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robertogreco : designimperialism   26

The Design Thinking Movement is Absurd – Lee Vinsel – Medium
"A couple of years ago, I saw a presentation from a group known as the University Innovation Fellows at a conference in Washington, DC. The presentation was one of the weirder and more disturbing things I’ve witnessed in an academic setting.

The University Innovation Fellows, its webpage states, “empowers students to become leaders of change in higher education. Fellows are creating a global movement to ensure that all students gain the necessary attitudes, skills, and knowledge to compete in the economy of the future.” You’ll notice this statement presumes that students aren’t getting the “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they need and that, more magically, the students know what “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they themselves need for . . . the future.

The UIF was originally funded by the National Science Foundation and led by VentureWell, a non-profit organization that “funds and trains faculty and student innovators to create successful, socially beneficial businesses.” VentureWell was founded by Jerome Lemelson, who some people call “one of the most prolific American inventors of all time” but who really is most famous for virtually inventing patent trolling. Could you imagine a more beautiful metaphor for how Design Thinkers see innovation? Socially beneficial, indeed.

Eventually, the UIF came to find a home in . . . you guessed it, the d.school.

It’s not at all clear what the UIF change agents do on their campuses . . . beyond recruiting other people to the “movement.” A blog post titled, “Only Students Could Have This Kind of Impact,” describes how in 2012 the TEDx student representatives at Wake Forest University had done a great job recruiting students to their event. It was such a good job that it was hard to see other would match it the next year. But, good news, the 2013 students were “killing it!” Then comes this line (bolding and capitalization in the original):

*THIS* is Why We Believe Students Can Change the World

Because they can fill audiences for TED talks, apparently. The post goes on, “Students are customers of the educational experiences colleges and universities are providing them. They know what other students need to hear and who they need to hear it from. . . . Students can leverage their peer-to-peer marketing abilities to create a movement on campus.”

Meanwhile, the UIF blog posts with titles like, “Columbia University — Biomedical Engineering Faculty Contribute to Global Health,” that examine the creation of potentially important new things mostly focus on individuals with the abbreviation “Dr.” before their names, which is what you’d expect given that making noteworthy contributions to science and engineering typically takes years of hard work.

At its gatherings, the UIF inducts students into all kinds of innovation-speak and paraphernalia. They stand around in circles, filling whiteboards with Post-It Notes. Unsurprisingly, the gatherings including sessions on topics like “lean startups” and Design Thinking. The students learn crucial skills during these Design Thinking sessions. As one participant recounted, “I just learned how to host my own TEDx event in literally 15 minutes from one of the other fellows.”

The UIF has many aspects of classic cult indoctrination, including periods of intense emotional highs, giving individuals a special lingo barely recognizable to outsiders, and telling its members that they are different and better than ordinary others — they are part of a “movement.” Whether the UIF also keeps its fellows from getting decent sleep and feeds them only peanut butter sandwiches is unknown.

This UIF publicity video contains many of the ideas and trappings so far described in this essay. Watch for all the Post-It notes, whiteboards, hoodies, look-alike black t-shirts, and jargon, like change agents.

When I showed a friend this video, after nearly falling out of his chair, he exclaimed, “My God, it’s the Hitlerjugend of contemporary bullshit!”

Tough but fair? Personally, I think that’s a little strong. A much better analogy to my mind is Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

When I saw the University Innovation Fellows speak in Washington, DC, a group of college students got up in front of the room and told all of us that they were change agents bringing innovation and entrepreneurship to their respective universities. One of the students, a spritely slip of a man, said something like, “Usually professors are kind of like this,” and then he made a little mocking weeny voice — wee, wee, wee, wee. The message was that college faculty and administrators are backwards thinking barriers that get in the way of this troop of thought leaders.

After the presentation, a female economist who was sitting next to me told the UIFers that she had been a professor for nearly two decades, had worked on the topic of innovation that entire time, and had done a great deal to nurture and advance the careers of her students. She found the UIF’s presentation presumptuous and offensive. When the Q&A period was over, one of UIF’s founders and co-directors, Humera Fasihuddin, and the students came running over to insist that they didn’t mean faculty members were sluggards and stragglers. But those of us sitting at the table were like, “Well then, why did you say it?”

You might think that this student’s antics were a result of being overly enthusiastic and getting carried away, but you would be wrong. This cultivated disrespect is what the UIF teaches its fellows. That young man was just parroting what he’d been taught to say.

A UIF blog post titled “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” lays it all out. The author refers to Fasihuddin as a kind of guru figure, “If you participated in the Fall 2013 cohort, you may recall Humera repeating a common statement throughout session 5, ‘By connecting to other campuses that have been successful, and borrowing from those ideas you hear from your UIF peers, it removes the fear of the unknown for the faculty.”

Where does the faculty’s fear come from? The blog post explains, “The unfortunate truth in [Humera’s] statement is that universities are laggards (i.e. extremely slow adopters). The ironic part is universities shouldn’t be, and we as University Innovation Fellows, understand this.”

Now, on the one hand, this is just Millennial entitlement all hopped up on crystal meth. But on the other hand, there is something deeper and more troubling going on here. The early innovation studies thinker Everett Rogers used the term “laggard” in this way to refer to the last individuals to adopt new technologies. But in the UIF, Rogers’ vision becomes connected to the more potent ideology of neoliberalism: through bodies of thought like Chicago School economics and public choice theory, neoliberalism sees established actors as self-serving agents who only look to maintain their turf and, thus, resist change.

This mindset is quite widespread among Silicon Valley leaders. It’s what led billionaire Ayn Rand fan Peter Thiel to put $1.7 million into The Seasteading Institute, an organization that, it says, “empowers people to build floating startup societies with innovative governance models.” Seasteaders want to build cities that would float around oceans, so they can escape existing governments and live in libertarian, free market paradise. It’s the same notion undergirding the Silicon Valley “startup accelerator” YCombinator’s plan to build entire cities from scratch because old ones are too hard to fix. Elon Musk pushes this view when he tweets things, like “Permits are harder than technology,” implying that the only thing in the way of his genius inventions are other human beings — laggards, no doubt. Individuals celebrated this ideological vision, which holds that existing organizations and rules are mere barriers to entrepreneurial action, when Uber-leader Travis Kalanick used a piece of software to break city laws. And then they were shocked, shocked, shocked when Kalanick turned out to be a total creep.

Now, if you have never been frustrated by bureaucracy, you have not lived.Moreover, when I was young, I often believed my elders were old and in the way. But once you grow up and start getting over yourself, you come to realize that other people have a lot to teach you, even when — especially when — they disagree with you.

This isn’t how the UIF sees things. The blog post “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” advises fellows to watch faculty members’ body language and tone of voice. If these signs hint that the faculty member isn’t into what you’re saying — or if he or she speaks as if you are not an “equal” or “down at you” — the UIF tells you to move on and find a more receptive audience. The important thing is to build the movement. “So I close with the same recurring statement,” the blog post ends, “By connecting to other campuses that have been successful . . . it removes the fear of the unknown for faculty.”

Is there any possibility that the students themselves could just be off-base? Sure, if while you are talking someone’s body tightens up or her head looks like it’s going to explode or her voice changes or she talks down to you and doesn’t treat you as an equal, it could be because she is a demonic, laggard-y enemy of progress, or it could be because you are being a fucking moron — an always-embarrassing realization that I have about myself far more often than I’d like to admit. Design Thinkers and the UIF teach a thoroughly adolescent conception of culture.

