility is noxious. It may just be the sort of value we have to live with.

The odd thing is, the deeper I get into elite culture, the more I see value in this reverse snobbery. It’s the great privilege of my life that I’m deep enough into the American elite that I can indulge a little anti-elitism. Like I said, it keeps you grounded, if nothing else! But it would have been incredibly destructive to indulge too much of it when I was 18.

the point that the meta-narrative of the 2016 election is learned helplessness as a political value. We’re no longer a country that believes in human agency, and as a formerly poor person, I find it incredibly insulting. To hear Trump or Clinton talk about the poor, one would draw the conclusion that they have no power to affect their own lives. Things have been done to them, from bad trade deals to Chinese labor competition, and they need help. And without that help, they’re doomed to lives of misery they didn’t choose.

Obviously, the idea that there aren’t structural barriers facing both the white and black poor is ridiculous. Mamaw recognized that our lives were harder than rich white people, but she always tempered her recognition of the barriers with a hard-noses willfulness: “never be like those a–holes who think the deck is stacked against them.” In hindsight, she was this incredibly perceptive woman. She recognized the message my environment had for me, and she actively fought against it.

There’s good research on this stuff. Believing you have no control is incredibly destructive, and that may be especially true when you face unique barriers. The first time I encountered this idea was in my exposure to addiction subculture, which is quite supportive and admirable in its own way, but is full of literature that speaks about addiction as a disease. If you spend a day in these circles, you’ll hear someone say something to the effect of, “You wouldn’t judge a cancer patient for a tumor, so why judge an addict for drug use.” This view is a perfect microcosm of the problem among poor Americans. On the one hand, the research is clear that there are biological elements to addiction–in that way, it does mimic a disease. On the other hand, the research is also clear that people who believe their addiction is a biologically mandated disease show less ability to resist it. It’s this awful catch-22, where recognizing the true nature of the problem actually hinders the ability to overcome.

Interestingly, both in my conversations with poor blacks and whites, there’s a recognition of the role of better choices in addressing these problems. The refusal to talk about individual agency is in some ways a consequence of a very detached elite, one too afraid to judge and consequently too handicapped to really understand. At the same time, poor people don’t like to be judged, and a little bit of recognition that life has been unfair to them goes a long way. Since Hillbilly Elegy came out, I’ve gotten so many messages along the lines of: “Thank you for being sympathetic but also honest.”

I think that’s the only way to have this conversation and to make the necessary changes: sympathy and honesty. It’s not easy, especially in our politically polarized world, to recognize both the structural and the cultural barriers that so many poor kids face. But I think that if you don’t recognize both, you risk being heartless or condescending, and often both.

[to liberals:] stop pretending that every problem is a structural problem, something imposed on the poor from the outside. I see a significant failure on the Left to understand how these problems develop. They see rising divorce rates as the natural consequence of economic stress. Undoubtedly, that’s partially true. Some of these family problems run far deeper. They see school problems as the consequence of too little money (despite the fact that the per pupil spend in many districts is quite high), and ignore that, as a teacher from my hometown once told me, “They want us to be shepherds to these kids, but they ignore that many of them are raised by wolves.” Again, they’re not all wrong: certainly some schools are unfairly funded. But there’s this weird refusal to deal with the poor as moral agents in their own right. In some cases, the best that public policy can do is help people make better choices, or expose them to better influences through better family policy (like my Mamaw).

There was a huge study that came out a couple of years ago, led by the Harvard economist Raj Chetty. He found that two of the biggest predictors of low upward mobility were 1) living in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty and 2) growing up in a neighborhood with a lot of single mothers. I recall that some of the news articles about the study didn’t even mention the single mother conclusion. That’s a massive oversight! Liberals have to get more comfortable with dealing with the poor as they actually are. I admire their refusal to look down on the least among us, but at some level, that can become an excuse to never really look at the problem at all.

Well, I think it’s important to point out that Christianity, in the quirky way I’ve experienced it, was really important to me, too. For my dad, the way he tells it is that he was a hard partier, he drank a lot, and didn’t have a lot of direction. His Christian faith gave him focus, forced him to think hard about his personal choices, and gave him a community of people who demanded, even if only implicitly, that he act a certain way. I think we all understate the importance of moral pressure, but it helped my dad, and it has certainly helped me! There’s obviously a more explicitly religious argument here, too. If you believe as I do, you believe that the Holy Spirit works in people in a mysterious way. I recognize that a lot of secular folks may look down on that, but I’d make one important point: that not drinking, treating people well, working hard, and so forth, requires a lot of willpower when you didn’t grow up in privilege. That feeling–whether it’s real or entirely fake–that there’s something divine helping you and directing your mind and body, is extraordinarily powerful.

General Chuck Krulak, a former commandant of the Marine Corps, once said that the most important thing the Corps does for the country is “win wars and make Marines.” I didn’t understand that statement the first time I heard it, but for a kid like me, the Marine Corps was basically a four-year education in character and self-management. The challenges start small–running two miles, then three, and more. But they build on each other. If you have good mentors (and I certainly did), you are constantly given tasks, yelled at for failing, advised on how not to fail next time, and then given another try. You learn, through sheer repetition, that you can do difficult things. And that was quite revelatory for me. It gave me a lot of self-confidence. If I had learned helplessness from my environment back home, four years in the Marine Corps taught me something quite different.

After so many years of Republican politicians refusing to even talk about factory closures, Trump’s message is an oasis in the desert. But of course he spent way too much time appealing to people’s fears, and he offered zero substance for how to improve their lives. It was Trump at his best and worst.

My biggest fear with Trump is that, because of the failures of the Republican and Democratic elites, the bar for the white working class is too low. They’re willing to listen to Trump about rapist immigrants and banning all Muslims because other parts of his message are clearly legitimate. A lot of people think Trump is just the first to appeal to the racism and xenophobia that were already there, but I think he’s making the problem worse.

The other big problem I have with Trump is that he has dragged down our entire political conversation. It’s not just that he inflames the tribalism of the Right; it’s that he encourages the worst impulses of the Left. In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from so many of my elite friends some version of, “Trump is the racist leader all of these racist white people deserve.” These comments almost always come from white progressives who know literally zero culturally working class Americans. And I’m always left thinking: if this is the quality of thought of a Harvard Law graduate, then our society is truly doomed. In a world of Trump, we’ve abandoned the pretense of persuasion. The November election strikes me as little more than a referendum on whose tribe is bigger."
donaldtrump  us  elections  2016  politics  poverty  roddreher  jdvance  agency  personalagency  race  economics  policy  optimism  bias  hostility  elitism  tribalism  progressives  liberals  resilience  military  christianity  structure  discipline  willpower  mentors  self-management  character  education  society  class  judgement  condescension  helplessness  despair  learnedhelplessness  sympathy  honesty  rajchetty  snobbery  complexity 
july 2016 by robertogreco
on expertise - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"One of the most common refrains in the aftermath of the Brexit vote was that the British electorate had acted irrationally in rejecting the advice and ignoring the predictions of economic experts. But economic experts have a truly remarkable history of getting things wrong. And it turns out, as Daniel Kahneman explains in Thinking, Fast and Slow, that there is a close causal relationship between being an expert and getting things wrong:
People who spend their time, and earn their living, studying a particular topic produce poorer predictions than dart-throwing monkeys who would have distributed their choices evenly over the options. Even in the region they knew best, experts were not significantly better than nonspecialists. Those who know more forecast very slightly better than those who know less. But those with the most knowledge are often less reliable. The reason is that the person who acquires more knowledge develops an enhanced illusion of her skill and becomes unrealistically overconfident. “We reach the point of diminishing marginal predictive returns for knowledge disconcertingly quickly,” [Philip] Tetlock writes. “In this age of academic hyperspecialization, there is no reason for supposing that contributors to top journals—distinguished political scientists, area study specialists, economists, and so on—are any better than journalists or attentive readers of The New York Times in ‘reading’ emerging situations.” The more famous the forecaster, Tetlock discovered, the more flamboyant the forecasts. “Experts in demand,” he writes, “were more overconfident than their colleagues who eked out existences far from the limelight.”

So in what sense would it be rational to trust the predictions of experts? We all need to think more about what conditions produce better predictions — and what skills and virtues produce better predictors. Tetlock and Gardner have certainly made a start on that:
The humility required for good judgment is not self-doubt – the sense that you are untalented, unintelligent, or unworthy. It is intellectual humility. It is a recognition that reality is profoundly complex, that seeing things clearly is a constant struggle, when it can be done at all, and that human judgment must therefore be riddled with mistakes. This is true for fools and geniuses alike. So it’s quite possible to think highly of yourself and be intellectually humble. In fact, this combination can be wonderfully fruitful. Intellectual humility compels the careful reflection necessary for good judgment; confidence in one’s abilities inspires determined action....

What's especially interesting here is the emphasis not on knowledge but on character — what's needed is a certain kind of person, and especially the kind of person who is humble.

Now ask yourself this: Where does our society teach, or even promote, humility?"
experts  expertise  authority  alanjacobs  psychology  2016  danielkahneman  philiptetlock  brexit  economics  politics  predictions  dangardner  judgement  self-doubt  intellect  reality  complexity  clarity  character  hyperspecialization  specialists  specialization 
july 2016 by robertogreco
coelasquid: castleships: Okay I’m only gonna...
[original post by @castleships]

"Okay I’m only gonna say this once and preface this with the fact that I am Eyak and I probably do not want to hear your opinion on the Pharah skins Raindancer/Thunderbird. This is a really soul baring post so I’m not so sure about people reblogging it, if you do just try to be respective and remember this isn’t a go-ahead to go and appropriate all native cultures.

They’re pretty damn clearly based on Pacific Northwest tribal cultures. The ones I can pick out being Eyak/Tlingit/Haida/Tsimshian, but we often get grouped together so that doesn’t surprise me. There are many more, but I don’t claim familiarity with all tribes and I can’t say if their art styles and myths were used.

For your comparison a little sample of the tribe’s artistic styles just to get the point across:

[two images, one of traditional art, the other of the Overwatch characters ]

And I really have to get something off my chest people. I don’t have a problem with these skins, in fact I adore them. Please just chill with me for a second while I explain.

The biggest issue I see here is people (who usually arn’t ndn, let alone from pac nw tribes) yelling about cultural appropriation. Which good! I’m glad people are on guard for it! But it’s entirely possible that Pharah’s father was Eyak/Tlingit/Haida/Tsimshian or from another closely related Pacific Northwest tribe, so we can’t really call that yet. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was.

Most importantly, speaking as an Eyak. Which is all I can do despite Tlingit/Haida/Tsimshian being so closely related, our tribe’s relationship with cultural appropriation is uh, not exactly the norm.

The last Eyak fluent speaker died in 2008, her name was Chief Marie Smith Jones and she was also the last full-blooded Eyak on Earth. The very last. Please appropriate Eyak culture. It’s the only way it’s going to survive. There’s less than 500 of us remaining, and we’re scattered more and more every year. Families I grew up with in Alaska converted to Catholicism. The military took my family across the globe and left us an entire continent away. The language I learned at the dinner table in 1998 now almost exclusively exists on those cassette tapes my white father recorded that night and in reconstructive attempts from a French academic that studied our language from halfway across the globe.

It sucks shit guys, it really does.

When I first saw the Thunderbird skin I cried, I cried for an hour. Because Overwatch is huge. It will live on for years if not decades. And there’s Pharah with her hair in braids I haven’t seen my mother wear in over a decade. Wearing the colors that remind me of a home I no longer have. Embodying a mythic figure that I trusted to protect me during Y2K and sought out constellations in the sky for.

So before you spew vitriol about how racist it is that they did that. Just kind of chill out and think about different perspectives for a moment. If you really want to help us? Consider taking a poke about and taking a look at our language revitalization project! It’s pretty fun and you could even learn a language out of it.

AwA’ahdah (Thank You)"

[the extension by @coelasquid via reblog]

"I just wanted to reblog this because it’s something I think about a lot in terms of how viewing cultural appropriation in a very black and white binary has the end result of making white supremacy stronger than ever. By treating different arts and cultures like that plastic-wrapped grandma furniture no one’s allowed to sit on because it needs to remain perfectly preserved, white culture and art becomes the only one people feel as though they can safely engage in. I absolutely know this is done from the very conscientious place of trying to prevent the dominant culture from taking things they like and running off with them like Jack Skellington, but when it’s taken in extremely pass/fail terms it makes it very difficult for people to celebrate their OWN cultures.

Of course the best answer is “let people tell their own stories and make their own art” but I have been told by several people from a number of different backgrounds that this hostility toward anything resembling cultural exchange by audiences assuming everyone behind the scenes is white makes them afraid to engage in their OWN culture in any public way for fear of being told they’re getting it wrong. I see this happen fairly regularly in a number of creative fields, television, fashion, art, even cosplay. The number of times I see cosplayers accused of “lying about their race” when they try to dress up like a character who IS supposed to be the same background as them every con season is staggering.

This is very anecdotal but just to look at it from another perspective, I personally am not native but I’m from a very Cree community. A significant number of my friends growing up were native and Métis, our school offered Cree as a second language, we had a Cree choir, Native studies was a mandatory class to get a diploma from our school division. As far back as 5th grade, traditional craftwork was a part of social studies when we were learning about different native nations across Canada. This included beadwork, like looms and embroidery on moccasins. I’m sure the intent was probably to make historically accurate designs, but being 11 year olds we all realized pretty quick it was like pixel art and we could write words and make little pictures, and everyone was working on their beading looms making patterns they designed themselves for months after the unit that required it ended. This was a group of kids, native and non-native alike, engaging in something they were taught in an educational context long after they were required to because they found a way to enjoy it in a contemporary manner that made it fun for them. That kind of thing was encouraged from us a lot, I remember a juried art show for our school division actively encouraging all of the students to focus more on native art and techniques if they planned on entering.

I remember experiencing a bit of a culture shock when I moved out of Northern Canada for the first time and experienced a white friend criticizing a Haida-inspired piece we saw in the hall at our art school for not being “accurate enough”. I was extremely confused because as, a 17 year old raised in Northern Canada my entire life, I’d never experienced that kind of criticism of engaging with native art in a modern, contemporary way before. I just kept thinking “You have no idea who made this! How do you expect modern Native people to enjoy making their own art if you’re going to criticize it for not being held up to a textbook standard?”

Obviously now that I’m more worldly and educated in what society is like outside of Northern Canada I understand the nuance of the situation and the different perspectives that people have informed by their own experiences, but It’s also important to remember that if you turn white culture into the only one people feel allowed to engage with in a fun contemporary manner, it will always remain dominant. This is of course not to say “cultural appropriation is made up, do whatever you want” or anything like that, just that it’s a very multi-dimensional issue to consider."
appropriation  culture  tumblr  overwatch  videogames  games  gaming  nativeamericans  pacificnorthwestnatives  via:vruba  eyak  tlingit  haida  tsimshian  complexity  whiteness  whitesupremacy 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Berlin Biennale | All Problems Can Be Illuminated; Not All Problems Can Be Solved
"“There is no technology for justice. There is only justice.”12 Ursula Franklin answered when I asked her in December 2015, what to do. I reached out because I wanted her to tell me how to act on the perspectives she brings to the traditional story of progress. As someone building internet technologies, working within this received wisdom, I wanted a recipe, something I could share with others (with you!) and throw my body into.

She was warm and generous and incredibly insightful, and she gave me no smooth answers, no simple way.

Central to our conversation was my worry about the massive surveillance capacities enabled by internet technologies and the way in which public assent to surveillance is fueled by the racism and militarism of the now eternal “War on Terror.” What could we do to combat this narrative? What could we do to change the underlying technologies such that they respect human agency and privacy?

Franklin agreed. This is a grave problem. But not a “technological” problem:

“Whether it’s heathens, witches, women, communists, whoever, the institution of an enemy as a political tool is inappropriate. The only solution is an insistence on a civilized democratic society. A civilized democratic society combats this and the wish of an authority to collect personal information on citizens and their activities and loyalties. Whether it’s done by spying, by bribing children, by workplace monitoring, by confession in the confession box of the church—the collection is the issue. The means—the technology—is secondary. The problem is a problem of authoritarian power. And at the root of this problem is the issue of justice, and justice is political.”

While justice can be understood, can be felt, there is no template to follow, or checklist to work through for ensuring a just outcome. The requirements are humility, a respect for context, and a willingness to listen to the most marginalized voices. Let these define the basic requirements of whatever you do. You must “put yourself in the position of the most vulnerable, in a way that achieves a visceral gut feeling of empathy and perspective—that’s the only way to see what justice is.”

Understanding justice, honoring those most vulnerable and including them as authors of any plan that impacts them, is a necessary starting place. But the problems associated with our current technologies won’t be solved by tweaking gears or redesigning mechanisms. A roadmap that centers on justice is only the first step. “For a very long time gadgets and machinery have been anti-people. If one wants to get away from the anti-people component, then you don’t argue technology as much as you argue capitalism.” Even with a view of what justice would look like and could be, attempts at radical change will, of course, be repulsed by powerful actors who benefit richly from the unjust status quo. Political change must be a part of the equation.

This isn’t a frenzied call for revolution. The bigger the scale, the bigger the vision for just change, the more difficult it will be to “get it through” a system in which power is aligned against justice (and, of course, the more difficult it will be to truly understand this vision’s vast impact on vulnerable populations and thus ensure it really supports justice.) Not that working to build practices and plans isn’t worthwhile—it is incredibly worthwhile. But you’re unlikely to have much real impact if you start with a grand announcement. “To proceed in a hostile world,” Franklin suggests, “call it an experiment. Admit that you don’t know how to do it, but ask for space and peace and respect. Then try your experiment, quietly.” In conditions not conducive to success, situate yourself out of the spotlight and proceed subtly, humbly, and be willing to downplay expectations while new forms incubate.

“My favorite word is an old Quaker term, ‘scrupling,’ used as an activity,” Franklin begins, addressing how to approach the vastness of the political and social problems we were discussing. “It comes out of the anti-slavery movement, originally. People would get together to ‘scruple,’ that is, discuss and debate a common problem, something they had scruples about—say, justice—for which they did not have a solution. This is scrupling, and this is something you and your friends can do.”

Gather and talk. Empathize and listen. Don’t chase the spotlight, and accept that some problems are big, and difficult, and that what you’re good at may not fix them. These are not the ways of charismatic executives and flash-bang inventors. These are not instructions for entrepreneurial success. These won’t produce bigger faster newer ways of doing things.

