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robertogreco : connectedness   28

Letter of Recommendation: Ghosting - The New York Times
"In my father’s house, my stepmother cooks dinner. First she sweats the onions, then she sears the meat. On special occasions, she mixes dough with flour ground from enset, a plant that resembles the banana tree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The information, it seemed, had become necessary. My father, like the rest of us, was just trying to get better."
antiblackness  poc  blackness  ghosting  2017  meditation  self-improvement  reltionships  digitalage  connectedness  answerability  emotions  flight  freedom  provacy  solitude  inwardness  attention  communication  isolation  kinship  disappearance 
august 2017 by robertogreco
What Does It Mean to Become Californian? – Boom California
"What does it mean to become Californian? It means being witness to an epic bender—a 169-year binge lubricated by gold, cattle, wheat, oil, suburban housing, the Cold War, and a marketing campaign of seductive power. At every stage of its history, each of the state’s exploitable ecologies has been dressed up as another paradise, pandering to the latest wave of hopelessly intoxicated newcomers. The come-on that seduced them—the elemental promises of health, wealth, and happiness in the sunshine—is the California Dream. For Joan Didion, the state’s renowned exile, there is in that dream a “dangerous dissonance…a slippage” between what we desire and who we are.1

The official story of California is told as a pageant of bonanzas, but belief in the official story requires forgetting so much. We want the story to record what had been hard won, but it’s actually full of lucky accidents. We bought the Californian sales pitch, but we became remorseful buyers afterward. We want to be Californian, but we don’t want to earn it.

These paradoxes were built into the subdivisions that absorbed thirteen million dream seekers between 1940 and 1970—the great years when California retailed to America its mix of Arcadian ease and technocratic élan. The greatest paradox is, of course, that the success in getting so much from California has been turned into so much loss. Californians tend to use the state’s compromised environment as the screen on which to project what they can no longer find in California—something missing from becoming Californian—and the suburbs, the traffic, and the presence of too many of us are said to be the cause. But perhaps what Californians can no longer find is in themselves, in what they lost by becoming Californian. We forget that the California Dream didn’t come with a moral compass.

I cannot say that the dream did not serve us. It provided the goods of a middle-class life to millions, including me. It remixed popular culture in exciting ways. It built beautiful and lasting things—and the dream still inspires. A neighbor of mine—with a tract house, two grown daughters, and a husband who is a teacher—wonders if it means anything to say that the dream is ending. “They’ve been saying that for thirty years at least. It hasn’t ended yet,” she told me.

Kevin Starr has written nine volumes of history about California and America’s feverish dream of it, and in 2009 he hadn’t yet reconciled whether California would become a “failed state” or would reinvent itself again, and if reinvention would be another arc of boom to bust to regret. Starr’s faith was in the state’s genetic and cultural rambunctiousness and the possibility that a retooled dream, suitable for a less-Anglo California, will replace the parts of the dream that served us so poorly. But Starr, like many of us, had his doubts.

***

What does it mean to become Californian? It means seeing nature without romance or despair. California has been uniquely intoxicating, but it was also a place on the national periphery in the nineteenth century and far from the familiar place where hearts might feel at home. Merchandising the state’s natural grandeur answered some of Californian longing. From William Henry Jackson in the 1870s through Ansel Adams in the 1950s to the latest coffee-table book, California has produced gorgeous and misleading environmental photography, promoting the view that sacred wildness is out there, unmarred by our presence and ready for our contemplation.

The iconic photographs make the rapturous assumption that none of us was ever here——but we were! We’re sluicing mountains into rivers to get at the gold, taking down forests to build a wood and iron technology gone before our parents were born, erecting groves of derricks over oil fields, extracting harvests from the compliant ground, and assembling communities from tract houses and strip malls. I’m tired of my own sentimentality for landscapes that are rendered either as an open wound or a throat pulled back, ready for the knife. Pity is misplaced if there is no place in it for you or me.

The choice for Californians north and south after the Gold Rush cataclysm was not between nature and its despoiled remnant, but the terms on which our encounter with nature would be framed. The environmentalist John Muir gave nature a privileged autonomy, a kind of green divinity. Frederick Law Olmsted, a builder of New York’s Central Park, concluded that nature in California would never again be sublime, despite what the photographs implied, and that nature must be enmeshed in the community of people living here. Olmsted struggled for a word to describe the tie that might bind a place and its people. He settled on “communitiveness.” It’s an awkward word for something that tries to define both loyalty to one’s neighbors and trusteeship of the land. Olmsted, as Muir and others did, sought to read a redemptive narrative—and something of the wider American experience—into the landscape of California. The Californians who were led here by their longing for the redeeming qualities Muir and Olmsted saw in California’s nature—qualities variously ennobling, consoling, and therapeutic—unalterably changed California.

***

Californians had presumed that California would always deliver whatever they deserved. Now we know California can’t. Even more self-knowledge is needed, now that our revels are ended. If we are to become brave, new Californians, we will begin to dream differently."

What does it mean to become Californian? It means finding that California is increasingly ordinary (for which I’m grateful, because the commonplace is necessarily the place where we find love and hope). But if California isn’t the “great exception,” isn’t the best or worst of places, then how do we describe California when it is not exactly “Californian” anymore, not as alluring or lurid as the clichés of the utopian or dystopian accounts said it was? California is riven—north and south, coastal and inland, urban and rural, valley and foothill—but that which unites these “islands on the land” is the question of what had been gained by becoming Californian.