Edmund Burke once wrote, “You had all of these advantages . . . but you chose to act as if you had never been molded into civil society, and had everything to begin anew. You began ill, because you began by despising everything that belonged to you.” The brain-rotting … [more]
leevinsel  designthinking  2018  d.school  tedtalks  tedx  cults  innovation  daveevans  design  d.life  humerafasihuddin  edmundburke  natashajen  herbertsimon  peterrowe  robertmckim  petermiller  liberalarts  newage  humanpotentialmovement  esaleninstitute  stanford  hassoplattner  davidkelly  johnhennessy  business  education  crit  post-its  siliconvalley  architecture  art  learning  elitism  designimperialism  ideo  playpump  openideo  thommoran  colonialism  imperialism  swiffer  andrewrussell  empathy  problemsolving  delusion  johnleary  stem  steam  margaretbrindle  peterstearns  christophermckenna  georgeorwell  thinking  howwwethink  highered  highereducation  tomkelly  nathanrosenberg  davidmowery  stevenklepper  davidhounshell  patrickmccray  marianamazzucato  commercialization  civilrightsmovement  criticism  bullshit  jeromelemelson  venturewell  maintenance  themaintainers  maintainers  cbt  psychology  hucksterism  novelty  ruthschwartzcowan  davidedgerton 
may 2019 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 d.school’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 d.school “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  d.school  natashajen  herbertsimon  robertmckim  ideo  singularity  singularityuniversity  d.tech  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
Ethan Zuckerman: Solving Other People's Problems With Technology - The Atlantic
"In other words, is it possible to get beyond both a naïve belief that the latest technology will solve social problems—and a reaction that rubbishes any attempt to offer novel technical solutions as inappropriate, insensitive, and misguided? Can we find a synthesis in which technologists look at their work critically and work closely with the people they’re trying to help in order to build sociotechnical systems that address hard problems?

Obviously, I think this is possible — if really, really hard — or I wouldn’t be teaching at an engineering school. But before considering how we overcome a naïve faith in technology, let’s examine Snow’s suggestion. It’s a textbook example of a solution that’s technically sophisticated, simple to understand, and dangerously wrong."



"The problem with the solutionist critique, though, is that it tends to remove technological innovation from the problem-solver’s toolkit. In fact, technological development is often a key component in solving complex social and political problems, and new technologies can sometimes open a previously intractable problem. The rise of inexpensive solar panels may be an opportunity to move nations away from a dependency on fossil fuels and begin lowering atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, much as developments in natural gas extraction and transport technologies have lessened the use of dirtier fuels like coal.

But it’s rare that technology provides a robust solution to a social problem by itself. Successful technological approaches to solving social problems usually require changes in laws and norms, as well as market incentives to make change at scale."



"Of the many wise things my Yale students said during our workshop was a student who wondered if he should be participating at all. “I don’t know anything about prisons, I don’t have family in prison. I don’t know if I understand these problems well enough to solve them, and I don’t know if these problems are mine to solve.”

Talking about the workshop with my friend and colleague Chelsea Barabas, she asked the wonderfully deep question, “Is it ever okay to solve another person’s problem?”

On its surface, the question looks easy to answer. We can’t ask infants to solve problems of infant mortality, and by extension, it seems unwise to let kindergarten students design educational policy or demand that the severely disabled design their own assistive technologies.

But the argument is more complicated when you consider it more closely. It’s difficult if not impossible to design a great assistive technology without working closely, iteratively, and cooperatively with the person who will wear or use it. My colleague Hugh Herr designs cutting-edge prostheses for U.S. veterans who’ve lost legs, and the centerpiece of his lab is a treadmill where amputees test his limbs, giving him and his students feedback about what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to change. Without the active collaboration with the people he’s trying to help, he’s unable to make technological advances.

Disability rights activists have demanded “nothing about us without us,” a slogan that demands that policies should not be developed without the participation of those intended to benefit from those policies.

Design philosophies like participatory design and codesign bring this concept to the world of technology, demanding that technologies designed for a group of people be designed and built, in part, by those people. Codesign challenges many of the assumptions of engineering, requiring people who are used to working in isolation to build broad teams and to understand that those most qualified to offer a technical solution may be least qualified to identify a need or articulate a design problem. This method is hard and frustrating, but it’s also one of the best ways to ensure that you’re solving the right problem, rather than imposing your preferred solution on a situation."



"It is unlikely that anyone is going to invite Shane Snow to redesign a major prison any time soon, so spending more than 3,000 words urging you to reject his solution may be a waste of your time and mine. But the mistakes Snow makes are those that engineers make all the time when they turn their energy and creativity to solving pressing and persistent social problems. Looking closely at how Snow’s solutions fall short offers some hope for building better, fairer, and saner solutions.

The challenge, unfortunately, is not in offering a critique of how solutions go wrong. Excellent versions of that critique exist, from Morozov’s war on solutionism, to Courtney Martin’s brilliant “The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems.” If it’s easy to design inappropriate solutions about problems you don’t fully understand, it’s not much harder to criticize the inadequacy of those solutions.

What’s hard is synthesis — learning to use technology as part of well-designed sociotechnical solutions. These solutions sometimes require profound advances in technology. But they virtually always require people to build complex, multifunctional teams that work with and learn from the people the technology is supposed to benefit.

Three students at the MIT Media Lab taught a course last semester called “Unpacking Impact: Reflecting as We Make.” They point out that the Media Lab prides itself on teaching students how to make anything, and how to turn what you make into a business, but rarely teaches reflection about what we make and what it might mean for society as a whole. My experience with teaching this reflective process to engineers is that it’s both important and potentially paralyzing, that once we understand the incompleteness of technology as a path for solving problems and the ways technological solutions relate to social, market, and legal forces, it can be hard to build anything at all.

I’m going to teach a new course this fall, tentatively titled “Technology and Social Change.” It’s going to include an examination of the four levers of social change Larry Lessig suggests in Code, and which I’ve been exploring as possible paths to civic engagement. The course will include deep methodological dives into codesign, and will examine using anthropology as tool for understanding user needs. It will look at unintended consequences, cases where technology’s best intentions fail, and cases where careful exploration and preparation led to technosocial systems that make users and communities more powerful than they were before.

I’m “calling my shot” here for two reasons. One, by announcing it publicly, I’m less likely to back out of it, and given how hard these problems are, backing out is a real possibility. And two, if you’ve read this far in this post, you’ve likely thought about this issue and have suggestions for what we should read and what exercises we should try in the course of the class — I hope you might be kind enough to share those with me.

In the end, I’m grateful for Shane Snow’s surreal, Black Mirror vision of the future prison both because it’s a helpful jumping-off point for understanding how hard it is to make change well by using technology, and because the U.S. prison system is a broken and dysfunctional system in need of change. But we need to find ways to disrupt better, to challenge knowledgeably, to bring the people they hope to benefit into the process. If you can, please help me figure out how we teach these ideas to the smart, creative people I work with—people who want to change the world, and are afraid of breaking it in the process."
technology  technosolutionism  solutionism  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  problemsolving  2016  ethanzuckerman  design  blackmirror  shanesnow  prisons  socialchange  lawrencelessig  anthropology  medialab  courtneymartin  nutraloaf  soylent  codesign  evgenymorozov  olcp  wikipedia  bias  racism  empathy  suziecagle  mitmedialab  mit  systems  systemsthinking  oculusrift  secondlife  vr  virtualreality  solitaryconfinement  incarceration  change  changemaking  ethnography  chelseabarabas  participatory  participatorydesign 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Fluid technologies: The Bush Pump, the LifeStraw® and microworlds of humanitarian design
"Over the past decade, many ingenious, small-scale gadgets have appeared in response to problems of disaster and extreme poverty. Focusing on the LifeStraw®, a water filtration device invented by the company Vestergaard Frandsen, I situate this wave of humanitarian design relative to Marianne de Laet and Annemarie Mol’s classic article on the Zimbabwe Bush Pump. The LifeStraw shares the Bush Pump’s principle of technical minimalism, as well as its ethical desire to improve the lives of communities. Unlike the pump, however, the straw defines itself through rather than against market logic, accepting the premise that one can ‘do well while doing good’. Moreover, it does not share the assumed framework of de Laet and Mol’s Zimbabwean socio-technical landscape: a postcolonial state happily en route to national self-definition. Nonetheless, it clearly embodies moral affect, if in the idiom of humanitarian concern rather than development. My aim is to open up three interrelated lines of inquiry for discussion. First, I consider aspects of a postcolonial condition at the micro-level of immediate needs, including assumptions about nation-state politics and markets. Second, I emphasize science and technology in the form of infrastructure, the material frontline of norms. Third, I return reflexively to love, and the complicated allure of engagement in academic work."

[via: https://twitter.com/justinpickard/status/717938576311197696 ]
peterredfield  humanitariandesign  designimperialism  2015  infrastructure  waterfiltration  postcolonialdevelopment 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Angola’s Wikipedia Pirates Are Exposing the Problems With Digital Colonialism | Motherboard
"That brings us to what’s going on in Angola. Enterprising Angolans have used two free services—Facebook Free Basics and Wikipedia Zero—to share pirated movies, music, television shows, anime, and games on Wikipedia. And no one knows what to do about it.