Her parting words were meant to comfort me. “For your own sanity, you have to remember that not all problems can be solved. Not all problems can be solved, but all problems can be illuminated. If the eggs are scrambled, they’re scrambled. You can’t unscramble them. All you can possibly do is cook them and share them with somebody.”"
ursulafranklin  justice  technology  meredithmeredith  2016  efficiency  compliance  listening  empathy  progress  racism  militarism  surveillance  waronterror  democracy  society  humility  inclusivity  inclusion  vulnerability  radicalchange  power  statusquo  politics  scrupling  conversation  problemsolving  jacquesellul  capitalism  consumerism  innovation  quakers  systems  interrelationships  systemsthinking  complexity  culture  materials  art  mindset  organization  procedures  symbols  orthodoxy  luddism  occupywallstreet  ows  resistance  disruption  speed  humanism  science  scientism  legibility  elitism  experts  authority  privilege  experience  civilization  authoritarianism  socialjustice  revolution  peace  spotlight  hardproblems  success 
july 2016 by robertogreco
A Too-Perfect Picture - The New York Times
"You know a Steve McCurry picture when you see one. His portrait of an Afghan girl with vivid green eyes, printed on the cover of National Geographic in June 1985, is one of the iconic images of the 20th century. McCurry’s work is stark and direct, with strong colors, a clear emotional appeal and crisp composition. His most recent volume of photographs, “India,” is a compendium of the pictures he took in that country between 1978 and 2014, and it also gives us the essential McCurry. There are Hindu festivals, men in turbans, women in saris, red-robed monks, long mustaches, large beards, preternaturally soulful children and people in rudimentary canoes against dramatic landscapes.

In McCurry’s portraits, the subject looks directly at the camera, wide-eyed and usually marked by some peculiar­ity, like pale irises, face paint or a snake around the neck. And when he shoots a wider scene, the result feels like a certain ideal of photography: the rule of thirds, a neat counterpoise of foreground and background and an obvious point of primary interest, placed just so. Here’s an old-timer with a dyed beard. Here’s a doe-eyed child in a head scarf. The pictures are staged or shot to look as if they were. They are astonishingly boring.

Boring, but also extremely popular: McCurry’s photographs adorn calendars and books, and command vertiginous prices at auction. He has more than a million followers on Instagram. This popularity does not come about merely because of the technical finesse of his pictures. The photographs in “India,” all taken in the last 40 years, are popular in part because they evoke an earlier time in Indian history, as well as old ideas of what photographs of Indians should look like, what the accouterments of their lives should be: umbrellas, looms, sewing machines; not laptops, wireless printers, escalators. In a single photograph, taken in Agra in 1983, the Taj Mahal is in the background, a steam train is in the foreground and two men ride in front of the engine, one of them crouched, white-bearded and wearing a white cap, the other in a loosefitting brown uniform and a red turban. The men are real, of course, but they have also been chosen for how well they work as types.

A defender of McCurry’s work might suggest that he is interested in exploring vanishing cultures. After all, even in the 21st century, not all Indians go to malls or fly in planes. Should he not be celebrated for seeking out the picturesque and using it to show us quintessential India? What is wrong with showing a culture in its most authentic form? The problem is that the uniqueness of any given country is a mixture not only of its indigenous practices and borrowed customs but also of its past and its present. Any given photograph encloses only a section of the world within its borders. A sequence of photographs, taken over many years and carefully arranged, however, reveals a worldview. To consider a place largely from the perspective of a permanent anthropological past, to settle on a notion of authenticity that edits out the present day, is not simply to present an alternative truth: It is to indulge in fantasy.

What a relief it is to move from Steve McCurry’s work to that of someone like Raghubir Singh. Singh worked from the late ’60s until his untimely death in 1999, traveling all over India to create a series of powerful books about his homeland. His work shares formal content with McCurry’s: the subcontinental terrain, the eye-popping color, the human presence. Within these shared parameters, however, Singh gives us photographs charged with life: not only beautiful experiences or painful scenes but also those in-between moments of drift that make up most of our days. Singh had a democratic eye, and he took pictures of everything: cities, towns, villages, shops, rivers, worshipers, workers, construction sites, motorbikes, statues, modern furniture, balconies, suits, dresses and, sure, turbans and saris.

The power of Singh’s pictures lies in part in their capacious content. But it also lies in their composition, which rises well beyond mere competence, as he demonstrated in books like “River of Colour,” “The Ganges” and “Bombay: Gateway of India.” Singh has cited Edgar Degas and the American photographer Helen Levitt as influences, and you can see what he has learned from their highly sophisticated approaches (Degas’s casual grace, Levitt’s sympathetic view of urban oddity and the way both of them let in messiness at the edges of their images — a messiness that reminds us of the life happening outside the frame as well as within it). A photograph like the one Singh made of a crowded intersection in Kolkata in 1987 draws a breathtaking coherence out of the chaos of the everyday. The image, of which the key elements are a green door, a distant statue, an arm and a bus, is slightly surreal. But everything is in its right place. It reads as a moment of truth snipped from the flow of life.

I love even more a photograph Singh made in Mumbai a couple of years later. Taken in a busy shopping district called Kemps Corner, this photograph has less-obvious charms. The picture is divided into four vertical parts by the glass frontage of a leather-goods shop and its open glass door, and within this grid is a scatter of incident. The main figure, if we can call her that, is a woman past middle age who wears a red blouse and a dark floral skirt and carries a cloth bag on a string. She is seen in profile and looks tired. Beyond her and behind are various other walkers in the city, going about their serious business. An overpass cuts across the picture horizontally. The foreground, red with dust, is curiously open, a potential space for people not yet in the picture. The glass on the left is a display of handbags for sale, and the peculiar lighting of the bags indicates that Singh used flash in taking the shot. The image, unforgettable because it stretches compositional coherence nearly to its snapping point, reminds me of Degas’s painting “Place de la Concorde,” another picture in which easy, classically balanced composition is jettisoned for something more exciting and discomfiting and grounded.

How do we know when a photographer caters to life and not to some previous prejudice? One clue is when the picture evades compositional cliché. But there is also the question of what the photograph is for, what role it plays within the economic circulation of images. Some photographs, like Singh’s, are freer of the censorship of the market. Others are taken only to elicit particular conventional responses — images that masquerade as art but fully inhabit the vocabulary of advertising. As Justice Potter Stewart said when pressed to define hard-core pornography in 1964, “I know it when I see it.”

I saw “it” when I recently watched the video for Coldplay’s “Hymn for the Weekend.” The song is typical Coldplay, written for vague uplift but resistant to sense (“You said, ‘Drink from me, drink from me’/When I was so thirsty/Poured on a symphony/Now I just can’t get enough”). Filmed in India, with a cameo by Beyoncé, the video is a kind of exotification bingo, and almost like a live-action version of Steve McCurry’s vision: peacocks, holy men, painted children, incense. Almost nothing in the video allows true contemporaneity to Indians. They seem to have been placed there as a colorful backdrop to the fantasies of Western visitors. A fantasy withers in the sunlight of realism. But as long as realism is held at bay, the fantasy can remain satisfying to an enormous audience. More than a hundred million people have watched the Coldplay video since it was posted at the end of January.

Are we then to cry “appropriation” whenever a Westerner approaches a non-Western subject? Quite the contrary: Some of the most insightful stories about any place can be told by outsiders. I have, for instance, seen few documentary series as moving and humane as “Phantom India,” released in 1969 by the French auteur Louis Malle. Mary Ellen Mark, not Indian herself, did extraordinary work photographing prostitutes in Mumbai. Non-Indians have made images that capture aspects of the endlessly complicated Indian experience, just as have Indian photographers like Ketaki Sheth, Sooni Taraporevala, Raghu Rai and Richard Bartholomew.

Art is always difficult, but it is especially difficult when it comes to telling other people’s stories. And it is ferociously difficult when those others are tangled up in your history and you are tangled up in theirs. What honors those we look at, those whose stories we try to tell, is work that acknowledges their complex sense of their own reality. Good photography, regardless of its style, is always emotionally generous in this way. For this reason, it outlives the moment that occasions it. Weaker photography delivers a quick message — sweetness, pathos, humor — but fails to do more. But more is what we are."
tejucole  photography  2016  stevemccurry  appropriation  india  culture  authenticity  raghubirsingh  drift  betweeness  democracy  diversity  composition  edgardegas  prejudice  censorship  markets  popularity  nationalgeographic  exotification  realism  outsiders  louismalle  maryellenmark  mumbai  katakisheth  soonitaraporevala  raghurai  richardbartholomew  complexity  reality  sweetness  pathos  humor 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Against Infographics - Art Journal Open
"When design is excellent, graphics reveal data, writes the infographics guru Edward Tufte.1 Good information graphics allow the reader to see relationships not apparent in data without visual form. In principle, such graphics do not impose interpretations but, by showing relationships, make interpretations possible. In Tufte’s oft-quoted phrase: “Good design is clear thinking made visual.”2 Things become considerably more difficult, however, if, pace Tufte, your analytic goal is to complicate rather than to simplify, to open multiple avenues of inquiry, and, most important, to challenge the stability of underlying data, in fact or in principle.

All of these complexities are probed intensely in Depictions, an ongoing print series by the Dutch artist Gert Jan Kocken (b. 1971). Depictions consists of room-size maps of European cities during the Second World War—Rome, Vienna, Munich, and Berlin along the north-south axis of fascism; London, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Łódź, Warsaw, and Stalingrad along the east-west corridor of conflict—each built up in layers from dozens of source maps unearthed in archives. Kocken’s three-by-four meter Depictions of Berlin, 1933–1945 (2010), for example, is constructed from 104 historical maps, which the artist scanned, georectified, layered into a single digital image, and rendered as a C-print. The resulting composite is a welter of information representing the breakneck change, contradictory claims, and massive data production of the Second World War.

Visually, Kocken’s Depictions are both familiar and strange. Anyone who knows Berlin, particularly the internal borders drawn in 1945 and ossified in the Berlin Wall that remain central to the city’s identity, will easily recognize the terrain of Depictions of Berlin. But other cartographic ghosts visible in the work are invisible on the ground. In Kocken’s map, along with the outlines of the wall, we see the process of ethnic cleansing as registered in contemporary reports, the footprint of Germania, the megacity with which Hitler intended to replace Berlin, and the view from Allied bombers. At once, the Depictions series draws on the data-rich tradition of monumental history painting, as seen, for example, in Albrecht Altdorfer’s The Battle of Alexander at Issus (1529), and on the defocalizing, allover paintings of Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and other artists working in the 1940s and 1950s. Kocken’s Depictions are simultaneously narrative and aleatory."

"For infographic purposes, there are a number of more obvious ways to deal with historical maps than Kocken’s approach. In the first place, we have the computer interface. Clearly, this is a resource available to Kocken, as his maps all pass through digital mediation on their way to their final printed form. One can easily imagine, for example, a mapping application that allows users to pick and choose among the 104 maps that constitute Kocken’s Depictions of Berlin, selecting display options such as color, opacity, and so forth. And, indeed, many such engines exist. Moreover, with the right approach, even Kocken’s print artifact could be rendered more legible. Kocken chose a different angle, allowing competing stories to conflict visually as well as epistemologically. In places, this conflict produces illegibility not unlike what we find in the dark regions of the Ypres map; in other places, coherences and transparencies are themselves a surprise.

In an age of infographics, we tend to forget that infographics age and the foreignness of old graphics matters to our understanding of them. Kocken’s Depictions show us that information graphics are always historical and conveying their opacity is as much a part of the historical project as is translating them into a contemporary visual language."
via:shannon_mattern  ambiguity  cartography  epistemology  complexity  art  maps  mapping  gertjankocken  danielrosenberg  2016  edwardtufte  visualization  infographics  berlin  amsterdam  rotterdam 
march 2016 by robertogreco
The Bad Habits You Learn in School
"There is an ongoing debate about whether leadership can be taught, and whether business schools, in particular, are teaching it. There are fair arguments on both sides, but I would broaden the discussion. Our entire education system, from elementary school to graduate school, is poorly constructed to teach young people leadership. Schools do many things well, but they often cultivate habits that can be detrimental to future leaders. Given that most of us spend 13-20 years in educational institutions, those habits can be hard to break.

Consider first the emphasis schools have on authority. Schools are hierarchical: The teacher is the authority in the classroom. Principals or deans preside over teachers and professors. Seniors “rank” higher than juniors, and so on. In our years in the educational system, many of us become obsessed with hierarchy. We think we’re leaders if we’re the “boss,” and if we’re not the boss, we should simply do as we’re told. In reality, even the most senior people in organizations can’t rely solely on hierarchy, particularly given the much needed talents, experiences, and intelligence of the others who surround them. Leadership is an activity, not a position, a distinction explored deeply by Ron Heifetz in Leadership Without Easy Answers. Many great leaders like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela have led others, despite having little to no formal authority, and writers are now exploring methods for leading without formal authority. While some hierarchy may be needed, leaders who learn to lean too hard on formal authority often find themselves and their organizations frustrated, stunted, and stagnant.

Schools also teach us to deal with information as if it is certain and unchanging, when there’s rarely a stable “right answer.” In my first job, I was constantly frustrated by the lack of guidance I received. If you gave me a textbook, I could learn almost anything. But in the workplace, there were no textbooks. Real world problems are complex. They evolve. They’re organizational and analytical. And success is often driven as much (or more) by successful and rapid implementation as by developing the “correct” approach. Understanding that there’s rarely one right answer can make a person more adaptive, agile, and open to the thoughts of their peers. But that understanding is rarely cultivated through textbooks and multiple choice tests."

"Finally, while many schools tell us to serve others, they are rarely structured to actively show us that leadership is serving others. In most educational environments, our primary goal is to serve ourselves — to improve our individual grades, to compete for individual positions, and to maximize our own employment, college, or grad school placements. But as Bill George once said in a panel discussion on next generation leadership, “We are not heroes of our own journey.” People follow leaders who care for them, who share their vision, and who are dedicated to serving a cause greater than one’s self."
schools  education  authority  hierarchy  uncertainty  certainty  complexity  criticalthinking  howweteach  howwelearn  learning  ranking  leadership  service  billgeorge  johncoleman 
march 2016 by robertogreco
what Thomas Hardy taught me | Fredrik deBoer
"Never mind that the idea of salvation through technology is the hoariest old cliche in the history of education, stretching back to the fear among the educated classes that the invention of the printing press would render education obsolete. Never mind that the radio was sure to change teaching forever, or that the television was too, or that the VCR was, as was the personal computer. Never mind that I still hear people talking about what the internet will surely do for the schools of the future, despite the fact that we had the internet in our classroom when I was in junior high school 21 years ago, the school of the past. Never mind that one of the most easily predicted outcomes in educational research is that a highly-touted educational technology will result in no meaningful difference in learning gains. Nope: it’s the same old shit. We’re better and smarter than those other guys who told you that they were better and smarter than the guys who came before them. Our jargon is newer and better. Gamify the cloud with synergistic flipped classrooms that take an active learning approach to emergent technologies and the internet of things. Our app has flavor crystals. Rinse and repeat, now and for forever.

A piece like this makes you realize the real tragedy of this (profitable, and thus perpetual) fantasy of remaking education is that its progenitors are guilty of precisely what they accuse others of: a complete failure to think of education outside of a narrow, restrictive framework. Mead refers to the educational vision on offer here as utilitarian, and I suppose it’s that. But I would argue that the current orthodoxy about education — which, make no mistake, all these proud free thinkers clearly share — is fundamentally mechanistic. That is, it presumes that there is a basic correspondence between particular inputs to a student’s learning and straightforward and clearly-defined outputs in a student’s outcomes. So you teach a student division, and they’ve learned division, and nothing more; you teach a kid to code (in a language that will be obsolete by the time they reach even undergraduate education) and they learn to code (a skill that will be largely automated by the time they reach middle age) and that’s why you bother to do it. And you don’t teach them to read poetry or to dance a waltz because you can’t get a job troubleshooting Geico’s android app with those skills. Everything is a simple and uncomplicated matter of what you put in and what you put out, and the value and importance of what you get out depends entirely on what’s taken seriously by the staff at Wired magazine."

"In a very real way that was the moment when I contemplated the world outside of my own subjectivity in a genuine and mature way. And like so many other important ideas, its consequences continue to spool out in my mind for years to come. It multiplied complexity; it introduced patterns of thinking and difficult questions that I had never thought to consider before. It deepened my mind in more ways than I can express. And yet the value of this insight, in any conventional educational assessment you can name — and I say that as an expert — would be nil. This understanding, which has been central to my development as an adult intelligence, would not factor into any assessment of my academic aptitude. We do not have instruments that measure this kind of learning and we never will.

Now: I don’t and can’t represent myself as anyone’s definition of a human success. And I’m not interested in making this about the rigor or quality of my research or my field. But I can say that, by the typical benchmarks of educational success, I have performed well. I graduated from high school, finished a bachelor’s degree, and went on to two graduate degrees. I’ve performed very well on standardized tests, both state-run assessments of educational progress and entrance exams like the SAT and GRE. I’ve been published in major newspapers and magazines. I’ve written a major policy position paper for a respected think tank. I’ve been published in peer reviewed journals. If you want to get neoliberal about it, I’ve gotten jobs and earned something like the median income. Again, this is not about representing myself as some sort of great success story, but rather just to establish that I have had the kind of academic outcomes that policy makers, members of the media, and parents say they want.

Yet on the level of thinking of our Silicon Valley overlords, aspects of my cognitive abilities that are absolutely central to my educational success are taken to have literally no value at all. In educational research, perhaps the greatest danger lies in thinking “that which I cannot measure is not real.” The disruption fetishists have amplified this danger, now evincing the attitude “teaching that cannot be said to lead to the immediate acquisition of rote, mechanical skills has no value.” But absolutely every aspect of my educational journey — as a student, as a teacher, and as a researcher — demonstrates the folly of this approach to learning."

"The point is not that the humanities, or the liberal arts, or the deeper concepts and values of civilization, or whatever only have value because of how they support more narrowly-remunerative skills. The point is that these deeper values and these monetizable skills exist in relationships so deeply intertwined that they are permanently inextricable from one another. And the utter folly of disregarding those traditional aspects of education that can’t be immediately tied to skills you list on your profile is one we and our children will pay for, for generations. I have no doubt that we will come in time to learn again the absolute necessity of learning that goes beyond the rote skills we currently perceive to be important, that someday people will learn to again see the utter necessity of humanistic thinking. But such understanding will only come after we have allowed deluded privateers to wring every last dollar out of our educational system as they strip it of all learning that has a function other than training more efficient little capitalists.