For Joan Didion, becoming Californian was a prize for leaving the past behind, although the result would be brokenheartedness. For essayist Richard Rodriguez, becoming Californian meant becoming mingled, impure, heterogeneous, and discovering that your color, whatever it is, is just another shade of brown. For the novelist and playwright William Saroyan, becoming Californian was to see this place, finally, as “my native land.” For the two million or more Californians who, in the past two decades, have migrated to “greater California”—which is now located in Texas, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and Nevada—becoming Californian meant finding some measure of inadequacy in California. Maybe becoming Californian means laboring to undo the toxic effects of what California has been: a commodity, a trophy of Anglo privilege, and a place of aching, unmet desires.

The Anglo possessors of California after 1847 took on habits that began with the first gold claim staked on the American River and continue each time a house lot changes hands today. Imagine considering those habits with a “truth and reconciliation” commission whose members are a skateboarder, a “mow and blow” gardener, a rap artist, a real estate agent, a vintner, a Gabrieleño elder, a Chinese immigrant, and someone employed in the adult entertainment industry. Maybe becoming Californian means facing a ravenous “hunger of memory”2 and having only California’s clichés to offer.

***

What does it mean to become Californian? It means locating yourself, according to environmental historian Stephanie Pincetl, in a panorama that includes Hollywood, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Big Sur, San Francisco, Disneyland, the redwoods, and Death Valley.3 She might have added Compton, Route 99 from Fresno to Bakersfield, the Silicon Valley, the San Fernando Valley, the Central Valley, and the whole of la frontera from Yuma to the Tijuana. Pincetl included in her list the seductive mirage of El Dorado, the folly that led to all of the state’s ruined paradises. An imagination so spacious as to dwell in all of these Californias requires a different kind of intelligence, attuned to many vernaculars. The alternative is living daily with the experience of estrangement, discontinuity, and forgetfulness.

Californians who need something to stand with them against these disorders might find it in Michel Foucault’s notion of “a particular, local, regional knowledge, a differential knowledge incapable of unanimity.”4 The desire to sustain “ecologies of the vernacular” and live in “habitats of memory” may be the new requirement for becoming Californian.

Foucault distantly echoes Josiah Royce’s notion of a Higher Provincialism,5 which finds the potential for moral order in a shared sense of place and in the common habits of being there. This embodied knowledge becomes “critical regionalism”6 in turning away from the comforts of nostalgia toward “interrogating the local and proximate precisely in order to demonstrate its universality, its connectedness, and its differences with the wider world.”7

California happened to the world in 1849, and in the rush to extract something from becoming Californian, the world—in the form of every race and ethnicity—met itself here.8 The meeting was chaotic, brutal, often tragic, and sometimes redemptive, and its energies are not yet spent. For all its potential to create a hybrid American (and, I believe, a better one), the collision left Californians haunted by the spirit of El Dorado—the illusion that being Californian requires being perpetually the object of someone else’s desire.

To become truly Californian, dwellers here will recover from that malign dream to “awaken the stories that sleep in … [more]
california  future  djwaldie  kevinstarr  2017  foucault  josiahroyce  universality  connectedness  difference  diversity  change  history  stephaniepincetl  joandidion  fredericklawolmstead  nature  landscape  johnmuir  goldrush  williamhenryjackson  richardrodriguez  ordinariness  inadequacy  race  ethnicity  commonplace  everyday  michelfoucault 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Courtney Martin: The new American Dream | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED.com
[via: https://twitter.com/campcreek/status/792521887343607810 ]

"Now, artist Ann Hamilton has said, "Labor is a way of knowing." Labor is a way of knowing. In other words, what we work on is what we understand about the world. If this is true, and I think it is, then women who have disproportionately cared for the little ones and the sick ones and the aging ones, have disproportionately benefited from the most profound kind of knowing there is: knowing the human condition. By prioritizing care, men are, in a sense, staking their claim to the full range of human existence.

Now, this means the nine-to-five no longer works for anyone. Punch clocks are becoming obsolete, as are career ladders. Whole industries are being born and dying every day. It's all nonlinear from here. So we need to stop asking kids, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and start asking them, "How do you want to be when you grow up?" Their work will constantly change. The common denominator is them. So the more they understand their gifts and create crews of ideal collaborators, the better off they will be.

The challenge ahead is to reinvent the social safety net to fit this increasingly fragmented economy. We need portable health benefits. We need policies that reflect that everyone deserves to be vulnerable or care for vulnerable others, without becoming destitute. We need to seriously consider a universal basic income. We need to reinvent labor organizing. The promise of a work world that is structured to actually fit our 21st century values, not some archaic idea about bringing home the bacon, is long overdue -- just ask your mother.

Now, how about the second question: How should we live? We should live like our immigrant ancestors. When they came to America, they often shared apartments, survival tactics, child care -- always knew how to fill one more belly, no matter how small the food available. But they were told that success meant leaving the village behind and pursuing that iconic symbol of the American Dream, the white picket fence. And even today, we see a white picket fence and we think success, self-possession. But when you strip away the sentimentality, what it really does is divides us. Many Americans are rejecting the white picket fence and the kind of highly privatized life that happened within it, and reclaiming village life, reclaiming interdependence instead.

Fifty million of us, for example, live in intergenerational households. This number exploded with the Great Recession, but it turns out people actually like living this way. Two-thirds of those who are living with multiple generations under one roof say it's improved their relationships. Some people are choosing to share homes not with family, but with other people who understand the health and economic benefits of daily community. CoAbode, an online platform for single moms looking to share homes with other single moms, has 50,000 users. And people over 65 are especially prone to be looking for these alternative living arrangements. They understand that their quality of life depends on a mix of solitude and solidarity. Which is true of all of us when you think about it, young and old alike. For too long, we've pretended that happiness is a king in his castle. But all the research proves otherwise. It shows that the healthiest, happiest and even safest -- in terms of both climate change disaster, in terms of crime, all of that -- are Americans who live lives intertwined with their neighbors.