Because the data is completely free, Angolans are hiding large files in Wikipedia articles on the Portuguese Wikipedia site (Angola is a former Portuguese colony)—sometimes concealing movies in JPEG or PDF files. They’re then using a Facebook group to direct people to those files, creating a robust, completely free file sharing network. A description for a Facebook group with 2,700 members reads: “created with the objective of sharing music, movies, pictures, and ANIMES via Wikimedia.” I was not admitted into the Facebook group and none of its administrators responded to my messages for an interview.

Wikipedia’s old guard, however, are concerned with this development. Wikipedia has very strict copyright guidelines and some editors of the site say they’re tired of playing whack-a-mole.

“I am reporting a possible misuse of Wikimedia projects and Wikipedia Zero to violate copyright,” one editor wrote on a Wiki discussion forum. “I am not sure if users are doing it in bad faith, but they have been warned and keep doing it. I don't think that Wikipedia Zero should stop existing there of course, but maybe something could be done, like preventing them from uploading large files or by previously instructing them in local language about what they can or [can] not do.”

In several cases, wide swaths of IP addresses suspected to belong to Angolans using Wikipedia Zero have been banned from editing stories on Wikipedia, which has had the side effect of blocking Angolans who are using Wikipedia Zero to contribute to Wikipedia in a more traditional way. (In one case, IPs were unblocked because a Portuguese Wikipedia editor decided that an Angolan amateur photographer’s photos were “of immense value.”)

In an email thread on the Wikimedia-L listserv and on Wikipedia talk pages, users in the developed world are trying to find a compromise."



"Many on the listserv are framing Angola’s Wikipedia pirates as bad actors who need to be dealt with in some way so that more responsible editors aren’t punished for their actions. This line of thinking inherently assumes that what Angola’s pirates are doing is bad for Wikipedia and that they must be assimilated to the already regulated norms of Wikipedia’s community. If the developing world wants to use our internet, they must play by our rules, the thinking goes.

But people in developing countries have always had to be more creative than those for whom access to information has always been a given. In Cuba, for instance, movies, music, news, and games are traded on USB drives that are smuggled into the country every week. A 20-year-old developer in Paraguay found a vulnerability in Facebook Messenger that allowed people to use Free Basics to tunnel through to the “real” internet. Legal questions aside (Angola has more lax copyright laws than much of the world), Angola’s pirates are furthering Wikipedia’s mission of spreading information in a real and substantial way.

“When users are faced with a choice of partial access to internet services but not to the entire internet, they might come up with ways to use that partial internet in creative ways that might negatively affect the entity giving it to them,” Josh Levy, advocacy director at Access Now, told me. Facebook Free Basics was criticized widely, but Access Now is one of the few groups that has said Wikipedia Zero is a bad idea because it creates a tiered internet.

While the “misuse” of zero rated systems is a new problem, it closely mirrors ones that have been going on in the wider internet for decades, and the smart money is on allowing Angola’s burgeoning internet community to develop without our interference, even if it means growing pains for Wikipedia. Proposed copyright protection laws such as the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have censored sites that hosted pirated content, was widely believed to be one that could have fundamentally ruined the internet; limiting how Angolans (or anyone else using Wikipedia Zero) access the site could have detrimental impacts.

The Wikimedia Foundation, for its part, seems to have good intentions with its wait-and-see approach. The foundation gives no money to Unitel as part of the program; a good solution here, probably, would be cheaper or free access to the entire internet. While Wikipedia editors in Portugual can simply go to another website to download or share pirated files, Angolans don’t really have that option

“This is the type of thing that reflects larger battles that have gone on about the internet overall,” Charles Duan, a copyright expert at Public Knowledge, told me. “In general, it’s better to allow people more openness and freedom to use Internet tools because you never know what ends up being useful.”

Angolan’s pirates are learning how to organize online, they’re learning how to cover their tracks, they are learning how to direct people toward information and how to hide and share files. Many of these skills are the same ones that would come in handy for a dissident or a protestor or an activist. Considering that Angola has had an autocratic leader in power for more than 35 years, well, those are skills that might come in handy one day."
angola  colonialism  digital  digitalcolonialism  facebook  web  internet  online  2016  jasonkoebler  wikimediazero  digitaldivide  zerorating  freebasics  designimperialism 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Facebook the Colonial Empire - The Atlantic
[See also: https://backchannel.com/how-india-pierced-facebook-s-free-internet-program-6ae3f9ffd1b4#.lywam4h52 ]

"The kerfuffle elicited a torrent of criticism for Andreessen, but the connection he made—between Facebook’s global expansion and colonialism—is nothing new. Which probably helps explain why Zuckerberg felt the need to step in, and which brings us back to Free Basics. The platform, billed by Facebook as a way to help people connect to the Internet for the first time, offers a stripped-down version of the mobile web that people can use without it counting toward their data-usage limit.

“I’m loath to toss around words like colonialism but it’s hard to ignore the family resemblances and recognizable DNA, to wit,” said Deepika Bahri, an English professor at Emory University who focuses on postcolonial studies. In an email, Bahri summed up those similarities in list form:

1. ride in like the savior

2. bandy about words like equality, democracy, basic rights

3. mask the long-term profit motive (see 2 above)

4. justify the logic of partial dissemination as better than nothing

5. partner with local elites and vested interests

6. accuse the critics of ingratitude

“In the end,” she told me, “if it isn’t a duck, it shouldn’t quack like a duck.”

In India, where Free Basics has been the subject of a long, public debate, plenty of people already rejected the platform precisely because of its colonialist overtones. “We’ve been stupid with the East India Company,” one Reddit user said in a forum about Free Basics last year, referring to the British Raj. “Never again brother, Never again!”"



"Well, here’s the other side of the argument: When mobile-network operators allow some companies to offer access to their sites without charging people for data use, it gives those companies an unfair advantage. Free Basics makes Facebook a gatekeeper with too much leverage—so much that it conflicts with the foundational principles of the open web. Those principles, and what people mean when they talk about net neutrality, can be summed up this way: Internet service providers should treat all content equally, without favoring certain sites or platforms over others.

And doesn’t the fact that so many people upgrade to the full Internet so soon after trying Free Basics dismantle the claim that Facebook isn’t looking at the platform as a way to expand its global user base? People may start with an ad-free version of the site, but they quickly graduate to regular old ad-peppered, data-gathering Facebook.

All this raises a question about who Free Basics is actually for, which may further hint at Facebook’s motivations. Sumanth Raghavendra, an app developer and startup founder in India, points to this commercial for Free Basics—from back when it was still branded under the larger umbrella of Facebook’s Internet.org project—as representative of the local marketing for the platform.

“If you are awestruck by how cool India’s ‘poorest’ folks seem to be, don’t be …because these folks, the target audience for Free Basics, are far from being India’s poor!” Raghavendra wrote in an essay for Medium. “As is plainly obvious, the original target audience of Free Basics was not India’s poorest who have never come online but far more so, students and millennials to whom the hook was about surfing for free.”

As of October, one of India’s biggest mobile carriers said 1 million people had signed up for Free Basics. But only about 20 percent of Free Basics users weren’t previously using the Internet, Facebook told the Press Trust of India, the country’s largest news agency. (Facebook didn’t immediately respond to my request for comment and more recent numbers.) In other words, the vast majority of the people who used Free Basics already had Internet connections.

“Free Basics was hardly something aimed at poor people and even less so, targeted at people who have ‘no connectivity,’” Raghavendra wrote. “This entire narrative painting it as a choice between some connectivity and no connectivity is false and disingenuous.”

“There is absolutely no need to offer a condescending promise based on altruism to bring these folks online,” he added. “They will do so on their own time and at their own pace with or without any external help or artificial incentive.”

Zuckerman, from MIT, is even more pointed: “When Zuckerberg or Andreessen face criticism, they argue that their critics are being elitist and inhumane—after all, who could be against helping India develop? The rhetoric is rich with the White Man’s Burden.”

Some of the colonialist subtext in all this evokes what the writer Courtney Martin calls the “reductive seduction” of Americans wanting to save the world, and the hubris that underscores this kind of supposed problem solving. “There is real fallout when well-intentioned people attempt to solve problems without acknowledging the underlying complexity,” Martin wrote.