Albert Einstein was obsessed with music. Would he have been a better physicist, or a worse one, had he spent the time he devoted to music and the other arts on what we now call “STEM subjects”? It’s an absurd, pointless, unanswerable question. What matters is that Einstein was a full-fledged human being, and enjoyed an education that permitted him to be that, and that took the creation of such full-fledged human beings as its central mission. And if we only have the courage to devote ourselves to that project, too, the rest will sort itself out in time."

[See also: ]
freddiedeboer  humanities  altschool  education  pedagogy  teaching  learning  howwelearn  measurement  2016  automation  complexity  economics  politics  rebeccamead  edtech  howweteach  unschooling  deschooling  labor  capitalism  neoliberalism  whywelearn  thomashardy  alberteinstein  stem  interdisciplinary  silos  rotelearning  rote  disruption 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Allen Tan on Twitter: "Organizational complexity, misaligned incentives, and false accountability are the biggest issues ailing (all kinds of) institutions today."
"Organizational complexity, misaligned incentives, and false accountability are the biggest issues ailing (all kinds of) institutions today."

[Preceded by a series of tweets with screenshots from this article:
"One Day, 625 Delays: A mechanical failure at Union Square cascaded into hours of underground hell, revealing just how fragile the subway really is."

"That thing when institutions respond to criticism with self-congratulatory bullshit:"

"That thing when institutions fix problems with infrastructure by actively destroying it for short term gains"

"That thing when institutions blame the people they serve:"

"That thing when an institution’s incentives backfire: "

"That thing where an institution issue noncommittal statements ungrounded in the underlying causes:"

"That thing where institutions fancies themselves those futuresight people in Minority Report:" ]
organizations  change  organization  leadership  complexity  oranizationalchange  accountability  incentives  allentan  cv  2016  institutions  bureaucracy 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Anti-capitalist human scale software (and why it matters) — Medium
"Twitter launches features no one wants. Parse shuts down. Websites track us to an astonishing degree. Corporations close down open systems. They turn over our data to the government.

Software and services that are supposed to make life better are becoming unreliable and untrustworthy. It is increasingly clear that our interests, as software-using humans, are diverging from the interests of software companies.

I am coming to the conclusion that we simply can’t rely on corporations to produce and maintain great, reliable, human-centered software. The systems and incentives are in direct conflict.

In my mind, one of the core problems is a lack of agency. If Twitter or Facebook push out a feature that is destructive to the way we use their services, or they refuse to create tools that are plainly necessary, we can do little but complain. As individual, non-paying users, we have virtually no leverage.

There’s also a lack of agency on the building side of the things. With open systems, we have the opportunity to create and run our own variants of systems that better suit our purposes. When APIs and app stores are tightly controlled, even our ability to usefully augment the system is curtailed.

So, short of overthrowing capitalism, what can we do?

Amidst the pessimism, I do think we still have a chance to build a different path. The only way to meaningfully diverge from the existing trends is to consciously embrace new values and different constraints. To that end, here are a new set of principles:

The community should have final say.

We need to reintroduce agency. Each particular community (not necessarily the entire user base — more on this later) should be able to decide if they want to accept the latest update of a given service or not. If a community cannot shape systems to reflect their values, those systems are flawed.

Scale is a trap.

So much of the complexity of web engineering comes from questions of scale. But why do we need scale? If we are trying to build humane software, there are significant benefits to keeping things smaller and simpler. If you want to run something for hundreds of people–or even thousands–that is entirely sustainable on a single cheap shared server.

Hubs, not monoliths.

A critical piece of this is creating systems that are somewhere in between the giant, corporate systems and the completely distributed everyone-run-their-own-peer, everyone-needs-to-be-a-hacker approach. I am inspired by projects like Artisanal Integers, which I initially thought was a throwaway joke, but is actually a fascinating model to work ourselves out of these centralized systems.

These hubs can be operated by an individual or a small group on behalf of a community. As long as there is sufficient agreement between the hub operators about rules of interoperability, each hub can maintain a level of autonomy. The community of people using it can control its direction. And, ultimately, if one community chooses to break from the larger system, that is an option that is available to them.

Allow the community to create."
scale  software  socialmedia  community  hubs  networks  distributed  jessekriss  complexity  simplicity  web  online  humaneness  artisinalintegers  decentralization  interoperability  capitalism  twitter  apis 
february 2016 by robertogreco
From AI to IA: How AI and architecture created interactivity - YouTube
"The architecture of digital systems isn't just a metaphor. It developed out of a 50-year collaborative relationship between architects and designers, on one side, and technologists in AI, cybernetics, and computer science, on the other. In this talk at the O'Reilly Design Conference in 2016, Molly Steenson traces that history of interaction, tying it to contemporary lessons aimed at designing for a complex world."
mollysteenson  2016  ai  artificialintelligence  douglasenglebart  symbiosis  augmentation  christopheralexander  nicholasnegroponte  richardsaulwurman  architecture  physical  digital  mitmedialab  history  mitarchitecturemachinegroup  technology  compsci  computerscience  cybernetics  interaction  structures  computing  design  complexity  frederickbrooks  computers  interactivity  activity  metaphor  marvinminsky  heuristics  problemsolving  kent  wardcunningham  gangoffour  objectorientedprogramming  apatternlanguage  wikis  agilesoftwaredevelopment  software  patterns  users  digitalspace  interactiondesign  terrywinograd  xeroxparc  petermccolough  medialab 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems — The Development Set — Medium
"“If you’re young, privileged, and interested in creating a life of meaning, of course you’d be attracted to solving problems that seem urgent and readily solvable.”"

"Let’s pretend, for a moment, that you are a 22-year-old college student in Kampala, Uganda. You’re sitting in class and discreetly scrolling through Facebook on your phone. You see that there has been another mass shooting in America, this time in a place called San Bernardino. You’ve never heard of it. You’ve never been to America. But you’ve certainly heard a lot about gun violence in the U.S. It seems like a new mass shooting happens every week.

You wonder if you could go there and get stricter gun legislation passed. You’d be a hero to the American people, a problem-solver, a lifesaver. How hard could it be? Maybe there’s a fellowship for high-minded people like you to go to America after college and train as social entrepreneurs. You could start the nonprofit organization that ends mass shootings, maybe even win a humanitarian award by the time you are 30.

Sound hopelessly naïve? Maybe even a little deluded? It is. And yet, it’s not much different from how too many Americans think about social change in the “Global South.”

If you asked a 22-year-old American about gun control in this country, she would probably tell you that it’s a lot more complicated than taking some workshops on social entrepreneurship and starting a non-profit. She might tell her counterpart from Kampala about the intractable nature of our legislative branch, the long history of gun culture in this country and its passionate defenders, the complexity of mental illness and its treatment. She would perhaps mention the added complication of agitating for change as an outsider.

But if you ask that same 22-year-old American about some of the most pressing problems in a place like Uganda — rural hunger or girl’s secondary education or homophobia — she might see them as solvable. Maybe even easily solvable.

I’ve begun to think about this trend as the reductive seduction of other people’s problems. It’s not malicious. In many ways, it’s psychologically defensible; we don’t know what we don’t know.

If you’re young, privileged, and interested in creating a life of meaning, of course you’d be attracted to solving problems that seem urgent and readily solvable. Of course you’d want to apply for prestigious fellowships that mark you as an ambitious altruist among your peers. Of course you’d want to fly on planes to exotic locations with, importantly, exotic problems.

There is a whole “industry” set up to nurture these desires and delusions — most notably, the 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the U.S., many of them focused on helping people abroad. In other words, the young American ego doesn’t appear in a vacuum. Its hubris is encouraged through job and internship opportunities, conferences galore, and cultural propaganda — encompassed so fully in the patronizing, dangerously simple phrase “save the world.”"

"We are easily seduced by aid projects that promise play. The SOCCKET, an energy-generating soccer ball, made a splash in 2011 when it raised $92,296 on Kickstarter. Three short years later, the company that created it wrote to its backers: “Most of you received an incredibly underwhelming product with a slew of manufacturing and quality control errors… In summary, we totally f*#ked up this Kickstarter campaign.”

Reading their surprisingly candid mea culpa, I couldn’t help but wonder where the equivalent message was to the kids in energy-starved areas whose high hopes were darkened by a defunct ball.

In some cases, the reductive seduction can actively cause harm. In its early years, TOMS Shoes — which has become infamous for its “buy one give one” business model, wherein they give a pair of shoes for every one sold — donated American-made shoes, which put local shoe factory workers out of jobs (they’ve since changed their supply chain).

Some development workers even have an acronym that they use to describe these initiatives: SWEDOW (stuff we don’t want). AIDWATCH, a watchdog development blog, created a handy flow chart that helps do gooders reality check their altruistic instincts. It begins with the simplest of questions — “Is the stuff needed?” — and flows down to more sophisticated questions like, “Will buying locally cause shortages or other disruptions?”

Second, the reductive seduction of other people’s problems is dangerous for the people whose problems you’ve avoided. While thousands of the country’s best and brightest flock to far-flung places to ease unfamiliar suffering and tackle foreign dysfunction, we’ve got plenty of domestic need."

"I understand the attraction of working outside of the U.S. There’s no question that the scale and severity of need in so many countries goes far beyond anything we experience or witness stateside. Why should those beautiful humans deserve any less of our best energy just because we don’t share a nationality?

(And I’m not arguing that staying close to home inoculates kids, especially of the white, privileged variety, like me, from making big mistakes.)

But don’t go because you’ve fallen in love with solvability. Go because you’ve fallen in love with complexity.

Don’t go because you want to do something virtuous. Go because you want to do something difficult.

Don’t go because you want to talk. Go because you want to listen.

Don’t go because you loved studying abroad. Go because, like Molly Melching, you plan on putting down roots. Melching, a native of Illinois, is widely credited with ending female genital cutting (FGC) in Senegal. But it didn’t happen overnight. She has been living in and around Dakar since 1974, developing her organization, Tostan, and its strategy of helping communities collectively address human rights abuses. Her leadership style is all about finely calibrated moments of risk — when she will challenge a local leader, for example — and restraint — when she will hold off on challenging a local leader because she intuits that she hasn’t yet developed enough trust with him. That kind of leadership doesn’t develop during a six-month home stay.

The rise of the social entrepreneurship field in the last few decades has sent countless young people packing across continents. In 2015, global nonprofit Echoing Green received 3,165 applications for about 40 fellowship spots, the majority of them from American applicants interested in social change abroad. For the last decade, recent college grads have been banging down the doors at places like Ashoka and Skoll World Forum, both centers of the social entrepreneurship universe, and SOCAP, focused on impact investing. And, to be sure, a lot of those grads are doing powerful work.

But a lot of them, let’s be real, are not. They’re making big mistakes — both operationally and culturally — in countries they aren’t familiar with. They’re solving problems for people, rather than with, replicating many of the mistakes that the world’s largest development agencies make on a much smaller scale. They drop technology without having a training or maintenance plan in place, or try to shift cultural norms without culturally appropriate educational materials or trusted messengers. Or they’re spending the majority of their days speaking about the work on the conference circuit, rather than actually doing it.

This work can take a toll on these young, idealistic Americans. They feel hollowed out by the cumulative effects of overstating their success while fundraising. They’re quietly haunted by the possibility that they aren’t the right people to be enacting these changes. They feel noble at times, but disconnected from their own homes, their own families, their own friends. They burn out.

There’s a better way. For all of us. Resist the reductive seduction of other people’s problems and, instead, fall in love with the longer-term prospect of staying home and facing systemic complexity head on. Or go if you must, but stay long enough, listen hard enough so that “other people” become real people. But, be warned, they may not seem so easy to “save.”"

[Two responses: ]
courtneymartin  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  problemsolving  colonialism  solvability  2016  privilege  virtue  complexity  mollymelching  roots  culture  idealism  cznnaemeka  guns  homelessness  homeless  prisons  criminaljusticesystem  tomsshoes  aidwatch  globalsouth  disruption  charitableindustrialcomplex  socialentrepreneurship  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism  power  control 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Extracraft and Expulsions (Keller Easterling and Saskia Sassen) - YouTube
"Grounded in their books Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space and Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Landscape, acclaimed scholars Keller Easterling and Saskia Sassen present recent writings on equity, built and representational space, and the global economy. Response by Spatial Information Design Lab Director Laura Kurgan."
saskiasassen  kellereasterling  2015  towatch  economics  equity  infrastructure  landscape  complexity 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Sha Hwang - Keynote [Forms of Protest] - UX Burlington on Vimeo
"Let’s close the day by talking about our responsibilities and opportunities as designers. Let’s talk about the pace of fashion and the promise of infrastructure. Let’s talk about systematic failure — failure without malice. Let’s talk about the ways to engage in this messy and complex world. Let’s throw shade on fame and shine light on the hard quiet work we call design."
shahwang  2015  design  infrastructure  fashion  systemsthinking  complexity  messiness  protest  careers  technology  systems  storytelling  scale  stewartbrand  change  thehero'sjourney  founder'sstory  politics  narrative  narratives  systemsdesign  blame  control  algorithms  systemfailure  mythmaking  teams  purpose  scalability  bias  microaggressions  dignity  abuse  malice  goodwill  fear  inattention  donellameadows  leveragepoints  making  building  constraints  coding  code  programming  consistency  communication  sharing  conversation  government  ux  law  uxdesign  simplicity  kindness  individuals  responsibility  webdev  web  internet  nava  codeforamerica  18f  webdesign 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Not-yetness | the red pincushion
"I have done several talks lately about the idea of not-yetness. It’s an idea that Jen Ross (University of Edinburgh) and I first wrote about in our chapter, Complexity, mess, and not-yetness: Teaching online with emerging technologies, to be published in the forthcoming second edition of Emerging Technologies in Distance Education. In the first edition of the book, our esteemed editor, George Veletsianos, wrote about defining emerging technologies. He wrote that emerging technologies can be both old and new technologies and they are constantly-evolving organisms that experience hype cycles. George also noted that emerging technologies satisfy two “not yet” conditions: they are not fully understood, and not fully researched.

These not-yet conditions hit home for Jen and me. Writing from a complexity theory lens, we thought of not-yetness as being related to emergence. Noel Gough (2012) defines emergence as a key attribute of most human environments and systems, and what occurs when “a system of richly connected interacting agents produces a new pattern of organization that feeds back into the system.”

In our context, emergence is allowing new ideas, new methodologies, new findings, new ways of learning, new ways of doing, and new synergies to emerge and to have those things continue to feed back into more emergence. Emergence is a good thing. For us, not-yetness is the space that allows for emergence. Not-yetness is not satisfying every condition, not fully understanding something, not check-listing everything, not tidying everything, not trying to solve every problem…but creating space for emergence to take us to new and unpredictable places, to help us better understand the problems we are trying to solve (to use Mike Caulfield’s wisdom).

This is becoming increasingly important in education, where the rhetoric surrounding educational technology pushes simplification, ease, efficiency, and measurable-everything. This rhetoric goes hand-in-hand with the accountability movements (many call it “evidence-based practice”) at play in educational contexts. Randy Bass wrote that “these pressures for accountability are making us simultaneously more thoughtful and more limited in what we count as learning.” We hear a lot about “best practices” and “what works,” which Jen and others (Sian Bayne, Hamish Macleod, and Clara O’Shea) have argued is a “totalising notion.” There are lots of ways of understanding what our students experience, lots of ways to do things “right,” lots of definitions of right.

Davis and Sumara (2008) argue that “an education that is understood in complexity terms cannot be conceived in terms of preparation for the future. Rather, it must be construed in terms of participation in the creation of possible futures” (p. 43). And yet the push for simplicity and accountability defines a pretty narrow set of possible outcomes for students. Gardner Campbell cautions us to be careful with learning outcomes statements: “Yet these {learning outcomes} are still behaviors, specified with a set of what I can only describe as jawohl! statements, all rewarding the bon eleves and marching toward compliance and away from more elusive and disruptive concepts like curiosity or wonder.” Simplification and an over-pursuit of accountability run counter to our view that education is complex, messy, creative, unpredictable, multi-faceted, social, and part of larger systems.

We argue that not-yetness helps us to make space for critical discussions and experiments with emerging technologies in a way that recognizes the beautiful complexity of teaching and learning. As Jen said in our ET4Online plenary talk, which focused on messiness and not-yetness in digital learning, “We can use it to tell new stories about what teachers, students, developers, designers and researchers are doing in our digital practices, and why it is hard, and why it matters. We can take better account of issues of power, responsibility, sustainability, reach and contact in digital education. We can be more open about the work of education.”
To that end, Jen and I write in our forthcoming chapter, “We need practices that acknowledge and work with complexity to help us stay open to what may be genuinely surprising about what happens when online learning and teaching meets emerging technologies. In this sense, our focus as educators should be on emergent situations, where complexity gives rise to ‘new properties and behaviours… that are not contained in the essence of the constituent elements, or able to be predicted from a knowledge of initial conditions’ (Mason 2008, p.2).”

So what does all of this mean for educators? Here are some ideas. Embracing not-yetness means making space for learning opportunities that:

• promote creativity, play, exploration, awe

• allow for more, not fewer, connections, more personalization (true personalization, not necessarily what has been offered to us by adaptive learning companies)

• transcend bounds of time, space, location, course, and curriculum

• encourage students to exceed our expectations, beyond our wildest outcomes, pushes back on “data science of learning” focus

• do not hand over essential university functions and important complexities over to private industry

In my talks, I shared examples of projects that I think embody or embrace not-yetness. I’ll share those examples in my follow-on post.

As I was looking at these projects, trying to better understand them, I started thinking about Legos. I love Legos. I was talking to my friend Mike Caulfield, who is at Washington State University-Vancouver about this idea and he said, “do you remember when Legos used to just be free-range Legos? Now, they are these sets that have instructions and tell you how to build exactly what they want you to build. They were trying to eliminate the problem of kids not knowing how to build Legos, but instead they also eliminated the opportunities for creative expression.”