Now, I've experienced this firsthand. For the last few years, I've been living in a cohousing community. It's 1.5 acres of persimmon trees, this prolific blackberry bush that snakes around a community garden, all smack-dab, by the way, in the middle of urban Oakland. The nine units are all built to be different, different sizes, different shapes, but they're meant to be as green as possible. So big, shiny black solar cells on our roof mean our electricity bill rarely exceeds more than five bucks in a month. The 25 of us who live there are all different ages and political persuasions and professions, and we live in homes that have everything a typical home would have. But additionally, we share an industrial-sized kitchen and eating area, where we have common meals twice a week.

Now, people, when I tell them I live like this, often have one of two extreme reactions. Either they say, "Why doesn't everyone live like this?" Or they say, "That sounds totally horrifying. I would never want to do that." So let me reassure you: there is a sacred respect for privacy among us, but also a commitment to what we call "radical hospitality" -- not the kind advertised by the Four Seasons, but the kind that says that every single person is worthy of kindness, full stop, end of sentence.

The biggest surprise for me of living in a community like this? You share all the domestic labor -- the repairing, the cooking, the weeding -- but you also share the emotional labor. Rather than depending only on the idealized family unit to get all of your emotional needs met, you have two dozen other people that you can go to to talk about a hard day at work or troubleshoot how to handle an abusive teacher. Teenagers in our community will often go to an adult that is not their parent to ask for advice. It's what bell hooks called "revolutionary parenting," this humble acknowledgment that kids are healthier when they have a wider range of adults to emulate and count on. Turns out, adults are healthier, too. It's a lot of pressure, trying to be that perfect family behind that white picket fence.

The "new better off," as I've come to call it, is less about investing in the perfect family and more about investing in the imperfect village, whether that's relatives living under one roof, a cohousing community like mine, or just a bunch of neighbors who pledge to really know and look out for one another. It's good common sense, right? And yet, money has often made us dumb about reaching out. The most reliable wealth is found in relationship.

The new better off is not an individual prospect at all. In fact, if you're a failure or you think you're a failure, I've got some good news for you: you might be a success by standards you have not yet honored. Maybe you're a mediocre earner but a masterful father. Maybe you can't afford your dream home, but you throw legendary neighborhood parties. If you're a textbook success, the implications of what I'm saying could be more grim for you. You might be a failure by standards you hold dear but that the world doesn't reward. Only you can know.

I know that I am not a tribute to my great-grandmother, who lived such a short and brutish life, if I earn enough money to afford every creature comfort. You can't buy your way out of suffering or into meaning. There is no home big enough to erase the pain that she must have endured. I am a tribute to her if I live a life as connected and courageous as possible. In the midst of such widespread uncertainty, we may, in fact, be insecure. But we can let that insecurity make us brittle or supple. We can turn inward, lose faith in the power of institutions to change -- even lose faith in ourselves. Or we can turn outward, cultivate faith in our ability to reach out, to connect, to create.

Turns out, the biggest danger is not failing to achieve the American Dream. The biggest danger is achieving a dream that you don't actually believe in."
happiness  interdependence  courtneymartin  life  living  relationships  economics  success  solidarity  community  agesegregation  cohousing  us  2016  vulnerability  policy  health  housing  unschooling  deschooling  education  learning  privacy  hospitality  radicalhospitality  kindness  bellhooks  intergenerational  emotionallabor  labor  work  domesticlabor  families  money  wealth  individualism  failure  insecurity  meaningmaking  consumerism  materialism  connectedness  courage  sfsh  openstudioproject  lcproject 
october 2016 by robertogreco
Why I Believe in Text — Thoughts on Media — Medium
"The next step is to have publishing and blogging platforms introduce “medium form” structures. Formats like Medium’s responses help you get your point across in faster and more lightweight manner. There has yet to be a widely adopted writing format that is medium form, under 2500 characters, can be read under 5 minutes, and designed with constraints for brevity. I see great potential for fast, medium-length, text sharing on the web. The format can be written in an abstract form where the user is constrained by a character limit under 2500 (approximately three paragraphs). Constraints in writing structure can breed innovation and concision. It also solves the blank canvas problem where people are intimidated by a never ending blank text editor.

Gone are the days of 10 minute long reads like http://longform.org/. People are producing and consuming content in shorter, quippier, digestable ways (listicles, Buzzfeed, Twitter, theSkimm etc). As a writer, I find this paradigm shift towards short form text both fascinating and scary. The scroll can be your friend when you write long prose (Source: Michael Sippey). Now people just stop scrolling when your content doesn’t catch their attention in the first 30 seconds.

The market for text is larger than ever

People are still reading and producing text more than ever. Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp, and iMessage indicate that the demand for text in messaging and commenting is exponentially increasing. People are just writing and consuming text in different ways.

For a social network to cater to as many people’s needs as possible it needs to provide a spectrum of sharing as diagramed above. No one sharing format can perfectly capture one person’s identity or needs. There is an amalgamation of personas within social networks. Snapchat is for fast, casual sharing in real time; Instagram is for beautiful images + text to capture your best moments; Notes and Medium are for deeper and richer storytelling when you want to get your points across. For a healthy sharing ecosystem you need a wide spectrum of sharing from lightweight to heavyweight richer storytelling.

Christiana and I broke down the sharing ecosystem by content types and depth of expression. Depth of expression is how much emotional content you can convey in one post. As you progress to the right of the spectrum the content format becomes more meaningful and deeper in expression due to a combination of text and multimedia stories. When I see a singular check-in or Snapchat, I get a glimmer of a person. When I read a note or Medium post, I feel connected to that person and know how they think.