Representations of colonialism have long been present in digital landscapes. (“Even Super Mario Brothers,” the video game designer Steven Fox told me last year. “You run through the landscape, stomp on everything, and raise your flag at the end.”) But web-based colonialism is not an abstraction. The online forces that shape a new kind of imperialism go beyond Facebook.

Consider, for example, digitization projects that focus primarily on English-language literature. If the web is meant to be humanity’s new Library of Alexandria, a living repository for all of humanity’s knowledge, this is a problem. So is the fact that the vast majority of Wikipedia pages are about a relatively tiny square of the planet. For instance, 14 percent of the world’s population lives in Africa, but less than 3 percent of the world’s geotagged Wikipedia articles originate there, according to a 2014 Oxford Internet Institute report.

“This uneven distribution of knowledge carries with it the danger of spatial solipsism for the people who live inside one of Wikipedia’s focal regions,” the researchers of that report wrote. “It also strongly underrepresents regions such as the Middle East and North Africa as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. In the global context of today’s digital knowledge economies, these digital absences are likely to have very material effects and consequences.”

Consider, too, the dominant business models online. Companies commodify people as users, mining them for data and personally targeting them with advertising. “In digital capitalism—another stage of imperialism?—capital and corporation underwrite free-ness,” Bahri, the Emory professor, told me. “That’s why Facebook can claim to be always free.”

Incidentally, “users” is a term that Facebook now discourages, favoring “people” instead. Though “users” was, at least, an improvement over “dumb fucks,” which is what Zuckerberg called the people who signed up for Facebook when it was new, according to online chat transcripts that emerged as part of a lawsuit several years ago.

In 2010, Zuckerberg told The New Yorker he had “grown and learned a lot” since then. “If you’re going to go on to build a service that is influential and that a lot of people rely on, then you need to be mature, right?” he said at the time.

A lot of people, in 2010, meant Facebook’s 400 million users. Since then, that number has quadrupled to 1.6 billion people—the vast majority of them connecting to the site via mobile. Last year, Facebook’s market cap crossed the $300 billion threshold. Earnings statements show it made more than $5.8 billion in ad revenue in 2015, with more than 80 percent of that money—some $4.6 billion—coming from mobile ads.

Facebook is already, it is often said, eating the Internet. So it’s easy to see why Internet.org was rebranded as Free Basics. The old name sounded too much like a reflection of what Facebook actually is: a dominant and possibly unstoppable force, a private company exerting enormous influence on public access to the web. “The great social network of the early 21st century is laying the groundwork,” Austin Carr wrote for Fast Company in 2014, “for a platform that could make Facebook a part of just about every social interaction that takes place around the world.”

Free Basics might be stoppable. But is Facebook?

“It is an uncomfortable truth that, in emerging economies, Facebook had already won the Internet well before Internet.org and the FreeBasics campaign began,” Steve Song, a telecommunications policy activist, wrote in a blog post this week. “Facebook became the de facto Internet for many people because it did the most profoundly useful thing the Internet can do: Connect people.”"
facebook  colonialism  imperialism  india  freebasics  internet  2016  adriennelafrance  markzuckerberg  marcandreessen  class  whiteman'sburden  ethanzuckerman  web  online  economics  designimperialism  humanitariandesign 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The Hand that Gives — The Development Set — Medium
"In March of my senior year of college, I walked into my advisor’s office and told him that after graduating as an anthropology major, I wanted to find a job where I could “do good and travel abroad.” He suggested I go into international development, so off I went to Washington, DC, thinking I could use my liberal arts skills to improve the lives of the poor around the world.
I imagined myself spending time in villages helping people get access to clean water, building health clinics, and improving farming techniques. But in reality, I found myself sitting at a desk in Washington making hotel reservations and processing expense reports.

Eventually, I was able to get out from behind my desk, and about a year into my time working with an international development contractor I had the opportunity to travel to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. My assignment was to interview families, organizations, and team members about the effectiveness of a ten-year forestry project that was winding down. My dreams of saving the world weren’t playing out as I’d expected. Instead of hearing that our company was seen as a hero amongst the Bolivian foresters, I learned that the local community had no intention of sustaining the activities once the funding ended.

I came back from talking with the foresters, took a look at the smart expats sitting in their offices alongside idealistic young college graduates like me, and started to wonder if these are necessarily the best people to design solutions to the challenging issues the foresters were facing.

I spent another four years in Washington and became more and more disillusioned by the expat-led, top-down approach to development that I saw. I wondered about different ways of doing things and about what the private sector might have to say to the big challenges of poverty. So, I went to business school. And that education, along with experiences working and living in India, Kenya, and Silicon Valley, have made me believe that market forces can help change lives.

I’ve dedicated my work to tackling global poverty because I find the conditions in which so many people are forced to live to be unfair and unnecessary. But that disillusionment that I felt, and sometimes still feel, with the business of international aid is real. It’s what made me start asking how we might make collaboration with the poor horizontal rather than vertical. A West African proverb holds that “the hand that gives is always on top.”

How might we turn that giving hand and put it up to our ears to listen?

For decades, there has been a small but vocal group of people advocating for participatory approaches to development. Robert Chambers’s book Rural Development: Putting the Last First was published in 1983 and was a real call to action for development practitioners to become more human-centered and better listeners in their work.

Since the early 1980s, other participatory approaches have emerged including appreciative inquiry, positive deviance, and constituent voice. The one that I discovered and now practice is human-centered design. In 2007, I joined IDEO to lead its emerging social impact domain. At the time, I had a limited understanding of design but felt like trying to see if human-centered design (HCD) could be an effective approach to poverty was worth a shot. Now, eight years later and with the creation of IDEO.org, I strongly believe in the power of HCD and creative problem solving skills.

Human-centered design, like many other participatory approaches, is grounded in the notion that we must start with an understanding of the needs of the people we’re working with, see them truly as partners, and work with them to develop solutions. Often, while practicing human-centered design, the trick is less in the creation of an innovative new solution, but in designing within the complexity of a system. Human-centered designers ask questions, listen, learn, test things out, get feedback, iterate, and repeat.

Now, after 17 years working in international development tackling “Other People’s Problems” I realize how naïve I was when I started. And though I am self-critical about the simplicity with which I started my career, I know that I had to mature through the simplicity to get to the understanding of complexity that now guides my work.

Today, I encourage young people to spend time abroad, in part because I don’t believe it’s possible to turn away from the injustice of poverty once you get to know the people who live in it. It’s important to spend time really seeing people and learning about their lives. We may not all commit our lives to redressing poverty, but being up close to it is an experience that changes people.

So, before you get your passport, here are a few pieces of advice I would give to people who are curious to explore places you may have missed in your junior year abroad:

• Be a learner, not a hero. Before heading abroad, check your intentions. Are you going because you believe you have ideas to share and solutions to introduce? Or are you going because you really want to listen and learn and immerse yourself in the complexity?

• Be a listener, not a giver of advice. Instead of landing with answers to the complex, intractable challenges, engage people on the ground in conversations. Visit their homes and their workplaces, ask them questions, and share something about your life with them.

• Be a bridge, not a beacon. Share your creative ideas, but be open to an equal exchange with people who know their own context best. Seek to connect your world of resources to those living without. Work with community-based organizations to write grant proposals, raise money for their organizations, or connect them with press opportunities. For many of us, our networks are the most important asset we can bring. Imagine how you can leverage your networks rather than thinking of yourself as a solution-creator.

What is certain is that the world can use the passion and creativity of well-meaning, hard-working people — whether in Baltimore or Bukavu. But to ensure that we aren’t paving an infernal road with our good intentions, we need to remember to work with people, not for them.

The Spanish poet Antonio Machado once wrote that we make the road by walking. So I ask you: Will you walk alone? Or will you walk alongside someone who may be just as creative and passionate as you are?"