This really hit home for me, because I was really into Legos as a kid and my son is really into Legos. I decided to run a little experiment—mostly for my own curiosity. I decided to see what would happen if I gave him the same Lego set twice and had him build it once with the instructions and once without. First, this is what happened when Vaughn had the Lego instructions (fyi–the videos have no audio):


I thought that, when I gave him the set without the instructions, he would try to copy what he had done when he had the instructions. But instead, after suspiciously confirming that he could build whatever he wanted, here is what happened…


Note that throughout the time he was building without the instructions, he was also playing. Note that he is making sounds (though there is no audio, you can clearly see he’s making the requisite “boom” and “fffffsssshhhhh” sounds a six year old makes), talking more, smiling. He’s exploring. He’s enjoying himself.

Building Legos without instructions may have seemed harder or daunting at first, but instead it opened up space for his creativity. Not-yetness—not specifying outcomes, not predicting what he would or should do, not outlining each step—opened up space for play and for the three really cool ships he built.

I know that my highly scientific experiment may not work for everyone, but what you see in these videos is one reason why we argue for not-yetness. Because of the play, the fun, the opportunity in complexity and not-yetness. The ill-defined, the un-prescribed, the messy can lead to the unexpected, the joyful. Noel Gough (2012) writes, “complexity invites us to understand that many of the processes and activities that shape the worlds we inhabit are open, recursive, organic, nonlinear and emergent. It also invites us to be skeptical of mechanistic and reductionist explanations, which assume that these processes and activities are linear, deterministic and/or predictable and, therefore, that they can be controlled (at least in principle).”

Open, recursive, organic, nonlinear…these things say to me that we can have learning that is unpredictable, fun, emergent, organic, freeing, co-developed, co-experienced, complex, deep, meaningful.

So as I looked for projects that embodied not-yetness, I kept these concepts, and my son’s Lego adventure, in mind. In my next blog post, I’ll share those examples. Stay tuned!"

[Follow-up post: ]
amycollier  via:steelemaley  messiness  unschooling  learning  emergent  emergence  emergentcurriculum  2015  lego  not-yetness  gardnercampbell  edtech  noelgough  pedagogy  instructions  directinstruction  mikecaulfield  brentdavis  dennissumara  complexity  curriculum  tcsnmy  howwelearn  howweteach  online  web  georgeveletsianos  emergenttechnologies  technology  simplification  efficiency  quantification  measurement  cv  hamishmacleod  clarao'shea  sianbayne  randybass  open  openness  jenross  criticalpedagogy  recursion  spiraling  rhizomaticlearning  nonlinear  deschooling  meaningmaking  understanding  depth  unpredictability  unfinished  behavior  power  responsibility  sustainability  reach  contact  lcproject  openstudioproject  teaching  education  schools  cocreation  non-linear  alinear  linearity 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Will · Simple, Complicated, Complex
"The whole video [ ] is worth a watch, but I love this quote from a recent presentation by Dave Cormier:
As we’ve gotten more abundant access to knowledge, we’ve reduced the complexity of the teaching. And, it’s been a trade off, because in one sense, more and more people have had access, but what we’ve given them access to has been less and less complex.

Dave makes some interesting distinctions between simple tasks (those with one answer,) complicated tasks (sometimes with more than one answer), and complex tasks (those with multiple, unknown answers.) He uses the examples of figuring out the capital of a country (simple), building a plane (complicated), and addressing climate change (complex.) He argues, compellingly, that the current structures of schools are well suited for the first (and maybe the second) but not the third at all. As he says, the primary reason is our need to assess, and the result is that we teach kids that “learning is something that gets done” as opposed to being a lifelong quest.

Bottom line: our kids need to be able to deal with complexity. In order to do that, our offerings in schools must be more complex, must be more focused on building “citizens who can look for answers…not the answer.” This is the great potential, Dave suggests, of the access we have, when we’re not just looking stuff up on Google but when were engaged with others in pursuing interesting questions that matter and that are complex.
When the community becomes the curriculum, the what and the why of learning comes together… The curriculum is not content, the curriculum of learning is actually other people.

Lots to think about here…"
davecormier  complexity  schools  education  willrichardson  2015  teaching  howweteach  tcsnmy  openstudioproject  lcproject  community  unschooling  deschooling 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Banal Uselessness of the Utopian Binary Critique | Hapgood
"I was watching Jesse Stommel at NWeLearn this past week give an excellent presentation on grading. In it he suggested a number of alternatives to traditional grading, and outlined some of the ways that traditional grading is baked into the system.

And the end of the talk, the inevitable hand: “Your presentation seems so BINARY,” says the questioner, “Why is it so either/or? Why can’t it be both/and?”


I outlined my vision of a different approach to networked learning last week to a number of people at dLRN, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. But the negatives were very negative.

“I think it’s utopian,” they said, “You’re not going to eliminate all online nastiness with a different software format.”

I looked over my presentation to try to find the spot where we reached the Age of Aquarius via some Node server installs. I saw a lot of places where I said we could be doing much better, but couldn’t find the places where we cured all ills.

I was watching someone give a presentation on the struggles of the non-traditional student. After the presentation people were talking. I’m worried about the binaries here, they said. Why do we talk about non-traditional vs. traditional? Why can’t we just talk about STUDENTS?

I got some great feedback at dLRN. And I love cynical feedback more than anything. My favorite comment was from Justin Reich who said “So you show how this different, older, way could preserve complexity. But maybe we abandoned it because we hate complexity, right?”

That’s a great comment. I actually can’t get it out of my head it’s so good.

You know what’s not a great comment?

• “How does this solve world hunger, sexism, and inequality once and for all?”
• “Why is this so either/or?”
• “Why is this so utopian?”
• “We need to get past these binaries.”

These aren’t really useful questions, and I’ve come to realize they aren’t meant to be. The issue with Jesse’s call to action and mine is the same — we’re both arguing for things which are so far out of the mainstream of practice you have to squint to see them.

Saying “Why is this so binary?” when presented with an alternate, minority vision is simply a way of supporting the status quo, by not engaging with the reality that the dominant paradigm is NOT “both/and” but rather “almost entirely this”. The world of the person making the “utopian binary” critique is one where they get to ignore the existing disparities the binary calls to light — a trick most recently seen in the ridiculous #alllivesmatter hash tag: “But why single out *black* lives?”

The “utopian” critique is very similar —
Them: “If this cannot solve all problems, then how can we be excited about it?”

Me: “But I didn’t say it solved all problems!”

Them: “Aha! So you admit it doesn’t solve anything!”

Me: “Um, which one of us is utopian again?”

This approach suffers the same affliction, assuming that we must compare a proposed solution against the standard of an imagined perfect world rather than a screwed up current state.

I’ve come to realize that, no matter how many caveats you add to your writing, people for whom the status quo works will always reply that your ideas are interesting, but why are they so binary, so utopian? I used to take these critiques seriously, but I don’t anymore. It’s simply a rhetorical move to avoid comparing your solution with a status quo that is difficult for them to defend.

It’s like replying to a presentation on solar-powered cars with “But why can’t we have both solar powered cars AND gasoline cars?” Or with “But there will still be pollution from BUILDING the cars so you haven’t solved anything!”

It’s like replying to a presentation on scaling down the American military in favor of increasing foreign relief aid with “But why can’t we have both the American military AND foreign relief aid?” Or with “But foreign relief aid STILL doesn’t always reach the most vulnerable, so you haven’t solved anything!”

It’s like replying to a presentation on Global Warming with “But why can’t find a balance between controlling global warming and protecting business interest?” Or “But global warming is going to happen anyway, so you haven’t solved anything!”

There’s as little chance that the world is going to go overboard on Jesse’s Peter Elbow inspired grading models as there is that we’re going to veer too much toward addressing global warming or decreasing U. S. Military funding (appx. $2,000 per capita) relative to our foreign aid (about $70 per capita). There’s as little chance that our “Pull to Refresh” obsessed culture is going to go overboard with wiki as there is that solar-powered vehicles will result in a war against gas-powered cars.

People who make such objections are not serious people, or in any not case serious thinkers in that moment. The reason we make binaries in our comparisons is to show how unbalanced the status quo is. The “binary” of pitting military spending against foreign aid is to show how out of balance out priorities are, just as the “binary” of Jesse’s holistic grading against more rigid models is to show how little time we spend on the whole student. And the reason we posit the binary of the “nontraditional student” against the “traditional student” is that 90% of policy and conversation right now is directed at the latter, and separating these details can show this.

The Garden approach I outlined at dLRN might not work, and holistic grading might fail at the scale people need to use it at. That solar car may run up against physical and environmental realities that make it unfeasible. Our policies to help the nontraditional student may solve the wrong issues, or assume a political climate we don’t have right now. Foreign aid may be better directed at world hunger or medical research, or perhaps there are good reasons for spending $800 billion on a military. Perhaps, far from making things better, a set of proposals would make things worse in ways the historically literate can predict. All these are interesting points, and great follow-ups to presentations outlining potential courses of action.

Additionally, some binaries are ill-formed, and give a distorted picture of reality. That’s an interesting point as well. Is androgogy/pedagogy a more helpful lens on a particular issue than first-generation/nth-generation? Does the research support a division like “Digital Natives/Digital Immigrants”? (hint: it doesn’t).

These are great questions too.

“Why so utopian?” and “Why so binary?” Not so much.

Here’s my pitch to you, and it is always the same. I think we can do substantially better than we do now, in a way that benefits most people. I think it requires rethinking some assumptions about how we teach and how we tech. I think the positive impact is likely relative to how deep we’re willing to go in questioning current assumptions.

So, if you like the status quo, or think it’s better than what is proposed, then defend it! If you think my ideas will not be adopted or will make things worse, then show me why!

But to the Utopian Binary comment crowd: Stop pretending people like Jesse and I are making utopian, either/or arguments. It’s a lazy rhetorical move, I’m tired of it, and you’re taking time from people with real questions."

via ]
mikecaufield  2015  utopia  criticism  critique  binaries  education  change  cynicism  jessestommel  tcsnmy  cv  unschooling  deschooling  utopianism  rhetoric  minorityview  statusquo  justinreich  complexity  falsebinaries  criticalthinking  grading  grades 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Lightning Before Death: A Tribute to Clive James - The Los Angeles Review of Books
"James wrote of Edmund Wilson that “there will always be young men coming up who will find his achievement a clear light,” and this is no less true of himself (and, since we mercifully no longer live in the 1970s, can we please extend “young men” to include young women?). For me, there is no clearer light than Cultural Amnesia, that large and generous paean to liberal humanism, worthy of being stood alongside Lionel Trilling’s The Liberal Imagination and Albert Camus’s L’Homme révolté. In a recent profile in The Financial Times, James spoke to Caroline Daniel about the frailty of civilization when it is faced with totalitarian threats: “The problem with the virtues of civilization is they sound uncertain. It’s a civilization if it leaves room for doubt [and] it’s uncivilized if it doesn’t. This gives the tremendous advantage to the other side.”

There will always be a need for advocates of complexity over simplicity, of doubt over certainty. For the last half-century, James has been among the best of them, and whether he lives another few months or many more years, his absence will be keenly felt. I sometimes wish I had thanked him when I met him, or simply explained how much his writing has meant to me, but there is always between reader and author an insurmountable body of work — the true object of gratitude. Latest Readings is itself an affecting and nimble work of gratitude — a tribute to the reading life, certainly, but equally one that pays tribute to the life beyond it, and, inevitably, the long life that lies behind it."
complexity  simplicity  uncertainty  certainty  doubt  2015  clivehames  mortenhøijensen  culture  civilization  history  humanism  via:anne 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The world wants more 'porous' cities – so why don't we build them? | Cities | The Guardian
"People of all classes, races and religions come and go in intense and complex Nehru Place. But while Delhi’s electronics market is every urbanist’s dream, it is not the sort of space most cities are building"

"Recently I tried to buy an iPhone in Nehru Place, an open-air electronics market in Delhi where goods that “happen to fall off a truck” are sold for 30%, 40% or 70% discounts – whatever cash you have handy. My iPhone turned out to a damaged dud, but I didn’t really care; the experience of going to Nehru Place was eye-opening. It’s a completely porous spot in the city, people of all castes, classes, races and religions coming and going, doing deals or gossiping about the small tech start-ups in the low offices which line the square; you can also worship at a small shrine if you’re so minded, or find a sari, or just lounge about drinking tea.

Nehru Place is every urbanist’s dream: intense, mixed, complex. If it’s the sort of place we want to make, it’s not the sort of space most cities are building. Instead, the dominant forms of urban growth are mono-functional, like shopping centres where you are welcome to shop but there’s no place to pray. These sorts of places tend to be isolated in space, as in the offices “campuses” built on the edge of cities, or towers in a city’s centre which, as in London’s current crop of architectural monsters, are sealed off at the base from their surroundings. It’s not just evil developers who want things this way: according to Setha Low, the most popular form of residential housing, world-wide, is the gated community.

Is it worth trying to turn the dream of the porous city into a pervasive reality? I wondered in Nehru Place about the social side of this question, since Indian cities have been swept from time to time by waves of ethnic and religious violence. Could porous places tamp down that threat, by mixing people together in everyday activities? Evidence from western cities answers both yes and no.

In Dresden, last year’s Pegida demonstrations against the Muslim presence in Germany turned out to be by people who don’t live anywhere near Muslims in the city; indeed, who know no Muslims. There again, in a study of several US cities, the American social scientist Robert Putnam’s researchers found that the farther away white Americans live from African Americans, the more tolerant they become.

Against this latter logic of separation stands Paris. The Islamic banlieus of Paris are separated from the centre by the ceinture, the ever-clogged ring-road around the inner city; so, too, in Brussel’s Molenbeek district, from which many terrorists come, is a disconnected island space. As the sociologist Willlaim Julius Wilson has shown, such physical islands breed an inward-looking mentality in which fantasy about others takes the place of fact bred of actual contact – as true, Wilson argues, of the black ghetto as it is of Christian Pegida.

I am uncomfortable about debates over separation and inclusion which move almost seamlessly to citing violent, extreme behaviour as evidence for or against. Which is why Nehru Place is a better example to think about this issue than Molenbeek. Everyday people are going about their business with others unlike themselves, people they don’t know or perhaps don’t like. There is what might be called the democracy of crime here, as Hindus and Muslims both sell illegal electronics; a wave of violence would clear off customers for both. Getting along in this way isn’t particular to India, or to open-air markets. Numerous studies show that in offices or factories that adults of different religions and races work perfectly well together, and the reason is not far to seek.

Work is not about affirming your identity; it’s about getting things done. The complexity of city life tends, in fact, to breed many identities for its citizens as workers, but also as spectators at sports events, as parents concerned about schooling or patients suffering from NHS cuts. Urban identities are porous in the sense that we are going in and out of lots of different experiences, in different places, with people we don’t know, in the course of a day. When pundits opine on the difficulty of difference, they flatten identity into a single image, just one experience. The modern economy can flatten identity when it sells people on the idea that gated, homogeneous communities are safe, (not true in fact), builds shopping centres only for shopping, or constructs office campuses and towers whose workers are sealed off from the city.

If the public comes to demand it, urbanists can easily design a porous city on the model of Nehru Place; indeed, many of the architects and planners at the Urban Age events now unfolding in London have made proposals to “porosify” the city. Like Nehru Place, these larger visions entail opening up and blurring the edges of spaces so that people are drawn in rather than repulsed; they emphasise true mixed use of public and private functions, schools and clinics amid Tesco or Pret; they explore the making of loose-fit spaces which can shift in shape as people’s lives change.

I don’t believe in design determinism, but I do believe that the physical environment should nurture the complexity of identity. That’s an abstract way to say that we know how to make the porous city; the time has come to make it."
cities  richardsennett  2015  urban  urbanism  porosity  nehruplace  delhi  india  complexity  sethalow  dresden  roberputnam  sociology  paris  brussels  molenbeek  williamjuliuswilson  christianpegida  race  religion  design  urbandesign  london  publicspace  flexibility  change  adaptability  crosspollination  diversity  markets  community 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Alex Blandford — Government and the cargo cult
"As part of work with Parliament User Group recently, we’ve been trying to think about the institutional blockers to reform and “progress” (without the Soviet, vanguardist associations).

One of the ones that came up a few times was the issue of “we’ve always done it like this, so we shall continue to do it like this”. Inertia is a powerful force in large organisations, especially ones with an aversion to being seen to fuck up.

There is an obverse to this, especially in the case of Parliament and a lot of Local Authorities: “We’re not GDS, so we won’t do anything that they do”. Wishing to have a sense of individuality is not uncommon. We’ll do this thing - we’ll succeed. We’ll show them.

Both of these behaviours come from a lack of strategic understanding. Simon Wardley has put it around 1000x better than I could: “why does a general bombard a hill? It isn’t because 95% of other generals did the same thing”.


Understanding where your business/organisation is going is absolutely vital. Merely saying (in government especially) that you will do open source because GDS did it (but did they really) or that you won’t be focusing on user needs as you are internal only (no word of a lie, have had this chat) is doomed to failure, and likely an expensive and public failure.

Mimicry in this space is often called Cargo Culting; an allusion to a particular fascination of anthropologists in the post-war period (although it goes back a lot further).

You can read up on it at wikipedia including how it came to be used in this context. But my problem with this is that cargo cults and their formation have very little to do with the way that we use the phrase, and I am hugely uncomfortable with the ethnocentrism involved in using the phrase. It relies on an implicit assumption that people in “tribes” are somehow dumb and that they see an airplane and thus mimic it like children. There is a huge long list of reading on how we treat people in tribes like children, and rob them of a claim to complex thought. I’d like to think we can do better in our metaphors.

So I thought I’d try and reverse this a little bit. Taking the same broad brush strokes as everyone else, I’d like to consider Trobriand Cricket. It’s not quite in the same bit of the Pacific as the cargo cults, but it has a similar use of “western” ideas.


This game is a syncretic mix of cricket as introduced by missionaries to the Trobriand Islands (along with football), and the rituals of war on the islands. It includes teams whose victory dances for a catch include references to WW2 soldiers and military materiel. Many of the islanders are university educated.

Now. Unless we’re going to say that Norwich City’s canary branding is part of an animistic shaman cult led by Delia Smith, this all seems quite normal for sport. Or even life. You have a game, you change it to fit your local context. You understand your strategy. It is also worth pointing out that the Prince Philip Movement’s cult of personality around the Duke of Edinburgh wouldn’t look out of place in the comments section of a number of national newspapers.