The future of writing is going to be Text+

Text’s linguistic sentence structure adds unique organization to other media. When it comes down to telling a story in visual, video, or written form it is all about flow and organization. The ability to communicate with simple words to complex sentence structures to paragraphs offer an unique advantage for text to be a flexible and modular media that organizes photos and videos into a multimedia story.
Text is the most flexible communication technology. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, when there’s a picture to match what you’re trying to say.
— Always Bet on Text [https://graydon2.dreamwidth.org/193447.html ]

The future of text is going to be text+ (text + multimedia e.g. photos, videos, gifs, podcasts etc). In a mobile first world coupled with our shrinking attention span, readers and users want text+ for a faster, more immersive, gratifying consumption experience. Multimedia stories are the future of text. For rich storytelling to have the fast consumption of videos and it photos, it also needs to be interwoven with the depth and organization of text. It’s not going to be enough for Medium to be just text + photos. The Atatvist Mag does a great job embedding rich media into longform content. Now anyone can generate Pulitzer-winning content on par with “Snowfall”, which is powerful. The Atavist is democratizing high brow publishing to the masses. You don’t need programmers or photo editors anymore to produce high quality long form content. Publishing platforms like Facebook Notes, Medium, and the Atavist empower anyone to generate publisher-par content.

Text Conveys Emotional Depth

I question a world and system that overweighs “fast food consumption” over “slow food consumption”. Text is slow food because it takes longer to produce and consume. Like fast food, fast consumption fills you up fast but doesn’t do much for you. In a world where we measure user satisfaction and trust, we neglect the very basic metric for “connectedness” between users. NPS scores mean nothing if your users don’t feel connected to each other. I want to see companies adopt a metric for “connectedness” measuring how a reader feels towards the writer after reading a story. We should measure how you feel after reading a post. Did it make you feel more connected to the writer? Was the 1 minute you spent reading quality time? How does 1 minute of cat video trade off with 1 minute of reading?

Most importantly, text conveys a certain emotional depth that is not possible in photos and videos. People write during heightened states in their life like when Sheryl Sandberg wrote about losing her husband (I broke down reading her beautiful and poignant post) or when Mark Zuckerberg wrote about the miscarriages he and his wife Priscilla experienced before Max was born (very few people talked publicly about the pain of miscarriages until Mark’s text post). Writing helps us share our pain and heal together by connecting others to us through shared humanity. Through writing we find out that we are not as alone as we thought about our hardships. Writing is a conveyor of vulnerability and brings people together.

You can get to know someone through their writing. Writing makes me feel like I know someone like katie zhu before meeting her. From reading Katie’s Medium posts, I felt like I knew her and skipped the small talk when we met in person. We talked about everything from our shared love for writing to love-hate relationship with SF to internet ethics to cognitive diversity. We started on what would have been a fourth or fifth conversation level all thanks to me reading her writing. Writing connects people because it provides a deeper understanding of someone’s psyche, their beliefs, and their values. And that is a powerful thing in a world with so many disparate beliefs and divisiveness in political and religious factions. Writing has the ability to help you understand the other side’s opinion and dismount hidden biases.

Your product is only as good as the amalgamation of the people who use it. Content changes on the web but products that build deeper, meaningful connections between people will be lasting.

Let’s not get caught up in a “fast food consumption” world and forget that the internet can also be place for permanent, deep, and meaningful expressions. And this is why I believe in text. Text is not over yet, it’s just the beginning."
boren  writing  text  web  digital  via:tealtan  2015  slow  reading  slowreading  howweread  howwewrite  communication  socialmedia  atavist  longform  mediumform  snowfall  christinachae  twitter  theskimmm  buzzfeed  michaelsippy  slate  theawl  text+  theoffing  theatlantic  alwaysbetontext  sms  texting  snapchat  connectedness  emotions  storytelling  instagram  medium  facebook  internet  online  photography  video  toddvanderwerff  messaging  chat  multiliteracies 
december 2015 by robertogreco
CURMUDGUCATION: Can We Rebuild Social Capital?
"Can We Rebuild Social Capital?
I often disagree with his answers, but Mike Petrilli frequently asks excellent questions.

In the recent National Review, Petrilli is spinning off Robert Putnam's latest book about America's children and discussing the idea of social capital. The problem is simple, and clear:"the fundamental reality of life for many children growing up in poverty in America today is the extremely low level of 'social capital' of their families, communities, and schools."

The problem with any deliberate attempt to build social capital, as Petrilli correctly notes, is that nobody has any idea how to do it. Petrilli accuses Putnam of suggesting that we throw money at the problem. Well, I haven't read the book yet (it's on the summer reading list), so I can't judge whether Petrilli's summation is correct or not.

But Petrilli himself offers three strategies for addressing the issue. And as is often the case, while he raises some interesting and worthwhile questions, his line of inquiry is derailed by his mission of selling charters and choice.
1. Invite poor children into schools with social capital to spare.

No, I don't think so. Social capital is about feeling supported, connected, and at home in your own community. You cannot feel at home in your own community by going to somebody else's community.

Schools contribute to social capital by belonging to the community, by being an outgrowth of the community which has significant role in running those schools. Inviting students into schools that are not in their community, that do not belong to those students and their families-- I don't think that gets you anything. Social capital finds expression in schools through things like evening gatherings at the school by people from the community. It depends on students and families who are tied through many, many links-- neighbors, families, friends. It depends on things as simple as a student who helps another student on homework by just stopping over at the house for a few minutes. These are things that don't happen when the students attend the same school, but live a huge distance apart.