[in response to: https://medium.com/the-development-set/the-reductive-seduction-of-other-people-s-problems-3c07b307732d#.d8hmhpmla ]
socialentrepreneurship  designthinking  design  anthropology  jocelynwyatt  listening  2016  ideo  participatory  development  designimperialism  robertchambers 
january 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:
https://medium.com/the-development-set/the-global-development-long-game-a1a42b8c67ee#.36h0y6rtl
https://medium.com/the-development-set/the-hand-that-gives-9187a8ccfcd0#.3x4h3miel ]
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
Can’t give it away | The Economist
"“WHO could possibly be against this?”, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s boss, asked in an editorial in the Times of India on December 28th. The “this” in question is “Free Basics”, a programme that gives its users free access to Facebook and a handful of other online services on their smartphones in 36 poor countries. According to Mr Zuckerberg, Free Basics acts as a gateway drug to the internet: half of those who first experience going online through the service start paying for full internet access within a month. Though the programme is promoted by Facebook, its costs are borne by the mobile-telecoms operators it works with—in the case of India, Reliance Communications, the country’s fourth-largest.

As it turns out, plenty of people are against Free Basics. They include everyone from India’s internet-and-mobile-industry body (of which Facebook is itself a member) to a ragtag group of volunteer activists who mustered almost 400,000 people to write to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as part of a public consultation on whether mobile operators should be allowed to charge different amounts for different forms of data. At stake is one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing internet markets outside China, which bars foreign digital services such as Facebook from entering. Around a quarter of the Indian population—or 300m people—were online at the end of 2014, and the number is expected to double by 2020.

Critics of the programme say that Facebook’s generosity is cover for a landgrab. They argue that Free Basics is a walled garden of Facebook-approved content, that it breaches consumer privacy by sucking up all the data generated by users of the service, and that it is anticompetitive to boot. Moreover, critics fear that if new internet users are merely Facebook users, other online businesses will have no choice but to operate within Facebook’s world. Nandan Nilekani, an Indian tech luminary opposed to Free Basics, suggests that, instead, the government subsidise a monthly allowance of free mobile data for each user.

Facebook counters that the programme is open to all-comers that meet certain technical requirements, that user data are stored for only 90 days, and that there is no profit motive: the service does not include advertising. As for suppressing local competition, Facebook argues, “there is no greater threat to local innovation than leaving people offline.” If, as Mr Zuckerberg says, Free Basics users quickly graduate to paying for full internet service, India’s ferociously competitive mobile operators should provide it cheaply. And if Free Basics proved popular there would be little to stop India’s big media and e-commerce groups from creating rival services to attract new surfers to their web offerings.

Over the past few weeks, Facebook has run an extensive campaign with full-page ads in Indian newspapers touting Free Basics. Newspapers, blogs and television channels have presented arguments and counterarguments every day. Even All India Bakchod, a popular comedy collective, got into the act. The group’s video arguing against Free Basics has been watched 800,000 times on YouTube—and another 350,000 on Facebook itself.

Activists in India won early victories in 2015, leading Facebook to change the name of its service from internet.org, which they said was misleading, and forcing the company to accept more services than those it handpicks. In December the TRAI suspended Free Basics in India pending the results of its consultation. The TRAI has received 1.4m notes of support for Free Basics as part of this process, driven largely by an automated response tool Facebook used to gather support from its Indian users. But the regulator says it may have to disregard them, since they do not answer the question it is asking. The TRAI itself will deliver its verdict at the end of this month."
facebook  freebasics  india  2016  internet  web  netneutrality  online  designimperialism  humanitariandesign 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Imperial Designs | The Unforgiving Minute
[via: https://twitter.com/tealtan/status/667000828113260544 ]

"[image]

Here’s an example: the Chand Baori Stepwell in Rajasthan, built in the 8th and 9th centuries. (You can watch a video about Chand Baori, and another about stepwells, based on an article by journalist Victoria Lautman.) Stepwells were a critical part of water management, particularly in western India and other dry areas of Asia, the earliest known stepwell forms date from around 600AD. The Mughal empire encouraged stepwell construction, but the administrators British empire decided that stepwells should be replaced with pumped and piped water systems modelled on those developed in the UK – a ‘superior’ system. It was of course also a system that moved from a communal and social model of water management to a centralised model of water management – and the British loved centralised management, because it’s easier to control.

[image]

Here’s another model of water management – the Playpump, which received a lot of media attention and donor support after it was proposed in 2005. The basic idea was that kids playing on the big roundabout would pump water up from the well for the whole village. This doesn’t seem very imperial at first sight: it looks like these kids are having fun, and the village is getting water. Unfortunately it was a massive failure because it flat out didn’t work, although the Playpumps organisation is still around; if you want to know more about that failure, read this article in the Guardian and this lessons learned from the Case Foundation, and listen to this Frontline radio show on PBS. TL;DR: the Playpump didn’t work because it was designed by outsiders who didn’t understand the communities: a classic case of design imperialism. There are lots of examples just like this, where the failure is easy to see but the imperialism is more difficult to spot.

About 5 years ago there was a big hoo-hah about an article called “Is Humanitarian Design the New Imperialism?” by Bruce Nussbaum. Nussbaum accused people and organisations working on design that would alleviate poverty as yet another imperial effort. This depends on defining “empire” as a power relationship – an unequal power relationship, where the centre holds the power (and resources) and the periphery will benefit from those resources only when the centre decides to give it to them. At the time, there was a lot of discussion around this idea, but that discussion has died now. That’s not because it’s no longer an issue: it’s because a new imperial model, more subtle than Nussbaum’s idea, has successfully taken root, and few people in the design world even realise it."



"Q&A:

During the talk I mentioned that I was planning to show video of robot dogs, but I didn’t because they freak me out. They don’t really freak me out – I think they’re astonishing feats of technology – but what they say about our attitudes towards warfare worries me. They’re being built by Boston Dynamics, who started out under military contracts from DARPA, have recently been acquired by Google X, and who post a ton of promo videos. Particularly funny is this supercut video of robots falling over.

One question raised the issue of whether our education system enables people to recognise the trap that they might be in, and give them the tools to make their own way. The short answer is no. The industrial model of education is not equipped for the 21st century, although I remain hopeful that the internet will also disrupt education as it has other sectors. At the same time I am sceptical of the impact of the most-hyped projects (such as the Khan Academy and the wide range of MOOCs) – it seems to me that we need something that learns from a wider range of educational approaches.

We also discussed whether there is an underlying philosophy to the invisible empire of the internet. I believe that there is, although it isn’t necessarily made explicit. One early artefact of this philosophy is A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace; one early analysis of aspects of it is The Californian Ideology. Evgeny Morozov is interesting on this topic, but with a pinch of salt, since in a relatively short time he has gone from incisive commentator to intellectual troll. It’s interesting that a few Silicon Valley big beasts are trained in philosophy, although to be honest this training doesn’t seem to be reflected in their actual philosophy."

[See also: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/nov/24/africa-charity-water-pumps-roundabouts
via: https://twitter.com/tealtan/status/667031543416623105 ]
designimperialism  design  via:tealtan  humanitariandesign  2015  africa  paulcurrion  control  colonialism  technology  technosolutionism  evgenymorozov  siliconvalley  philosophy  politics  mooc  moocs  doublebind  education  bostondynamics  googlex  darpa  robots  yuvalnoahharari  californianideology  wikihouse  globalconstructionset  3dprinting  disobedientobjects  anarchism  anarchy  legibility  internet  online  web  nezaralsayyad  smarthphones  mobile  phones  benedictevans  migration  refugees  fiveeyes  playpumps  water  chandbaori  trevorpaglen 
november 2015 by robertogreco
A New Yorker walks into a San Francisco start up… — Medium
"Design can change the world. Are you kidding me? Are we having a debate or a therapy session?

Designers will do anything to convince themselves we are not in a service industry. Why are we so desperate to make ourselves feel better? Because we feel GUILTY and we have to reconcile what we do professionally with the world we live in. We WANT to save the world so we repeat our daily affirmations on our way to work…

“Design can change the world.”

…on our way to yoga…

“Design can change the world.”

This debate as is an attempt to assuage the guilt we already have and know we have because we’re here doing THIS instead of something truly meaningful.

We cannot congratulate ourselves.

We drink fancy coffee and eat free gummy bears and free catered dinners meanwhile the median cost of rent in SF is $4,300 dollars. Is idealism truly that desperate here that we equally applaud free wifi in Africa and a $1,500 smart oven that “smart” preheats your soylent to save you a little extra time for cross-fit and netflix?

Change the world? Design can’t even change the design industry. Let’s talk about something meaningful and actionable like why we have six dudes and one lady on stage. We don’t need a debate about design’s place in the world — we need a reckoning.