Here’s where it breaks down though. The game was imposed by missionaries. The way that these people lived was changed irreparably by British colonialism. The power dynamics in this idea are huge. So changing the game becomes a response to colonialism. A way of maintaining some control against overwhelming power.

And there is where my discomfort is. What people in the Pacific were often doing was a response to the invasion of their land, and its use as a strategic assett in war. Many islanders died. The power relations and political history of the phrase have been shed so that it becomes a glib way of comparing someone’s actions to the old saying about the definition of insanity as being the repetition of something expecting a previous result to the previous time.

As I mentioned yesterday, ‘disruption’ can feel like an existential threat to the status quo. It is all around us, and the internet is going to change how you do your job. Or else someone who will change will put you out of business, or make your organisation seem too inefficient by comparison. Copying your work of the kid at the next desk won’t work. Learning together and open conversation might help. But treat this as a plea: don’t get sucked in by tired cliche. Shorthand is just that - a reminder of the nuance and complexity that has been left out.

Go out and explore that."
alexblandford  2015  cargocult  disruption  complexity  nuance  copying  mimicry  imitation  systemsthinking  organizations  power  anthropology  ethnography  gds 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Livraison vingt-quatre : PK, pagers, iPod Touch et feature phones + Lee Scratch Perry
"2. Pagers, iPod Touch et feature phones

Dans son ouvrage "Quoi de neuf ?" publié en 2006, l’historien anglais David Edgerton observait la persistance, la "résistance" ou la ré-introduction de "vieilles techniques". Il citait notamment la résurgence de la télévision par cable dans les années 1980s (après avoir été en vogue dans les années 1950s) ou l’acupuncture (à son paroxysme au XIXème puis de retour depuis trente ans).

Un autre exemple historique marquant dans son livre est celui l'importance du cheval durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale:
"L’armée allemande, si souvent décrite comme reposant sur des formations blindées, eut bien plus de chevaux durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale que n’en eut l’armée britannique durant la Grande Guerre. Le réarmement de l’Allemagne, dans les années 1930, passa par un achat massif de chevaux, au point qu’en 1939 cette armée en possédait 590 000, et en avait 3 millions d’autres en réserve dans l’ensemble du pays. […] Début 1945, la Wehrmacht disposait de 1.2 millions de chevaux ; on estime à 1.5 millions les pertes en chevaux accumulés durant la guerre."

Avec ces exemples, Edgerton nous rend attentif au fait que "le temps technologique ne va pas uniquement vers l’avant"; et qu’il n’y a donc pas un bel ordonnancement chronologique. En adoptant le point de vue des usages des objets techniques, on peut regarder différents “mondes technologiques” et s’apercevoir de la diversité des pratiques. C’est un sujet qui intéresse votre correspondant dans le cadre d’un projet d’enquête sur les téléphones mobiles. En cherchant dans mes notes de terrain je suis tombés sur quelques cas de ce genre (( dans l’app Notes sur mon téléphone, j’ai une Note nommée "Livefieldnotes" dans laquelle je consigne mes observations concernant les usages des téléphones mobiles. C’est écrit à la volée sur le terrain donc avec des fautes d’orthographes et un certain laconisme ))

Voici les notes en questions:
23.08.2015 - train Genève - Lausanne Un homme regarde son pager Motorola, une technologie que je pensais disparue... Mais qui semble encore exister à ce que je lis sur le site de et qui sert des "besoins professionnels" avec des èchanges de messages alphanumeriques. Il dit mystérieusement l'utiliser du fait de sa fiabilité : "ça marche partout meme dans les zones a faible reseau de telephone, le fabricant me dit que ca joue a 99% partout dans le pays"

11.08.2015 - Genève, square Chantepoulet Rencontre avec J. un chercheur suisse-allemand, qui sort ses deux telephones (un iPod Touch et un vieux Nokia), il n'a pas de data plan et dit aussi utiliser cette combinaison d’appareils "pour se proteger des distractions". Il me dit utilise le Nokia (un feature phone noir) pour les appels, et le iPod Touch pour l’accès aux apps. Et s’il a besoin d’être connecté au Web mobile pour browser ou certaines apps, il le fait dans les lieux où il y a du Wifi

8.08.2015 - Geneve, marché aux puces Discussion avec un vendeur de telephone mobile genre nokia 3210 d'occasion (30chf), se vend bien, pour les gens qui n'arrivent pas bien a utiliser les smartphone "c trop complique", par exemple me dit le vendeur dans son francais approx: "par exemple une dame qui vient et dit que son fils lui a offert un iphone et elle comprend rien... Elle m'achete ce nokia [3310] et elle sait faire, elle recoit l'appel elle appuie sur le bouton et c bon; donc j'en vends toujours un peu"

Ces exemples, pris parmi d’autres, sont intéressants à plusieurs niveaux. D’abord parce qu’il montre la persistance et la diversité des usages d’objets techniques généralement considérés comme moins à la page (sans jeu de mot aucun sur le premier). Ensuite car ils renvoient à un autre aspect discuté par Edgerton : celle de la prétendue “résistance aux techniques nouvelles”, problèmes parfois abordés par psychologues ou historiens. Or, comme il l’explique, “il est absurde de parler de résistance à la technique ou à l’innovation dans un monde dont les individus ou les sociétés n’acceptent pas nécessairement toute innovation – ou, en fait – tout produit qui leur est proposée. De toute façon, il y a résistance. En adoptant une technique, la société résiste nécessairement à de nombreuses techniques substitutives ‘anciennes’ et ’nouvelles’.” Les pagers très fiables, les features phones en sont de bons exemples. Et l’usage des iPod Touch, à la manière de J., était d’ailleurs précisément proposé dans un article récent de la revue Wired comme l’un des système de communication les plus sécurisé à l'heure actuelle. Même si ces usages ne sont pas majoritaires – tout dépend où ! – ils existent et nous rappellent que différents critères influent sur les choix d'utilisation.

Cette combinaison d'objets techniques est d'ailleurs ce qui pêche souvent dans les vidéos prospectifs des grandes sociétés technologiques. On ne voit que des appareils rutilants, les dernières interfaces, alors que la réalité des pratiques correspond davantage à une grande diversité. C'est certes moins glorieux (un téléphone non-tactile ferait-il tâche à côté d'Hololense ?) mais bien plus plausible. Mon collègue du Near Future Laboratory Nic Foster utilisait dans cet article de Core77 une métaphore géologique pour ce phénomène : celui de l'accrétion qui lui permettait d'en discuter les enjeux deson point de vue de designer:
"In order to communicate our vision, it may be helpful to incorporate the existing designed space in parallel with the new. On a very practical level, we should embrace legacy technologies when conceiving new ones. Ethnographic studies constantly highlight technology accretion: the drawer full of cables, the old interaction behaviors, the dusty hard drives, the mouse mats and inherited hardware. Rather than avoid this complexity, good science fiction embraces accretive spaces, where contemporary design and technology sits side by side with older artifacts. In some cases, this technique can be used to show potential disconnects between the new and established, places where technology sticks out like a sore thumb. This is a useful tool for all designers and using it well can help us depict a more tangible future."

Comme il l'exprime ici, cette prise en compte de la diversité des pratiques peut stimuler la rechercher de voies originales. Dans le cas des mobiles, c'est la raison pour laquelle on voit toujours des produits pertinents basés sur des pagers aujourd'hui (c'est d'ailleurs le cas par exemple avec de la géolocalisation indoor) ou des téléphones servant uniquement à téléphoner... avec des propositions loin d'être inesthétiques, absurdes ou curieuses."
nicolasnova  davidedgerton  technology  time  chronology  nicfoster  designfiction  future  futures  mobilephones  cv  fieldnotes  diversity  tools  mobile  phones  smartphones  complexity  design  novelty  earlyadopters  lateadopters  difference  ipodtouch  innovation 
october 2015 by robertogreco
It Doesn't Know What You Want Until You Teach It
"So, I just got home from Tel Aviv, which, while I happened to be there, was hit by a massive sandstorm that swept across from Syria.

Now, sandstorms, or at least the one I saw, do not work like the ones in Mad Max. I woke up in my little hotel cocoon, threw back the blackout curtains and saw … nothing. Because that’s what sandstorms do: they make landscape into nothing. They disappear buildings and the sea and the horizon and even the sun. Beyond half a mile, everything fades into white-yellow nothing.

I went for a run up the beach until I got to an old crumbling stone jetty. An old shirtless man with a huge belly was fishing from it. All I could see was a few big hotels behind me rising into dust and this jetty with the man in front of me. And it was possible to imagine that this was all the world, that this little narrow spit of land was all that was left.

That’s the dystopian story.

But, at the same time, I could snap a photo of the sea and the sky and send it to my wife across the world and have her send me back a picture of our son. And I could go look up the sandstorm and see it from a NASA satellite. And Apple would put out a new version of their phone, and just down the road, hundreds of Israeli startups were building new things in the world. And as I wandered around Tel Aviv, the strange light of the sandstorm making every photo look as if it were taken in a dream, I thought to myself: there are so many futures happening at once.

When we imagine a utopia or dystopia, both represent a hope that human lives will somehow be less messy and complex in the future than they are now. Because, good or bad, that’s the most comforting lie we can tell ourselves about what’s going to come: that we might be able to process and understand it more easily than we do our own short moment.

It's good to be back."
alexismadrigal  sandstorms  future  futures  humanity  life  messiness  complexity  technology  2015  communication  photography  perception  utopia  dystopia  understanding  presence 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Austin Kleon — 10 lessons from designer Tibor Kalman: Perverse...
"1. Everything is an experiment.

You can get a great feel for what Tibor Kalman (1949–1999) was about just from the opening pages of Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist…


2. Learn on the job.

Peter Hall points out that Tibor was always “learning on the job—or, as someone side of the journalistic vocation, conducting an education in public.”

One way he did that was to hire young designers more talented than him and learn from them:
That was the way I learned. I stood over their shoulders, and learned how graphic design is done. But I was always the boss. It has been a curious phenomenon in my life that I’ve continued pretty much throughout my career; I would try to get the job I couldn’t get, and not know how to do it, and then I would hire people who did know how to do it, and I would direct them. That to me is always the ideal way to work, because you learn very quickly and you have the means to do something, and yet you know nothing about the field, so you can do something original.

3. As soon as you learn how to do something, move on.

I did two of a number of things. The first one, you fuck it up in an interesting way; the second one, you get it right; and then you’re out of there… I think as long as I don’t know how to do something, I can do it well; and as soon as I have learned how to do something, I will do it less well, because it will be more obvious. I think that goes for most people. I think most people spend too much time doing one thing.

4. Having a style is a kind of death.


David Byrne, for whom Kalman designed many album covers, including Remain In Light:
Tibor and company don’t have a signature style, and that is a worthy ambition in life…. Having a recognizable style relegates you to the status of quotable icon. And while being an icon is flattering, I imagine, once it happens, you become irrelevent.

My own ambition is to write a song that sounds like I stole it—like “I” didn’t write it, but it has always been there. To get the “I” out of the song is the ultimate compositional coup, whether in music or design.

5. Visual literacy isn’t enough. Designers have to read everything.

Kalman said that “an enormous amount of graphic design is made by people who look at pictures but don’t know how to think about them.”
I started asking job candidates, “What have you read in the last year?” Because I suddenly began to realize that the difference between a good and a bad designer is how much did they know about everything else—biology, history. Because graphic design is just a means of communication, a language, and what you choose to communicate, and how and why on a particular project, that is all the interesting stuff.

6. You don’t necessarily have to be visually motivated to be a designer.

Rick Poynor on Kalman’s red-green colorblindness (I have it, too):
Most designers are designers because of an exceptional intensity in their response to visual form coupled with a degree of talent for manipulating it. Kalman is unusual among those who choose design as a profession in not being a visually motivated person in this sense. He is red-green color blind and, although this is not severe, it means that he treats color as an “idea” rather than as a sensation to which he responds according to intuition or taste. He will know intellectually that “sky blue” is called for to get an effect he wants to achieve without being able to specify for himself which shade of blue it should be.

7. Don’t steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style.

Kalman said it was okay to borrow ideas, but “transform” is the key word: you have to know the context of the ideas and not de-contextualize them, but re-contextualize them:
Reference means just that: You refer to something. It gives you an idea. You create something new.

Real modernism is filled with historical reference and allusion. And in some of the best design today, historical references are used very eloquently. But those examples were produced with an interest in re-contextualizing sources rather than de-contextualizing them.

There’s an important difference between making an allusion and doing a knock-off. Good historicism is… an investigation of the strategies, procedures, methods, routes, theories, tactics, schemes, and modes through which people have worked creatively…. We need to learn from and interrogate our past, not endlessly repeat its recipes.

8. Photographs are neither true nor false.
Early in the history of photography models were used to enact situations for a camera to record. Later, we learned how to retouch images, first by hand, later by rearranging the tiny dots that make up the images. Meanwhile, there has always been the cheapest and easiest way of making photographs lie—simply changing the caption to change the meaning of the image. Some people accept this but still argue the photograph remains in some way uniquely “honest.” They say that for it to exist, some kind of real-life situation also had to exist. They claim that the fact that a camera can be set up by remote control to record whatever passes in front of it somehow confers objectivity. They cling to the idea that the photograph is an inherently “real” or honest image and as such is always on a different plan from an obviously subjective form of visual communication, such as painting. However, I believe that photography is just like painting and that it can lie just as effectively. I do not accept that there is necessarily a “true” moment that the camera captures, because that moment can be manipulated as much as anything else.

9. Children give you new ways of looking at things.

We chose to increase the complexity of our lives by having children. The greatest benefit of having those children has been to look at the world through their eyes and to understand their level of curiosity and to learn things the way they learn things.


10. Marry well.

At first, I only new Tibor Kalman as Maira Kalman’s late husband. Isaac Mizrahi might argue that’s as it should be:
Tibor’s most brilliant contribution was to marry Maira. If he hadn’t, I would have. I don’t mean to sound corny and romantic, just that his relationship with her is a work of art. She has an incredible in-born ability to be a touchstone, and pick out what’s good in a room, whether it’s a screenplay, a piece of music, or a piece of furniture. I never think of them seperately, or, his sense of humor or her sense of humor, I think about them together, how much he owes to her and she owes to him.

Maira Kalman painted the closing pages of the book:


It’s out-of-print and can be a little hard to get your hands on, but anyone interested in design should give Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist a read."
tiborkalman  mairakalman  design  graphicdesign  howwelearn  learning  lifelonglearning  reading  photography  complexity  parenting  children  howwework  style  aesthetics  thinking  howwethink  vidualliteracy  literacy  visuals  steallikeanartist  influences  canon  reality  truth  isaacmizrahi  marriage  partnerships  context  invention  creativity  classideas  favoritebooks  rickpoynor  davidbyrne  talkingheads  failure  careers  work  education  unschooling  deschooling  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Questioning the Conformity Curve | bavatuesdays
"The folks involved in Cal State University, Channel Islands’s domains project known as CI Keys, wrote a series of really thoughtful posts about the projects from a variety of vantage points. Michelle Pacansky-Brock wrote about the project as a catalyst for teaching on the open web. Jill Leafstedt wrote about the possibilities for faculty at CSU to create connected learning spaces for their courses. Jaimie Hoffman breaks down lessons learned after a year of building numerous classes out using CI Keys. And Michael Berman offers a broader rationale as to why an investment in CI Keys made sense. I love that each of them explained the impact of this pilot through their own lens, and it captures a nice cross-section of the possibilities and limits of such an initiative.

One of the things I think Berman totally nails is the willingness to question the adoption curve of a project like CI Keys. He notes the following:
I am coming to question the usefulness of the innovation diffusion curve in Ed Tech. First of all there’s an implicit value judgment that early adopters are better than late adopters – not to mention the infamous laggards. Not all technology adoption is useful, to say the least, and some is downright harmful. Second, why is success measured as universal adoption? If 20% of the faculty at my campus find CI Keys to be a useful and even transformational tool for encouraging student learning, does that necessarily mean that the other 80% are missing something by not using it? Perhaps, but I’m not so sure. It’s nice to think that we can provide a single tool for everyone to use but we can see where that’s gotten us. Instead, some will use institutional tools, some will use open source, some will use commercial tools, and faculty and students will use different tools (really, media) to accomplish different things. Is that hard from an ed tech support position? No doubt! But I think that’s the world we live in, not one where we always think in terms of scale-up and universal adoption – that ship has sailed.

I can’t possibly have said it better, and it really frames beautifully the predicament at many campuses. Someone throws out the stat that 85% of faculty are using the LMS and the conversation stops there. The various constituents who need resources beyond the LMS are poorly served, if at all. The adoption curve is actually a conformity curve used to justify supporting fewer and fewer tools on campus. So what should be seen as a pretty basic resource like web hosting/publishing are all but absent on many campuses. As Brian Lamb noted in the “Reclaiming Innovation” piece for EDUCAUSE Review:
…institutional leaders may refuse to support alternative systems….lest they draw attention and users away from the “serious” enterprise learning tool, diverting resources and endangering investments. If a technology is sufficiently large and complex, it can dictate policy, resource allocation, and organizational behavior far beyond its immediate application.

And the investment-based logic that can breed an aversion to alternatives often fails to comprehend that they’re not only significantly cheaper than any given system, but often complementary to that system. So, rather than endangering investments, it provides alternatives that make the system that much less monolithic. What’s more, it serves a portion of a campus community that has been forced to fend for themselves for almost a decade.
jimgroom  technology  toolbelttheory  2015  brianlamb  michaelberman  education  adomainofone'sown  cikeys  jaimiehoffman  michellepacansky-brock  jillleafstedt  universality  lms  complexity  diversity  onesizefitsall  edtech  via:audreywatters 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Asking Beautiful, Scary Questions: Reflections on “Leading the Future of Museum Education” | Art Museum Teaching
"Much of the program and conversation in Denver focused on change on many different levels—the ever-changing and vast-paced world in which we live, the shifts and much-needed changes in our field and institutions, the rethinking of museum education, and the changes in us as individuals. Both Kaywin Feldman, the Duncan and Nivan MacMillan Director and President of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Marsha L. Semmel, principal of Marsha Semmel Consulting, spoke of our VUCA environment and the need for adaptive and strategic leadership. VUCA is short for volatility, uncertainty, complexity,and ambiguity, and a catchall for our turbulent, dynamic reality. In order to thrive, we must have vision, understanding, clarity, and agility and be willing to experiment and take risks. Laura Roberts from Roberts Consulting points out there is no one way or single path to get us where we want to go and the “best practices” from the past won’t be sufficient.