Making a new student from another community a co-owner in a school is extraordinarily different. But anything less leaves the new student as simply a guest, and guests don't get to use the social capital of a community.

2. Build on the social capital that does exist in poor communities.

The basic idea here is solid. Putrnam's grim picture aside, poor communities still have institutions and groups that provide social capital, connectedness, support. I agree with Petrilli here, at least for about one paragraph. Then a promising idea veers off into shilling for charters and choice.

Education reformers should look for ways to nurture existing social capital and help it grow. Community-based charter schools are one way; so (again) is private-school choice.

Churches, service organizations (in my neck of the woods, think volunteer fire departments), and social groups (think Elks) are all community-based groups that add to social capital. Unfortunately, as Putnam noted in Bowling Alone, those sorts of groups are all in trouble.

One of the fundamental problems of social capital and these groups is a steady dispersing of the people in the community. People spend too much time spreading out to come together. Spreading them out more, so that their children are all in different schools and no longer know each other-- I don't see how that helps. Social capital is about connection.

3. Build social capital by creating new schools.

Exactly where does a high-poverty community come up with the money to build a new school? The answer, he acknowledges, is for charter operators to come in from outside and create a new school from scratch. He also acknowledges that it's an "open question" whether such schools create any new social capital.

I would also ask if it's really more inexpensive and efficient to spend the resources needed to start a new school from scratch than it is to invest those resources in the school that already exists. Particularly since with few exceptions, that new school is created to accommodate only some of the students in the community. If the community ends up financing two separate but unequal schools, that's not a financial improvement, and it is not creating social capital.

Do we actually care?

In the midst of these three points, Petrilli posits that growing social capital and growing academic achievement (aka test scores) are two different goals that are not always compatible, and we should not sacrifice test scores on the altar of social capital.

On this point I think Petrilli is dead wrong. There is not a lick of evidence that high test scores are connected to later success in life. On the other hand, there's plenty of evidence that social capital does, in fact, have a bearing on later success in life. High test scores are not a useful measure of anything, and they are not a worthwhile goal for schools or communities.

Petrilli's is doubtful that lefty solutions that involve trying to fix poverty by giving poor people money are likely to help, and that many social services simply deliver some basic services without building social capital, and in this, I think he might have a point.

And it occurs to me, reading Petrilli's piece, that I live in a place that actually has a good history of social capital, both in the building and the losing. I'm going to be posting about that in the days ahead because I think social capital conversation is one worth having, and definitely one worth having as more than a way to spin charters and choice. Sorry to leave you with a "to be continued..." but school is ending and I've got time on my hands."
socialcapital  mikepetrilli  petergreene  community  communities  busing  education  schools  testscores  testing  poverty  cityheights  libraries  reccenters  connectedness  support  edreform  reform  robertputnam  society  funding  neighborhoods  guests  connection  academics  inequality  charterschools 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Michael Wesch at Pasadena City College - YouTube
[Questions that burn in the souls of Wesch's students:
Who am I?
What is the meaning of life?
What am I going to do with my life?
Am I going to make it?]

[See also: http://mediatedcultures.net/presentations/learning-as-soul-making/ ]
education  teaching  michaelwesch  identity  cv  soulmaking  spirituality  why  whyweteach  howweteach  learning  unschooling  deschooling  life  purpose  relationships  anthropology  ethnography  canon  meaning  meaningmaking  schooliness  schools  schooling  achievement  bigpicture  counseling  society  seymourpapert  empathy  perspective  assessment  fakingit  presentationofself  burnout  web  internet  wonder  curiosity  ambiguity  controversy  questions  questioning  askingquestions  questionasking  modeling  quests  risk  risktaking  2014  death  vulnerability  connectedness  sharedvulnerability  cars  technology  telecommunications  boxes  robertputnam  community  lievendecauter  capsules  openness  trust  peterwhite  safety  pubictrust  exploration  helicopterparenting  interestedness  ambition  ericagoldson  structure  institutions  organizations  constructionism  patricksuppes  instructionism  adaptivelearning  khanacademy  play  cocreationtesting  challenge  rules  engagement  novelty  simulation  compassion  digitalethnography  classideas  projectideas  collaboration  lcproject  tcsnmy  op 
july 2014 by robertogreco
TEDxGladstone 2012 - Michael Wesch - The End of Wonder - YouTube
"New media and technology present us with an overwhelming bounty of tools for connection, creativity, collaboration, and knowledge creation – a true “Age of Whatever” where anything seems possible. But any enthusiasm about these remarkable possibilities is immediately tempered by that other “Age of Whatever” – an age in which people feel increasingly disconnected, disempowered, tuned out, and alienated. Such problems are especially prevalent in education, where the Internet (which must be the most remarkable creativity and collaboration machine in the history of the world) often enters our classrooms as a distraction device. It is not enough to merely deliver information in traditional fashion to make our students “knowledgeable.” Nor is it enough to give them the skills to learn, making them “knowledge-able.” Knowledge and skills are necessary, but not sufficient. What is needed more than ever is to inspire our students to wonder, to nurture their appetite for curiosity, exploration, and contemplation, to help them attain an insatiable appetite to ask and pursue big, authentic, and relevant questions, so that they can harness and leverage the bounty of possibility all around us and rediscover the “end” or purpose of wonder, and stave off the historical end of wonder."