YOUR JOB WILL NOT SAVE YOU

Jon, Daniel, and Enrique are here to make you feel better about design.

I am not.

This debate isn’t going to solve your guilt problem

it’s just the problem of living

that doesn’t mean you’re evil

it just means you must reckon

like a grownup

like we all have and do

with being fucking alive

on this planet

Yes, i too have chosen this as my profession.

but I have come to peace with precisely the trade I have made — and how I compensate for that debt, and how I am on the planet, in my own way, with the people I care about.

So don’t let these boys come up here and whisper sweet nothings in your ears about saving the world with free wifi and clean water. We could go all day tit for tat about how design has changed or samed the world. Talking about design to designers is like talking to a brick wall about bricks. Designers think everything is design. All professionals see their craft amongst the world … “When you think about it — and I mean really think about it — *everything* is meat distribution engineering.” — meat distribution engineer.

Ultimately the rhetoric behind this debate resolution is elitist self-aggrandizing propaganda and voting for it won’t make you feel better about yourself. Negating won’t make you feel better either but it’ll help make your peace with your false religion."
jenniferdaniel  design  life  employment  2015  self-congratulation  worldchanging  affirmation  reckoning  elitism  self-aggrandizement  self-delusion  humanitariandesign  designimperialism 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Social Design Toolkit | Change for Social Design
[See also: http://www.thesis.mlamadrid.com/ ]

"The Social Design Toolkit is a guide for the community leader in Latin America who want to use post-colonial theory to help social designers understand how neoliberalism promotes unequal power dynamics."

***

"The Context
A toolkit is usually a set of tools and condense knowledge to facilitate a task for its user. Toolkits can take many shape and sizes. Within the emerging field of Social Design, toolkits are seen as a useful way to organize and support innovation by collaborating with people, thus shortening the time of assessing needs. However, some can be conceptually problematic.

In the article, Frog Creates An Open Source Guide to Design Thinking by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan for FastCo, the vice president of creative at Frog is quoted as saying: “These [NGOs] are organizations focused on how to crowdsource design,” says Robert Fabricant, vice president of creative at Frog. “Yet most of the people they’re trying to reach don’t have any pattern for how to collectively approach a problem.” (Campbell-Dollaghan). Fabricant makes no distinction to what people the NGOs are trying to reach and assumes that collective problem solving is a design method only.

Such as The Collective Action Toolkit (CAT) by Frog. This toolkit’s aim is to help people develop problem-solving skills. However, it assumes that its targeted audience does not have a framework for collective problem solving to begin with.

His statement becomes even more problematic when considering the fact that the toolkit was inspired by an initiative Frog carried out in Nairobi, negating models for collective organizing like Savings and Credit Co-operative. SACCO is credit union model owned, governed and manage by its members. While a SACCO model might not be a scalable framework to solve every problem (it is meant to solve a finance issue), neither is Design Thinking.

Tim Brown, CEO of the design consultancy IDEO, defines design thinking as “…a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity”(Brown, Design Thinking). While this is not the only definition of Design Thinking in existence, it seems to imply that commerce is key which means that it is not necessarily concern with ideas like social equity, governance or post-colonial theory."

***

"The Concept
The Collective Action Toolkit seems to foster ideation hegemony of First World Industrialized values. Frabricant’s view seems similar to those of the US idealist Ivan Illich talks to in To Hell with Good Intentions. “You, like the values you carry, are the products of an American society of achievers and consumers, with its two-party system, its universal schooling, and its family-car affluence. You are ultimately-consciously or unconsciously – ‘salesmen’ for a delusive ballet in the ideas of democracy, equal opportunity and free enterprise among people who haven’t the possibility of profiting from these” (Illich). The kit creates a small elite of people that can validate their approaches instead of being culturally sensible to their own problem solving methods.

Confronted with the CAT and inspired by Illich, the Social Design Toolkit was born. The Social Design Toolkit mimicks the visual language of the CAT to explain two complex concepts: how neoliberal strategies replicate unequal power dynamics and ideation hegemony."

***

"The Twist
When social designers frame their design consumer products as acts of generosity, they replicate the material dominance of First World industrialized countries with their Third World post-colonial counterparts and create more entrepreneurial opportunities for themselves. Some argue these contributions become nonreciprocal gifts: Third-World populations are not able to economically gift back the same way, thus placing them always at the receiving end. However, Illich suggest that while this type of tactics are definitely for the benefit of the giver, he also argues that Third-World populations can reciprocate, just on form that is unrecognizable to the Third-World dweller.

The Social Design Toolkit allows the community leader in Latin America to reciprocate with a palpable gift of knowledge. The kit uses post-colonial and populist theory to help social designers learn real collaborative practices through the principles of “horizontalidad” and explain how neoliberalism promotes unequal power dynamics."

***

"The Golden Nugget
During Mid-terms, the Social Design Toolkit was presented to one of the Frog designers that participated in designing the Collective Action Toolkit. The intention was to use the guide as a prompt; a conversational object that would allow me to discuss the idea of neutrality within the field of Social Design. Upon reviewing the kit the designer said:

“…You can hijack the Social Designer’s power position and use it against them? So you are saying you are interested in a Social Design-Free Environment? This is extremely political”"
servicedesign  socialdesign  socialimpactdesign  latinamerica  postcolonialism  toolkits  designthinking  ivanillich  collectiveaction  horizontality  neoliberalism  power  powerdynamics  maríadelcarmenlamadrid  criticaldesign  designimperialism  economics 
july 2014 by robertogreco
2: How do you see urban interaction design as a field, and how do you yourself relate to it, if at all? Is it a necessary field? — UrbanIxD
"It does not seek to impose interventions on unwary populations like some maniacal shadow-thing of network-colonialism: Does not stroll into unguarded neighbourhoods and insist that it Knows What’s Best For You. It is more interested in listening, learning and speculating. Cajoling, goading, occasionally provoking a response that initiates a chain of reasoning in it’s audience (whoever that may be - another matter.)"

[via: https://twitter.com/justinpickard/status/479656315024064512 ]
design  with  interventions  designinterventions  humanitariadesign  designimperialism  listening  ethnography  2014  tobiasrevell  urban  urbanism  urbaninteractiondesign  audience  empathy  understanding 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Questioning the “critical” in Speculative & Critical Design — Designing the Future — Medium
"In the past few days I’ve been following this excellent and profoundly enlightening discussion [http://designandviolence.moma.org/republic-of-salivation-michael-burton-and-michiko-nitta/ ] on MoMA’s Design and Violence page. The conversation, initiated by John Thackara’s comments on Burton Nitta’s project “Republic of Salivation” [http://www.burtonnitta.co.uk/repubicofsalivation.html ], was further developed in the comment section. The issue at stake was the presumed naivety of the project while dealing with a subject that might be dystopian to some, but in some other parts of the world it has been the reality for decades. During the — still ongoing — debate, one of the most pressing issues to emerge was the political accountability of Speculative and Critical Design (from now on, referred to as SCD) or its lack thereof.

When questioned on the validity of a discipline that consistently dismisses and willingly ignores struggles other than those that concern the intellectual white middle classes — precisely the environment where SCD comes from — designer James Auger [http://www.auger-loizeau.com/ ] responded:
What is this obsession with class systems? The UK may have its financial problems but most of us stopped obsessing about these divides in the distant past.

As a brazilian designer based in Germany struggling to understand her position in the blindly privileged environment of SCD, Auger’s reaction sounds all too familiar. Being able to ignore things like class, gender and race is the clearest demonstration of privilege: you don’t notice it (or rather, sometimes knowingly choose not to) precisely because it doesn’t affect you. As a discipline theorised within the safe confines of developed, northern european countries and practiced largely within an overwhelmingly white, male, middle class academic environment, SCD has successfully managed to ignore, or at best only vaguely acknowledge, issues of class, race and gender (with few [http://superflux.in/ ] exceptions [http://sputniko.com/ ]). Instead, the vast majority of the body of work currently available in the field has concentrated its efforts on envisioning near futures that deal with issues that seem much more tangible to their own privileged crowd. Projects that clearly reflect the fear of losing first-world privileges — gastronomical, civil or cultural — in a bleak, dystopic future abound, while practitioners seem to be blissfully unaware (or unwilling to acknowledge, in some cases) of other realities.