We must challenge ourselves to find these new paths and ask beautiful, scary questions, which will inspire us to take risks and head into uncertain territory, and possibly fail. Some of the beautiful questions that emerged from our brainstorming and conversations in Denver:

• How might we encourage greater diversity and inclusion in our field?
• How might museums become truly visitor-centered institutions?
• How might we find balance in engaging both our core and new audiences; balance between co-creation and expertise?
• What if we broke down silos and collaboration was the new norm?
• How might we rethink our work with the public education sector?
• How might we harness the power of technology to expand access, improve engagement, and try new approaches to our work?
• What if excellence isn’t enough?
• What if educators became more empowered and began breaking the rules?

To begin exploring the strategies and solutions to these beautiful questions, we must become adaptive leaders and both individually and collectively embrace the gradual but meaningful process of change. Marsha Semmel introduced us to John Seely Brown who believes in social, participatory learning and teaches us that museums need to stop protecting our assets—our stocks—of authoritative knowledge and instead nurture our flows—creating new knowledge. We are poised to cultivate these flows.

Laura Roberts, who was asked to reflect on and summarize the convening stated in her closing remarks, “museum educators routinely use the sort of skills an adaptive leader needs. Moreover, if we are going to shift our museums from a focus on objects to a focus on visitors and community, it is clear we are positioned to lead the way…” She noted these observations about our character:

• Educators are trained to elicit observations and points of view and to bring people together in dialogue. We are good facilitators. We have those “soft skills” to be boundary spanners.
• We are clever, creative, and imaginative. We are good problem solvers. We are good listeners.
• We practice the skills of collaboration and partnering. We are matchmakers and brokers.
• We often serve as the integrators in the institution, bringing disparate staff together.
• We are often “empowerers.” Many educators are refreshingly light on ego."
education  museums  2015  lauraroberts  complexity  uncertainty  ambiguity  museumeducation  questions  facilitation  karleengardner  siols  collaboration  inclusion  marsgasemmel  johnseelybrown  participatory  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  knowledge  flows  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Why the Great Glitch of July 8th Should Scare You — The Message — Medium
"Think of it as needing more space in your house, so you decide you want to build a second story. But the house was never built right to begin with, with no proper architectural planning, and you don’t really know which are the weight-bearing walls. You make your best guess, go up a floor and… cross your fingers. And then you do it again. That is how a lot of our older software systems that control crucial parts of infrastructure are run. This works for a while, but every new layer adds more vulnerability. We are building skyscraper favelas in code — in earthquake zones."

"Essentially, there is a lot of equivalent of “duct-tape” in the code, holding things together. If done right, that code will eventually be fixed, commented (explanations written up so the next programmer knows what the heck is up) and ported to systems built for the right scale — before there is a crisis. How often does that get done? I wager that many wait to see if the system comes crashing down, necessitating the fix. By then, you are probably too big to go down for too long, so there’s the temptation for more duct tape. And so on."

"This is a bit like knowing you have a chronic condition, but pretending that the costs you will face are limited to those you will face this month. It’s a lie, everyone knows it’s a lie, but it makes those numbers look good now, as long as we are all suspending disbelief. (Also, this is why a lot of educational technology efforts fail: nobody budgets for maintenance, some parts of the system goes down, and teachers and kids rightfully abandon it. I heard a lot about this “no maintenance money” problem from researchers looking into the one laptop per child project)."

"There is a lot of interest, and boondoggle money, in exaggerating the “cyber-terrorism” threat (which is not unreal but making software better would help that a lot more than anything devoted solely to “cyber-terrorism” — but, hey, you know which buzzword gets the funding), and not much interest in spending real money in fixing the boring but important problems with the software infrastructure. This is partly lack of attention to preventive spending which plagues so many issues (Hello, Amtrak’s ailing rails!) but it’s also because lousy software allows … easier spying. And everyone is busy spying on everyone else, and the US government, perhaps best placed to take a path towards making software more secure, appears to have chosen that path as well. I believe this is a major mistake in the long run, but here we are."

"I’m actually more scared at this state of events than I would’ve been at a one-off hacking event that took down the NYSE. Software is eating the world, and the spread of networked devices through the “internet of things” is only going to accelerate this. Our dominant operating systems, our way of working, and our common approach to developing, auditing and debugging software, and spending (or not) money on its maintenance, has not yet reached the requirements of the 21st century. So, yes, NYSE going down is not a big deal, and United Airlines will probably have more ground halts if they don’t figure out how to change their infrastructure (not a cheap or easy undertaking). But it’s not just them. From our infrastructure to our privacy, our software suffers from “software sucks” syndrome which doesn’t sound as important as a Big Mean Attack of Cyberterrorists. But it is probably worse in the danger it poses.

And nobody is likely going to get appointed the Czar of How to Make Software Suck Less.

So, yes. Be scared. Be very worried. Software is eating the world, and it sucks."
code  software  technology  2015  complexity  speed  zeyneptufekci 
july 2015 by robertogreco
We need to ditch generational labels – Rebecca Onion – Aeon
"Generational thinking is seductive and confirms preconceived prejudices, but it’s a bogus way to understand the world"

"But in real life, I find generational arguments infuriating. Overly schematised and ridiculously reductive, generation theory is a simplistic way of thinking about the relationship between individuals, society, and history. It encourages us to focus on vague ‘generational personalities’, rather than looking at the confusing diversity of social life. Since I’m a ‘Gen-X’er born in 1977, the conventional wisdom is that I’m supposed to be adaptable, independent, productive, and to have a good work/life balance. Reading these characteristics feels like browsing a horoscope. I see myself in some of these traits, and can even feel a vague thrill of belonging when I read them. But my ‘boomer’ mother is intensely productive; my ‘Greatest Generation’ grandmother still sells old books online at age 90, in what I consider to be the ultimate show of adaptability and independence.

enerational thinking doesn’t frustrate everyone. Indeed, there is a healthy market for pundits who can devise grand theories of generational difference. Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584-2069 (1991) and founders of the consulting firm LifeCourse Associates in Virginia, have made a fine living out of generational assessments, but their work reads like a deeply mystical form of historical explanation. (Strauss died in 2007; Howe continues to run the consultancy LifeCourse.) The two have conceived an elaborate and totalising theory of the cycle of generations, which they argue come in four sequential and endlessly repeating archetypes.

In the Strauss-Howe schema, these distinct groups of archetypes follow each other throughout history thus: ‘prophets’ are born near the end of a ‘crisis’; ‘nomads’ are born during an ‘awakening’; ‘heroes’ are born after an ‘awakening’, during an ‘unravelling’; and ‘artists’ are born after an ‘unravelling’, during a ‘crisis’. Strauss and Howe select prominent individuals from each generation, pointing to characteristics that define them as archetypal – heroes are John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan; artists: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson; prophets: John Winthrop, Abraham Lincoln; nomads: John Adams, Ulysses Grant. Each generation has a common set of personal characteristics and typical life experiences.

Plenty of kids at less-privileged schools weren’t intensely worried about grades or planning, like the stereotypical millennial

The archetypal scheme is also a theory of how historical change happens. The LifeCourse idea is that the predominance of each archetype in a given generation triggers the advent of the next (as the consultancy’s website puts it: ‘each youth generation tries to correct or compensate for what it perceives as the excesses of the midlife generation in power’). Besides having a very reductive vision of the universality of human nature, Strauss and Howe are futurists; they predict that a major crisis will occur once every 80 years, restarting the generational cycle. While the pair’s ideas seem far-fetched, they have currency in the marketplace: LifeCourse Associates has consulted for brands such as Nike, Cartoon Network, Viacom and the Ford Motor Company; for universities including Arizona State, Dartmouth, Georgetown and the University of Texas, and for the US Army, too.

The commercial success of this pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo is irritating, but also troubling. The dominant US thinkers on the generational question tend to flatten social distinctions, relying on cherry-picked examples and reifying a vision of a ‘society’ that’s made up mostly of the white and middle-class. In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2009 on the pundits and consultants who market information about ‘millennials’ to universities, Eric Hoover described Howe and Strauss’s influential book about that generation, Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (2000), as a work ‘based on a hodgepodge of anecdotes, statistics, and pop-culture references’ with the only new empirical evidence being a body of around 600 interviews of high-school seniors, all living in wealthy Fairfax County, Virginia.

Hoover interviewed several people in higher education who voiced their doubts about the utility of Howe and Strauss’s approach. Their replies, informed by their experience teaching college students from across the socioeconomic spectrum, show how useless the schematic understanding of ‘millennials’ looks when you’re working with actual people. Palmer H Muntz, then the director of admissions of Lincoln Christian University in Illinois, noticed that plenty of kids he encountered on visits to less-privileged schools weren’t intensely worried about grades or planning, like the stereotypical millennial. Fred A Bonner II, now at Prairie View A & M University in Texas, pointed out that many of the supposed ‘personality traits’ of coddled and pressured millennials were unrecognisable to his black or Hispanic students, or those who grew up with less money. Siva Vaidhyanathan, a cultural historian and media scholar at the University of Virginia, told Hoover: ‘Generational thinking is just a benign form of bigotry.’"

"Ryder had harsh words for the theorists he called ‘generationists’. He argued that thinkers about generation on a large scale had made illogical leaps when theorising the relationship between generations and social change. ‘The fact that social change produces intercohort differentiation and thus contributes to inter-generational conflict,’ he argued, ‘cannot justify a theory that social change is produced by that conflict.’ There was no way to prove causality. The end result, he wrote, was that grand generational theories tended toward ‘arithmetical mysticism.’"

"As the French historian Pierre Nora wrote in 1996, the careful analyst trying to talk about generations will always struggle: ‘The generational concept would make a wonderfully precise instrument if only its precision didn’t make it impossible to apply to the unclassifiable disorder of reality.’ The problem with transferring historical and sociological ways of thinking about generational change into the public sphere is that ‘unclassifiability’ is both terrifying and boring. Big, sweeping explanations of social change sell. Little, careful studies of same-age cohorts, hemmed in on all sides by rich specificity, do not.

Perhaps the pseudoscientific use of supposed ‘generations’ would irk less if it weren’t so often used to demean the young. Millennials, consultants advise prospective employers, feel entitled to good treatment even in entry-level jobs, because they’ve been overpraised their whole lives. Millennials won’t buckle down and buy cars or houses, economists complain; millennials are lurking in their parents’ basements, The New Yorker cartoon stereotype runs, tweeting and texting and posting selfies and avoiding responsibility."

"Popular millennial backlash against the stereotyping of their generation makes use of the same arguments against generational thinking that sociologists and historians have spent years developing. By drawing attention to the effects of the economic situation on their lives, pointing out that human experience isn’t universal and predictable, and calling upon adults to abandon broad assessments in favour of specific understanding, millennials prove the point: generational thinking is seductive, and for some of us it confirms our preconceived prejudices, but it’s fatally flawed as a mode of understanding the world. Real life is not science fiction."
rebeccaonion  generationalthinking  generations  age  ageism  complexity  humans  society  adaptability  independence  history  individuals  neilhowe  williamstrauss  stereotypes  lifecourse  palmermuntz  sivavaidhyanathan  agesegregation  millenials  genx  generationx  generationy  erichoover  karlmannheimaugusteconte  gottfriedleibniz  normanryder  sociology  causality  robertwohl  pierrenora  bigotry  generationalwarfare  malcolmharris  digitalnatives  hypocrisy  via:ayjay 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Of Challenge and Controversy (Why I Support Marylin Zuniga) | The Jose Vilson
"The third honest question for anyone following this should be, “Why this? Why not other cases that merit your attention?” To that end, we as a whole need to challenge ourselves to work through the things we consider imperfect and complicated. Race as a social construct is more complicated than Black and white, so why would we expect situations that involve race to get simpler with race as an ingrained layer? 21st century activism means delving into situations where the heroes and villains haven’t been narrated for us, or are simply ideas, and, instead, work with the given elements to restore a sense of peace, akin to the classrooms we occupy. More so, how do we demand the difficult work of working through racial situations of others when we have so much to do of this ourselves? Self-healing matters.

To paraphrase Dr. King, the ultimate measure of a person isn’t during times of comfort and convenience, but during times of challenge and controversy."
josévilson  marilynzuniga  2015  complexity  socialjustice  justice  slef-healing  education  protest  mumiabujamal  restorativejustice  rehabilitation  restoration 
may 2015 by robertogreco
How design fiction imagines future technology – Jon Turney – Aeon
"As technological choices become ever more complex, design fiction, not science, hints at the future we actually want"

"Design fiction’s efforts to create imaginative realisations of technology, which consciously try to evoke discussion that avoids polarising opinion, have a key ingredient, I think. Unlike the new worlds of sci-fi novels, or the ultra-detailed visuals of futuristic cinema, their stories are unfinished. Minority Report is not about critical design because its narrative is closed. In good design fiction, the story is merely hinted at, the possibilities left open. It is up to the person who stumbles across the design to make sense of how it might be part of a storied future."

Design fiction’s proponents want to craft products and exhibits that are not open to this simplified response, that fire the imagination in the right way. That means being not too fanciful, not simply dystopian, and not just tapping into clichéd science‑fictional scripts. When it works, design fiction brings something new into debates about future technological life, and involves us – the users – in the discussion."

"As design fiction comes to be recognised as a distinctive activity, it will continue to find new forms of expression. The US design theorist Julian Bleecker of the Near Future Laboratory suggests that the TBD Catalog with its realistic depictions of fictional products models a different way of innovating, in which designers ‘prototype and test a near future by writing its product descriptions, filing bug reports, creating product manuals and quick reference guides to probable improbable things’. The guiding impulse is to assist us in imagining a new normality. Design and artistic practice can both do that.

Design fictions are not a panacea for some ideal future of broad participation in choosing the ensemble of technologies that we will live with. Most future technologies will continue to arrive as a done deal, despite talk among academics of ‘upstream engagement’ or – coming into fashion – instituting ‘responsible research and innovation’. The US Department of Defense, for instance, and its lavishly-funded, somewhat science-fictional Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has an extensive catalogue of research and development (R&D) projects on topics from robotics to neural enhancement, selected according to a single over-riding criterion: might they give the USA a military advantage in future? DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office tells us, in a ghastly combination of sales talk and bureaucratese, that it is ‘looking for the best innovators from all fields who have an idea for how to leverage bio+tech to solve seemingly impossible problems and deliver transformative impact’. Here, as in other fields, military, security and much commercial R&D will probably go its own way, and we’ll get weaponised biology whether we like it or not.

For the rest, though, there is a real contribution to be made through a playful, freewheeling design practice, open to many new ideas, and which is technically informed but not constrained by immediate feasibility. There are already enough examples to show how design fiction can invite new kinds of conversations about technological futures. Recognising their possibilities can open up roads not taken.

Design fiction with a less critical (and more commercial) edge will continue to appeal to innovative corporations anxious to configure new offerings to fit better with as yet undefined markets. Their overriding aim is to reduce the chances of an innovation being lost in the ‘valley of death’ between a bright idea and a successful product that preys on the minds of budget-holders.

But the greatest potential of this new way of working is as a tool for those who want to encourage a more important debate about possible futures and their technological ingredients. This is the debate we’re still too often not having, about how to harness technological potential to improve the chances of us living the lives we wish for."
design  designfiction  2105  jonturney  technology  science  participatory  future  complexity  debate  futures  potential  howwelive  lcproject  openstudioproject  darpa  scifi  sciencefiction  change  nearfuturelaboratory  julianbleecker  tbdcatalog  fiction  prototyping  art  imagination  tinkeringwiththefuture  paulgrahamraven  alexandraginsberg  christinapagapis  sisseltolaas  syntheticbiology  alexiscarrel  frederikpohl  cyrilkornbluth  margaretatwood  anthonydunne  fionaraby  dunne&raby  koertvanmensvoort  hendrik-jangrievink  arthurcclarke  davidnye  julesverne  hgwells  martincooper  startrek  johnunderkoffler  davidkirby  aldoushuxley  bravenewworld  minorityreport  jamesauger  jimmyloizeau  worldbuilding  microworldbuilding  thenewnormal 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Winning Isn’t Everything — Matter — Medium
"I used to think that games would be the dominant medium of the 21st century. The reality? They’re too big, too complex, and too smart for that to be true."

"Despite all the aspirational chatter, a decade and a half into the 21st century a ludic century seems unlikely. Impossible, even. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back from grand proclamations about the past or the future of media, and instead treat it with the attention to detail systems thinking supposedly offers.

There’s a paradox at work in systems literacy. For games to embrace a role as windows onto complexity, as depictions of interconnected systems, they must also reject the very idea of dramatic, revolutionary, disruptive change that drives so much of our contemporary understanding about technology — or about anything whatsoever.

Real systems thinking assumes simple answers are always wrong. Yet when we talk about the future—even the future of games or of systems literacy—we tend to assume that they will unleash their transformative powers in a straightforward way, through ideas like a century with a dominant medium. We are meant to speak like Pollyannas about “changing the world,” rather than admitting that the very notion of changing the world is anathema to the fundamental promise of systems literacy, namely a rejection of simplicity and a distrust of singular answers.

After all, it’s not clear at all that the 20th century is best summarized as a century of the moving image, anyway. Too much happened to pin down a single influence or media form as dominant. Systems thinking would force us to admit that any singular innovation is caught up in a web of others. We could just as easily call the last century the “electric century,” because so many of its inventions and innovations were bound up in the rollout and use of electric power. Or perhaps the “recorded century,” because photography, phonography, and other methods of analog capture and preservation rose to prominence (eventually fusing into film) — not to mention digital information storage. Cinema itself relied on the rise of leisure and the desire for escape, facilitated by two decades of economic catastrophe and war during the Great Depression and World War II. Those features were only further amplified by the rise of suburbanism and automobile culture of the 1950s, where cinema coupled to youth, desire, and freedom.

As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan put it (in 1964, I might add), “a new medium is never an addition to an old one, nor does it leave the old one in peace. It never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and positions for them.” McLuhan thinks about media in relation to one another, as a media ecosystem subject to analysis through media ecology. There are just too many elements at work in a medium’s development and decay to single one of them out for special treatment.