[Text from: http://mediatedcultures.net/presentations/the-end-of-wonder-in-the-age-of-whatever/ ]
michaelwesch  wonder  empathy  vulnerability  papuanewguinea  education  learning  children  childhood  exploration  schools  schooling  unschooling  internet  web  deschooling  parenting  curiosity  contemplation  creativity  collaboration  anthropology  discomfort  experience  openness  empowerment  cv  connection  alienation  connectedness  possibility  possibilities  safety  fear  reflection  open 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Exploring the Faroe Islands, a Modern-Day 'Land of the Lost' - Bon Appétit
"He seemed upbeat for a guy who’d just lost his job, but then I remembered the day he drove me around, introducing me to his world: pointing out a field where a farmer had been trying, for years, to grow him carrots; visiting the potter who made his plates; noting a brewery that was trying to grow its own grain. And, every so often, he pointed out someone in a passing car: “There goes the hotel florist.” “There goes the nephew of a famous artist.” “There goes the son of a Faroese language expert, who calls me every time I’m on the radio to tell me how many things I said wrong.”

I kept thinking about how hard it must be to work in such a small place, but the sense of connectedness to the people every day must be what grounds him, too. Or maybe grounds is the wrong word. On that day, we stopped at the village of Gjógv, where, just beyond where the land meets the North Atlantic, the water goes down so far locals call it “The Deepness.” The colors of the houses—peach and pink and pastel blues and black—popped against the grass. Before us was grinding water and gasping wind; behind us, the land slashed up toward the clouds.

It’s the kind of place that makes you realize the earth is so much bigger than you can ever imagine. At some point, it dawns on you that there are no trees, no woods to get lost in: nothing to block your sight. It makes you think you can go right up to anything you see and touch it. It feels a little bit like floating. You feel a little bit magical, like anything is possible. And I wonder if that, too, is what keeps Sørensen going."
food  faroeislands  renéredzepi  noma  denmark  leifsørensen  place  nature  plants  travel  small  slow  slowfood  local  connectedness 
may 2014 by robertogreco
This photograph | Soulellis
"I leave in a few days to do a public book project in a small town in northern Iceland. And for the last few months, I’ve been thinking about what to bring. The artist’s residency sent tips about bringing supplies, and friends have suggested various things, like picking a few significant tools or objects and shipping them beforehand, so that they’re waiting for me when I arrive.

Just in the last week, I decided that I should bring almost nothing. Whatever I’m going to make will come from the place, and I’m going to leave the work there. So it just makes sense that everything should happen there, during my eleven-week stay. I’ll bring a computer and camera and my clothes, of course, but if I need supplies, I’ll find them. I’m going to spend a few days in Reykjavik, where there’s a good art supply store, before driving north. But mostly, I want to use found materials, on-site in and around Skagaströnd. I don’t want to predetermine what process or form the work will take until I’m there, reacting to places and people.

I’m just going to show up.

But I am going to bring one thing. This one photograph. Here’s how I got the photograph.



So I’ll take the photo back to Iceland. I don’t know what I’ll do with it. I consider it a collaborative prompt. A chain reaction. David was in a specific place, and took a photo, marking himself in that place. He sent it to Taeyoon, who sent it to me, and now I’m taking it back to that place, completing some kind of loop (but setting other loops in motion, of course).

A chance encounter between three artists, connected by a photograph, in three places, in two countries, via mail and twitter and mail and flying and driving. It contains a world of information. The way Taeyoon folded the photograph. The numbers, the roads, the colors, placenames on a map.

So I’ll take the photo back to Iceland and see what happens."
paulsoulellis  packing  travel  making  art  networks  connectedness  geography  place  photography  mapping  local  2013  iceland  taeyoonchoi  davidhorvitz  location  looping  flip-flop 
june 2013 by robertogreco
cloudhead - Cooperation vs Collaboration
"When collaborating, people work together (co-labor) on a single shared goal…

When cooperating, people perform together (co-operate) while working on selfish yet common goals…

For centuries collaboration has powered most of our society’s institutions. This is true of everything from our schools to our governments where we have worked together through consensus to build systems of increasing complexity.

But today, cooperation is fuelling most of the disruptive innovations of our time. In virtually every aspect of our culture, the old guard is being replaced by cooperative, self organizing, distributed systems."

"How can we ensure that collaboration and cooperation coexist without threatening the organic, self organizing nature of connectives?"
collaboration  innovation  networks  culture  social  shiftctrlesc  headmine  cooperation  connectivism  connectedness  technology  society 
june 2011 by robertogreco
cloudhead - The Anti-Manifesto Manifesto
"Manifestos are from an era when information moved slowly, but at the speed of light, there’s no time to declare your intentions … everything is made public as it happens.

Today a traditional manifesto arrives as a footnote to reality, just in time to make sense of a motion that’s already transpired.

Our actions and the reactions they excite are now the only meaningful declaration possible. The manifesto can no longer be separated from the reality it hopes to manifest.

New crowd funding platforms like Kickstarter point to a new kind of manifesto - one that merges declaration, action, and response into a single connective motion.

The new manifesto turns goals into roles for both actors and audience alike … before the environment or the goals have a chance to change."
shiftctrlesc  headmine  cloudhead  crowdfunding  kickstarter  manifestos  action  change  declaration  response  connectivism  connectivity  connectedness  audience 
june 2011 by robertogreco
YouTube - George Siemens on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
"George Siemens, at the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca Universityhas been running "Massive Open Online Courses" (MOOCs). I talk to him about what a MOOC is, how it works, and the educational philosophy behind it."
mooc  socialnetworking  opensource  connectivism  social  georgesiemens  howardrheingold  via:steelemaley  online  internet  networkedlearning  teaching  learning  education  moodle  elluminate  distributed  connectedlearners  connectedlearning  connectedness  grasshopper  stephendownes  sensemaking  messiness  self-directedlearning  self-directed  moocs 
may 2011 by robertogreco
I Am a Strange Loop - Wikipedia
"In the end, we are self-perceiving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages that are little miracles of self-reference." [Quote from the book]

"Hofstadter had previously expressed disappointment with how Gödel, Escher, Bach, which won the Pulitzer in 1980 for general nonfiction, was received. In the preface to the 20th-anniversary edition, Hofstadter laments that his book has been misperceived as a hodge-podge of neat things w/ no central theme. He states: "GEB is a very personal attempt to say how it is that animate beings can come out of inanimate matter. What is a self, & how can a self come out of stuff that is as selfless as a stone or a puddle?"