The visual discourse of SCD also seems interestingly devoid of people of color, who rarely (if ever) make an appearance in the clean, perfectly squared, aseptic world imagined by these designers-researchers. Couples depicted in these near-future scenarios seem to be consistently heterosexual; there is no poverty, there are no noticeable power structures that divide the wealthy and the poor, or the colonialist and the colonised; gender seems to be an immutable, black-and-white truth, clearly defined between men and women, with virtually no space for trans* and queer identities (let alone queer and trans* voices speaking for themselves). From its visual discourse to its formulations of near-future scenarios, SCD seems to be curiously apathetic and apolitical for a discipline that strives to be a critical response to mainstream perceptions of what design is, and what it should do.

So answering Auger’s pressing question — “What is this obsession with class systems?” —, well: we are obsessed with class systems because we can’t help it. Because, in contrast to most of the practitioners in the field of SCD, we do not have the privilege of not thinking about issues of race, class and gender. Because your dystopia is happening to us right now. It’s happening when we get harassed because of our gender, our class or our ethnicity. It’s happening when a brazilian citizen is killed by british police with no explanation, apology or reason other than being a foreigner [http://www.theguardian.com/uk/menezes ]. It’s happening because where I come from, the reality suggested by The Republic of Salivation isn’t so far-fetched [http://thebrazilbusiness.com/article/cost-of-living-in-brazil-ndash-cesta-basica ]. And because if we don’t call out your privilege — though you dismiss it as “misguided suggestions of privilege” — this is what will keep on happening: SCD will never evolve past a discipline stuck in its own little universe of weather forecasts and smart fridges, incapable of seeing how shallow its own speculations are, and how much more relevant and inclusive they could be.

Right now, SCD’s preoccupations are directed towards nothing more than an alleged “lack of poetic dimensions” in our relationship with electronic objects. The “social narratives” and “criticism” so advertised by the great majority of its practitioners seem to only apply to the aesthetic concerns of the intellectual northern european middle classes. Those dystopian “critical futures” forget (or oversee it for a lack of empathy toward the subject matter) that the very electronic objects that they are talking about not only are — and will continue to be — accessible to a minimum percentage of the world’s population, but also that those who won’t have access to it will likely be exploited to make that reality happen, one way or another. It is extremely frustrating to observe how SCD practitioners depict a dystopian universe where technology comes to paint a world in which their own privileges of their own reality are at stake, while at the same time failing to properly acknowledge that design is a strong contributor to the complete denial of basic human rights to minorities, right here, right now. Those sleek, shiny gadgets and sentient objects and robots SCD designers are keen to portray come only to the aid of white, middle class, cisgendered heterosexual citizens. But no SCD dystopian scenario takes into account that this pervasive “technological menace” will most probably be manufactured in China, Indonesia or Bangladesh (as suggested by Ahmed Ansari [https://twitter.com/aansari86 ] in the comments section in the original post). And I cannot help but reinforce that SCD is a practice whose origins and current developments, so far, happen within colonialist countries.

Despite all of its shortcomings, I do believe that SCD has something necessary and valid to offer to society. I do believe that design is a powerful language, one that it is perfectly positioned to provide relevant social and cultural critique, and that envisioning near future scenarios might just help us reflect on the paths we want to take as a society. In order to truly achieve these goals, however, SCD needs to be held accountable for its political and social positions; it urgently needs to escape its narrow northern european middle class confines; it needs to talk about social change; it needs more diversity, both in its visual representations and in the practitioners in the field. A first step, perhaps, would be to acknowledge that these issues are at stake instead of just dismissing them as useless concerns. Speculative Design can only earn its “Critical” name once it leaves its own comfort zone and start looking beyond privilege, for real.

After all, as brilliantly described by Ahmed in the thread:
The political, economic, social and cultural implications of technologies are never local but always global and systemic — they ripple out and affect people you may never know or see in your lifetime. It’s great to believe in the promise of technological progress when you belong to a class and a society that will directly get to reap its benefits in the end.
via:anne  2014  luizaprado  pedrooliveira  criticaldesign  speculativefiction  speculativedesign  designfiction  priviilege  designimperialism  criticism  design  art  johnthackara  burtonnitta  class  gender  race  speculation  ahmedansari  jamesauger  michaelburton  michikonitta  humanitariandesign 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Nothing About Us Without Us - Wikipedia
"Nothing About Us Without Us!" (Latin: "Nihil de nobis, sine nobis") is a slogan used to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members the group(s) affected by that policy. This involves national, ethnic, disability-based, or other groups that are often thought to be marginalized from political, social, and economic opportunities.

The saying in its Latin form has its origins in Central European foreign relations, and is cited as a long standing principle of Hungarian law and foreign policy,[1] and a cornerstone of the foreign policy of interwar Poland.

The term in its English form came into use in disability activism during the 1990s…

The saying has since moved from the disability rights movement to other interest group, identity politics, and populist movements."
postcolonialism  inclusion  rights  humanitariandesign  designimperialism  disability  disabilities  policymakers  policy  inclusivity  inlcusivity 
june 2012 by robertogreco
An Anatomy of Uncriticism: What happens to design when we’re afraid to take on our sacred cows?
"three categories of popular practice that seem largely uncriticized…living legends…too good to be criticized: the power of intentions…the power of happy.

In a recent talk at AIGA Chicago, Alice Twemlow, the chair of the design-
criticism M.F.A. program at the School of Visual Arts (where I also teach), argued that criticism does the most good when it moves from talking about design to talking about society and the world…

Should critics be silenced by economic success? By the limits of their own geography and experience? If they were, design could turn into an online popularity contest, about nothing more than what gets the most retweets…

…if criticism is to be constructive, it has to take on the Apples, not Snow White as represented by an apple with a bite out of it."
massimovignelli  miltonglaser  seymourchwast  oxo  stevejobs  urbanized  objectified  paulrand  linkbait  brucenussbaum  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  garyhustwit  highline  chipkidd  yvesbehar  gracebonney  designsponge  tinarotheisenberg  dezeen  alicetwemlow  2012  getcritical  examinedlife  swissmiss  designobserver  design  criticism  alexandralange 
january 2012 by robertogreco
Future Perfect » Imperialist Tendencies
"There are a number of misconceptions about consumers in highly income/resource constrained (poor) communities that seem to repeat themselves with a depressing regularity and is often directed from passionate minds with a particular, accusatory venom:

» Consumers on low levels of income are incapable of making rational or “right” choices for themselves
» These same consumers are duty bound only to make rational choices (“rational” as in on things that have an immediate benefit to their current socio-economic situation, as defined by the person making the argument)
» Any time a consumer makes an “irrational” choice the “fault” lies with the company providing the products
» Companies that target consumers in countries with very low levels of income are inherently evil"

"Far, far more interesting are people who peel themselves away from their screens, get off their butt, and put something of themselves on the line in order to change the world out there."
participatorydesign  critique  risktaking  doing  intellectualproperty  capitalism  codesign  ethnography  poptech  2012  2011  janchipchase  designimperialism  globalization  design 
january 2012 by robertogreco
PieLab - Enjoy!
"We're Open 8am - 5pmEvents!About PieLab

Founded in 2008 through a partnership between the local non-profit of Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization, Inc. (HERO) and a design collective known as Project M, PieLab came to life as a combination pop-up cafe, design studio and civic clubhouse with the mission of: ‘ Pie + Ideas = Conversation. Conversation + Design = Social Change.’ In 2009, PieLab grew into a permanent space on Greensboro, Alabama’s Main Street. Visitors and locals now revere it, as they linger over pie and conversation.  PieLab uses locally grown fruit and produce in its innovative recipes.  Stop by for a full breakfast, lunch, savory pie or a slice of fresh baked sweet pie.  Behind the scenes, Pie Lab also serves as a classroom to instruct local out-of-school youth on small business development and culinary arts, and as a community space to enjoy events. Pie Lab started as a small seed, but is now an acclaimed ALABAMA STAPLE."