When we think about a ludic century or an age of systems literacy, we do so by putting games at the center of the media ecosystem and pondering their influences on our senses and our communities. But such an idea is a fantasy. And there’s no better way of revealing that fantasy than asking instead what conditions would have to exist in order to produce the kind of age that Zimmerman, Spector, Gee, or I have imagined.

A ludic century wouldn’t just be one in which games, play, process, and systems thinking are enhanced, to use one of McLuhan’s terms. It would also be one in which the purportedly non-systemic, non-ludic formats that have reigned in the age of information — namely speech, writing, image, and the moving image — are made obsolete. For systems thinking to reign, linear and narrative thinking would have to wane.

But just the opposite has happened. We’ve never been more surrounded with text and pictures and moving images than we are in the digital era. Over half a century ago, the MIT computer scientist Alan J. Perlis imagined an age of “procedural literacy” brought about by new computational expertise — an early version of the dream of the ludic century. But instead, digital technology has accelerated the rate of production and consumption of “legacy” media formats like writing and photography.

Mostly we use computers to read, write, and look at things — not to build or experience models of complex worlds, real or imagined. It’s as if the horse still pulled the automobile rather than being displaced by it, or if the phone booth had enjoyed a sustained new fashion as a venue to make private calls, texts, or Snapchats from your smartphone."

"Games are ancient, and they are not going anywhere anytime soon. But their stock is not rising at the rate that their fans’ Twitter streams and Web forums might suggest. Instead of a ludic age, perhaps we have entered an era of shredded media. Some forms persist more than others, but more than any one medium, we are surrounded by the rough-edged bits and pieces of too many media to enumerate. Writing, images, aphorisms, formal abstraction, collage, travesty. Photography, cinema, books, music, dance, games, tacos, cats, car services. If anything, there has never been a weirder, more disorienting, and more lively time to be a creator and a fanatic of media in all their varieties. Why ruin the moment by being the one trying to get everyone to play a game while we’re letting the flowers blossom? A ludic century need not be a century of games. Instead, it can just be a century. With games in it."
ianbogost  2014  games  gaming  systemsthinking  disruption  culture  systemsliteracy  videogames  media  theory  marshallmcluhan  play  film  linear  linearity  photography  video  narrative  alanjperlis  proceduralliteracy  computation  computers  digital  consumption  writing  complexity  ericzimmerman  tomchatfield  warrenspector  austinwintory  jamespaulgee 
march 2015 by robertogreco
80 Days at GDC (with images, tweets) · laurajnash · Storify
"Recaps and Livetweets of Meg Jayanth's (@betterthemask) presentation."

Taking Risks

"On #80Days, @betterthemask: "my job was to tempt players into making bad choices." Oh, and also writing those 500,000 words ;)

.@betterthemask: "our goal was to teach players that making a bad strategic decision can lead to a better story" omg I'm in love

.@betterthemask talking about tricking players into making foolish decisions "because it's more fun winning by the skin of your teeth"

"It's the near-misses, the catastrophes, the daring escapes that players remember." This 100%. via @betterthemask

The Dark Stuff

.@betterthemask: Don't avoid sensitive topics, but do think ethically and politically about what you're saying. #GDC2015

.@betterthemask: Slave-catching expedition is not a mechanics punishment. It's a narrative consequence for a narrative decision. #GDC2015

.@betterthemask: 80 Days deliberately deconstructs the classism, racism, and sexism of Verne's novel and steampunk in general. #GDC2015

Playing the Sidekick

.@betterthemask: The world of 80 Days turns, but it doesn't turn around you. Not being the most important person is liberating. #GDC2015

I liked the idea of the world not revolving around the main characters in the 80 days talk #GDC

Props to @betterthemask for that - playing as a minor hero was a refreshing bit of humility from the god complex of too many games n gamers.


.@betterthemask: Romances in 80 Days are important to players, but those narratives are unpredictable. Can't game the romance. #GDC2015

#gdc .@betterthemask on the value of romances that aren't skill checked and cannot be gamed


I love @betterthemask’s description of approaching 80 Days as “a machine for telling stories”.

It's about READING #gosh #gasp @betterthemask

"Talking about mechanics and narrative as oppositional completely misses the point."
- @betterthemask

@betterthemask, wonderful talk about building a strong narrative foundation while embracing constraints and collaboration. #GDC2015

On getting lost in research - 80-90% of the research @betterthemask did never made it into the game; rabbit-holes not avoided on 80 Days.

.@betterthemask: In games, you have to create your own editing process. Find a first reader & redraft. Protect redrafting time. #GDC2015

Writers: think ethically about your game writing, what you leave out is as critical as what you put in. seek criticism- @betterthemask

.@betterthemask: Hire writers early and involve them in the process! (I couldn't agree more.) Use each other's strengths. #GDC2015

.@betterthemask: Make efficient design choices; figure out how to be as lazy as possible. It's a necessity. #GDC2015

Things I didn't know about 80 Days:

.@betterthemask: 80 Days has more text than the LOTR trilogy (but not as much as the first five ASOIAF books). :) #GDC2015

.@betterthemask: Europe is all introductory. Asia adds complexity. Americas ramps up the tension. #GDC2015

So it turns out you can die tragically in @betterthemask's 80 days. Kinda stunned here


Narrative and design insights from 80 Days' writing lead

ICYMI @_shortgame on 80 Days, we pile on praise, mock “evocative”, fail at French and hype camels, drag, romance… "
via:robinsloan  80days  games  gamedesign  videogames  gamedev  gaming  storytelling  writing  megjayanth  edg  srg  research  process  howwework  reading  howweread  text  interactivefiction  collaboration  constraints  tension  complexity  gamedevelopment  if 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Web’s Grain by Frank Chimero
"We’re building edgeless environments of divergency. Things are added in chaos, then if successful, they expanded further and further out until they collapse and rearrange. This is probably why responsive design feels so relevant, maddening, and divisive: its patterns mimic the larger patterns of technology itself.

What we build is defined and controlled by its unresolvable conflicts. In responsive design, it’s the text and image conundrum I showed earlier. In other, more grand arenas, there is capital versus labor, or collective control versus anarchic individualism. In technology, I believe it comes down to the power dynamics of convenience. To create convenience—particularly the automated convenience technology trades in—someone else must make our choices for us.

In other words: the less you have to do, the less say you have.

Up to a point, swapping autonomy for ease is a pretty good trade: who wants run the math on their accounting books or call the restaurant to place a delivery order? But if taken too far, convenience becomes a Trojan Horse. We secede too much control and become dependent on something we can no longer steer. Platforms that promised to bring convenience to a process or intimacy to a relationship now wedge themselves into the transaction as new middlemen. Then, we’re left to trust in the benevolence of those who have the power to mold our dependencies. Citing a lot of the concerns I mentioned earlier, those people are less responsible and compassionate than we had hoped. In pursuit of convenience, we have opened the door to unscrupulous influence.

You could say that our current technological arrangement has spread out too far, and it is starting to look and feel wrong. Fortunately, we can treat this over-expansion just like everything else I’ve mentioned. We can draw a line, and create a point of reassembly for what we’ve made. We can think about how to shift, move, and resize the pieces so that they fall back in line with our intentions. This power is compounded for those of us who make this technology.

But this is not a technological response. It is an explicit act of will—an individual’s choice to change their behaviors about what to use, where to work, what to adopt, what to pay attention to. It is simple mindfulness, that thing which needy technology makes so hard to practice. And it starts with a question: what is technology’s role in your life? And what, really, do you want from it?

As for me? I won’t ask for peace, quiet, ease, magic or any other token that technology can’t provide—I’ve abandoned those empty promises. My wish is simple: I desire a technology of grace, one that lives well within its role.

How will we know that we’re there? I suppose we’ll look at what we’ve built, notice how the edges have dropped away, and actually be pleased it looks like it could go on forever."
frankchimero  davidhockney  joinery  web  webdev  internet  responsive  responsivedesign  design  technology  grace  clarity  simplicity  complexity  dependencies  edges  purpose  adaptability  divergency  thisandthat  convenience  autonomy  control  influence  responsivewebdesign  webdesign 
march 2015 by robertogreco
454 W 23rd St New York, NY 10011—2157
"Anonymous asked: do you want to be famous?

In 1928 the architect Mies van der Rohe was commissioned to design a pavilion representing Weimar Germany at the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona. The building ended up becoming justly famous as the most eloquent definition of what was later gathered into Modernism. This definition would be something like, ‘Not only doing way more with way less, but becoming so good at it that you could thread a way out of the bewilderment and perversity which gnaw at modern lives of otherwise unparalleled bounty and convenience.’

The pavillion was designed to be doorless and mostly made of glass. In almost every way a building could be optimistic for the century it wanted to predict, this one was. The evidence for class oppression that great houses bear, like backstairs and basement kitchens are gone. Blank walls on which evidence of wealth could be displayed have been replaced by windows. Reality is the thing that transparent walls force your attention to confront. The pavillion even does away with the convention of a ‘front’ or a ‘back.’ Without a face on which to project how we want to be seen, duplicity becomes more difficult than simply being honest. The building hopes that without anything to hide behind, the very ideas of secrecy and guile will become too cumbersome to survive.

But in the very temple of delight. There was one place in the pavillion that showed a terrible shadow on the 20th century. Beyond the main room there was a reflecting pool. In the middle of the pool stood a statue of a nude woman. This choice to place a statue at a remove from anyone who would look at it is as elegant a definition as anything else in the building, but what is being defined is hideous. The fact that a statue has been taken out of the round and put in a position that allows only one point of view is an example of something our era has done on an industrial scale—the reduction of volumes to images. A statue by definition fills a volume, but limiting our perspective makes it flat. An image.

The act of reducing the freedom to see from whichever perspective suits you, down to only one, is as old as the allegory of the cave, where statues were reduced to their shadows. But the pavillion predicts that this process will come to dominate everything the statue represents: Art, diversion, beauty, and eventually, people themselves. All of us will buy, favor, love and appreciate from across an impassable distance. We will be segregated from everything we admire and from everything we want, because images are all we are presented with and flatness cannot be embraced.

Over and above every other example of this process is fame. If we are tricked by advertising into buying a phantom, wanting to be famous is wanting to become the phantom. It’s a desire that mistakes isolation for rarity, loneliness for exceptionality, and distance for height. The popular desire for fame is the crowning achievement of a hundred year campaign to iron out any aspect of being alive that calls for a complex and irreducible expression of humanity.

So no."
2012  via:robinsloan  game  humanity  complexity  freedom  reality  advertising  miesvanderrohe  modernism  duplicity  honesty  images  imagery  perspective  pointofview  power  control  flatness  art  diversion  beauty  distance  phantoms 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Creation and Destruction of Habits
"1/ There are two kinds of stories: about forming habits, and about preserving them. Superhero movies and Christmas movies.

2/ While you have room to grow in your life, forming habits is much easier than breaking habits. Neither is easy, however.

3/ A habit, once formed, demands use. This is because it exists as a sunk cost. Disuse would imply depreciating value.

4/ A living habit generates returns and grows more complex over time. This is growth. Growing habits occupy more room over time.

5/ A dying habit generates losses and grows simpler over time. This is decay. Dying habits decay to occupy less room over time.

6/ You are grown up when you run out of room to grow and are forced to break old habits in order to form new ones.

7/ The alternative to growing up is to preserve existing habits against decay through mummification. This is ritualization.

8/ To ritualize a habit is to decide to sustain steady losses for the indefinite future. This means feeding it with make-work.

9/ Living habits are ugly. Constant growth and increasing complexity means they always appear as an unrefined work-in-progress.

10/ The reward of a ritual is comforting, relived memories of once-profitable habits. These can be passed on for generations.

11/ Rituals are beautiful. Mummification is the process of aestheticizing a behavior to produce comfort instead of profit.

12/ Comforts must be paid for. But it is an easy decision to rob the ugly to pay the beautiful. Growth must pay for decay.

13/ Living habits can be valued in terms of expected future returns. Comforts cannot because they are being sustained despite losses.

14/ Living habits have a price. Rituals are price-less. They represent comforts worth preserving at indeterminate cost.

15/ Price-less comforts evolve from things-that-cannot-be-priced to things-that-must-not-be-priced. This is sacralization.

16/ The sacred price-less is the economic priceless. We drop the hyphen and add a notional price of infinity. This is a sacred value.

17/ The ritualized habit associated with a sacred value becomes a virtue: a behavior that serves as is its own justification.

18/ Virtues are behaviors that are recognized as their own justification by their unchanging beauty. The sacred is beautiful.

19/ Vice is that which cannot visibly co-exist with virtue: it is behavior that justifies its own suppression or marginalization.

20/ Profanity is an inchoate mixture of virtue and vice. Experimentation separates ugly profanity into future virtues and vices.

21/ When your living habits cannot pay for their own growth, and you sacrifice beauty for experimentation, you get innovation.

22/ When your living habits can pay for their own growth and your comforting rituals, you have a beautiful life. This is individualism.

23/ When living habits can pay for themselves but not for comforts, you have a problem. This is failed individualism: depression.

24/ If you try to strip away comforts and retain only growth, you have cognitive-behavioral cancer. This is being manic.

25/ You can pretend that comforts are profits. To do this you deny new data and restate old justifications. This is called derping.

26/ You can also strip away rituals, deliberately making your life uglier by unburdening living habits. This is called empiricism.

27/ You can strip away enough ritual to keep your life ugly at work and beautiful at home. This is called being a loser.

28/ You can confuse the beautiful with the living and the ugly with dying and strip away the wrong things. This is called cluelessness.

29/ You can consciously develop your ability to contemplate both ugliness and beauty with equanimity. This is called mindfulness.

30/ You can strip away rituals up to the limit of your mindfulness, staying on the edge of manic-depression. This is being a sociopath.

31/ The most common response to failed individualism, however, is to get others to pay for your comforts. This is called culture.

32/ A culture that cannot pay for its own comforts overall is a called a tradition. One that has no comforts to pay for is called a frontier.

33/ Tradition is beautiful, frontiers are ugly. To mistake one for the other is the defining characteristic of the clueless middle class.

33/ A culture that is more tradition than frontier is a loser culture. Sincere partisan conservatism and liberalism are both for losers.

34/ A culture that is more frontier than tradition is sociopath culture. It offers few comforts and fewer sacred ones.

35/ A compassionate culture is one that drives each member to the limit of their mindfulness. It is inclusive by definition.

36/ A beautiful culture is one that highlights comforting tradition and hides profit and profanity. It is extractive by definition.

37/ A culture cannot be both compassionate and beautiful at once without ceasing to grow. To be a sociopath is to recognize this.

38/ A culture that ceases to grow is a culture that increasingly trades compassion for beauty, paying more for its priceless elements.

39/ A culture that chooses to grow is one that systematically devalues beauty and resists the allure and comfort of pricelessness.

40/ Civilization is the mortal tension between the imperative to keep growing and the imperative to remain beautiful.

41/ Those who choose beauty tell one kind of story, about a relatively shrinking set of beautiful things that define the human.

42/ Those who choose growth tell another kind of story, about an expanding zone of mindfulness that defines the superhuman."
culture  humans  ideology  venkateshrao  2014  habits  growth  frontiers  balance  tradition  ritual  sociopathy  conservatism  liberalism  individualism  mindfulness  cluelessness  comforts  empiricism  derping  depression  experimentation  beauty  marginalization  pricelessness  comfort  complexity  ritualization  makework  mummification  sacralization  sacredness  virtue  justification  life  living  behavior  manicdepression  civilization  rituals 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Anab Jain, “Design for Anxious Times” on Vimeo
"As 2014 rushes past us, a venture capital firm appoints a computer algorithm to its board of directors, robots report news events such as earthquakes before any human can, fully functioning 3D printed ears, bones and guns are in use, the world’s biggest search company acquires large scale, fully autonomous military robots, six-year old children create genetically modified glow fish and an online community of 50,000 amateurs build drones. All this whilst extreme weather events and political unrest continue to pervade. This is just a glimpse of the increased state of technological acceleration and cultural turbulence we experience today. How do we make sense of this? What can designers do? Dissecting through her studio Superflux’s projects, research practice and approach, Anab will make a persuasive case for designers to adopt new roles as sense-makers, translators and agent provocateurs of the 21st century. Designers with the conceptual toolkits that can create a visceral connection with the complexity and plurality of the worlds we live in, and open up an informed dialogue that help shape better futures for all."
anabjain  superflux  2014  design  future  futures  via:steelemaley  criticaldesign  speculativedesign  speculativefiction  designfiction  designdiscourse  film  filmmaking  technology  interaction  documentary  uncertainty  reality  complexity  algorithms  data  society  surveillance  cloud  edwardsnowden  chelseamanning  julianassange  whistleblowing  science  bentobox  genecoin  bitcoin  cryptocurrency  internet  online  jugaad  war  warfare  information  politics  drones  software  adamcurtis  isolation  anxiety  capitalism  quantification  williamgibson  art  prototyping  present 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Melville House | "We no longer like to think about bureaucracy, yet...
"We no longer like to think about bureaucracy, yet it informs every aspect of our existence. It’s as if, as a planetary civilization, we have decided to clap our hands over our ears and start humming whenever the topic comes up. Insofar as we are even willing to discuss it, it’s still in the terms popular in the sixties and early seventies. The social movements of the sixties were, on the whole, left-wing in inspiration, but they were also rebellions against bureaucracy, or, to put it more accurately, rebellions against the bureaucratic mindset, against the soul-destroying conformity of the postwar welfare states. In the face of the gray functionaries of both state-capitalist and state-socialist regimes, sixties rebels stood for individual expression and spontaneous conviviality, and against (“rules and regulations, who needs them?”) every form of social control.

With the collapse of the old welfare states, all this has come to seem decidedly quaint. As the language of antibureaucratic individualism has been adopted, with increasing ferocity, by the Right, which insists on “market solutions” to every social problem, the mainstream Left has increasingly reduced itself to fighting a kind of pathetic rearguard action, trying to salvage remnants of the old welfare state: it has acquiesced with—often even spearheaded—attempts to make government efforts more “efficient” through the partial privatization of services and the incorporation of ever-more “market principles,” “market incentives,” and market-based “accountability processes” into the structure of the bureaucracy itself.