He sought to remedy this problem in I Am a Strange Loop, by focusing on & expounding upon central message of Gödel, Escher, Bach. He seeks to demonstrate how the properties of self-referential systems, demonstrated most famously in Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem, can be used to describe the unique properties of minds…"
books  philosophy  douglashofstaster  consciousness  toread  self-perception  self-invention  self-reference  self  connectedness  relationships  systems  systemsthinking 
april 2011 by robertogreco
What is social information? « Snarkmarket
"Wallace has already signaled that this is going to be a paragraph about repetition to exhaustion or even injury before he even does it. You could say he needs to keep clarifying & repeating these things because his sentences are so convoluted that otherwise you couldn’t follow them, but 1) his syntax is pretty clear 2) it’s not like he’s a freak about specifying everything… But it’s also just Wallace — who understands all of this, by the way, better than we do: communication, information, redundancy, efficiency, purity, the dangers of too much information, and especially the fear of being alone and the need to find connection with other human beings — creating a structure that allows him to ping his reader, saying “I am here”… and waiting for his reader to respond in kind, “I’m alive right now; I’m a person; look at me.” 
timcarmody  snarkmarket  davidfosterwallace  infinitejest  language  solitude  loneliness  human  need  information  redundancy  efficiency  purity  clarity  communication  infooverload  connectedness  connection  freemandyson  malcolmgladwell  devinfriedman  ycombinator  dailybooth  expression  jamesgleick  congo  kele  languages  words  pinging  drums  2011  northafrica  revolution  revolutions  media  raymondcarver  history  cannon  signaling 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability | Video on TED.com
"Brene Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share."
psychology  ted  vulnerability  purpose  meaning  behavior  human  measurement  connectedness  shame  connection  empathy  humanity  brenebrown  insecurity  love  research  belonging  worthiness  imperfection  courage  wabi-sabi  authenticity  identity  self  compassion  certainty  uncertainty  joy  perfectionism  obesity  depression  emotions  drugs  alcohol  children  struggle  numbness  apologies  transparency  living  wisdom  gratitude  listening  kindness  gentleness  parenting 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Florian Schneider, (Extended) Footnotes On Education / Journal / e-flux
"Networked environments or what could be called “ekstitutions” are based on exactly the opposite principle: they promise to provide instant access to knowledge. Ek-stitutions exist: their main purpose is to come into being. They exist outside the institutional framework, & instead of infinite progress, they are based on a certain temporality."

"The challenge that ekstitutions permanently face is the question of organizing, while in institutional contexts the challenge is, on the contrary, the question of unorganizing. How can they become ever more flexible, lean, dynamic, efficient, & innovative? In contrast, ekstitutions struggle w/ task of bare survival. What rules may be necessary in order to render possible the mere existence of an ekstitution?"

"It is crucial to acknowledge that institutions and ekstitutions cannot mix—there is no option of hybridity or of simultaneously being both, although this may very often be demanded by rather naïve third parties."
education  universities  crisis  labor  critique  agitpropproject  florianschneider  ekstitutions  institutions  learning  unschooling  deschooling  situationist  gillesdeleuze  deleuze  collaboration  lcproject  autodidacts  autonomy  connectivism  connectedness  networkedlearning  networkculture  virtualstudio  highereducation  highered  organization  organizing  unorganizing  capitalism  latecapitalism  commercialism  commoditization  marxism  anarchism  money  management  the2837university 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Not in isolation / from a working library
"Wise words about making things from A Pattern Language, page xiii:

"This is a fundamental view of the world. It says that when you build a thing, you cannot merely build that thing in isolation, but must also repair the world around it, and within it, so that the larger world at one place becomes more coherent, and more whole; and the thing which you make takes its place in the web of nature, as you make it."

I love the use of the word “repair” here. It presumes that—while things are not perfect—neither are they forlorn."
meaning  making  connectedness  creating  apatternlanguage  christopheralexander  glvo  repair  repairing  isolation  longhere  bignow  relationships  context  nature  make  lcproject  decentralization  schools  education 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Sam Chaltain: Dear Mr. President: Just Go With the Flow ["research that breaks happiness down to four qualities: perceived control, perceived progress, a sense of connectedness, and a sense of meaning and purpose..."]
"Tony Hsieh gets this. He realizes the worst thing you can do, in an organizational context, is constrain people by micromanaging their activities. In the same way a soccer manager would look ridiculous by attempting to control the game from the sidelines -- his work is largely done by the time the game starts, and the rest is up to the players -- a business CEO must know what shared structures, & what individual freedoms, are essential. ...