[See also http://vimeo.com/7044555 AND http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/10/magazine/10pielab-t.html?pagewanted=all ]
design  community  food  pielab  projectm  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  education  conversation  srg  glvo  greensboro  alabama  halecounty  popup  pop-ups 
august 2011 by robertogreco
The Healing Powers of a Pie Shop - NYTimes.com
"PieLab opened in a makeshift space…Project M team members…at the invitation of the Hale Empowerment & Revitalization Organization (HERO), a housing-advocacy nonprofit, which also sponsored community-minded local initiatives. The Project M team conceived of their pie shop as a pop-up — a temporary cafe — describing it as a “negative-energy inverter, fueled by pie.”…
PieLab = a neutral place + a slice of pie.A neutral place + a slice of pie = conversation.
Conversation = ideas + design.Ideas + design = positive change.

…operated out of temporary quarters for four months…Within a few months of opening…PieLab-inspired efforts popped up in [other] cities…"

[Article also outlines misteps.]

"All the attention buoyed the PieLab collaborators. But it also created problems. When Project M first arrived in Greensboro, some folk bristled at the language it employed."

[Slide show: http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/10/10/magazine/pielab.html?ref=magazine ]

[See also http://mmm.pielab.org/ (nice touch on the URL) AND http://vimeo.com/9386150 ]
alabama  greensboro  popuprestaurants  pop-uprestaurants  lcproject  community  humanitariandesign  designimperialism  projectm  amandabuck  food  glvo  srg  pielab  halecounty  conversation  problemsolving  designbasedsolutions  nonprofit  cultureclash  language  blackbelt  us  change  ideageneration  studios  popup  pop-ups  thirdspaces  cafes  openstudioproject  nonprofits 
august 2011 by robertogreco
"To Hell with Good Intentions" by Ivan Illich
"Next to money and guns, the third largest North American export is the U.S. idealist, who turns up in every theater of the world: the teacher, the volunteer, the missionary, the community organizer, the economic developer, and the vacationing do-gooders. Ideally, these people define their role as service. Actually, they frequently wind up alleviating the damage done by money and weapons, or "seducing" the "underdeveloped" to the benefits of the world of affluence and achievement. Perhaps this is the moment to instead bring home to the people of the U.S. the knowledge that the way of life they have chosen simply is not alive enough to be shared."

"I am here to entreat you to use your money, your status and your education to travel in Latin America. Come to look, come to climb our mountains, to enjoy our flowers. Come to study. But do not come to help."

[via: http://twitter.com/johnthackara/status/88500793115815936 ]

[Update 6 May 2013: An article came up today that brought me back to Illich's lecture: http://www.pioneerspost.com/news/20130410/letter-young-social-entrepreneur-the-poor-are-not-the-raw-material-your-salvation ]

[Update 27 July 2013: new URL for "Letter to a Young Social Entrepreneur: the poor are not the raw material for your salvation" http://www.pioneerspost.com/comment/20130410/letter-young-social-entrepreneur-the-poor-are-not-the-raw-material-your-salvation

and a pointer to Robert Reich's "What Are Foundations For? Philanthropic institutions are plutocratic by nature. Can they be justified in a democracy?" http://www.bostonreview.net/forum/foundations-philanthropy-democracy? ]

[Also available here: http://schoolingtheworld.org/resources/essays/to-hell-with-good-intentions/ ]

[Update 6 April 2016: referenced again http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/missionary-go-home
and an alternate link http://ciasp.ca/CIASPhistory/IllichCIASPspeech.htm ]
education  culture  politics  travel  activism  ivanillich  1968  humanitariandesign  designimperialism  mexico  do-gooders  goodintentions  middleclass  us  latinamerica  poverty  hypocrisy  blindness  self-importance  deschooling  charitableindustrialcomplex  liamblack  robertreich  gatesfoundation  plutocracy  democracy  robberbarons  power  control  warrenbuffet  billgates  georgesoros  foundations  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism 
july 2011 by robertogreco
three cups of fiction | Schooling the World
[broken link, new bookmark here: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:cca28f5634e5
article now at: http://carolblack.org/three-cups-of-fiction ]

"…anything that causes humiliation & anger in men is going to cause increased rates of violence against women…the way education is currently framed means it does good for some children at the cost of doing great harm to many others, & this is not good for families, for communities, or for societies.  The answer is not to hold girls back…it’s to challenge the ranking-&-failure paradigm as the only way to help children learn."

"The bottom line is that the modern school is no silver bullet, but an extremely problematic institution which has proven highly resistant to fundamental reform, and there is very little objective research on its impact on traditional societies. When we intervene to radically alter the way another culture raises and educates its children, we trigger a complex cascade of changes that will completely reshape that culture in a single generation.  To assume that those changes will all be good is to adopt a blind cultural superiority that we can ill afford."
threecupsoftea  gregmortenson  afghanistan  education  unschooling  deschooling  learning  nomads  ngo  development  culturalsuperiority  culture  reform  teaching  systems  systemsthinking  2011  inequality  power  charity  economics  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  humanitarianism  stonesintoschools  money  failure  rankings  sorting  testing  children  women  girls  society  competition  hierarchy  class  onesizefitsall  grading  poverty  gender  colonization  carolblack  colonialism 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Berkeley Center for Globalization and Information Technology
"Bear Humanity: Aid Bunnies, Trauma Teddies, and other Power-Objects of the Humanitarian Imagination

Liisa Malkki, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Stanford University, Author of Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory, and National Cosmology Among Hutu Refugees in Tanzania (University of Chicago Press, 1995)"

[What a title!]
via:javierarbona  humanitarianism  foreignaid  power-objects  liisamalkki  globalization  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  berekeley 
april 2011 by robertogreco
News Desk: What Mortenson Got Wrong : The New Yorker
"Rajeev paused for a moment. “It seemed to be mostly about the author, about everything he accomplished. And that story is about quantity, about the number of schools built.” Rajeev said his own work had convinced him that construction projects are overvalued, & sometimes can even have a negative impact on a community. People might become dependant on outsiders, & corruption can become a problem. Building materials & methods may be inappropriate, especially if money comes from far away & there’s little oversight. Foreign-funded structures have a tendency to overuse cement…can change local construction patterns in environmentally damaging ways…Rajeev believed that teacher training & other cultural factors often have more value. “A good teacher sitting under a tree can do more than a bad teacher in a new building. That’s why I don’t want to do school construction anymore. It might have been a mistake. It’s a good instinct, as you want to help, but maybe it’s not the best thing.”"
gregmortenson  centralasiainstitute  peterhessler  rajeevgoyal  building  schools  education  philanthropy  designimperialism  teaching  learning  imperialism  threecupsoftea  insteadofbuilding  environment  wastedenergy  wastedmoney  self-esteem  self-aggrandizement  humility  whoisitfor?  schooldesign  unschooling  deschooling  purpose  motivation  corruption  foreignpolicy  foreignaid  culturalimperialism  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism  power  control 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Designmatters
"Through research, advocacy and action, Designmatters engages, empowers and leads an ongoing exploration of design as a positive force in society.

The common goal of all Designmatters projects is simple: take art and design education as a catalyst and change agent. And imagine and build a better and more humane future for all."
designthinking  sustainability  accd  social  design  designmatters  designimperialism  change  advocacy  education 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Humanitarian Design vs. Design Imperialism: Debate Summary: Change Observer: Design Observer
"Bruce Nussbaum started a firestorm with the question "Is humanitarian design the new imperialism?" — and the conversation has spread through the blogosphere. Here, a digest of essays and related posts on this subject."
brucenussbaum  cameronsinclair  emilypilloton  susanszenasy  jonkolko  avinashrajagopal  robertfabricant  alexsteffen  patrickjames  nitibhan  infini  mariapopova  johnthackara  valeriecasey  davidstairs  timothyogden  shahanasiddiqui  humanitariandesign  design  imperialism  designimperialism  projecth  projecthdesign 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Are Humanitarian Designers Imperialists? Project H Responds | Co.Design
"Nussbaum's article greatly oversimplifies serendipitous chaos that is humanitarian design. It draws line, mostly defined by developed & developing worlds & says "if you're here & you work there, you're an imperialist." Nothing is so cut & dried..."

[in response to: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1661859/is-humanitarian-design-the-new-imperialism ]
emilypilloton  projecth  poverty  philanthropy  humanitarian  innovation  humanitarianism  designthinking  design  culture  criticism  education  colonialism  brucenussbaum  messiness  us  designimperialism  imperialism  global  ethics  behavior  humanitariandesign  lcproject  tcsnmy  ivanillich  unschooling  deschooling  context  projecthdesign 
august 2010 by robertogreco

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