The result is a political catastrophe. There’s really no other way to put it. What is presented as the “moderate” Left solution to any social problems—and radical left solutions are, almost everywhere now, ruled out tout court—has invariably come to be some nightmare fusion of the worst elements of bureaucracy and the worst elements of capitalism. It’s as if someone had consciously tried to create the least appealing possible political position. It is a testimony to the genuine lingering power of leftist ideals that anyone would even consider voting for a party that promoted this sort of thing—because surely, if they do, it’s not because they actually think these are good policies, but because these are the only policies anyone who identifies themselves as left-of-center is allowed to set forth.

Is there any wonder, then, that every time there is a social crisis, it is the Right, rather than the Left, which becomes the venue for the expression of popular anger?

The Right, at least, has a critique of bureaucracy. It’s not a very good one. But at least it exists. The Left has none. As a result, when those who identify with the Left do have anything negative to say about bureaucracy, they are usually forced toadopt a watered-down version of the right-wing critique.”
davidgraeber  2015  bureaucracy  left  right  politics  capitalism  freemarket  policy  government  conviviality  rules  regulations  redtape  complexity  accountability  marketsolutions  individualism  liberalism 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Kill Your Martyrs – The New Inquiry
"However well intentioned, the urge to treat Matthew Shepard as a blameless angel demonstrates so many of the pathologies in contemporary social liberalism. First is the left’s attraction to heroes and martyrs — a drive to personalize and individualize every issue, in a way that seems to directly cut against the theoretical commitment to identifying structural causes for social problems. After all, it is the right wing that prefers to reduce complex social issues to problems of personal character and claim economic outcomes are entirely the result of individual work ethic and talent. Advancing individuals as the symbols of a political causes invites attempts to discredit the causes by discrediting the inevitably flawed martyrs pressed into service to emblemize them. Yes, the personal is political. But the person is not the politics.

Neither are the activist groups entirely synonymous with their causes. Despite recent declarations of victory thanks to the advance of same-sex marriage, queer people in America continue to suffer from vast and entrenched discrimination in a variety of arenas. The gay rights movement remains essential and in need of protection against reactionary power. But no activist group is the movement. Like all institutions, they inevitably become more devoted to their self-perpetuation and to the needs of those working within them than to the cause with which they are identified. The Matthew Shepard Foundation, started by his parents, is an example. It has repeatedly worked to delegitimize not just Jimenez’s work but the very legitimacy of questioning the facts surrounding Shepard’s death.

But what, exactly, do Jimenez’s critics fear? What if every bad rumor about Matthew Shepard were true? For years, I have argued against the “race realist” arguments about race and IQ, the notion that our broad racial categories are significantly different in intelligence. But I have also argued against the notion that we just shouldn’t investigate the question — that some types of investigation should be taboo. This argument, voiced by writers like John Horgan and others, seems an enormous tactical and rhetorical mistake. What are they scared might be found? Regardless of any studies, I have no fear that we will somehow “discover” the inherent inferiority of any particular racial group. I have no fear that social science will result in our rejecting the equal dignity, value, and rights of people of color.

bloodpsortTNI Vol. 24: Bloodsport is out now. Subscribe for $2 and get it todayIf empirical tests suggest that our social construct of race align with differences in our social construct of intelligence, it invites consideration of how those constructs have been assumed or theorized, how those tests have been designed, and how structural aspects of our economy and our society have created conditions that make such perceived differences possible. No test results could undermine our pre-empirical commitment to the social and political equality of all races. Likewise, no journalistic revelations will change the fact that Matthew Shepard was strapped to a post, has his brain bludgeoned, and was left to die in the snow by killers who worked consciously and with premeditation. The right to live is not deserved. The right to not be killed does not stem from the perceived social legitimacy of one’s sexual or gender identity. McKinney and Henderson took Matthew Shepard out with the intention of killing him, and they did. That fact alone is reason for grief, disgust, and horror.

What, ultimately, is true about what happened in Laramie? I don’t know, and neither does Stephen Jimenez, and neither do his vitriolic critics. But I feel confident in the following: Someone who was innocent of anything immoral, as opposed to illegal, was intentionally and brutally murdered. His murderers were possessed, at the time, of some degree of homophobia, whether those feelings included the self-hatred of McKinney or not. The victim was forced to live in an unrepentantly homophobic country, one which refuses to meaningfully address the physical vulnerability of its unjustly targeted gay population and which was thus tacitly implicated in his murder. He died for no reason, and his killers deserve to spend the rest of their lives in jail. All that is true.

But the notion that this killing was a simple story of strangers meeting a defenseless gay man, being panicked by his homosexuality, and executing him in a fit of hatred, is no longer a responsible or informed position.

If Jimenez’s Matthew Shepard — involved in the drug trade, intimately acquainted with his killers, despairing — is the real Matthew Shepard, we face the same moral questions that we do when we consider Shepard the secular saint. Even if his death was not a black-and-white morality play which spoke perfectly to the assumptions of those who mourn him, and he not a media-ready victim but a complex and flawed human being, would he then lie outside of the boundaries of our compassion and our responsibility? And if he did, where is left for a movement seeking human justice to go?"
politics  personalization  individualization  matthewshepard  freddiedeboer  2014  news  truth  complexity  purity  humans  left  socialliberalism  heroes  martyrs  martyrdom  reification  hagiography  stephenjimenez  rigobertamenchú  simplification  simplicity  messaging  whitewashing  josephbrennan  credulity  bias  jennifertoth  themolepeople  journalism  storytelling  fiction  nonfiction  thebookofmatt  canon  radicalism 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Sara Wachter-Boettcher | Personal Histories
"1. Ask only for what I need.
There are lots of reasons companies want data about their customers or users, but a good many of them come down to marketing: How can I gather information that helps me more effectively sell you things?

There’s a difference between nice-to-have and mission-critical information. And too often, we force users to provide things we really don’t need—things they might not even have, or don’t want to tell us.

We talk a lot about being user-centered in the way we design and write. But how often do we assess—truly assess—how much we need from a person for them to use our products or services? How often do we prioritize our dreams of better user data, more accurate profiles, more “personalization”?

2. Work on their clock, not mine.
It wasn’t a problem that the German government asked about my family members—I’m proving my nationality, after all. But it came as a surprise; it threw me somewhere I hadn’t intended to go right then, and it took me a couple minutes to regain my bearings and move on.

Paper doesn’t mind the wait, but websites often do: they make it impossible to start a form and then save it for later. They time out. They’re impatient as all hell.

I suspect it’s because our industry has long prioritized speed: the one-click purchase. The real-time update. The instant download. And speed is helpful quite often—who doesn’t want a page to load as fast as possible?

But speed doesn’t mean the same thing as ease.

Margot Bloomstein has spoken recently about slowing our content roll—about slowing down the pace of our content to help users have a more memorable and successful experience.

What if we looked at ways to optimize interactions not just for speed, but also for flexibility—for a user to be able to complete steps on their own terms? When might it help someone to be able to pause, to save their progress, to skip a question and come back to it at the end?

What would a more forgiving interface look like?

3. Allow for complexity.
I didn’t need to explain my might-have-been older brother’s backstory to the German government. But in my doctor’s form, that complexity mattered to me—and a simple binary wasn’t nearly enough space for me to feel comfortable.

As interface-makers, what might seem simple to us could be anything but to our users. What can we do to allow for that complexity? Which what-ifs have we considered? What spaces do they create?

Take gender. I have qualms about many of Facebook’s practices, but they’ve done this well. Rather than a binary answer, you can now customize your gender however you’d like.


Facebook's gender selector showing Male, Female, and Custom options
You can also choose how you want to be addressed—as he, she, or they.


Facebook's pronoun selector showing they as the selected pronoun
We could call users who identify as something other than “male” or “female” an edge case—Why muck up our tidy little form fields and slow down the process to make space for them?

Or we could call them human.

4. Communicate what happens next.
One of my favorite details in Facebook’s gender settings is that little alert message that pops up before you confirm a setting change:
Your preferred pronoun is Public and can be seen by anyone.

I don’t care who knows what my preferred pronoun is. But I’m not a trans teen trying to negotiate the complex public-private spaces of the internet. I’m not afraid of my parents’ or peers’ reactions. I’m lucky.

Whether it’s an immediate announcement to a user’s social circle that they’ve changed their status or a note in their file about sexual assault that every doctor will ask about forever, users deserve to know what happens when they enter information—where it goes, who will see it, and how it will be used.

5. Above all, be kind.
When you approach your site design with a crisis-driven persona, you WILL see things differently.

Eric Meyer

Most of us aren’t living the worst-case scenario most of the time. But everyone is living. And that’s often hard enough.

How would our words change if we were writing for someone in crisis? Would our language soften? Would we ask for less? Would we find simpler words to use, cut those fluffy paragraphs, get to the point sooner? Would we make it easier to contact a human?

Who else might that help?

Humility. Intention. Empathy. Clarity. These concepts are easy enough to understand, but they take work to get right. As writers and strategists and designers, that’s our job. It’s up to us to think through those what-ifs and recognize that, at every single moment—both by what we say and what we do not say—we are making communication choices that affect the way our users feel, the tenor of the conversation we’re having, the answers we’ll get back, and the ways we can use that information.

Most of the choices aren’t inherently wrong or right. The problem is when our intentions are fuzzy, our choices unacknowledged, their implications never examined."
design  interface  inclusion  accessibility  humility  difference  intention  empathy  clarity  communication  purpose  kindness  ux  contentstrategy  gender  content  2015  sarawachter-boettcher  privacy  complexity  binary  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Why the media don't get Detroit--and why it matters : Columbia Journalism Review
"Coverage of declining cities is too often simplistic and lacking historical context"

"truggling cities are often found in the Rust Belt, far removed from national media concentrated along the coasts. Coverage tends to be sporadic, and centers on their most glaring failures. The narratives that emerge are of ghost towns and zombie subdivisions. These stories are compelling and based on real hardships. But they typically do little to explain how the cities got that way, let alone what’s possible in terms of reversing their fortunes.

In some larger cities such as Buffalo and Cleveland, meanwhile, the idea of renewal has begun to drive more of the media storyline. Such rosy analyses typically lack historical or geographical context, focusing on one neighborhood or one segment of the population at a time. Micro-developers may have bought up a handful of vacant homes, and new businesses may be sprouting in downtown areas. But such developments are happening amid a large, diverse metro area; their impact is easily overstated. They are not typically the indicators of wholesale resurrection that they become in a news story."

‘Population loss, poverty, isolation—all these things are happening simultaneously,’ says Stephen Henderson. ‘It’s really difficult to just pop in and grasp that complexity.’

"“Population loss, poverty, isolation—all these things are happening simultaneously,” said Stephen Henderson, editorial-page editor of the Detroit Free Press, whose columns on Detroit were awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. Poverty is fundamentally different in shrinking cities like Detroit than it is in New York or Washington, he added. “It’s hard to understand how big the city is and how that wreaks havoc on economic opportunity, especially for poor people. It’s really difficult to just pop in and grasp that complexity.”

Recent coverage has showcased Detroit’s “booming bike industry” and a luxury watch company, among other vibrant, if relatively small, businesses. Motown was described as a “culinary oasis” and “the Bar City of the Year.” Such monolithic descriptions of Detroit are similar to reporters’ characterization of Brooklyn, where the artisanal doings in a handful of neighborhoods in a borough of 2.6 million people drive the media’s narrative. “When you go to Slows Bar BQ”—a popular spot in the Corktown neighborhood—“and then make Pollyanna statements about how Detroit is a food oasis, that’s almost as unhelpful as all those jokes for all those years,” said Michael Jackman, managing editor of the Detroit weekly Metro Times. “It’s like a pat on the head for being a plucky little city.”

The way stories spread online only accentuates this black-white treatment, as social media generally reward extremes. My own Guardian feature on Detroit, in which I profiled an urban planner grappling with whether to move elsewhere, was eventually titled, “The death of a great American city: Why does anybody live in Detroit?” I was proud of the piece’s depth; I was also proud that it garnered nearly 700 comments and 10,000 social shares. While that exposure wouldn’t have been possible without a sensational headline, I can’t say what readers took away—the headline or my reporting.

A similar example can be gleaned from the popular website Business Insider, where a straight-laced Associated Press story about United Airlines ending service to Atlantic City ran beneath a particularly loud headline: “Here’s Another Sign That Atlantic City Is Dying.” That line of thinking, which has dominated coverage of the New Jersey town this year, doesn’t sit well with Kris Worrell, executive editor of The Press of Atlantic City.

“As a breed, [journalists] have a healthy dose of skepticism,” she told me. “And certainly if government officials argued that a place or company or any institution were perfect and happy, we would question that. My issue is that we don’t apply that same level scrutiny to the opposite extreme, when something is painted in negative terms. We know, when we think about it, neither of those extremes is true.”

That goes for any place that faces decline, from Atlantic City to Detroit. The reason the latter hasn’t died is that countless people who love the city have fought like hell to save it. Their victories are real, but so are the massive challenges that remain. Understanding and respecting such contradictions is crucial for reporters who set out to explain what went wrong—as well as what’s going right."
detroit  cities  inequality  poverty  2015  daviduberti  annetrubek  complexity  stephenhenderson  atlanticcity  economics  rustbelt 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Is it time to cut adrift from island thinking? – Libby Robin – Aeon
"Island-mindedness is born in island places, but the islands of the mind have a broad appeal. Is this hard-wired? Recognising an island of safety and refuge might have enabled our hominin ancestors to find stepping stones out of Africa in times of environmental stress. The concept of the island has long been prominent in literature and useful in science: biologists and geographers, national park managers and archaeologists, linguists, geneticists and evolutionary theorists have all turned at times to the model of the island. Yet it might no longer be a great model for the new needs and concerns of our rapidly globalising century."

"An island is as much metaphor as it is physical place. Nature and wilderness reserves became the real nature for quantitative biological theorists. They could ignore the complex stuff of urban development and human communities. An island could stand for the Garden of Eden, in an age when wilderness was the highest ideal for conservation.

Islands are also devices for thinking mathematically, for simplifying the real world and leaving out messy variables. MacArthur and Wilson were conscious of the complexity of the processes they wished to explain quantitatively – processes such as dispersal, invasion, competition, adaptation and extinction. An island-based theory, they acknowledged, left out ‘many of the most troublesome – and interesting – problems’. Ecological principles need sound theories and statistical significance if they are going to attract support from governments and policymakers. Ultimately, they argued, islands and continents need to be understood together, but the island was the basis for mathematical certainty – for laws – in the management of nature. Their final chapter, ‘Prospect’, argued that biogeography was mature enough to ‘be reformulated in terms of the first principles of population ecology and genetics’."

"The island had seemed an ideal field for ‘experimentation’, but island biogeography did not take sufficient account of time and history, and the assumption that the island’s ecological future was heading steadily towards some sort of ‘balance’ was misplaced. In 1986, the Finnish philosopher-ecologist Yrjö Haila argued that the equilibrium model had ‘ossified into a simple formula that began to suppress creative thinking instead of stimulating it’.

Haila advocated ‘a broader, pluralistic appreciation of the role of theories in general’. But ecologists have found it difficult to let go of the elegance and parsimony that equilibrium theories embody, and to see the way life works afresh without theoretical assumptions. In 2006, the ornithologist and oceanic island specialist David W Steadman argued: ‘Data that fail to support an ‘elegant’ model are often regarded as noise or the exception that proves the rule. Elegant models made by deified people die hard.’

Wilson’s fame gave the equilibrium theory a longer life than its data supported. The balance of nature was attractive beyond science, and it has a romantic following, particularly among conservationists and nature lovers who support the national parks and ‘wilderness’ ideals. The US Wilderness Act is now 50 years old, and things have moved on during the Great Acceleration of change in the same period.

Even as the theory of island biogeography was gaining supporters, the critique of the balance of nature was gathering pace within ecology. National parks and nature reserves management took for granted that nature could somehow heal itself, if protected from humanity. Experimental ideas about islands drove – and at times limited – the conservation agenda, because managers still indulged the idea that nature could be fenced off, or isolated from the threat of humanity. In the past half-century, during which the human population has more than doubled, theories for protecting nature from our overexploitation have proliferated. Biological extinctions have accelerated unabated."

"In the ‘post-national’ 21st century, borders are no longer as fixed as national jurisdictional law suggests. Australia has, at times, excised itself from its islands to handle the politics of asylum‑seeking. Would-be migrants, seeking refuge in Australia, are held on offshore islands until their status is legitimated or denied. By this means, successive Australian governments have deprived vulnerable people, including children, of basic human rights. For the sake of domestic political convenience, the nation of the plastic stencil sometimes defines itself without the islands where refugee boats land. The fact that people abandon nations and passports because of global pressures, because of the impossibility of being at home where they were born, is part of what is changing the nature of nations in a global world. People are no longer from where they came from. They become citizens of where they wash up, or the world. Island-mindedness – the separation of places from other places – is no longer an option.

In this global world, it is flows and circulation, rather than land parcels, that are important. Just as Google maps and GPS have become widespread, territoriality is changing. Flows are about land-and-sea-and-sky-and-people – a collective consciousness that is hard to represent on a 2D map or a phone app.

The island-minded idea of nature, separated from culture, has also changed. Some say we are at the ‘end of nature’: there is now a human signature on all the global flows: the biophysical system is also cultural, as the new epoch of the Anthropocene is imagined. To rework the poet John Dunne, no island-nation is ‘entire of itself’, nor can any island-nature be other than ‘involved in mankind’. Perhaps the bell now tolls for the last island: the blue marble of planet Earth, an island in the infinity of space."

"Surtsey is still bleak and black, but mosses and lichens, windswept grasses and stunted shrubs now soften its edges. All its creatures still live as much with the global systems of winds and storms as on the precious fragment of land that erupted 50 years ago. Surviving on such a remote island is, paradoxically, a mark of cosmopolitanism. Only plants and animals that travel easily will flourish there."
libbyrobin  via:anne  2014  iceland  islands  science  isolation  cosmopolitanism  judithschalansky  picoiyer  surtseyisland  peterveth  charlesdarwin  alfredrusselwallace  galápagos  alexandervonhumboldt  newzealand  australia  bali  lombok  ecology  biology  life  robertmacarthur  edwardowilson  ecosystems  discreetness  nature  wilderness  complexity  extinction  dispersal  invasion  adaptation  competition  biogeography  geography  lordhoweisland  yrjöhaila  equilibrium  conservation  adrianmanning  jakobvonuexküll  flows  circulation  borders  people  humans  separation  anthropocene  darwin 
december 2014 by robertogreco