Why is such simple, powerful wisdom so absent from our current conversations about public education? Why are we so afraid to acknowledge that the learning process is, like a soccer match, more dependent on simple structures, improvisation, and freedom than it is on complex structures, standardization, and fear? And why do we think the best way to improve school cultures is by incentivizing behavior with financial rewards, when scores of leading voices in the business world know that such a strategy is fool's gold?"
samchaltain  zappos  schools  teaching  management  administration  tonyhsieh  values  structure  organizations  learning  incentives  assessment  rewards  tcsnmy  lcproject  hierarchy  control  worldcup  metaphors  2010  happiness  well-being  progress  meaning  purpose  connectedness  belonging  perception  motivation  publischools  arneduncan  rttt  sports  football  soccer  flow  rhythm  futbol 
july 2010 by robertogreco
The School of Life : On Mutuality
"Mutuality rather than independence is the chief characteristic of human life, whatever we'd like to believe. Many prefer to see human life as one long competitive struggle for dominance. Philosopher Edmund Burke, Darwin's champion Herbert Spencer (who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest") and Ayn Rand (high priestess of the American idea of rugged individualism) are among those who characterise human life in terms of the struggle between individuals for the spoils of humanity. Science is increasingly contradicting this view: rather than being a species of arch individualists, we are the social ape. We live in larger, more complex groups than our closest cousins, collaborating with friends and strangers thanks to our nuanced social brain. Indeed, we use other people's brains to navigate the world: to acquire skills and practices, and to access knowledge systems of long-dead strangers. We call this "culture"."

[via: http://twitter.com/cervus/statuses/17735266663 ]
human  relationships  sociology  social  culture  tcsnmy  conversation  connectivism  connectedness  interdependency  knowledgesystems  systems  humanity  mutuality  brain  collaboration  lcproject  strangers  internet  web  online  technium  darwin  edmundburke  herbertspencer  aynrand  individualism  toshare  competition  cooperation  independence  theschooloflife  charlesdarwin 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Vodafone | receiver » Simultaneous environments – social connection and new media - Kazys Varnelis
"The world of micro-publics can also threaten place as well. With access to more information than ever, we can find a community perfectly tailored to our political, social, and cultural interests. I confess that I am perfectly happy in my suburban town on the outskirts of the New York metropolitan region, where people like me live, seeking a very liberal suburban life. We all attend our July 4th parade but we give the most applause to the anti-Iraq-war marchers. Right-wingers are few and far between in these parts. There is a dark side to this. In The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of America is Tearing Us Apart, journalist Bill Bishop uncovered that Americans are increasingly sorting themselves into homogeneous communities. As people worldwide gravitate to the places where others most like themselves live, face-to-face debate and dissent evaporate."
kazysvarnelis  place  space  communities  architecture  technology  communication  history  change  nonplaces  telecocoon  copresence  connectedness  continuouspartialattention  privacy  internet  mobile  phones  sms  society 
october 2008 by robertogreco
Technoslave: Trapped by our cell phones, email and iPods, we need to clear our minds from the clutter and stop being technoslaves. | Adbusters
"Technology is supposed to free us from the shackles of work and give us more leisure time. But it has proven to do the exact opposite. A 2005 Leger Marketing survey for the technology newspaper Computing Canada found that the majority of people feel technology has meant more work and less time with the family. Whether it’s cell phones, Blackberry’s, video games or email, we have become a culture enslaved by our electronics. "
technoslaves  mobile  phone  internet  technology  connectedness  addiction  society  etiquette  distraction 
august 2008 by robertogreco
Communication Breakdown: How Cell Phones Hurt Communities | Media and Technology | AlterNet
"As Slate commented in his Adbusters essay, “It seems the more ‘connected’ we are, the more detached we become.”...hiking in Spain I saw this play out in a myriad of ways. Though I was experiencing cell-freedom...surrounded by people...on cell phones, texting & talking with concerned family members & friends throughout the day. People torn between developing friendships with strangers & calling up or texting old friends & family they already knew. Similarly, back in the U.S., I often found myself checking my messages or making a phone call rather than striking up a conversation with a stranger at the post office or bus stop. In this way, I was cutting off potentially eye-opening conversations and new friendships....ignoring my surroundings & neighborhood...If we can’t talk to face to face with our neighbors, or notice the world we’re walking through now, where will cell phone use take our communities and families five years down the road?"
mobile  phones  society  connectedness  etiquette  community  distraction 
august 2008 by robertogreco
Living At Jet Speed | Print Article | Newsweek.com
"Lived properly--and I will come shortly to the dangers of not living the life properly--what happens with a high-velocity life is that some of the strictures of reality begin to fade away....Stability comes from the inside."
connectedness  speed  time  travel  neo-nomads  nomads  intimacy  change  life  via:preoccupations 
june 2008 by robertogreco
Click opera - Before and after bling I understand. But "during bling"? That's just a blip.
"We are at our happiest when we are absorbed in what we are doing; the most useful way of regarding happiness is, to borrow a phrase of Clive James’s, as “a by-product of absorption.”""
postmaterialism  consumption  materialism  happiness  japan  environment  momus  unproduct  sustainability  consumerism  consumer  design  jeansnow  slow  magazines  society  culture  modernism  postmodernism  philosophy  social  connectedness  community 
january 2008 by robertogreco
FT.com / Arts & weekend / Books - Dislocation, dislocation, dislocation
"I suspect that being a European third-culture kid is an excellent training for modern life. As the speed of change increases, it gets harder for people to have a sense of rootedness, even if they are living in the place where they grew up."
children  thirdculture  culture  life  connectedness  roots  place  identity  global  world  technology  bilingualism  language  travel  work  education  geography 
april 2007 by robertogreco
apophenia: social network sites: my definition
"A "social network site" is a category of websites with profiles, semi-persistent public commentary on the profile, and a traversable publicly articulated social network displayed in relation to the profile."
socialnetworks  social  socialsoftware  networks  myspace  reference  research  sociology  culture  internet  community  collaborative  socialgraph  socialnetworking  networking  friendship  danahboyd  connectedness  definitions 
november 2006 by robertogreco

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